{11}   Respect (Eph 6:1-9)



Paul now moves from the reciprocal duties of husbands and wives to those of parents and children and to the masters and slaves. The key to good relationship is the same: to respect each other.


Question: What word or phrase would you use to describe your relationship with your parents?



6:1-4    Parents and children

6:5-9    Masters and slaves



6:1       FOR CHILDREN: Since Paul addresses the children in this paragraph as well as their parents, he evidently expects whole families to come together for public worship. Children need to be instructed about God and Christianity immediately after having the understanding. Everyone knows how teenagers are often rebellious and can easily get into trouble and sin. The single best way to protect them from a life of sin is their faith in God.

The requirement for children is stronger than the requirement for wives. Wives were not told to “obey” but to “submit” by Paul (5:22-24) and by Peter (1Pe 3:1). The parents’ authority is stronger than the husband’s “headship”. Children are commanded to obey because of: [1] natural law, and [2] God’s Law.

[1]   Obedience by natural law: Children’s obedience is part of the natural law which God has written on all human hearts. It is the standard behaviour in every society. One of the greatest emphases if Confucius’s insistence of filial respect so that even today, 25 centuries later, oriental customs continue to reflect his influence. Paul also says that “disobedient to parents” is a mark both of a decadent society which God has given up to its own godlessness (Ro 1:28-30) and of “the last days” which began with the coming of Christ (2Ti 3:1-2).

Obedience is “in the Lord” meaning that our obedience to God is of higher priority. However, before the age of majority or independence (normally age 18 in western culture), obedience to parents should be a norm (that is, compliance as far as possible) even for Christians who have non-Christian parents. For example, if the parents forbids the child to be baptized, the child perhaps should wait. However, if the parents forbids the child to worship God and to follow Christ, then obedience is not required.

6:2       [2]        Obedience by God’s Law: “Honour your father and your mother” is the 5th commandment and is, according to Christians, the first commandment on human relationships. However, the Jews regularly taught that each of the Law’s two tablets contains 5 commandments. This brings the honouring of our parents into our duty to God. This is also reasonable because during childhood, they represent God to us in mediating to us both His authority and His love.

“Honour” means acknowledgment of their divinely delegated authority. We are to give them our obedience and our love. In the Law of Moses, anyone who cursed his parents (Lev 20:9) or a stubborn and rebellious son who refused to listen to the parents when they disciplined him will receive a death penalty.

However, Paul prefers to enforce God’s commandment with a promise, although it is also indirectly a threat. Paul combines two verses from Ex 20:12 and Dt 5:16.

Paul says that this is “the first commandment with a promise.” F.F. Bruce even insists that this is the “only” commandment with a promise in the whole Pentateuch. Some also interpret it to mean that this is “a commandment of foremost significance.”

6:3       The promise is a long life with material prosperity (“that it may go well with you”). The promise should be interpreted in general terms rather than individual terms. Not every one who obeys the parents has a long and prosperous life because God may have different plans for each individual. Some also think that “go well” may refer to family stability.

6:4       FOR PARENTS: This verse emphasizes the restraint of the authority of the parents. This is vastly different from what the Roman custom was. Barclay describes: “A Roman father had absolute power over his family,” including selling them as slaves, making them work in chains, punishing them, even inflicting death penalty on them.

Although the verse talks about the “fathers”, it surely means to include the mothers.

“Provoke your children to anger” means the misuse of authority by making unreasonable or unreasonable demands, or by humiliating or suppressing the children.

Besides the negative command, the positive command for parents is to “bring them up” which means nourish or feed, same as the word in 5:29 of feeding one’s own body.

“Training” (Gr. paideia) means training by discipline, including punishment. Today, there is an over-reaction to the strict discipline in the past by falling for excessively laissez-faire permissiveness. However, the most important rule in dispensing punishment on children is that punishment must not be used when the parent is in a temper. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “When you are discipling a child, you should have first controlled yourself…. Self-control, the control of temper, is an essential pre-requisite in the control of others.” Furthermore, without control, the children will not appreciate your good intentions in disciplining them.

“Instruction” (Gr. nouthesia) can also be translated “warning” and is referring to verbal education. It is important for parents to teach what is true and right, that is, our Christian beliefs (“instruction of the Lord”). The most precious gift that parents can give to their children is eternal life. Of course we cannot force our children to be Christians but we can at least lead them to see truth.

This command reminds us of 2 things: [1] Parents need to take the time and trouble to educate their children. [2] Parents need to guard their God-given task in bringing up their children. Of course we delegate part of the responsibility to the church and to the school but never completely surrender it. This is particularly important in today’s secularized education in schools.

6:5       FOR SLAVES OR EMPLOYEES: Slaves were widespread in the Roman Empire. One estimate puts the total number of slaves at 60 million. They constituted the work force, including not only domestic servants and manual labour but educated people like teachers and doctors also. The master possessed absolute authority over the slave who is regarded as a property owned by the master. Historical evidence showed that masters were often quite cruel towards the slaves. However, in the church, slaves were no longer regarded as inferior; they were accepted as full members (Gal 3:28).

Slaves are commanded to treat their earthly masters similar to treating Christ. They are to be obedient as to Christ (v.5), to behave as slaves of Christ (v.6), to serve as to the Lord (v.7), and to know that they will receive reward from the Lord for their work (v.8).

Although there are no more slaves in most countries today, the message here can be applied to the attitude of all workers towards their employers. We are commanded to work as if we are doing it for Christ or serving Jesus Christ in person. With this new attitude, the work done by a Christian will be exemplary as shown by the following characteristics:

[1]   They will be respectful, obeying the employee with fear and trembling.

[2]   They will be sincere, working with integrity and without hypocrisy.

6:6       [3]        They will be conscientious, working not only when the employee is watching but as if Christ is watching their work.

6:7       [4]        They will work wholeheartedly, working willingly and cheerfully.

6:8       All these attitudes are based on the belief that God will remember and reward all good works.

6:9       FOR MASTERS OR EMPLOYERS: Masters (or employers in today) were given 3 principles. They were also designed to lessen the cultural and social gap between the slave and the mater.

[1]   Treat the slaves the same way as they are treated. This is a revolutionary concept in Roman times. Paul admits no privileged superiority in the masters. If they hope to receive respect, they must show respect to the slaves. If they hope to receive service, they must serve the slaves.

[2]   Do not threaten the slaves. They are not to misuse their position of authority by issuing threats of punishment. Of course, in some circumstances, punishment is legitimate. But a relationship based on threats is not a human relationship at all.

[3]   Know that Jesus Christ is the Master of both the slave and the master and He does not show favoritism. Everyone will be treated the same way by Him. Both the person who holds authority and the person who is under authority will be held to the same standard.



        The concept of brotherhood, even with slaves, is one of the major theme of Ephesians. For God’s new society is the Father’s household, or family, all of whose members are related to one another in Christ as brothers and sisters. With such an attitude, it is natural that slavery will be eventually abolished out of Christian influence.





        Celebrate the body of Christ in which we are all equal. Pray for your brothers and sisters in the Lord for whom you work or who work for you. Ask God to work in your children and to help them to grow in their relationship with Him.