All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

Serve everyone

Ephesians 6:9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Just as with the preceding verses to this one, people have often used this to justify the notion that the Bible upholds slavery. No! Read it again.

This passage isn’t saying “own slaves.” The fact is that many people during the time period in which this letter was written by Paul found themselves slaves for whatever reasons. It could have been because they had a debt that they couldn’t pay or that they couldn’t afford to take of their child so they sold them into slavery. No matter what the reason, there were people who were the servants of other people.

That’s not the point of Paul’s message, though. He’s not speaking on the right to own a slave or on the reasons for being one. He’s talking about loving and respecting everyone, regardless of your standing of your position. If you’re under someone’s authority (and we all are), obey them and respect them. If you’re over someone in a position of authority, show them respect and care for them, don’t mistreat them.

In the eyes of God, there is no distinction between the master and the servant. He is the Master over all. That means no one is in a position to treat others badly, especially if they call themselves a child of God. Most people don’t have servants or slaves today, but we do have bosses and subordinates. Regardless of which of those we’re dealing with, the command is the same: treat them with the love of God and with respect.

Slave or free, obey

Ephesians 6:5-8  Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

As with so many things in the Bible, people tend to focus on the wrong area of this passage and pull it out of context. It’s been used as an example to make the case that the Bible upholds the notion of slavery, or at least doesn’t speak against it, thus showing that God is not loving. That’s not the truth, and it’s not the point either.

Paul is not pointing out that people should own other people as slaves here, but rather he’s making the point that those who are slaves to others should obey them as a way of pointing to God. One could just as easily say, “employees, obey your employers that they may see God and worship Him.”

Everyone has someone in authority over them. Those who belong to Christ are to obey whomever that may be, as a way of obeying God himself. Children obey their parents, workers obey their boss, government officials obey the voters who elected them (Just kidding, that last one doesn’t happen).

Whether you’re slave or free, you’re called to work as though working for the Lord, as though He himself instilled the power and authority held by others over you. Obey God. He says to honor those over you.

A father’s instruction

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is the primary responsibility of a parent? How about of a father? What about a Christian father? If you said to raise kids who obey the law and treat others kindly, that’s just part of the equation.

Raising moral kids isn’t enough to sustain them through the circumstances of life. Only a strong foundation in the Word of God, in the gospel, can carry them through. It’s the job of a father (and a mother) to parent in light of the gospel.

If our kids comply to everything we instruct them to do, but have no understanding of God’s grace and mercy, have no idea about the sacrifice He was willing to go through for our reconciliation, then it’s wasted effort in parenting. Compliance to rules does not mean a transformed heart.

Fathers, don’t just expect your kids to do what you say. Don’t use your authority to bend their will to yours. Utilize the authority you’ve been given by the Father to raise them up to know Him. They’ll know Him because you show His nature and character to them by the way you treat them.

If you’re not a parent, this notion still applies for you.  There’s someone, somewhere who’s under your authority, however little it may be. The way in which you use that authority, the way in which you instruct and lead will either draw them closer to God or push them away from Him. Lead wisely and be a follower of the Holy Spirit as He guides you.

Honor your father and mother

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Marriage isn’t the only relationship the Bible speaks of, though it may seem that way in books like Ephesians where so much is said to husbands and wives. The relationship between children and their parents is an even more obvious depiction of the relationship between God and His people than marriage is.

Obedience, be it our obedience to God or the obedience of children to parents, is never just about compliance for the sake of compliance. God didn’t give us rules to follow just because He likes having His rules followed any more than our parents did that. There are reasons for the rules of the house; right? I’m always telling my kids that i don’t give them rules because I’m mean; I do it because I care about them and don’t want to see them get hurt. When they don’t obey, the result is often a negative experience. So it is in our disobedience to God.

The Law cannot be fully obeyed perfectly and we’ll never earn our way into heaven by keeping it. That’s not its purpose, though. We can thrive better, and live much more fulfilling lives if we stick to what the Lord has laid before us as right, avoiding what He says is wrong. It’s not about a dictator forcing anything on us. It’s about a loving Father who cares about His kids and wants to see them live well. His plan for us is better than our own plans.

How are you doing at obeying? Do you even see the need to do so?

Love and respect

Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

A lot of people read through Ephesians 5 (or choose to ignore Ephesians 5) without really considering the context in which it was meant. It’s not just about commands for husbands and wives. To see it as that makes marriage cold and it makes it seem like God doesn’t intend for us to be happy in marriage.

In reality, asking men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands is going to result in happiness for both. Marriage is about a mutual benefit, not just that of one or another. In depicting the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the Church, there is no authoritarian role, no slave role, just love and respect.

A man loves his wife by caring for her, protecting her, providing for her, and forever being a student of her. Likewise, a woman shows respect to her husband by tending to his needs, and helping him to be the man God has called him to be. When both a husband and a wife fulfill their God-given purposes, they’re both happy and godly. Both can enjoy the marriage and the spiritual growth that comes as a result.

How do you look at marriage? Do you see it as a gift from God to benefit both man and wife and to illustrate the relationship between bride and Christ? Or do you see marriage as constraining and unhealthy? Do you see it as God meant it or as how it has come to be viewed in society?

The two shall become one

Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

How important does something have to be for the Bible to quote it multiple times? It’s obvious that something mentioned so frequently is worthy of our attention. The picture of Jesus and His bride, the Church, that we see exemplified by marriage is not to be overlooked.

The fact that a man and a woman become one flesh upon marrying is mentioned no less than four times in Scripture (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7, 8; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). The call to leave behind the parents and become joined together as a new family is emphasized through this. Two individuals who were once separate, had their own rights and freedoms, their own preferences, and looked after their own needs and desires, become one unit, no longer separate. They now look to each others’ needs and desires, give up some of their own rights for the sake of the other, and bind themselves to their spouse.

It’s often said at weddings, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6) and the imagery is apparent. A couple is more than just two people who live together and have affectionate feelings for one another. They are an imperfect reflection of the perfect Bridegroom and His bride.

The breaking apart of a marriage is no simple thing. It’s not uncomplicated, mostly because two souls have joined together through a union that’s not supposed to be dissolved. Christ and His bride are joined together for eternity, inseparable, and that is the meaning of marriage. If you’re married, ask yourself if you’re reflecting the Bridegroom and His bride well. Even if you’re not married, consider how this earthly example of a heavenly concept is evident.

He who loves his wife loves himself

Ephesians 5:28-30 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.

Husbands don’t get off very easily in the Bible. Many assume that the calling of a wife to submit to her husband is a heavy burden, but in reality the heaviest responsibility falls on the husband himself. He is ultimately accountable for the marriage relationship and the spiritual well-being of his family.

It should be noted that God’s Word repeatedly tells men to love their wives. This is a command, not just to act with loving emotion towards their brides, but to serve them, protect them, lead them, and provide for them. To love one’s wife is to love oneself.

Because it’s so powerful, the notion that marriage is intended to provide a picture of Jesus’ relationship to God’s family, the Church, is also repeated many times. Jesus loves the Church and so husbands should love their wives. He cares for and nurtures the Church and therefore husbands should care for and nurture their wives.

Husbands, love your wives.

Love like a man

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Continuing with the idea that marriage is intended to depict an earthly example of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Church, the role of the husband is a heavy one. Men are called to love their brides as Christ loves the people of God.

Many of us gloss this over and simply boil it down to an instruction to “love your wife” without grasping the depth of the statement. Husbands, love your wives, AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER. How far are you willing to go in putting your wife before yourself, men? Have you given your life for her? This isn’t just a literal laying down of one’s physical life for another, it’s also a laying down of one’s own desires for the sake of another. If you’re keeping score at home, that means husbands AND wives are called to submission.

Furthermore, husbands bear the weight of responsibility for their wives’ spiritual state. Just as Christ overlooks the well-being of His bride, that she might be presented without spot or blemish, so too are husbands to look after their wives and assist in any area where they may need to grow. Husbands are to lead their wives in spiritual matters and failure to do so is disobedience.

 

Wives and husbands, Christ and the Church

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Of all passages in the Bible, this one ranks among the top in its controversy quotient. Many read what Paul wrote to the Ephesians and see something sexist or misogynistic, but it’s anything but. We have to read it in its larger context though.

The problem with so much of our biblical interpretation is that we see a verse, pulled out of its context, and we try to interpret it on its own. This always leads to misunderstanding of the real idea. Such is the case in Ephesians.

The main focus of Paul is not that women should submit to men, or that men should rule over women, but that Jesus Christ is head of the Church. Marriage is an earthly picture of a heavenly concept. In it, men and women (in their sinful, broken way) depict the relationship that Jesus has to His bride, the Church. That’s all of us, by the way, the family of God who are called by His name.

Jesus is powerful and has unlimited authority, but He is also submissive to the Father. In a marriage relationship, both authority and submission are supposed to be present to show that relationship between Him and us. Both qualities exist in Christ and neither of them is inferior or superior to the other.

God’s Word points out both here and in other places that it’s not a husband’s role to lord his authority over his wife, nor is woman commanded to submit to all men. Submission doesn’t mean a wife has no opinion or that she is inferior to her husband. On the contrary, submission quite often means the wife (who is her husband’s equal) carries the great responsibility of being his confidant and greatest advisor. Just as a husband should physically protect his wife, a wife’s submission to her husband protects him as well. It’s the completion of a relationship – two halves equaling a whole.

The true family of God

Ephesians 5:19-21 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When God’s family comes together there’s a celebration. Because of all that the Father has done for us in Jesus Christ, there’s a lot to be thankful for, a lot of reasons to sing, so much to be thankful for.

How do you approach the weekly gathering of believers? Do you look at Sunday morning as a time to be solemn and quiet? Do you view it as a personal time of reflection? Those things have their place, but truly the gathering of the saints is a family reunion every time it happens.

The purpose of getting together with others who follow the Lord is to encourage each other, to build each other up, and to praise God in community with one another. We use our gifts to serve each other, put each other first, and honor Christ by doing so. Don’t be afraid to sing, don’t keep to yourself, don’t make it all about you. Sing, serve, encourage, and enjoy.