Alive in Christ: Devotional Commentary for August 4-10
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
18Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
20Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
21Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
After describing the attributes which reflect the manifestation of the New Man in the life of the redeemed, Paul identifies two frameworks of human relations in which behavioral changes affirm the reality of the new nature's prevalence in the heart of the Christian. Taking into account the structure and relationships in the family unit and the employer/employee connections, Paul discusses how the attributes of the New Man cultivate unity in Love, calm and tranquility in Peace, and wisdom from the Word of God in the life and relationships of the submissive, loving, and obedient Christian.
As noted in last week's devotional meditation, the actions and responses of the New Man flow out of a new heart. This new heart is the heart of Christ as it is Christ Who lives in us. The Heart of Christ impels us: to esteem others more highly than ourselves, to be more considerate and thoughtful toward others, to deal with others patiently and with a gentle spirit, and to be kind and gracious altogether.
Looking to Christ as his point of reference, Paul directly speaks to wives, husbands, fathers, and children, exhorting each one to conduct oneself in keeping with one's position within the particular relationship. Accordingly, he urges wives to submit themselves to their own husbands. He admonishes husbands to love their wives. He exhorts children to obey their parents. He tells fathers not to provoke their children.
These behaviors are the norm for God's children in whom the New Man is thriving. And as it is true of the New Man in Christ, these behaviors are to be practiced as unto the Lord. Unlike the old-nature, these are the attributes of the New Man in Christ. Therefore, they can be done only as unto the Lord.
Done as unto the Lord means being more than virtuous. When the wife submits herself to her husband, she is viewing him as God sees him, a sinner saved by Grace. She is responding in love to a man who is favored by God to receive Grace, Mercy, and Redemption. She is conducting herself in a manner that is appropriate before the Lord. That means she is accepting what the Lord instituted within the family structure. That means she is abandoning her own ways in favor of putting herself in God's Will. That means she submits herself to her husband's love under God's Authority. That means she discards the ungodly conventions of the world, having willingly and submissively heeded the precepts of God's Word which is richly dwelling in her.
When the husband loves his wife, he is viewing her as God sees her, a sinner saved by Grace. He is responding in love to a woman who is favored by God to receive Grace, Mercy, and Redemption. It means that he is not bitter toward his wife nor would he treat her harshly. It means that he commits himself to her, selflessly. With the husband's selfless love and with the wife's submission, the two will be one in the bond of unity. Their hearts controlled by Christ's Peace and their lives guided by the wisdom flowing out of God's Word, submission and love become in them complementary attributes of the family and set them on a strong foundation.
Having parents who are characterized by submission and love, children are urged to glorify God by their obedience. Obedience is pleasing to God. Therefore, fathers are warned not to undermine children by provoking them to anger or bitterness. A husband who is loving toward his wife should also be encouraging and caring toward his children. In this way, the family characterized by submission, love, and obedience becomes the microcosm of the Body of Christ. Thus speaks Paul to the members of a household affirming that out of the new heart of the New Man come these behaviors which are foreign to the old-nature but pleasing to the Lord God our Father.
22Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
23And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
25But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
Finally, Paul addresses those who are domestics within the household or hired laborers outside of the home. He urges them to carry out their tasks faithfully and diligently as unto the Lord. That is, give their services wholeheartedly without seeking credit from men. He encourages them to happily render their services with satisfaction, as a matter of obedience to the Lord.
Naturally, anyone who is rendering services to another human being or institution would have the desire to be in good standing with the one in charge. However, while there is nothing wrong with such sentiments, servants should consider their state of subjection as service to the Lord. Their reward is with the Lord because He is their ultimate Master. If they get bitter and neglect their duty, their disobedience is judged by God with Whom there is no partiality. But if they serve in His fear, they would be blessed and their inheritance would prosper.
Both obedience and disobedience are consequential with God, Who sees everything. The Lord will punish disobedience as surely as He rewards faithful labor. Paul concludes, when the New Man is put on, the child of God acknowledges the Authority of the sovereign Lord through these behavioral expressions. Each one conducts oneself in the fear of God, because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
The transformation of the sinner from the old to the new continues to generate questions which demand observable evidence besides one's confession of faith and testimony of experience. Redemption is real and personal. It is not a change of opinion or just an enlightenment of the mind. So the quest for evidence is not incorrect or implausible.
Once the sinner is redeemed and the old-nature is displaced, the New Man is set to radiate its attributes into the decisions, actions, and relationships of the child of God. That is, once we have the new nature in us, a profound behavioral change is in order.
Hence, the wife who would not consider submission in her old-nature, is now called upon to submit herself to her husband. Such would be the inclination of the new nature in her. The concept of a submissive wife is summarily rejected by the social conventions of our society because of the rebellious and unruly inclinations of the old-nature. While the unregenerate heart continues to cater to the self-serving sin-nature, the New Man in Christ always seeks to please God in its decisions, actions, and relationships.
Paul has been insisting on putting on the New Man because one cannot do the things that are pleasing to God without the new nature. So whether it is the submission of the wife, the loving of the husband, the obedience of children, the caring attention of the father, or the compliance of the servant, the issue comes down to: which of the two persons is prevailing in the heart of the redeemed. The old-nature promotes the things which cater to self, while the new nature lives to glorify God.
But the crux of the matter lies in the source out of which the authority to prevail originates for either person. It is not just a matter of choice by the individual. The old-nature is a child of disobedience and so are its choices. It is the progeny of Adam who introduced the seed of sin into our lineage. So naturally the old-nature assumes the authority to govern over the life of men and women, saved or unsaved. It feels it was there first, and therefore, entitled to prominence.
While that is somewhat correct, a divine Promise of salvation has been in place from before the foundation of the world, that is, before the sin-nature ever existed. Furthermore, when the fullness of time was accomplished, God sent His Son to fulfill His Promise of redemption through Christ's finished work on the Cross, in the grave, and by His Resurrection beyond the grave. The new nature is thus introduced into the life of the sinner saved by Grace as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the heart of the redeemed.
While the sin-nature came into existence by reason of disobedience, the new nature preexisted the old by reason of sovereign Grace and divine predetermination. Having redeemed the sinner by paying the full price with His Son's shed blood, God our Father put in us the new nature so that we are able to respond to His lordship in obedience. Therefore, the issue is not one of choice between the old and the new natures, but one of obedience to the One Who redeemed us, clothed us with His Son's righteousness, and put His Spirit in us. We are purchased by the precious blood of the Lamb: redeemed by God, for God, from God's judgment.
The choice is made. We are predisposed to obey because the new nature is already instilled in us by the Spirit of God. Any contrary behavior is grieving to the Holy Spirit and troubling to our soul. After all, putting on the New Man means, accepting the Lordship of God.