Family Alignment That Closes the Door to the Devil
(Based upon Ephesians 5:22-6:9.)
There is perhaps no greater battlefield we will ever deal with than our families. When Satan wanted the whole human race to fall, his first order of business was to divide a husband and wife from one another and from their God, who holds the marriage union together (Genesis 3:1-8). If Satan divides and deceives a husband and wife, he has a greater chance of getting their children.
Essentially, two things hold a family together and keep Satan at bay. The first is that each family member knows and functions appropriately within their roles, and the second is that each family member remains connected to and puts God first in the home.
This passage in Ephesians deals with family life. It illustrates that it is not just casting out devils in prayer and Bible reading that produces the right results. Rather, it’s having healthy functional ways of relating and submitting to one another. Biblical submission is never destructive or oppressive, but is based on the example of Jesus’ submission to the Father even though He was equal to Him (Philippians 2:3-11).
This passage in Philippians reveals a revolutionary concept of submission introduced to Greco-Roman culture through the gospel. The Romans believed the gods were the ones who set every person’s station in life. Many people, including the Stoics, didn’t address anyone but those who had the right to make decisions at the top of the hierarchical structures of society. In those days, women, children, and slaves had no rights. They were treated as the property of their husbands, fathers, and owners.
Thus, when Paul addressed women, children, and slaves, he treated them as if they had rights. In the gospel, every believer is equal, and in salvation, there is no male or female, or slave or free, but we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, Paul is entreating them to live in submission, not because it was required for salvation but to be able to keep the proper family and structural order for the sake of Christ. As we look at these roles unpacked in the household text of Ephesians, we notice the following:
Everyone was called to submit to the needs of one another. This helped to relativize all the other particular commands (Ephesians 5:22). Wives were told to submit to their husbands. However, wives were already submitting to their husbands and had minimal rights in Roman culture. Thus, by teaching this, Paul showed that they had a choice to submit or not to submit in Christ, depending on the situation regarding the husband’s walk with God. Also, according to this same epistle, a woman’s head was Christ (Ephesians 1:22). Thus, if the husband wanted them to disobey God, they were not to obey the husband.
Husbands were to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). This was another way of teaching mutual submission. When a husband loves his wife, he lays down his life and his desires to accommodate her desires. This is another form of submission. Thus, even though Paul respects the husband as the spiritual and cultural leader of the family, the husband is warned not to take his position for granted. He was to love his wife with the standard of love Christ has for the church, which is one as savior, protector, and initiator. A wife would not be afraid of submitting to a husband that loves and is concerned about her like Christ does the Church.
Children were to obey their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-3). This ensures that it will go well with them. It is not for an oppressive reason based on hierarchy but for the sake of their well-being. By implication, if a parent abuses a child, it will not go well with them, and the state has the right to remove the child from home.
Parents were not to frustrate their children (Ephesians 6:4). The instruction for children to obey their parents is balanced by the command to fathers not to frustrate their children or make them angry. Thus, parents do not have the biblical right to emotionally or physically abuse their children.
Slaves were to obey their masters in the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-8). The Bible is not condoning slavery but only recognizing that people in different stations of life were going to be saved. Eventually, history illustrates that the gospel message resulted in liberation and reformation that eradicated slavery in the Roman Empire and, centuries later, in Western nations like the United States and the British Empire.
The exodus of the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery was the major Old Testament motif that the New Testament used. It metaphorically illustrated how believers were released from their slavery to sin in the world. Furthermore, since slaves were already in a subservient state, this means that Paul treated them as free moral agents who had a choice whether or not to submit to their masters. This essentially made them equal with their masters.
Masters were commanded to do the same things God commanded the slaves (Ephesians 6:9). Thus, since masters had the same standards of living as God gave their slaves, then those masters were also to submit to the needs of their slaves; that is, to do good unto them from the heart as unto the Lord with fear and trembling understanding that how they treat slaves shows how they treat Christ (Ephesians 6:5).
God further instructs slave owners not to threaten their slaves. This meant they were not to use their position to coerce or impose their will on them. God makes it clear in this powerful passage that with Him, there is no respect of persons or partiality, that God is the master of both the slave and the slave owner and will judge both impartially!
In summary, as we live in love, humility, and mutual submission to one another, respecting each person’s role or station in life, then we will close the door to the devil in our families and homes.