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Lesson 11: Christian Relationships *

Introduction: Would you like to succeed in life and love? Christians have many advantages in life. One of the most important advantage is the Bible's practical teaching on increasing our emotional intelligence. Our lesson this week, if taken seriously, will give us an emotional "I.Q." boost for dealing with our job, our marriage, our children and our friends. Let's plunge right in!

  1. Mutual Submission

    1. Read Ephesians 5:21. What does it mean to "submit" to other Christians? (Wuest's Word Studies tells us this has a military meaning: as in lining up the troops for battle. The troops would submit to the organization.)

      1. How would mutual submission logically work? In a military you have individuals of different rank. Would those of higher rank have to submit to those of lower rank? How could generals submit to privates? Officers to enlisted men? (Mutual submission is like nothing I have ever heard of in connection with a military. Paul is giving us a new concept.)

      2. What would "reverence for Jesus" have to do with submitting to one another? (Since I am having trouble getting my mind around the idea of "mutual submission," this must mean that our mutual Master causes us to have a special deference for one another.)

      3. If Jesus is the basis for mutual submission, what would that suggest about the nature of the submission? (First, it would mean that we are only speaking of submission that is within the proper code of conduct for Christians. Second, it seems that absolute, mutual submission would never allow for any type of organization. Therefore, it must mean submission within the order of authority created by God. Paul continues to explain God's order of authority, so let's continue.)

  2. Husband and Wife

    1. Read Ephesians 5:22-24. What does it mean for a wife to "submit" to her husband? (It would at least have the same restrictions that we found in Ephesians 5:21 - that it would be within the proper conduct code for Christians.)

      1. Think again about Ephesians 5:21. Should a husband submit to his wife? Is his wife the only person to whom he should not submit?

      2. Since Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another, isn't an instruction to wives to submit to their husbands redundant? (We concluded that the verses following Ephesians 5:21 were an explanation of the difficult idea of absolute mutual submission. Thus, Ephesians 5:22 must have some additional meaning.)

      3. Paul tells us that the submission of wives to husbands is like the submission of the church to Jesus. In what way does the church submit to Jesus? (It submits to His loving direction and His example for life.)

      4. Is this instruction about wives submitting limited to the culture in which Paul lived? (Paul says nothing about the culture. All of his benchmarks, all of his references are to Jesus and His relationship to the church. This is a timeless point of reference.)

    2. Read Ephesians 5:25-27. In what way did Jesus give Himself up for the church? (Jesus entire life on earth was an example of self-denial. He had virtually no possessions. He even gave up His life for others.)

      1. Are husbands to love their wives in this same self-denying way? (Yes.)

      2. What is the goal of the obligation of the husband to deny himself for his wife? (To help her to be holy.)

        1. How would that work? (Read Romans 12:20-21. This is a theme of Christianity. By giving up our self for others, we win them to Jesus. A husband who gives up himself for his wife, wins her to God.)

    3. Read Ephesians 5:28. This is one of my favorite texts in the entire Bible. If you want to have a good marriage, pay attention to this instruction: "He who loves his wife, loves himself." Much of what Paul writes is complex. This instruction is not.

    4. Read Ephesians 5:29-30. Men, do you love your wife as much as you love yourself? Do you care for her as well as you care for yourself?

    5. After looking at these instructions to husbands and wives, can you imagine a situation in which a husband demands that his wife submit to him? (The instruction for wives to submit is there. But, husbands are instructed to give up themselves for their wives, to love their wife as much as they love themself. This attitude on the part of the husband is what causes a wife to willingly submit. Verbally beating your wife with the instruction to submit is hardly effective. Submission to the husband's self-denial is like no submission the world understands.)

    6. Read Ephesians 5:31-33. What does it mean for a man to leave his father and mother?

      1. Should a married man live with his parents when he is first married?

      2. Should a married man spend more time talking to his parents than his wife?

      3. Should a married man take his disputes with his wife to his parents? Should a wife take disputes with her husband to her parents? Is this consistent with the directive that they become "united?" (When one spouse goes to his/her parents to get them to agree against the other spouse, then a resolution of the problem is almost impossible. The spouse with the support of the parents has no reason to compromise. The spouse who stands alone will become angry and frustrated. The best thing for those "united" in marriage is to work out problems between the two of them or with an unbiased professional. Biased family members make things worse.)

      4. Have you heard wives get together and say uncomplimentary things about their husbands? Is this consistent with the instruction to respect your husband?

      5. Have you heard husbands say uncomplimentary things about their wives? Is this consistent with the instruction to love your wife?

  3. Parents and Children

    1. Read Ephesians 6:1-3. What logical link can you see between a long and pleasant life and honoring your parents? (If you were hiking a trail, you would take instruction from someone who had hiked the trail before. That is just common sense. Parents have been down the path of life. They might not have taken the best route, but they likely know the best route. Godly parents have the added benefit of having the insight of the Creator of Life. Following the instructions of godly parents improves the quality and length of life.)

    2. Read Ephesians 6:4. Paul contrasts frustrating your child with bringing him up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Explain how those are opposites? (Parents sometimes get confused between their rules and God's rules. Deuteronomy 4:2 tells us not to add or subtract from God's commands. Making up your own annoying rules (as the Jewish leaders did in Jesus' time) or failing to impose God's rules (as the Jewish leaders did before the Babylonian captivity) are both wrong. Erring on either side will frustrate your children.)

  4. Employers and Employees

    1. Read Ephesians 6:5-7. Is this advice applicable to employees? (Yes.)

      1. Should the nature of your employer change how you work? (No. You are to work as if you were working for God.)

      2. When is God observing your work? (All the time.)

        1. How much of the time should you be a diligent employee?

      3. What role should labor unions play in this relationship? (Would you strike against God? Would you bully Him and demand your rights?)

    2. Read Ephesians 6:8. Who, ultimately, pays us for our work? (God will give us the ultimate reward for our work.)

    3. Read Ephesians 6:9. What obligation do employers have towards their employees? What does Paul mean when he says "treat your slaves in the same way?" (I think he is referring back to employees working as if they were working for God. Employers should make godly decisions in the treatment of employees. They should not abuse employees.)

      1. Would this obligation extend to supervisors? Are they also required by God not to threaten those within their control?

      2. What should an employee do who has an unjust employer, but who understands that he should work for his employer as if he were working for God? (Unlike slaves, we can change employers. If we have a God-honoring employer, that makes our work that much better.)

    4. Friend, do you regret relationship decisions you have made in the past? The way to avoid regrets, the way to improve your emotional intelligence is to follow God's advice. Will you commit to do that today?

  5. Next week: The Christian Warfare.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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