Winger, Thomas M. "Order 'in the Lord': Parents/Children, Masters/Slaves: 6:1-9." Ephesians. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014, 654-696.
Ephesians 6:1 addresses children. Winger observes this is a departure from other household orders (Winger 2014, 654). The subordinate is addressed here as someone who has value and dignity. While wives were directed to be subordinates to husbands, here children are directed to obedience (Winger 2014, 655). Winger does, however, note that the verb can imply both obedience and a willingness to learn from or receive help from someone (Winger 2014, 656). The duty of children to learn and obey is present throughout the Old Testament. Winger further notes that, while Jesus only fits the role of husband in previous verses, here he can be seen in both a parent and a child role (Winger 2014, 657). The obedience is "in the Lord." This signifies to Winger that heeding parents is part of heeding God (Winger 2014, 658).
To document his command for children to obey their parents, in Ephesians 6:2-3 Paul provides a conflation of Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 (Winger 2014, 659). His statement is most similar to Exodus 20:12 (LXX), but with a few changes which Winger considers significant. First, he calls it "the first commandment with a promise" (Winger 2014, 660). This may suggest an abridgement of the commands in common use, as the first and third commandments also have promises . Winger notes the earlier commandments are not as closely associated with the promises and that an abridgement may have omitted the promises. Paul also changes a subjunctive in the second clause to an indicative, resulting in a statement of definite fact, "you will be long-lived." Finally, Paul omits the promise of the land to which the Israelites will go. Winger suggests that this may be because the promise of a piece of land is not made for Christians, who inherit all creation in Christ (Winger 2014, 661).
Not only are children to obey their parents, but in Ephesians 6:4 fathers are not to provoke their children (Winger 2014, 661). The emphasis on the father may be indicative of his ultimate responsibility for the order and well being of the family. Winger has previously concluded that the father, like the husband, is a figure of Christ in relationships (Winger 2014, 662). The provocation fathers are warned against is the same which, in other circumstances, would result in God's righteous wrath. Rather, fathers are to nurture their children in training. Winger notes this may imply forceful correction, but that Paul has coupled the discipline with "instruction" and refers to it as "of the Lord." This implies a primary role of teaching as a master would his disciples (Winger 2014, 663).
Ephesians 6:5 shifts to instruction of slaves. Again, Winger notes the countercultural approach of addressing teaching to an inferior, such as a slave, without doing it through that person's superior (Winger 2014, 663). The slaves, like the children, are addressed with respect. Winger observes that slaves may have any number of societal functions in antiquity, but they are always characterized by their lack of freedom. Slavery was not normally characterized by physical appearance or lack of skill or social standing (Winger 2014, 664). From a theological standpoint, in this argument of Paul, the great contrast is between being "slave" and "free." The true freedom is a gift of God in Christ. However, this implies being subject to God as your owner (Winger 2014, 665).
In the same terms used for children, slaves are to heed their masters (Winger 2014, 665). These masters, however, are carefully identified as "masters in the flesh." Both slave and master serve a higher master in God. Winger notes then, the significance of the slaves being addressed as Christians (Winger 2014, 666). They demonstrate their faith as they are subject to the authority of another. The submission of the slave is "with fear and trembling," an attitude we are all to have as we serve the Lord. It is not obedience merely for show or appearance, in verse six (Winger 2014, 667). The service is intended to please God. They serve, according to verse seven, as for God rather than for men (Winger 2014, 668). The slaves are to have a good mind, that which would please God. Verse eight closes the instruction to slaves with the observation that anything we do which is good is done for God rather than for men. Winger observes this is entirely consistent with Paul's view of good works, particularly in Ephesians 2:8-10. All our works are done before God, in light of His grace (Winger 2014, 669).
In Ephesians 6:9, Paul moves to instructing masters, who are the owners of the slaves in the earlier verses (Winger 2014, 669) Winger notes that the wording of the verse depends on the earthly master and the heavenly Lord being addressed by one and the same term. The masters don't trade places with the slaves, but they treat them fairly, just as the slaves treat masters fairly. Both people remain in their office and use the office for the good of all. The motivation of this instruction is inherent in the fact that slave and master alike have a heavenly master (Winger 2014, 670).
Winger reminds his readers that Ephesians 6:1-9 is a continuation of material begun in 5:21-33 (Winger 2014, 671). The filling of the Spirit from 5:18 is applied in the case of wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. Each person fulfills a role in the ordered society. While Paul doesn't overturn fundamental visible order, such as the respective roles of people, Winger finds that he does depart from cultural expectations by making sure his "Christological analogy is the chief point of the pericope" (Winger 2014, 672). The same analogy he used to describe marriage is at work here.
Within the Greco-Roman world, fathers held absolute authority over their children until they died (Winger 2014, 674). This was pronounced in Greek tradition, and more so in Roman culture. Paul assumes a high level of parental authority. He does show mildness in terms of coercive punishment, but he is not unique in that (Winger 2014, 675). What is striking is that he views marriage and family as divine institutions and orders which reflect divine order. The promise and blessing of God, then, become the motivating characteristic, rather than a demand for obedience.
Paul's use of the fourth commandment from Exodus 20:12 and Dueteronomy 5:16 is not merely an appeal to authority. Winger observes that all the commandments are theologically tied to the first commandment, that of loving God (Winger 2014, 676). In Jewish thought the first commandment began the vertical relationship with God, and the fourth began the horizontal relationship with man. Parents would, therefore, be in a very important position, similar to that of God (Winger 2014, 677).
Drawing on this standing of parents as a parallel of God in Ephesians 6:1-4, Winger notes that it is through the work of parents that children come to know the work and character of God (Winger 2014, 677-678). To honor parents is a way of honoring God, and vice versa. Parents are under divine authority, but they are intended to be a primary earthly representation of God. Parents further have the duty of teaching God's Word to their children (Winger 2014, 679). The children are brought up to be believers in God, who partake of God's promises. For this reason it makes sense that Paul would bring up the promise associated with the fourth commandment (Winger 2014, 680). God has created his orderly world in such a way as to give good rewards in conjunction with order. Again, Winger ties the relationship of children and parents to the gospel, as, in John 1:12-13 and in Galatians 3-4, as well as in Ephesians, God makes those who trust him into his own children (Winger 2014, 682).
Winger goes on to discuss the matter of Ephesians 6:5-9 in terms of the transformation of thought about slavery when viewed through the lens of God's order (Winger 2014, 682ff). He initially endorses John Nordling's commentary on Philemon, from Concordia Publishing House. Nordling emphasizes the fundamental difference between slavery in the Roman world and the more recent British and American version to be that in Roman antiquity slavery was not racially based nor did it presume a lack of education or economic and social mobility (Winger 2014, 683). Manumission was very common, and many Jewish, Greek, and Roman slaves would remain enslaved by their own choice when offered freedom (Winger 2014, 684). This is not the pattern we would expect in the more recent customs in Britain and America.
Paul never speaks scornfully about slaves (Winger 2014, 686). This sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. He speaks in Ephesians to the slaves as humans with dignity then to the masters as humans with dignity. The slave who acted in positive ways was likely to receive positive regard and treatment. The master could hope for this as well. Paul reminds slaves and masters alike of their obligation to God, the ultimate master. Paul, then, is far more concerned with the obligation to and the blessing from God than he is with the human arrangement (Winger 2014, 687).
Rather than seeking a change in the human arrangements involved in being a master or slave, Paul calls the Ephesians to recognize their position as slaves to Christ, and the masters to recognize and act in concord with their position as representatives of Christ to the slaves placed under their authority (Winger 2014, 688) Winger observes that in this regard, the teaching about slaves and masters is analogous to the earlier statements about wives and husbands or children and adults (Winger 2014, 689). Winger concludes that Paul's view of slavery is that in Christ all are set free, though part of that freedom involves living in various roles in society, involving leadership or submission (Winger 2014, 692). The emphasis is on Christ's work, rather than on our role or obedience (Winger 2014, 694).