Thielman, Frank. Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
Chapter 11, “Wise Conduct within the Household (5:15-6:9)” pp. 353-410.
Up to this point Ephesians has tended to illustrate by contrast. In 5:15 the pacing shifts with “a sustained description of the wise life of the believer, who lives in the realm of the Spirit” (Thielman 2010, 353). The well ordered life is a life of care, required because the life of this world is very natural to us (Ibid., 356). Rather than pursuing a life of wine and dissipation, the Ephesians are to be filled with the Spirit and to enter into worship (Ibid., 361) which builds up the body of Christ.
Thielman draws a new section of the epistle at 5:21, despite the fact that its first word is grammatically related to what comes before. The concept changes significantly as it now speaks to horizontal relations rather than vertical ones (Ibid., 365). The order of a household was very important at the time of Paul, especially in the Greek world (Ibid., 366). This concept could lead to a discussion of Christian household structure. Paul also uses this section to emphasize the headship of Christ (Ibid., 368). Thielman observes the dignity given to the subordinate members of the household by a direct address. Each person bears dignity in Christ (Ibid., 370).
The matter of “mutual submission” arises in verse 21. After weighing alternatives, Thielman concludes that the husband submits in the sense that he leads his family for the good of the others (Ibid., 373). The wives submit to their own husbands, not just any men (Ibid., 375), not due to inferiority but due to his role (Ibid., 376). The husband has a great responsibility to his wife, laying down his life for her (Ibid., 381). The text makes it clear that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church (Ibid., 389).
Thielman’s comments on Ephesians 6:1-9 are much less extensive than his previous section. Children are to obey their parents, especially as a safeguard to the children (Ibid., 396). Thielman discusses the concept of “the first command with promise” and concludes that this may well have been the first concept children learned in life (Ibid., 400). Fathers are seen as the parent with key responsibility to their children (Ibid., 401).
The third family relationship discussed is that of slaves and masters (Ibid., 404). Again the inferior, the slave, is addressed first and told to respect masters (Ibid., 405). Believing masters are to treat their slaves in a way which dignifies them (Ibid., 406).