Ephesians 6 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Ephesians 6
Pulpit Commentary
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Verse 1. - Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. The first duty of children is obedience, and "in the Lord," i.e. in Christ, this duty is confirmed. The ἐν Κυρίῳ qualifies, not "parents," but "obey," and indicates that the element or life which even children lead in fellowship with Christ makes such obedience more easy and more graceful. The duty itself rests on the first principles of morality - "for this is right." It is an obligation that rests on the very nature of things, and cannot change with the spirit of the age; it is in no degree modified by what is called the spirit of independence in children.
Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
Verse 2. - Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise). The exhortation, based on natural morality (ver. 1), is here confirmed from the Decalogue. "Honor" is higher than obedience (ver. 1); it is the regard due to those who, by Divine appointment, are above us, and to whom our most respectful consideration is due. Father and mother, though not quite on a footing of equality in their relation to each other (Ephesians 5:22), are equal as objects of honor and obedience to their children. It is assumed here that they are Christians; where one was a Christian and not the ether, the duty would be modified. But in these succinct verses the apostle lays down general rules, and does not complicate his exhortations with exceptions. The latter part of the verse contains a special reason for the precept; it is the first commandment with a promise attached. But obviously the apostle meant more than this; for as in ver. I he had affirmed the duty to be one of natural religion, so here he means to add that it is also part of the revealed will of God - it is one of the commandments; but still further, it is the first commandment with a promise. It may, perhaps, be said that this is appealing, not to the higher, but to the lower part of our nature - to our selfishness, not our goodness; but it is not an appeal to one part of our nature to the exclusion of the rest; it is an appeal to our whole nature, for it is a part of our nature to expect that in the end virtue will be rewarded and vice punished. In the case of children it is difficult to look far forward; the rewards and the punishments, to be influential, must be within the ken of vision, as it were; therefore it is quite suitable that, in writing to them, the apostle should lay emphasis on a promise which had its special fulfillment in the life that now is.
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
Verse 3. - That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. A free rendering (after the manner of the apostle) of the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, "that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." While the Decalogue was an expression of the will of God on matters of moral and indefeasible obligation, it had a local Hebrew element here and there. In the present ease the apostle drops what is specially Hebrew, adapting the promise in spirit to a wider area. The special promise of long life in the land of Canaan is translated into a general promise of prosperity and longevity. As before, we must not suppose that the apostle excludes exceptions. The promise is not for each individual; many good and obedient children do not live long. But the general tendency of obedience to parents is towards the results specified. Where obedience to parents is found, there is usually found along with it temperance, self-control, industry, regular ways of life, and other habits that tend towards prosperity and longevity. In Christian families there is commonly affection, unity, prayer, mutual helpfulness, reliance on God, trust in Christ, and all that makes life sweet and wholesome. The spirit of the promise is realized in such ways, and it may be likewise in special mercies vouchsafed to each family.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Verse 4. - And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath. "Fathers" is inclusive of mothers, to whom the practical administration of the household and training of the children so much belong. The first counsel on the subject is negative, and probably has respect to a common pagan habit, against which Christians needed to be put on their guard. Irritation of children was common, through loss of temper and violence in reproving them, through capricious and unsteady treatment and unreasonable commands; but more especially (what is still so common) by the parents being violently angry when the children, inconsiderately, perhaps, disturbed or annoyed them, rather than when they deliberately did wrong. All this the apostle deprecates. But bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. The words παιδεία and νουθεσία are not easily defined in this connection; the former is thought to denote the discipline of training, with its appropriate rewards and punishments; the latter, instruction. Both are to be "of the Lord," such as he inspires and approves. Instilling sound principles of life, training to good habits, cautioning and protecting against moral dangers, encouraging prayer, Bible-reading, church-going, sabbath-keeping; taking pains to let them have good associates, and especially dealing with them prayerfully and earnestly, in order that they may accept Christ as their Savior and follow him, - are among the matters included in this counsel.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
Verse 5. - Bond-servants, obey your masters according to the flesh. There were many slaves in the early Church, but, however unjust their position, the apostle could not but counsel them to obedience, this course being the best for ultimately working out their emancipation. The words of Christ were peculiarly welcome to them "that labor and are heavy laden;" and, as we find from Celsus and others, the early Church was much ridiculed for the large number of uneducated persons in its pale. With fear and trembling. Comp. 1 Corinthians 2:3; Philippians 2:12, from which it will be seen that this expression does not denote slavish dread, but great moral anxiety lest one should fail in duty. It was probably a proverbial expression. In the singleness of your heart, as to Christ. Not with a got-up semblance of obedience, but with inward sincerity, knowing that it is your duty; and even if it be irksome, doing it pleasantly, as though Christ required it, and you were doing it to him.
Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
Verse 6. - Not in the spirit of eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the bond-servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Exegetical of the last exhortation, with a negative and a positive clause, according to the apostle's frequent practice (comp. Ephesians 2:8, 19; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:14, 15, 25, 28, 29; Ephesians 5:18, 27, 29; Ephesians 6:4). Eye-service and men-pleasing have reference only to what will pass muster in the world; Christians must go deeper, as bound to Christ's service by the great claim of redemption (1 Corinthians 6:20), and remembering that "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). The will of God is our great standard, and our daily prayer is, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." In heaven it is done "from the heart."
With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
Verse 7. - With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. Some join the last words of the preceding verse to this clause, "from the heart with good will," etc., on the ground that it is not needed for ver. 6, for if you do the will of God at all, you must do it from the heart. But one may do the will of God in a sense outwardly and formally, therefore the clause is not superfluous in ver. 6, whereas, if one does service with good will, one surely does it from the heart, so that the clause would be more superfluous here. Jesus is the Overlord of every earthly lord, and his follower has but to substitute him by faith for his earthly master to enable him to do service with good will.
Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Verse 8. - Knowing that whatsover good thing each man shall have done, the same shall he receive from the Lord, whether he be bond or free. The hope of reward is brought in to supplement the more disinterested motive, such addition being specially useful in the case of slaves (as of children, vers. 2, 3). For the slave the hope of reward is future - it is at the Lord's coming that he will have his reward.
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
Verse 9. - And, ye masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening. Act correspondingly toward your slaves, as if the eye of Christ were on you, which indeed it is; if you are ever tempted to grind them down, or defraud, or scold unreasonably and make their life bitter, remember that there is a Master above you, into whose ears their cry will come. If they are to do service to you as to the Lord, you are to require service of them as if you were the Lord. Therefore forbear threatening; influence them by love more than by fear. Knowing that both their and your Master is in heaven; and there is no respect of persons with him. Both of you stand in the same relation to the great Lord, who is in heaven and over all (comp. Ephesians 1:20, 21). Your being higher in earthly station than they will not procure for you any indulgence or consideration. You will be judged simply and solely according to your deeds. Your responsibility to the Judge and your obligations to the Savior alike bind you to just and merciful treatment. If such principles were applicable to the relations of enforced labor, they are certainly not less so to the relations of labor when free.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Verses 10-20. - THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE. Verse 10. - Finally. The apostle has now reached his last passage, and by this word quickens the attention of his readers and prepares them for a counsel eminently weighty in itself, and gathering up the pith and marrow, as it were, of what goes before. "My brethren," A.V., is rejected by R.V, and most modern commentators, for lack of external evidence. We note, however, that, whereas in the preceding verses he had distributed the Ephesians into groups, giving an appropriate counsel to each, he now brings them again together, and has a concluding counsel for them all. Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Compare with Ephesians 3:16, where the heavenly provision for obtaining strength is specified, and with Ephesians 4:30, where we are cautioned against a course that will fritter away that provision. The ever-recurring formula, "in the Lord," indicates the relation to Christ in which alone the strength can be experienced (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:9). The might is Christ's, but by faith it becomes our strength. As the steam-engine genders the dynamic force, which belts and wheels communicate to the inert machinery of the factory, so Christ is the source of that spiritual strength which through faith is communicated to all his people. To be strong is our duty; to be weak is our sin. Strong trust, strong courage, strong endurance, strong hope. strong love, may all be had from him, if only our fellowship with him be maintained in uninterrupted vigor.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Verse 11. - Put on the entire amour of God. Chained to a soldier, the apostle's mind would go forth naturally to the subject of amour and warfare. Put on amour, for life is a battle-field; not a scene of soft enjoyment and ease, but of hard conflict, with foes within and without; put on the amour of God, provided by him for your protection and for aggression too, for it is good, well-adapted for your use, - God has thought of you, and has sent his amour for you; put on the whole amour of God, for each part of you needs to be protected, and you need suitable weapons for assailing all your foes. That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Our chief enemy does not engage us in open warfare, but deals in wiles and stratagems, which need to be watched against and prepared for with peculiar care.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Verse 12. - For we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our conflict is not with men, here denoted by "flesh and blood," which is usually a symbol of weakness, therefore denoting that our opponents are not weak mortals, but powers of a far more formidable order. But against the principalities, against the powers. The same words as in Ephesians 1:21; therefore the definite article is prefixed, as denoting what we are already familiar with: for though all of these, evil as well as good, have been put under Christ the Head, they have not been put under the members, but the evil among them are warring against these members with all the greater ferocity that they cannot assail the Head. Against the world-rulers of this [state of] darkness (comp. Ephesians 2:2). "World-rulers" denotes the extent of the dominion of these invisible foes - the term is applied only to the rulers of the most widely extended tracts; there is no part of the globe to which their influence does not extend, and where their dark rule does not show itself (comp. Luke 4:6). "This darkness" expressively denotes the element and the results of their rule. Observe contrast with Christ's servants, who are children of light, equivalent to order, knowledge, purity, joy, peace, etc.; while the element of the devil and his servants is darkness, equivalent to confusion, ignorance, crime, terror, strife, and all misery. Against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The natural meaning, though questioned by some, is, either that these hosts of wickedness have their residence in heavenly places, or, that these places are the scene of our conflict with them. The latter seems more agreeable to the context, for "in heavenly places" does not denote a geographical locality here any more than in Ephesians 1:3 and Ephesians 2:6. When it is said that "we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places," the allusion is to the spiritual experience of his people; in spirit they are at the gate of heaven, where their hearts are full of heavenly thoughts and feelings; the statement now before us is that, even in such places, amid their most fervent experiences or their most sublime services, they are subject to the attacks of the spirits of wickedness.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Verse 13. - Wherefore take up the entire amour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day. Some have tried to affix a specific time to the "evil day" of the apostle, as if it were one or other of the days specified in the Apocalypse; but more probably it is a general phrase, like "the day of adversity," or "the day of battle," indicating a day that comes often. In fact, any day when the evil one comes upon us in force is the evil day, and our ignorance of the time when such assault may be made is what makes it so necessary for us to be watchful. And having done all, to stand. "Having done fully," or "completed," is the literal import of κατεργασάμενοι, having reference, not only to the preparation for the battle, but to the fighting too. The command to be "strong in the Lord" is fitly associated with our "having done all," because leaning on almighty strength implies the effort to put forth strength by our own instrumentality; when God's strength comes to us it constrains us "to do all" that can be done by us or through us (comp. Psalm 144:1; Philippians 2:12, 13). We are not called to do merely as well as our neighbors; nor even to do well on the whole, but to do all - to leave nothing undone that can contribute to the success of the battle; then we shall be able to stand, or stand firm.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Verse 14. - Stand therefore, having girt about your loins with truth. The "stand" in ver. 13 denotes the end of the conflict; this "stand" is at the beginning. Obviously there must be a firm stand at the beginning if there is to be at the end. In order to this, we must fasten the girdle round our loins - viz, truth, here used in a comprehensive sense, denoting honesty; sincerity of profession in opposition to all sham, levity, hypocrisy; and likewise the element of "truth in Jesus" (Ephesians 5:21), the substance of the gospel revelation. We are to gird ourselves in truth, ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, establishing ourselves in that element, wrapping it round us; ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, literally, "girded in truth." And having put on the breastplate of righteousness. Comp. Ephesians 5:24, for at least one element of the righteousness - righteousness wrought in us by the Holy Ghost after the image of Christ. But a more comprehensive use of the term is not excluded - the whole righteousness that we derive from Christ - righteousness imputed and righteousness infused.
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Verse 15. - And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The metaphor becomes somewhat difficult to follow; the feet have to be shod or armed as with military sandals, and the sandal is the ἑτοιμασία, or preparedness of, or caused by, the gospel of peace. The idea seems to be that the mind is to be steadied, kept from fear and flutter, by means of the good news of peace - the good news that we are at peace with God; and "if God be for us, who can be against us?" The Roman sandal was furnished with nails that gripped the ground firmly, even when it was sloping or slippery; so the good news of peace keeps us upright and firm.
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Verse 16. - Withal taking up the shield of faith. The θυξεός was a large oblong shield covering a great part of the body, not the ἀσπίς, smaller and more round. Faith, in its widest sense, constitutes this shield - faith in God as our Father, in Christ as our Redeemer, in the Spirit as our Sanctifier and Strengthener - faith in all the promises, and especially such promises as we find in Revelations 2. and 3. "to him that overcometh" (comp. promise to Ephesus, Revelation 2:7) Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. "Fiery darts" were weapons tipped with inflammable materials, firebrands, curiously constructed, adapted to set on fire. Metaphorically, considerations darted into the mind inflaming lust, pride, revenge, or ether evil feelings, emanations from the great tempter, the evil one. That such considerations sometimes start up suddenly in the mind, against the deliberate desire, sometimes even in the middle of holy exercises, is the painful experience of every Christian, and must make him thankful for the shield on which they are quenched. An act of faith on Christ, placing the soul consciously in his presence, recalling his atoning love and grace, and the promises of the Spirit, will extinguish these fiery temptations.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Verse 17. - And take the helmet of salvation. This is the head-covering (comp. Psalm 140:7). In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 we read, "putting on for an helmet the hope of salvation." The glorious truth that we are saved (comp. Ephesians 2:5, 8) appropriated, rested on, rejoiced in, will protect even so vital a part as the head, will keep us from intellectual surrender and rationalistic doubt. And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The sword supplied by the Spirit, the Word being inspired by him, and employed by the Spirit; for he enlightens us to know it, applies it to us, and teaches us to use it both defensively and offensively. Our Lord in his conflict with Satan, and also with the scribes and Pharisees, has taught us how this weapon is to be used, and with what wonderful effect. Paul, too, reasoning from the Scriptures and proving from them "that this Jesus whom I preach unto you is the Christ," or (going back to the Old Testament) the author of the hundred and nineteenth psalm, showing us how the soul is to be fed, quickened, strengthened and comforted out of God's Law, indicates the manifold use of the sword, and shows how earnestly we should study and practice this sword exercise, for our own good and the good of others.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Verse 18. - With all prayer and supplication praying. The metaphor of armor is now dropped, but not the idea of the conflict, for what is now insisted on is of the most vital importance for successful warfare. Though prayer is virtually comprehended in most of the previous exhortations, it is now specifically enjoined, and in a great variety of ways; "all prayer and supplication," equivalent to every form of it, e.g., ejaculatory, secret, spoken, domestic, social, congregational. At all seasons. No period of life should be without it - youth, middle life, old age, all demand it; no condition of life - adversity, prosperity, sunshine, desolation, under sore temptation, under important duty, under heavy trial, under all the changing circumstances of life, personal, social, Christian. See the hymn-

"Go, when the morning shineth;
Go, when the noon is bright;
Go, when the day declineth;
Go, in the hush of night."
In the Spirit; for true prayer is spiritual, and it is not true prayer unless by the Holy Spirit the heart is filled with heavenward longings and aspirations, changing our prayer from cold form to heartfelt realities. The ordinary habit of the soul should be prayerful, realizing the presence of God and looking for his grace and guidance. And watching thereunto; that is, "towards" spirituality, against formality, as also against forgetfulness and neglect of prayer. Perhaps also the idea of watching for the answer is involved, as you wait for an answer when you have dispatched a letter. In all perseverance; this being very specially needed to make prayer triumphant, as in the case of the Syro-phoenician mother, or in that of Monica, mother of Augustine, and many more. And prayer for all saints; this being one of the great objects for which saints are gathered into the "one body" the Church, that they may be upheld and carried on, in warfare and in work, by mutual prayer, kept from slips and infirmities, and from deadly sins, and enabled one and all to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called."
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
Verse 19. - And for me. Mark the un-priestly idea; so far from Paul having a store of grace for all the Galatians, he needed their prayers that, out of the one living store, the needful grace might be given to him. That utterance may be given to me, in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. With all his practice in preaching, he felt that every instance of right utterance was a gift - "may be given to me;" especially when great matters were involved - "in the opening of my mouth." To open the mouth denotes an authoritative act of teaching (comp. Matthew 5:2); on such occasions he especially desired boldness, not stormy vehemence, but earnestness, fearlessness in making known the destination of the gospel, once secret, now designed for all (comp. Ephesians 2.). Boldness was needed because the message was so hateful to some and so contemptible to others.
For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Verse 20. - For which I am an ambassador in chains. Thereby not only physically helpless, but in danger of being subdued into tameness, the ordinary effect of captivity, and thus reduced to a spirit not befitting the bearer of a great message from the King of kings. That in it - i.e., in the matter of it, of the gospel - I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:
Verses 21, 22. - MISSION OF TYCHICUS. Verse 21. - But that ye also may know my affairs, how I do. Having referred to his captivity, he thought it natural for the Ephesians to desire more information about him, how he did or fared in his captivity. Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord. Nothing more is known of him than that (with Trophimus) he was a man of Asia (Acts 20:4), who accompanied Paul when traveling from Macedonia to Asia, and was sent by him to various Churches (Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12). The two qualities by which he is noted, lovableness and fidelity, have not only served to embalm his name, but show that he had much of Paul's own character. Shall make known to you all things.
Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.
Verse 22. - Whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our state, and that he may comfort your hearts. This serves to explain the absence of personal remembrances, allusions, and messages in the Epistle. Tychicus, who had his full confidence, would tell them all by word of mouth. The concluding words show that it was not to gratify any mere personal feeling that Paul directed Tychicus to make this communication; but knowing how much they felt for him, he believed it would be a comfort to hear how he fared. To pagans the idea of captivity was always dolorous and dreadful; it was well for them to learn how Christians could glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3). Tychicus, the beloved brother, was evidently well fitted to apply to the Ephesians this comforting view of his state.
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 23, 24. - CLOSING BENEDICTION. Verse 23. - Peace be to the brethren. There is a double invocation of blessing - to the brethren, and to all that love the Lord. "The brethren" must mean the members of the Church addressed, with special reference to the amalgamation in one body of Jews and Gentiles, or to the one family (Ephesians 3:15) in which they were brethren, Peace is the echo of Ephesians 1:2, and denotes the apostle's desire for the continuance among them of the peace with God to which they had been admitted, as well as the prevalence of peace in every sense of the word. And love with faith. "Love" in the widest sense (Ephesians 3:17, 19) - the love of Christ to them, their love to Christ, and their love to one another; and love is coupled with faith, because faith is the companion of love, they are in the closest relation to each other. Faith in Christ receives him as he is offered, in all his love and goodness; it sees his loving face, and is changed into the same image. From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (comp. Ephesians 1:2).
Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Verse 24. - Grace he with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptibility. As grace was the first word, so it is the last (comp. Ephesians 1:2), not as denoting anything essentially different from the blessings invoked in the preceding verse, but for variety, and in order that the favorite word may be, both here and before, in the place of prominence. The expression is peculiar - love the Lord Jesus Christ ἐν ἀκαθαρσίᾳ. The word denotes, especially in Paul's usage, what is unfading and- permanent. The love that marks genuine Christians is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew, but an abiding emotion. Nowhere can we have a more vivid idea of this incorruptible love than in the closing verses of Romans 8, "I am persuaded that neither death nor life," etc.

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