Ephesians 6:1-24

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2010-02-05 13:26.

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Paul admonished children to be obedient to their parents. According to many manuscripts, the expression “in the Lord” appears in connection with this admonition. This may apply to the parents as being “in the Lord” or at one with him as members of his body. Another possibility is that the directive is for children to obey their parents out of regard for Jesus Christ as their Lord. The apostle added the reason for obedience, “for this is righteous.” It is only right that children obey their parents, as it reflects a proper regard for the love, attention, and guidance they received during the most vulnerable part of their lives. Without adult care, babies cannot survive, and children continue to be dependent for years thereafter. (6:1)

Furthermore, obedience to parents is right because in harmonizes with God’s will. The apostle quoted the God-given command found in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 (LXX), “Honor your father and mother.” Such honor would include obedient response to parental direction. Most parents are concerned about the welfare of their children and try to give the kind of advice that will be helpful and beneficial. Therefore, when children defiantly ignore their parents, they dishonor them. (6:2)

Of the Ten Commandments, the command to honor father and mother is the first one to which a promise is attached. (6:2) Paul’s quotation of the promise is shorter than the extant Septuagint reading of Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 but expresses the same meaning. The promise is, “that it may be well with you and you may be long-lived on the earth.” Sound parental guidance serves to safeguard children from pursuing a wayward course that is destructive to well-being and can result in a premature death. (6:3; compare Proverbs 1:8-7:27.)

Fathers are cautioned not to provoke or anger their children. This could happen if fathers are unreasonable or harsh with their children, demanding much more from them than they could possibly do and administering discipline inconsistently and with unwarranted severity. Instead, they need to rear their children in the “discipline and admonition of the Lord.” The discipline or training and the directives fathers give to their children to avoid or to desist from a wrong course should be based on the example and teaching of their Lord Jesus Christ. (6:4)

In the Greco-Roman world, many believers were slaves and so had lords “according to the flesh,” or human masters. When slaves became disciples of God’s Son, they were to conduct themselves in a manner that honored him. This called for them to obey their masters with “fear and trembling, in sincerity of [their] heart, as to Christ.” Obeying “with fear and trembling” would denote manifesting proper regard or respect for their masters and maintaining a wholesome apprehension of not wanting to displease them and incur their anger. Such obedience, however, was not to be a mere outward expression. It was to be a reflection of a sincere heart, or the inmost self, as if the services rendered were directly done for Jesus Christ. (6:5)

In performing their assigned duties, slaves were to be exemplary, avoiding “eye service as to men” or working only while they were being watched or just enough to escape punishment. They were slaves of Christ, and so their desire should have been to do “the will of God” with every fiber of their very being (literally, “out of the soul”). (6:6)

As believers, they were to render service to their masters with a good attitude as to Lord Jesus Christ and not merely to men. (6:7) While conscientiously serving their masters in a manner that honored Christ, they could do so with the certain knowledge that he would repay them for whatever good they might do individually. Whether slaves or free, believers could rest assured that the Lord Jesus Christ would not fail to reward faithfulness. Unlike human masters who might be unjust, Jesus Christ would never treat anyone unfairly. (6:8)

Among believers in the first century CE, some were masters and obligated to follow the example of Jesus Christ. In their dealings with their slaves, they were to do “the same things to them,” probably meaning that they should manifest the same disposition and uprightness as they would expect from believing slaves. In imitation of Christ, they would not threaten their slaves or abuse them in any way. Though “lords” or masters, they, like their slaves, were subject to their Lord in the heavens, and he is not partial. Jesus Christ would not look with favor on any master who mistreated his slave. (6:9)

In view of the pressures that believers faced as they endeavored to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, they needed strength to resist succumbing to destructive influences. This required that they be empowered in him and in the “might of his strength.” They would need to rely on him for strength, remaining at one with him as their Lord. The “might of his strength” is far greater than anything they could possibly imagine and so would be more than adequate to be victorious in the trials and struggles they would encounter. (6:10)

Believers had an enemy, and to win in the fight against this enemy they needed spiritual protection and weaponry, which God could supply. The apostle urged believers to “put on the armor of God,” making it possible for them to stand against the “schemes of the devil.” They would be able to recognize the crafty deception and have the strength to resist it. (6:11)

The apostle indicated that believers have a real fight on their hands. It is not a “wrestling” or battling against “blood and flesh,” or a warring against other humans, but it is a struggle against the powers of darkness of the superterrestrial realm. The powers of darkness are described as “sovereignties,” “authorities,” “world rulers of this darkness” or, according to other manuscripts, “world rulers of the darkness of this age,” and “spirit powers of evil in the heavenly places.” This superterrestrial realm of darkness manifested itself in the enslavement of people to superstition, fear, ignorance, and a corrupt way of life characterized by moral degradation, hatred, violence, and inhumanity. (6:12; see the Notes section.)

To be prepared for the assault that had its source in the realm of darkness, believers needed to take up the “armor of God,” enabling them to withstand “in the evil day and, having done everything, to stand [firm].” The “evil day” appears to denote any time of trouble, trial, or distress. (Compare Psalm 41:1; 49:5.) “Everything” that believers would be doing may refer to “all” the essential efforts for gaining the victory in the fight against the powers of darkness. (6:13)

Like soldiers, believers were to stand fast while properly protected and equipped for battle. A soldier’s girdle provided support, protection, and a place from which a sword or dagger could be suspended. The “truth,” particularly as it relates to Jesus Christ and what he revealed about his Father, serves like a protective and supporting girdle. A breastplate protects the heart and other vital organs. The “breastplate of righteousness” shields the inmost self of the believer from harmful desires. On the basis of faith in Christ and what his death accomplished for them, believers have gained a righteous or divinely approved standing before God. Nevertheless, they are not sinless and so need to cooperate with the leading of God’s spirit to maintain their approved standing, seeking to be attached to uprightness as if it were a protective breastplate and thus resisting temptations to be drawn into sin. (6:14)

Paul likened the sandals for the feet to the believer's being prepared in relation to the “evangel of peace.” The evangel is the good news about Christ, which reveals how “peace” or reconciliation with God is possible. Believers should be prepared or in a state of readiness to share this message at every opportunity. (6:15)

“In everything” or, according to other manuscripts, “with” (literally, “upon”) “everything” or “all,” believers need to take up the “shield of faith,” with which they would be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the wicked one. The introductory words may be understood to mean either “in all circumstances” or “upon being equipped with all the armor previously mentioned.” Faith enables believers to recognize that the trials and troubles of the present are but momentary and that the divine promises are sure to be fulfilled. Therefore, the devil’s assaults, comparable to fiery missiles, would prove to be ineffective in causing spiritual harm to those who hold fast to their faith. The protective barrier faith provides would prevent any destructive “fire” from causing injury, for believers would not yield to the pressure to succumb to sin. (6:16)

“Salvation” functions as a helmet. In this case, “salvation” may be understood to refer to the future deliverance upon which the believer’s hope is to remain fixed. While having an approved standing before God, believers are yearning for the time when they will be completely liberated from sin and reflect the image of their heavenly Father flawlessly. Like a protective helmet, the believer’s focus on salvation safeguards the mental powers from yielding to God-dishonoring influences that could jeopardize sharing in the ultimate deliverance from sin. (6:17)

The “sword of the spirit” is “God’s word.” It is God’s word or message, specifically about his Son and what he accomplished through him, that functions like an effective sword in combating error and being successful in the fight against the powers of darkness. Its being called the “sword of the spirit” may identify God’s word or message as having been revealed through the operation of his spirit. (6:17)

“Through all prayer and supplication” may point to the vital means for standing fast when facing satanic assaults. “Supplication” may denote a more intense form of appeal to God than does “prayer,” and “all” could refer to every kind of prayer and supplication (private, silent, audible, public [while assembled with fellow believers], praise, thanksgiving, and appeals for help or guidance). At all times or on every occasion, prayers and supplications should be expressed “in spirit” or while being guided by God’s spirit. While praying, one should remain awake or alert “with all perseverance,” not allowing the mind to wander and not beginning to repeat words without careful attention. “All perseverance” in remaining alert while praying suggests that one would persist in prayer, with every effort being made to keep the mind focused. Prayers, as Paul continued, included “supplication for all the holy ones” or all fellow believers. (6:18)

He requested that the recipients of his letter would pray for him, so that he “might be given a word” or message, enabling him to open his mouth with “boldness to make known the mystery of the evangel.” It was the apostle’s desire to be granted a message or the right words to speak when bearing witness regarding the Son of God. He wanted to do so with boldness, courageously and with firm conviction, making known the glad tidings about Jesus Christ and his Father’s purpose respecting him. This good news had long been a mystery or been hidden from past generations. With the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth and the surrender of his life, the time had come for the mystery to be disclosed and proclaimed far and wide. (6:19; see the Notes section.)

As an apostle to the nations, Paul had been diligent in making known the “mystery.” On account of discharging his commission among the non-Jewish peoples, he came to be in confinement and, at the time this letter was written, found himself as an “ambassador in chains.” In his role as an ambassador for Christ, he had proclaimed the message about him and the significance of his death. The apostle also made an appeal to those who heard him to become reconciled to God. (6:20; compare 2 Corinthians 5:20.)

Paul repeated the reason he had asked fellow believers to pray for him. He wanted to have divine help to declare the mystery of the evangel with boldness, speaking just as he should. (6:20)

Paul appears to have entrusted the letter to Tychicus, whom he called a “beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord” (a dear fellow believer who had revealed himself to be a trustworthy servant in furthering the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ). With firsthand knowledge about Paul’s affairs, Tychicus would have been able to share specifics with fellow believers and relate everything about him. (6:21) This was, in fact, the reason Paul sent Tychicus, wanting those to whom the letter was sent to know about him and to “console [their] hearts.” Having learned about the apostle’s confinement, they would have been deeply concerned and troubled in their “hearts” or inmost selves. (Compare Ephesians 3:13.) The report Tychicus could give would serve to comfort them, allaying their anxiety. Moreover, the fellowship they would enjoy with him would provide opportunities for mutual encouragement. (6:22)

The letter concludes with a prayerful expression. “Peace to the brothers [‘holy ones,’ according to P46 (c. 200 CE)] and love [‘mercy’ (fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus)] with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Favor [be] with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptness.” (6:23, 24)

For believers to have peace would mean for them to enjoy an inner sense of well-being that comes from the assurance that God and Christ deeply love them and will help, strengthen, and sustain them regardless of the circumstances in which they may find themselves. The peace that comes from God and Christ also promotes unity within the community of believers. Being coupled with faith, love may be understood to be an expression of faith or complete trust in God and Christ. As their gift to the community of believers, love would continue to flourish among all. Believers would have genuine concern and care for one another, impartially responding to everyone’s needs. Whereas those to whom Paul wrote had faith, God and Christ would continue to aid them in progressively strengthening their faith. (6:23)

The gracious “favor” or the unmerited kindness that God and Christ grant to believers includes their aid and guidance. Loving Jesus Christ in incorruptness may mean loving him with an undying or never-ending love, or with a genuine and unwavering love. (6:24; see the Notes section.)

Notes:

In verse 12, extant manuscripts read either “our wrestling” or “your wrestling.”

Fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and a number of other manuscripts end verse 19 with “mystery,” omitting “of the evangel.”

Many manuscripts conclude verse 24 with “Amen.”

A subscription in a number of manuscripts indicates that the letter was sent from Rome.