Ephesians 6:1-24 - Outline of Ephesians (Book Notes menu page)
As we have seen, thus far in Ephesians, Christians are called to a "walk in love" with Christ and toward one another. In chapter 5, this walk of love was applied to the mutual submission of members within the church, the body of called out ones (Eph 5:21). We are to voluntarily place our own interests and opinions aside, in deference to those of our brothers. The unity of the body is a harmony of humility, which cannot be realized unless the members are filled with the Holy Spirit (5:18-21), who produces within us the selfless love which characterizes the Head of the body, our Lord Jesus Christ.
     Since He is the Head over all, all the members of the body are to be arranged in order under Him, to fulfill His will. Likewise, the members are to voluntarily arrange themselves according to the order of authority and responsibility, which Christ has established within the body. The younger (or less mature) are to submit themselves to the elder(s) (1Pet 5:5). Wives are to submit themselves to their husbands... with the understanding that husbands are to be in submission to Christ... and that Christ's love for the church, will be reflected in the husband's love and care for his wife. The wife submits to her husband "as unto the Lord" (Eph 5:22), since the Lord has placed her husband over her. The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife, "even as the Lord the church" (5:29).
     Through comparison with the marriage relationship, the Lord has given us a better understanding of the tender intimacy of His relationship to His called out ones... He has also revealed the secret of a healthy marriage between a man and a woman (5:33).
     The discussion of marriage was a direct application of Eph 5:21. Now, in the first portion of chapter 6, we are given practical instruction of what it means to 'submit to one another in the fear of God' in the context of other relationships (ie., Parent and child; Employer and employee, Master and slave).
1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
"Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."
  • Why is it 'right' {ie., righteous, just}?
       Because God has said so. Verses 2-3 quote from Ex 20:12 (the fifth of the Ten Commandments). All of the other commandments are expressed in the negative: "Thou shalt not..." But this charge is given with a promise "...that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."
       Paul qualifies his instructions: "...obey your parents in the Lord..." Not every child has parents who are honoring the Lord with their lives. There may be times, when a believing child must choose to obey God rather than man.
       The intent of the original command was that parents would teach their children, to follow the ways of the Lord, by the example of their own way of life (Deu 4:40; 5:16).
  • "Children obey..." - Note that it does not say "submit."
    The relationship of Parent to child is different than that of husband and wife. The husband and wife are equals, who voluntarily arrange themselves in the order designed by God. The child is to obey {GK= hupakouo, to do as he is told}. The parent has the wisdom of years by which to discern the way that is right. Children who refuse to obey need to be corrected. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." (Prov 22:15)
  • "...that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth." -
    Children need to understand the consequences of obeying or disobeying God's Word. The nation of Israel was cast out of the promised land, because the people turned from the God of their forefathers. Prior to that national judgment, God judged individuals by removing them from the land (when their lives were cut short) due to their rebellion against the counsel of their parents (eg., Samson, Absalom...).
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath..."
{ie., Do not exasperate them. Do not give them valid reason to be angry with you.}
     See also Col 3:21 (where 'provoke' is a different word, meaning 'agitate, irritate,' with the result that the children lose heart). In either case, the attitude and demeanor of a parent may discourage a child from following the God, whom their parents claim to serve.
     Christian parents ought not live in the hypocrisy of "do as I say, not as I do." Rather, parents also, are to live in loving obedience to their heavenly Father (Eph 5:1, in context: 4:31- 5:1-f).
but 'bring them up' {this phrase is one GK word, translated 'nourish' in 5:29)...
...in the nurture {GK=paideia, discipline, corrective instruction (appropriate for children)}
eg., Prov 13:24; 19:18; 23:13,14; 29:15,17
...and admonition {GK=nouthesia, instruction of the mind}
...of the Lord. - eg. Prov 1:7-9; 3:1,2
The child will not benefit from the wrath of an angry man. But he or she needs the loving correction and instruction from the heavenly Father, as administered by the earthly parents to whom He has given that responsibility. Heb 12:9-11
5 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;
6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers;
but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth,
the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether [he be] bond or free.
9 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.
Here, the mutual submission of believers to one another is applied to the workplace.
We read this in the context of the employee - employer relationship with which we are familiar. But Paul's original readers had a very different work environment. How should you live as a servant {GK=doulous, slave, one in bondage} under your master {GK=kurios, lord, the one in control, the one with full authority}?
  • be obedient {GK=hupakouo, do what you are told} - just like a child, without argument.
    • with fear {GK=phobos, terror, dread} and trembling {GK=tromos, quaking with fear... ie., of failure to fulfill responsibilities, of being held accountable}
    • as unto Christ... - You are to serve your earthly master (your fleshly boss), with the attitude that you are serving the Lord who placed you under that boss. Christ has made us free from bondage to our former sinful condition, so that we can serve Him (Rom 8:2; Gal 5:1). Since Christ is my true Master, the rebellious attitudes and actions which once tainted my relationship to my earthly master must be put aside.
      Service for Christ must be:
      • not with eyeservice... - ie., not only while the boss is looking.
      • doing the will of God from the heart...
      • with good will {ie., an attitude of kindness}
      • doing service {ie., the work of a slave} as to the Lord, and not to men.
        You are accountable directly to your true Master, who knows your heart and motives.
In verse 9, Christian masters are reminded that they serve the same Master that their slaves serve.
Therefore, they also are to conduct themselves with fear and trembling, in anticipation of giving account to Him. Masters are to 'forbear threatening' {ie., omit, from their methodology, menacing words and actions designed to force their will upon the slaves}. See Col 3:22- 4:1.
     Before the heavenly Master, there is no respect of persons. Rather, Master and Slave are on the same level, as brothers in Christ. See the example of Philemon and his runaway slave, whom Paul led to faith in Christ (Philemon 1:15,16).
10. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God,
that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 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].
Finally, my brethren...- 'finally' {GK= loipon} refers to a 'remaining' matter.
Before closing his letter, Paul had another important issue to address.
     His letter has focused on the relationship of believers to the Lord and to one another, as members of His body. We are to be walking together in love. Previously, Paul dealt with issues between believers that might hinder that walk (eg., Eph 4:30-32). Now, he warns believers to be prepared for relentless attacks from unseen enemies, against us individually and as the body of Christ.
be strong in the Lord, in the power of his might...
put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand...
These enemies are more powerful than we are. But our Lord has all power. Mat 28:18
We cannot destroy these enemies. But in the Lord's strength, we can stand against them.
for we wrestle {ie., struggle} not against flesh and blood (v.12)...
Here, Paul warns against enemies, which are neither...
  1. the old fleshly nature. Every believer does wrestle with his 'old man' (Gal 5:17).
    But Christ has obtained the victory for us. Therefore, by 'reckoning' on what He has accomplished for us, and by relying on the Holy Spirit's power working within us, we can 'put off the old man' and 'put on the new' (Eph 4:22-24; Rom 6:1-12; Gal 5:22-25).
  2. other men (even though they act with fleshly motivations and methods).
    A fleshly brother may be a hindrance to the work, or a cause of stumbling for others. But it is possible to admonish and correct an erring brother (eg., 2Tim 2:24-26).
       Unbelieving men may oppose the Gospel of Christ and persecute His people. Yet, as the Gospel is proclaimed in the power of God's Spirit, some of them may be won, like we were (eg., 1Tim 1:12-16; Titus 3:3-7).
       The Church is engaged in a spiritual battle for the hearts of men, for which God's Spirit has provided powerful offensive weapons (eg., 2Cor 10:3-6). However, we also need defensive weapons to stand against attacks from the satanic realm.
but against principalities... powers... rulers of the darkness of this world...
against spiritual wickedness {ie., the spiritual evil} in high [places].
Apparently, Satan's evil empire has an hierarchical structure. Its upper ranks consist of depraved spiritual beings 'in high places' {GK=epouranios, pertaining to the heavens}. [This GK word refers to the 'heavenly places' of God's glory, in Eph 1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10 (in that last verse, it may have dual meaning).] The Satanic realm is not seated in God's heaven, for Satan was cast out of heaven, to earth. Satan is called 'the prince of this world' (Joh 12:31) and 'the prince of the power of the air' (Eph 2:2). From the 'heavens' which immediately surround the earth, these entities hold sway over the world of men.
     The lower ranks of Satan's realm, "the rulers of the darkness of this world {GK=kosmos, arrangement}" may implement the strategy of their superiors, by directly affecting the affairs of men, through demonic activity.
     The "wiles {GK=methodeia, cunning devices, deceptive methods} of the devil" (v.11) include doctrines of demons, and deception on many levels. Satanic enemies eagerly take advantage of fleshly weaknesses and foolish disagreements between Christian brothers. They readily recruit ungodly men to promote their poisons (eg., 2Cor 11:13-15; 1Pet 5:8).
     These demonic spiritual entities possess supernatural power. We have no strength, in ourselves, to stand against them. But our Lord, Jesus Christ, is 'far above' these evil enemies (Eph 1:20-23). He has provided the armor needed to withstand their attacks. But we must 'take it up.'
13 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.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,
and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
...that ye may stand...- Four times (in v.11,13,14), we are told to "stand."
Believers are not to go on the offensive against spiritual wickedness in high places. Rather, we are to stand against the attacks of wickedness, in this day of evil {GK=poneros, hardship, wickedness, depravity}. (Even Michael, the archangel, deferred to the Lord, when dealing with Satan. Jude 1:9).
     Christ has won the victory over the enemy. We are to stand in His victory. We are established upon Him, who is the one sure foundation. We have no strength in ourselves, our strength is entirely in Him ("be strong in the Lord... in the power of His might," v.10). We have no provision in ourselves, our protection is entirely from Him ("the whole armor" is "of God," v.11,13).
The elements of the 'whole armor' (GK=panoplia, the complete equipment, the full preparation).
Each piece speaks of Christ:
  • The girdle of truth - Christ is the Truth (Joh 14:6).
    The Roman soldier's girdle was the undergirding upon which all of the other pieces were hung. If the straps of the girding failed, everything fell apart. It is essential that we know the Truth. The Holy Spirit assures believers of what is right and true (Eph 5:9). These things are the characteristics of Christ (Isa 11:5, Rev 3:14; 19:11) and of His Word (Rev 21:5,6).
  • The breastplate of righteousness - "Christ Jesus... is made unto us wisdom and righteousness..." (1Cor 1:30; 2Cor 5:21; Php 3:9).
    The righteousness in which believers are clothed is not our own. Yet, His righteousness is not merely external garb. As the breastplate covers the heart, so, our hearts are to be filled with Christ's righteousness, that the words and deeds which proceed out of our innermost being would be pleasing to Him, in everything (Eph 5:9,10).
       The LORD equipped Himself with this armor, in engaging the battle in behalf of His own (Isa 59:16,17).
  • Feet shod with the preparation {provision} of the gospel of peace -
    This piece of armor is often viewed as a readiness 'to go' and 'preach the gospel' (Rom 1:15,16; 10:15; Isa 52:7). After all, the Lord commissioned us to that work (Mat 28:18-20).
       However, this piece, like all armor, has a defensive purpose: to enable us "to stand against the wiles of the devil." A soldier must not lose his footing in the heat of battle. The gospel of peace, upon which we stand, is entirely God's doing (Rom 5:1). We can be at peace {in a state of tranquility, and 'blessed assurance'} regardless of what Satan throws at us, because we are confident of our Lord's preparation in our behalf. (cp. Luke 2:30,31; Joh 14:1-3; 1Cor 2:9; Notice that the word 'prepare' in these references, like the word 'preparation,' in v.15, refers to what the Lord has done to secure our salvation.)
  • The shield of faith (v.16) -
    'Shield' {GK=thureos} refers to a large rectangular shield. (The GK word is derived from 'thura' meaning 'a door.') This type of shield was 'above all' in that it provided a layer of protection which completely covered the soldier and every piece of his body armor. The Roman soldiers would form a wall with their shields, and wait until their enemies exhausted their supply of arrows and fiery darts, which were deflected harmlessly by the shields. Then, they would rush upon them with their swords.
       Faith {GK=pistis, belief, assurance, conviction of the truth} is only as strong as the object of that faith. If you trust in someone or something that is not trustworthy, you will be disappointed, disillusioned and defeated. The Christian trusts in One who cannot fail. Joh 16:33; 1Joh 5:4,5; cp. Gen 15:1,6; Deu 31:6-8; Josh 1:7-9; Psa 56:1-4,10,11; Heb 11:1-f; 1Pet 5:8,9
  • The helmet of salvation - 'helmet' {GK=perikephalaia, encirclement of the head}
    Two applications ("a." is primary):
    1. Our confidence of deliverance in conflict.-
      In 1The 5:8-10, Paul calls this "the helmet of the hope {confident expectation} of salvation {ie., full and final deliverance from all danger and enemies}." This hope is undiminished whether we 'wake or sleep' {live or die}, for our salvation will be fully realized at the Lord's return. Meanwhile, in our present circumstances, we can be confident that the Lord will deliver us from our enemies, until our assigned task is done (2Cor 1:8-10; 2Tim 4:18).
         Our Savior put on such a helmet, in securing our salvation at the cross, and for His future coming to judge the world and restore Israel (Isa 59:17-21).
    2. The content of our minds must be protected.-
      As a helmet protects the brain, so, the believer's mind is to be encompassed in what the Lord has done for us. We are to fill our minds with God's Word and the good things which He has prepared for us (Eph 5:18-20; Php 4:6-9). We ought to diligently seek to correctly understand God's Word (2Tim 2:15).
  • The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God -
    It has often been noted that this is the only offensive weapon listed.
    However, this is also a primary defensive weapon. Jesus answered Satan's temptations with the written Word (Mat 4:1-11).
       God's Word teaches believers to discern between truth and error (2Tim 2:15-18); and between 'soulish' {fleshly} versus 'Spirit led' thoughts within our own hearts (Heb 4:12). A thorough understanding of the Word of God is essential for the individual believer to be 'thoroughly furnished' {GK=exartizo, lit., 'out fitted'}, for the work of edifying the body of believers (2Tim 3:14-17).
       Yet, no matter how well versed a man might be in the scriptures, he cannot wield this sword effectively. The Bible is "the sword of the Spirit." Unless the Spirit of God brings conviction, gives understanding, and makes application to the hearer's heart, the Word of God will not penetrate to do its work. Paul, knowing his personal weakness, proclaimed God's Word, in total dependence upon the Holy Spirt (1Cor 2:1-5).
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19. 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,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds:
that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Prayer is also an essential part of the soldier's armor.
Just as electronic communication is essential to a modern soldier. So, by prayer, the child of God calls for reinforcements, resupply, and intervention from above.
  • 'Prayer' is the general term for personal communication with God.
  • 'Praying always,' we continually acknowledge the Commander and His orders, and seek clarification of His way (Luk 18:1; 21:36; Rom 12:12; 1The 5:17).
  • 'Supplication' is the urgent request for specific need(s).
    Yet, because of our fleshly short-sightedness, we usually miss-perceive the battlefield situation. We do not know how to pray, or for what to ask. Therefore, to be effective, prayer must be 'in the Spirit' (Rom 8:26,27).
  • To watch in prayer, is to be awake and alert, like the soldier on guard duty, watching for enemy action, and also in anticipation of answers to previous requests.
  • To persevere in prayer, is to continue praying while difficulties are near and the requested help seems distant. (From Daniel's experience, we understand that the answer may be delayed due to opposition by the forces of the enemy, in the unseen spiritual battle. Dan 10:11-14)
praying always... and for me...
Paul knew his need for prayer (v.19,20). The enemy who hinders archangels will certainly intimidate the Lord's human ambassadors, who may be handicapped by other circumstances (eg., Paul was in prison, as he wrote this epistle). Only the Lord can enable His servant to be bold. Only the Lord can make His Word effective in the hearts of hearers.
     Do you pray for 'all the saints' (v.18)?
  • those who minister God's Word? ...those who hear it?
  • our missionaries, and the people to whom they have gone?
    (Someday, we will meet them. Rev 5:9)
  • our Sunday School and children's ministry teachers?
  • our church family, in their personal struggles and witness?
  • whoever has the privilege and responsibility to minister from the pulpit?
    Praying for those who minister, that the Word of the Lord may have free course {accomplishing that to which He has sent it}, is an essential part of spiritual warfare (2The 3:1; Isa 55:10,11).
21 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:
22 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose,
that ye might know our affairs, and [that] he might comfort your hearts.
23 Peace [be] to the brethren, and love with faith,
from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Grace [be] with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Paul's personal comments and benediction.
Peace... love... faith... grace... - All belong to the brethren who are in Christ, who is the source of these blessings, and who enables His own to walk with Him and with one another, in a state of 'sincere' {GK=aphtharsia, incorruptible, immortal} love for Him who is the Head of the body.

This concludes the study in Ephesians.
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