Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
4. Manifestation in the Family-relationship
1. Wives representative of the Church (Ephesians 5:22-24)
2. Husbands representative of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-29)
3. The mystery: concerning Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:30-33)
4. Exhortations to children and parents (Ephesians 6:1-4)
The exhortations which follow concern the Christian family. The mystery concerning Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32) is to be manifested in the family relationship. While before we have seen the Church as the body of Christ, here in these verses we see the Church in her love-relation to Christ. He loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The union of husband and wife is used as a type of the union of Christ and the Church. Wives are mentioned first: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” And why? For the husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the Church; and “He is savior of the body.” The wife is therefore to be in submission to her own husband in everything, as the Church is subject unto Christ. Thus the wife in her submission is to bear witness to the blessed relationship of Christ and the Church. She has the blessed portion of being in subjection. The question arises, What, if the husband is not a believer? Is she to submit in such a case? The Word of God gives definite instructions covering such a case, and adds a promise (See 1 Peter 3:1-2).
The husband is not to demand of the wife this submission, which is her place. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. He stands in the Christian family as the representative of Christ and is called to love his wife. And how did Christ love the Church? He came from heaven’s glory to be a servant. He served and is serving the Church. The husband’s love towards the wife is to be expressed in loving service in her behalf and giving unto her, as unto the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7). Not the wife is to serve the husband, but the husband is to serve her in love, thus manifesting in a little measure the love of Christ for the Church. Beautiful is the description of the love of Christ for the Church. It is a love in the past: “He loved the Church and gave Himself for it.” Thus there is a present love: “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” Then there is His future love: “That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” it is the love which passeth knowledge, the love which never changeth; the love which is eternal. Equally blessed is the truth contained in Ephesians 5:30-33. We are members of His body, and of His flesh and His bones.
That we have here a reference to Adam and Eve as the types of Christ and the Church is obvious. While Adam slept God built the woman out of his side and then presented her to him. “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” were Adam’s words. She was taken out of his body, shared the same life and was also Adam’s wife. Adam is the figure of Him that was to come (Romans 5:14). Eve is the type of the Church. We possess His life and are of Himself, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. And the Church’s destiny is to have dominion with Him over the new creation.
Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. And the fathers are not to provoke the children to wrath, “but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” And how much wisdom this takes! Parents must show constantly to the children the love and patience of Christ and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Then the promise will be made good. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
5. Exhortations to Servants and Masters
The servants exhorted were slaves. Slavery existed throughout the Roman Empire at that time. Nowhere is slavery attacked in the New Testament, nor is there a statement telling believers that it was a sin to own slaves and incompatible with the gospel. Paul wrote a courteous letter to Philemon and sent it by Onesimus, the runaway slave, who probably had stolen money from Philemon, his master. The gospel is not here to reform the world, to meddle with social conditions and politics.
The slaves here exhorted were Christians. They all belonged to the one body where there is neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free. They were in Christ, saved by grace and seated in Christ in the heavenly places. What did it matter if they were but slaves! Did not God’s well beloved Son walk on this earth as a servant, yea, the servant of all! In all their bonds they were the servants of Christ. Their service was to be rendered as unto the Lord and not unto men. The Lord would give them their reward. How happy these believing slaves must have been! And the Christian masters were to remember the one Master in heaven, with whom there is no respect of persons.
6. The Warfare and the Panoply of God
1. The warfare (Ephesians 6:10-12)
2. The panoply of God (Ephesians 6:13-20)
Christian warfare or conflict is with the devil and his wiles, with the principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and with the spiritual armies of wickedness in the heavenly places (literal translation).
This revelation given here concerning the powers of darkness, the principalities, the rulers of the darkness of this world and the wicked spirits in the heavenly places, is important and demands a closer attention. The Scriptures clearly teach that there is a vast dominion of darkness over which Satan is the head and that, as the god of this present age, he has rulers over this world and a large army of wicked spirits in the heavenlies. He is the prince of the power in the air. The sphere above the earth, the aerial heavens and beyond are tenanted by these wicked spirits, which under the headship of Satan form with principalities and powers, his kingdom. How mighty this being is, what powers are at his disposal, how vast his dominion, how numerous the fallen angels, the wicked spirits which possess the heavenly places, no Saint has ever fully realized, nor can it be all known, till the day comes in which the God of peace shall bruise Satan completely under our feet. Satan has even access into heaven itself The first two chapters of the book of Job acquaint us with this fact. See also 1 Kings 22:19-23.
But a day is coming when the old serpent, called the devil and Satan, will be cast out into the earth and his angels with him. This will happen according to the Apocalypse (Revelation 12:1-17), when the saints of God are taken into glory and Michael begins his great war against Satan. Then the heavenlies will be cleared of their wicked and unlawful occupants. They will be forced to the earth, where Satan for a brief period will exhibit his great wrath and institute the great tribulation. The devil and his angels will finally be cast into the lake of fire prepared for them (Matthew 25:41). All this we know from God’s revelation, and it is a solemn revelation.
In our days the masses of professing Christendom are wholly indifferent to these truths. Others openly oppose them, sneer at them and reject them as superstitions. Well has it been said, “No one but an unbeliever can overlook and despise them.” Behind all these denials and sneers, coming from the camps of higher criticism and the new theology stands the dark shadow of Satan. The rulers of darkness of this world, the wicked spirits, do all in their power to keep a lost world, with its supposed progress and scientific discoveries, in ignorance and darkness about themselves. And occultism, known by the names of spiritualism and Psychical research, tries to establish communion with departed spirits. In reality it is communion with the wicked spirits in the heavenlies, who use this unlawful intrusion to delude their victims and make them doubly secure for the impending doom.
And these wicked spirits are against the masterpiece of God. Those who are in Christ and lay hold in the power of His Spirit of the great and ever blessed truths revealed in this epistle, who know the hope of His calling, who rejoice in God and the glory to come, who walk worthy of the calling, come face to face with these powers of darkness. They hate us as they hate Christ.
The wiles of the devil, not his power, we are exhorted to stand against. His wiles are all aimed at getting us away from the enjoyment of the fellowship into which God has called us, the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. If he succeeds in that he has dislodged us from our stronghold and then is able to attack us. The world over which he rules is at his disposal and he uses it to accomplish his sinister purpose. Many pages could be written on his tactics and not the half would be told. It is not so much by the gross things of the flesh and the world he works, though he also uses them; errors of all descriptions becoming more subtle and more cunning, are the chiefest wiles of this great being and the wicked spirits under his control. And how well he succeeds in our present time!
And we must put on the whole armor of God, the panoply of God. It is the only way that we can get the victory and stand and withstand. First, the loins are to be girt about with truth. Even so our Lord exhorted, “Let your loins be girded about” (Luke 12:35).
It is the girdle around the loins, which holds all things together. The girdle is the truth. What truth? The truth of heavenly things, heavenly blessings, acceptance in Christ, oneness with Him, the truth so fully revealed in this Epistle. This we need as a girdle to hold up our garments, our habits, so that in the warfare and conflict we may not be entangled with the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4). The truth is to govern our conduct, our affections.
The breastplate of righteousness. This covers the heart. It means having a good conscience. Not merely knowing that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, that we are righteous because we believe on Him, but it means a consistent walk with our position in Christ and the relationship into which the grace of God has brought us. It is again the walk, worthy of our vocation, obedience to the exhortations of the preceding chapters. Covered by this the devil cannot touch us. Such practical righteousness “love out of a pure heart and of a good conscience and of faith unfeigned” keeps us in the realization and enjoyment of our relationship to God, in the fellowship with the Father and the Son. How often we fail in having on the breastplate of righteousness. Then we must seek restoration by confessing our sins (1 John 1:9).
The feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. This does not mean the preaching of the gospel to others, Christian service or soul winning. We have through the gospel perfect peace with God. We know that God is for us, who then can be against us? This perfect peace we have, in which we stand is our preparation. And we have the peace of God as well, yea, the legacy our Lord left unto us, “My peace I give unto you.” Therefore we are not terrified by our adversaries (Philippians 1:28). Israel wandered over the desert rocks and desert sands for forty years with shoes, which did not wear out. We too wander through the wilderness, the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, a peace which will last as long as God Himself. Knowing this Peace, knowing we are in God’s hands, knowing that we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s, knowing that all things are ours, we can stand and withstand the wiles of the devil. He cannot touch one who rests in the peace of God and who trusts in the God of peace.
The shield of faith. This is to be “over all” (not above all” as in the Authorized Version). Faith in God, faith in His promises, faith in His Word, simple child-like faith is to cover the head and the body like a great shield. It is the exercise of an unwavering confidence in God. The fiery darts will thus be quenched. These “fiery darts” are indeed terrible weapons. The fire speaks of the wrath of God, of judgment, at least, from Him, and it is with this that the enemy would assail us. He is, we must remember, the accuser. His aim, as already said, is to bring distance in some sense between our souls and God. How great a necessity, therefore, to maintain this happy confidence in Him, which, while it does not excuse failure in the least, yet, in utter weakness, finds all its confidence in Him who has undertaken for us. “All the fiery darts of the wicked one” can thus be “quenched” by the “shield of faith” (F. W. Grant).
The helmet of salvation. The helmet rests upon the head. it covers the head, the seat of intelligence. Assurance of salvation past, present and future is this helmet. As we wear it and as it governs our mind and heart as well, the wiles of the devil cannot fall upon us. We are in possession of a salvation which is secure. No power in earth or heaven, the devil with all his demon powers, cannot spoil us of it. This gives not alone confidence, but boldness in the conflict. Sad it is to see the thousands of believers without the helmet of salvation, destitute of the assurance of salvation and therefore the easy prey of the devil’s wiles, driven about by every wind of doctrine. Well has it been said: “Girded by the truth applies to the judgment of the inner man. Practical righteousness guards the conscience from the assaults of the enemy; the power of peace gives a character to our walk; confidence in the love of God quenches the poisoned arrows of doubt; the assurance of salvation gives us boldness to go onward.”
The sword of the Spirit. It is the word of God, the only offensive weapon mentioned in the armor of God. It is to meet the devil and to make him flee from us. How our blessed Lord wielded this sword in the wilderness, how He met the devil by a “It is written” is well known to every Christian. Was there ever a time when God’s people had greater need of laying hold with a firm grasp of the sword of the Spirit? Satan has succeeded by his wiles to dull the edge of that sword. The enemy also perverts and counterfeits the Word. What need then that as never before we go “to the law and to the testimonies.” We must search the Word and have the Word search us. We must have the Word in our hearts and our hearts in the Word, and thus alone can we meet the enemy.
Praying always. We do not detach this from the armor of God. It belongs to it. Prayer always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, is next to the sword of the Spirit the most powerful weapon against the devil and his wicked hosts. We must read the Word and pray. Prayer and the Word cannot be separated. The searching of the Word must be done with prayer and prayer will be effectual through knowing the Word. Prayer is dependence on God; we lean on Him. And as we pray in the Spirit (not for the Spirit) we are to watch also and remember all the saints of God, the blessed members of the body of Christ, the masterpiece of God.
7. The Conclusion
In the preceding verses the great apostle asked the prayers of the saints for himself Thereby he testified in a practical way to the great truth of the body of Christ, the church. The conclusions are brief. Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in Christ, would make known to them all things, and he was sent also by the loving apostle to comfort their hearts. What a marvelous document this epistle is! What a solid rock to stand upon! What revelations concerning God, and ourselves as redeemed by the blood of His Son! God grant that all His people may increasingly enjoy the riches of this richest portion of His Holy Word.