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Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
SECTION 13. — DIRECTIONS TO CHILDREN AND PARENTS. CH. 6:1-4.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord. For this is just. “Honour thy father and mother;” (which is the first commandment with promise;) “that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest be long-living upon the earth.”
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children, but nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1. Children, obey your parents: nearly word for word as in Colossians 3:20.
In the Lord: as in Colossians 3:20.
Just: in harmony with the eternal principles of right which found embodiment in the Law of God. Same word in same sense in Colossians 4:1; Philippians 1:7; Philippians 4:8, etc.
The phrase in the Lord affords no proof or presumption, especially in the absence of other reliable indications, that infant children were baptized in Paul’s day. For doubtless many who might fairly be called children had by their own faith and confession entered the Church. It was therefore suitable that to them directions should be given. Moreover the close and peculiar relation of children to their parents places all children of Christian parents, from the earliest days of opening consciousness, in a peculiar and close relation to the Church of which their parents are members. Paul therefore writes to them. His words prove that he looked upon them as part of the flock for which he had to care. This intimate relation found in the early Church, legitimate and suitable expression in the administration of Baptism to infants. That this formal recognition of the relation of infants to the New Covenant dates from the early morning of the Church, is made certain by the literature of a later day. But we have no sure proof that it was as early as this Epistle. Certainly this passage is easily explained without assuming it.
With his usual careful study of the O.T. Paul notices that in the Decalogue the fifth commandment differs from the rest in being supported by a definite promise. So were several later commands: e.g. Deuteronomy 24:19; Deuteronomy 25:15. But of the many and various commands given to Moses this is the first commandment which has attached to it a definite promise. At the close of the second commandment there is a virtual and implied promise. But it is only general, and is not specially attached to this one command. The definite promise in the fifth commandment raises it into conspicuous prominence. To this prominence Paul points when enforcing upon children the duty of obedience.
After this digression, which explains the significance of what follows, Paul goes on to quote the exact words of the ancient promise.
That it may be well with thee etc.: almost word for word from Exodus 20:12, except that the concluding words which the Lord thy God gives thee are omitted. This promise is very frequent in Deuteronomy, referring indisputably to the gift of the land of Canaan: Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2-3; Deuteronomy 11:8-12, etc. This reference is quite inapplicable to Paul’s Gentile readers at Ephesus. By omitting these words he makes the promise applicable to all persons in all lands. And this is the simplest explanation of the omission. The Greek word rendered earth denotes both a particular country, viz. in Exodus 20:12 Canaan, or the whole world consisting of many countries. This latter more general meaning is given to it here by the omission of the defining words which the Lord gives thee. The original promise may refer either to the long life of individuals or to the long continuance of the nation. As quoted by Paul, it can refer only to individuals. But this ancient promise cannot be appealed to as absolute now to all children who honour parents. For the New Covenant promises blessing for this life only indirectly, and under various conditions and limitations. The promise is here quoted chiefly to remind the readers of the special honour given to this command by the promise attached to it. This honour marks the abiding importance of this universal precept.
Ephesians 6:4. And, ye fathers: to the duty of the weaker, Paul adds as before the obligation of the stronger. So Colossians 3:21.
Provoke: move to anger by word or act.
Nurture: same word as in Ephesians 5:29. It denotes here, as the following words prove, not material food, but the care needful for moral and spiritual growth.
Discipline: derived from the word boy, and denotes all that pertains to the training of a boy: a cognate word in Acts 7:22; Acts 22:3. The same cognate word is found in Luke 23:16; Luke 23:22 in the simpler sense of punishment. This suggests that the idea of punishment was often associated with the word: so does the same or cognate word in 1 Corinthians 11:32; 2 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:20; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-10. We may understand it here to mean a training which includes punishment when needful.
Admonition: same word in 1 Corinthians 10:11; Titus 3:10 : a cognate word in Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 4:14 where see note. Perhaps discipline refers rather to the father’s firm hand; admonition to his faithful voice.
SECTION 14. — DIRECTIONS TO SERVANTS AND MASTERS.
Servants, obey them that are masters according to flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart as to Christ; not by way of eye-service as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good-will doing service, as for the Lord and not for men; knowing that, whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive from the Lord, whether he be a servant or a free man.
And, ye masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening, knowing that the Lord both of them and of you is in heaven; and there is no respect of persons with Him.
Ephesians 6:5. Contains a general precept for slaves. This is further expounded in Ephesians 6:6-7; and is supported in Ephesians 6:8 by a broad principle pertaining alike to slaves and freemen.
Servants, (or slaves,) obey your lords according to flesh: word for word as in Colossians 3:22 except that in all things is omitted here.
Fear and trembling: as in Philippians 2:12. It is a counterpart of fearing the Lord in Colossians 3:22; and describes in strong language an anxious desire to do right and a consciousness of the spiritual peril of disobedience.
In singleness of your heart: almost word for word as in Colossians 3:22. There may be an apparent fear arising from duplicity of heart.
As for Christ: in conspicuous contrast to the lords according to flesh. The slave must look upon obedience to his earthly master as obedience rendered to Christ.
Ephesians 6:6-7. Exposition, negative and positive, of what is involved in as to Christ.
By-way-of eye-service: taking as their principle of action a service aiming only at the eye of a human lord. Slightly different in form from ‘with eye-service’ in Colossians 3:22.
As servants of Christ: positive exposition, after the negative exposition just given, of the words as to Christ in Ephesians 6:5. As servants of Christ, they are doing the will of God: for every command and purpose of Christ is from God and for God.
From the head: as in Colossians 3:23.
With good-will: parallel with from the heart, adding to it the idea of gladness. While serving earthly masters, they do so gladly: for they look upon their service as for the Lord Jesus Christ, and not for men. They do the bidding of men, but their real aim is to please a Master in heaven.
Ephesians 6:8. A great and broad truth underlying and supporting the specific direction just given and expounded. A close parallel in Colossians 3:24. From Christ, the real Master, there will be reward corresponding exactly to the work done, whether by a Christian slave or a Christian freeman.
Ephesians 6:9. And ye masters or lords: like and ye fathers in Ephesians 6:4. To the precepts for slaves is now added a precept for masters. So Colossians 4:1.
The same things do ye to them: treat the slave on the principle just expounded for his treatment of you.
Threatening, or literally the threatening: a common fault of masters. For it is easier to threaten than to punish. Threatening is often an empty and irritating assertion of authority.
Knowing that etc.: as in Colossians 4:1. The action, as of the slave, so of the master, must be guided by knowledge.
Both of them and of you: emphatic. Master and slave are put side by side as servants of the one Master in the heavens. So Colossians 4:1.
Respect-of-persons: as in Colossians 3:25.
With Him: literally in His presence. Before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven respect of appearances has no place. Close parallel in Romans 2:11.
Speaking to slaves, Paul reminds them that their masters are such only in reference to the outward and bodily life. He nevertheless bids the slave to obey his lord, with anxious care to do right, and with a pure motive, looking upon his obedience as really paid to Christ. Such service will not be designed merely to catch the eye or to please men. It will be a service of Christ, doing God’s will heartily and gladly, as work done for Christ and not for men. This exhortation Paul supports by the universal principle that every good thing, by whomever done, will be rewarded by Christ.
Masters have their duties as well as slaves, duties based on the same broad principles. Especially must they avoid threatening, a common fault of the stronger party. This will be easily avoided by those who believe that both Master and servant stand before an impartial Master in heaven.
SECTION 15. — THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE.
Henceforth, be powerful in the Lord, and in the might of His strength. Put on the panoply of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Because to us the wrestling is not with blood and flesh, but with the principalities, with the authorities, with the world-rulers of this darkness, with the spiritual things of wickedness in the heavenly places. Because of this take up the panoply of God, in order that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having accomplished all things to stand. Stand then, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with a preparation of the Gospel of peace; amid all taking up the shield of faith, with which ye will be able to quench all the burning darts of the wicked one: and take the helmet of salvation; and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
Ephesians 6:10. Henceforth or the rest, i.e. all that remains to be said. Same words, in another case, in Galatians 6:17, introducing as here a final exhortation.
Be made powerful: i.e. day by day, for each day’s work and fight. Same word in Philippians 4:13, a close parallel.
In the Lord: in Christ our Master, the encompassing element from which we daily draw power. Apart from Him we can do nothing: John 15:5. Paul bids his readers accept the power which dwells in Christ and is obtained by inward union with Him.
The might of His strength: same words in Ephesians 1:19, (where see note,) describing the might of God. While bidding his readers receive power in Christ, Paul remembers the infinite strength of Christ, capable of controlling and crushing all hostile power; and points to this omnipotence as the source of the needed power. Cp. Ephesians 3:16, be strengthened with power. Both the personality of Christ and His infinite might are the surrounding element of Christian strength. Cp. 1 John 4:16, He that dwells in love dwells in God.
Ephesians 6:11. A second exhortation, pointing to a means of strength and giving a motive for using it.
Put-on: same word and sense in Romans 13:14, in the same sense of putting on weapons.
Panoply: an English form of the Greek word here used, which denotes an entire and full suit of armour and weapons. Same word in Wisdom Ephesians 6:18, He shall take His zeal as a panoply; Judith xiv. 3, having taken up their panoplies; 2 Macc. iii. 25, a golden panoply. This panoply is described in detail in Ephesians 6:14-17. It is the entire provision of God to protect His servants and to arm them for the battle of life. All this, Paul bids his readers appropriate to themselves.
That ye may etc.: purpose of, and motive for, putting on the panoply of God.
Stand: maintain your Christian position. It is the opposite of falling or fleeing. Same word and sense in Romans 5:2; Romans 11:20; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Corinthians 1:24.
Able to stand; suggests the difficulty of holding our own in the Christian fight.
Wiles: same word and sense in Ephesians 4:14, wiles of error.
The devil: an English form of a Greek word meaning slanderer, and so used in 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3. The same word is used by the LXX, e.g. 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:6-7; Job 1:9; Job 1:12, as a rendering of Satan, a Hebrew word meaning opponent. In other places, the LXX. merely reproduces the Hebrew word Satan, as in 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:23, where it is simply a human opponent. The Hebrew form is found in Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 11:14. In the N.T. the two words are practically equivalent as a proper name of the great enemy of God and man. His weapon is deception; and with this he seeks to overthrow and put to flight the soldiers of the cross. In order that we may maintain our ground, Paul bids us put on the panoply of God.
Ephesians 6:12. A tremendous fact supporting the motive just given. As usual with Paul, the fact is stated, first negatively, then positively: not with… but with.
Wrestling: a technical term of the Greek athletic contests. So Homer Iliad bk. xxiii. 635. It was probably suggested here by the word stand. For the wrestler’s work is to maintain his position and to throw down his adversary. And it is a most graphic picture of the Christian life. For, unlike military conflict, in wrestling each one contends alone against a personal antagonist, and can gain the victory only by intense personal effort and watchfulness. This suitability of the word led Paul to forsake for a moment the military metaphor involved in the word panoply, to which he returns in Ephesians 6:13, and to borrow another metaphor from the Greek athletic festivals.
With blood and flesh: so flesh and blood in 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 1:16. It denotes mankind as limited by the constitution of the human body. The Christian struggle is not against persons so limited. This is true even when we have resolute human opponents. For these are but instruments of unseen and more tremendous foes.
But with… with… with… with: graphic description of the real enemies.
The principalities… the authorities: same words in same order in Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15, denoting in each case ranks of superhuman beings. Here the context implies various ranks of fallen angels. Possibly, as suggested under Colossians 1:16, the principalities were the highest rank; and the authorities an order exercising sway over men or angels or natural forces. This last is also suggested by the term world-rulers which describes the realm over which they rule.
Throughout the world they reign supreme. And they belong to this darkness, to the present state of ignorance, the moral and intellectual night which hides from the view of the children of this world their impurity and their peril. The spiritual-things or powers: the Greek neuter including persons and things, as in Colossians 1:16 and elsewhere frequently.
Of evil or wickedness: a characterizing quality of these spiritual enemies.
In the heavenly places: same words in Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; in each case in a local sense, denoting superhuman abodes. And so probably here. It describes the superhuman abode of the fallen angels, already described in Ephesians 2:2 as the air. This locality agrees with their nature. They are above men and below the throne of God. It forms a climax in Paul’s description of his readers’ enemies. They have to struggle not against men like themselves limited by the weakness of bodily life, but against the various ranks of angels, against the lords who rule over the darkness which envelops the present world, against spiritual beings whose nature is bad and whose home is in realms far above the abodes of men. The frequent use of the first two terms of this series and in the order here given suggests that they denote definite classes of angels. All else is uncertain. Possibly the term world-rulers is a fuller description of the principalities and authorities. And the last term is evidently a description of all the spiritual foes with which the Christian has to contend. If therefore we take the first two terms as describing two classes, the third and fourth terms are probably further descriptions of the same superhuman antagonists.
Although Paul often speaks of the Christian life as a conflict, only here does he name the opponent. In 1 John 5:4-5, the enemy to be conquered is called the world. This calls attention to the outward and visible form, and the multiplicity, of the foes arrayed against us. In 1 John 4:4, the power of this multiform antagonist is traced to one animating and personal principle. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, the God of this age proves his hostility by blinding those who believe not. And the passage before us speaks of various superhuman powers acting under direction of one supreme foe.
Ephesians 6:13. After the reason given in Ephesians 6:12, Paul repeats the exhortation of Ephesians 6:11. He then adds, in the form of a purpose, a motive: that ye may be able etc. It is parallel to a similar purpose in Ephesians 6:11. The repetition emphasises our need for weapons and armour in order to maintain our position.
Withstand: to hold one’s own against another: same word in Galatians 2:11; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9.
Evil: as in Ephesians 5:16, because the days are evil. But here the evil day is spoken of as future. Yet there is nothing to suggest the revelation of the lawless one mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Probably Paul thinks of the day of severe trial which comes sooner or later to every soldier of Christ. So certain is this trial that to his thought it becomes definite as the evil day. These words correspond to against the wiles of the devil in Ephesians 6:11. But here Paul mentions the day of battle; there, the enemy with whom we fight.
Having-accomplished or worked-out: same word in Philippians 2:12; Romans 7:18; Romans 15:18.
All things: i.e. needful for victory.
Ephesians 6:14-17. Specification of armour and weapons included in the panoply of God.
Stand then: an exhortation summing up the foregoing. It keeps before us an idea prominent in Ephesians 6:11, and still more so in Ephesians 6:13, viz. the need for immoveable firmness in face of foes who would put us to flight or trample us under foot. Notice that the word stand at the end of Ephesians 6:13 notes a position still held when the battle is over. It is therefore represented as a goal kept in view. The same word here refers to a position to be maintained now. We must stand now in order that we may stand then.
The Christian armament. Having-girded… having-put-on… having-shod: preliminaries needful in order to maintain our position. Cp. Isaiah 11:5, having girded his loins with righteousness. To gird himself, was the soldier’s first preparation for battle. Only then could he put on his weapons. The Christian’s girdle is truth: i.e. a subjective conception corresponding with the eternal realities. See under Romans 1:18. It is the absolute opposite of the error of heathenism. Without such hold of eternal truth, the Christian lacks all compactness of character and is like a soldier going into battle with ungirt loins.
Breastplate: covering the vital parts of the body.
Righteousness: as in Ephesians 4:24; Ephesians 5:9 Same words in Isaiah 59:17 ‘He put on righteousness as a breastplate.’ Without strict uprightness, the Christian is like a soldier whose breast is unprotected. His conceptions must agree with the eternal realities, and his conduct with the eternal law of right.
The Gospel of peace: cp. Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful… the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace.
Readiness: ever prepared for the Christian fight. This readiness comes from the Gospel of peace, i.e. from the announcement as good news that to us in midst of conflict there is peace. Just as the shod foot is ready at once to meet the enemy, so they who have heard and grasped the Gospel of peace are in readiness for any conflict which may await them. That they are ready and eager to proclaim the Gospel, is only a part of the more general readiness mentioned here.
Ephesians 6:16. Another participial clause somewhat separated from those foregoing and noting a fourth preliminary needful for Christian stability.
Having taken up: parallel with having-girded etc. Same word in Ephesians 6:13.
Shield: large Roman shield some four feet by two and a half, used by heavily armed troops. It was usually of wood covered with leather.
Faith: belief of the Gospel, the unique condition of salvation. It saves us from both the guilt and power of sin, as being the one condition of union with Christ.
Burning darts: arrows with affixed torches, used to set fire to ships or towns. So Octavius used against the ships of Antony ‘fire-bearing darts:’ Dio Cassius bk. 1. 34.
The evil one: same word as in Ephesians 6:12-13. Close parallels in 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13 f; 1 John 5:18 f. It is equivalent here to the devil in Ephesians 6:11. The evil thoughts which he suggests are like burning darts: for they tend to kindle strange fire in the hearts of men. But they cannot injure those ‘guarded in the power of God through faith:’ 1 Peter 1:5. Since faith is thus a complete protection, it is here called a shield able to quench all the burning darts cast against it. Paul thus teaches the absolute safety of those who believe.
Ye shall be able: in every future attack.
Ephesians 6:17. Two more details of the Christian armour. But, instead of participles as before, these are added in the imperative mood as separate exhortations.
Helmet of salvation: same words in Isaiah 59:17. [This accounts probably for the peculiar form of the word salvation, a form not used elsewhere by Paul but found in Luke 2:30; Luke 3:6.]
Salvation: in its widest sense, viz. present deliverance from sin to be consummated in eternity by complete deliverance from every kind of evil.
Such salvation is a helmet covering our heads from what would otherwise be fatal blows. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 5:8, put on… as a helmet, hope of salvation.
Sword: as in Romans 8:35; Romans 13:4; Acts 16:27. The one weapon of attack here mentioned.
Of the Spirit: either as given by the Spirit, like panoply of God; or used by the Spirit. These senses here almost coincide.
Word of God: same words in Hebrews 11:3. Cp. ‘word of Christ’ in Romans 10:17. It can be no other than the Gospel, the mighty voice of God raising into new life those who were spiritually dead. The word preached is a sword: for, armed with it, the servants of Christ attack and over turn the kingdom of darkness and set free its captives. It is put into their hands by the Spirit of God. For, under His influence were spoken (Acts 1:2) even the words of Jesus. And He is with the preacher making His word to be a sharp sword in the hearts of those who hear.
Such is Paul’s description of the enemy with whom the Christian has to fight and of the armament needed for victory. Our foes are both one and many; and our real foes are unseen and superhuman. They consist of successive ranks of evil angels ruling from their lofty abode the material world around us, and acting under direction of one guileful chief. Well may the time of their most severe attack be called the evil day. Paul bids his readers hold their own in face of these tremendous foes. And, that they may do this, he bids them appropriate the whole equipment provided for them by God. First of all, the soldier must gird himself, for attack or defence; then put on his breastplate covering the chief part of his body, and his sandals so as to be ready at a moment’s notice to march against the enemy. For still further protection, he must take up and carry the great shield; and with his right hand put on the helmet and grasp his sword.
Paul mentions only one weapon of attack but several pieces of defensive armour, because his chief thought is to encourage his readers to maintain their position against the onslaught of tremendous foes. To this end they need knowledge of the eternal realities, strict integrity, a readiness for every emergency prompted by the glad tidings of peace, firm faith, actual experience of salvation borne triumphantly aloft, and in their lips the recorded words of God to man.
SECTION 16. — A REQUEST FOR PRAYER.
With all prayer and supplication praying at every season in the Spirit and watching for this with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; and on my behalf in order that to me may be given utterance, in opening my mouth, with boldness to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in a chain, that in it I may speak boldly, as I must needs speak.
Now come participial clauses containing virtually another exhortation, a collateral addition to those foregoing. In Ephesians 6:14 Paul bade his readers stand firm, and that they might do this bade them put on the armament provided by God. The details are added, at first in the form of past participles, having girded etc. But, as Paul enumerates them he passes unconsciously to direct exhortation in the imperative mood. Now follow two present participles noting, not preliminaries, but accompaniments of the original exhortation. It is best to join these participles to the dominant exhortation of § 15, stand then, rather than to the subordinate exhortation, take the helmet, which is a mere detail. Paul bids his readers to maintain their position in face of all their foes; and while doing this to pray for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18) and (Ephesians 6:19-20) for himself.
Ephesians 6:18. With or by-means-of: using prayer as a means of obtaining blessing.
Prayer and supplication: as in Philippians 4:6. In every way they must approach God in prayer, and must make petition for definite benefits.
In every season: same words in similar connection in Luke 21:36.
In the Spirit: prayers prompted by Him. So Romans 8:15, in whom we cry, Abba, Father.
And watching for etc.: a second participial clause, adding further details.
Watching: as in Colossians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 16:13. For successful prayer, we must keep wide awake, i.e. with our faculties in full exercise. And this must be accompanied by unlimited perseverance: cognate to a word in Colossians 4:2; Romans 12:12. This suggests that for a continual exercise of our faculties in prayer every kind of sustained effort is needful, and bids us make the effort.
Petition: as above. Our watchfulness must be accompanied both by sustained effort and by definite request for definite blessing.
Touching all the saints: cp. Ephesians 5:3. It is best to understand the first participial clause in this verse as referring to prayer in general; and the second as going on to speak specifically of prayer for our fellow-Christians.
Ephesians 6:19. And on my behalf: a particular request for prayer, added to the foregoing more general request.
That to me may be given etc.: purpose and contents of the desired prayer. It expounds on my behalf.
Utterance, or word: as in 1 Corinthians 1:5.
In opening my mouth, or when I open my mouth: same phrase in 2 Corinthians 6:11.
Boldness: unreserved speech, as in 2 Corinthians 3:12. Paul asks his readers to pray that whenever he begins to speak God will give him something to say, in order that with unreserved speech he may make known the Gospel.
The mystery of the Gospel: the secret, known only by those to whom God reveals it, which belongs to the good news announced by Christ. See under 1 Corinthians 3:4. Cp. Colossians 4:3, to speak the mystery of Christ.
Ephesians 6:20. On behalf of which mystery of the Gospel: i.e. in order to make it known.
I am an ambassador: same word and sense in 2 Corinthians 5:20. It expresses Paul’s sense of the dignity of his apostolic office.
In a chain: strange paradox; (for by all nations ambassadors were held to be inviolate;) and a graphic picture of Paul’s present position. The hand which writes or signs this letter is bound by a chain. But since this chain was borne for Christ’s sake and by Christ’s providential arrangement, it was to Paul an honourable badge of office. Moreover, that Paul was bound, made it more needful that God should give him unrestrained speech. Cp. 2 Timothy 2:9.
In order that etc.: ultimate aim of the prayer which Paul requests, supplementing and expounding the purpose given in Ephesians 6:19.
In it: in the mystery of the Gospel.
I-may-speak-boldly: cognate to boldness in Ephesians 6:19, keeping before and emphasising the idea of unrestrained speech.
As I must needs speak: same words in same connection in Colossians 4:3. The imperative need for unrestrained proclamation of the Gospel, together with his own solemn and official relation to it, prompt Paul to ask his readers’ prayers that God may give him fit utterance.
This section reveals unmistakeably the hand and thought of Paul. The man who himself prays for every Church to which he writes may well ask his readers’ prayer for all the saints. And this request for prayer on his own behalf, attesting as it does his deep sense of the efficacy of prayer, is in close harmony with similar requests in Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; and with Philippians 1:19. The word ambassador is one of many proofs of his consciousness of the grandeur of his office: cp. Ephesians 3:2; Romans 15:15-16; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Corinthians 13:10.
SECTION 17. — ABOUT TYCHICUS. FAREWELL.
But that ye may know the matters touching me, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make known to you all things, whom I have sent to you for this very thing that ye may know the things about us and that he may encourage your hearts.
Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptness.
Ephesians 6:21-22. A close and verbal parallel with Colossians 4:7-8.
Also ye: as well as others who are to receive like information. It is a note of genuineness. For from Colossians 4:7 we learn that Tychicus was commissioned to carry intelligence and encouragement to others besides those to whom this letter was written. So slight an indication is not like the work of a personator. And such a one would probably have mentioned Onesimus.
Encourage your hearts: as in Colossians 4:8.
Ephesians 6:23-24. Peace: inward rest prompting outward harmony, as in Ephesians 1:2. At the end of an Epistle, only here and Galatians 6:16.
To the brethren: noting their close relation to each other and to Paul. This suggests the addition and love: i.e. one to another, its usual sense when not otherwise defined. See under 1 Corinthians 13:1.
With faith: more fully Galatians 5:6, faith working by means of love.
From God etc.: source of this inward rest, and of this mutual love associated with faith. For the former compare Ephesians 1:2; and for the latter 1 John 4:19, we love because He first loved us. Both peace and love with faith are a work and gift of God and of Christ.
Grace with all who love etc.: a contrast to 1 Corinthians 16:22.
In incorruptness: same words in 1 Corinthians 15:42. The absence of decay (so Romans 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:10) which will characterize our resurrection bodies must characterize our present love to Christ.
REVIEW OF THE EPISTLE. As usual, Paul’s first words, after a Christian greeting, are praise to God. But, in what seems to have been a circular letter to several Churches, his thanks are not for special blessings to his readers but for the blessings conferred on all the people of God. These he traces to their source in a purpose of God in Christ older than the world but now made known to men, viz. His purpose to unite under the rule of Christ both earth and heaven. This purpose embraces not only those who were long waiting for the appearance of Christ but also the Gentile readers of this Epistle who have already received as a seal of their acceptance the Spirit of God promised of old to Israel.
All this, and what he has heard about their faith and faithfulness, move Paul to constant thanks on his readers’ behalf. His praise turns imperceptibly into prayer. He prays that God may give to them the Holy Spirit to reveal the things of God and specially to teach how great are the blessings to which He has called them, how rich is the inheritance belonging to the people of God, and how mighty the power at work in those that believe. Of this last Paul gives a measure in the power which raised Christ from the grave and to heaven, above the highest ranks of angels. He adds that God gave Christ, thus exalted, to the Church to be its Head, and the Church to be His body and His fulness.
The assertion that the power which raised Christ from the grave is at work in believers, Paul goes on to prove by saying that, in consequence of their sins which brought them under the anger of God, both his readers and himself were once dead; and that, by saving them through faith, God had raised them from the dead and made them sharers of the throne of Christ. He did this in order to reveal throughout eternity, in His kindness to them, the abundance of His favour to men. This salvation was wrought by the creative power of God, not prompted by any good in man, but designed by God to lead to good works.
Having described salvation as an inward and spiritual change from death to life, Paul goes on to describe it as a changed relation to the covenant-people of God. They who were once far off aliens have, through the death of Christ, been brought near and built into the rising walls of the living temple of God.
In view of all this the Apostle seemed to be approaching God in prayer. But he pauses for a moment to say that to himself and others had been revealed a secret hidden during long ages, viz. God’s purpose, mentioned above, to unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, in order thus to reveal to the various ranks of heaven, by this wonderful accomplishment of a divine purpose, His own manifold wisdom. In view of all this, Paul turns solemnly to God in prayer that He may give to his readers spiritual strength, by the indwelling presence of Christ, that thus they may be able to comprehend the incomprehensible love of God, and that thus they may be made full to an extent limited only by the fulness of God. And, while offering this great prayer he remembers that God is able to surpass in fulfilment all prayers and thoughts of men.
From this mount of transfiguration Paul comes down to discuss, in the light of the glory there revealed, matters of practical life. He begs his readers to walk worthy of their divine call; and specially urges them to do all they can to preserve Christian unity. This last exhortation he supports by pointing to the great spiritual unities on which rest the Christian Church. From unity he passes to the various spiritual gifts with which the triumphant Saviour has enriched His Church in order that it may lay aside the vacillation of childhood and grow into Christian manhood, into a compact and healthy body in which each part helps the well-being and development of the whole. He reminds his readers of the darkness and sin around them, and of the better lesson they have learnt, viz. that in Christ the old life of sin has been laid aside and a new life put on. What is involved in this change, is then expounded in an informal but appropriate series of general precepts. Falsehood, inordinate anger, theft, evil-speaking, and such things must be laid aside: and Christian kindness must take their place. For all sin excludes from the kingdom of God and brings the sinner under the anger of God.
His servants must not only avoid, but rebuke, the shameful practices of the heathen. For they are children of the light: and light ever reveals the hidden things of darkness. All this needs wisdom. Instead of the drunken songs of the godless there must be songs of praise to God. And each must loyally accept his place in the social order.
These last words are a stepping-stone to directions about the three most conspicuous social relations. Wives must view their husbands as set over them by Christ, and thus in some sense sharing His authority. And husbands must remember that this authority lays upon them an obligation to imitate Christ’s love to, and self-sacrifice for, the Church. Just as the Church is united to Christ as the body to the head, so the ancient record of creation says that husband and wife are one flesh. Consequently, the husband’s kindness or unkindness to his wife is kindness or unkindness to himself. In view of this mysterious relation, the husband must love his wife, and the wife reverence her husband, Similar mutual duties, resting upon their relation to Christ, rest upon children and parents, servants and masters.
All that remains is an exhortation to maintain, armed by the might of Christ, an unbroken front in face of the tremendous spiritual enemies arrayed against the Christian. In this inevitable and deadly conflict, God has provided for His servants a complete armament. The truth is their girdle, righteousness their breastplate: and the good news of salvation will fit their feet for the path before them. Faith will preserve them from the darts of the enemy, salvation will enable them to lift up their heads in triumph; and the word which God has put into their lips will be an effective weapon of attack. The Apostle begs their prayers for all Christians, and for himself that he may be able to proclaim the Gospel as the necessities of the case demand.
All personal matters are left to Tychicus, the bearer of the letter.
The width of view already noted as characterizing the Epistles to the Colossians characterizes also that to the Ephesians. But the one Epistle is by no means a duplicate of the other. The same keen eye looks now, with independent gaze, in a some what different direction. And the tone of the letters is different. Forceful argument and appeal against perilous error have given place to the serenity of victory. Again the Apostle’s thought ascends the stream of time to its source in eternity; not as before to search out the origin of the material universe, but to contemplate the salvation of man when salvation was only a deliberate thought in the eternal mind of God. Even the historic distinction of Jew and Gentile, separated for a time that they may be united for ever, is viewed in the light of this eternal purpose. The various ranks of angels are still in sight. They bow to their ascending Lord; and they will learn from saved and united humanity the many-sided wisdom of God. The conception of the Church receives a marked development. Throughout the Epistle the ideal Church is ever before us, one and manifold, in its relation to the one Spirit and Lord and God, as the permanent realization of the eternal purpose of God, and as the chosen Bride of Christ, purified by Him that she may be His for ever.
Already in other Epistles we have witnessed Paul’s approach to God in prayer. But in the Epistle we now close his prayer takes a more sustained and loftier flight. With strong wing he follows, in spiritual elevation, his rising Lord, and with mighty effort endeavours to grasp the infinite love of Christ and to make his own the infinite fulness of God. And on the summit of his lofty flight, raised by the power of God working in him, he seems to join the chorus of the glorified Church in its eternal song.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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