Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Instructions Concerning Children and Bondservants (6:1-9).
‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’
Children are to obey their parents ‘in the Lord’. Obedience to parents is therefore an obligation to Christ. That is as long as they do not tell them to do something that is clearly against God’s declared will. This is then enforced by reference to the ten commandments.
‘The first commandment with promise.’ Honour your father and mother is the first commandment where reward is promised for obedience. The words following the second commandment are a more general statement. Note that both father and mother are given authority. The reward for this will on the whole tend to a long life. The rebellious will often find their lives cut short as a result of their behaviour. This command is more needed today than at any time in history.
‘And you fathers, do not provoke your children to anger. But nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.’
The Christian father will seek to be scrupulously fair and will not deliberately do things which will unnecessarily rile his children. He will consider their point of view and consider what is genuinely best for them. However he will be concerned that they grow up under the hand and care of God. He will seek to build them up spiritually, admonish them verbally where necessary, and may occasionally have to use a heavier hand. Of course this should never be to relieve his own anger but because he thinks it will genuinely help the child. If it does not hurt him equally (rather than just saying it does) he should not do it.
‘Bondservants be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling (with greatest care), in singleness of your heart, as to Christ. Not in the way of eyeservice as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, doing service with good will as to the Lord and not to men.’
This applies to all types of service, including that of employees and the self-employed. All service is to be performed with the sole purpose of pleasing Christ, who sees exactly what effort is put in and what care is taken. (He also sees what is invoiced). They must act as though they were bondservants of Christ. For dedicated and careful work is pleasing to God. And all such work should be done cheerfully and gladly as being done for the Lord. Genuine work is as much a spiritual service as worship.
‘Knowing that whatever good thing each one does he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free.’
When our work is done properly as to the Lord, it is the Lord who will finally reward us, on top of anything we receive in wages or in gratitude. Note that Paul specifically applies this to free men as well as bondservants.
‘And you masters, do the same things to them, and forebear threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven and there is no respect of persons with him.’
The bosses and masters are also to remember that they have a Master in heaven to whom they are accountable. They are merely His foremen and will have to give account to Him. Thus they must avoid bullying and menaces, and act with reasonableness as in the presence of God. They must remember that God sees all people as of equal value. Therefore they must require only what is reasonable.
‘Finally, be made powerful in the Lord and in the strength of his might.’
Our only hope for the future and our only means of victory against an implacable enemy is to be ‘made powerful in the Lord’, to enjoy and experience the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His mighty strength within us by His indwelling that will enable us to overcome all obstacles. And as we walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), and in light (Ephesians 5:8), (both are necessary), this power will be at work in us. Love is the approach and attitude we have towards God and the world, light is our openness to God through His word and prayer, so that His light might shine in us and through us, dealing with anything that might diminish our strength in the Lord, and revealing to us His glory as we face the Foe.
‘Finally.’ Bringing matters to a conclusion. Having described our position in Christ and having exhorted us to right behaviour Paul now closes by reminding us of our resources in Christ.
‘Be made powerful.’ Without Him we are without strength for the battle ahead. He is the One Who can make us powerful through His resurrection life as we put on the armour of God.
‘In the Lord and in the strength of His might.’ The source of our power is the indwelling Lord, Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, the One Who has been exalted, seated far above all, with everything in subjection under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-22). And it is His mighty strength that we can enjoy and experience as we look to Him to live through us (Galatians 2:20).
The Armour of God and the Battle That Lies Ahead (6:10-20).
Having given general teaching Paul now closes the letter with a reminder that we are in a spiritual battle and need to take the proper precautions. The letter opened with a description of God’s eternal action in redeeming His own, all brought about by His sovereign purpose, it ends with our responsibility to arm ourselves for battle against the Foe. We have our part to play too.
‘Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’
The armour does not fall on us, we have to put it on. We cannot defeat the enemy by our own efforts but we can put on the armour, the armour of truth, of righteousness, of faith, of His word, and of assurance of salvation. And we need that armour, for we have to deal with a wily enemy who will attack at every point in all manner of ways. He will come as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), he will come as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He will try to frighten us into betrayal of Christ as he frightened Peter; he will try to lure us into false teaching through deceptive teachers; and into false ideas as he did the Master Himself, appearing to offer a quick and easy way to all we desire. He will try to make the bad look good, and the good appear not worth the effort. He will seek to undermine our faith, and to persuade us to compromise the best for the good. And sometimes he will appear to have succeeded.
Satan desired to have Peter so that he could sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31), and Peter, terrified, denied his Lord. But he had behind him the strength of the Lord, and he was restored and overcame. We too may stumble, but if we put on the armour of God we too will finally prevail.
‘That you may be able to stand.’ This does not refer to fleshly temptations. From those we have to flee (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). (Do not attempt to fight them, your hope lies in flight. You must avoid them and keep away from them). But this refers to the frontal assaults of the Evil One, his attempts to mislead and misdirect, his attempts to weaken our faith or attack us head on, or to put insidious thoughts into our minds. Against these we have to stand in the armour of God.
‘The wiles of the Devil.’ We are against a tricky foe and he knows every dirty move. He is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is the perpetrator of false teaching (Ephesians 4:14). He uses the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things to choke the word that comes to us (Mark 4:19). He is the arch Deceiver (Revelation 12:9). We have no hope on our own. Sometimes he will attack with fiery darts, inflicting wounds of doubt and fear, even with the unwitting help of our loved ones and friends and those we trust the most. Only Jesus is totally reliable. Then we will need the shield of faith. At others he will seek to whisper in our minds, insidious thoughts, evil thoughts, disturbing thoughts, even using self-satisfaction and overmuch holiness to bring about our downfall, and we will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. At others he will tempt us openly with all that is most desirable, and our only hope will be a strategic retreat. But attack us he will, and his attack will be subtle and clever, tailored to our strengths and weaknesses.
‘For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ These are our enemies, the evil hosts of wickedness under their evil master. And our wrestling is in heavenly places, demonstrating our present access to that sphere. It is the spiritual world into which we enter with Christ when we become His. And there we will have our major battles. And there we will need the protection of God’s armour.
‘Our wrestling.’ The battle will often be very personal, individual and hand to hand. But the wrestling in mind is that of the soldier as he grapples, fully armed, with his opponent, not that of the wrestler in a sporting contest. This is no sport, this is war.
‘Not against flesh and blood.’ What we may see may be human beings who are against us, and we may be very conscious of them. But our fight is not really with them. They are only the tools. The real battle is with spiritual forces of wickedness.
‘The principalities, the powers.’ They were originally His creation (Colossians 1:16) until they rebelled. And now they are defeated foes and fighting a violent rearguard action (Colossians 2:15). They are unable to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38), and as they fight they are filled with amazement at what God is doing for His people (Ephesians 3:10). But they still fight on for there is nothing left for them but final doom.
‘The world-rulers of this darkness.’ Kosmokratores - used of world-rulers such as Nebuchadnezzar and one of the adulatory titles for the Roman Emperor. But here it refers to the powers that lie behind them and work through them. Those who run the world in darkness and keep it in darkness, by blinding men’s minds, rendering them bereft of the light that shines out from God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
‘The spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.’ While we were under the power of darkness (Colossian 1:13) we were left untroubled, except to be drawn in into his schemes (Ephesians 2:2), but now we have entered the heavenly places with Christ, the spiritual realm, and live in the light, we are subject to the attacks of spiritual forces of wickedness under the Prince of the power of the air (the prince of a kingdom not of this world and yet with no right in the heavenly sphere).
So what we are to face is frightening. But God has provided the means by which we can go forward without fear, the armour of God. As we go forward in His mighty strength, His mighty armour will provide all the protection that we need.
‘Because of this take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.’
Such foes demonstrate the importance of being clothed in the armour of God, so we must ensure that we put it on. Indeed we have the responsibility of putting it on, and much Christian failure lies in our failure to do so adequately, for the enemy will attack the parts that are unprotected. We need ‘the whole armour’.
‘To withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.’ The battle may not appear to be continuous. There will be seemingly quiet days, the phoney war. But at other times the attack will be ferocious and we will have to withstand firmly, and having repelled the attacks again and again we will have to go on standing for the attacks will go on until the relief forces arrive and Christ comes for His own. And our certainty of survival lies in the armour of God.
The importance of the armour is demonstrated by its content. Truth as a belt, righteousness as a breastplate, the good news of peace for boots, faith as a shield, salvation as a helmet, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, as a means of defence and attack. These weapons, we are told elsewhere, are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).
‘And having put on the breastplate of righteousness.’
We are to put on the new man which after God has been created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24), the new man in which we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son on the cross (Ephesians 2:16), the new man through whom we are to reveal the fruit of the Spirit in righteousness (Ephesians 5:9). This is accomplished by submission to Christ, steady commitment, and response to the Holy Spirit, walking step by step by the Spirit and allowing Christ to live out His life through us.
Thus it includes trusting in the righteousness put to our account in Christ (Romans 10:4; Philippians 3:9; Romans 10:10; Galatians 3:6), by Him Who has been made to us righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). For we have been made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). It also includes the righteousness that we are to reveal through the Spirit at work within us (Ephesians 5:9; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 Timothy 6:11), being righteous as He is righteous (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:7). For it is this recognition that we are accepted as righteous in the sight of God with a righteousness that can never be sullied, and the resulting fruit of righteousness in our lives that results from it, that will protect our hearts from the sword strokes of the forces of evil, for our breastplate will be impenetrable. No accusation of Satan to God will be able to hurt us when we are confident that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. And though men may accuse us, if our lives are righteous they will put them to shame. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 the breastplate is one of faith and love, faith in the promises of God and in the crucified One, and a dwelling in the love of God. Here it is the breastplate of both imputed and imparted righteousness.
The idea of the breastplate of righteousness, along with the helmet of salvation, comes originally from Isaiah 59:17. But there the intention is attack, and they are worn by The Lord as He goes forward as vindicator and deliverer. The righteousness there refers to vindication and true righteousness, the helmet to deliverance. Here they are for our defence, covering us with His righteousness and surrounding us with His salvation, His power to deliver. But it is good to know that we have the same protection as He had, as those who are vindicated and being delivered.
‘And having shod your feet with the preparation (or readiness or equipment) of the Gospel of peace.’
In Ephesians peace refers to peace with God (Ephesians 2:13-14 compare Colossians 1:20), ‘peace from God’ (Ephesians 1:2; Ephesians 6:23), and the resulting peace between Christians (Ephesians 2:14-16; Ephesians 4:3), all included in the message of peace which He has proclaimed to us (Ephesians 2:17). Peace with God means that our hearts are right with Him and that there is no shadow between. It is ours because we have been reckoned as righteous by faith (Romans 5:1) and this enables us to stand, confident of victory, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).
Indeed it is the God of peace, the God Who brings peace, the God Who gives peace to His own, Who will bruise Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20) through the Gospel of peace. Both of these aspects are particularly apposite here. Peace with God is our assurance and protection. Peace from God, flooding our very beings (Philippians 4:7), will further protect us from all that the Enemy can throw at us and result in confidence and assurance.
Having the feet shod in good shoewear was a vital part of a soldier’s equipment. It affected all his movements, including his sense of comfort, his ability to travel long distances at speed, and his agility on the battlefield. It put him at peace with himself. Nothing is better for our peace of mind than to know that we have peace with God and peace from God, two aspects of the same privilege. Then there is nothing between us and God and His peace fills our souls. Then are we ready to stand in the battle and are equipped for what we must face. Then can we march forward in comfort and strength. And being at peace with one another we will fight as one whole.
In view of the context and Romans 16:20, this footwear may well have in mind the bruising of the Serpent’s head in Genesis 3:15. It is the fact that we are confident that we have peace with God, and because of the cross through which we found that peace, that we are enabled to tread down the Enemy without fear.
‘The preparation’. (Hetoimasia). This word is used of a ship’s tackle and can mean equipment, and could thus be translated ‘boots’. If, however, we see it as preparedness then we may see it as meaning that the Christian soldier must at all time be ready with the Good News of peace with God to combat the enemy and deliver the enslaved.
The importance to Paul of peace from God cannot be over-exaggerated. The idea is always contained in his greetings, and regularly in his final salutations and in his prayers for God’s people. To him God is the God of peace (Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16), and peace is His children’s birthright. And the Good News is the good news of peace, from the One Who has made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20).
‘Withal taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery arrows of the wicked one.’
Once we are founded in truth, clothed in imputed righteousness and revealing true righteousness, and shod with the good news of peace, we have to learn to exercise faith, using the shield of faith. Through faith we came to Christ for redemption through His blood (Romans 3:25) and receive assurance in our hearts. Through faith we receive the Spirit (Galatians 3:5-6; Galatians 3:14) and experience Christ dwelling in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17). And through faith we must defend ourselves against the attacks of the Enemy by holding up the shield of God’s promises. As he attacks every attack can be met by a promise of God, in the same way as Jesus thwarted him during His time of temptation. So we must hold up as our shield, faith in the promises of God. This was the weapon that Jesus used when tempted by Satan in the wilderness, and there is no better. To each attack He replied with a quotation from Scripture, confounding the Enemy, and we must do the same. Thus every Scripture verse that we take to our hearts is another weapon in our armoury.
For every attack of Satan there is a reply in Scripture. There is our means of combating his lies. It thus behoves us to study the Scriptures assiduously, and to hold it in our hearts, so as to be able to produce it at the opportune moment. Our faith in the God of the Scriptures will then act as a defensive shield on the basis of His promises.
‘The fiery arrows of the Evil One.’ Fiery arrows, like temptation, may seem picturesque in the sky but when they land they burn and destroy. His arrows never bode any good. In Psalms 120:4 the sharp arrows of the mighty are linked with lying lips and a deceitful tongue, and are characteristic of the enemies of peace. Compare how the false Messiah in Revelation 6 has a bow while the true Messiah in Revelation 19 has a sword. But these arrows are turned away by the shield of faith in the promises of God.
‘And the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.’
The sword is used for both defence and attack, and the Christian, indwelt by the Spirit, must use the sword of the word of God in both modes. It acts as a further defence as its promises are utilised to divert Enemy attack, and it is a means of delivering from darkness those who are under ‘the power of darkness’. Its cut and thrust will tear aside the refuge of lies for those willing to hear. ‘The word of the cross is to those who perish foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).
It is not without significance that the Evil One uses a bow or javelin where the Christian uses a sword. The former’s attacks are many and varied, thrown at a venture, hoping to do harm, but the attacks of the latter are personal and sure, hand to hand and personally directed. And we must learn to attack as well as defend, by proclaiming and passing on the word of God.
‘With all prayer and supplication at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for me, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, that in it I may speak boldly, even in the fashion in which I ought to speak.’
The armour must be combined with prayer, that spiritual assault weapon that equally confounds the Enemy. The prayers are to be twofold, for all the people of God and for Paul in his special ministry. They are to be ‘at all seasons’ and ‘in the Spirit’, and should be persevering. Their concern is to be for the spiritual wellbeing of the people of God and the furtherance of God’s purposes through Paul and his fellow-ministers.
‘With all prayer and supplication.’ The repetition is probably for emphasis rather than to distinguish types of praying. It covers the whole range of prayer. We are to be a praying people, earnest and urgent.
‘At all seasons in (or by) the Spirit.’ There is no holiday from our responsibility to pray, and we must seek to ensure that our prayer is Spirit inspired, and not just repetitive and formal. Compare Jude 1:20, ‘praying in the Holy Spirit’.
‘Watching thereto with all perseverance and supplication for all God’s people, and for me --.’ Again the need for persistence and perseverance is stressed, and the supplication is now said to be for all God’s people (those set apart to Him) and for Paul. It is to be thoughtful and penetrative, and continuing.
‘That utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, that in it I may speak boldly, even as I ought to speak.’ We may note this with some surprise. We tend to feel that Paul knew no inhibitions and never lacked boldness. But he is here aware that he not only needs the words to be given to him, but the boldness as well. He is not so confident in himself that he boasts of being without fear. He is too aware of his weakness. This is in total contrast with Peter’s words on the night before the crucifixion (Mark 14:29; Mark 14:31), which brought only disaster and taught him an important lesson. Possibly Paul too had learned from that. That he is speaking of his continuing to preach the Gospel, and not just his testimony in court, comes out in Colossians 4:3-4, although the court testimony would be included.
‘The mystery of the Gospel.’ See on Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-9; Ephesians 5:32; Mark 4:11; Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:16). The mystery now revealed is the work of God in bringing to Himself through the shed blood of Jesus Christ both Jews and Gentiles as one, and His final glorification of them with Himself when He sums up all things in Christ
‘For which I am an ambassador in chains.’ An ambassador in chains is an ambassador seemingly rendered useless, but he can still seek to carry out his mission. So Paul is aware that his ambassadorship is limited and precarious because he is in chains. But he wants them to pray that he will not fail in his responsibility. Yet had he not been in chains we may well not have had Ephesians. God had greater purposes than Paul or the early church could ever know. When all seems lost God triumphs.
We should note that on the whole Christ’s view of prayer, and the Scriptural view of prayer, is not as a means of obtaining personal favours, or even guidance, but as a means of furthering the Kingly Rule of God. Jesus in fact told us that personal prayer for material things merely demonstrated that we doubted that God would provide all we needed and was unnecessary (Matthew 6:8).
When He taught us to pray the first part of His prayer was concerned with the overall purposes of God. He taught us to pray for the ‘hallowing’ or ‘sanctifying’ of the name of God. This is to occur through the forwarding of His purposes (Ezekiel 36:23; see also Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 38:23; Ezekiel 39:27). Then we are to pray for the coming of His kingly rule and the doing of His will on earth. The main concern then is to be for the fulfilling of His work and will.
The second part of the prayer was for daily bread (the minimum of sustenance), forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from temptation and evil. Thus it concentrated on what was personally necessary for the successful carrying forward of the purposes of God, the meeting of our basic spiritual needs, and the minimum sustenance required so that we could fulfil that work. How different from so much of our praying.
In view of His comment about God knowing our needs before we asked, the prayer for daily bread was clearly intended, not so much as a prayer for daily food, but in order to continually remind us of the Source from which we obtained our bread. For this aim of reminding ourselves of God’s goodness alone can justify praying for other than spiritual things for ourselves, and that should be with the aim of being made useful in carrying forward the work of God.
Closing words (6:21-24).
‘But that you also may know my affairs, how I do, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you, whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our state and that he may comfort your hearts.’
Tychicus is also mentioned as the bearer of the letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:7 see also 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12). He is a highly trusted friend and ‘beloved brother’. But his greatest commendation is that he is a faithful servant of Christ. He will give full information about Paul’s position and circumstances. This indeed is why he has spared him, so that he may comfort and strengthen the churches.
The lack of numerous greetings would seem to confirm that the Ephesian letter was intended for a wider circle.
‘Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’
‘Peace’ was a regular greeting in Biblical times and denoted a desire for the well being of the recipient. But with regard to God it has a special significance. As light is to darkness, so peace is to evil (Isaiah 45:7). It is the ultimate good. It had become especially associated with the coming Messianic age which would be an age of ‘peace’ sealed by the ‘covenant of peace’ (Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 57:19; Ezekiel 37:26; Haggai 2:9; Zechariah 9:10) presided over by the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). And for the wicked there will be no peace (Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:20-21).
Thus ‘peace from God’ contains the idea of total well being. It includes peace with God (Romans 5:1), and the peace of God planted in the heart (Philippians 4:7). For Jesus Christ is our peace, having reconciled us to God and to each other (Ephesians 2:14-16).
‘And love, with faith.’ Love without faith is empty. Faith without love is puerile. Together they form the platform for a true life, and provide complete protection from the Enemy (1 Thessalonians 5:8), and result in an active life of goodness (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
‘From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This links the peace from God with the Messianic promises and expresses the furthest heights of peace, love and faith. Their source is in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be peace beyond measure, love unfathomed and unchangeable, and faith unfailing.
‘Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptibility (immortality).’
Grace lies at the root of all. It is the undeserved, unmerited, active love of God reaching out to His own. And it is the portion of those who love the Lord Jesus Christ totally and unfailingly.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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