Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 6

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-24

VI 1-4 Children and Parents—1. The expression ’in the Lord’ at once points to the right motive and to the limits of the obedience of children to parents.

2. In the decalogue the fourth commandment is the first (and only) one carrying with it an explicit promise.

3. The Jews understood the promise to refer to temporal blessings, but in the Christian dispensation it is transferred to the region of spiritual favours. 4. Fathers must be firm and kind; they must bring up and encourage their children in the Christian way.

5-9 Slaves and Masters— The civilization of the day was built on slavery. As in Colossians 3:22-25, St Paul does not openly denounce the system; he is content with instilling principles which prepare the way for its abolition. He regards the slave as a person depending on Christ, possessing, then, the key to eternal happiness in Heaven.

9. And masters must reciprocate with kindness based on the same religious viewpoint. God is the master of masters.

10-22 Epilogue: The Christian Warfare— The Apostle’s thought at the close is that if all is well within, there is still a foe outside for every Christian to face.

10-13 A Call to Arms— St Paul describes the Christian armed for the spiritual struggle in terms borrowed from the equipment of the Roman soldiers. We have to be clothed from head to foot, if

(13b) we are to stand in all things perfect, i.e. if having fought, we are to stand upright, victorious.

12b. Without the armour of God we stand powerless against the deceits of the rulers of the world of this darkness, i.e. men enmeshed by the darkness arising from sin; against the spirits of wickedness in the high places, i.e. evil spirits whose wills are fixed in wickedness, and who envelop and besiege us from all sides (cf. 2:2).

14-17 The Divine Panoply— The seven weapons, defensive and offensive, are described by metaphors drawn from both the armour of the Roman soldier on active service and from the description of the weapons borne by the divine Warrior (Messias) in Isaiah 59:14, Isaiah 59:17 (cf.Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 52:7; Wis 5:17-20). The chief pieces of the Christian’s armour are: breastplate, shield, helmet, and sword. 14b. ’The breastplate of justice’ undoubtedly refers to sanctifying grace guarding the virtues, just as the soldier’s breatplate guarded the heart. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 the breastplate is faith and charity.

15. ’Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace’ seems to have the sense: zealous to carry with speed the glad tidings which effect peace, cf.Isaiah 52:7-9; Romans 1:15.

16. ’The shield of faith’ refers to the door-like shield rounded to the shape of the body. The Christian’s protection and inspiration is in the principles of faith, in which the flaming missiles of the most wicked one are put out. 1

17a. ’The helmet of salvation’. The helmet guards the head and inspires confidence amid danger. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (cf.Isaiah 59:17) it is the hope of salvation.

17b. ’The sword of the spirit’. The sword was a double-edged weapon. The spiritual sword is provided by the Holy Spirit and is endowed with his power. It is the word of God, not specifically the Gospel (?????), but every message from God (???µa 8+?). Since, however, the divine utterances have culminated in the Gospel message, we may in fact regard the sword as the Gospel teaching, cf.Hebrews 4:12 f.

18-20 Prayer— The victorious use of the weapons described is bound by one condition, prayer. 18. The Apostle here recommends the different kinds of prayer: of adoration and of petition, vocal and silent (’in the spirit’). And he tells his readers what qualities earnest prayer should have.

19-20. He asks them to place him, an ambassador in a chain, in the forefront of their prayers (cf.1 Corinthians 9:16); for he needs grace to preach boldly, assuredly and persuasively.

21-22 Mission of Tychicus— These two verses are found substantially the same in Colossians 4:7 f., and they constitute the only personal words of the whole epistle. In Col we do not find the words ’that you also may know . . . what I am doing’, and many writers see an indication here that Col had already been written, the ’you also’ implying that the Colossians (and possibly others) would already know. Tychicus is mentioned in Acts 20:4 together with Trophimus as a native of proconsular Asia, perhaps of Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12). He met St Paul at Troas when the Apostle was on his way to Jerusalem in the third missionary journey. He may well have gone with Trophimus (Acts 21:29) on that occasion to Jerusalem. He appears again as bearer of this epistle and of Col, towards the end of the Apostle’s first Roman captivity. Some five years later we find him again with St Paul, who speaks of sending him to visit Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12), and who not long afterwards sent him to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12). He merited by long service the title of ’my dearest brother and faithful minister in the Lord’.

22a. ’Whom I have sent’ is the past tense (aorist) used in letters. It does not mean that at the time of writing Tychicus was already in the readers’ midst. When he arrives, he will tell them of the position of St Paul and his companions in prison, and he will console them. This may well mean that while the Apostle’s friends thought he would die in prison (cf. 3:13), he himself was hoping for an early release.

23-24 The Concluding Salutation— This is remarkable in its solemn, impersonal and indirect tone, cf. §898c. The Apostle asks God to give his readers peace, i.e. the tranquil possession of spiritual favours; then charity with faith (cf. 1:15 f.), finally grace, i.e. God’s love which is given to all who love Christ, and which equips them for immortality and incorruptibility (St Jerome).

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Ephesians 6". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/ephesians-6.html. 1951.
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