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Ch. 6:1 4. The Christian Home: Children and Parents
1 . Children ] Cp. Colossians 3:20 .
obey ] The Gr. word differs from that rendered “submit yourselves” (ver. 22). It is the same as that below, ver. 5, rendered “be obedient.” The child, and the bondservant, are to render an obedience (so the words seem to indicate) different in kind from that of the wife, which is so largely tempered by equality in other respects.
“Disobedience to parents” (Romans 1:30 ; 2 Timothy 3:2 ) appears in Scripture as a symptom of a state of the gravest evil. The example of the Lord stands in sacred contrast to it, for all ages of the Church (Luke 2:51 ). It is in the school of the well-ordered Christian home that the true idea of the Christian’s position, divinely filial in its freedom, yet (1 Corinthians 9:21 ) “ law-abiding unto Christ,” should be first illustrated as well as taught.
parents ] Mothers as well as fathers (see next verse). Scripture uniformly upholds the authority of the mother. Cp. Proverbs 1:8 , Proverbs 6:20 .
in the Lord ] I.e., let your obedience be in Him; rendered as by those whose action gets its reason and secret from union with Him. No doubt the Apostle assumes here a family in which the parents are Christians; but he certainly would not limit the precept to such a case, as it would be limited if “your parents in the Lord ” was the verbal connexion.
In the case of Christian parentage, the children, as such, would certainly be reckoned as within the covenant, and, in this sense, “in the Lord.” Cp. 1 Corinthians 7:14 (“now are the children holy ”). It would be for their own consciences before God, none the less, to ask whether they were also “in Christ” in that inner and ultimate sense which is, spiritually, “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ).
There is some evidence, but quite inadequate, for the omission of the words “in the Lord.”
right ] Just ; not merely beautiful, or better, but according to the Law of God, both in Nature and in Revelation.
The Apostle does not deal here with the limits of filial obedience in cases where the Divine Will crosses the parental will. He has the great rule and principle wholly in view.
2. Honour , &c.] Exodus 20:12 ; Deuteronomy 5:16 . The Gr. here is verbatim that of the LXX. On the duty, cp. Matthew 19:19 ; Mark 7:10 , Mark 7:10 :19; Luke 18:20 . The “honour” is that not of mere sentiment but of obedience. See for illustration, Matthew 15:4-40.15.8 .
which is ] He adds a significant circumstance about the Commandment.
the first … with promise ] In the Decalogue, to which here the reference plainly is, it is in fact the only “commandment with” definite “promise.” But the Decalogue is, so to speak, the first page of the whole Law-Book of Revelation.
“ With ”: lit. “ in ” ; attended, surrounded, by promise.
3. that , &c.] The Gr. is nearly verbatim from the LXX. of Exodus 20:0 and Deuteronomy 5:0 . It is observable that the Apostle omits the last words of the original promise. Is not this on purpose, to dilate the reference to the utmost? The Sinaitic limitation was but a special application of a perpetual principle of Providence, illustrated, we may observe, in the remarkable instance of the durability of the Chinese race and empire in its “land.” Not for Jews only, nor for Christians only, is the promise, but for man, with such modifications of the meaning of “the earth,” or “land,” as circumstances may bring.
To seek a reference here to “the better country, that is, the heavenly” (Hebrews 11:16 ), is a lawful and beautiful accommodation, but not in point as an interpretation.
mayest live ] Quite lit., “ shall live.” And it may be so read. But usage makes it at least probable that the A. V. (and R.V., text) represent rightly the intention of the Greek.
Observe, in passing, the hint given in these verses of the familiarity of the Gentile converts of St Paul with the O.T., and of the Divine authority which, he takes it for granted, they recognized in the Decalogue. See further, Appendix H.
4. fathers ] We may equally well render, parents . Moses’ parents are called (Hebrews 11:23 , Gr.) his fathers . The expression is found in the classics, Greek and Latin. The father is the head of authority in the home, but the oneness of husband and wife, to speak of that only, secures the high authority of the mother also. This is assumed in the Fifth Commandment.
provoke not … to wrath ] The same word occurs Colossians 3:21 , and the cognate noun above, 4:26, where see note. In Col. the suggestive words follow, “lest they be discouraged.” The precept and the reason are both full of holy wisdom. Here, as in the section on Marriage, observe how the two parties are reminded each exclusively of his own duties .
At the present time, undoubtedly, parental authority is at a low ebb in English Christendom. Its revival will depend, under God, on the active recognition of the whole teaching of such a Scripture as this, full of the warrant of parental government, and of the wisdom of parental sympathy.
bring them up ] The Gr. conveys the idea of development (here in the sphere of character and principle) by care and pains . The same word has occurred ver. 29, with reference to bodily development.
nurture ] Better, discipline . “Chastening” (R.V.) seems to us too narrow a word, at least in its ordinary sense of punitive discipline. It is true that in the leading N.T. passage of the kind (Hebrews 12:5-58.12.10 ; and cp. Revelation 3:19 ) the word (or its kindred verb) obviously conveys that idea. And the verb is used of the terrible “chastisement” of the Roman scourge (Luke 23:16 , Luke 23:22 ). But a wider meaning is, by usage, quite lawful, and it is certainly in point here. All the wholesome restraints of a wise early education are in view; all training in the direction of a life modest, unselfish, and controlled. Such will be the discipline of the true Christian home, and of its partial extension, the true Christian school.
admonition ] The Gr. noun recurs 1 Corinthians 10:11 ; Titus 3:10 . For the kindred Gr. verb, see Acts 20:31 ; Romans 15:14 ; 1 Corinthians 4:14 ; Colossians 1:28 , Colossians 1:3 :16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:15 . It will be seen that the noun relates to the warning side of instruction, a side too often neglected.
of the Lord ] On His revealed principles, learnt of Him, and for His sake. He is everywhere in the Christian home.
5 9. The Christian Home: Servants and Masters
5. Servants ] Bondservants, slaves . Cp. Colossians 3:22-51.3.25 ; and see 1 Corinthians 7:21 , 1 Corinthians 7:22 ; 1 Timothy 6:1-54.6.2 ; Titus 2:9-56.2.10 ; Philemon; 1 Peter 2:18-60.2.25 . The Gospel nowhere explicitly condemns slavery. But both O.T. and N.T. state principles which are fatal to the extreme forms of slavery familiar in the Roman world, forms which allowed no rights whatever, in theory, to the slave. And the Gospel, in the act of proclaiming the complete spiritual equality of slave and freeman, revealed a principle which was sure ultimately to discredit slave-holding even in its mitigated forms. See Bp Lightfoot’s Introduction to the Ep. to Philemon, and the pamphlet (by Prof. Goldwin Smith) quoted there, Does the Bible sanction American Slavery?
We may observe further that the great Gospel doctrine of the believer’s “slavery” to his Master, Christ (cp. e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:22 ), when once made familiar to the conscience and will, would inevitably tend to a peculiar mutual rapprochement between Christian masters and slaves while the institution still legally survived, and would do infinitely more for the abolition of slavery than any “servile war.” Prof. G. Smith well observes, “Nothing marks the Divine character of the Gospel more than its perfect freedom from any appeal to the spirit of political revolution” ( Does the Bible , &c., p. 96). With impartial hands it not only sanctions, but sanctifies, subordination to constituted authority (Romans 13:0 ), and meanwhile ennobles the individual, in respect of all that is highest in the word liberty, by putting him into direct and conscious relations with God.
The Gospel won many of its earliest converts from the slave-class. This is less wonderful, when the vast number of slaves is remembered. The little territory of Corinth alone contained nearly half a million slaves.
In the present and similar passages the primary reference to slavery will, of course, be remembered. But there is a secondary and permanent reference to ordinary service, of all varieties.
according to the flesh ] With the implied thought that they were not the masters of their bondmen’s spirits , and that the bondmen were themselves, spiritually, the slaves of Christ. So Colossians 3:22 .
with fear and trembling ] With earnest, conscientious care and reverence. For the phrase, and this as its meaning, cp. 1 Corinthians 2:3 ; 2 Corinthians 7:15 ; Philippians 2:12 .
singleness of your heart ] The honest desire to do right for its own sake, or rather for the Lord’s sake; as against the self-interested seeking for praise or promotion. Cp. for the word rendered “singleness,” Romans 12:8 ; 2 Corinthians 1:12 (perhaps), 8:2, 9:11, 13, 11:3; Colossians 3:22 .
unto Christ ] Cp. Romans 14:7-45.14.9 ; a suggestive parallel.
6. eyeservice ] The word is found elsewhere only Colossians 3:22 , and was possibly coined by St Paul. It is the “service” which works for another only under the compulsion of inspection, and only in external action.
menpleasers ] With no higher aim than the personal comfort of getting, anyhow, the master’s approval or indulgence. Cp. Galatians 1:10 for a close parallel. The underlying fact is that the earthly master can be “pleased” by a merely specious service, but that the Christian is really enslaved to One who sees infallibly whether the service rendered Him is service of the heart. This comes out in the following clauses.
the will of God ] expressed in the present fact of your servile duty.
Thus did the Gospel dignify the lowest walk of human life, in the act of imposing the yoke of Christ on the whole being of the Christian.
“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws
Makes that and th’ action fine.”
Herbert, The Elixir .
the heart ] Lit., the soul . So (Gr.) Colossians 3:23 . A spring of innermost good-will, alike to the Heavenly Master and the earthly, must work within. Cp. 1 Timothy 6:1 , 1 Timothy 6:2 .
8. knowing ] as a certainty of the Gospel. For the Christian’s prospect of “reward,” cp. Matthew 5:12 , Matthew 5:6 :1, Matthew 5:4 , Matthew 5:16 :27; Luke 6:35 , Luke 6:14 :14; Romans 2:6-45.2.10 ; 2 Corinthians 5:10 ; Hebrews 10:35 ; Revelation 22:12 ; &c. The essence of the truth is that the obedience of love is infallibly welcomed and remembered by Him to whom it is rendered. “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 , Matthew 25:23 ), is His certain ultimate response to every true act of the will given up to His will. This prospect, taken along with the conditions to it, has nothing that is not deeply harmonious with our justification for Christ’s Merit only, embraced by faith only. It is the recognition of love by Love, of grace by the Giver. From another point of view it is the outcome of a process of growth and result (Galatians 6:7-48.6.9 ).
the Lord ] Christ. Cp. among many passages Matthew 25:34-40.25.36 ; 2 Corinthians 5:9 , 2 Corinthians 5:10 . In view of the context, the point would be still clearer if the Gr. were rendered the Master .
9. masters ] The Gr. is lit. “Lords.” But English usage forbids that word here. See last note; and the parallel passage, Colossians 4:1 .
do the same things] Faithfully consult their true interests, be loyal to your responsibilities in regard of them. These are “the things” you look for from them towards yourselves.
forbearing threatening ] More lit., “ giving up your threatening , ‘the too habitual threatening’ ” (Ellicott).
your Master also ] Better, in view of the true order of the Gr., their Master and yours .
respect of persons ] Cp. Acts 10:34 ; Romans 2:11 ; Colossians 3:25 ; James 2:1 , James 2:9 .
10 20. The Spiritual Combat: the Secret of Strength; the Antagonists; the Armour; Intercessory Prayer
10. Finally ] Lit., “ for the rest; ” “ for what remains .” This may possibly mean “for the future,” “from henceforth” (R. V. marg.). But the more probable reference is to “what remains of thought and precept.” Had the Epistle dwelt on spiritual weakness as a previous characteristic of Ephesian Christian life, the other alternative might have been preferable; but it has not. For the Gr. phrase (identically, or nearly so), cp. Matthew 26:45 (A. V. “now”); 1 Corinthians 7:29 ; 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; Philippians 3:1 , Philippians 3:4 :8; 1 Thessalonians 4:1 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ; 2 Timothy 4:8 ; Hebrews 10:13 . “Wisely does the Apostle, after the special injunctions to husbands and wives, &c., now in general enjoin it on all together to be strong in the Lord” (St Jerome). And observe that the deep secrets of spiritual victory now to be spoken of are necessary to the spiritual performance of the common duties just enjoined.
my brethren ] These words are probably to be omitted; a possible insertion by transcribers from Philippians 3:1 , Philippians 4:8 . The documentary evidence is scarcely decisive, but the absence elsewhere in the Epistle of the address “Brethren” is in favour of omission.
be strong ] The Lat. versions have confortamini; a reminder of the true idea of “comfort,” “comforter,” in older English usage. See on ver. 22 below. For the same Gr. verb, in the (same) middle voice, cp. Acts 9:22 ; Romans 4:20 ; 2 Timothy 2:1 ; and in the active voice, Philippians 4:13 ; 1 Timothy 1:12 ; 2 Timothy 4:17 . The tense here is present, not aorist, and suggests rather the maintenance than the attainment of strength. Their “Strength” (see e.g. Psalms 59:17 ) was already and permanently theirs; let it be continuously used. Cp. 1 Corinthians 16:13 (where, however, “be strong” represents another Gr. word), and 1 Peter 5:8-60.5.11 , for close parallels to the thought and precept here.
in the Lord ] This phrase, or its strict equivalents, occurs about 35 times in the Epistle. The whole secret of spiritual strength resides in union with “the Lord.” “In Him,” and there alone, is there “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1 ); “in Him” is the fountain of spiritual vitality, to be made our own, in practical efficacy, only as we “abide in Him” (John 15:4-43.15.7 ). And these two aspects of benefit “in Christ” constitute together the believer’s cause of strength; a strength the only alternative to which is spiritual impotence (John 15:5 ).
and in the power &c.] See 1:19 (and note there) for the same Gr. The Gr. rendered “might” tends to denote strength rather as substratum or resource; the Gr. rendered “power”, rather as outcome or exercise. We may paraphrase, “in the energy of Him the Strong.” The phrase defines, so to speak, that aspect of the Lord in Whom they were which was to be specially used in the great conflict. Elsewhere (1 John 5:20 ) the prominent thought is, “We are in Him that is True,” Veritable, Real. Here it is, “Ye are in Him that is Able.”
11. Put on ] For the word, cp. Romans 13:12 , Romans 13:14 (a close parallel); 1 Corinthians 15:53 , 1 Corinthians 15:54 ; 2 Corinthians 5:3 ; Galatians 3:27 (a parallel); above, 4:24; below, 14; Colossians 3:10 , Colossians 3:12 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (a close parallel). In 1 Thess. and Rom. (just quoted) we have, so to speak, the germs of the developed imagery of this later-written passage. In them, as here, the believer, already (from another point of view, that of covenant and possession) clothed and armed with his Lord, is exhorted so to realize and to use what he has that it shall be like a new clothing and arming.
the whole armour ] One word in the Gr., panoplia . It occurs in N.T. elsewhere only Luke 11:22 and here ver. 13. In the Apocrypha it is not infrequent. Cp. esp. Wisdom 5:17 &c., a very close parallel here as regards the picture: “He (the Lord) shall take His zeal as a panoply, and make the creature His weapon for the defeat of His enemies; He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and shall make true judgment His helmet; He shall take sanctity as His invincible shield, and shall whet severe wrath as His sword, &c.” These words may very possibly have been in the Apostle’s memory. But far more certainly he had present there Isaiah 59:16 , Isaiah 59:17 , itself the probable ground of the imagery in Wisdom.
The word panoplia admits no doubt of a looser application in usage; it may mean armour, complete or not . But its strict meaning, “ whole armour,” is precisely in point here, where the stress of thought is on the one secret of spiritual strength; the need of Divine safeguard, and nothing less, for the whole emergency .
Cp. again 1 Thessalonians 5:0 and Romans 13:0 for parallels, or rather germs, of this passage. There, as here, the image of “putting on” is connected with that of “armour.” And in Rom. distinctly, and in 1 Thess. implicitly, the armour is seen to be reducible ultimately, as here, to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. St Jerome says here, “From what we read in the passage following, and from the things said in all the Scriptures concerning the Lord (our) Saviour, it most clearly results that by ‘all the arms of God’ … the Saviour is to be understood.”
of God ] Supplied by Him, having been wrought by Him. For such a conflict nothing less will do than what is wholly His in origin and gift.
that ye may be able ] It is implied that thus, while only thus, the militant Christian shall be able. No inadequacy in his equipment is to be feared.
to stand ] The key-word of the passage. The present picture is not of a march, or of an assault, but of the holding of the fortress of the soul and of the Church for the heavenly King. Bunyan’s “Mr Standfast” is a portrait that may illustrate this page. So again below, vv. 13, 14.
wiles ] Lit, “ methods ”; stratagems . The Gr. word occurs (in Scripture) only here and above, 4:14 (where R.V. “ wiles ”). For the formidable fact of the deliberate and subtle plans of the great Enemy, carefully concealed but skilfully combined on weak points, cp. 2 Corinthians 2:11 ; 1 Peter 2:11 , (where render “ carry on a campaign against the soul”). In this respect, as in so many others, the Temptation of the Lord Himself is a picture of that of His followers; a series of veiled attacks, upon points thought weak, by the most subtle of created intellects. In 1 Peter 5:8 the same Enemy appears acting, as he sometimes does, in another way; by violence and terror.
the devil ] See on 2:2 for considerations on his personality as recognized by St Paul. This designation ( diabolos , accuser,) appears above, 4:27, and elsewhere in St Paul, Acts 13:10 ; 1 Timothy 3:6 , 1 Timothy 3:7 , 2 Timothy 2:26 ; besides Hebrews 2:14 . It is frequent with St Matthew, St Luke, and St John. In the LXX. it is the regular equivalent, though not the precise translation, of the Heb. Sâtân (the Adversary ); e.g. Job 1 2; Zechariah 3:1 , Zechariah 3:2 . One of the terrible characteristics of the Adversary of the Son of God is the aim and effort to bring believing man into condemnation ; hence his accusations of the saints. Cp. the Book of Job especially, and Revelation 12:10 (where, however, another word than diabolos is used). Nor let it be forgotten that his first assault on man (Genesis 3:5 ) was made by means of accusation against God , as grudging a good gift to man.
12. we wrestle ] Lit., our wrestling is . War and the games are associated in the language of 2 Timothy 2:4-55.2.5 . But here, as Ellicott observes, there need be no mingling of metaphors. War involves wrestling, in many a hand to hand encounter. The Gr. word ( palê , wrestling) is found only here in Gr. literature, but is cognate to palæstra , and other familiar words.
The Apostle takes it for granted that the Christian life is , from one point of view, essentially a conflict. “We” obviously, by context, means all Christians as such. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:25 , &c. But it is a conflict maintained, in Christ, with Divine power and from a dominating position.
flesh and blood ] Lit., “ blood and flesh ”; but English usage makes the other order better, as a rendering. The phrase occurs (in the opposite order of words) Matthew 16:17 ; 1 Corinthians 15:50 ; Galatians 1:16 ; Hebrews 2:14 . It denotes (as 1 Corinthians 15:0 ) humanity in its present mortal conditions, or (other reff.) humanity simply. “Man,” as now constituted , will not inherit the eternal kingdom; “man” did not illuminate St Peter; “man” did not teach the Gospel to St Paul; Christ so became “Man” as to be able to taste death. The thought here is not that we are not wrestling with our bodily desires, or weaknesses, but that we are not wrestling with mere mortal men . True, they may be our ostensible and immediate enemies or obstacles, but behind them is the central force of evil in the spirit-world. See the language of Revelation 2:10 , and Abp Trench’s note upon it ( Epistles to the Seven Churches , p. 104). It will be observed how forcible is the testimony of the Apostle here to the objective existence of the world of evil spirits. He not merely takes it for granted, but carefully distinguishes it from the world of humanity. See further, Appendix G.
principalities … powers ] Lit., the principalities , &c. See 1:21, 3:10; and notes. Here, as Romans 8:38 ; Colossians 2:15 ; the ref. obviously is to personal evil spirits as members and leaders of an organized spirit-world. For allusions to such organization, under its head, cp. the visions of the Revelation, esp. 12:7, 9. And cp. Matthew 25:41 ; 2 Corinthians 12:7 . Note also the “ Legion ” of evil spirits (Mark 5:9 , Mark 5:15 ; Luke 8:30 ), compared with the “more than twelve Legions of (holy) angels”, Matthew 26:53 . Great numbers and organized action are at once suggested by the military word; a word used on both occasions with profound earnestness and appeal to fact.
The leaders of the host of evil are alone mentioned here, and in the parallels, as are the leaders of the host of good in 1:21, &c. The “plebeian angels militant” ( Par. Lost , x. 442), are taken for granted, represented in their chiefs.
the rulers of the darkness of this world ] Lit. as R. V., the world-rulers of this darkness . The words “of this world” (or rather “age”) are probably an explanatory insertion.
“ This darkness ” is the present order of things on earth, in its aspect as a scene of sin. As such it is dark , with the shadows of delusion, woe, and death. See Luke 22:53 (a suggestive parallel) and other reff. under 4:18.
“ The world-rulers ” : the context obviously points to personal evil spirits, exercising rule, in some real sense, over the world; and the question is, what does the world ( cosmos ) mean here? See in reply 2:2 and note. “The world” here, as very often in St John, and often in St Paul (esp. in 1 Cor.), denotes not the Universe, nor the earth and sea, but humanity as fallen and rebel. As such, it is the realm of these powers of evil. Their Head is the usurping, but permitted, Cæsar of this empire, which is not so much local as moral; and his subordinate spirits are accordingly “imperial rulers” within it, for him. The Gr. word ( cosmocratôr ) appears in Rabbinic literature, transliterated (see Ellicott here). It is used sometimes there as a mere magniloquent synonym for “king.” But we may be sure of a more special meaning in a passage like this.
For allusions to the mysterious “authority” of the Evil Power over the human “world,” in its ethical aspect at least, cp. Luke 4:6 ; John 14:30 , John 14:16 :11; 2 Corinthians 4:4 ; 1 John 5:18 . It has been asked whether this authority is connected with a previous lawful presidency of the great Spirit now fallen, over this region of the Universe. But “God knoweth” is the best answer to such enquiries, till the veil is lifted. The fact of the present authority is our chief concern; and in this respect we are plainly warned that there is a real antagonism between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Evil One, and that in both cases we have the phenomenon of a spiritual dominion expressing itself through human organization and institution. See further on 2:2, above.
spiritual wickedness in high places] Lit., the spiritual things of wickedness in the heavenly places. R.V. paraphrases “the spiritual hosts , &c.”; and this well gives the meaning. The idea is of beings and forces, spiritual as distinguished from material, belonging to and working for “wickedness.” Wickedness is viewed as having its visible and invisible agents, and these are the invisible.
“ In the heavenly places ” : the fifth occurrence of the phrase in this Epistle (cp. 1:3, 20, 2:6, 3:10). The adjective occurs also Matthew 18:35 ; John 3:12 ; 1 Corinthians 15:40 , 1 Corinthians 15:48 , 1 Corinthians 15:49 ; Philippians 2:10 ; 2 Timothy 4:18 ; Hebrews 3:1 , Hebrews 6:4 , Hebrews 8:5 , Hebrews 9:23 , Hebrews 11:16 , Hebrews 12:22 . The connexion of it with anything evil is confined to this passage, and is confessedly startling. Of the several expositions offered, the oldest, given by St Jerome here, seems best to meet the case; that which interprets “heaven” as the large antithesis to “earth” (cp. Matthew 6:26 , “birds of the heaven ”; &c.), and “heavenly,” accordingly, as “un-earthly,” super-terrestrial, belonging to the region of things unseen and (in power) superior to man, of which the impalpable sky is the parable. See above on 2:2, “the authority of the air .” The import of the words, then, is that we have to deal, in the combat of the soul and of the Church, with spiritual agents of evil occupying a sphere of action invisible and practically boundless. In St Ignatius’ Ep. to the Ephesians , c. xiii, the same Gr. adjective is used, with an almost certainly similar reference. See Bp Lightfoot there ( Ignatius , vol. ii. p. 66), and our Introduction , p. 28.
13. take unto you] Lit., take up , even as Æneas (if the illustration may be reverently offered) took up, and examined, and girt on, the god-wrought panoply brought him by his Mother, on the verge of war ( Æn. viii. 608, &c.). The Divine armour, perfect, and perfectly ready, lies at the Christian’s feet, and is his own. Let him, by the grace of God, appropriate it in act.
withstand ] See above on “stand,” ver. 11. The verb here occurs in the same connexion, James 5:6 ; 1 Peter 5:9 . See on the other hand Matthew 5:39 , where perhaps render, “ withstand not the Evil One,” (represented by evil men). To the cruelty of the Enemy the believer meekly submits; his spiritual stratagems he withstands , in Christ.
the evil day ] The dark crisis of the campaign, whenever it may be. And this will practically mean any felt crisis of the soul’s resistance. So in a familiar hymn:
“[We] ask the aid of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.”
The definite article in such a phrase does not isolate a solitary occasion, but denotes distinct occasions of the one class in question.
Some expositors see here a reference to the final conflict of the Church. But the whole passage is concerned with a present and normal “wrestling” against present enemies. Cp. the words ch. 5:16, “the days are evil.”
having done ] More precisely, the verb being compound, “having wrought out ,” “ quite done.” This compound verb is a common one with St Paul, however, and its special etymology must not be greatly pressed (see it, e.g. Romans 7:8 , Romans 7:13 , Romans 7:15 , Romans 7:17 ). Still, an intensity of meaning is in place in this context: “having accomplished all things, all things demanded for equipment and action.” The verb bears the meaning “to subdue,” sometimes in the classics, and once or twice in LXX.; but not in other N.T. passages.
to stand ] unmoved at your post, ready for the next assault of the unseen foe. It is important to bear in mind through the whole context that the central idea is fixity, not progress or conquest; ideas of which the Gospel is full, but which are not present here . The scene is filled with the marshalled hosts of the Evil One, bent upon dislodging the soul, and the Church, from the one possible vantage-ground of life and power union and communion with their Lord.
14. Stand ] See last note. Here, as throughout the passage, the tense of this verb is aorist. A decisive act of taking a conscious stand , or a succession of such acts, is implied.
having your loins girt ] Lit., and far better, having girded your loins (R. V.). The girding is the own act, by grace, of the regenerate will.
“ Your loins ” : cp. Exodus 12:11 ; Job 38:3 , Job 38:40 :7; Psalms 18:39 ; Isaiah 11:5 ; Luke 12:35 ; 1 Peter 1:13 . The well-fastened girdle kept together the soldier’s dress and accoutrements, and added conscious vigour to his frame.
with truth ] Lit., “ in truth”; and the “in” may very possibly keep its direct meaning; for the girded body is within the girdle. But this meaning would be conveyed in English by “with.”
“ Truth ” : not “ the truth”; a phrase which would decisively mean “the true message of the Gospel.” The absence of the article leaves us free to explain the word of the sincerity, reality, and simplicity of the regenerate man. For this use of the word in St Paul see e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:8 ; 2 Corinthians 7:14 , 2 Corinthians 7:11 :10; above, ch. 5:9; Philippians 1:18 . The grasp on revealed Truth is indeed all-important, but it must be made “in truth,” in personal sincerity, if it is to avail in the spiritual struggle. And this meaning of the word well corresponds to the imagery. Unreality, whether in trust or self-surrender, is fatal to the coherence of the Christian life. Meanwhile it must be remembered that the “panoply” is “ of God ,” and that “truth” is here, accordingly, a supernatural grace, that simplicity of attitude and action towards God, His word and His will, which is a gift of regeneration alone. In Isaiah 11:5 “righteousness” and “faithfulness” are Messiah’s girdle.
having on ] Lit., and far better, having put on; the same verb as ver. 11. The tense is aorist. The believer is summoned to a decisive renewal of his exercise of grace.
the breastplate ] Cp. Isaiah 59:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 . And see note above on ver. 11 for the apocryphal parallel. The breastplate covers the heart. Here the heart in its figurative and spiritual sense (see on 1:18, 3:17) is in question; how to protect it and its action, in the great conflict.
righteousness ] Cp. 2 Corinthians 6:7 . One leading explanation of this word here is Christ’s Righteousness as our Justification. According to this, the warrior is to oppose the Divine fact of Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6 ; cp. Romans 3:4 ; Phil, 2) to the strategy of the Accuser (Romans 8:33 , Romans 8:34 ). But this class of truth falls rather under the figures of the shoes and the shield (see below). Here (in view esp. of Isaiah 59:17 , where “righteousness” is Jehovah’s breastplate), it is better to explain it of the believer’s personal righteousness, i.e. his loyalty in principle and action to the holy Law of God. For clear cases of this meaning of the word (the root-meaning with reference to all others) in St Paul, cp. Romans 6:13 , Romans 6:14 :17; 2 Corinthians 6:14 , 2 Corinthians 6:9 :9, 2 Corinthians 6:10 ; above, 4:24, 5:9; Philippians 1:11 ; 1 Timothy 6:11 ; and see Titus 2:12 .
The idea is closely kindred to that of “truth,” just considered. But it is strictly defined by the correlative idea of Law. The believer is armed at the heart against the Tempter by definite and supreme reverence for the Law, the revealed preceptive Will of God. So Daniel was armed (Daniel 1:6 ), and the Three (Daniel 3:0 ).
Here, as under the word “truth,” remember that the armour is “ of God .” See note on “truth,” above.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 the breastplate is “ faith and love .” There is no discrepancy in the difference. Loyalty to the Divine Law is inseparably connected with trust in the word of God and love of His will.
15. your feet shod ] Lit., and better, having shod your feet . See note above, on “having on.” If the warrior is to “ stand ” he must have no unprotected and uncertain foot -hold.
the preparation ] The Gr. word occurs here only in N.T. In the LXX. it occurs several times, and tends, curiously, to denote equipment in the special form of base or pedestal ( e.g. Ezra 3:3 ; A.V. “bases”). Such a meaning is obviously in point here, where the imagery suggests not readiness to run, but foothold for standing. Equipment will be a fair rendering.
the gospel of peace ] Cp. Isaiah 52:7 ; Nahum 1:15 ; and the quotation, Romans 10:15 . Those passages are closely linked to this by the concurrence in them of the words “feet” and “message of peace.” But in them the imagery distinctly suggests movement, message-bearing; in this, as distinctly, steadfastness in personal spiritual warfare. Here, accordingly, we interpret “the Gospel, the glad message, of peace,” to mean the Divine revelation of peace as heard and welcomed by the Christian for himself. See above, 2:17 (and note), where the words “Gospel” (in the Gr.) and “peace” also concur; and, for other mentions of the Gospel message and work in the Epistle, 1:13, 3:6, 8, and below ver. 19.
The paradox here, “ peace ” as part of the panoply of the holy war , is as significant as it is beautiful. The warrior’s foothold needs to be settled, sure, and restful, just in proportion to the stress around him. “Peace with God” (Romans 5:1 ), the peace of justification, and its holy sequel and accompaniment, “the peace of God, keeping the heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ), are just then most necessary to the saint’s spirit, and most real to his consciousness, when put to the proof “in the evil day.” Christ, in Himself, is the Rock of vantage; a clear view and personal hold of Him revealed is the secret of a true foothold upon Him. The Apostle himself stood in this strength when he wrote, “I know Whom I have believed, &c.” (2 Timothy 1:12 ).
16. above all ] The Gr. admits the renderings, “ over all things”; “ besides all things”; “ on occasion of all things, (on all occasions)”; “ against all things.” We incline to this last, as suitable to the imagery of the shield shifted to meet any and every stroke. Another reading gives “ in all things”; at every turn of the conflict. But the evidence is far from conclusive. “It has not sufficient external support, and may have been a correction for the ambiguous [preposition in the text]” (Ellicott).
taking ] Lit., haying taken up . See note on ver. 13 above.
the shield ] The Gr. is one of two familiar words for “shield,” and denotes a large oblong shield (such as that used by the heavy Roman infantry) about 2½x4 feet in size. (See Smith’s Dict. Class. Ant. , under the word Scutum ). The significance of the choice of word is obvious. In the parallel apocryphal passage (see note on ver. 11 above) the Gr. word for “shield” is the other alternative, denoting a circular and lighter shield. But this is no proof (as some expositors have thought) that the present word was not deliberately chosen, in a passage like this, where the idea of protection, and the need of it, is pressed to the utmost.
faith ] “That faith whereby we resolutely rely on God and His word for deliverance from temptation” (Monod). The true safeguard in the evil day lies ever, not in introspection, but in that look wholly outward, Godward, which is the essence of faith (see Psalms 25:15 ).
wherewith ] Lit., and perhaps better, in this vivid picture, in which .
ye shall be able ] Observe the certainty of the promise, good for the whole future of the conflict.
to quench ] before the soul’s living frame, so to speak, is reached and burned. It may be, and very often is, impossible for the Christian to detect the point where temptation passes into sin; a fact which should secure humble caution in all language about personal spiritual victory. But this verse warrants the reverent expectation of very true victories in the real exercise of enlightened and simple faith. The word “ all ” is important.
the fiery darts ] Lit., “ the darts, the ignited darts.” The metaphor is taken from the fire-arrows of ancient warfare. Wetstein here gives abundant illustration, from Thucydides, Livy, Vegetius, Ammianus, and many other authors. Ammianus (about a.d. 380) describes the Roman malleoli as arrows carrying a perforated bulb, like a distaff, just below the point; the bulb filled with burning matter; the arrow discharged from a slack bow, lest speed should kill the flame. Another variety was simpler; the shaft near the point was wrapped in burning tow.
The imagery is sternly true to the experience of injections into the soul of polluting ideas, or of doubts of God, or of unchastened anger.
the wicked ] I.e., as R.V., the Evil One ; the great General of the besieging host.
17. take ] Lit., receive , as from the hands of Another, who presents it to all His soldiers.
the helmet ] Cp. Isaiah 59:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 . See also Psalms 140:7 . The head needs protection not only as a vital part, but as the seat of sight. The believer “looks up, and lifts up his head, as his redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28 ).
salvation ] The Gr. is not the common word so rendered, sôtêria , (which is used 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ), but sôtêrion , which occurs Luke 2:30 , Luke 2:3 :6; Acts 28:28 . It is frequent in the LXX.; occurring e.g. Psalms 51:0 (LXX. 50) 12, 91. (LXX. 90) 16; Isaiah 26:1 , Isaiah 59:17 , Isaiah 61:10 . If the difference between the two forms is to be pressed, it may be suggested that sôtêria tends to denote “salvation” (deliverance from judgment and sin) as it is in the Divine Person who saves; sôtêria , “salvation” as it is applied and received. But the difference often vanishes.
In Isaiah 59:0 the Divine Warrior wears this helmet; doubtless in the sense of His being the Worker of deliverance, clothed and armed, as it were, with His great purpose. The Christian warrior here wears it in the sense of his being the receiver and possessor of deliverance, clothed and armed in the victory of his Head. In 1 Thessalonians 5:0 “ the hope of salvation” is the helmet: the sure prospect of the final and absolute deliverance (cp. Romans 13:11 ), a deliverance of which the present peace and victory of faith is but the outline or prelude, “covers the head” of the soldier. The two passages supplement each other; the hope is based on the actual possession of the thing in its present phase; the sense of possession is vivified by the hope.
the sword ] The one offensive weapon in the picture. The fight is stationary and defensive, but it continually requires the thrust and cut of the defender. The assailant is himself to be assailed; the accusing tempter to be silenced . Cp. Hebrews 4:12 for the only other N.T. passage where the “sword” appears in spiritual imagery. There, as well as here, the “Word” is the sword-like thing. In the O.T., cp. Psalms 64:3 ; Isaiah 49:2 .
of the Spirit ] The great Conveyer of the “word of God,” as the Inspirer of the Prophets, under both O.T. and N.T. (above 3:5; Hebrews 3:7 , Hebrews 3:9 :8, Hebrews 3:10 :15; 1 Peter 1:11 ; 2 Peter 1:21 ) Thus the sword is of His forging; and as He works in the believer as the Spirit of truth (John 14:17 ), and faith (2 Corinthians 4:13 ), He puts the sword into his grasp and enables him to use it. See next note.
the word of God ] The sure utterance of Revealed Truth. The Gr. word (as in ch. 5:26, where see note,) is not logos but rhéma . Doubtless the reference is not to be limited to the very words of Scripture; for true conclusions from them, in the Creeds for example, are “utterances” of Divine truth. But the evidence of Scripture itself, as it indicates historically the principles and practice of the Lord and the Apostles in regard of the Written Word, is altogether in favour of interpreting the phrase here, as to its main and permanent meaning, of the believing use, in spiritual conflict, of the Scriptures; the Written Word, revealing the Living Word. It is true that when this Epistle was written, the Spirit, Whose work in producing Scripture was still in progress, was also speaking direct to the Church in other modes (see e.g. Acts 11:28 ; 1 Corinthians 14:0 ; &c.). But that this was a great passing phase of the Church’s experience is indicated by 1 Corinthians 13:8 , and by the broad facts of history. And meanwhile both Christ and the Apostles appeal to the Written Word for proof and certainty in a manner altogether peculiar, and which calls for the close personal study of the Christian disciple.
Above all, observe that the Lord Himself, in His Temptation, the history of which should be compared carefully with this whole passage, uses exclusively verbal citations, written “utterances,” from the Scriptures, as His sword; and this immediately after His Baptism and the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-40.4.11 ; Luke 4:1-42.4.13 ). No suggestion could be more pregnant than this as to the abiding position of the Written Word under the Dispensation of the Spirit.
With this verse the imagery of the passage gives way to unfigurative spiritual precepts. The writer is careless of literary symmetry, in favour of a higher order and beauty.
18. praying always ] Lit., praying on every occasion , every incident of life, especially every incident of temptation. Cp. the yet broader and deeper precept, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 , “pray without intermission .” See too Luke 18:1 ; Philippians 4:6 ; Colossians 1:3 , Colossians 1:9 , Colossians 1:4 :2. The attitude of the believer’s mind is to be one of perpetual prayer, in the sense of continuously maintaining a trustful and humble reference of all parts of life to his Lord’s will and grace. This will express itself in acts, if only momentary and wholly internal acts, of adoration and petition at each felt crisis of need. See Hebrews 4:16 .
with ] Lit., by means of ; the expressions being the instruments of the spiritual state.
all prayer and supplication ] “ All: ” every variety; deliberate, ejaculatory; public, private, secret; confessing, asking, praising. Or again, more simply, with a full, not partial and niggardly, employment of the privilege and resource of prayer.
“Prayer” is the larger word, “supplication” the more definite. The former includes the whole attitude and action of the creature’s approach to God; the latter denotes only petition. “Prayer,” however, is very often used in this narrower sense. See out of many passages Matthew 5:44 ; Luke 22:40 . The two words occur together, as here, Philippians 4:6 ; 1 Timothy 2:1 , 1 Timothy 5:5 .
in the Spirit ] So also R. V. Lit., “ in spirit ;” but see last note on 2:22 above. The Holy Spirit was to be “the Place” of the prayer, in the sense of being the surrounding, penetrating, transforming atmosphere of the spirit of the praying Christian. Cp. Zechariah 12:10 ; Romans 8:26 ; Jude 1:20 .
watching ] Keeping awake . The Gr. word occurs also Mark 13:33 ; Luke 21:36 ; Hebrews 13:17 . There was to be no indolent, somnolent oblivion of the need of prayer, or of the fact of offered prayer. For similar precepts (with another Gr. word) see Matthew 26:41 ; Colossians 4:2 ; 1 Peter 4:7 .
with all perseverance ] Lit., in (as R. V.). “ All: ” that is, “ full ,” “utmost;” so “all faith” (1 Corinthians 13:2 ). For a close parallel to the thought see Romans 12:12 ; where lit., “in the (matter of) prayer, persevering .” Our Lord’s parable (Luke 18:1 , &c.), makes it plain that persistency as well as trust has a mysterious value in the efficacy of prayer.
supplication ] “ All supplication;” the “all” being implied from the previous words. “ All: ” with the full particularity and thoughtfulness proper to faithful intercessions.
for all saints ] Lit., for all the saints . With a noble abruptness the thought, long detained upon the combat and resources of the individual, and of the single community, now runs out to the great circle of the Church. The inner connexion of ideas is close and strong. The Christian cannot really arm himself with Christ, and use his armour, without getting nearer in sympathy to the brotherhood of the saints of Christ. Cp. 1 Peter 5:9 for the same connexion otherwise indicated.
“ Saints: ” see on 1:1 above.
19. for me ] Lit., on behalf of me . This change of phrase, by change of preposition, is perhaps due to the Apostle’s strong personal sense of his need of the help of intercessory prayer. He wisely covets for his apostolic work the prayers of the obscurest militant believer. Cp. Romans 15:30 ; 2 Corinthians 1:11 ; Philippians 1:19 ; Colossians 4:3 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:1 ; Philemon 1:22 ; Hebrews 13:18 .
utterance ] Lit., “ word ” ( logos; Latin versions, sermo ); a special deliverance of the Gospel. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:5 .
given ] by the inspiring and enabling Spirit. Cp. Acts 2:4 ; 1 Corinthians 12:8 . The Apostle was still as entirely dependent on the heavenly Gift as when his work began.
that I may open ] Lit., “ in opening of .” “In” such “opening,” as opportunity came by God’s providence, and power came by His grace, the “gift” would be seen.
boldly ] Lit., in boldness of speech . The Gr. word has occurred 3:12, where see note. Cp. Philippians 1:20 . St Paul was not insensible to the difficulty of a full and open utterance of the Gospel, not least in the Capital of the world. Cp. Romans 1:15 , Romans 1:16 , and notes in this Series.
the mystery ] The sixth occurrence of the word in the Epistle; cp. 1:9, 3:3, 4, 9, 5:32. On the meaning, see on 1:9. The special reference here is fixed by the previous occurrences; it is to Divine Redemption in its world-wide scope and eternal issues. Cp. 1 Timothy 3:16 .
20. for which ] On behalf of which , in the interests of which. The Gospel is, so to speak, the Power whose envoy he is. Cp. 2 Corinthians 5:20 for the same phrase and image with express mention of the Sovereign , Christ, represented by His envoys.
an ambassador ] Cp. 2 Cor. just quoted. And see Philemon 1:8 , where Bp Lightfoot renders (and so R. V. margin) “ an ambassador , and now also a prisoner, of Jesus Christ;” giving this passage, so closely parallel and exactly contemporary, as a main reason for the rendering. See his note there. This is not the place to discuss the question.
in bonds ] Lit., in a chain . The Gr. word occurs elsewhere in St Paul’s speech or writings, Acts 28:20 ; 2 Timothy 1:16 . Prisoners detained upon appeal to the Emperor, as was St Paul, were sometimes “coupled by a slight chain round the right wrist to the left of a soldier, and, thus shackled … if they could afford it, were at liberty to hire a lodging for themselves without the walls, but within the prescribed limits” (Lewin, Life, &c., of St Paul , ii. 236. See too Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , p. 8). Cp. Josephus, Antiquities , xviii. c. 6, for similar custody (though not upon appeal) in the case of Agrippa, the Herod of Acts 12:0 , in his earlier life in Italy in the reign of Tiberius. For St Paul’s allusions to the “bonds” of this Roman imprisonment, see Philippians 1:7 , Philippians 1:13 , Philippians 1:14 , Philippians 1:16 ; Colossians 4:18 ; Philemon 1:10 , Philemon 1:13 ; and above, 3:1, 4:1.
Wetstein calls attention here to the paradox; “an ambassador in chains .”
therein ] I.e., in “the mystery of the Gospel.” This was the field or sphere of his speech. The Gr. makes it plain that the reference is to this, and not to the “bonds.”
speak boldly ] The verb is cognate to the noun in ver. 19. See note above on “boldly” there. The tense is aorist, and suggests that he prays for grace to take, as it were, a “new departure” in outspoken testimony and exposition.
I ought ] under the holy obligation of my commission. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:16 .
speak ] The Gr. verb indicates specially the wording of the message. He prays for grace to be perfectly explicit in terms. The tense is aorist; see last note but one.
21 22. The mission of Tychicus
21. ye also ] as well as my other friends, near or distant. Perhaps the emphasis has to do with Colossians 4:7 , words written so nearly at the same time: Ephesus as well as Colossæ should be kept informed. This, however, opens the question (not to be discussed here) which Epistle was first written, this or the Colossian.
my affairs ] Lit., the things concerning me . So Philippians 1:12 ; Colossians 4:7 . The phrase is common in later classical Greek. Omit “ and ,” supplied by A.V. after these words.
how I do ] Lit., “ what I do.” But Gr. usage confirms the rendering of A.V. and R.V. The “doing” is faring ; exactly as in the English phrase.
Tychicus ] Named elsewhere, Acts 20:4 ; Colossians 4:7 ; 2 Timothy 4:12 ; Titus 3:12 . An examination of these passages and their surroundings shews that Tychicus belonged to the province of Asia, and makes it likely that he was an Ephesian. His character is drawn in noble outlines here and in Col. We see in him one who attracted the Apostle’s love and reliance, in the fellowship of Christ, in a high degree; and the words in 2 Tim. shew that his faithful readiness for service was maintained into the last trying days of St Paul’s life. It is suggested that Tychicus, and his brother Asian, Trophimus, were the two “brethren” associated with Titus in the management of the collection (2 Corinthians 8:16-47.8.24 ) for the poor Christians in Judea. Tradition makes Tychicus afterwards bishop of Chalcedon in Bithynia, or of Colophon, or of Neapolis in Cyprus.
See the art. Tychicus in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible; Ellicott here; and Lightfoot on Colossians 4:7 , and p. 11 of his Philippians . Lightfoot shews that the name Tychicus, though not common, occurs in inscriptions and on coins belonging to Asia Minor.
This is the one individual personal allusion in the Epistle.
a beloved brother ] Lit., and better, the, &c. The allusion is to a person well-defined by acquaintance. On the word “brother” see below, on ver. 23.
minister ] Gr. diaconos: so in Colossians 4:7 . See on 3:7 above for the essential meaning of the word. In this passage, as in Col., the probable reference is to the activities of Tychicus as St Paul’s helper. Cp. Colossians 1:7 for the word in a similar connexion. In Philippians 1:1 ; 1 Timothy 3:8 , 1 Timothy 3:12 , 1 Timothy 3:4 :6; the word is used to denote holders of a subordinate office in the Christian ministry. And cp. Romans 16:1 , where it is used of a Christian woman holding a recognized position in the work of the Church. Here, however, such a meaning is unlikely, the person being of a calibre, and in a connexion with the Apostle, which do not suggest an inferior grade of work. In no passages of the N.T. save Rom., Phil., and 1 Tim., quoted above, has the word diaconos any necessary connexion at all with organized ministry as such. E.g. in John 2:5 , John 2:9 , it denotes a “servant” in the commonest sense; in Romans 13:4 , a “servant” of God in civil magistracy; in 2 Corinthians 3:6 , a “servant” of the New Covenant, as an active agent in its promulgation. In Romans 15:8 ; Galatians 2:17 ; it is used of the Lord Himself.
in the Lord ] The last occurrence in the Epistle of this sacred and pregnant phrase. The life, and the life-work, of Tychicus were altogether conditioned, characterized, and animated, by his union with Christ, and the people of Christ.
22. I have sent ] Lit., “ I did send .” The aorist is “epistolary”; it speaks from the time of the arrival, not the sending, of the messenger. Cp. 2 Corinthians 8:18 , 2 Corinthians 8:22 ; Philippians 2:28 ; Colossians 4:8 (where see Lightfoot’s note); Philemon 1:12 , &c.
our affairs ] The circumstances of St Paul and his fellow Christians at Rome. There are passages (see esp. 1 Thessalonians 3:1 , 1 Thessalonians 3:2 ) where he obviously uses “we” in the sense of “I”; but this is not likely here, in view of the “how I do,” just before (ver. 22).
comfort ] The word is rendered “beseech,” 4:1, above, where see note. By derivation and usage it has more in it of exhortation than consolation; though the two ideas run often into one another. “Comfort” by derivation ( confortatio ) means rightly, “strengthening.” If this is borne in mind, the A.V. gives a true interpretation.
your hearts ] See, for collocation of the words “heart” and “comfort,” Colossians 2:2 , Colossians 2:4 :8; 2 Thessalonians 2:17 .
23 24. Benediction
23. Peace ] The Apostle returns to his opening benedictory prayer. See on 1:2 and note. We may remark here that the phrase “Grace and peace,” in apostolic salutations, though no doubt connected with ordinary Greek and Hebrew greetings, is not to be explained by them. Both nouns are surely used in the fulness of their Christian meaning. It is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;” “the peace of God.”
the brethren ] The only certain occurrence in this Epistle (see note on ver. 10 above) of this word in the plural. In the singular it has occurred once, ver. 21. As children of God, Christians are brothers of one another in a sense full of Divine life and love. See Romans 8:29 ; 1 John 5:1 .
love ] The Divine gift of love in all its aspects. He prays that “the love of God may be poured out in their hearts” (Romans 5:5 ), and that they may “walk in love” (above, ch. 5:2) as its result. For the word “love” in benediction or salutation, cp. 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; Jude 1:2 .
with faith ] As if to secure the reality and purity of the experience of love by its co-existence with faith, holy reliance, in God through Christ by the Spirit. Here “faith,” as well as “love” and “peace,” is invoked upon them; it is a “ gift of God.” See on 2:8 above.
from God the Father ] Cp. 1:2, and notes. There “ our Father” is the wording. For the present phrase, cp. 2 Timothy 1:2 ; Titus 1:4 . The probable reference of the word “Father” in such an invocation (having regard to the far more frequent other form) is to the Father’s Fatherhood as towards the brethren of His Son, rather than directly towards His Son. But the two aspects are eternally and indissolubly united.
and the Lord Jesus Christ ] See on 1:2.
24. Grace ] Lit., “ the grace.” So in the closing benedictions of Col., 1 Tim., 2 Tim., Tit., Heb. In Rom., Cor., Gal., Phil., Thess., Philem., Rev., the benedictions are in the full form (or nearly so), “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ .” The shorter form is very probably the epitome of the larger; “ the grace” is His grace. On the word “grace,” see note on 1:2. It is nothing less than God Himself in action, in His Son, by His Spirit, in the salvation of man.
with all them that love , &c.] In this short clause, at once so broad and so deep in its reference, so exclusive from one point of view, so inclusive from another, we find the last expression of those great ideas of the Epistle, the local Universality and spiritual Unity of the true, the truly believing and loving, Church. All who answer this description are, as a fact, in contact with the Fountain of Grace, and on all of them the Apostle invokes “grace for grace” (John 1:16 ), the successive and growing supplies of the gift of God.
“ Our Lord Jesus Christ ” : the full name and style of the Object of love is given. In this lies the needful warning that the Object must be no creature of the individual’s, or of the community’s, thought, but the Redeemer and King of history and revelation.
in sincerity ] Lit., (as R.V.,) in uncorruptness . The word is the same as that in Romans 2:7 (A.V., “immortality”); 1 Corinthians 15:42 , 1 Corinthians 15:50 , 1 Corinthians 15:53 , 1 Corinthians 15:54 (A.V., “incorruption”); 2 Timothy 1:10 (A.V., “immortality”). The cognate adjective occurs Romans 1:23 ; 1 Corinthians 9:25 , 1 Corinthians 9:15 :52; 1 Peter 1:4 , 1 Peter 1:23 (A.V., in each case, “incorruptible” and so, practically, 1 Peter 3:4 ); and 1 Timothy 1:17 (A.V., “immortal”) 1 1 The Genevan English Version (1557) renders the words in the text here, “ to their immortalitie .” The preposition (“to”) cannot stand, but the noun conveys part of the true meaning. . Thus the word tends always towards the spiritual and eternal, as towards that which is in its own nature free from elements of decay. “In spiritual reality ” would thus represent a part, but only a part, of the idea of the present phrase. The whole idea is far greater in its scope. The “love of our Lord Jesus Christ” in question here is a love living and moving “ in ” the sphere and air, so to speak, of that which cannot die, and cannot let die. God Himself is its “environment,” as He lives and works in the regenerate soul. It is a love which comes from, exists by, and leads to, the unseen and eternal. “Thus only,” in Alford’s words, “is the word worthy to stand as the crown and climax of this glorious Epistle.”
Amen ] See note on 3:21, above. The evidence for the omission of the word here is considerable, though not overwhelming. The early Versions; and the Fathers (in quotation), retain it, almost without exception in both cases. Some very important MSS. omit it. What reader will not supply it from his own spirit?
Written from Rome , &c.] Lit., ( The Epistle) to (the) Ephesians was written from Rome, by means of Tychicus . It may safely be assumed that no such Subscription appeared in the original MS. of the Epistle, and the question of various forms has, accordingly, an antiquarian interest only. In the oldest Gr. MSS. the form is the same as that of the Title (see note there); To (the) Ephesians. Old, but later, MSS., along with some early Versions and some Fathers, read, exactly or nearly, as the A.V. Among other forms we find, (Here) ends (the Epistle) to (the) Ephesians, (and) begins (that) to (the) Colossians ( sic ), or, that to (the) Philippians.
The Subscriptions (to St Paul’s Epistles) in their longer form (as in the A.V.) are ascribed to Euthalius, a bishop of the fifth century, and thus to a date later than that of the earliest known MSS. (See Scrivener’s Introduction to the Criticism of the N. T. , ed. 1883, p. 62.)
The Subscription here is obviously true to fact, (assuming the rightness of the words “ at Ephesus ,” 1:1). In this it resembles those appended to Rom., Phil., 2 Tim. Other Subscriptions are either (1 Cor.; Galat.; 1 Tim.) contradictory to the contents of the respective Epistles, or (Thess.; Titus) difficult to be reconciled with them.
Additional Note (see p. 54)
The Rev. C. T. Wilson, M.A., of Jerusalem, has favoured the Editor with the following remarks:
“The word ἀρραβὼν occurs in the colloquial Arabic of Palestine, in the form arraboon , and is frequently used … for the sum of money paid in advance to a tradesman or artizan to seal a bargain. It is also used to signify a sum deposited as a pledge for the fulfilment of a bargain. When engaging a muleteer, it is usual to take a small sum from him as a pledge that he will be forthcoming at the appointed time. The arraboon is forfeited if he fails.”
A. Headship of Christ (Ch. 1:10)
B. St Augustine on the Church (Ch. 1:22)
C. Original Sin (Ch. 2:3)
D. “Without God” (Ch. 2:12)
E. The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (Ch. 3:8)
F. Apostles and Prophets (Ch. 2:20)
G. The Conflict with personal Evil Spirits (Ch. 6:12)
H. O.T. Quotations and References
J. Christology of the Epistle
A. HEADSHIP OF CHRIST WITH RELATION TO THE UNIVERSE
In the Commentary, on ch. 1:10, we have advocated the restriction of the reference of the Headship to the Lord’s connexion with the Church. This is by no means to ignore His connexion with the whole created Universe; a truth expressly taught in the Holy Scriptures (see esp. John 1:3 , and Colossians 1:16 , though the latter passage makes its main reference to personal existences, not to merely material things). The connexion of the Eternal and Incarnate Son with the created World is indicated to us, directly and indirectly, as a profound and manifold connexion. But on a careful view of the whole teaching of the Ephesian Epistle we think it will be seen that the Epistle does not, so to speak, look this way with its revelations and doctrines, but is occupied supremely with the Lord’s relations with His Church, and with other intelligent existences through it. And we doubt whether the imagery of the Head is anywhere (if not here) to be found used with reference to the Universe at large, material and immaterial alike.
B. ST AUGUSTINE ON THE CHURCH. (Ch. 1:22.)
He is describing with general approval Tichonius’ Book of the Seven Rules 1 1 This book is extant. See Migne’s Patrologia Latina , Vol. xviii. (for the elucidation of Scripture mysteries), and writes thus ( De Doctrinâ Christianâ , iii. 32): “The second Rule is that concerning the Lord’s twofold Body ( de Domini corpore bipartito ). The phrase is unsuitable, for that is not really the Lord’s Body which will not be with Him eternally. He should have said, ‘concerning the Lord’s true and commingled Body,’ or ‘true and feigned Body,’ or the like; for not only eternally, but now, hypocrites are not to be described as being with Him, however they may seem ( quamvis videantur ) to be in His Church. This rule demands a watchful reader; for [often] the Scripture, turning from one party to speak to, or about, another, seems to be still speaking to, or about, the first, as if the two constituted one Body, by reason of their temporal commingling and their equal share in sacraments.”
In allusion to this passage Bp Ridley writes ( Works , Parker Society Ed., pp. 126 127): “That Church, which is His Body, and of which Christ is the Head, standeth only of living stones and true Christians, not only outwardly in name and title, but inwardly in heart and in truth. But forasmuch as this Church … as touching the outward fellowship, is contained within that great house [2 Timothy 2:20 ] and hath, with the same, outward society of the sacraments and ministry of the word, many things are spoken of that universal Church (which St Augustine calleth the mingled Church) which cannot truly be understood but only of that purer part of the Church. So that the rule of Tyconius concerning the mingled Church may here well take place, &c.”
C. ORIGINAL SIN. (Ch. 2:3.)
The theological literature, ancient and modern, of this great subject (the title of which we owe to St Augustine), is very extensive. The English reader will find information in Commentaries on the XXXIX Articles, such as those of Bps Beveridge and E. H. Browne. Art. ix deals expressly with the subject, and its statements underlie those of several following Articles, especially x, xi, xiii, xv, xvii. Among English discussions of the subject we specially recommend three of the late Prof. Mozley’s Lectures (one of which is quoted in the notes); “ Christ alone without Sin ,” “ Original Sin ,” and “ Original Sin asserted by Philosophers and Poets .” To the quotations given in this last Essay we may add the lines of Mr Browning:
“I still, to suppose it” [the Christian faith] “true, for my part,
See reasons and reasons; this, to begin;’
Tis the faith that launched point-blank her dart
At the head of a lie taught Original Sin,
The Corruption of Man’s Heart.”
Gold Hair; a story of Pornic .
See, for some admirable pages on Original Sin, Prof. Shedd’s Sermons to the Natural Man , especially Sermons v. and xiv. On the Pelagian Controversy, see Hagenbach’s Dogmengeschichte , or English Translation ( History of Doctrines ), and Period, B., i. 2; Shedd’s Hist. of Christian Doctrine , Book iv. ch. 4; Cunningham’s Historical Theology , Vol. 1 Chronicles 11:0 . A popular but able account of the controversy is given in Milner’s History of the Ch. of Christ , Cent. 5, cch. 3, 4.
D. “WITHOUT GOD.” (Ch. 2:12.)
“The vulgar believed in many Gods, the philosopher believed in a Universal Cause; but neither believed in God. The philosopher only regarded the Universal Cause as the spring of the Universal machine, which was necessary to the working of all the parts, but was not thereby raised to a separate order of being from them. Theism was discussed as a philosophical not as a religious question, … as no more affecting practice than any great scientific hypothesis does now … Nothing would have astonished [the philosopher] more than, when he had proved in his lecture hall the existence of a God, to have been told to worship Him. ‘Worship whom?’ he would have exclaimed, ‘worship what? worship how?’ ”
Mozley, Lectures on Miracles , Lect. iv.
E. THE UNSEARCHABLE RICHES OF CHRIST. (Ch. 3:8.)
The following passage, referred to in the notes, is extracted from “A Sermon preached in the Parish Church of St Paul’s, Deptford, on Sunday, May 7, 1786, on the lamented occasion of the death of Richard Conyers, LL.D., late Rector of that Parish,” by the Rev. John Newton.
“When he entered upon his ministry at his beloved Helmsley, in Yorkshire, he found the place ignorant and dissolute to a proverb … With much zeal and diligence, he attempted the reformation of his parish, which was of great extent and divided into several hamlets. He preached frequently in them all. He encouraged his parishioners to come to his house. He distributed them into little companies, that he might instruct them with more convenience; he met them in rotation by appointment. In this manner … I have been assured that he often preached or exhorted, publicly or more privately, twenty times in a week. These labours were not in vain; a great, visible, and almost universal reformation took place. About the time I am speaking of, a clergyman in his neighbourhood made very honourable mention of Mr Conyers, in a letter to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (which I have seen in print), as perhaps the most exemplary, indefatigable and successful, parochial minister in the kingdom. Yet, in the midst of applause and apparent success, he was far from being satisfied with himself. He did what he could; he did more than most others; but he felt there was something still wanting, though for a time he knew not what; but he was desirous to know. He studied the Scriptures, and he prayed to the Father of lights. They who thus seek shall surely find. Important consequences often follow from a sudden, involuntary turn ot thought. One day an expression of St Paul’s, ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:8 ), engaged his attention. He had often read the passage, but never noticed the word ‘ unsearchable ’ before. The Gospel, in his view of it, had appeared plain and within his comprehension; but the Apostle spoke of it as containing something that was ‘unsearchable.’ A conclusion, therefore forced itself upon him that the idea he had hitherto affixed to the word ‘ Gospel ,’ could not be the same with that of the Apostle.… Thus he was brought, with the Apostle, to account his former gain but loss. The ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’ opened to his mind; he received power to believe; his perplexities were removed, and he ‘rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ … He, from that time, preached Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, as the only ground of hope for sinners, and the only source from whence they could derive wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, 1 Corinthians 2:2 , 1 Corinthians 1:30 .… This change in his sentiments, and manner of preaching, though it added efficacy to his moral instructions, and endeared him to his people at home, lost him much of that high estimation in which he had been held abroad. But he knew the gospel of God too well to be ashamed of it: whatever disgrace he suffered in such a cause he could bear with patience 1 1 Conyers’ name occurs in Cowper’s Truth :
“[Heaven’s] open, and ye cannot enter why?
Because ye will not, Conyers would reply.” .”
F. APOSTLES AND PROPHETS. (Ch. 2:20.)
On this collocation of Apostles with (Christian) Prophets some interesting light is thrown by early non-canonical Christian literature. The “Prophet” appears as a conspicuous and most important element in the life and work of some Christian communities in the closing years of cent. 1. The recently discovered Teaching of the Twelve Apostles , often referred to with high respect by the Christian Fathers (St Clement of Alexandria even seems to quote it as Scripture, Strom , 1. c. xx), belongs most probably to cent. 1, and to the Churches of Syria. Of its sixteen chapters, five (10, 11, 13, 14, 15.) explicitly speak of the Prophets of the Church. We gather that they were usually itinerant visitors to the Churches, but sometimes resident, and then supported by firstfruits. They presided at Divine worship, particularly at the weekly “Thanksgiving” (Eucharist), and had the right (as apparently the ordained “Bishops” and “Deacons,” ch. 15, had not) of using their own words in conducting the sacramental service (cp. perhaps Justin Martyr, Apol . 1. c. 67). They are called “high priests” (ch. 13). They were to be tested (cp. 1 John 4:1 ) by known standards of truth, and by their personal consistency of life, but then, so long as their teaching did not contravene those tests, they were to be heard with the submission due to inspired oracles (ch. 11). To sit in judgment on them was to incur the doom of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The local “Bishops” and “Deacons” were in some respects inferior to them. The language of ch. 15 indicates, perhaps, that this inspired superior ministry was gradually passing away, and the regularly ordained ministry taking more and more its place.
The same document (ch. 11) mentions other Visitors called “Apostles;” so entirely itinerant that a stay of three days in one place would betray the man as a “false prophet.” The notice of these “Apostles” is very brief. They were evidently a rarer phenomenon, and of less practical influence, than the Prophets. No reference to the Great Apostles is to be sought in the passage. It may be illustrated by Romans 16:7 (where however see note in this Series); and seems to indicate the existence of a class of constantly moving, and inspired, superintendents and instructors of the Churches, who, as such, would bear a likeness to the Great Apostles. No function of superintendence seems to be assigned to the Prophets.
In the Shepherd of Hermas (first half of cent. 2), ‘Commandment’ xi, is a passage referring to the Christian Prophet and his credentials. These credentials were especially a deep personal humility, a renunciation of gain, and the refusal to “prophesy” in answer to consultations and questions. The Prophet was regarded as “filled by the angel of the prophetic spirit,” when it pleased God, and he then spoke not to individuals but to the congregation.
In the “First” Epistle 1 1 The “Second Epistle” is probably by another and later writer. It contains nothing to the point here. of St Clement of Rome to the Church of Corinth (probably about a.d. 95) there is ample allusion to the ordained ministry, but none to the Prophets. The same is the case in the Epistles of St Ignatius and the Epistle of St Polycarp (early cent. 2). In the Epistle of Barnabas , written probably somewhat later than the Teaching , and possibly based upon it in some measure, no allusion to the “Prophets” occurs.
G. THE CONFLICT WITH PERSONAL EVIL SPIRITS. (Ch. 6:12.)
We have remarked in the notes on the strong testimony given by this verse, with its exact wording, to the real and objective existence of such personal beings. We may add that such testimony still gains in strength when it is remembered that it was first addressed (at least among other destinations) to Ephesus, and that Ephesus (see Acts 19:0 ) was a peculiarly active scene of asserted magical and other dealings with the unseen darkness. Supposing that the right line to take in dealing with such beliefs and practices had been to say that the whole basis of them was a fiction of the human mind, not only would such a verse as this not have been written, but, we may well assume, something would have been written strongly contradictory to the thought of it. As it stands, the passage is in full accord with main lines of Scripture doctrine, in both Testaments.
H. OLD TESTAMENT QUOTATIONS AND REFERENCES IN THE EPISTLE
Genesis 2:24, quoted Eph. 5:31. Exodus 20:12, quoted Eph. 6:2. Psalm 4:4, quoted Eph. 4:26 (see note). Psalm 8:6, referred to Eph. 1:22. Psalm 68:18, quoted Eph. 4:8. Psalm 118:22, referred to Eph. 2:20. Canticles 4:7, referred to Eph. 5:27 (possibly). Isaiah 57:19, referred to Eph. 2:17. Isaiah 60:1, quoted Eph. 5:14; with probable recognition also of Isaiah 51:17 , Isaiah 52:1 (see note).
In view of the fact that the Church addressed in the Epistle is a Church of Gentile converts, these quotations and allusions illustrate instructively the degree to which the Apostle took it for granted that all his converts would study the Old Testament as the Word of God.
J. CHRISTOLOGY OF THE EPISTLE
More by way of suggestion than with any claim of completeness we subjoin a study of the view given by the Epistle of the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the Son of God: 1:3, 4:13; His Father being also His God: 1:3, 17.
The Beloved One (of the Father): 1:6.
With the Father before Creation: 1:4.
Slain, by crucifixion: 1:7, 2:16.
Propitiatory Sacrifice, self-offered: 5:2, 25.
Redeemer from condemnation: 1:7. See 4:32.
Raised from the dead: 1:20. See 2:6, 4:9.
Exalted “far above all heavens,” to the Throne of the Father: 1:20 22, 4:8 10. See 2:6.
Giver, on His ascension, of spiritual gifts from thence: 4:7, 8.
Perpetual Giver, with the Father, of grace and peace: 1:2. See 6:23.
He fills all things in His exaltation: 4:10.
King, with the Father, of the spiritual Kingdom: 5:5.
Absolute Master of His own: 1:1, 6:6.
Head of His Church, which is His Body: 1:22, 23, 4:12, 15, 16, 5:23, 30.
Saviour of the Body: 5:23.
Mystic Bridegroom of the Church, His Bride: 5:25 27.
Corner-stone of the spiritual Temple: 2:20.
Indweller in the saints’ hearts: 3:17.
Object of spiritual knowledge (4:13); faith (1:15); hope (1:12); love (6:24).
Treasury of unsearchable riches: 3:8.
His Love passes knowledge: 3:19.
He is the Secret of spiritual strength: 6:10.
Mediator of Divine pardon: 4:32.
In Him, the Son and Gift of the Father, the Father is eternally glorified: 3:21;
As in Him the pre-mundane Plan of Redemption was laid by the Father: 3:11.
Other lines of doctrine may be similarly worked out. Let the Epistle, by an effort of imagination, be regarded as a newly discovered Scripture, and interrogated accordingly.
Such interrogations will need, of course, to be pursued with humility and reverence, and with the remembrance that each section of the Scriptures is but part of an ordered whole. And the enquirer will never lightly forget the great definitions of doctrine, above all the catholic Creeds, produced within the Church in the past, and which are in fact authoritative collections and summaries of Scripture teaching. But none the less such direct and personal enquiries into the Divine Word in its parts will be as rich in suggestive interest as they will conduce to settlement in faith.
“Since you desire to learn concerning the doctrine, let me set forth, to the best of my powers, some few things concerning the faith of Christ. You are indeed competent to ascertain that faith from the Divine Oracles, although you are thus pleased to learn also from other teachers. For the Divine and inspired Scriptures are of themselves sufficient ( αὐτάρκεις ) for the proclamation of the Truth.”
St Athanasius, Oratio contra Gentes , § 1.
“Perhaps we act rashly, in wishing to discuss and examine the words of God. Yet, why were they spoken, if not to be known? Why were they uttered, if not to be heard? Why were they heard, if not to be understood? May He therefore strengthen us, and grant us somewhat, even as much as He is pleased to grant.”
St Augustine, In Joannem , Tract, xxi.
“Do not only bend over [the Scriptures]: embrace them, and keep them upon your minds. Not to know the Scriptures is the cause of all evils.”
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the Second Week of Advent