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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

Ephesians 6

Verse 1

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

Children, obey your parents: Continuing the discussion of submission and service to one another (see notes 5:21), Paul now addresses the child/parent relationship. For obvious reasons the instruction given is simple enough even a young child can understand its meaning and application. This command is addressed to children. They are to see that they make themselves obedient to their parents, not wait for the parents to make them obey. This instruction is not only addressed to young pre-school or elementary school age children, for the text suggests it includes those old enough to obey "the Lord." The word "children" (Strong 5043) refers to all who are dependent upon parents, those under the care, protection, and guardianship of "parents" (Strong 1118).

Although the words "children" (offspring) and "parents" (begetter) carry the idea of those biologically related, the application of this passage is not limited to biological family. Biblical principles involving the structure of the home apply to those who are orphans in foster homes (James 1:27; Psalms 68:5), those who have been adopted (Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 6:18), children of widows who remarry (1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Timothy 5:14), children with only one parent, and other variations of the norm.

To "obey" (Strong 5219) means literally "to hear under authority," suggesting children are to listen, submit, and obey or keep the commands of their parents. When children are instructed to "hear" their parents, it means they are to give attention and respond positively to the words of their parents (Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20). God has given parents this authority because He gave them the awesome responsibility of raising children.

Being "disobedient to parents" (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Romans 1:28-32) is a very serious sin. Part of the law that Moses delivered concerning disobedient children warns:

If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NASB).

"Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord" (Colossians 3:20).

in the Lord: This phrase qualifies the previous command. There are several viewpoints as to how it qualifies. One view is that "in the Lord" simply means because God said so. Another suggests it means children ought to obey because the children are "in the Lord," that is because they are Christians. Still another suggests children are to obey their parents when their parents’ wishes coincide with God’s wishes. Commentators who take this view apply this amendment to believing children who may have pagan or unbelieving parents, exhorting children to obey their parents unless the parents tell the child to do something sinful. Of course, this teaching would apply to any parent who would ask his child to sin. A faithful child obeys his parents knowing it is the right thing to do and it pleases God. When there is a conflict between what a parent wants a child to do and the obvious will of God, a child then must try to obey the Lord (see notes on 5:24). May the Lord have mercy on a parent who would present such a crisis to a child. Jesus warns:

...whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! (Matthew 18:6-7 NASB; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).

for this is right: It is self-evident, proper, and correct that children obey their parents. Even Jesus, when He was a child, obeyed His parents (Luke 2:51). Obeying parents is the right thing to do, and it is "well-pleasing to the Lord" (Colossians 3:20). It is also the right thing to do because it is the way anyone would want to be treated by his children: "...just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way" (Luke 6:31 NASB). People reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7).

Verse 2

Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

Honour thy father and mother: Verses 2 and 3 of this text are probably taken from Exodus 20:12 : "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you" (NASB). (See also Deuteronomy 5:16.) "Honor" addresses the heart or attitude, which is separate from, yet accompanies, obedience. To "honor" (Strong 5091) our parents means to treat them as valuable, priceless, and precious. Regarding their companionship and counsel as worthwhile is a form of honor. Obedience is but one way to respect and esteem one’s parents.

Obviously, mature offspring do not maintain the same type of relationship with their parents as they did when they were younger in terms of obedience. The command to "honor" our parents, however, still applies even when we are older. This "honor" may be needed in the form of financial assistance as our parents age (1 Timothy 5:4). Jesus makes this clear to the Pharisees and scribes when He says:

You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death"; but you say, "If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God)," you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that (Mark 7:9-13 NASB).

Normally, "children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children" (2 Corinthians 12:14 NASB). Life, however, does not always follow plans. Circumstances change, and it is right that we care for our elderly parents. Even though we are not compelled to follow their advice as adults ourselves, we should nevertheless, "Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22 NASB). God, through Moses, says, "Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother" (Deuteronomy 27:16 NASB). (See also Leviticus 19:3.)

(which is the first commandment with promise): This parenthetical phrase is a comment by Paul and not part of the text of Exodus 20:12. There has been much discussion as to what the term "first" means because the command to obey parents is the fifth of the ten commandments. It has been suggested this command is the first commandment in the decalog containing a specific promise; however, all the other commands also have promises of some kind attached to them (Caldwell 289-290). This phrase, then, could mean it is the first of the ten commandments that deals with relationships, or with the way we treat one another. While this point is true, there may be a better explanation. Patzia suggests the significance of the word "first," "must mean first in importance with respect to children" (Patzia 278) and, therefore, has no numerical connection with the ten commandments. This view suggests that as we are growing up, it is the first commandment relevant or important to us as children, the first command we as children are asked to obey by God. This view has much merit. [Paul uses the word "first" in this way, pointing out something of primary importance, when speaking of the foundational facts of Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:3).]

Verse 3

That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

That it may be well with thee: Paul is probably alluding to "that it may go well with you" recorded in Deuteronomy 5:16 (NASB), which helps explain the principle behind the promise of long life. God wants children to understand that honoring their parents is in their own best interest, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Life will go much smoother if we live it God’s way. Paul advises Timothy to:

...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NASB).

and thou mayest live long on the earth: The second part of the promise to Israel says, "that your days may be prolonged" (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16 NASB). Paul here shows the promise of living a long life still applies to children who obey their parents. Specifically, Israel enjoyed this long life in "the land which the Lord your God gives you" (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16 NASB), which was Canaan. The blessing of long life in association with obeying our parents is found in many passages: "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life, and peace they will add to you" (Proverbs 3:1-2 NASB). Also, "Hear, my son, and accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many" (Proverbs 4:10 NASB). The sinful way of life, with its physical, emotional, and spiritual stresses, "is hard" (Proverbs 13:15; also see Isaiah 3:11) and will shorten a person’s life.

Verse 4

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: Now Paul addresses the idea of submission as it applies to parents (see notes on 5:21). While the scriptures are clear that both father and mother ("parents" 6:1) are to be involved in the discipline and spiritual education of children (2 Timothy 1:5; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20), there is an emphasis here on the father’s role of spiritual leadership. Fatherhood is emphasized throughout this letter to the Ephesians (see notes 1:3). The father is responsible for the spiritual direction and discipline of his home (1 Timothy 3:4).

Fathers are not to "provoke" (Strong 3949), which means "rouse to wrath" or "exasperate" (Thayer 490), their children. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart" (Colossians 3:21 NASB). Obviously, all parental decisions are not going to be met with agreement on the child’s part. Does this reality prohibit the parents from enforcing discipline with which the child does not agree or that is met with anger? No. The Bible says, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful" (Hebrews 12:11 NIV). If parents were to wait until the child wanted correction, they would likely be waiting a long time.

What is being prohibited here is a form of parenting that irritates to the point of exasperation. This passage is addressing parents who are always "on" their kids. It does not mean parents cannot consistently correct a child, but that parents are not to create a situation where the child feels hopeless and despairs of ever doing anything right. This is a problem where the source of the conflict is the heart of the parent rather than the behavior of the child. Parents cannot justify unloving behavior and chronic criticism under the cloak of helping their child.

Children also become frustrated with parental moodiness, insincerity, and inconsistency. Children become exasperated at never measuring up to ever changing standards, resulting in confusion, discouragement, and anger. Parents must not be constantly changing the rules of acceptable behavior because of their moods. They must not have unclear, vacillating expectations. Children desperately need parents who are willing to define, set, and enforce boundaries for them. Clearly defined rules provide stability and promote the moral and ethical foundation for developing judgment and character. Consistency on the part of parents promotes respect for the basis of the rules and encourages confidence and happiness on the part of the child. If we are inconsistent, we send the message that our rules and governance are not based on values but on our unpredictable will and impulsive feelings. The result is confusion, insecurity, and a lack of respect for us and our values. Children will not develop good judgment in such chaos and turmoil. They usually end up rejecting their parents inconsistent or nonexistent standards and establish their own personal code of conduct.

A self-centered parent who uses authority as a cloak for selfishness can also incite disrespect and, subsequently, wrath. Parents should always try to imitate the relationship we have with our Father in heaven while parenting on earth. Our Father’s rules for us reflect His concern for our welfare (Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 10:13; Hebrews 12:10) and are not just exercises in authority. Just as we are not angered by our heavenly Father’s protectiveness, children usually will not become resentful if they really know and trust that the instruction and discipline is for their welfare. Children may not want correction at the moment, but usually later (sometimes much later) they will appreciate it (Hebrews 12:11). When correcting children, it must be for their welfare, not for the parents (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Parents are and will be held accountable for their side of the parent/child relationship.

but bring them up: Parents are to serve their children through shouldering the responsibility of developing maturity within them. To "bring up" (Strong 1625) children is to provide for the development of their character and equip them with the skills they will find necessary for success as Christian adults. This training includes the spiritual skills of prioritizing, goal setting, plan making, cooperating, working, and self-control. (See Proverbs 22:6.)

in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: When parents explain the scriptural foundation for the boundaries and decisions that are made, they are bringing children up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." "Nurture" (Strong 3809) suggests "the whole training and education of children" (Thayer 473). This term is very generic and encompasses all aspects of teaching and training children. Nurturing also involves setting boundaries and enforcing them, including "punishment for the purpose of improved behavior" (Boles 326).

It is in accordance with God’s revealed wisdom to chastise the rebellious behavior of our children. An Old Testament priest named Eli had some sons who were immoral, "worthless men" (1 Samuel 2:12), and they would not listen to their father (1 Samuel 2:22-25). God cursed Eli’s house because "he failed to restrain" his sons (1 Samuel 3:13 NIV). The New Testament shows that a man qualified to be an elder is to manage "his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity" (1 Timothy 3:4 NASB). (See Proverbs 23:13-14; Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 29:15; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 19:18; Hebrews 12:4-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.)

"Admonition" (Strong 3559) is somewhat more specific, carrying the meaning of corrective teaching and exhortation. "Nurture" seems suitable for younger children while "admonition" seems appropriate in dealing with older children. "A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke" (Proverbs 13:1 NASB).

We are not at liberty to raise our children using guidelines provided by "experts" in sociology or psychology but rather through the ordinances that are "of the Lord" (Strong 2962). Parental guidance permeates the pages of the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; Hebrews 5:12-14). Parents accomplish the teaching of God’s will through instruction coupled with example (1 Timothy 4:16). Parents should teach their children how to love God, their family, the church, and mankind. They should be taught respect for the authority of God, parents, mature Christians in the church, teachers at school, and the laws of the land. They should be taught how to obey the Lord in worship, in spiritual service, and in evangelism. They should be taught self-discipline and self-control in the areas of speech and anger, in humbleness of spirit, and in forgiveness. They should also be taught the skills of how to acquire knowledge and discernment (Proverbs 4:7). We would do well to imitate the instruction Moses gave to the children of Israel:

And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Deuteronomy 11:19-20 NASB).

Fulfilling our parental responsibility is not optional, for we are merely stewards of our children’s souls. We, and our children, have another Father to whom we are accountable, the Father of spirits (Hebrews 12:9). We cannot mistreat, abuse, or neglect our children, for they are God’s children as well (Acts 17:28); and we will give an account to our children’s spiritual Father.

Verse 5

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters: Paul now considers the theme of submitting to "one another" (see notes on 5:21) as it relates to slaves and their masters (6:5-8). A servant (Strong 1401) is a slave, someone bound to another and who serves another. The fact that this passage addresses the existence of slavery does not mean it endorses slavery. Paul inquires:

Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men (1 Corinthians 7:21-23 NASB).

The gospel is aimed at individuals within any society, calling for a proper regard for everyone’s welfare (James 2:1-13; Galatians 3:26-29). Historically, the gospel has had an immense impact on changing unjust societies and inequitable social relationships such as slavery. The gospel, with its teaching of equality, justice, and brotherhood, "lit a fuse which at long last led to the explosion which destroyed it (slavery)" (Stott 257; Patzia 282). This impact did not come from outwardly imposing change through revolution but from a change of individual hearts acting as "leaven" within a culture (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21). At the time Ephesians was written, it has been estimated that as much as one third of the population of Rome were slaves (Boles 327). This instruction as to how Christian slaves and masters should conduct themselves was particularly relevant in that type of culture. (See also 1 Corinthians 7:21-22; Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; Philemon 1:8-22; 1 Peter 2:18-25.)

Paul’s instruction here is for those who were slaves to submit to their obligation and obey. Today, this teaching is best correlated with the labor/management or employee/employer relationship.

Once again, we are enjoined to be submissive as far as possible without violating our primary loyalty to Christ (see notes 5:23-24; 6:1). If we are asked by our master/employer to do something sinful, dishonest, illegal, unethical, or immoral, "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29 NASB).

according to the flesh: This phrase modifies the term "masters." Paul is discussing a slave’s relationship to his earthly master, rather than his spiritual master, the Lord Jesus Christ (Judges 1:4).

with fear and trembling: This phrase is commonly connected with obedience (2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12) and carries the idea of reverence and respect for those in authority. Slaves are to:

...consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NIV).

Slaves/employees are encouraged to be anxious to do their duty, whether their master/employer is a believer or not. Being insubordinate to one’s master/employer could result in temporal punishment (6:9) in addition to the eternal consequences of disobedience to God.

in singleness of your heart: "Singleness" (Strong 572) is not implying purity here but simplicity, mental honesty, or sincerity (Arndt & Gingrich 85). Slaves are to have sincere integrity or undivided loyalty in their obedience (Colossians 3:22).

as unto Christ: To further clarify the attitude we are to have while doing a job, we are told to obey our masters/employers just as if we were obeying Christ. This comparison is made often in our text: "as unto Christ" (6:5); "as servants of Christ" (6:6); "doing the will of God" (6:6); "as unto the Lord" (6:7). As a Christian, our lives are centered around pleasing Christ (5:10). Jesus wants us to know that when we are dedicated to those we serve, we glorify Him (1 Peter 2:12; Matthew 5:16).

Verse 6

Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers: "Not with eyeservice" (Strong 3787) means "not just when your master is looking at you." It is dishonest and inconsistent with our calling (4:1, 28) to be submissive or obedient only when we are being watched. Whether our master/employer is watching or not, we should be faithful and dependable (Matthew 24:45-51). "Menpleasers" (Strong 441) is speaking of work that is done to gain favor, but it would not be done if the "boss" were away (Philippians 2:12).

but as the servants of Christ: "Servant" (Strong 1401) here is the same word as "servant" above (6:5), and yet here it refers to a Christian’s relationship with Christ. This is an appropriate metaphor of our relationship with Christ. In redemption He rescued us from the slavery of sin and death by purchasing us with His blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:16; 1 Peter 1:18-19). We did not set ourselves free from sin’s domination; therefore, we are not without a purchaser: "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20 NASB).

All Christians have made a choice to become grateful, indebted servants of Christ (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:17-18; Romans 6:22). Slaves who are sincere servants of Christ should attend their earthly masters with the same sincerity given in service to Christ. When we are dedicated to those we serve, we glorify Christ (1 Peter 2:12; Matthew 5:16). The way we work, then, reflects our faith and obedience to Christ. (See Romans 14:7-8.)

doing the will of God from the heart: Our sincere desire to please God should motivate us to perform our duties to our earthly masters with fidelity.

Verse 7

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

With good will doing service: "Good will" (Strong 2133) describes the kind attitude a slave should maintain toward his master. The implication is that a slave/employee should carry out his duties cheerfully, with zeal and enthusiasm. Paul encourages, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men" (Colossians 3:23 NASB). The test of a slave’s/employee’s obedience to God in this area is undoubtedly when a master/employer is less than kind (1 Peter 2:18-23).

as to the Lord, and not to men: Paul tells the Colossian slaves that when they serve their earthly masters, "It is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Colossians 3:24 NASB). If a master is less than kind, the slave must remember that maintaining his attitude of "good will" toward his master is obedience "to the Lord." Obviously, a slave/employee cannot depend on his master/employer to always inspire these attitudes.

Verse 8

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth: A better translation is "Knowing that whatever good thing each one does" (NASB). A Christian does "good" things or works when his deeds are in conjunction with the will of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 1:9-10).

the same shall he receive of the Lord: Encouraged by the knowledge of this timeless principle of God (6:5-7), one should never forget that good actions will not go unrewarded (1 Corinthians 15:58). Usually, "He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored" (Proverbs 27:18 NIV). Whether we receive honor for our efforts in this life or not, the Lord will see that those who quietly serve are honored. The scriptures exhort:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:7-9 NASB).

Paul encourages the Colossian slaves by reminding them they will receive from the Lord "the reward of the inheritance" (Colossians 3:24 NASB).

whether he be bond or free: God shows no partiality (Galatians 3:26-28; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25). This timeless principle applies to all people in all situations, whether a slave or a free man.

Verse 9

And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

And, ye masters: The last individuals Paul addresses on the subject of submission are masters and their relationship with slaves (see notes on 5:21). A master (Strong 2962) is one to whom a person or thing belongs, one who has authority over another.

do the same things unto them: Paul assumes Christian masters had just heard the standard of behavior expected of slaves. Now the masters are informed that the principles that govern the servants’ attitudes also apply to them. Masters must also exemplify the Godly attitudes of "good will," kindness, and patience. (See also Galatians 5:13.)

forbearing threatening: Threats of punishment, sale, or death were common ways to intimidate and provoke submission from slaves. Christian masters are instructed they are not to use these forms of coercion. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven" (Colossians 4:1 NASB). Employers have an obligation to pay employees for their work (James 5:4; Malachi 3:5).

knowing that your Master also is in heaven: These masters are reminded that they too have a Master to whom they must give an account, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an echo here of, "do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31 NIV; Matthew 7:12). Christians do not have the right to treat anyone unjustly.

neither is there respect of persons with him: The phrase "respect of persons" comes from one Greek word (Strong 4382), meaning partiality. From God’s perspective, we are all equal, and we will all be judged by the same standards. God is totally unimpressed by our earthly position or status. We are warned not to deceive ourselves in this matter:

For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven (Colossians 3:25 to Colossians 4:1 NASB).

Verse 10

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Finally, my brethren: Paul now begins his last exhortations to the brethren at Ephesus (6:10-20). This passage describes the spiritual war that exists and the actions Christians can take to overcome in this battle for our souls. We must:

1. Be strong in His strength (6:10)

2. Put on the armor God has supplied (6:11, 13)

3. Struggle and resist the forces of evil 6:12, 13)

4. Do everything to stand firm (Ephesians (6:11, 14).

be strong in the Lord: "Strong" (Strong 1743) can be translated empowered. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13 NASB). (See 2 Timothy 4:17; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.)

and in the power of his might: Through God a Christian can be empowered to do things that would otherwise be impossible. If we could really perceive the awesome power of God, many of our fears and apprehensions about doing the work of the Lord would dissipate (see 1:19-20; 3:16-21). On the other hand, without the power of God, we would be doomed to fail miserably (John 15:1-7). The instructions that follow tell us how we can gain and maintain access to this incredible power.

Verse 11

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Put on the whole armour of God: We are to clothe ourselves (see notes 4:24) with all the "armour" (Strong 3833) God has supplied. God has given us all the necessary equip­ment to do spiritual battle and prevail. This armor includes protective gear as well as offensive weapons.

The imagery here is probably taken from the full armor of a Roman soldier. Paul is "in chains" (6:20) and under guard at the time of the writing of this letter. He frequently uses military imagery to explain spiritual concepts: "fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:12); "put on the armor of light" (Romans 13:12); "having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8); "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses" (2 Corinthians 10:4). This imagery, however, was not unique to Paul (see Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 42:13; Isaiah 59:17).

that ye may be able to stand: Putting on every piece of this equipment, the "whole" armor, will enable us to be victorious. By using this spiritual armor, we will be able to "stand" our ground. There will be no need to surrender or retreat for our weapons are "powerful" (2 Corinthians 10:4).

against the wiles of the devil: "Wiles" (Strong 3180) can be translated deceitful schemes or trickery (4:14). This word has reference to a strategy that is more involved than simply tossing a temptation in front of us. The devil has been around a long time and is very cunning in his efforts to cause Christians to fall (2 Corinthians 2:11). Peter cautions, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8 NASB). With this warning in mind, we should be motivated to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure we have put on our Christian armor. God’s power will defeat Satan if we are diligent to utilize the protective equipment and weapons He has provided us.

Verse 12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

For we wrestle: The word "wrestle" (Strong 3823) would be better translated "struggle" (Arndt & Gingrich 606; NASB), describing hand-to-hand combat. Paul tells Timothy to be "a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3). We are told to "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12), and Paul says, "I have fought a good fight" (2 Timothy 4:7). As Christians, we have a fight on our hands, a fight for our spiritual survival.

not against flesh and blood: "Flesh and blood" is a figure of speech representing human beings, in contrast with wicked spiritual beings. Our spiritual "fight" is not confronting other humans in fleshly combat but against evil spiritual beings. If the enemy were of this world, we would use the weapons of this world (John 18:36). If the enemy were flesh and blood, we would be instructed to prepare our bodies for the struggle (Colossians 2:20-23). But:

...though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NASB).

Because the struggle is spiritual, we are to prepare and strengthen our spirits.

but against principalities: Since our struggle is not against humans ("flesh and blood"), these "principalities, powers, and rulers" must have reference to "political" distinctions among spiritual creatures, probably evil, wicked angels or demons (Arndt & Gingrich 112). The word "principalities" (Strong 746) refers to the same corrupted angelic "office" as is mentioned in Jude:

And angels who did not keep their positions of authority (Strong 746) but abandoned their own homes--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day" (Judges 1:6 NIV).

An important facet of the message to the Colossians is that these spiritual forces are inferior to Christ because Christ created them (Colossians 1:16) and are made subject to Christ through His victory on the cross, where He "...disarmed the rulers and authorities...(and) made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Colossians 2:15 NASB). Because of Christ’s victory over these evil powers, He has been exalted to God’s "right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come" (1:20-21 NASB). By virtue of a believer’s union with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-9), a Christian shares in Christ’s victory and thereby rules with Christ in the heavenly realm (2:6). (See 1 Corinthians 4:8; Revelation 1:6.) Also, these evil powers are observing God’s wisdom manifested and demonst­rated through the church (3:10). (See Fields 250.)

against powers: The word "powers" (Strong 1849) refers to another corrupted angelic position of authority:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NASB).

against the rulers of the darkness of this world: This phrase identifies spiritual rulers who act on behalf of Satan to bring the world under his control. Satan is called the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and is referred to as "ruler of this world" (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11). Satan tries to disguise himself as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14); but, thankfully, Christ rescues us from Satan’s "domain of darkness, and transfers us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13 NASB). (See notes on 5:8, 11.)

against spiritual wickedness: This phrase would be better translated, "against the spiritual forces of wickedness" (NASB). We do not know all of the forces or powers to which this phrase has reference; but we, like the Ephesians (Acts 19:18-19), know that we should not meddle in the occult. This instruction means completely staying away from false prophets, psychics, mediums (Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27), channelers, divination (Leviticus 19:26; Acts 16:16-19) or those with "familiar spirits"; those who consult the dead (Isaiah 8:19), sorcerers/sorceresses (Galatians 5:20); those who practice "witchcraft" (2 Chronicles 33:6), Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm readers, tea leaf readers, astrologers, horoscopes, crystal healing, transcendental meditation, astral flying, theosophy, gnosticism, and many other forms of satanism, paganism, idolatry; and those who practice New Age religion. (See also "Special study #17" on "The World of the Occult," Reese 701-725.)

in high places: In "high places" (Strong 2032), literally "in the heavenlies," is usually named as a place where God’s blessings are located. This phrase is found five times in Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6, 3:10; 6:12) and nowhere else in the New Testament. The heavenlies is a term signifying the realm of reality that reaches beyond that which is earthly in nature. The heavens is where battles between good and evil are waged. There are, obviously, some evil powers and dominions that have not yet subjected themselves to Christ in these "high places." We cannot see the angels (Colossians 1:16) who inhabit "high places"; but, like Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 6:15-17), we could if God would open our eyes (Hebrews 1:14).

Verse 13

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God: Paul here reiterates the call to arms (6:11). He has just described the enemy to us in verse 12. He essentially says to us, "Now that you know who you are fighting, you had better pay attention, get prepared, and get dressed for battle" (see 6:11).

that ye may be able to withstand: "Withstand" (Strong 436) means to continue to oppose or resist and not give way or ground to the enemy. We are told that if we "resist (Strong 436) the devil...he will flee" from us (James 4:7 NASB).

in the evil day: "The evil day" has reference to any day of temptation or persecution for Christians. This day would be the time when our armor is critical in order for us to "withstand" a spiritual onslaught. Today is the day we go into battle (5:16; Matthew 6:34).

and having done all, to stand: If we have "done all" to prepare for battle, we will be ready and able "to stand" in spite of the strength of our enemy. When the battle is over and the dust has settled, we want to be the ones left standing on the field of battle. It is crucial that we put on the armor before we get into a battle. Obviously, if we wait until the battle has started to begin getting into our armor, we will be defeated.

Verse 14

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

Stand therefore: We must take a stand. We have to be dedicated personally to the cause for which we fight in order to endure in battle. We must "commit" to our spiritual boundaries before the battle of temptation begins.

having your loins girt about with truth: The girdle was the first and most basic part of a suit of armor. It not only protected the mid-section of the body but it also held in place other parts of the armor. This is the first of six pieces of Christian armor:

1. Belt of truth (6:14)

2. Breastplate of righteousness (6:14)

3. Having put footgear on our feet showing our readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace (6:16)

4. Shield of faith (6:16)

5. Helmet of salvation (6:17)

6. Sword of the Spirit (6:17)

A Christian’s basic spiritual core is to be protected by the truth. The truth is God’s revealed word: "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). For a Christian to go into spiritual battle without knowledge of the truths found in God’s word would likely be spiritual suicide (2 Peter 3:16). Truth is our first line of defense to Satan’s main weapon of destruction, the lie (John 8:44). Also, a core of truthfulness and honesty in our character keeps us from many temptations (Proverbs 12:19). (See Colossians 1:5; Romans 14:14-15; Romans 14:20.)

and having on the breastplate of righteousness: A breastplate protected the body from the neck to the mid-section. "Righteousness" (Strong 1343) is defined as integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness, correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting (Thayer 149). Just as the girdle would be little protection without the breastplate, so also a Christian’s knowledge of the truths found in God’s word is of little benefit if those truths are not personally applied to the Christian’s life. Righteousness is putting into practice the things God considers to be right (4:24; 5:9; Philippians 1:11). If we are already doing that which is right, we have gone a long way to protecting ourselves from spiritual attack and death. (See also Romans 6:13; 1 John 3:7; 2 Corinthians 6:7; Isaiah 11:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:8.)

Verse 15

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

"Preparation" (Strong 2091) carries the meaning of readiness or preparedness. Roman soldiers wore a type of boot or sandal with spikes or nails to assure solid footing. These soldiers could not possibly be ready for battle at a moment’s notice without their shoes on. Similarly, Christians need to be in a state of constant readiness to do battle with Satan. We never know at what moment Satan may attack or opportunity for good may present itself. Our familiarity with the gospel, or good news, is the means by which we can be ready for these situations. Worthy of note here is the irony of Paul’s reference to the gospel of "peace" in the middle of his description of preparation for "battle." Our battle, however, is with the one who wants to destroy and take away the peace God has given us, leaving us lost and without hope. (See Isaiah 52:7.)

Verse 16

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

Above all: The meaning here is not intended to be above all in the sense of more importance but simply "in addition" to everything else (NASB, NIV).

taking the shield of faith: "Shield" (Strong 2375) is a derivative of the Greek word for "door" (Strong 2374) and has reference to a large, rectangular shield used by the Roman armies. Unlike the small round ones used by some armies, this door-like shield was designed to protect the entire body. Faith is defined in God’s word as, "...the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith comes from the word of God (Romans 10:17). If we, then, will continually study God’s word and keep our convictions strong, our faith will enable us to deflect whatever Satan throws at us.

wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts: "Fiery darts," also translated flaming missiles, were arrows dipped in a flammable substance and ignited just before they were shot at the enemy. The large shields mentioned in this passage were made to withstand this kind of fiery attack. They usually had several layers of leather that would be soaked in water before battle and then would deflect or extinguish the flaming arrows (Boles 340). The terror that would be caused by these "fiery darts" if a soldier had no shield should paint a vivid picture of the importance of keeping our faith strong.

of the wicked: This phrase, also translated "of the evil one" (NASB), refers to Satan, "the devil" (6:11).

Verse 17

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation: The soldier’s helmet protected his head. Spiritually, the forgiveness of our sins and our living hope of eternal life (1 Thessalonians 5:8) gives us assurance and confidence of winning the final victory. This helmet will protect and sustain our souls in battle.

and the sword of the Spirit: This is the only offensive weapon included in this description of Christian armor. The phrase "of the Spirit" has reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit is the agency by which God’s word was revealed to man (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; John 16:8-11).

which is the word of God: Once again, and this time even more directly, it is splendidly illustrated to us that familiarity with God’s word is the only way to be ready to do battle with Satan. It is interesting to note that each piece of Christian armor--truth, righteousness, preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation--all issue from God’s word. And now Paul completes this picture of Christian armor by telling us that the sword we use in hand-to-hand combat is "the word of God." Hebrews describes just how effective this offensive weapon is:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 NASB).

Jesus demonstrates precisely how this "sword of the Spirit" can be used effectively when He is tempted by Satan. He overcomes each temptation by quoting the word of God (Luke 4:1-13). Through preaching the "word" (Strong 4487) of God, we take an offensive stance in our war with evil.

Verse 18

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Praying always: While prayer is not pictured as a part of the armor itself, our continual communication with God is vitally important to our success as a Christian soldier. A good soldier realizes the necessity of maintaining contact with his commanding officer. We also should understand that all the "armor" we may put on cannot make us good soldiers without connection to God’s power and strength. Prayer is necessary for our spiritual survival. We are often reminded in the New Testament that we should be a praying people: "Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). (See Romans 12:12; Luke 18:1.)

with all prayer and supplication: Prayer (Strong 4335) is the broad term used for all communication with God, whether it be the giving of thanks, offering praise, or making appeals. "Supplication" (Strong 1162) is more specific, alluding to a cry for help or an appeal for God to supply our needs.

in the Spirit: This phrase likely has reference to the intercession of the Holy Spirit:

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27 NASB).

This verse indicates that the Spirit helps us when we struggle with being unable to express ourselves fully to God. The Spirit intercedes for us by communicating to God the thoughts and concerns we seem to be unable to express verbally. The Spirit helps through "groanings too deep for words." This communication takes place in Heaven between the Holy Spirit and God the Father on our behalf. There is no implication whatsoever that the Holy Spirit causes the Christian to do the "groaning."

and watching thereunto with all perseverance: "Watching" (Strong 69) means to be sleepless and keep awake, like "standing guard duty," or to be "alert" (NASB, NIV). "Perseverance" (Strong 4343) suggests persistence and steadfastness. The Christian, then, is exhorted always to be aware of, or watching for, things he should be bringing to God in prayer and to be constantly devoted to praying for these needs.

and supplication for all saints: "Supplication" (Strong 1162) is the request for help and a continuing plea for the supply of our needs. "Saints" (Strong 40) refers to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (1:1). The emphasis here is that we should not be selfish in our prayers but should be active in praying for the needs of all the saints. We are fellow soldiers battling a common enemy. It is, therefore, imperative that we lift each other up and strengthen each other through our prayers to God. (See Philippians 4:6; Philippians 4:19.)

Verse 19

And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

And for me: Paul now leaves the subject of Christian armor and addresses his personal condition "in chains" (6:20). He has just exhorted the Ephesians to remain diligent in prayer for all the saints, and now he asks to be mentioned in prayer personally. Paul often requests prayer on his behalf (see Romans 15:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 22).

that utterance may be given unto me: "Utterance" (Strong 3056) in this context has reference to the words or skill in speaking. Paul does not ask for their prayers to relieve his own personal misery of being imprisoned. His concern is that they pray he will be an effective communicator. This is an impressive expression of Paul’s humility and dependence on God. In spite of his many accomplishments for the cause of Christ, he still recognizes his own need for God’s help and strength.

that I may open my mouth boldly: Paul now asks the Ephesians to pray that the words given to him by God will be accompanied by the courage necessary to speak them effectively. (See 3:12; 2 Corinthians 3:12.)

to make known the mystery of the gospel: Paul’s message is the mystery of the gospel, and his task is to make it known (1:9; 3:3, 9, 11-22). God’s plan for the salvation of man is no longer a secret.

Verse 20

For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

For which I am an ambassador in bonds: Paul is an "ambassador" (Strong 4243) in that he has special delegated authority to speak for his King, Jesus (see notes 4:11). (See Matthew 10:19-20; Matthew 13:11; Luke 12:11-12; Luke 21:12-15.) "Bonds" (Strong 254) literally means chains but could suggest incarceration. Ambassadors are usually given immunity when in a foreign land. To put an ambassador in chains seems very inappropriate and contemptible. Paul’s ambassadorship for the kingdom of Christ is obviously not recognized by the Jews or the Romans.

that therein I may speak boldly: Paul desires to have the courage to speak as a fearless ambassador for the most powerful government ever known, in spite of his imprisonment. Evidently the prayers lifted up for this boldness are effective because scripture records that even while a prisoner Paul was "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered" (Acts 28:30-31 NASB). (See Philippians 1:12; Philippians 4:22.)

as I ought to speak: Paul has a compelling need to preach the gospel despite his circumstances (1 Corinthians 9:16-17; Romans 1:15-16; Colossians 1:25).

Verse 21

But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:

But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do: This phrase is best translated, "But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing" (NASB). Paul knows the brethren at Ephesus would want more personal information regarding his well-being and activities.

Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord: Tychicus, a native of Asia Minor, is here described as a loyal friend to Paul and a faithful and dependable servant of God. He traveled with Paul during a portion of the apostle’s third missionary journey (Acts 20:1-6). Tychicus delivered this epistle to Ephesus, as well as Paul’s epistles to Colossae and Philemon (Colossians 4:7-9).

shall make known to you all things: "Tychicus...will tell you everything" (NIV). Paul knows Tychicus should be able to answer all their questions regarding his condition and situation.

Verse 22

Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.

Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose: This verse is essentially identical to Colossians 4:8. Paul knows the Christians of Asia Minor are very concerned about his welfare because of his imprisonment. He reiterates the reasons he is sending Tychicus to them, to answer all their questions and put their mind at ease.

that ye might know our affairs: The Ephesians likely want to know every detail of Paul’s circumstances. Tychicus would be able to give them the information they desired first hand.

and that he might comfort your hearts: "Comfort" (Strong 3870) means to "encourage" (NIV) or strengthen. Paul knows that having Tychicus in their presence will be a great source of encouragement.

Verse 23

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brethren: "Peace" (Strong 1515) is defined by Thayer as "the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is" (Thayer 182). Paul often makes reference to this peace, particularly at the beginning and ending of his epistles.

and love with faith: Paul’s prayer here for the Ephesians is that they enjoy the peace of God, combined with the knowledge of God the Father’s love in their hearts. This peace and love can be present only in a heart full of faith.

from God the Father: The Fatherhood of God is stressed in this letter (see notes on 1:3). God is the source of all spiritual blessings.

and the Lord Jesus Christ: Both the Father and Jesus exemplify peace and love and are the Christian’s source of these blessings.

Verse 24

Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ: The blessing of grace here requested is not only for the Ephesians but is also for "all" who love the Lord. "Grace" (Strong 5485), in this context, is the undeserved favor of God from which all spiritual blessings flow. Paul commonly begins and ends his epistles with "grace"; but for the Ephesians who had formerly been outcast Gentiles (2:11-18), this benediction is particularly appropriate.

in sincerity: "Sincerity" (Strong 861) literally means incorrup­tion. This phrase is translated "with a love incorruptible" (NASB) and "with an undying love" (NIV).

Amen: "Amen" (Strong 281) means "so be it."

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Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 6". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/ephesians-6.html. 1993-2022.