Relative duties of parents and children and of masters and servants, Ephesians 6:1-9. — exhortations and directions as to the spiritual conduct, Ephesians 6:10-20. — conclusion, Ephesians 6:21-24.
Children should obey their parents. This obedience should be in the Lord, determined and regulated by a regard to Christ, Ephesians 6:1. The ground of the obligation is —
1. It is itself right.
2. It is enforced by an express command in the decalogue, to which a special promise is annexed, Ephesians 6:1-3.
Parents should do nothing to cherish evil feelings in the minds of their children, but bring them up in the discipline of Christianity, Ephesians 6:4, Ephesians 6:5.
Servants should be obedient to their masters. This obedience should be rendered —
1. With solicitude.
2. With singleness of mind.
3. As part of their obedience to Christ, Ephesians 6:5.
Therefore, not only when observed by men or from the desire to please men, but as serving Christ and desiring to please him; rendering their services with readiness as to the Lord and not to men; because they know that at his bar all men, whether bond or free, shall be treated according to their works, Ephesians 6:6-8.
Masters are to act on the same principles of regard to the authority of Christ, and of their responsibility to him in their conduct towards their slaves, avoiding all harshness, because master and slave have a common Master in heaven; with whom there is no respect of persons, Ephesians 6:8.
Children, obey your parents. The nature or character of this obedience, is expressed by the words, in the Lord. It should be religious; arising out of the conviction that such obedience is the will of the Lord. This makes it a higher service than if rendered from fear or from mere natural affection. It secures its being prompt, cordial and universal. That κύριος here refers to Christ is plain from the whole context. In the preceding chapter, Ephesians 6:21, we have the general exhortation under which this special direction to children is included, and the obedience there required is to be rendered in the fear of Christ. In the following verses also κύριος constantly has this reference, and therefore must have it here. The ground of the obligation to filial obedience is expressed in the words, for this is right. It is not because of the personal character of the parent, nor because of his kindness, nor on the ground of expediency, but because it is right; an obligation arising out of the nature of the relation between parents and children, and which must exist wherever the relation itself exists.
This consideration is enforced by a reference to the express command of God. The duty is so important as to be included in that brief summary of the moral law given by God on Mount Sinai. It was engraven by the finger of God on the tables of stone, Honor thy father and thy mother. Any flagrant breach of this command was, according to the Mosaic law, punished with death. To honor is to reverence; and, therefore, the command has reference to the inward feeling as well as to the outward conduct. This precept is said to be πρώτη ἐν ἐπαγγελίᾳ. This may mean, it is the first commandment in the decalogue which has a specific promise attached; for the promise connected with the second commandment does not relate to the observance of that particular precept, but to keeping God's covenant. Or it may mean that it is the first commandment of the second table of the law, and has a promise annexed; or, πρώτη may be taken here as in Mark 12:28, Mark 12:30, in the sense of chief, i.e. the first in importance. The sense would then be, ‘Honor thy father and mother; this is the prime commandment, the first in importance among those relating to our social duties; and it has the specific promise annexed. It shall be well with thee on the earth.' This view of the passage is on the whole to be preferred. It is not likely that Paul would call this "the first commandment with promise," when it is in fact the only command in the decalogue which has any specific promise annexed to it. And to say that it is the first in order of arrangement in the second table of the law, not only adds nothing to its importance, but supposes the apostle to refer to a distinction between the two tables of the decalogue, not elsewhere recognized in Scripture.
The promise itself has a theocratical form in the Old Testament. That is, it has specific reference to prosperity and length of days in the land which God had given to his people as their inheritance. The apostle generalizes it by leaving out the concluding words, and makes it a promise not confined to one land or people, but to obedient children everywhere. If it be asked whether obedient children are in fact thus distinguished by long life and prosperity? The answer is, that this, like all other such promises, is a revelation of a general purpose of God, and makes known what will be the usual course of his providence. That some obedient children are unfortunate and short lived, is no more inconsistent with this promise, than that some diligent men are poor, is inconsistent with the declaration, ‘The hand of the diligent maketh rich.' Diligence, as a general rule, does secure riches; and obedient children, as a general rule, are prosperous and happy. The general promise is fulfilled to individuals, just so far "as it shall serve for God's glory, and their own good."
The duty of parents, who are here represented by the father, is stated in a negative and positive form. And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath. This is what they are not to do. They are not to excite the bad passions of their children by severity, injustice, partiality, or unreasonable exercise of authority. A parent had better sow tares in a field from which he expects to derive food for himself and family, than by his own ill conduct nurture evil in the heart of his child. The positive part of parental duty is expressed in the comprehensive direction, ἀλλ ̓ ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου, i.e. educate them, bring them up, developing all their powers by ( ἐν instrumental) the instruction and admonition of the Lord. παιδείᾳ is a comprehensive word; it means the training or education of a child, including the whole process of instruction and discipline. νουθεσία, from νουθετέω ( νοῦς and τίθημι) to put in mind, is included under the more general term, and is correctly rendered admonition. It is the act of reminding one of his faults or duties. Children are not to be allowed to grow up without care or control. They are to be instructed, disciplined, and admonished, so that they be brought to knowledge, self-control, and obedience. This whole process of education is to be religious, and not only religious, but Christian. It is the nurture and admonition of the Lord, which is the appointed and the only effectual means of attaining the end of education. Where this means is neglected or any other substituted in its place, the result must be disastrous failure. The moral and religious element of our nature is just as essential and as universal as the intellectual. Religion therefore is as necessary to the development of the mind as knowledge. And as Christianity is the only true religion, and God in Christ the one true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That is, the whole process of instruction and discipline must be that which he prescribes, and which he administers, so that his authority should be brought into constant and immediate contact with the mind, heart and conscience of the child. It will not do for the parent to present himself as the ultimate end, the source of knowledge and possessor of authority to determine truth and duty. This would be to give his child a mere human development. Nor will it do for him to urge and communicate everything on the abstract ground of reason; for that would be to merge his child in nature. It is only by making God, God in Christ, the teacher and ruler, on whose authority everything is to be believed and in obedience to whose will everything is to be done, that the ends of education can possibly be attained. It is infinite folly in men to assume to be wiser than God, or to attempt to accomplish an end by other means than those which he has appointed.
The five following verses treat of the relative duties of masters and servants. δοῦλος and κύριος are here relative terms, although in Greek the antithetical term to δοῦλος is commonly δεσπότης, as in 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9; compare also 1 Peter 2:18. δοῦλος, from δέω, to bind, means a bondman, or slave, as distinguished from a hired servant, who was called μίσθιος or μισθωτός. That such is its meaning here is plain not only from the common usage of the word, but also from the antithesis between δοῦλος and ἐλεύθερος, bond and free, in Ephesians 6:8. κύριος means possessor, owner, master. It implies the relation which a man may bear both to persons and things. The nature of that relation, or the kind and degree of authority involved in it, however, is not determined by the word, but in each case by the context. It is evident both from the meaning of the terms here used, and from the known historical fact that slavery prevailed throughout the Roman empire during the apostolic age, that this and other passages of the New Testament refer to that institution. It is dealt with precisely as despotism in the State is dealt with. It is neither enjoined nor forbidden. It is simply assumed to be lawful, so that a Christian may consistently be an autocrat in the State, or a master of slaves. In this view the scriptural doctrine on this subject, differs on the one hand, from the doctrine that slave-holding is in itself sinful, on the ground that one man cannot lawfully possess or exercise the rights and authority over his fellowmen, which are involved in the relation of a master to his slaves. This is of necessity leads to setting up a rule of faith and practice higher than the Scriptures, and thus tends to destroy their authority. It leads to uncharitable feelings and to unrighteous judgments, as well as to unwarrantable measures for abating the evil. On the other hand, the scriptural doctrine is opposed to the opinion that slavery is in itself a desirable institution, and as such to be cherished and perpetuated. This leads to results no less deplorable than the other error. As slavery is founded on the inferiority of one class of society to another, the opinion that it ought to be cherished naturally leads to the adoption of means to increase or to perpetuate that inferiority, by preventing the improvement of the subject class. It presents also a strong temptation to deny the common brotherhood of men, and to regard the enslaved as belonging to an inferior race. The great mistake of those who adopt the former error, is —
l. That they assume the right of property in the master to extend to more than the services of the slave. The only right of property possible in the case is a right to use the slave as a man possessing the same nature with his master, and may, by the law of God and the constitution of things, be properly used. And
2. The confounding slave laws with slavery, which is as unreasonable as to confound despotism as a form of civil government, with the laws of any particular despotic state. Those laws may be good or bad. Their being bad, as they too often are, does not prove either in the case of despotism or slavery that the institution itself is contrary to divine law. The mistake of those who hold the other extreme opinion on this subject, so far as the Bible is concerned, is that what the Scriptures tolerate as lawful under given circumstances, may be cherished and rendered perpetual This is as unreasonable, as to maintain that children should, if possible, always remain minors.
The Bible method of dealing with this and similar institutions is to enforce, on all concerned, the great principles of moral obligation — assured that those principles, if allowed free scope, will put an end to all evils both in the political and social relations of men. The apostle, therefore, without either denouncing or commending slavery, simply inculcates on master and slave their appropriate duty. On the slave he enjoins the duty of obedience. In the expression, masters, according to the flesh, there is evidently an implied reference to a higher authority. It omits the authority of the master to what is external; the soul being left free. The slave has two masters; the one κατὰ σάρκα, the other κατὰ πνεῦμα. The one, man; the other, Christ. The directions here given relate to their duty to the former. As to the nature of the obedience required, the apostle teaches —
l. That it should be rendered μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου, with fear and trembling, with conscientious solicitude. That nothing servile is intended by these terms is plain from the context, and from a comparison with other passages in which the same expression is used. It is not the fear of man, but the reverential fear of God of which the apostle speaks, as what follows clearly proves. In 1 Corinthians 2:3, Paul tells the Corinthians that he came among them "with fear and trembling"; and in 2 Corinthians 7:15, he speaks of their having received Titus "with fear and trembling"; and in Philippians 2:12, he exhorts believers to work out their salvation "with fear and trembling." In all of these cases solicitude to do what is right is all the terms imply.
2. This obedience is to be rendered ἐν ἁπλότητι τῆς καρδίας, with simplicity of heart, i.e. with singleness of mind — meaning just what we appear to mean. It is opposed to hypocrisy, false pretense, deceit and cunning. Compare Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, 11. The word ἁπλότης signifies singleness, from ἁπλόος, one-fold, as opposed to διπλόος, two-fold, or, double. The thing enjoined is, therefore, the opposite of double-mindedness.
3. This obedience is to be rendered ὡς τῷ χριστῷ, as to Christ. Slaves were to regard their obedience to their masters as part of their obedience to Christ. This would give it the character of a religious service, because the motive is regard to divine authority, and its object is a divine person. It thus ceases to be servile, and becomes consistent with the highest mental elevation and spiritual freedom.
The apostle explains in the two following verses that he means by simplicity of heart, or sincere obedience. It is not eye-service. That is, such service as is rendered only when the eye of the master sees what is done; as though the only object were to please men. Servants are required to act as the δοῦλοι τοῦ χριστοῦ, the slaves of Christ, whose eyes are everywhere; and, therefore, if their desire is to please him, they must be as faithful in their master's absence as in his presence. ποιοῦντες τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, doing the will of God. This is descriptive of the servants of Christ, in opposition to men-pleasers. They act from a regard to the will of God, and from a desire to please him — ἐκ ψυχῆς, ex animo, from the soul. Sometimes ψυχῆ means the seat of the desires and affections, and then agrees in sense with καρδία. Sometimes the two are distinguished, as in Mark 12:30, "with all the heart ( καρδία) and with all the soul ( ψυχῆ)" Here the sense is, that the principle of obedience is nothing external, but is within. It is an obedience which springs from the soul — the whole inner man. These words are commonly and most naturally connected with the preceding clause; ‘doing the will of the Lord from the soul.' By many commentators and editors they are connected with what follows, ‘from the soul, with good will, doing service.' This gives δουλεύοντες two nearly equivalent qualifying clauses, and leaves the preceding participle ποιοῦντες without any.
The whole character of the obedience of the slave is summed up in this verse, δουλεύοντες ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις, doing service, to the Lord and not to men. This, as the Scriptures teach, is not peculiar to the obedience of the slave to his master, but applies to all other cases in which obedience is required from one man to another. It applies to children in relation to their parents, wives to husbands, people to magistrates. Those invested with lawful authority are the representatives of God. The powers (i.e. those invested with authority) are ordained by God; and therefore all obedience rendered to them out of regard to his will, is obedience to Him. And as obedience to God is rendered to one infinitely true and good, it is even more elevating than obedience to truth and goodness. Foreign as all this is to the proud and rebellious heart of man, which spurns all superiority and authority, it is daily illustrated by the cheerful and patient submission of the people of God even to the capricious and unreasonable exercise of the authority of those to whom God has placed them in subjection. It is to be remarked that the apostle presents this principle not merely in a religious, but a Christian form. We are required to do service, as to the Lord, and not to men. It is to Christ, God manifested in the flesh; to him, who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God, but humbled himself, taking on him the condition of a slave, μοπφὴν δούλου λαβών; it is to this infinitely exalted and infinitely condescending Savior, who came not to be served, but to serve, that the obedience of every Christian, whether servant, child, wife, or subject, is really and consciously rendered. Thus the most galling yoke is made easy, and the heaviest burden light.
The words μετ ̓ εὐωοίας qualify δουλεύοντες, with a willing mind doing service. This stands opposed to the sullenness and inward indignation with which a service extorted by fear of punishment is often rendered. No service rendered to Christ can be of that character. It is rendered with alacrity and cheerfulness.
This verse presents for the encouragement of the slave, the elevating truth that all men stand on a level before the bar of Christ. In him and before him, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but so far as these external distinctions are concerned, all are alike. The apostle, therefore, says to slaves, render this cheerful obedience, εἰδότες, knowing, i.e. because ye know, that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. In this world some men are masters and some are slaves. In the next, these distinctions will cease. There the question will be, not, Who is the master? and, Who the slave? but who has done the will of God? In this clause ὅ ἐάν τι is for ὅτι ἐάν, as it is in Colossians 3:23, ἐάν being for ἄν. κομίζομαι is too receive for one self, to receive back as a recompense. 2 Corinthians 5:10. At the bar of Christ and from his hands every man shall receive according to his works, whether bond or free.
Having enjoined on slaves their peculiar duties, the apostle turns to masters. καὶ οἱ κύριοι, and ye masters. The force of καὶ here is — ‘Not slaves only have their duties; you masters have your peculiar obligations.' The duty of masters is expressed by the comprehensive words, τὰ αὐτὰ ποιεῖτε πρὸς αὐτούς, do the same things towards them. This does not refer exclusively to μετ ̓ ευσνοίας in the preceding clause, as though the sense were, ‘As slaves are to obey with kind feeling, so masters are to rule in the same temper.' The reference is more general. Masters are to act towards their slaves with the same regard to the will of God, with the same recognition of the authority of Christ, with the same sincerity and good feeling which had been enjoined on the slaves themselves. Masters and slaves are men and brethren, the same great principles of moral and religious obligation govern both classes. In the parallel passage. Colossians 4:1, the expression is οἱ κύριοι, τὸ δίκαιον, καὶ τὴν ἰσότηατ τοῖς δούλοις παρέχεσθε, ye masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal. That is, act towards them on the principles of justice and equity. Justice requires that all their rights, as men, as husbands, and as parents should be regarded. And these rights are not to be determined by the civil law, but by the law of God. "As the laws," says Calvin, "gave great license to masters, many assumed that everything was lawful which the civil statute allowed; and such was their severity that the Roman emperors were obliged to restrain their tyranny. But although no edicts of princes interposed in behalf of the slave, God concedes nothing to the master beyond what the law of love allows." Paul requires for slaves not only what is strictly just, but τὴν ἰσότητα. What is that? Literally, it is equality. This is not only its signification, but its meaning. Slaves are to be treated by their masters on the principles of equality. Not that they are to be equal with their masters in authority, or station, or circumstances; but they are to be treated as having, as men, as husbands, and as parents, equal rights with their masters. It is just as great a sin to deprive a slave of the just recompense for his labor, or to keep him in ignorance, or to take from him his wife or child, as it is to act thus towards a free man. This is the equality which the law of God demands, and on this principle the final judgment is to be administered. Christ will punish the master for defrauding the slave as severely as he will punish the slave for robbing his master. The same penalty will be inflicted for the violation of the conjugal or parental rights of the one as of the other. For, as the apostle adds, there is no respect of persons with him. At his bar the question will be, ‘What was done,' not ‘who did it?' Paul carries this so far as to apply the principle not only to the acts, but to the temper of masters. They're not only to act towards their slaves on the principles of justice and equity, but are to avoid threatening.‹29› This includes all manifestations of contempt and ill temper, or undue severity. All this is enforced by the consideration that masters have a master in heaven to whom they are responsible for their treatment of their slaves. The common text has here the reading καὶ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν ὁ κύριός — your master. Lackman, Rückert, Harless, Meyer and others adopt the reading αὐτῶν καὶ ὑμῶν, of them and of you, i.e. your common master as in heaven.
It is thus that the Holy Spirit deals with slavery. Slaves are not commanded to refuse to be slaves, to break their bonds and repudiate the authority of their masters. They are required to obey with alacrity and with a sincere desire to do their duty to their masters, as part of their duty to Christ. Masters are not commanded as an immediate and imperative duty to emancipate their slaves, but to treat them according to the principles of justice and equity. It is not to be expected that men of the world will act in conformity with the Gospel in this, any more than in other respects. But believers will. And the result of such obedience if it could become general would be, that first the evils of slavery, and then slavery itself, would pass away as naturally and as healthfully as children cease to be minors.
Directions in reference to the spiritual conflict. As such a conflict is inevitable, the believer should —
1. Muster strength for the struggle.
2. He should seek that strength from Christ.
3. Since his enemies are not human but superhuman, Satan and all the powers of darkness, the believer needs not only more than human strength, but also divine armor. He should, therefore, take the panoply of God, that he may be able to stand in the evil day. That panoply consists —
1. In the knowledge and reception of the truth.
2. In the righteousness of Christ.
3. In the alacrity which flows from the peace of the Gospel.
4. In the consciousness of salvation.
5. In faith.
6. In the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit.
To obtain strength to use this armor aright, and to secure victory for ourselves and for the army of which we are a part, we should pray. These prayers should be —
l. Of all kinds.
2. On every occasion.
3. Importunate and persevering.
4. By the aid of the Holy Spirit.
5. For all saints.
Believing in the efficacy of such prayers, the apostle begs the Ephesian believers to pray for him, that God would enable him to preach the Gospel in a suitable manner.
To relieve their anxiety he had sent Tychicus to inform them of his circumstances and of his health.
He invokes the Father and Son to bestow upon the brethren the blessings of divine peace and love united with faith; and implores the special favor of God for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ with a love that cannot die.
Though the redemption purchased by Christ, as described in this epistle, is so complete and so free, yet between the beginning and the consummation of the work there is a protracted conflict. This is not a figure of speech. It is something real and arduous. Salvation, however gratuitous, is not to be obtained without great effort. The Christian conflict is not only real, it is difficult and dangerous. It is one in which true believers are often grievously wounded; and multitudes of reputed believers entirely succumb. It is one also in which great mistakes are often committed and serious loss incurred from ignorance of its nature, and of the appropriate means for carrying it on. Men are apt to regard it as a mere moral conflict between reason and conscience on the one side, and evil passions on the other. They therefore rely on their own strength, and upon the resources of nature for success. Against these mistakes the apostle warns his readers. He teaches that everything pertaining to it is supernatural. The source of strength is not in nature. The conflict is not between the good and bad principles of our nature. He shows that we belong to a spiritual, as well as to a natural world, and are engaged in a combat in which the higher powers of the universe are involved; and that this conflict, on the issue of which our salvation depends, is not to be carried on with straws picked up by the wayside. As we have superhuman enemies to contend with, we need not only superhuman strength, but divine armor and arms. The weapons of our warfare are not natural, but divine.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, τὸ λοιπὸν, ἀδελφοί μου, ἐνδυναμοῦσθε ἐν κυρίῳ. He concludes his epistle so full of elevated views, and so rich in disclosures of the mysteries of redemption, with directions as to the struggle necessary to secure salvation. His first exhortation is to muster strength for the inevitable conflict, and to seek that strength from the right source. We are to be strong in the Lord. As a branch separated from the vine, or as a limb severed from the body, so is a Christian separated from Christ. He, therefore, who rushes into this conflict without thinking of Christ, without putting his trust in him, and without continually looking to him for strength and regarding himself as a member of his body, deriving all life and vigor from him, is demented. He knows not what he is doing. He has not strength even to reach the field. With him the whole conflict is a sham. The words καί ἐν τῷ κράτει τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ mean, in the vigor derived from his strength. The vigor of a man's arm is derived from the strength of his body. It is only as members of Christ's body that we have either life or power. It is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us; and the strength which we have is not our own but his. When we are weak, then are we strong. When most empty of self, we are most full of God.
The second direction has reference to the arms requisite for the successful conduct of this conflict; ἐνδύσασθε τὴν πανοπλίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, put on the whole armor of God. πανοπλία, panoply, includes both the defensive and offensive armor of the soldier. The believer has not only to defend himself, but also to attack his spiritual enemies; and the latter is as necessary to his safety as the former. It will not do for him to act only on the defensive, he must endeavor to subdue as well as to resist. How this is to be done, the following portion of the chapter teaches. The armor of God, means that armor which God has provided and which he gives. We are thus taught from the outset, that as the strength which we need is not from ourselves, so neither are the means of offense or defense. Nor are they means of man's devising. This is a truth which has been overlooked in all ages of the church, to the lamentable injury of the people of God. Instead of relying on the arms which God has provided, men have always been disposed to trust to those which they provide for themselves or which have been prescribed by others. Seclusion from the world (i.e. flight rather than conflict), ascetic and ritual observances, invocation of saints and angels, and especially, celibacy, voluntary poverty, and monastic obedience, constitute the panoply which false religion has substituted for the armor of God. Of this fatal mistake, manifested from the beginning, the apostle treats at length in his Epistle to the Colossians, Colossians 2:18-23. He there exhorts his hearers, not to allow anyone, puffed up with carnal wisdom, and neglecting Christ, the only source of life and strength, to despoil them of their reward, through false humility and the worship of angels, commanding not to touch, or taste, or handle this or that, which methods of overcoming evil have indeed the appearance of wisdom, in humility, will-worship, and neglect of the body, but not the reality, and only serve to satisfy the flesh. They increase the evil which they are professedly designed to overcome. A more accurate description could not be given historically, than is here given prophetically, of the means substituted by carnal wisdom for the armor of God. Calling on saints and angels, humility in the sense of self degradation, or submitting our will to human authority, neglecting the body, or ascetic observances, abstaining from things lawful, uncommanded rites and ordinances, observing months and days — these are the arms with which the church in her apostasy has arrayed her children for this warfare. These are by name enumerated and condemned by the apostle, who directs us to clothe ourselves with the panoply of God, which he proceeds to describe in detail.
πρὸς τὸ δύνασθαι ὑμᾶς στῆναι πρὸς τὰς μεθοδείας τοῦ διαβόλου. This divine armor is necessary to enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil. If our adversary was a man, who had only human strength, ingenuity, and cunning, we might defend ourselves by human means. But as we have to contend with Satan, we need the armor of God. One part of the Bible of course supposes every other part to be true. If it is not true that there is such a being as Satan, or that he possesses great power and intelligence, or that he has access to idle minds of men and exerts his power for their destruction; if all this is obsolete, then there is no real necessity for supernatural power or for supernatural means of defense. If Satan and satanic influence are fables of figures, then all the rest of the representations concerning this spiritual conflict is empty metaphor. But if one part of this representation is literally true, the other has a corresponding depth and reality of meaning. If Satan is really the prince of the powers of darkness, ruler and god of this world; if he is the author of physical and moral evil; the great enemy of God, of Christ and of his people, full of cunning and malice; if he is constantly seeking whom he may destroy, seducing men into sin, blinding their minds and suggesting evil and skeptical thoughts; if all this is true, then to be ignorant of it, or to deny it, or to enter on this conflict as though it were merely a struggle between the good and bad principles in our own hearts, is to rush blindfold to destruction.
This is the point on which the apostle most earnestly insists. He would awaken his readers to a due sense of the power of the adversaries with whom they are to contend. He lifts the veil and discloses to them the spiritual world; the hosts of the kingdom of darkness. We have to stand against the wiles of the devil, ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα, because our conflict is not with flesh and blood, i.e. with men. The word πάλη means a wrestling. The apostle either changes the figure immediately, or he uses the word here in a more general sense. The latter is the more probable. "Flesh and blood" does not here or anywhere else, mean our corrupt nature, as flesh by itself so often means; but men. So in Galatians 1:16, "I conferred not with flesh and blood," means, ‘I did not consult with man.' The apostle after his conversion sought no instruction or counsel from man; all his knowledge of the Gospel was received by immediate revelation.
Our conflict is not with man, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. The signification of the terms here used, the context, and the analogy of Scripture, render it certain that the reference is to evil spirits. They are called in Scripture, δαιμόνια, demons, who are declared to be fallen angels, 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6, and are now subject to Satan their prince. They are called ἀρχαί, princes, those who are first or high in rank; and ἐξουσίαι, potentates, those invested with authority. These terms have probably reference to the relation of the spirits among themselves. The designation κοσμοκράτορες, rulers of the world, expresses the power or authority which they exercise over the world. The κόσμος, i.e. mankind, is subject to them; Compare 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 16:11. The word is properly used only of those rulers whose dominion was universal. And in this sense the Jews called the angel of death κοσμοκράτωρ. In the following clause τοῦ σκότους τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, of the darkness of this world; the words τοῦ αἰῶνος, on the authority of the best manuscripts, are generally omitted. The sense is substantially the same whichever reading be adopted. These evil spirits are the rulers of this darkness. The meaning either is, that they reign over the existing state of ignorance and alienation from God; i.e. the world in its apostasy is subject to their control; or this darkness is equivalent to kingdom of darkness. Rulers of the kingdom of darkness, which includes in it, according to the scriptural doctrine, the world as distinguished from the true people of God. The word σκότος is used elsewhere, the abstract for the concrete, for those in darkness, i.e. for those who belong to, or constitute the kingdom of darkness, Luke 22:53; Colossians 1:13. Our conflict, therefore, is with the potentates who are rulers of the kingdom of darkness as it now is.
They are further called τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας, spiritual wickedness, as the phrase is rendered in our version. But this cannot be its meaning; it is not wickedness in the abstract, but wicked spirits, the context and the force of the words themselves show to be intended. Beza and others understand the words as equivalent to πνευματικαὶ πονηρίαι, spiritual wickedness. This would give a good sense. As these spirits are called ἀρχαί, and ἐξουσίαι, so they may be called πονηρίαι. But τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας cannot be resolved into πνευματικαὶ πονηρίαι. τὰ πνευματικὰ is equivalent to τὰ πνεύματα, as in so many other cases the neuter adjective in the singular or plural is used substantively, as τὸ ἱππικόν, the cavalry; τά αἰχμάλωτα, the captivity, i.e. captives. Spirits of wickedness then means wicked spirits. The beings whom the apostle in the preceding clauses describes as principalities, powers, and rulers, he here calls wicked spirits, to express their character and nature.
The principal difficulty in this verse concerns the words ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. A very large class of commentators, ancient and modern, connect them with the beginning of the verse, and translate, "our conflict is for heavenly things;" heaven is the prize for which we contend. There are two objections to this interpretation, which are generally considered decisive, although the sense is good and appropriate. The one is, that ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοἰ always in this Epistle means heaven; and the other is that ἐν does not mean for. The connection is with the preceding clause. These wicked spirits are said to be in heaven. But what does that mean? Many say that heaven here means our atmosphere, which is assumed to be the dwelling place of evil spirits; see Ephesians 2:2. But τὰ ἐπουράνια is not elsewhere in this epistle used for atmospheric heavens; neither do the Scriptures give any countenance to the popular opinion of the ancient world, that the air is the region of spirits; nor does this idea harmonize with the context. It is no exaltation of the power of these spirits to refer to them as dwelling in our atmosphere. The whole context, however, shows that the design of the apostle is to present the formidable character of our adversaries in the most impressive point of view. Others suppose that Paul means to refer to the former, and not to the present residence of these exalted beings. They are fallen angels, who once dwelt in heaven. It is better to take the word heaven in a wide sense. It is very often used antithetically to the word earth. ‘Heaven and earth,' include the whole universe. Those who do not belong to the earth belong to heaven. All intelligent beings are terrestrial or celestial. Of the latter class some are good and some are bad, as of the angels, who once dwelt in heaven. But this is obviously inconsistent with the natural meaning of his words. He speaks of them as in heaven. It is better to take the word heaven in a wide sense. It is very often used antithetically to the word earth. ‘Heaven and earth,' include the whole universe. Those who do not belong to the earth belong to heaven. All intelligent beings are terrestrial or celestial. Of the latter class some are good and some are bad, as of the angels some are holy and some unholy. These principalities and potentates, these rulers and spirits of wickedness, are not earthly magnates, they belong to the order of celestial intelligences, and therefore are the more to be dreaded, and something more than human strength and earthly armor is required for the conflict to which the apostle refers. This indicates the connection with the following verse.
Wherefore, i.e. because you have such formidable enemies, and because the conflict is inevitable, ἀναλάβετε τὴν πανοπλίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, not only arm yourselves, but take the panoply of God; no other is adequate to the emergency. ἵνα δυνηθῆτε ἀντιστῆναι ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ πονηρᾷ, in order that ye may be able to withstand, i.e. successfully to resist, in the evil day. The evil day is the day of trial. Psalms 41:2, "The Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble"; or as it is in the Septuagint ἐν ἡμερᾷ πονηρᾷ; and Psalms 49:5, "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil"; Septuagint ἐν ἡμερᾷ πονηρᾷ. The day here referred to is the definite day when the enemies previously mentioned shall make their assault. This however is not to be understood with special, much less with exclusive, reference to the last great conflict with the powers of darkness which is to take place before the second advent. The whole exhortation has reference to the present duty of believers. They are at once to assume their armor, and be always prepared for the attacks of their formidable enemies.
καὶ ἅπαντα κατεργασάμενοι στῆναι, and having done all to stand. This is understood by many to refer to the preparation for conflict. Having made every preparation, stand ready for the assault. But that idea is included in the former part of the verse. Others take κατεργάζεσθαι in the sense of debellare, vincere; having overcome all opposition, or conquered all, stand. The ordinary sense of the word includes that idea. Having done all that pertains to the combat, to stand; i.e. That you may be able, after the conflict is over, to maintain your ground as victors.
With the flowing garments of the East, the first thing to be done in preparing for any active work, was to gird the loins. The apostle therefore says, στῆτε οὖν περιζωσάμενοι τὴν ὀσφὺν ὑμῶν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth. By truth, here is not to be understood divine truth as objectively revealed, i.e. the word of God; for that is mentioned in the following verse as the sword. Nor does it mean sincerity of mind, for that is a natural virtue, and does not belong to the armor of God; which according to the context consists of supernatural gifts and graces. But it means truth subjectively considered; that is, the knowledge and belief of the truth. This is the first and indispensable qualification for a Christian soldier. To enter on this spiritual conflict ignorant or doubting, would be to enter battle blind and lame. As the girdle gives strength and freedom of action, and therefore confidence, so does the truth when spiritually apprehended and believed. Let not anyone imagine that he is prepared to withstand the assaults of the powers of darkness, if his mind is stored with his own theories or with the speculations of other men. Nothing but the truth of God clearly understood and cordially embraced will enable him to keep his feet for a moment, before these celestial potentates. Reason, tradition, speculative conviction, dead orthodoxy, are a girdle of spider webs. They give way at the first onset. Truth alone, as abiding in the mind in the form of divine knowledge, can give strength or confidence even in the ordinary conflicts of the Christian life, much more in any really "evil day."
καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν θώρακα τῆς δικαιοσύνης, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. The θώραξ was the "armor covering the body from the neck to the thighs, consisting of two parts, one covering the front and the other the back." A warrior without his θώραξ was naked, exposed to every thrust of his enemy, and even to every casual dart. In such a state flight or death is inevitable. What is that righteousness, which in the spiritual armor answers to the cuirass? Many say it is our own righteousness, integrity, or rectitude of mind. But this is no protection. It cannot resist the accusations of conscience, the whispers of despondency, the power of temptation, much less the severity of the law, or the assaults of Satan. What Paul desired for himself was not to have on his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith; Philippians 3:8, Philippians 3:9. And this, doubtless, is the righteousness which he here urges believers to put on as a breastplate. It is an infinitely perfect righteousness, consisting in the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God, which satisfies all the demands of the divine law and justice; and which is a sure defense against all assaults whether from within or from without. As in no case in this connection does the apostle refer to any merely moral virtue as constituting the armor of the Christian, so neither does he here. This is the less probable, inasmuch as righteousness in the subjective sense, is included in the idea expressed by the word truth in the preceding clause. It is the spirit of the context which determines the meaning to be put on the terms here used. For although righteousness is used so frequently by the apostle for the righteousness of God by faith, yet in itself it may of course express personal rectitude or justice. In Isaiah 59:17, Jehovah is described as putting "on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head;" as in Isaiah 11:5, it is said of the Messiah, "righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins."
In ancient warfare which was in a large measure carried on by hand-to-hand combats, swiftness of foot was one of the most important qualifications for a good soldier. To this the apostle refers when he exhorts his readers to have their feet shod, ἐν ἑτοιμασίᾳ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς εἰρήνης, with the preparation of the gospel of peace. According to one explanation εὐαγγελίου is the genitive of apposition, and the Gospel is the ἑτοιμασία with which the Christian is to be shod. Then the idea is either that the Gospel is something firm on which we can rest our confidence; or it is something that gives alacrity, adding as it were wings to the feet. Others take εὐαγγελίου as the genitive of the object, and ἑτοιμασία for readiness or alacrity. The sense would then be, ‘Your feet shod with alacrity for the Gospel,' i.e. for its defense or propagation. The simplest interpretation and that best suited to the context, is that εὐαγγελίου is the genitive of the source, and the sense is, ‘Your feet shod with the alacrity which the Gospel of peace gives.' As the Gospel secures our peace with God, and gives the assurance of his favor, it produces that joyful alacrity of mind which is essential to success in the spiritual conflict. All doubt tends to weakness, and despair is death.
ἐπὶ πᾶσιν, in addition to all; not above all as of greatest importance. Besides the portions of armor already mentioned, they were to take τὸν θυρεὸν τῆς πίστεως, the shield of faith. θυρεός, literally, a door, and then a large oblong shield, like a door. Being four feet long by two and a half broad, it completely covered the body, and was essential to the safety of the combatant. Hence the appropriateness of the apostle's metaphor. Such a protection, and thus essential, is faith. The more various the uses of a shield, the more suitable is the illustration. The faith here intended is that by which we are justified, and reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. It is that faith of which Christ is the object; which receives him as the Son of God and the Savior of men. It is the faith which is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen; which at once apprehends or discerns, and receives the things of the Spirit. It overcomes the world, as is proved by so many examples in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Faith being in itself so mighty, and having from the beginning proved itself so efficacious, the apostle adds, ἐν ᾧ δυνήσεσθε πάντα τὰ βέλη τοῦ πονηροῦ τὰ πεπυρωμένα σβέσαι, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. The obvious allusion here is to those missiles employed in ancient warfare, around which combustible materials were bound, which were ignited and projected against the enemy. Reference to these fiery darts is made in Psalms 7:13, "He will make his arrows burning arrows"; see Alexander on the Psalms. These darts are said to be τοῦ πονηροῦ, not of the wicked, as the words are translated in the English Version, but of the evil one, i.e. of the devil. Compare Matthew 13:19, Matthew 13:38. In the latter passage ὁ πονηρός is explained in Matthew 13:39, ὁ διάβολας. See also 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18, and other passages. As burning arrows not only pierced but set on fire what they pierced, they are doubly dangerous. They serve here therefore as the symbol of the fierce onsets of Satan. He showers arrows of fire on the soul of the believer; who, if unprotected by the shield of faith, would soon perish. It is a common experience of the people of God that at times horrible thoughts, unholy, blasphemous, skeptical, malignant, crowd upon the mind, which cannot be accounted for on any ordinary law of mental action, and which cannot be dislodged. They stick like burning arrows; and fill the soul with agony. They can be quenched only by faith; by calling on Christ for help. These, however, are not the only kind of fiery darts; nor are they the most dangerous. There are others which enkindle passion, inflame ambition, excite cupidity, pride, discontent, or vanity; producing a flame which our deceitful heart is not so prompt to extinguish, and which is often allowed to burn until it produces great injury and even destruction. Against these most dangerous weapons of the evil one, the only protection is faith. It is only by looking to Christ and earnestly invoking his interposition in our behalf that we can resist these insidious assaults, which inflame evil without the warning of pain. The reference of the passage, however, is not to be confined to any particular forms of temptation. The allusion is general to all those attacks of Satan, by which the peace and safety of the believer are specially endangered.
The most ornamental part of ancient armor, and scarcely less important than the breastplate or the shield, was the helmet. The Christian, therefore, is exhorted to take τὴν περικεφαλαίαν τοῦ σωτηρίου, the helmet of salvation. According to the analogy of the preceding expressions, "the breastplate of righteousness," and "shield of faith," salvation is itself the helmet. That which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved. He is one of the redeemed, translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. If still under condemnation, if still estranged from God, a foreigner and alien, without God and without Christ, he could have no courage to enter into this conflict. It is because he is a fellow citizen of the saints, a child of God, a partaker of the salvation of the Gospel, that he can face even the most potent enemies with confidence, knowing that he shall be brought off more than conqueror through him that loved him; Romans 8:37. When in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the apostle speaks of the hope of salvation as the Christian's helmet, he presents the same idea in a different form. The latter passage does not authorize us to understand, in this place, helmet of salvation" as a figurative designation of hope. The two passages although alike are not identical. In the one salvation is said to be our helmet, in the other, hope; just as in one place "faith and love" are said to be our breastplate, and in another, righteousness.
The armor hitherto mentioned is defensive. The only offensive weapon of the Christian is "the sword of the Spirit." Here τοῦ πνεύματος cannot be the genitive of apposition. The Spirit is not the sword; this would be incongruous, as the sword is something which the soldier wields, but the Christian cannot thus control the Spirit. Besides, the explanation immediately follows, which is the word of God. "The sword of the Spirit" means the sword which the Spirit gives. By the ῥῆμα θεοῦ is not to be understood the divine precepts, nor the threatenings of God against his enemies. There is nothing to limit the expression. It is that which God has spoken, his word, the Bible. This is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is the wisdom of God and the power of God. It has a self evidencing light. It commends itself to the reason and conscience. It has the power not only of truth, but of divine truth. Our Lord promised to give to his disciples a word and wisdom which all their adversaries should not be able to gainsay or resist. In opposition to all error, to all false philosophy, to all false principles of morals, to all the sophistries of vice, to all the suggestions of the devil, the sole, simple, and sufficient answer is the word of God. This puts to flight all the powers of darkness. The Christian finds this to be true in his individual experience. It dissipates his doubts; it drives away his fears; it delivers him from the power of Satan. It is also the experience of the church collective. All her triumphs over sin and error have been effected by the word of God. So long as she uses this and relies on it alone, she goes on conquering; but when anything else, be it reason, science, tradition, or the commandments of men, is allowed to take its place or to share its office, then the church, or the Christian, is at the mercy of the adversary. Hoc signo vinces — the apostle may be understood to say to every believer and to the whole church.
It is not armor or weapons which make the warrior. There must be courage and strength; and even then he often needs help. As the Christian has no resources of strength in himself, and can succeed only as aided from above, the apostle urges the duty of prayer. The believer is —
1. To avail himself of all kinds of prayer.
2. He is to pray on every suitable occasion.
3. He is to pray in the Spirit.
4. He is to be alert and persevering in the discharge of this duty.
5. He is to pray for all the saints; and the Ephesians were urged by the apostle to pray for him.
The connection of this verse is with στῆτε οὗν of Ephesians 6:14. "Stand, therefore, with all prayer and supplication, praying on every occasion, in the Spirit." διὰ πάσης προσευχῆς καὶ δεήσεως, may be connected with the following participle προσευχόμενοι, as has been done by our translators, who render the passage, "praying with all prayer and supplication." But this, renders the passage tautological. Others take this clause by itself, and understand διὰ as expressing the condition or circumstances. "Stand, therefore, with all prayer, praying at all times," etc. As to the difference between προσευχή and δεήσις, prayer and supplication, some say that the former has for its object the attaining of good; the latter, the avoidance of evil or deliverance from it. The usage of the words does not sustain that view. The more common opinion is that the distinction is twofold; first, that προσευχή is addressed only to God, whereas δεήσις may be addressed to men; and secondly, that the former includes all address to God, while the latter is limited to petition. The expression all prayer, means all kinds of prayer, oral and mental, ejaculatory and formal. The prayers which Paul would have the Christian warrior use, are not merely those of the closet and of stated seasons, but also those habitual and occasional aspirations, and outgoings of the heart after God, which a constant sense of his nearness and a constant sense of our necessity must produce.
Not only must all kinds of prayer be used, but believers should pray ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ, on every occasion; on every emergency. This constancy in prayer is commanded by our Lord, Luke 18:1, "Men ought always to pray and not to faint." In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the apostle exhorts believers to "pray without ceasing." It is obvious, therefore, that prayer includes all converse with God, and is the expression of all our feelings and desires which terminate in him. In the scriptural sense of the term, therefore, it is possible that a man should pray almost literally without ceasing.
The third direction is, to pray ἐν πνεύματι. This does not mean inwardly, or with the heart; non voce tantum, sed et animo, as Grotius explains it; but it means under the influence of the Spirit, and with his assistance, whose gracious office it is to teach us how to pray, and to make intercessions for us with groanings that cannot be uttered; Romans 8:26. The fourth direction has reference to alertness and perseverance in prayer; εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἀγρυπνοῦντες, watching unto this very thing. This very thing is that of which he had been speaking, viz. praying in the Spirit. It was in reference to that duty they were to be wakeful and vigilant, not allowing themselves to become weary or negligent. ἐν πάσῃ προσκαρτερήσει καὶ δεήσει περὶ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων, with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. "Perseverance and supplication" amounts to persevering or importunate supplication. In Romans 12:12, the expression is, τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες, continuing instant in prayer. This persevering supplication is to be offered for all the saints. The conflict of which the apostle has been speaking is not merely a single combat between the individual Christian and Satan, but also a war between the people of God and the powers of darkness. No soldier entering battle prays for himself alone, but for all his fellow soldiers also. They form one army, and the success of one is the success of all. In like manner Christians are united as one army, and therefore have a common cause; and each must pray for all. Such is the communion of saints, as set forth in this Epistle and in other parts of Scripture, that they can no more fail to take this interest in each other's welfare, than the hand can fail to sympathize with the foot.
The importance which the apostle attributed to intercessory prayer and his faith in its efficacy are evident from the frequency with which he enjoins the duty, and from the earnestness with which he solicits such prayers in his own behalf. What the apostle wishes the Ephesians to pray for, was not any temporal blessing, not even his deliverance from bonds, that he might be at liberty more freely to preach the Gospel, but that God would enable him to preach with the freedom and boldness with which he ought to preach: ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός μου ἐν παρρησίᾳ γνωρίσαι, κτλ. Our translators have paraphrased this clause thus, that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known, etc. The literal translation is, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth, with boldness to make known, etc. What Paul desired was divine assistance in preaching. He begs his reader to pray ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος, that the power of speech, or freedom of utterance, might be given to him, when he opened his mouth. Paul says, 2 Corinthians 11:6, that he was ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ, rude in speech. The word λόγος itself has at times the metonymical sense here given to it, and therefore ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός is most naturally taken without emphasis as equivalent to, when I open my mouth, i.e. when called upon to speak. Calvin and many others lay the principal stress on those words, and make with opening of the mouth equivalent to with open mouth, pleno ore et intrepida lingua, as Calvin expresses it. Os opertum cupit, quod erumpet in liquidam et firmam confessionem. Ore enim semiclauso proferuntur ambigua et perplexa responsa. This, however is to anticipate what is expressed by ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ γνωρίσαι. Others connect both ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός and ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ with γνωρίσαι, ‘to make known with the opening of the mouth, with boldness the mystery,' etc. This is the construction which our translators seemed to have assumed. But this is very unnatural, from the position of the words and relation of the clauses. παῤῥησίᾳ ( πᾶν ῥῆσις) the speaking out all, freespokenness. Here the dative with ἐν may be taken adverbially, freely, boldly; keeping nothing back, but making an open, undisguised declaration of the Gospel. This includes, however, the idea of frankness and boldness of spirit, of which this unrestrained declaration of the truth is the expression. ΄υστήριον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, mystery of the Gospel; the Gospel itself is the mystery, or divine revelation. It is that system of truth which had been kept secret with God, but which is now revealed unto our glory; 1 Corinthians 2:7.
ὑπὲρ οὗ, for the sake of which Gospel, πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει εἰμί, I am an ambassador in bonds. An ambassador is one through whom a sovereign speaks. "We are ambassadors for Christ:, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead be ye reconciled with God"; 2 Corinthians 5:20. The apostles, as sent by Christ with authority to speak in his name, and to negotiate with men, proposing the terms of reconciliation and urging their acceptance, were in an eminent sense his ambassadors. As all ministers are sent by Christ and are commissioned by him to propose the terms of salvation, they too are entitled to the same honorable designation. Paul was an ambassador in bonds, and yet he did not lose his courage but preached with as much boldness as ever.
ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ παῤῥησιάσωμαι, that therein I may speak boldly. This may be taken as depending on ἵνα δοθῇ; of Ephesians 6:19. The sense would then be, ‘That utterance may be given to me that I may speak boldly.' But the preceding ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ γνωρίσαι depends on ἵνα δοθῇ, The two clauses are rather parallel. Paul desired that the Ephesians should pray, ‘That utterance should be given him that is, that he might preach boldly' ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι, as I ought to speak. It becomes the man who is an ambassador of God, to speak with boldness, assured of the truth and importance of the message which he has to deliver. That even Paul should solicit the prayers of Christians that he might be able to preach the Gospel aright, shows the sense he had at once of the difficulty and of the importance of the work.
In conclusion the apostle informs the Ephesians that he had sent Tychicus to them to relieve their anxiety concerning him; ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε καὶ ὑμεῖς, but that ye also may know, i.e. you as well as other Christian friends who had manifested solicitude about me in my bonds; τὰ κατ ̓ ἑμέ, the things which concern me, i.e. my circumstances; τί πράσσω, not what I do, for that they knew already; but how I do. His health as well as his situation was a matter of anxiety to his friends. Tychicus shall make all known to you; ὁ ἀγαπητὸς ἀδελφὸς καὶ πιστὸς διάκονος ἐν κυρίῳ; this admits of a twofold interpretation. It may mean that Tychicus was Paul's διάκονος, servant, as well as his brother. This view is commended, though not adopted by Calvin, and is advocated by many of the best commentators, on the ground that it is most natural that the two words ἀδελφὸς and διάκονος should have the same reference, "my beloved brother and faithful servant"; and that in so many other places Paul speaks of those who attended him and in various forms served him. The words ἐν κυρίῳ, according to this view, belong equally to both words. He was a brother as well as a servant in the Lord, i.e. a Christian brother and servant. It is more common, however, to understand the apostle as commending Tychicus as a faithful minister of the Gospel. In Colossians 4:7, he is called a fellow servant which favors the assumption that he was a fellow laborer in the ministry. He is mentioned in Acts 20:4; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12. None of these passages, however, throws any light on his relation to the apostle further than that he was one of his attendants. As, however, in the next verse Paul says he had sent him not only that they might know his affairs, but also παρακαλέσῃ τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, that he might comfort your hearts; the probability is altogether in favor of his being a minister of Christ, who could communicate to the Ephesians not only the consolation of favorable intelligence concerning Paul. but the higher consolations of the Gospel.
εἰρήνη τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς, peace be to the brethren. This is the usual form of salutation or benediction. It is not concord, but all the fruits of χάρις or favor of God. καὶ ἀγάπη μετὰ πίστεως, this does not mean love together with faith, as though two distinct blessings were intended; but rather love united with faith. Faith they had; Paul's prayer was that love might be connected with it. The love intended must be brotherly love. These blessings are sought ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father and Son are united as objects of worship and the source of spiritual and saving blessing. He from whom Paul sought these blessings, is he to whom those who need them must look in order to obtain them.
True to the last, as a needle to the pole, the apostle turns to Christ, and implores the divine favor on all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. The words ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ rendered in sincerity, are so understood by Erasmus and Calvin, and by many others. There is however a great diversity of opinion as to their true meaning. ἀφθαρσίᾳ signifies incorruption, as in 1 Corinthians 15:53, 1 Corinthians 15:54, δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν, for this corruptible must put on incorruption. Hence it means immortality as in Romans 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:10. Some connect these words with ἰησοῦν χριστόν, Christ in immortality, i.e. Christ glorified. Others connect them with χάρις and give ἐν the force of εἰς ‘grace unto immortality, or to eternity; everlasting grace.' Others adopting the same construction, render the passage, ‘grace with immortality, i.e. eternal life.' The only natural construction is with ἀγαπώντων; then the meaning is either that expressed in our Version, "Who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity"; or, ‘with constancy; that is, with a deathless or immortal love.' In either case the general idea is the same. The divine favor rests on those to whom the Lord Jesus is the supreme object of love. In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul says, "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." These passages, though so dissimilar, both teach that love to Christ is the indispensable condition of salvation. There must be an adequate reason for this. Want of love for Christ must deserve final perdition, and love to him must include preparation for heaven. This of necessity supposes Christ to be God. Want of love to him must imply enmity to God. It is all a delusion for anyone to think he can love the Infinite Spirit as manifested in nature, or in the Scriptures, if he does not recognize and love the same God in the clearest revelation of his character, in his most definite personal manifestation, and in his most intimate relation to us, as partaking our nature, loving us, and giving himself for us. Love to Christ includes adoring admiration of his person, desire for his presence, zeal for his glory, and devotion to his service. It need not be ecstatic, but it must be controlling.