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(2) Children and parents
(Vv. 1-3). It has been remarked that the exhortations in the Epistle to the Ephesians all commence with those from whom submission is due. The special exhortations are preceded by the general exhortation to submit yourselves one to another (v. 21).
The exhortations to submission are especially addressed to wives, children and servants, the wives being exhorted before the husbands, the children before the parents, and the servants before the masters. This order would seem to attach great importance to the principle of submission. One has said, “The principle of submission and obedience is the healing principle of humanity.” Sin is disobedience and came into the world through disobedience. Ever since, the essence of sin has been man doing his own will and refusing to be subject to God. An insubject wife will make a miserable home; an insubject child will be an unhappy child; and a world not subject to God must be an unhappy and miserable world. Not until the world is brought into subjection to God, under the reign of Christ, will its sorrows be healed. Christianity teaches this subjection, and the Christian home should anticipate something of the blessedness of a subject world under the reign of Christ.
The obedience of the child is, however, to be “in the Lord”. This supposes a home governed by the fear of the Lord, and therefore according to the Lord. The quotation from the Old Testament, which connects the promise of blessing with obedience to parents, shows how greatly God esteemed obedience under law. Though in Christianity the blessing is of an heavenly order, yet in the governmental ways of God the principle remains true that honouring parents will bring blessing.
(V. 4). Parents are not to bring up their children on the principle of law which might lead them to say to the child, “If you are not good, God will punish you”; nor are they to bring them up on the principles of the world which have no reference to God. If they are trained simply with worldly motives, to fit them for the world, we must not be surprised if they drift into the world. Moreover, parents are to be careful not to irritate and repel their children, and thus destroy their influence for good by losing their affection. Only will their affections be retained, and the children kept from the world, as they are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are to be trained as for the Lord, and as the Lord would bring them up.
(3) Servants and masters
(Vv. 5-9). For the Christian servant to render obedience to an earthly master, a heart that is right with Christ will be required. Only as the servant of Christ, seeking from his heart to do the will of God, will he be able to serve his earthly master with “good will”. What is done of good will to the Lord will have its reward.
Christian masters are to be governed by the same principles as the Christian servants. In all his dealings with his servants the master is to remember that he has a Master in heaven. He is to treat his servants with the same “good will” that he expects from the servants. Moreover, he is to forbear threatening, not using his position of authority to utter threats.
( Eph_6:10-21 )
The Epistle to the Ephesians closes with a striking passage which sets forth the Christian conflict. This conflict is not the exercise of soul that we may pass through in seeking to lay hold of the truth. It supposes that we know and appreciate the wonderful truths of the Epistle, and the conflict arises from seeking to retain and maintain these truths in the face of every opposing power.
In the course of the Epistle the apostle unfolds to us our heavenly calling, the inheritance of glory to which we are predestined, the mystery of the church, and the practical life consistent with these great truths. If, however, we are set to enter into our heavenly blessings and to walk in consistency with them, we shall at once find that all the power of Satan is arrayed against us. In his hatred of Christ, the devil will seek to rob us of the truth, or, failing to do this, he will seek to bring dishonour upon the Name of Christ and discredit the truth by bringing about moral breakdown amongst those who hold the truth. The more truth we have the greater the dishonour to Christ if we break down by the allowance of the flesh. We must therefore be prepared to face conflict, and the more truth we have the greater will be the conflict.
In view of this conflict, three things are brought before us: firstly, the source of our strength; secondly, the character of the enemy with whom we wrestle; thirdly, the armour with which we are provided to enable us to withstand the assaults of the enemy.
(1) The power of the Lord
(V. 10). The apostle first directs our thoughts to the power that is for us before he describes the power that is against us. To face this conflict we must ever remember that all our strength is in the Lord. Paul therefore says, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” Our difficulty oftentimes is to realise that we have no strength in ourselves. Naturally we should like to be strong in numbers, strong in gifts, or strong in the power of some forceful leader, but our real and only strength is “in the Lord, and in the power of His might”.
The prayer of the first chapter brings before us the power of God's might. Christ has been raised from the dead and set at God's right hand in heavenly places, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”. Now, says the apostle, that is the “exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe”. The power that is against us is far greater than our power, but the power that is toward us is a surpassing power - it surpasses all the power that is opposed to us. Moreover, the One that has supreme power is the One that possesses “unsearchable riches”, and loves us with a love that “passeth knowledge” ( Eph_3:8 ; Eph_3:19 ).
In the days of old, Gideon was prepared for the conflict by first being told that “the Lord is with thee”; then he was exhorted to “go in this thy might.” Gideon's family might be the poorest in Manasseh, and he himself the least in his father's house, but what did Gideon's poverty or his weakness matter if the Lord, who is rich and mighty, was for him and with him? ( Jdg_6:12-15 .) So, in a later day, Jonathan and his armour-bearer could face a great host in the might of the Lord, for, said Jonathan, “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” ( 1Sa_14:6 ).
So we, in our day, with failure behind us, weakness amongst us, and corruption all around us, need a fresh sense of the glory of the Lord, the power of the Lord, the riches of the Lord, the love of the Lord, and, with the Lord before us, to go forward “in the power of His might”.
Apart from Christ we have no power. The Lord can say, “Without Me ye can do nothing”, but, says the apostle, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” ( Php_4:13 ). It is, then, only as our souls are kept in secret communion with Christ that we shall be able to avail ourselves of the power that is in Him. This being so, all Satan's power will be directed to putting our souls out of touch with Christ, and seeking to keep us from feeding on Him and walking in communion with Him. It may be that he will seek to draw us out of communion with Christ by the cares and duties of every-day life, or by sickness and weakness of the body. He may seek to use the difficulties of the path, the contentions among the people of God, or the petty insults we have to meet, to depress the spirit and fret the soul. If, however, instead of allowing all these things to come between our souls and the Lord, we make them occasions for drawing near to the Lord, we shall learn what it is to be strong in the Lord, while realising our own weakness; and we shall learn the blessedness of the word, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee” ( Psa_55:22 ).
(2) The power of the enemy
(Vv. 11, 12). Firstly, we are exhorted to remember that it is not against flesh and blood that we wrestle. The devil may indeed use men and women to oppose the Christian and deny the truth, but we have to look beyond the instruments and discern the one that is using them. A woman, in flesh and blood, opposed Paul at Philippi, but Paul discerned the evil spirit that moved the woman, and in the power of the Name of Jesus Christ he entered into conflict with spiritual wickedness, commanding the evil spirit to come out of her ( Act_16:16-18 ).
A true disciple, in flesh and blood, opposed the Lord when Peter said, in view of the Lord's sufferings, “Be it far from Thee, Lord”, but the Lord, knowing the power of Satan behind the instrument, could say, “Get thee behind me, Satan” ( Mat_16:22 ; Mat_16:23 ).
The conflict, then, is against Satan and his hosts, whatever the instrument used. Principalities and powers are spiritual beings in a position of rule with power to carry out their will. They may be good or evil beings; here they are evil beings, and their wickedness would seem to take a twofold direction. In reference to the world they are the rulers of the darkness of this world; in reference to Christians they are the “spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies”. The world is in darkness, in ignorance of God, and these spiritual beings rule and direct the darkness of paganism, philosophy, science falsely so-called, and infidelity, as well as the superstitions, corruptions and modernism of Christendom. The Christian is brought into the light, and blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. The opposition to the Christian takes, then, a religious character by spiritual beings who seek to rob him of the truth of his heavenly calling, beguile him into a path that is a denial of the truth, or into conduct that is inconsistent with it.
Further, we are instructed as to the character of the opposition. It is not simply persecution, or a direct denial of the truth; it is the far more subtle and dangerous opposition described as “the wiles of the devil”. A wile is something that looks fair and innocent, and yet beguiles the soul from the path of obedience. How often, in this day of confusion, the devil seeks to lead those who have the truth into some by-path, which at the beginning deviates so little from the true course that to raise any objection to it might seem fastidious. There is one simple question we can each ask ourselves by which every wile may be detected, “If I pursue this course where will it lead me?”
When the devil suggested to the Lord that He should turn the stones into bread to meet His needs, it looked a very innocent thing to do. Nevertheless, it was a wile that would have led out of the path of obedience to God, and a denial of the word which said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
To turn the Galatian believers from the truth of the Gospel, the devil used the law as a wile to entrap them in legal self-importance. To turn the Corinthian saints from the truth of the assembly, the devil used the world as a wile to lead them into carnal self-indulgence. To turn the Colossian saints from the truth of the mystery, the devil used the wiles of “enticing words”, “philosophy” and superstition to entrap them in religious exaltation. These are still the wiles we have to face.
(3) The armour of God
(V. 13). In this conflict human armour will not avail. We can only withstand the devil in the “armour of God”. Human resources such as natural ability and natural strength of character will be of no avail in this conflict. Confidence in such armour may lead us to engage with the enemy, but only to suffer defeat. The apostle Peter found this when, with confidence in his own strength, he entered into conflict, only to fail before a maid. God may indeed use human ability and scholarship in His service; here, however, it is not a question of what God uses in His service, but rather of what God has given us to use in conflict with the wiles of the enemy. The enemy we have to meet is not flesh and blood, and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal ( 2Co_10:4 ).
Furthermore, in this conflict we require the “whole armour of God”. If one piece is missing, Satan will be quick enough to detect the lack and attack us in the vulnerable place.
Moreover, the armour has to be “put on”. It by no means follows that because we are Christians we have put on the armour. The armour is provided for us as Christians, but it remains with us to put it on. It is not enough to look at the armour, or to admire it, or to be able to describe it; we must “put on the whole armour of God.”
Then we learn that the armour is needed in view of the “evil day”. In a general sense the whole period of the absence of Christ is for the believer an “evil day”. There are, however, occasions when the enemy makes special attacks upon the people of God, seeking to rob them of special truths. Such attacks constitute for the people of God an evil day. To meet such we need to have on the whole armour of God. It is too late to be putting on the armour in the midst of the struggle.
We need the armour “to withstand” and “to stand”. Having withstood in resisting the enemy's offensive in any particular attack, we shall still need the armour to stand on the defensive. When we have “done all”, we still need our armour in order “to stand”. It is often when we have gained some signal victory that we are in the greatest danger, for it is easier to gain a point of vantage than to hold it. The armour having been “put on” cannot with safety be put off as long as spiritual wickedness is in heavenly places and we are in the scene of Satan's wiles.
If we include the prayer as one of the pieces of armour, there are seven distinct pieces of armour.
(V. 14). 1. The Girdle of Truth. We are to stand with our loins girt about with truth. Spiritually this speaks of the thoughts and affections held in order by the truth. By applying the truth to ourselves, and thus judging all the thoughts and movements of the heart by the truth, we should not only be set free from the inward working of the flesh, but we should have our affections formed according to the truth, and thus have the lowly mind with our affections set on things above.
So the first piece of armour strengthens the inner man and regulates our thoughts and affections, rather than our conduct, speech and ways. Oftentimes we make great efforts to preserve a correct outward demeanour towards one another while, at the same time, careless as to our thoughts and affections. If we are to withstand the wiles of the enemy we must commence by being right inwardly. The Preacher warns us as to what we say with our lips, as to what our eyes look upon, and as to the path our feet tread, but first of all he says, “Keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded” ( Pro_4:23-27 ). James warns us that, “if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth” ( Jam_3:14 ). Strife amongst brethren commences in the heart, and has its root in “bitter envying”. When the truth holds the affections, strife, bitter envying and other evils of the flesh will be judged, and when they are judged we shall be able to withstand the wiles of the devil in the evil day.
Alas! too often the evil day finds us unprepared. We have neglected to put on the girdle, and so in the presence of some sudden provocation we act in the flesh, and when reviled we revile again, and instead of patiently suffering we threaten. Let us seek to wear the girdle, and thus walk with the thoughts and affections habitually held in check by the truth.
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness. With the second piece of armour we pass to our practical conduct. Practical righteousness is expressed in the Christian by a walk in consistency with the position and relationships in which he is set. We cannot stand before the enemy with a conscience that accuses us of unjudged evil in our ways and associations. We cannot stand for the truth which in practice we deny. Having put on the breastplate, and thus walking in practical righteousness, we shall be fearless when called to face the enemy in the evil day.
(V. 15). 3. The Feet Shod. Practical righteousness leads to a walk in peace. The Gospel of peace that we have received prepares us to walk in peace amidst the world's unrest. When the heart is governed by the truth, and our ways are practically in accord with the truth, we shall walk through this world with peace in the soul, and be able to meet the evil day in a spirit of peace and calm. We shall not be indifferent to the turmoil in the world, but we shall not be excited and filled with anxiety as to passing events. Of natural men the Scripture says, “The way of peace have they not known” ( Rom_3:17 ), but those whose feet are shod with peace are marked by peace even when in conflict.
(V. 16). 4. The Shield of Faith. However necessary it is to have the thoughts and affections held in order by the girdle of truth, and our conduct preserved in righteousness by the breastplate, and to be walking in peace through this world, something else is needed for the conflict. We need “above all”, or “over all”, the shield of faith to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy. Here faith is not the reception of God's testimony concerning Christ by which we are saved, but the daily faith and trust in God which gives us the assurance that God is for us. In the pressure of the manifold trials that come upon us, whether from circumstances, ill-health, bereavement, or in connection with the many difficulties that constantly arise among the people of God, the enemy may seek to cloud our souls with the horrible suggestion that after all God is indifferent and not for us. On that dark night when the disciples had to face the storm on the lake, and the waves beat into the ship, Jesus was with them, though asleep as one indifferent to their danger. This was a test for faith. Alas! unprotected by the shield of faith, a fiery dart pierced their armour, and the terrible thought arose that, after all, the Lord did not care for them, for they awoke Him and said, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” ( Mar_4:37 ; Mar_4:38 ).
A fiery dart is not a sudden desire to gratify some lust which arises from the flesh within; it is rather a diabolical suggestion from without that would raise a doubt as to the goodness of God. Satan hurled a fiery dart at Job when, in his terrible trial, his wife suggested that he should “curse God, and die.” Job quenched this fiery dart with the shield of faith, for he said, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” ( Job_2:9 ; Job_2:10 ). The devil still uses the trying circumstances of life in his endeavour to shake our confidence in God and to drive us from God. Faith uses these very circumstances to draw nearer to God and thus triumphs over the devil. Again, Satan may seek to instill some abominable thought into the mind, some infidel suggestion that burns into the soul and darkens the mind. Such thoughts are not quenched by human reasonings, or by falling back on “feelings” or “experiences”, but by simple faith in God and His word.
(V. 17). 5. The Helmet of Salvation. Having on the helmet will enable the believer to hold up his head boldly in the presence of the enemy. Resisting by faith the fiery darts of the devil, we find in our trying circumstances that God is for us, and that He saves us, not only from trials, but, like the disciples in the storm, through trials. We are thus enabled to go forward with courage and energy in the consciousness that, however weak we are in ourselves, God is the God of our salvation, and that Christ is able to save us to the uttermost ( Heb_7:25 ).
6. The Sword of the Spirit. We are definitely told that this piece of armour is the word of God, and yet not only the word, but the word used in the power of the Spirit. This is the one great offensive weapon. Until we have put on the armour that regulates our inmost thoughts, our outward walk, and establishes us in confidence in God, we shall not be in a right condition to wield the sword of the Spirit. When the word of God is used in the power of the Spirit against the enemy it is irresistible. When tempted by the wiles of the devil, the Lord on each occasion resisted the enemy with the word of God used in the power of the Spirit. “It is written” exposed and defeated the devil. The word of God abiding in us is our strength, for the apostle John can say of the young men, “Ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” ( 1Jn_2:14 ).
One has said, “Our business is to act according to the word, come what may; the result will show that the wisdom of God was in it.” The one using the word may be weak, and have little natural intelligence, but he will find that the word of God is quick and powerful, and that through it every wile of the enemy is exposed.
(Vv. 18-20). 7. Prayer. Having described the armour, and exhorted us to put it on, the apostle closes with the exhortation to prayer. The armour, however perfect, is not given to make us independent of God. It can only be rightly used in the spirit of dependence upon the One by whom it has been provided.
The Lord exhorts us “always to pray, and not to faint” ( Luk_18:1 ); and Paul exhorts “that men pray everywhere” ( 1Ti_2:8 ). Here we are exhorted to pray “at all seasons”. Prayer is the constant attitude of dependence upon God. Under all circumstances, in all places, and at all times, we are to pray. Prayer, however, may become a mere formal expression of need; it is therefore linked with “supplication”, which is the earnest cry of the soul conscious of its need. It is, moreover, to be under the guidance of the Spirit, and to be accompanied with the faith that watches for God's answer. When Peter was in prison, “prayer was made without ceasing ... unto God for him”, but apparently the church failed somewhat in “watchfulness”, for, when God answered their prayer, it was only with difficulty that they believed that Peter was free. Further, prayer in the Spirit will embrace “all saints”, and yet come down to the need of a special servant. So the apostle exhorts the Ephesian saints not only to pray for “all saints”, but also for himself.
Throughout the ages the saints have needed the armour of God, but in these closing days, when “the darkness of this world” deepens, “the wiles of the devil” increase, and Christendom is returning to paganism and philosophy, how deeply important it is to put on the whole armour of God to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Let us then stand:
Having our lions girt about with truth, and thus be kept inwardly right in thought and affection.
Having on the breastplate of righteousness, so that we are consistent in all our practice.
Having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, so that we walk in peace in the midst of a world of discord, strife and confusion.
Taking the shield of faith, so that we walk in daily confidence in God.
Taking the helmet of salvation, and thus realising that God is making all things work together for our good and salvation.
Taking the sword of the Spirit, whereby we can meet ever subtle attack of the enemy.
Lastly, “praying always”, so that we can use the armour in the spirit of constant dependence upon God.
These files are public domain.
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Ephesians 6". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany