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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 6

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

The Duties of Children, of Parents, of Servants.

A word to children and parents:

v. 1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right.

v. 2. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise,

v. 3. that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

v. 4. And ye father s, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The relation between husband and wife naturally suggests that between parents and children. St. Paul addresses himself to the children first: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. The apostle does not make it a matter of choice or of disposition, but of duty: it is the right thing, it is in accordance with the Law of God, with His order from the beginning, that children yield obedience to their parents. It is also not a matter following upon a mutual agreement, but it is a state into which the children are born; by the fact of their birth God places them into subjection to their parents. The duty of obedience on the part of children is one from which God Himself does not dispense, except in cases where His will is higher, Acts 5:29. Neither can the state dispense from this duty, nor, in fact, the parents themselves, for they are God's representatives and will commit a grievous sin if they do not maintain the honor of their position. Christian children will therefore be obedient to their parents, not merely on the basis of natural right, but in the Lord, to give evidence of their relation to God in this manner. In support of his position Paul quotes the Fourth Commandment: Honor thy father and mother, Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16. The honor due to parents includes two points: that the children recognize and acknowledge their parents as their superiors, as the representatives of God, and that they, by this token, gladly submit themselves to the will of the parents. The apostle adds, further to stress the importance of the commandment: Which is the first commandment with promise, That well it may be to thee and thou mayest be long-living on the earth. Because the Fourth Commandment is a precept of the first degree, because it belongs to the principal and most important commandments, and because a special promise is attached to it, therefore it demands unequivocal consideration and unhesitating obedience. Note that the apostle omits that part of the promise which was intended specifically for the Jewish people, thus making the commandment read for all nations. If children desire to have the good will of God resting upon them, which shows itself in granting welfare and long life according to His gracious will, then they should live a life of obedience to their parents. Note: This promise is the promise of the heavenly Father and is fulfilled even in cases where good fortune and length of life are not given according to the standard of this world. Mark also that the commandment is emphatically addressed to every individual child, with the word "honor" occupying the position of greatest stress.

The precept to the parents is brief, but comprehensive: And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. Although the parental duty is set forth in terms of the father's obligation, yet the mother's rule and responsibility, being included in that of the husband, is just as strongly enjoined. Parents will, first of all, avoid all things which are apt to embitter, irritate, and exasperate their children, injustice, unreasonable severity, a senseless goading and teasing, and the like, all of which is likely to make the children indisposed to render the honor and obedience which is their duty. To some extent, at least, the blame will be on the side of the parents in that case; even Christian parents offend more often on the side of the Law than on that of the Gospel. Parents should nurture their children, take care of their entire physical, mental, moral, and religious training; their discipline in such education, their admonition by reproof, remonstrance, and blame should be that of Christ, such training as proceeds from Him and is prescribed by Him. The Lord's entire manner of educating is one calculated to win people for Himself, so that they willingly follow His leadership, and His example should always stand before the eyes of all parents as an ideal after which they may strive. A whole volume of sound pedagogy is contained in this one verse.

Verses 5-9

The duties of servants and masters:

v. 5. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your he art, as unto Christ;

v. 6. not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the he art;

v. 7. with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men;

v. 8. knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

v. 9. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, for bearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him.

This admonition is not confined to domestic slaves and their masters, but includes all relations of subordination. Owing to the conditions of his time, of course, St. Paul addresses himself especially to the servants in bondage: Servants, obey those who, according to the flesh, are your masters. Obedience to their earthly, bodily masters was the duty of slaves. Whether Christian slaves had a heathen or a Christian master, their submission was demanded with equal force, Colossians 3:22-25; Colossians 4:1; 1 Peter 2:18-25. The institution of slavery is not intrinsically wrong, the Christian abolitionist, therefore, holding his ground on the basis of social and economic reasons only. The obedience of the servants was to be rendered: With fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ. It was thus to be of such a nature as to shrink from the slightest neglect of duty; it was to be concerned strictly and entirely with the one aim of performing every service satisfactorily, whether or not a special reward would be forthcoming; it was to be performed in the consciousness that, in the final analysis, it was done to Christ. Solicitous zeal, absence of all pretense and insincerity, and the feeling of serving Christ: these factors characterize true service.

The apostle explains his meaning more fully: Not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. It may have been the custom then, as it is a common practice now, that servants seek only to gain the approval of their masters so long as they are under the eyes of the masters, and that their obedience extends only as far as the eyes of the masters reach. Christian servants and workmen, on the other hand, look upon themselves as the servants of Christ in their own station, for which reason they attempt to fulfill the will of God in the work which they are performing for their masters. They are fully aware that the omniscient eye of God sees all the hidden things, and they thus do the will of God from their heart, with all sincerity and faithfulness, doing service with good will as to the Lord and not to men. They do not consider their station in life as a burden which may be borne only with groaning, but their attitude toward their work and toward their master indicates that they wish their master well in his enterprises, and desire to render him all the assistance in their power. Thus they bring out in their whole life the conviction of their hearts that they are performing their service, their work, to the Lord Himself, and not merely to men. This attitude influences and controls their entire outlook upon life, making careless, shabby work on their part impossible and excluding the thought of boycotts and strikes, so far as they personally are concerned. And finally: Knowing that each one, if he does anything good, this he will receive of the Lord, whether slave or free. Christian servants and workmen, at the present time no longer in slavery, but all of them free, know that the Lord keeps the record of their work, and that His reward will come in time. They may not receive the recognition to which their faithful service entitles them here in time, but the Lord knows what every single one has done, in love and obedience to Him. And the day is coming when they will receive the reward of grace from the hands of their heavenly Father; they will be given credit in the values of eternity for the work done here in time.

But the masters are not excluded from the exhortation: And you masters, do the same things toward them, omitting threatening, knowing that their Lord and pours is in heaven, and respect of persons is not with Him. The same thing, the same good will, should be shown by the masters as that enjoined upon the servants, for they also have duties to their subordinates; it is a condition of mutual give and take. For one thing, the masters should not attempt to maintain discipline through the terror of threats. In singling out this one instance of bad feeling on the part of a master, St. Paul includes every form of harshness, all habitual browbeating. For after all, God above is the Master of both the servants and the human masters, and His throne is in the heaven above, and not merely on earth. Before this mighty Lord all men are alike, He shows special favor to none; He will judge the masters as well as the servants, the employers as well as the employees. If this section would only be heeded more generally in the world, there would be no difficulty between labor and capital, for all such questions as now agitate men's minds are answered here completely. Both parties considering their work as a service to Christ and God, they will exercise humility and kindness at all times.

Verses 10-13

The Christian's spiritual Armor and Its Use.

The enemies:

v. 10. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

v. 11. Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

v. 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.

v. 13. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.

This closing admonition of the letter to the Ephesians has rightly been called the Lord's great call to arms. The apostle here summarizes and concentrates everything that he still would like to write to the brethren: Finally, as for the rest, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of His strength. No matter what else may come to their attention and engage their consideration, his readers should be strengthened, should be given the ability, the power, to wage battle for the Lord. Such strengthening is possible only in the Lord, in fellowship with His mighty power and strength. It is true, of course, that a regenerate person has the new spiritual life in his heart; but it is equally true that this life, unless renewed and supported by Christ day by day, will soon be lost. It is necessary that the Christian remain in intimate communion with Christ in His Word and Sacrament, otherwise he will soon join the ranks of such as are unqualified for the great warfare which is the lot of the Christians. This consciousness the Christians must impress upon themselves unceasingly, lest they become guilty of the self-confidence of Peter and deny their Savior.

But it is not enough for soldiers to summon all their strength for the encounter and to remain in constant touch with their general, they must also have the right armor: Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. The Christians must be careful to be supplied with the panoply, with the full armor, which is provided by God the complete battle equipment, which alone will enable us to meet the hosts of our spiritual foes. A Christian must be encased in the armor of God from his head to his feet, in order not to offer a single gap which may give the enemy an opening for successful attack. But as the warriors of God, provided with His full armor, we are able to withstand the crafty assaults of the devil. The old Evil Foe has many and various methods by which he hopes to overcome us, both stratagem and open at tack, false doctrine and sinful life; it is impossible to foretell from day to day just where and how he will make his next assault. Constant, untiring vigilance is demanded by our Christian calling.

How necessary this is the apostle shows in his description of the mass of the enemies: For not is our wrestling against blood and flesh, but against the principalities, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness. We Christians have no mere men to battle with, whom we might be able to overcome with external, physical weapons. But our wrestling, our hand-to-hand encounter, is with forces of evil that are present in all the enemies of the Word and the Church, powers of spirits. There are rulers, chiefs, and heads of the battalions of evil spirits; there are demonic authorities; there are the world-ruling powers of the evil angels with Satan, the prince of this world, at their head; there are entire hosts, large forces, bands, armies of spirits, all spirits of wickedness and malice. The devils are world rulers of darkness, they rule through the darkness of sin. In sin Satan has established his kingdom in this world, he has succeeded in leading men away from God, the Father of Light, into the rule of darkness and sin, where the knowledge of God cannot enlighten them. St. Paul calls all the enemies spirits of wickedness in high places, for they belong to the supernatural, transcendental world. For that very reason, because the evil spirits as spirits cannot be attacked with physical weapons, they are stronger and more dangerous than the visible creatures.

No wonder that the apostle repeats and amplifies his urgent call: Wherefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having overcome, to stand (as victors). To meet this mighty array of spiritual forces is beyond the power of any mere man, but with the full armor of God in our possession and every piece in its proper place, we can go forth into battle. This last world period is an evil day, an evil time; there is no peace, no armistice; only in yonder life will there be perfect peace and quietness for the children of God. But not for a moment dare we falter: we must overcome, we must conquer our enemies; in the power of the Lord we must remain victors on the field of battle. No matter how numerous and powerful our enemies, no matter how hard and hot the battle, "for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected"; we have the almighty God and His power on our side, and so the final victory must be ours.

Verses 14-20

The individual pieces of the armor and their use:

v. 14. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness,

v. 15. and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace;

v. 16. above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the Wicked.

v. 17. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God;

v. 18. praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints

v. 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,

v. 20. for which I am an ambassador in bonds; that there in I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

The battle of the Christians is not only a matter of having all the pieces of the divine panoply on and in their proper place, but also of making the proper use of them for defense and offense. The apostle addresses the warriors of the Lord: Stand, then, having girded your loins with truth. As soldiers that are ready to meet the onslaught of the enemy they shall stand upright, firm. Just as the ancient soldier held his clothes together about his loins with a girdle, in order to prevent their hindering his free use of his limbs, so the Christian, the soldier of God, puts on the girdle of truth, of moral purity, of the righteousness of life. Only he that is a Christian in deed and in truth will engage in the battle with all seriousness; only he will gather up the matters of every-day life and hold them together without hypocrisy, lest he be hindered in the great battle. As the soldiers of old wore a heavy breastplate to secure the chest with its vital organs against any disabling wound, so the Christians wear the breastplate of the righteousness of life, that they may do no one any wrong, but rather may be desirous of serving all and doing good, lest someone accuse their conscience that they have not lived righteously. Truth, righteousness, the free and open confession of the Gospel, these three things make a Christian ready for the warfare against the spirits of darkness. And another necessary point is not forgotten: And having shod your feet with the preparedness of the Gospel of peace. As the military sandal protected the feet of the ancient soldier against the rough spots in the road, and made it possible for him to move forward with a quick and certain step, so the Christians should always be ready and prepared to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Christ. See Isaiah 52:7. In the midst of the fierce battle in which he is engaged, the Christian has peace with God, and is able to impart this peace to others as well. Romans 5:1. And this very message with which they have been entrusted gives to the Christians all the more cheerful courage for the continuation of the fight which Satan is waging for the possession of his soul.

The parts of the panoply mentioned till now are those of the protective armor, which here come into consideration only as they shelter the person of the individual Christian. But God's armor includes also weapons of defense and of offense: in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you are able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the Evil One. Just as the warrior of old used a large shield to cover his whole person, to render him safe especially against the arrows and darts which the enemies might shoot, so saving faith in Christ Jesus as the Savior of the world renders the believer secure against all the fiery darts of the devil. The ancients sometimes made use of arrows and small spears that were impregnated with pitch or some other inflammatory material, set on fire before they were discharged, and inflicting ugly wounds. Thus the temptations of Satan will greatly harm the Christian in his faith and spiritual life, unless he meets them with the calm assurance of the forgiveness of sins through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Against this certainty all the ammunition of the devil is unable to make any headway.

And finally the apostle writes: And the helmet of salvation take, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. With the helmet the ancient soldier protected his head against cuts and strokes from above, while he, in turn, made use of a sword to thrust at the enemy and conquer him. The Christian has received from God the helmet of salvation, the certainty of final deliverance, the hope and expectation of the future life which is above in heaven, for whose sake we believe in Christ and suffer everything, without which we could not endure the strokes which are aimed at our head and are intended to take away our life. And with the sword of the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God, the Christians can overcome and definitely conquer all the spirits of evil. As Luther writes: "Here it is not enough that we defend ourselves against the devil with faith and hope as our shield and helmet, but we must also draw the sword and go for him with such insistence that he must fall back and flee, and we thus obtain the victory over him. " Since the Word of God is this weapon, it behooves us to make use of it at all times and to this end become acquainted with it both by means of public preaching and by earnest Bible study at home. Cursory reading must be supplemented by careful memorizing of proof-texts and strong passages. Only in this way shall we be able to make the proper use of the Word of God as a true weapon of offense at all times.

The apostle now adds a few words of prayer and intercession, with special reference to his own case: With all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the Spirit, and watching thereto in all perseverance and supplication, for all saints. Prayer also belongs to the armor of the Christians as a very essential part, since it accompanies all their doings. They are in constant communication with God, in petition, praise, giving of thanks. They have not only their own needs in mind, but make supplication for others as well. They pray not only in times of great crises in their lives, but at all times, being always in the fellowship of prayer with the Lord. In the Spirit they pray, for He it is that gives them power and guides their unlearned tongue to utter such words as will express their needs. Therefore the Christians are also constantly alert and vigilant; they do not permit a single opportunity to go by which might be a special hint to them to bring matters to the attention of the heavenly Father. Their supplication thus becomes an intercession as a matter of fact; they pray for all the saints, they remember all the believers in their daily prayer, especially in the Lord's Prayer. They are persevering in their supplications, importuning the Lord with their ceaseless crying, as Jesus Himself taught them, Luke 11:5-13; Luke 18:1-8. Prayer and supplication map not be a lost art in many parts of the Christian Church, but it certainly seems to be lacking in fervor and in confident trust, to judge by the results.

Paul asks the prayers of the Ephesian Christians also for himself: And for me, that to me may be given utterance in opening my mouth, in boldness to make known the mystery of the Gospel, in behalf of which I am an ambassador in a chain, that in it I may speak boldly, as it is my duty to speak. Paul wanted the Christians to intercede for him that he might be given the right word at the right time, Matthew 10:19, that he might open his mouth with all frankness, without fear of unpleasant consequences. For his one object was to make known the mystery of the Gospel, whose frank proclamation indeed calls for courage such as man cannot give to himself. In the interest, in the service of this Gospel he was a prisoner; but even in prison or as a prisoner he wished for opportunity to preach the Gospel committed to him, since he felt that obligation resting upon him, 1 Corinthians 9:16. It was not only the fact that he must speak, but especially the manner how he was to speak that concerned the apostle. Although he was an ambassador in chains, yet he felt the need of representing his Lord worthily: surely a shining example for all ministers of the Gospel.

Verses 21-24

Concluding Remarks and Greeting.

v. 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,

v. 22. whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.

v. 23. Peace be to the brethren and love with faith, from God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

v. 24. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

The epistle to the Ephesians is notable for the fact that it contains no personal discussions. That fact is here explained: But that you also may know my affairs and how I fare, all will Tychicus make known to you, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord. The first Roman imprisonment of Paul was not so severe but that he could freely communicate with his friends and receive their ministrations, Acts 28:30-31. And so Tychicus, one of Paul's younger helpers and valued very highly by him, had spent some time in Rome. This man, undoubtedly also the bearer of the letter, was to give the Ephesian Christians such information of a personal nature as they might be anxious to get. For, as Paul writes, he sent him for that very purpose that they might know all about the affairs of the apostle and his companions. The result of such information would naturally be that the hearts of the Christians in Ephesus might be comforted. They would see that the case of their beloved teacher was not so hopeless as might have seemed to them from reports received before, and thus they would be cheered and encouraged.

The closing benediction differs somewhat from that usually employed by the apostle, but its contents are the same. He wishes peace to the brethren, that peace of God which is in Christ Jesus and which passes all understanding; and love with faith, faith making the Christian, but love being the inevitable companion of faith. Both faith and love are also here represented as having their source in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. See 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4. Both of them together, equal in divine essence, bestow all spiritual blessings. And so the apostle concludes: Grace with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ, with incorruption. The highest gift is the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and that grace is found in the possession of all those that love the Lord Jesus, and will bring with it eternal, immutable, incorruptible love. Up in heaven, in eternal glory, the love which knows neither change, diminution, nor decay will find its full and glorious expression.


The apostle states the duties of children and parents, of servants and masters; he describes the Christian's spiritual enemies, his armor, and its use; he adds an admonition to prayer and intercession, and closes with a recommendation of Tychicus and with an apostolic blessing.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ephesians 6". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/ephesians-6.html. 1921-23.
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