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Ephesians 6

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Ephesians 6:0


Children and ParentsChildren and ParentsThe Christian HouseholdChildren and ParentsThe Morals of the Home
(Ephesians 5:21-9)(Ephesians 5:21-9)
Ephesians 6:1-4Ephesians 6:1-4Ephesians 6:1-3Ephesians 6:1-3Ephesians 6:1-4
Ephesians 6:4Ephesians 6:4
Slaves and MastersServants and MastersSlaves and Masters
Ephesians 6:5-9Ephesians 6:5-9Ephesians 6:5-8Ephesians 6:5-8Ephesians 6:5-9
Ephesians 6:9Ephesians 6:9
The Battle Against EvilThe Whole Armor of GodGod's Armor and the Christian's WarfareThe Whole Armor of GodThe Spiritual Warfare
Ephesians 6:10-20Ephesians 6:10-20Ephesians 6:10-17Ephesians 6:10-13Ephesians 6:10-13
Ephesians 6:14-20Ephesians 6:14-17
Ephesians 6:18-20Ephesians 6:18-20
Final GreetingsA Gracious GreetingPersonal Matters and BenedictionFinal GreetingsPersonal News and Final Salutation
Ephesians 6:21-22Ephesians 6:21-24Ephesians 6:21-22Ephesians 6:21-22Ephesians 6:21-22
Ephesians 6:23-24Ephesians 6:23-24Ephesians 6:23-24Ephesians 6:23-24

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This literary unit begins in Ephesians 5:22 as Paul uses the Christian home as one example of how the Spirit-filled life (cf. Ephesians 5:18) impacts daily life.

B. Paul's domestic example addresses three pairs:

1. wives and husbands

2. children and parents

3. house slaves and masters

C. Paul first addresses those who had no cultural rights or power (wives, children, slaves), but he also addresses those in power (husbands, parents, slave owners).

D. This domestic example deals exclusively with a Christian home. The power of mutual respect and love sets the pattern. This context does not address the issue of only one party of the three pairs being Christian. Believers' actions toward others is determined by their relationship to Christ and not by the worth or performance of the other party.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is there a personal force of evil in our world?

2. What is our responsibility in spiritual struggle?

3. Why does Paul use warfare as a description of the Christian life?

4. What does Paul ask for himself?

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 5:25-3 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30because we are members of His body. 31For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. 6:1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

Ephesians 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives" This is a present active imperative which is the only imperative in the paragraph. The husband should set the spiritual atmosphere in the home by continuing to love his wife as Christ loved the church. This was a radically positive statement in its day, but in our day the whole passage seems negative because it reflects the theological concept of male headship in the home (cf. Genesis 3:16; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Timothy 2:13). However, Christian husbands are servant leaders, not bosses.

"gave Himself up for her" The Greek preposition huper means "on behalf of." This refers to the vicarious, substitutionary atonement of Christ. It is also the kind of self-giving love required of husbands.

Ephesians 5:26 "He might sanctify her" The main verbs in Ephesians 5:26, Ephesians 5:27 are both aorist active subjunctives (cf. John 17:17-19; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 13:12). The word sanctify is from the root "holy." The purpose of justification is sanctification (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29). The subjunctive mood adds a note of contingency. As the church must cooperate, so too, the wife.

NASB"having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." NKJV"cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" NRSV"by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word" TEV"by his word, after making it clean by the washing in water" NJB"He made her clean by washing her in water with a form of words"

This is possibly an OT metaphor for cleansing (cf. John 15:3; Titus 3:5). It may refer to

1. the liturgy of baptism (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5)

2. the public confession of faith at baptism (cf. Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11)

3. a continuation of the marital imagery, a ritual bath of the bride before the ceremony, as a cultural symbol of purity

"The word" probably does not refer to the Bible, but to the words of the administrator of the baptism or of the profession of faith of the candidate.

Ephesians 5:27 "He might present to Himself the Church" This is another aorist active subjunctive, which presents an element of contingency. This seems to refer to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (cf. Revelation 19:6-9). Just as Jesus' love for the church revolutionized the church, so too, a husband's love for his wife should stabilize and bless the Christian home.

"spot" This is literally "no impurity."

"wrinkle" Literally this means "no sign of age."

"holy" This is from the same root as "sanctify" in Ephesians 5:26 (cf. Ephesians 1:4). See Special Topic: Holy at Ephesians 1:4.

"blameless" This is an Old Testament sacrificial term (cf. 1 Peter 1:19). This same concept is mentioned as God's will for the church in Ephesians 1:4. See Special Topic: Blameless at Colossians 1:22.

The cumulative weight of all of these terms is that God desires the complete holiness of His people (Ephesians 1:4). The goal of Christianity is Christlikeness (cf. Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 4:14). The image of God in man will be restored!

Ephesians 5:28 "as their own bodies" When Christian husbands love their Christian wives, they love themselves because in Christ they are "one flesh" (cf. Genesis 2:24). As the Church is the extension of Christ, husbands and wives are an extension of each other.

Ephesians 5:29 "nourishes" This is a bird metaphor that means "to feed to maturity." It is used of the rearing of children in Ephesians 6:4.

"cherishes" This is another bird metaphor, "to warm." These two terms should motivate every mature Christian husband's actions toward his wife. Husbands are stewards of their wives' (and children's) gifts as well as their own! The spiritual leader of the home must seek the maturity of each member of the family in Christ.

Ephesians 5:30 "we are members of His body" The church as a physical body is one of Paul's corporate metaphors which stresses unity amidst diversity (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Ephesians 5:31 This is a quote from the Septuagint (LXX ) of Genesis 2:24. As the Christian family is an organic unit, so is the church and Christ. The family is to be one inseparable unit, just as the church and her Lord are (cf. John 17:11, John 17:21-22) one body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:0). This truth rejects the exclusivism of the false teachers of that day and every day.

Ephesians 5:32 "mystery" The Latin Vulgate has "sacrament," but this is a textual insertion following Roman Catholic sacramentalism. Paul uses the term "mystery" several times probably because it was a favorite term of the Gnostic false teachers. Paul uses it in several ways. Here it relates to the metaphorical comparison between husbands and wives/Christ and the church. For a full discussion see Ephesians 1:9 and Ephesians 3:3.

Ephesians 5:33 "love. . .respect" This is a present active imperative and present middle (deponent) subjunctive. The husband is commanded to continue to love his wife as himself (one flesh, Ephesians 5:31) and wives are called on to yield to and respect their husbands, which would enhance and strengthen the bonds of love between them. This is the summary statement of the entire passage (Ephesians 5:21-33).

Verse 4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:4 4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"fathers" TEV, NJB"parents"

The Greek text has "fathers." The modern English dynamic equivalent translations (TEV and NJB) have widened the meaning because of Ephesians 6:2, where both father and mother are mentioned. However, in the larger context of Ephesians 5:21-9, Paul addresses first the three groups who had no social rights-wives, children, slaves-and then addresses the ones who had all the rights-husbands, fathers, and masters. There is a spiritual responsibility for every member of a Christian home.

"do not provoke" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in process (cf. Colossians 3:21). Like Ephesians 5:25, this was the needed balance, in the Greco-Roman world, and ours. Fathers are not ultimate authorities, but Christian stewards of their families.

Christian fathers must understand their stewardship role in the lives of their children. Fathers are not to teach personal preferences, but spiritual truths. The goal is not parental authority, but passing on God's authority to children. There is always a generation gap, but never a divine authority gap. Children do not have to reflect parental habits, choices, or lifestyle to be pleasing to God. We must be careful of the desire to mold our children into our current cultural understanding or to reflect our personal preferences.

As a local pastor near a large state school, I noticed that many of the wildest young people came from conservative Christian homes which allowed them no personal choices or freedoms. Freedom is a heady experience and must be introduced in responsible stages. Christian children must develop lives based on personal conviction and faith, not second-hand parental guidelines.

"bring them up" This is a present active imperative which comes from the same word root, "to feed to maturity," as in Ephesians 5:29. As it is the husband's responsibility to continue to help his wife grow to spiritual maturity and giftedness, he is also to help his children reach their full spiritual maturity and giftedness (cf. Ephesians 4:7).

NASB, NRSV"in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" NKJV"in the training and admonition of the Lord" TEV"Christian discipline and instruction" NJB"correct them and guide them as the Lord does"

The first term is from the Greek root for "child" and refers to the parental training of children (cf. Hebrews 12:5, Hebrews 12:7, Hebrews 12:8, Hebrews 12:11) and for the Lord's training of believers (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

The second term is the general term for warning, correction, or admonition (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11; Titus 3:10). The training of children in the faith was a major emphasis of Judaism (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7-9, Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Deuteronomy 32:46). Parental training recognizes the necessity of passing on the personal faith and the Scriptural truths of God, not the personal preferences, or cultural opinions of parents, to the next generation.

Verses 5-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:5-8 5Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

Ephesians 6:5 "slaves" This is Paul's third domestic example to show how being filled with the Spirit makes a difference in daily life (cf. Colossians 3:22). "Slaves" (douloi) refers to household servants.

"be obedient" This is a Present active imperative. There is a great parallel passage in 1 Peter 2:18-21. There is an obvious parallel between wives, children and servants, except that wives were not commanded to obey as children (for a period) and slaves are.


"who are your masters according to the flesh" Here the Greek term flesh (sarx) is used in the sense of the physical, not of evil. This general truth relates to both the Christian masters and pagan masters (i.e., to both kind and unkind bosses). Notice the phrase "in the Lord" is not found here as in the two previous domestic examples (cf. Ephesians 6:1 and 6:1).

Modern western culture does not have slaves, yet this spiritual truth surely applies to Christian employers and Christian employees.

"with fear and trembling" This is a metaphor of respect (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12).

"in sincerity of heart" This is a metaphor from the term "singleness." It is used in two ways in the NT (1) sincerity (cf. 2 Chronicles 1:12; 2 Chronicles 11:3; Colossians 3:22) or (2) liberality (cf. Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13). In this context it is obviously #1. A believer's motivation is always the key to proper action, not observation (cf. Ephesians 6:6-7). Believers live out their lives in every area as unto the Lord (cf. Colossians 3:22-25 and Romans 14:7-9)! They are motivated not by the worth or merit of another, but by who they are in Christ.

Christian husbands love their wives not because the wives are perfect or deserve it but because they are Christians. This is true of all human interpersonal relationships. Believers love God by loving others made in His image, for whom He died (cf. 1 John 2:9, 1 John 2:11; 1 John 4:20). See Special Topic: Heart at Colossians 2:2.

"as to Christ" Believers act toward others because of their relationship to Christ, not because of what the others deserve (cf. Ephesians 5:22; Romans 14:7-9). This is true of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. Believers make people priority because of God's image and love for them, not because of their personal merit.

Ephesians 6:8 "knowing that whatever good thing" This context is not a worship setting but believers' daily relationships with others, fellow Christians and nonbelievers. God is concerned with all our actions. There is no secular; all is sacred!

Verse Ephesians 6:8a is a third class conditional sentence meaning potential future action. Believers are expected to do good works (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:17-14). Believers are not right with God by good works but they are saved unto good works.

"will receive back from the Lord" God is watching believers' lives and they will give an account (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). The Bible does speak of rewards (cf. Matthew 5:12, Matthew 5:46; Matthew 6:1-2; Matthew 10:41-42; Luke 6:23, Luke 6:35; 1 Corinthians 3:8, 1 Corinthians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:17-18; 2 John 1:8; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 22:12) and crowns (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:23; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10). Paul was stating a general principle similar to Galatians 6:7-9.

Verse 9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:9 9And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Ephesians 6:9 "masters" This is still the same literary context as Ephesians 5:22-9, which is Paul's domestic example of the "Spirit-filled" life in action. In this verse the masters referred to are obviously believers, while in Ephesians 6:5 they might be either believers or nonbelievers.

"do the same things to them" This is a present active imperative. Here again is the needed balance to slave owners, as Ephesians 5:29 is to husbands and Ephesians 6:4 is to parents. Each must act out of godly (Spirit-filled) principles, not social privilege. Jesus' golden rule (Matthew 7:12) applies here.

"give up threatening" This is a present active participle used as an imperative. The word literally means "to loosen up."

"there is no partiality with Him" The term "partiality" is a compound from "face" and "to lift." It denotes an OT judge acting fairly without lifting the face of the accused to see if he recognized him/her. God is no respecter of persons (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). All earthly distinctions fade away in Christ (cf. Romans 3:22; Galatians 3:26, Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). See Special Topic: Racism at Colossians 3:11.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was this passage so startling for Paul's day?

2. Does it stress rights or duties?

3. What is this passage saying about women? Should this passage be used as a guideline for our day?

4. How is Ephesians 6:21 related to Ephesians 5:22-9?

5. Should children always obey parents? Define "children."

6. Can the slave/master relationship be analogous to employee/employer?

7. How are wives and children related to slaves?


A. The Christian life is a spiritual struggle. Problems, suffering, and persecution are not abnormal, but normal, for Christians in a fallen world (cf. Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:17-18; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 4:12-17; 1 Peter 5:10).

B. The spiritual battle may be related contextually to the present passive imperative, "be filled with the Spirit," of Ephesians 5:18 and the present passive (or middle, see note at Ephesians 5:22) imperative "be made strong in the Lord," Ephesians 6:10. As the filling is related to daily Christlikeness (Colossians 3:16) so too, is the spiritual battle. People are priority with God. The battleground is interpersonal relationships on a daily basis. Only people are eternal. Although these passives speak of God's power, the Christian must allow the Spirit to work in their lives. Covenant involves two parties, two choices.

C. We must be careful of two extremes: (1) Satan causes everything and (2) there is no personal evil. I assume because of OT monotheism that Satan is a created being and a controlled being (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1-5). He is neither omnipresent, nor omniscient. Satan has been mentioned earlier in the letter in Ephesians 6:2 and 4:14,27! He is only one of three enemies that Christians face daily-the world, Satan (and his), and the flesh (cf. Ephesians 2:2-3; James 4:0).

D. God provides our spiritual armor and weapons, but believers must (1) recognize the daily spiritual battle and (2) avail themselves, by faith, of God's resources and then (3) stand (cf. Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:13, Ephesians 6:14). Spiritual maturity is not automatic, nor is it based on longevity, IQ (i.e., intelligence), or giftedness..

E. Verses Ephesians 6:21-22 are almost identical to Colossians 4:7-8. This is additional evidence of the close relationship between these two books. However, it is interesting that the entire discussion of spiritual warfare is omitted in Colossians. Each book has its own uniqueness.

Verses 10-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-17 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:10 "finally" Literally this is "for the rest." This is a characteristic Pauline phrase implying he is about to close his letter (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). It usually marks a transition to a new point.

"be strong in the Lord" This is either a present passive imperative, "be made strong," or a present middle imperative, "be strong." The grammatical form is the same, only the function is different. The theology is clear: believers must continue to allow the Spirit to strengthen them for the ongoing spiritual struggle (cf. Ephesians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 16:13). This paradox between the passive voice (God's power flowing through believers) and the middle voice (believers actively involved in living for Christ) is the dialectical tension found throughout the Bible. Basically it is the tension of a covenant relationship (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). God always takes the initiative, always sets the agenda, but He has also chosen that humans must respond (initially and continually). Sometimes the Bible emphasizes mankind's response (Ezekiel 18:31, "Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit") and sometimes God's provision (cf. Ezekiel 36:26-27, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you."). Both are true!

Four Greek terms (dunamis = power; energeia = energy; kratos = strength and ischus = might) are used in Ephesians 1:10 to describe God's power in Christ. Here, three of these same words are used.


"in the strength of His might" YHWH was often described in the OT as a warrior wearing armor (cf. Isaiah 42:13; Isaiah 49:24-25; Isaiah 52:10 and especially 59:16-17). It is His armor, not ours. Our victory is in Him (cf. Philippians 2:13), but we must cooperate (cf. Philippians 2:12).

Ephesians 6:11 "put on the full armor of God" This is an aorist middle imperative which conveys a sense of urgency (cf. Ephesians 6:13). This is a decisive act of the believer's will. God has provided our needed spiritual equipment, but we must recognize the need and avail ourselves of God's provision and apply it to our daily lives (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Justification (Romans 4:0; Romans 6:0) does not provide a deliverance from spiritual struggle and temptation (cf. Romans 7:0). The presence of the "new man" does not imply the total removal of the "old man." Often the battle is intensified. If Satan cannot keep us from being saved, he will attempt to keep us spiritually defeated and silenced!

"that you may be able to stand firm" This is a present passive infinitive followed by an aorist active infinitive, which refers to the daily struggle, not one decisive "battle" or temptation (this is similar to Jesus' temptation in Luke 4:13, where Satan departs until a more opportune time). The term "stand" is a military term for holding one's position. It is repeated in Ephesians 6:13 and 14. It is the key purpose of the believer's armor.


NASB"against the schemes of the devil" NKJV, NRSV"against the wiles of the devil" TEV"against the devil's evil tricks" NJB"the devil's tactics"

Christians are attacked by an angelic tempter, Satan (cf. Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 4:14, Ephesians 4:27; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Satan uses many schemes (methodia).

1. disunity

2. personal sin

3. false teachers

4. discouragement

5. apathy

6. suffering

These are just some things that the recipients of this letter faced. However, believers cannot attribute all sin and problems to angelic temptation or attack. Fallen mankind, even redeemed fallen mankind, faces (1) a continuing sin nature; (2) a fallen world system; and (3) an angelic and demonic attack (cf. Ephesians 2:2-3; James 4:1, James 4:4, James 4:7). The battle starts in the mind but moves quickly to sinful acts. For the Special Topic: Personal Evil see Ephesians 2:2.

Notice the numbers of times "against" appears in this context (once in v. Ephesians 6:11 and four times in Ephesians 6:12). The panoply of evil is thwarted by the panoply of God's armor!

Ephesians 6:12

NASB, NRSV"our struggle is not" NKJV"we do not wrestle" TEV"we are not fighting against" NJB"we have to struggle"

This is a present tense verb which implies an ongoing struggle, not a one-time temptation. This was either a military or athletic metaphor. It literally refers to hand-to-hand combat. The Christian life is tough! The Christian life is a supernatural gift lived out by repentance and faith, as is salvation.

"against flesh and blood" The word order is literally "blood and flesh." Notice the abnormal sequence of these terms. It is found only here and in Hebrews 2:14. The reason is uncertain, but it may be related to the Gnostic false teachers' depreciation of the physical (Jesus' humanity). Believers must remember the spiritual problem is sin, evil, and Satan, not competition from other human beings!

"against the rulers; against the powers" These terms can be used of human authorities as in Romans 13:1-7, but here the context demands angelic levels (aeons) of authority (cf. Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 3:22). This was part of the Gnostic false teachers' worldview. These angelic levels (aeons) may be

1. evil, that is, fallen angels under Satan's control, the demonic

2. the angelic authorities called the stoichea who are not necessarily evil (cf. Galatians 4:3, Galatians 4:9; Colossians 2:8)

For a good discussion of the subject see Hendrik Berkhof, Christ and the Powers (Herald Press).

For "rulers" see Special Topic: Archç at Colossians 1:16.



NASB"against the world-forces of this darkness" NKJV"against the rulers of the darkness of this age" NRSV"against the cosmic powers of this present darkness" TEV"against the cosmic powers of this dark age" NJB"the spiritual army of evil in the heavens"

This is the Greek term kosmocrator in its plural form. This term is used in the Greek Classics and the writings of the Jewish rabbis to describe someone bent on world control. This seems to speak of Satan (cf. John 12:31; John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2) and the demonic (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6,8 15:24; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15).

"against the spirit-forces of wickedness" This phrase was used in Paul's day by astrologers who believed there were angels or gods behind the heavenly bodies (cf. Romans 8:39) that affected human life (zodiac). This all began with Babylonian astrology. It is still alive and well (horoscopes).

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"in the heavenly places" TEV"in the heavenly world" NJB"in the heavens"

This locative (of sphere) neuter plural adjective "in the heavenly places" is used only in Ephesians (cf. Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12). From the context of all of its usages (esp. Ephesians 3:10 and Ephesians 6:12), it must mean the spiritual realm in which believers live here and now, not heaven by and by.

Ephesians 6:13 "you must take up the full armor of God" This is an aorist active imperative which showed the need for decisive action (cf. v. Ephesians 6:11). It is another military term. It is possibly an allusion to YHWH as warrior from Isaiah 59:17. The armor is mentioned in the order in which it would have been put on by a soldier (remember Paul wrote this from prison chained to two Roman soldiers).

Notice the full armor is God's armor! He provides, but believers must recognize the battle and implement God's sufficient provision.

"you may be able to resist" This is an aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive with an aorist active infinitive. There is a spiritual battle before and after conversion. Some believers do not know there is an ongoing, spiritual battle; they do not take up God's armor and they do not resist. The terminology is similar to James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:9. Christians can lose or damage their peace, assurance, and gifted ministry through (1)ignorance; (2) neglect; and/or (3) sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 3:4; Philippians 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:19). This does not refer to heaven or hell, but effective kingdom service!

"in the evil day" This is an OT idiom which could refer to (1) a day of temptation; (2) the whole evil age in which we live; or (3) a day of adversity (cf. Psalms 49:5ff).

"having done everything" This term had the connotation of one having done everything that was required. Paul uses this term more than eighteen times in his letters. In the spiritual realm (1) preparation; (2) consistency; and (3) knowledge are crucial!

"stand firm" This is an aorist active infinitive meaning "to stand fast." The same term is used in Ephesians 6:11 (present passive infinitive) and 14 (aorist active imperative). Believers are commanded and encouraged to resist, overcome, and stand against the schemes of the devil (cf. Ephesians 4:14). This is done by means of

1. the believers' knowledge of the gospel (the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17)

2. the believer's position in Christ

3. the believers' yieldedness to the indwelling Spirit

4. the believers' implementation of the armor provided by God

5. the believer's decisive choices and actions

6. prayer (cf. Ephesians 6:18)

See Special Topic: Stand at Ephesians 6:11.

Ephesians 6:14 Three of the following four participles are taken from passages in Isaiah. They are all grammatically related to this aorist active imperative, "stand" in Ephesians 6:13 (this structure is like Ephesians 5:18, imperative followed by five participles, Ephesians 5:19-21).

1. "having girded" aorist middle participle (Ephesians 6:14). This is a quote from Isaiah 11:5 where it was used of the Messiah.

2. "having put on" aorist middle participle (Ephesians 6:14). This is a quote from Isaiah 59:17, where it is used of God as a warrior on behalf of sinful Israel (cf. Eph. 59:12).

3. "having shod" aorist middle participle (Ephesians 6:15). This is a quote from Isaiah 52:7, where the Lord comes to His people as a King bringing good news (cf. Eph. 61:1).

4. "taking up" aorist active participle (Ephesians 6:16, cf. Ephesians 6:13). This is implied in Isaiah 59:17. God's provisions must be implemented in daily life.

"truth" There is not an article in Greek, so it may be translated in the OT sense of "truthfulness" or "trustworthiness." See Special Topic at Ephesians 1:13.

"the breastplate" This is one of the pieces of armor listed in Isaiah 59:17, as is the helmet of Ephesians 6:17.

"of righteousness" This refers to Christ's righteousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). However, like the dialectical tension related to strengthening in Ephesians 6:10, it is both Christ's imputed righteousness (positional justification and sanctification) and His followers' progressive Christlikeness (progressive sanctification) that brings victory in the daily spiritual struggle. See Special Topic at Ephesians 4:24.

Ephesians 6:15 "having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace" This either refers to (1) readiness (cf. Isaiah 52:7) or (2) a sure foundation (cf. NEB translation). Believers must be prepared for the spiritual struggle that will surely come.

Ephesians 6:16 "in addition" The KJV translates this as "above all," but it means in addition to the above mentioned military battle armor.

"the shield" This term is related to the Greek word for "door." It refers to the large 4' x 2' full-body shield. It was made of wood with leather coverings surrounded by metal. It was soaked in water before battle so as to extinguish the fire-tipped arrows. It was a symbol of full protection.

"flaming missiles" This refers to arrows dipped in pitch and lighted. These were metaphorical of spiritual attacks.

"the evil one" There is an ambiguity as to whether it refers to evil in general (neuter) or Satan in particular (masculine). This same ambiguity can be seen in Matthew 5:37; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 13:38; John 17:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 2:13-14. The form of the word in Greek is the same (therefore, the gender can only be ascertained from context). In Matthew 13:19; 1 John 5:18-19 it obviously refers to Satan (see Special Topic at Ephesians 2:2).

Ephesians 6:17 "take the helmet of salvation" This is an aorist middle (deponent) imperative. It is symbolic of believers' knowledge of the gospel and their hope in Christ (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8).

"the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" Paul specifically defines the believers' offensive weapons (i.e., Bible knowledge and prayer, Ephesians 6:18). This was an allusion to an OT metaphor for God speaking to His people (cf. Isaiah 49:2; Hosea 6:5). God's revelation (both the living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written word, the Bible) is described in these same terms in Hebrews 4:12. Although a different Greek term for "word" (rhçma versus logos) is used in Hebrews, the term for "sword" is the same (the small tongue-shaped Roman weapon).

It is dangerous to draw too sharp a distinction between parallel terms in Koine Greek (it was the language of commerce and the distinctions of Classical Greek were fading) like "rhçma" and "logos." This may refer to the use of the Scriptures during temptation, like Jesus did in Matthew 4:1ff. Believers' knowledge of the gospel will protect them in their daily spiritual struggles. This is why Scripture memorization and personal Bible study are so valuable (cf. Psalms 19:7-11; Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 6:23). This is the only offensive weapon listed among the armor (although I think prayer in Ephesians 6:18 is another). It is for protection. As in Ephesians 6:18-20 it can be used for Kingdom advance!

Verses 18-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:18-20 18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:18 "with all prayer and petition, pray at all times" Notice the number of times the inclusive term "all" is used in Ephesians 6:18. Prayer is another powerful weapon in the spiritual battle which is the Christian's daily life in this fallen age. Paul requested prayer for himself in Ephesians 6:19 (cf. Colossians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). He did not ask for personal issues but for clarity and boldness in gospel proclamation (cf. Colossians 4:3-4). It is interesting to note that Paul does not discuss the spiritual battle in Colossians but he does emphasize the need for prayer (cf. Colossians 4:2).

"in the Spirit" The term "spirit" has no article (ananthrous). This can be understood in different ways. It may refer to

1. the Spirit praying for believers ( cf. Romans 8:26-27)

2. Christians praying in spiritual power (cf. Jude 1:20)

3. parallel to John 4:23 "in spirit and truth"

4. "spirit" as distinct from "mind" (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:14-15)

Effective, fervent prayer is impossible without the Spirit's involvement!

Notice the aspects of spirit-led prayer:

1. at all times

2. in the Spirit

3. be alert with perseverance

4. pray for all the saints

"for all the saints" See Special Topic: Saints at Colossians 1:2.

Ephesians 6:19 "pray on my behalf" Paul asked for prayer, not for himself personally, but for the power to present the gospel clearly as he spoke during his trials before the Roman authorities (cf. Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1):

1. "that utterance may be given me" (Ephesians 6:19)

2. "to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel" (Ephesians 6:19 "freedom of speech," cf. Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:35).

3. "I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 4:4).


"with boldness" See Special Topic: Boldness (Parrhçsia) at Colossians 2:15.

"mystery of the gospel" Paul uses this term in several different ways describing God's redemptive plan. Here it refers to the believing Jews and Gentiles being one body in Christ. This concept is clearly spelled out in Ephesians 2:11-13. The term appears in Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3, Ephesians 3:4, Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 5:32. See Special Topic at Ephesians 3:3.

Ephesians 6:20 "I am an ambassador in chains" Paul understood his apostleship to the Gentiles as both a stewardship (1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Titus 1:7) and an ambassadorship (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). He was in prison to preach the gospel to the Roman authorities in Rome, as he had to the authorities in Judea (cf. Acts 9:15).

Verses 21-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:21-22 21But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.

Ephesians 6:21 "Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord" He is mentioned in Acts 20:4; Colossians 4:7; Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:12. He was the bearer of the letter. Also, he probably carried the letters of Colossians and Philemon to Asia Minor and was accompanied by Onesimus. He also possibly may have carried the letter of Ephesians to all the churches of Asia Minor. He also may have functioned as Paul's scribe, like Tertius of Romans 16:22.

Ephesians 6:21-22 These verses are the same in Greek as Colossians 4:7-8, except Colossians adds "fellow bond servant," which shows that Paul probably wrote the two books close to the same time.

Ephesians 6:22 Paul wanted the churches to know of his circumstances so that they could pray for him and not worry about him. He felt he was in God's plan for his life and ministry (cf. Acts 9:15).

"hearts" See Special Topic at Colossians 2:2.

One wonders if Paul himself did not pen this verse as well as Ephesians 6:23-24.

Verses 23-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ephesians 6:23-24 23Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.

Ephesians 6:23-24 These same themes opened the letter! Paul usually penned the closing thoughts himself to authenticate his letters.

Ephesians 6:24

NASB"with a love incorruptible" NKJV"in sincerity" NRSV"an undying love" TEV"with undying love" NJB"eternal life"

This term usually means "incorruptible" (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Timothy 1:17). It had the connotation of something unchanging and eternal. This was an encouragement in light of the confusion and conflict caused by the false teachers and the personal spiritual battle.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ephesians 6". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ephesians-6.html. 2021.
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