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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Ephesians 6

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. VI.

The duty of children towards their parents, and of servants towards their masters. Our life is a warfare, not only against flesh and blood, but also against spiritual enemies. The complete armour of a Christian, and how it ought to be used: Tychicus is commended.

Anno Domini 62.

THE Apostle, having explained the duties of wives and husbands, proceeds to the duties of children and parents, Ephesians 6:1-4.—then to those of servants and masters, Ephesians 6:5-9.—and with there he finishes his account of relative duties.

Having delivered these precepts, the Apostle added a general exhortation to the Ephesians, to be strong in the performance of all their duties; which he enforced by the discovery of another deep article of the mystery of God; namely, that evil angels are leagued together against men, and continually occupied in tempting them to sin, with a view to ruin them, Ephesians 6:10-12.—But that the Ephesians might not be too much terrified with this discovery, the Apostle shewed them what an excellent defence against the attacks of the devil God had furnished them with, in the complete armour which he had provided for them, Ephesians 6:13-18.—called therefore the complete armour of God.

Next, the Apostle begged the Ephesians to pray for him, that he might be enabled to speak plainly and boldly in support of the gospel, when brought before the emperor and his ministers; which, it seems, he expected would happen soon, Ephesians 6:19-20.—But to free them from their anxiety on account of the danger he was exposed to, he told them, that he had sent Tychicus to give them information concerning his affairs, Ephesians 6:21-22.—Then, as a token of his love, he gave to them, and to all the brethren of Asia, who were sincere in their attachment to the Lord Jesus Christ, his apostolical benediction, Ephesians 6:23-24.


Verse 2

Ephesians 6:2. Which is the first commandment with promise; The church of Rome would hence argue, that the second commandment, which forbids the worship of images, having a promise added to it, of God's shewing mercy to thousands in them that love him and keep his commandments, can be no longer obligatory under the gospel; since this which relates to honouring of parents, is said to be the first commandment with promise. But it is easy to discern the fallacy and weakness of this argument, as what is annexed to the second commandment apparently relates to the whole law, and is a general declaration of the mercy which God would shew to those who kept, not only that, but all his commandments; while this of which the Apostle speaks, is the first and only precept of the decalogue, which has a particular promise annexed to it peculiar to itself.


Verse 3

Ephesians 6:3. That—thou mayest live long, &c.— It has been observed, that the Apostle does not say, upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, that he might not encourage a vain hope in the Jews of continuing in the land of Canaan. And if it were considered that those to whom he was writing were chiefly Gentile converts, the clause would very properly be omitted in this view, as it must better suit the case of the whole church to express the promise in a general way.


Verse 4

Ephesians 6:4. Ye fathers, provoke not your children, &c.— "Ye fathers, be careful not to exasperate your children, by an overbearing and tyrannical behaviour; by rigorous severity; lest by this means you should excite them to such a secret indignation, as may make it difficult for them to restrain those expressions of wrath, which, in such a relation, would be very indecent: and, among other evil consequences of such a conduct, there is great reason also to conclude, that it would naturally prejudice them against Christianity, and thus would bring upon yourselves a share in the guilt of their disobedience, and their ruin." By the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is meant, "Such a course of discipline and instruction as properly belongs to a religious education; which ought to be employed in forming them for the Lord, by layinga restraint upon the first appearances of every vicious passion, and nourishing them with the words of faith, and of good doctrine." See 1 Timothy 4:6.


Verse 6

Ephesians 6:6. Not with eye-service, "Not as attending on their business only while their master's eyes are upon them." Grotius takes notice of the great elegance of the compound words made use of here in the original; which our translators have endeavoured to imitate. But as the Greek abounds more in such compound words than any other language, so St. Paul has frequently introduced them in his writ


Verse 9

Ephesians 6:9. Forbearing threatening: "Forbearing not only cruel and dangerous blows, butallsevere and rigorous threatening; and every thing of an over-hasty and tyrannical conduct." Mr. Locke paraphrases it: "Forbearing the roughness even of unnecessary menaces."


Verse 11

Ephesians 6:11. Put on the whole armour of God, The word in the original is πανοπλια, panoply, which includes all sorts of armour, whether offensive or defensive. This the Apostle applies to the exercise of all those Christian graces with which we are furnished by God, to be made use of in his strength, as well to annoy the enemy, as to defend ourselves; and it appears by the particular description which the Apostle here proceeds to give of it, to be a suit of armour, every way complete, and properly adapted to the defence of every part; with this exception, that none is provided for the back; to hint to us, as some have observed, that we must always face the enemy, or we shall soon lie open to his attacks, and have no defence from dangers. The reader will find, in Gurnall's "Christian in complete Armour," a very large and practical improvement of this portion of Sacred Scripture.


Verse 12

Ephesians 6:12. Principalities, against powers, These are put here for those revolted angels, who stood in opposition to the kingdom of God. The rulers of the darkness of this world, seems to mean those who have long usurped a dominion over the world, and who, in the present age, hold men in the chains of hereditary superstition and destructive errors, which have been delivered down to them through many succeeding generations. There is somewhat peculiar in the original of the next clause, which Mr. Locke paraphrases, "the spiritual managers of the opposition to the kingdom of God." There is no doubt but it refers to those revolted spirits who are continuallyemployed in propagating wickedness. Some, however, would render the last words εν τοις επουρανιοις, about heavenly things; as signifying that we wrestlewith them to secure to ourselves those spiritual and eternal blessings, of which they would endeavour to deprive us.


Verse 14

Ephesians 6:14. Having your loins girt about, &c.— It has often been observed, that the military girdle was not only an ornament, but a defence; as it hid the gaping joints of the armour, and kept them close and steady, as well as fortified the loins of those who wore it, rendering them more vigorous and fit for action. The chief difficulty here is to know, whether truth refers to the true principles of religion, or to integrity in our conduct; and how, on the latter interpretation, to keep it distinct from the breast-plate of righteousness; or, on the former, from the shield of faith: but perhaps it may rather signify some virtue of the mind, as do all the other parts of the armour enumerated; and then it must refer to that uprightness and sincerity of intention, which produces righteousness, or a holy and equitable conduct, as its proper fruit.


Verse 15

Ephesians 6:15. Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. "With that peaceful and benevolent temper which is so much recommended by the gospel, as an essential part of the Christian character; and which, like the boots worn by soldiers, willbearyouunhurt through the many difficulties and trials, which, like sharp-pointed thorns, may lie in your way, and dangerously obstruct your progress." Mr. Locke understands by this, an habitual readiness to walk in the way of the gospel of peace; as if it were intended, as a general injunction, to obey all its precepts: but it evidently appears to be designed, in a particular manner, to point out the preparation which the gospel makes for our defence, by that peaceful temper which it so often teaches and inculcates.


Verse 16

Ephesians 6:16. Above all, Over and above all. Blackwall. This last translation best answers to the particle επι here used, and best expresses the allusion to the situation of the shield, as covering the other pieces of the armour;—which has here a beautiful propriety, as truth, righteousness, and peace, are sheltered, as it were, by faith, fromtheassaultswhichmightotherwiseoverbearthem.Manycommentatorssuppose that the Apostle, in the last clause of this verse, be able to quench, &c. refers to an ancient custom, still prevailing among the Indians and other barbarous nations, to dip their arrows in the blood and gall of asps and vipers, and other poisonous preparations, which fire the blood of those who are wounded with them, occasion exquisite pain, and make the least wound mortal: and some Greek writers tell us, that it was usual for soldiers to have shields made of raw hides, which immediately quenched them. It is also certain, that some arrows were discharged with so great a velocity, that they fired in their passage. If the Apostle alludes to this, he may mean to hint those furious suggestions which the Wicked one may sometimes discharge into the mind, like so many envenomed arrows, or darts, which kindle by the swiftness of their passage.


Verse 17

Ephesians 6:17. And take the helmet of salvation, &c.— "Possess that cheerful hope of complete deliverance and eternal happiness, which will cover your head in the day of battle, and give you a well grounded boldness and confidence, which will greatly conduce to your success: and brandish in your hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, those declarations of his word and gospel which his Spirit has inspired, and by a firm confidence in which you will be able, not only to defend yourselves, but to repel your adversaries."


Verse 18

Ephesians 6:18. Watching thereunto with all perseverance "Be assiduously careful to maintain a praying frame of spirit, and to watch for all convenient seasons for prayer; as also to watch against the designs and methods of your adversaries, and for all opportunities and assistances to annoy and defeat them; and to watch for all influences of the Spirit in prayer, and for all answers to prayer; and see that you be constant and unweariedherein,withoutfainting,thoughyoumaynot receive immediate answers of peace."


Verse 19

Ephesians 6:19. And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, "And for me in particular, that I may, with freedom and plainness of speech, preach the word."


Verse 20

Ephesians 6:20. For which I am an ambassador in bonds: Some would render the original ( πρεσβευω εν αλυσει ) I grow old in a chain: comp. Philemon 1:9 the phrase where Παυλος πρεσβυτης signifies Paul the aged. But it is certain that the common version of this passage may be justified. As the persons of ambassadors were always sacred, the Apostle seems to refer to the outrage which was done to his divine Master in this violation of his liberty.


Verse 21

Ephesians 6:21. Tychicus, a beloved brother He was one of St. Paul's friends and fellow-labourers, and had been his companion in the last interview that he had with the elders of Ephesus, when he sent for them to come to him at Miletus. See Acts 20:4; Acts 20:17.


Verse 24

Ephesians 6:24. In sincerity. The Greek word signifies in incorruption, αφθαρσια . Mr. Locke explains the wordof such a love as would prevent men's mixing any thing with the gospel which was not genuine, and might render it ineffectual. Comp. Galatians 2:4. But it seems rather to express that uprightness of heart which is opposed to the putting on false presences, and may, with great propriety, be understood as a general description of a true Christian: and indeed it is manifest, that wherever this unfeigned, this inviolable love to Christ prevails, there will, of course, be all the other essential parts of the Christian character.

[ See Locke, Lardner, Doddridge, Michaelis, Whitby, Bos, Bengelius, Calmet, Pearson, Sherlock, Sharpe, Mede, Goodwin, Limborch, Taylor, Leland, Warburton, Josephus, Junius, Poole, Diodati, Wolsius, Heylin, Franckins, Blackwall, Grotius, Vitringa, Hammond, Chrysostom, Owen, Mintert, Rollin, Bates, Luther, Schmidius, Stockius, Barrow, Bowyer, Menochius, Gurnall, and Raphelius.]

Inferences.—It is matter of thankful acknowledgment, that the Almighty God condescends in his word to give us particular instructions, suited to the circumstances in which we are respectively placed. Children and servants are not forgotten. Let them attend to those gracious lessons which are here given by the supreme Parent and Master, who, while he teaches them, pleads their cause, and interposes his high authority to vindicate them from oppression and abuse.

Much of the happiness of society evidently depends on the temper and conduct of those who are placed in these lower relations. Let children, therefore, learn to be subject to their parents, with all dutiful and humble respect, from a sense of the reasonableness of the command, and of the goodness which has annexed such a promise to it; a promise which shall still be efficacious, so far as long life would be indeed a blessing to a pious child.

Servants, with all godly simplicity and uprightness of heart, should revere the authority of Christ in them that are their masters according to the flesh; and exercise a good conscience towards them upon all occasions, not only when under their eye, but in their absence; well knowing that GOD is always present, and always attentive to the conduct of every rational creature, in whatsoever rank. Let them cherish that inward good-will, and benevolence of heart, which renders every act of service uniform and steady, and makes it, in a degree, obliging, even when performed by those from whom authority might have extorted it: nor let the certain and important reward which will assuredly follow every good action, whether great or small,—whether performed by persons in more elevated or inferior stations of life, fail to animate us all to a zealous diligence in well-doing, whatever discouragement may at present attend us.

Those who bear the superior relations in life should remember, that the command of a much higher Parent and Lord requires also of them a tender regard to their inferiors. Let Parents, therefore, govern their own passions, that they may not terrify and oppress the tender spirits of their children; or, if they be otherwise than tender, may not teach them an evil lesson against themselves, and by their own example strengthen them in those excesses, which may be a disgrace and detriment to the family; and when age has broken all the vigour of the parents, may bring down their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. A conscientious care to educate and train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, if duly attended to, will teach a better conduct; and the meekness and gentleness of Christ will have a happy influence on both.

Again, let the thoughts of that great impartial Master in heaven, awe masters upon earth; and the expectation, the certain expectation of giving an account to Him, engage them to make the yoke of servitude, which God has been pleased to lay on those, who are nevertheless their brethren, as light and easy as they can; choosing, even when they might command with authority, rather to intreat with love: not doing or saying any thing unnecessarily rigorous, or severe; not threatening, reviling, or reproaching, but treating their servants like those whom they consider as partakers with them in the same hope, or whom they earnestly desire, by all prudent condescension and tenderness, to lead into the way of salvation.

Let the heart of every Christian soldier be at once awakened and animated by the important charge which the Apostle, as it were, still sounds in our ears. He knew the weakness of the Christian, and the dangers of his way; how insufficient for the spiritual warfare we are in ourselves, and that our only strength is in the Lord, and in the power of his might, by whom alone we can be kept in safety, and may be made even more than conquerors in all things: and therefore, pointing us to this, at the same time that he sets forth the difficulty of the combat, and sounds a charge to the battle, he shews us the provision made for our defence, and calls us to put on the complete armour of God; an armour, which will serve for every part; which will supply us both with offensive and defensive weapons, and help us to withstand, and even to surmount, the greatest opposition. Let us see to it, then, that we both put on, and that we use it all.

And when we consider the greatness and number of our enemies, their restless and unwearied malice, and their inconceivable subtlety,—have we not enough to engage us in the application of this divine panoply? Flesh and blood have too, too frequently worried us; how then should we stand against principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spirits of wickedness, who make it still their business to draw others into that spiritual wickedness, which they were first so daring as to shew in heavenly places?

Indeed, it will be impossible that we should, at any time, be safe from danger, if every direction here given be not diligently attended to: having such a numerous and mighty host of enemies combined against us, we shall never be able to withstand and overcome them,—if the girdle of truth be loosened,—if the breast-plate of righteousness be not put on,—if the preparation of the gospel of peace do not secure our steps;—if the helmet of salvation do not guard our head,—if the shield of faith be not our defence and shelter, and the sword of the Spirit our weapon. And vainly shall we labour to obtain this armour by any other method, if fervent prayer and supplication in the Spirit, under the aids and influences of his grace, be not addressed to the God of heaven, whose work and whose gift this celestial armour is: so that if ever we would have it, and use it aright, let us persist in seeking it with holy importunity and perseverance, and the desired answer shall not always be denied.

To conclude. Let us often contemplate the great Apostle St. Paul, as discharging his embassy in a chain, that so we may learn to submit to whatever affronts and injuries, whatever hardships and sufferings we may be called to endure, on the account of religion, concerned about nothing so much as that we may approve our fidelity in the sight of God; and, loving the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, may be partakers of the blessings of his grace, with all that have a true affection for him. All who appear to be of such a character, may we ever most affectionately love, whatever their particular sentiments, or forms of worship may be; for thus, a share of this mercy and favour, with all the blessed fruits of peace and prosperity, of love and faith, shall be infallibly our own, and be communicated in a rich abundance to our souls, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle proceeds with those relative duties which he had begun to enforce in the former chapter, beginning still with the inferior relation; for dutiful obedience will lay the strongest obligations on the superior to shew all condescension and love in return. We have,

1. The duty of children to their parents. Children obey your parents; hear their counsels, and submit to their commands, this being the debt that you owe them, both as the authors, under God, of your being, and for all the care they have shewn you; and this in the Lord, as far as is agreeable to his word, and for his glory. Honour thy father and mother, says the law; reverence them, speak respectfully to and of them, and, if needful, provide for them (which is the first commandment with a particular promise annexed to it), that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

2. The duty of parents. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, by unreasonable tasks, severities, or restraints; but with all lenity, tenderness, and affection, endeavour, by love and kind persuasion, to win upon them; and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, instructing them in the knowledge of the scriptures, setting before them a gracious example, directing them to the means of grace, and watching over them with holy jealousy.

3. The duty of servants. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, in all their lawful commands, with becoming fear of their displeasure, and trembling, lest at any time you should justly offend them; in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ, without flattery, deceit, or guile, with a regard to the Redeemer's glory: not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, diligent only so long as they look over you, merely to curry favour with them; but as the servants of Christ, under his constant and all-seeing inspection, and therefore doing the will of God from the heart, and discharging the duties of the station in which he hath placed you with all fidelity and truth—with good-will doing service, with cheerfulness and alacrity, from a principle of love to your masters, and a real zeal for their honour and interest; and this as to the Lord, and not to men, desiring, not so much human, as the divine approbation, and acting from a sense of duty to the great Lord of all—knowing, that whatsoever good thing any man doth, however mean his station, and inconsiderable in itself the service may be, the same shall he receive of the Lord, who will suitably reward his fidelity, whether he be bond or free.

4. The duty of masters. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, shew the same readiness conscientiously to discharge your relation to them, forbearing threatening, not tyrannizing over them, and terrifying them with sternness and menaces; but choosing to rule by love rather than fear, knowing that your Master also is in heaven, to whom you must give an account; neither is there respect of persons with him; all shall stand at his bar on a level, and must receive from his lips their eternal sentence for happiness or misery.

2nd, Every Christian is enlisted under the banners of Jesus, to fight the Lord's battles, and to maintain unceasing war against sin, the world, and the devil. The Apostle, therefore, warmly exhorts them to acquit themselves as men, under the glorious Captain of their salvation. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, supported by those almighty influences of grace which he supplies, in whom alone standeth our help, and from whom cometh our salvation. Put on the whole armour of God, as a soldier covered from head to foot with armour proof against any weapon, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and neither be seduced by his ensnaring temptations, nor terrified by his suggestions, from the path of duty.

1. The enemies that we have to conflict with are described. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, not only against the temptations arising from our passions and appetites, or from the wicked men of this world who oppose and persecute, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, even against those legions of malignant spirits, who, under their hateful leader, have erected a kingdom of darkness, and enslaved the souls of men, and hover round us, watching for an opportunity to distress, harass, trouble, and destroy those who have escaped from their hateful bondage.

2. Having such foes, we need be well armed against their assaults. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, so absolutely necessary for this dangerous conflict, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, when this hour of temptation and danger comes, and, having done all, to stand faithfully, acquitting yourselves as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, through every trial, however sharp or prolonged. Stand, therefore, the enemy advances, be ready to receive him, looking up to your Almighty Support, and invulnerable in the divine panoply. The Christian's complete armour, both offensive and defensive, is here described in military terms; the back alone is left unguarded; for we must conquer or die. Flight is sure to be fatal to the coward soul.

[1.] Truth must be our military girdle. Having your loins girt about with truth, firm in the doctrines of the gospel, and sincere in the profession of it, in simplicity approving yourselves before the heart-searching God.

[2.] Righteousness is our breast-plate—Having on the breast-plate of righteousness, justice, integrity, and all the other fruits of holiness and love, to guard the vital parts from the stroke of the envenomed foe.

[3.] Our sandals must be the gospel of peace—Having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; that whatever rough ways we walk in, and whatever difficulties we meet with, we may stand fast in the gospel of Jesus, prepared for every conflict, established on the sure foundation, enjoying peace with God in our own souls, and following it with all men.

[4.] Faith is our shield—Above all, as the most necessary piece of armour, and that which covers the whole body, taking the shield of faith; having lively and realizing views of the divine promises of pardon, grace, and glory, confidently resting upon them; wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, when with fury he hurls his envenomed temptations at the soul, to despair, blasphemy, lewdness, rage, &c. seeking to bring horror, guilt, anguish, and distress upon the conscience: but divine faith repels them all, or quenches them, and they fall harmless at our feet.

[5.] Salvation is our helmet—And take the helmet of salvation, that blessed hope of life eternal, springing from the bright witness of the Spirit of God, which guards from dejection, and raises us superior to every fear.

[6.] The mighty sword is the word of God—And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, before which the legions of darkness cannot stand, when wielded by the faithful soldier, slaying every temptation, and opening a way through hosts of difficulties.

[7.] Prayer must be added—Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit; looking upwards constantly for divine support, in every emergence casting your care upon God, in ejaculations, and, at stated solemn seasons, commending yourselves into the Lord's hand; and watching thereunto with all perseverance, never weary or giving over, though the conflict be hard and long, and no immediate answer received. And, as for yourselves, so also continue ceaseless in supplication for all saints, engaged in the same warfare, contending with the same enemies, and needing the same divine support; and, among others, for me also, under my trials, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, fearless of any consequences, to make known the mystery of the gospel, and publish the glad tidings with all zeal, openness, and freedom of speech, without concealing any of the glorious truths, however offensive they may be to men's pride, or love of sin: for which fidelity I am an ambassador of Christ in bonds, suffering cheerfully, and still desiring, even in a prison, to negociate the great affair of reconciliation between God and sinners: and I entreat your prayers, that therein, under whatsoever difficulties I struggle, I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak, undaunted in my spirit, and without molestation. Note; (1.) Prayer is the Christian's constant recourse, and sure support in every exigence. (2.) While we continue persevering in our supplications, we shall assuredly go on conquering and to conquer. (3.) We should mutually remember each other at the throne of grace; all saints need our prayers, and should have an interest in them.

3rdly, Having desired an interest in their prayers, he concludes this Epistle,

1. With recommending Tychicus to them, the bearer of this Epistle. But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do in my present confinement, Tychicus, a beloved brother, and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things concerning my situation, labours, treatment and success, even in bonds: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts, amidst all the trials that you meet with, and encourage you, from my example, patiently and cheerfully to persevere in the good ways of the Lord.

2. He closes with his usual benediction and prayer. Peace be to the brethren; may you enjoy a sweet sense of God's favour, be blest with all prosperity, temporal and spiritual, and live in the most uninterrupted harmony among yourselves: and may love to God and to each other abound, with faith in the most lively and vigorous exercise; all which spiritual blessings flow from God the Father, as their Source in the oeconomy of redemption, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, as the purchaser and dispenser of them to his faithful people. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, with unfeigned affection, or, in incorruption, without adulterating the doctrines of truth, or admitting any earthly thing to rival him in their hearts. Thus in faith he prays, and adds his joyful Amen!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ephesians 6:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ephesians-6.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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