From:  Busy Teacher’s Guide to Ephesians                        Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2021

 

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They Must Exercise Self-Control

In Both Language And Deed

(5:1-7)

 

 

            1 Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.  But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints.  Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting—all of which are out of character—but rather thanksgiving.  For you can be confident of this one thing:  that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 

            Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be sharers with them.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            5:1       Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  By abstaining from the excesses of behavior that had previously dishonored them—and developing the beneficial ones in their place that were just outlined in the previous chapter—they were developing a character like God.  They thereby become “imitators of God[’s]” character. 

            As children imitate the attitudes and behavior seen in their parents, these “dear [spiritual] children” of God imitated those found in their Divine creator and guide.  Hence by their behavior “they were to show the family likeness. . . .  The word rendered ‘children’ is the word specially appropriate to ideas not of adoption but of birth” (A. E. Humphreys, Cambridge Bible). 

It is as if he were saying that they showed forth a family likeness not because they were now adopted into God’s family but because they had always been in it.  An exaggeration, of course, but effectively conveying how deep and all encompassing the imitation and love element (verse 2) were to be in their behavior.  It is to be as if they had been such due to the passionate allegiance they now strive after.

 

            5:2       And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.  Our lifestyle is to reflect the desire to help and be beneficial to others (= “walk in love”).  “This is the bond of perfection” Paul writes in Colossians 3:14.

Note that “as Christ also has loved us” is given as the reason we must cultivate a loving lifestyle:  In other words, it reflects the example of Jesus Himself.  The kind of love we show to others may be generous indeed but none of it can possibly equal the depth of literal self-sacrificial love the Lord demonstrated.  He offered Himself to accomplish what no one else ever could have . . . as a redemptive human “offering” and “sacrifice” . . . a gift to God using His death as the price to save our souls.  The gift was so praiseworthy that in human terms it produced “a sweet-smelling aroma” to God because of its value and the redemption it brought about.  When He came into the world, Jesus did so with the intent of sacrificing His life for that purpose—to atone for all our sins and gain us forgiveness (Hebrews 10:5-10, especially 5 and 10).  

            That “us” who were benefited included the apostle himself, of course:  He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  Indeed the kind of restraint Paul demanded reflected the kind Jesus Himself demonstrated when faced with unjust and dangerous foes (1 Peter 2:21-24).  

    

            5:3       But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints.  In the strict sense, “fornication” only refers to pre-marital sexual relations but in a passage like this where adultery is not specifically mentioned, it clearly serves the purpose of covering extra-marital liaisons as well.  It’s either that or accept that the lack of explicit reference means Paul did not consider it a violation of fundamental moral principles even though the majority of his readers would have been married.  This is surely the reason the translation of “sexual immorality” is readily invoked—such as by the ESV and NIV. 

            “Uncleanness” covers any improper behavior that has a moral overtone.  Hence the substitution of “impurity” (ESV, NIV) since “uncleanness” today easily carries the connotation of someone needing a bath or a floor needing a scrubbing!    

            “Covetousness” translates into old fashion “greed” (GNT) or being “greedy” (CEV) for what others have . . . covering a multitude of possible targets. 

            These abstentions are not to be on a sporadic basis either.  They are to be “not even be named among you” . . . never happen at all.  This is to be their habitual lifestyle.  After all this is appropriate (“fitting”) for those who claim to be God’s people (“saints”)--those set apart for God’s service.    

 

            5:4       neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.   “Off color” language is what Paul zeroes in on next, giving three different ways of describing such.  The idea of “filthiness” in speech could be rendered as “coarse” (Holman) or “vulgar speech” (NET).  Perhaps . . . but that seems better fit for a relatively “puritanical” society in which “tamer” versions of vulgarity are regarded as the maximum deviation from the norm that is acceptable.  But that was neither the first century nor the “x rated” twenty-first.  Hence the idea is likely better conveyed in our contemporary world by substitutions such as “obscenity” (NIV) or “obscene” (GNT, ISV).

            “Foolish talking” is “running off at the mouth”—not caring what comes out.  Add some beer or liquor and “foolish [vulgar dominated] talking” and arguing is inevitable.  Quite possibly a few fist fights as well.

            Then there is the “coarse jesting,” which would run the range from “crude joking” (ESV) to “vulgar” (GNT) to “obscene jokes” (GW).  All intended in the interest of “good humor;” “no real insult intended” of course.  It is a time when, verbally, “anything goes” and can be “shared” without trepidation.  No matter how great a fool you recognize yourself to have been the next morning. 

            Even when done “cold sober,” one is needlessly and wrongly degrading someone else.  These things are simply not appropriate (= “not fitting”).  Our minds should be centered on “giving of thanks”—to God for His blessings and to our friends and neighbors when they have benefited us.  Never on verbally degrading them in the interest of “humor,” vindictiveness, or revenge. 

 

            5:5       For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Paul is not delivering new teaching in what he has to say here:  “This you know,” i.e., already.  He is simply driving home teaching they are acquainted with lest they be tempted back into a pre-conversion form of living.  It would be catastrophic for such people to lack “any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” 

In normal human affairs, the children come into an “inheritance” when the parent dies.  In the case of the literal kingdom of heaven itself, the “child” comes into it upon their own death.  But it won’t be available to them if they have defied the conditions set for entrance—obedience to the instructions of Jesus and His apostles.  Or if you prefer to begin this earlier within the earthly manifestation of the heavenly kingdom—i.e., the church—there is the same end result:  if you have not been faithful while living in it while alive on earth, you won’t receive the blessing of admission to the eternal heavenly kingdom at all.

            The person who is involved in premarital or extramarital sex will lose the opportunity—“no fornicator,” none at all, will be granted an inheritance.  The morally “unclean person” will likewise lose its blessings.  Note the broadness of the expression.  It is as if Paul were saying, “fill this category in with whatever sin you personally are determined not to give up.”  Finally there is the “covetous man, who is an idolater.”  The latter is a natural addition.  He so “worships” and follows wealth accumulation at any price that it is treated as his or her only god.

            By the way, it is “the kingdom of [both] Christ and God.”  Their policy is one.  Their goal is one.  Their decisions are one.  The actions of both in regard to that kingdom are fully consistent with each other.  There is no division that a devious mortal might try to take advantage of.           

 

            5:6       Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  No matter how evil something is, excuses would be available.  Those convincing you to act in this kind of manner are not trying to help you; they are actually trying to “deceive you” into returning to what was always a self-destructive lifestyle.  Their words may even sound scholarly and educated but they are actually nothing but “empty words,” without any real or lasting value. 

            What comes next is both an explanation of why efforts to return to their past evils was wrong and, simultaneously, a warning of how serious the matter was:  “because of these things the wrath of God comes.”  It may not come today or tomorrow . . . but it comes at the time and in the way He deems best.  It comes because those who live this way have turned themselves into defiant “sons of disobedience.”  Technically still “sons of God,” but their defiance has turned them against the very Father they claimed to honor and revere.  Those of a Jewish background would be like the children of Israel in the wilderness, in that they remained (in theory at least) “children of Abraham” but they repudiated that honorable ancestry by rebelling against the God Abraham had followed.

 

            5:7       Therefore do not be partakers with them.  In essence Paul is saying, “You’ve heard my explanation.  Now learn and embrace the implications.  No matter what others do . . . no matter how many others do it . . . no matter if they are even friends or kin . . . it remains wrong.  Don’t fall off the path to heaven just because others do!”  Or as he worded it in 1 Timothy 5:22, “Do not . . . share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.” 

            This wasn’t a new danger, as the Proverbist warned about how people can rationalize even violence and mayhem because of what they can get out of it (Proverbs 1:10-17)..  The Psalmist also saw it in his day as well, “When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers” (Psalm 50:18).  Our association and cultivation of friends with the right values, however, plays an important role in avoiding excess and assuring that we stay on the “straight and narrow” of moral behavior, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).

 

 

 

 

 

The Light Of Divine Truth

Reveals To Us What Sin Is

 (5:8-14)

 

 

            for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live like children of light— for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  12 For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention.  13 But all things being exposed by the light are made visible.  14 For everything made visible is light, and for this reason it says:  “Awake, O sleeper!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            5:8       For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.  Before they were converted they were the embodiments of spiritual and moral “darkness” but now they are like “light in the Lord” . . . showing others the right way to live and sharing the good news of redemption with them.  Hence it was essential for them to live (“walk”) as those who are “children of light.”  For that is what they viewed themselves as being—in spite of their weaknesses—and this was unquestionably what the Lord also wanted them to be:  “ ‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ . . .  I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness’ ” (John 12:36, 46).  The challenge was to have the ongoing strength to continue to do exactly that.

 

            5:9       (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).  If the “Spirit” is properly capitalized, it conveys the meaning that the Holy Spirit has revealed through inspired writers how we are to be acceptable to God in our behavior and the “fruit” (= result) of knowing these things is that our conduct manifests these characteristics.  If lower case, then the point is that the proper “fruit” of our inner nature (the human “spirit’) consists of morally upstanding behavior.  It should be noted that the modern “critical text” — which lies behind the bulk of contemporary translations—substitutes for “the fruit of the Spirit,” the reading, “the fruit of the light consists.”  Since he has just mentioned “light” twice in the previous verse, this would be a quite natural continuation of the theme:  These behaviors exhibit the “light” (insight, wisdom) given by Divine revelation. 

            In either case, the behavior we exhibit is to exhibit a positive “goodness” in attitude, acting in an honorable manner (“righteousness”), and speaking only “truth” in whatever we say or promise.  In contemporary English perhaps the instructions read more naturally as “in all that is good and right and true.”  The CEV suggests, “Be good and honest and truthful.”   

 

            5:10     finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.  Seeking out what is “acceptable to the Lord” would be a quite natural reaction for anyone recognizing the Lord’s superiority and our obligations to Him.  Although Paul unquestionably embraces the idea, using the more explicit language of “what is pleasing to the Lord” (NASB) would more clearly convey the idea of an acceptance considerably beyond what may only technically meets His standards.  That is made even more emphatic if we substitute “well pleasing to the Lord” (WEB) or “fully pleasing to the Lord” (Weymouth).   

 

            5:11     And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  “Fellowship” covers “joint participation in common” with something or someone.  We might well say, “have nothing to do with.”  The targets are the “unfruitful works of darkness” . . . things that produce no real good either for us or others.  Instead we should “expose” the evil of them to others who are being tempted:  “expose them for what they are” (GW, ISV).  In its early stages they may even seem “innocently evil”—comparatively speaking.  But, as the next verse reveals, what Paul is talking about are things that already have crossed far beyond such misleading terminology.

 

            5:12     For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  Something so extreme that “it is shameful [“disgusting,” CEV] even to speak of” conveys the idea of a total lack of anything conceivably beneficial or desirable.  Even when one is well acquainted with moral evil, there will usually be some things that still seem excessive and even gross one out.  These things are so extreme that even when they do it themselves, they do their best to keep others from knowing about the fact. 

            Sometimes that effort is successful, but it isn’t always possible to keep “things which are done in secret” unknown to others.  Battered bodies, incoherent individuals, and other tell tale indications may still expose that extreme excess is being engaged in that even the perpetrator will be reluctant to concede exists.

            Some see the reference to “those things which are done by them in secret” as distancing rhetoric . . . shifting from Christians in particular to that fraction of the Gentile population engaged in the “mystery cults.”  Their behavior could be so extreme that it even brought a tinge of embarrassment to many non-Christians.        

 

            5:13     But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.  When the nature of evil is revealed, the “light [of truth]” is being poured upon it.  It reveals what the evil truly is.  Even if the listener has been hiding it from himself.  Forced to seriously consider the matter, the person has the light of Divine revelation reveal that it is just as much sin as behaviors he would give no thought to defend. 

 

            5:14     Therefore He says:  “Awake, you who sleep, / Arise from the dead, / And Christ will give you light.”  By having the true nature of their contemplated excesses revealed, they are “awaken[ed]” from the “sleep” of moral blindness.  By changing their behavior, they “arise from the [morally] dead.”  By seeking out Jesus’ approval, “Christ will give you [the] light” of moral perception and insight.

            Probable Old Testament source:  If the quotation is the paraphrase or translation of the Old Testament rather than quoting a new revelation (or existing Christian hymn), the reference is likely rooted in Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine; for your light has come!  And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”  Some have suggested that imagery stated or implied in Isaiah 51:17 and 52:1-2 have been combined with this to produce an accurate summary of prophetic teaching.  Paul’s opening words, “Therefore He says” is broad enough to fit either a quotation or a summary.

 

 

 

 

 

They Need To Be Wise By Emphasizing

The Constructive in Lifestyle

And Eliminating Destructive Behavior

(5:15-21)

 

 

            15 Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.  18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            5:15     See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.  “Circumspectly” represents good KJV style English, but in the more recent world “carefully” (ESV) or even “very careful” (GW) conveys the point better.  Our excesses may give us pleasure and even make us proud, but it still remains true that we are walking as “fools” instead of being “wise.”  That language fits quite well:  “Fools” because a dissolute lifestyle ultimately brings us to the condemnatory judgment of God; “wise” because a restrained lifestyle qualifies us to be among those who are ultimately saved. 

 

            5:16     redeeming the time, because the days are evil.   “Redeeming the time” translates into the modern idiom of “making the best use of your time” (ISV).  Sin is pleasurable but it is far from “making the most of the time” (Holman) since it is morally destructive in the short term and eternally destructive in the long term.  We are “redeeming [buying back] the time” from bad usages for the purpose of using it for good ones.  

We can rightly gloss “the days are evil” with the mental addition that the “days are full of  all kinds of evil,” continually giving us a wide variety to choose from.  It’s like the old time drinking joke, “What kind of poison do you want today?” 

 

            5:17     Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  Because of the nature of the times in which we live, it is imperative that we avoid being “unwise.”  We avoid the danger and traps by using our brains and acting on the basis of informed minds.  And those informed minds come from our studying and “understand[ing of] what the will of the Lord is.” 

God has provided us our thinking ability but we still have to use it for it to do us any good.  Some things can be rationalized when they should be avoided and scriptures can be inventively (and unjustly) “reinterpreted” to take the sin out of our conduct.  Neither should occur.  Our brain power should be harnessed to doing the right thing whether or not it is our “natural” preference. 

 

            5:18     And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.  The apostle argues that being full of the Spirit is far preferable to being full of alcoholic beverages.  Our “wine”—or stronger liquids—can easily make us act like irresponsible idiots . . . so “drunk” that we are incoherent and have little control over what we do.  In that kind of case:  We act; we don’t think.  The result is “dissipation:”  “debauchery” (ESV, NIV); “reckless actions” (Holman).

            Paul’s argument is that “wine” period . . . any kind of “wine” . . . can ultimately cause foolish behavior if too much is consumed.  Likewise any kind of alcoholic beverage today.  (It is extraordinarily hard to find convincing evidence of a non-alcoholic form of “wine” that some commentators assume also existed in Bible days.) 

Since Paul is instructing them to be “filled with the Spirit,” an independent action by the Holy Spirit itself is clearly not under consideration.  It is not something the Spirit initiates and carries out, but something that we do that results in our being “filled” with it.  Hence it must be something they themselves can either fully—or at the minimum, mainly—accomplish on their own.  Perhaps the most obvious way to be “filled with the Spirit” would be to fill ourselves with the Spirit inspired scriptures. 

Although this is fully true, in light of the next verse, it seems more likely to have in mind filling ourselves with the positive spirit/temperament (hence small “s”)—the attitude, disposition--of joy, happiness, celebration, and honor to the Lord that is produced by our singing of hymns.  Yet even here there is a way to make the text still refer (at least in part) to what the Divine Spirit does . . . but does through our own actions. 

 

            5:19     speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.  When we use religious lyrics, our own spirit—and perhaps the Holy Spirit as well--uses the inspired truths that are embedded in the lyrics to build us up . . . not acting independently of the words but through the words.  If you wish, He helps us move in the direction we already want to move in.   

            Although he is not discussing individuals singing for their own spiritual pleasure, there is no reason to expect he would have considered that wrong or produced a different result.  Instead he is addressing congregational activities in particular:  “Speaking to one another” . . . there are others present to listen and to join in.  Three terms are used that so overlap that they are almost synonyms.

“Psalms” would suggest, of course, the Biblical psalms or close adaptations of them.  Also songs in the style of the David Psalms, if you will. 

“Hymns” would be songs to the glory of God as well.  Perhaps ones in the contemporary idiom rather than that of the ancient Psalms.  

“Spiritual songs” refers to thoughts and ideas that would encourage us to greater spirituality.  “Songs” about “spiritual” or “sacred” matters.  (Hence the “sacred songs” of GNT). 

            Outwardly we are “singing” so that others can share in what we are saying and to encourage them to consider the same thoughts.  (And vice versa as we listen to them reinforce our sentiments!)  Inwardly we are “making melody” in our “heart[s]” . . . paying attention to what we are saying.  Not merely making an “outward show” but processing the ideas ever deeper into our consciousness.  Yet those same words are simultaneously being addressed “to the Lord”--to express our appreciation for all the blessings that have come our way through Him.

            Aside:  The song singing that is here described in terms of being “filled with the Spirit” (5:18) is described in Colossians 3:16 as “Let[ting] the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  The “word” is being used not some mysterious compulsion being directly applied by Deity independent of your own behavior.  

 

            5:20     giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Their worship services together were to include not only singing (verse 19) but also prayer.  Hence “giving thanks” . . . expressing appreciation.  That covers such a wide range of matters that it is no wonder the apostle notes that it includes “all [beneficial] things” that come our way.  Think of hearing the gospel, how the gospel has given us the strength to reform our lives, how we have learned (or relearned!) the proper way to treat family and kin.  This gratitude should not come naturally:  After all, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  But in addition it is also done by the authority/endorsement/approval (= “in the name of”) no less than the Savior, “our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

            Life runs a gauntlet of conditions from quite rough to amazingly pleasant . . . sometimes both extremes occur in the same person’s life!  Yet in all conditions we still have something to cherish and thank God for.  I rather like the way James B. Coffman expresses the thought, “Thus:  When one is young, let him thank God for youth; when he is old, let him thank God that he has been permitted so long to live; in health, for strength and joy; in sickness, for the ministry of physician, nurse, loved ones and friends; in poverty, for the privilege of living ‘like Jesus’ [and surviving the difficulties!]; in wealth, for God's endowments; in death itself, for the hope of eternal life, etc., etc.”    

 

            5:21     submitting to one another in the fear of God.  Still within the congregational context, they are not to expect to get their way on everything.  Instead they are to be “submitting to one another.”  One can easily imagine that mind frame being important when there are church leaders appointed to make final decisions on matters and we might think a mistake—not sin—has been committed.  Likewise when there is a congregational consensus on something, no one has the right to stir up needless conflict simply because their own preference was not adopted.  

This cooperative mind frame grew out of “the fear of God.”  God despises the needless troublemaker among His people.  Proverbs 6:16 warns, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him” and at the end of the list is, “one who sows discord among brethren” (verse 19).  Furthermore, in a different epistle, Paul warns of the need to “reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition” (Titus 3:10).     

But there are “submissions”—and “reciprocal obligations” (Coffman’s apt phrase)--also involved in non-congregational relationships as well.  Three of these Paul is about to discuss:  spouses toward each other (5:22-33), children with parents (6:1-4), and masters with servants (6:5-9).

 

 

 

 

 

A Wife Has Inherent Obligations

To Her Husband

(5:22-24)

 

 

            22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church (he himself being the savior of the body).  24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

           

5:22     Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  Note the limitation:  women are not subject to men in general—only to “your own husband.”  Your boss at work is authoritative, for example, because of his positionnot because of his gender.  (Assuming the boss is male!)  “Submit” means to go by his decisions and his instructions rather than trying to “railroad” him into things that are your personal preference.  There is a profound difference between convincing and trying to dominate, however.  When all is said and done, his decision is still final..

 

            5:23     For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.  Any structure requires someone as recognized leader in order to work effectively.  When there isn’t, chaos is the result.  Hence the husband is “head [= leader] of the wife.”  Any temptation to abuse that position had better be kept in check for Christ is head (= leader) of everyone in “the church.”  Indeed, He is pictured as ultimate judge of everyone as well.  It would be little short of insane to engage in behavior that provokes His ultimate condemnation and our own exile from heaven. 

Jesus died for the husband just as for everyone else in the church (= “Savior of the body”) and will be the one to decide whether we have kept His command to truly love our spouse—not in empty words but concrete reality (cf. verse 25).  “Sorry” won’t be enough to pass muster.  Domineering and disrespect is never a substitute for affection and concern.  And Christ will know full well whether you’ve pulled that stunt.  Especially on an ongoing basis.   

 

            5:24     Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  The acceptance of the husband’s authority is to be in regard to “everything” and not some narrow spectrum that meets her approval.  Just as the church obeys (“is subject to Christ”) in everything so the wife is to accept the husband’s decisions. 

            What this means in everyday life may well vary from couple to couple.  My own attitude was that in the bulk of everyday matters I went along with whatever my wife suggested that we could afford to do.  To be blunt I recognized that she was a whole lot smarter than I was on a whole lot of practical matters. 

The wise boss at work gives capable “subordinates” a wide range of freedom of action.  Why shouldn’t a wife be given full opportunity to develop her own potential as well?  (And keep you from making some very dumb mistake in the first place!)  Wouldn’t it be ill advised . . . no, let us be blunt, stupid . . . to do otherwise? 

Why should it be any different in a marriage?  Take her recommendation and be proud of how capable she is!  Remember how the skills of the “virtuous wife” brought public credit to her husband (Proverbs 31:10-31):

              

10 Who can find a virtuous wife?  For her worth is far above rubies.

16 She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard.

18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night.  [Today we would call that being a successful small businesswoman!]

                23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.  [In this context what can that mean other than her personal business success bringing her husband public praise?]

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Husband Has The Inherent Obligation

Of Having As Much Love And Respect

For His Wife As He Does For Himself

(5:25-33)

 

 

            25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 For no one has ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

            31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  32 This mystery is great—but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  33 Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            5:25     Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.  The command is addressed to “husbands” in general—to all of them.  The mind frame of constructive love being expressed in action was not optional; to some but was obligatory to them all.  

Having emphasized the obligation of wives to accept the leadership of their husbands (verses 22-24), did Paul realize that there was something about Ephesian husbands in particular that could cause them to become arrogant and heavy handed?  Or had he recognized that a goodly number of husbands—no matter where he was—easily slid into the “emperorship” mode?  Or was it an essential caveat to what he had already said that the message could not be complete without adding it?  

            Answer that as you wish, Paul felt it needful to stress that marital “headship” provides no excuse for arrogance or abuse.  So much the opposite that the husband should be as sacrificial toward his spouse as Christ was toward His “bride”—the church.  So loving that He was willing to die for her.  In that mind frame, where is there a room for physical or emotional abuse? 

Or as another apostle wrote in 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”  In other words, “we must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words” (GW).

Monod well says that the Apostle, true to the spirit of the Gospel, speaks to the wife of the authority of the husband, to the husband of devotion to the wife: each party is reminded not of rights, but of duties.”  (A. E. Humphreys, Cambridge Bible.)  In far too many marriages, one of the partners is insistent that the other live up to their commitments, but blissfully ignores their own failure to do so.        

 

            5:26     that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.  The “Reader’s Digest” version of this verse is:  what Jesus did to save us from our sins should be a prototype for what the husband is willing to do for his spouse.  In other words, whatever is essential to her true well being.

Jesus took care of this through immersion (“the washing of water”) and that was produced by the teaching and preaching of God’s message (“word”) and our obedience to it.  We hear it and we obey it.  The reference to the “word” is taken by some as referring to the confession of Christ before baptism—as in Acts 8:37—but that strikes me as far less likely.  Even that “word” is spoken because of the gospel “word” first being preached to us.  This is the revealed “Word in all its searching, humbling, rebuking, correcting, informing, stimulating, refreshing, consoling power.”  (H. D. M. Spence, editor, Pulpit Commentary)  

            That their baptism was not merely some ceremonial act they went through is seen by the words used to describe it.  The first is “sanctify” (i.e., set apart) to God’s service:  “make her holy” (NIV, Weymouth).  The second is “cleanse,” to remove dirt and filth—clearly of a moral nature . . . “made it pure” (CEV).  How deep we were in sin would vary from person to person, but the end result of conversion was always the removal of our sins.     

 

            5:27     that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  The result of the moral purification that the church has undergone makes her “a glorious church” . . . spectacular, beautiful in God’s sight.  A mark of human female youthful beauty is “not having spot or wrinkle or any such [comparable] thing [= imperfection].”  On the moral level that is the church’s goal . . . to maximize the beauty of moral perfection of one and all. 

The result is that the church is recognized as ethically “holy” and “without [ugly moral] blemish[es]” that cause her to drive off others.  If the world looks at the church and sees people arrogant, conceited, persistently seeking out self-interest and unconcerned with others, how can they possibly see the kind of church Christ expects it to be?  

 

            5:28    So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  As important as they regard “their own bodies,” the husband is to so regard his own wife.  Unless a man is mentally deranged, he is not going around beating on his body, bruising it, and cursing at it.  His wife must be given equal consideration to what he gives himself.  Since they are now united into “one,” whatever “love” (affection, helpfulness, encouragement) that he gives to his spouse is manifesting love toward himself as well.  Anything else is defiling and demeaning the family unit and casts an insult on the husband as well.      
  
  

            5:29     For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  A mentally balanced man never “hates his own flesh.”  (If he does, he badly needs psychiatric counseling.)  Instead he treats his own esians 5body with concern and respect (“nourishes and cherishes it”).  Hence he must treat His wife in the same manner.

 

            5:30     For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.  On a spiritual basis we are so much blended into Christ’s body that if the union were in literal terms we would become embedded as part “of His flesh and of His bones.”  Our spiritual intertwining is aimed at gaining that comprehensive a “merger” into the Lord’s nature and attitudes.

            If it had not been for the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:5) the Church could have had no existence.  No bride fit for the King of heaven could have sprung from the earth.  As Eve came from the opened side of Adam, so figuratively the Church springs from the pierced side of Jesus.”  (H. D. M. Spence, editor, Pulpit Commentary)

 

            5:31     “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  The idea of husband and wife becoming a new family unit through their relationship goes back to creation (Genesis 2:24)—as here quoted by Paul--and it was endorsed by Jesus during His preaching as well (Matthew 19:4-6).

 

            5:32     This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Again we encounter “mystery” in the sense of a previously unrevealed truth or reality—a conclusion that we would never have arrived at through idle speculation.  We might easily think in terms of being part of Christ’s “people” or Christ’s “army,” but being intimately and closely interwoven so tightly with the Lord that we are as if part of His body?  That carries the idea of the Divine respect and love for the human race to a new level . . . as well as our own capacity to become part of it.    

 

            5:33     Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  The individual application of what Paul is arguing is that the relationship of Christ and His people should be viewed as the standard that every single male (“each one of you”) should have toward “his own wife”—a profound “love” in attitude and action.  A “love” as deep as he has for himself.  Petty tyrants need not apply. 

            The other side of the coin is that this attitude is not to be abused by the female side of the marriage either.  The wife needs to “respect her husband”—not merely theoretically but in actual word and action.  Just as he is not to make her life miserable, she is to be sure not to make his life miserable either!

            The strange translation of the ASV and ERV (both late 1800s)--“that she fear her husband”--is an excellent warning to us that even good newer versions may create their own blunders.  Even the original KJV speaks well when it translates “that she reverence her husband,” i.e., have great respect toward him:  Respect, honor, appreciation . . . not fear.

 

 

 

 

 

Children And Parents Both

Have Duties Toward Each Other

(6:1-4)

 

 

            Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, that it will go well with you and that you will live a long time on the earth.”

                Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            6:1       Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Even the child who is a Christian can not live in defiance of his or her parents.  Even when both child and “parents [are] in the Lord” (= His church) the duty remains binding.  Christianity is not a door to immediate adult independence and responsibilities.  Those only come later.   

            Some translations suggest supplemental (not really contradictory) approaches to the meaning of “in the Lord:”  “you belong to the Lord” (CEV); “because you are Christians” (GW); “it is your Christian duty” (GNT); obey your parents as you would the Lord” (Holman).   

The borders marking where the obligation stops are also found in the words about “in the Lord:  Obedience is not required when what the Lord has revealed through the Scriptures tells us that what we are being requested is outright sinful.  If it were otherwise, then Paul’s challenge “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1) would have to be answered in the affirmative rather than the negative!

And the duty applies toward both the father and mother—note the all inclusive plural, “parents.”  The Old Testament bluntly spoke of this reality, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Proverbs 1:8). “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Proverbs 6:20).  And with this went respect of course.     

Not only is the obedience required because of our obligations to our shared “Lord,” it is also “right” because that is inherently the case.  It should be transparently so to anyone of good sense:  these are the people who gave us birth and without which we would not be alive.  It is also “right” for yet another reason that Paul will stress in the next verse—it went back long before the Psalmist and others ever spoke . . . back to the fundamental behavioral laws given ancient Israel when it became a nation.  

 

            6:2       “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise.  This teaching is so ancient that it is embedded in the Ten Commandments given at Sinai along with the “promise” (verse 3) that was attached to doing so (Exodus 20:12).  In Leviticus 19:3 this attitude is called “[to] revere;” alternatively, to “respect” (GW, NET, NIV). Jesus embraced the concept and taught that there is an “honor” required that continues to exist even into a child’s adulthood—that of assisting them in time of need in particular (Mark 7:9-13:  Note how that was the case even then they could find excuses not to act).  Yet the reality truly was that though free of childhood, they were not free of a moral debt to the parents.

            It is “the first commandment with promise” not because it is the first commandment ever to have an explicit or implicit “promise” attached to it—think of the  promise to Abraham that if he were obedient (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 17:1, 9), he would have a multitude of descendents though it seemed a hopeless dream at the time (Genesis 17:2, 4, 6). Hence the point seems likely to be that it was the first commandment to children to have a promise attached. 

 

            6:3       “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”  One’s own well being hinges upon embracing this lifestyle.  Indeed being able to “live long on the earth” could easily hinge upon the reprobate’s need for the very kind of assistance he had not provided for his own parents.  Today we would call that “the chickens come home to roost” principle.  Or, to use Biblical language, you generally tend to reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7; cf. Psalms 7:15-16).

            Aside:  “Observe, in passing, the hint given in these verses of the familiarity of the Gentile converts of Paul with the Old Testament and of the Divine authority which, he takes it for granted, they recognized in the Decalogue.”  (A. E. Humphreys.  Cambridge Bible)      

 

            6:4       And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Respect is a two way street.  If you expect respect you should avoid making such excessive  demands that you “provoke your children to wrath” and resentment because you have gone too far.  It covers going too far in both what you say or do . . . pushing your (even justified) demand in such a manner that a backlash is the understandable response (at least to the eyes of an uninvolved outsider). 

In such cases you needlessly “stir up anger in your children” (Holman)--needlessly agitating them when there is no good purpose served.  It can “exasperate your children” (NIV) because nothing they say or do can please you; they don’t have the foggiest idea of what would.  Do this enough times and you can “make your children bitter about life” (GW).    

            Instead of having the “I am the supreme authority in life” (period) mentality, you should be educating them in the ways “of the Lord.”  And that involves two things.  First is “training” them in it—showing them how His ways are lived in actual life . . . which includes illustrating it through your own personal conduct.  You can’t meaningfully “teach them” (CEV) self-control and self-regulation if you are going to be constantly “blowing your top.”  They are going to define the expected norm through your actions and words.   

This “training” also requires providing the necessary “discipline” (NET) or “Christian discipline” (GNT, GW) . . . using whatever rewards and punishments that are necessary and appropriate to “get it through their heads” that this is the way things should be done.  

            The second things fathers are to do is expose the children to the “admonition of the Lord” . . . what He expects and demands.  They need to learn that the supreme authority is not even their parents but the Lord Himself . . . to whom even their parents owe acceptance and obedience.   This naturally involves “instruction” (ESV, NIV) in the contents of what the Lord teaches.

   

 

 

 

 

Both Slaves And Masters

Have The Duty Of Respect

Toward Each Other

(6:5-9)

 

 

            Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ, not like those who do their work only when someone is watching—as people-pleasers—but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.  Obey with enthusiasm, as though serving the Lord and not people, because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord.

            Masters, treat your slaves the same way, giving up the use of threats, because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            6:5       Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.  Just because their owners (under human law) are also Christians does not give them any right to rebel.  Their equality in the Lord does not give them equality under human law or custom.  The obligation to remain “obedient” still exists.  “According to the flesh”—under existing law and custom--you know full well you are considered their involuntary “bondservant.”   You are their bondservant even if you wish it were otherwise. 

Some moderns are embarrassed that the early Christians weren’t openly confrontational:  And that would have accomplished exactly what?  (Beyond making them look a hundred times more a “crank” that they already did due to their loyalty to the Lord?)  Depending upon who won what war, virtually anyone in that day could become a slave.  It had nothing to do with skin color.   

            The urging of “fear and trembling” refers not to what the Christian master will do to them, but a reminder of what he legally could do if they play the role of incompetent or troublemaker.  Some translations believe that the idiom could fairly be rendered “with respect and fear” (NIV) or made even shorter:  “with proper respect” (GW); “great respect” (CEV).  They were to be his faithful and reliable servants rather than merely putting on a pretense.  (Compare the development of this implication in the next verse.)

            They are not to live the role of being only a superficially “good servant” but to have the “sincerity of heart” that would transform them into a genuine one as well.  They give such service “to Christ;” their earthly master should receive it as well.  Some translations suggest linking the two ideas even closer:  “be as loyal to them as you are to Christ” (CEV), “be as sincere as you are when you obey Christ” (GW), and an even more emphatic, “with a sincere heart, as though you were serving Christ” (GNT).

 

            6:6       not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.  Just as in modern corporations, many people acted simply to keep their superiors happy—“with eyeservice, as men-pleasers.”   As Christians they were to be different:  “Try to please them at all times, and not just when you think they are watching” (CEV); “don’t work to make yourself look good and try to flatter people” (Common English Bible); “[have] a proper sense of respect and responsibility” (Phillips NT)

As the “slaves” of Christ they themselves obey God’s will by giving loyalty that grows out of a “heart” based conscious determination and dedication.  In a similar manner, they should give committed loyalty to their earthly masters as well. . . .

 

            6:7       with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.  Their behavior should manifest “goodwill” rather than hostility or hatred.  It should reflect the same kind of quality commitment they would give “to the Lord [Himself] and not to men.”  Indeed, fulfilling your temporal obligations reliably is a way of honoring the Lord and giving respect to Him.  It respects His will and demonstrates your determination to fulfill whatever responsibilities and duties life places upon you.

 

            6:8       knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.  Paul argues that the loyalty he is insisting upon is not only inherently the right thing, but that the Lord rewards everyone by that standard of faithful loyalty . . . and that is true whether the person is living as slave or free.  The bondsperson is not singled out for a special burden; it is the same standard applied to everyone else.  Whether the temporal “owner” respects your hard work or not, the Lord will remember it and reward it accordingly.  And if your “owner” does not do as they should, s/he is the one who will face accountability from the Lord.     

 

            6:9       And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.  Lest some Christian master embrace the delusion (as so many slave owners did) that they had no answerability in regard to how they treated their slaves, Paul insists that is a figment of their imagination.  They are absolutely required to “do the same things to them” you expect them to do for you.  The loyalty is to be a two way loyalty.

            Nor are they to be verbally abusive to them:  “giving up threatening.”  Ranting and raving may give you the delusion of “feeling better” but it accomplishes nothing constructive . . . and if the only way you can get cooperation is by threats, is that the way the Lord is going to have to act to get cooperation out of you?  For that matter is that how you would want to be treated by others—such as more prominent and wealthier slave owners?

            Just as that slave has an earthly “master” you too have a master and that one is waiting for you “in heaven.”  The place Jesus is automatically shows His superiority over us.  But the language is probably used to convey another idea as well:  They could surely recall the image of Jesus as our ultimate Judge—so Paul probably felt no need to explicitly refer to it.  Indeed by adding the words “there is no partiality with Him” how could they possibly have missed the discrete allusion to coming judgment awaiting them and everyone else?

            This did not abolish slavery.  But how countless many today work in societies where they are technically free but they are subject to abusive and tyrannical bosses and corporations—even in the form of their government.  Even those that claim to be “socialist” face that same plague!    

 

 

 

 

 

Christians Must Wear

Spiritual Armor To Protect From

The Moral Dangers to Their Faith

(6:10-17)

 

 

            10 Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  11 Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

            13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.  Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, 16 and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            6:10     Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  “Finally” is Paul’s forewarning that this is the last major topic he intends to deal with in this epistle.  The imagery used beginning here is that of a warrior . . . for they are engaged in a war—against evil in its many varied forms (verse 12).  But “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) but spiritual and intellectual ones that are capable of gutting “arguments” justifying evil and any delusions “that exalts itself against the knowledge of God[’s]” will and insists we don’t have to obey it (verse 5).  To do this means, as Paul writes here, that we need to “be strong in the Lord”—flex our moral muscles and make them stronger—and accept “the [ever growing] power of His might” that we gain through careful meditation on the scriptures and obeying them in everyday life. 

Some translations clearly take the two images of “be strong” and “in the power” as so much a repetition of the same thought that they work to make the impact even stronger.  Hence such readings as “let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong” (CEV).      

 

            6:11     Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  Nothing that is needful is to be overlooked:  Hence the broadness of the instruction, “Put on the whole armor of God.”  A partially armored soldier works handicapped and has to rely on good fortune for any victory.  Fully armored he has every tool he needs.  And he will need them because the foe is both dangerous and skillful—he has a good mind with which to outwit you if you are not careful. 

“To stand against” him requires you to recognize his skill at spiritual/moral warfare:  “the wiles of the devil” are quite real.  His tools are varied; he is interested in what works on you; the assault is, if you will, tailored to your own personal weaknesses.  Although it is common to find the substitution of “the schemes of the devil” (ESV), it strikes me that the vast flexibility of those schemes is justly implied.  As seems implied in alternative readings such as “the Devil’s evil tricks” (GNT) and “the Devil’s strategies” (GW).  Whatever may harm you in particular is what he keeps in mind.

The apostle knew this by personal experience.  Paul was familiar with many of the devices by which Satan had sought to hinder and thwart his apostolic labors. He mentioned a glaring instance of this (1 Thessalonians 2:18), knew that the most intimate human relationships could be exploited to the detriment of Christianity (1 Corinthians 7:5), and pointed out that the devil could even take the form of an angel of light so as to lead believers away from the truth (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).” (James B. Coffman)              

 

            6:12     For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  It would be easy to think of Roman government and anti-Christian zealots as their only enemies . . . but they weren’t.  The most dangerous enemies were not “flesh and blood” ones but the malignant forces that endanger moral character in this world. 

Paul may use language here that sometimes fits the temporal foes we can encounter, but he also has “non-physical” foes in mind that are even more dangerous.  These we “wrestle against,” which conveys the image that they believe in “close in” combat, hoping to get their poison into contact with our soul.  This battle is as personal to them as it is to us.

            In the listing of our enemies, Paul describes them in terms that suggest they come in various forms and various strengths, but who are all united in their desire to be of spiritual injury to us.  By making the language “broad” and “vague” like this, he is warning that they can take a variety of forms and earthly expressions that are only united by their shared goal of doing us spiritual and moral harm. 

Earlier he had warned to “give [no] place to the devil” (4:7) and in the immediately prior verse to the current one, “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  Hence these foes would be the tools that Satan invokes against us.  These enemies are identified as:

            (1)  “Principalities”—entities that have control over others.  Hence some render “rulers” (ESV, NIV) or “forces” (CEV).  The CEV rendering also fits well with the idea that Paul has in mind types of evil . . . the bigger group within which a variety of specific evils might be listed.

             (2)  “Powers”—those who are “authorities” (CEV, ESV, NIV) and that expression includes those who have clout in religious, or ethical, matters.  Today we would likely add, “mass media” since not everything that has vast control over how others act are “official” entities of power!  Things that influence us in a direction that is hostile to our moral and spiritual interests need and have their own abundant propaganda organs.

            (3)  “Against the rulers of the darkness of this age.”  Some find here “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (ESV).  Others find something a little less verbally dramatic such as, “the powers who govern this world of darkness” (GW).  For example, people make money—often a lot of money—out of the particular form of evil they spread and popularize.  Their particular domain of depravity they “rule” over . . . are shapers of it and have authority in guiding how it is expressed and advocated.

            In the singular, “ruler of this world” is applied three times in the gospel of John to Satan (12:31, 14:30, 16:11).  Here it is “ruler” in the plural, indicating those who function as subsidiary forces of corruption--whether they consciously recognize they are doing so or not.  (It seems rare that they do; rather they justify their behavior through a variety of rationalizations.)

            (4)  “Against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”-- “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (NIV).  “Heavenly places” in this kind of context can not refer to heaven itself—unless we are going to assume that Satan and his peons continue to be permitted to work there . . . a very difficult idea to get one’s head around.  Instead it may cover those places that are non-earthly in whatever form they may exist:  Hades and who knows what else.  (The Bible was not written to provide us a detailed geographic map of what realities exist beyond the visual ones we can observe from on earth!) 

Alternatively it could refer to those whose influence is so great that it seems like they are “in the heavenly places” of importance and control . . . at least when compared to where we are.  Another possibility is that the language covers the claimed authoritative religious roots of the advocates:  they falsely claim to be promoting the agenda of God in heaven while popularizing and supporting various forms of moral delinquency.  Whitewashers of sin who would have you joyfully worship God on Sunday and go out and commit whatever morally bent behavior that appeals to you the rest of the week.  So long as it is dignified with the label “love,” of course.

      

            6:13     Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Because of the magnitude of strength of our spiritual foes, it is essential that we utilize “the whole [“full,” NET, NIV; “all the,” GW] armor of God.”  If we do, that enables us to have the protection to succeed “in the evil day” that the forces of evil attack us; it allows us “to withstand” and be triumphant over its vicious assault.

            That time of encounter will be “the evil day” because it is evil that confronts us and challenges us . . . it is evil that tries to triumph over us and enslave us.  Leaving us alone is not an option; its core goal is to force us into submission and destroy our ability to break free from the excesses of amorality and self-centeredness.

            It will often not be an easy encounter.  Hence we have to “hav[e] done all”--everything that is in our power.  But if we are that willing to throw the entirety of ourselves into the battle then we will, indeed, “stand” . . . triumphant on the battlefield with the banner of Christ waving above us.  We will “remain victors on the field” (Weymouth).  Through our own determination and the supplemental strength God will provide, we will be triumphant.  

           

6:14     Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness.   For our victory to be assured, it is essential that we be protecting our inwards—think the heart in particular--“with truth” and the certainty that comes with it.  “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalms 119:160).  That “truth” embedded in the very essence of scripture can not be successfully argued around or rationalized away. 

Our chests need to be covered with “the breastplate of righteousness [= right behavior] ” to assure that the sword of evil can’t penetrate into us to destroy.  Note that our protection is our moral character—“righteousness”—and not steel.  We are in a battle for the survival of our soul and not our physical body.  The spiritual steel we need has been provided by ongoing conformity to God’s will:  All Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalms 119:172).  That spiritual steel provides us with the protection we need. 

 

            6:15     and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  Our footwear are, if you will, “spiritual warfare shoes:  Hence you need your feet shod “with the preparation of the gospel of peace:”  It is “preparation” in the sense that it “prepares” you to defend the gospel message and in a non-combat setting to share it with others.  Knowing it . . . being well informed by its contents . . . you have the skills to do what needs to be done.  Or as the ESV words it, having ourselves “shod” in this manner, then we have “the readiness [ = preparation] given by the gospel of peace” (ESV) to engage in spiritual combat.   

            6:16     above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  A hitting of the armor itself could bruise or hurt without destroying our resilience but “the shield of faith” protects one from the cven more dangerous “fiery darts of the wicked one” that can do far worse harm.  The word for “shield” refers to the largest, strongest, and most protective that the Romans used.  “The Greek is one of two familiar words for ‘shield,’ and denotes a large oblong shield (such as that used by the heavy Roman infantry) about 2½x4 feet in size.” 

The “darts” are described as “fiery” because they are things intended to “burn”--scar us morally or ethically.  Though they might not kill but they would make us feel miserable even under the best of circumstances.  They are an attempt to inflict a continuing wound that saps our dedication over a period of time.  They sap our strength and undermines it.  Hence not necessarily a death blow, but something that could lead to it.  With good fortune—speaking from Satan’s standpoint—even destroy our desire to live morally in a far shorter time framework. 

Fiery darts in ancient warfare.  Literally, ‘the darts, the ignited darts.’  The metaphor is taken from the fire-arrows of ancient warfare.  Wetstein here gives abundant illustration, from Thucydides, Livy, Vegetius, Ammianus, and many other authors . Ammianus (about a.d. 380) describes the Roman malleoli as arrows carrying a perforated bulb, like a distaff, just below the point; the bulb filled with burning matter; the arrow discharged from a slack bow, lest speed should kill the flame.  Another variety was simpler; the shaft near the point was wrapped in burning tow.”  (A. E. Humphreys, Cambridge Bible)

 

            6:17     And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  The “helmet” to be worn is that of “salvation.”  Even if one knows the truth and shares the truth, of what permanent value is it to us unless we have embraced at as our own as well?  We must make it as much part of ourselves as if it were the helmet protecting a warrior from death. 

            Our offensive weapon is “the sword of the Spirit” and that “sword” is quite naturally “the word of God” since the Spirit inspired the gospel message we embrace.  It doesn’t operate independently of the word.  Rather it operates through the word.

            James B. Coffman offers a few concise and useful words on this verse:

 

No passage in all the Bible any more dramatically teaches the absolute necessity of the Christian's thorough knowledge of the word of God. Not having it, he is naked, barefooted, bare-headed and helpless before the enemy. 

From Pilgrim’s Progress, it will be recalled that the armor with which the Christian was outfitted in the House Beautiful had no protection for his back. Christians are not protected if they flee from the foe; they are expected to stand against every attack.

 

 

 



 

Prayer Can Rightly Be For

Many Things And People

And They Were Never To Neglect It

(6:18-20)

 

 

            18 With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and petitions for all the saints.  19 Pray for me also, that I may be given the right words when I begin to speak—that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

6:18     praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—.   To speak of “praying always with all prayer” seems a strange way to word things:  If you are praying surely the inevitable result is prayer!  One approach is to take this as a reference to the variety of types of prayer that exist as needs vary from person to person who is being prayed about.  Hence the translation of it as references to “all kinds of prayers” (NIV) or “with every kind of prayer” (ISV).  “Every variety” as one commentator puts it.

            Even so the practical result of mentioning it twice is to emphatically stress the need for persistence and perseverance in it . . . and an intensity in its practice as well.  It is not to be a “sometimes” thing—like in church services—but an “all the time” practice in our private lives as well.  “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  “Be unceasing in prayer” (Weymouth). 

  The reference to “all prayer and supplication” again reminds us that every relevant need and concern is the appropriate subject of our petitions.  The NIV accomplishes this by speaking of “all kinds of prayers and requests.”  Use every kind of effort and make every kind of request for all of God's people” (GW).  Human needs don’t come in one small spectrum of types.

            Unlike verse 17, here the “Spirit” should be lower case since it is their own spirit that does the praying.  It is not just the outward mouth saying the words but the inward spirit that expresses itself through those words.  Less likely, the “Spirit” could be left capitalized and refer to how we petition God according to what the Spirit has revealed in the scriptures as to the appropriate subjects—which amounts to virtually anything that can be of genuine benefit to ourselves or others.

            We are to pay attention to the regularity of our prayer and its contents (“watchful to this end”).  We are not to practice a “prayer splurge” and not return to heavy duty prayer until months later.  It is to be an ongoing effort.  We are to practice “perseverance” in it . . . “with your most diligent efforts” (ISV) . . . “unwearied assistance” (Weymouth). 

            These prayers are to include “supplication [requests] for all the saints” . . . “for all God’s people” (GNT). Our prayers should regularly include the needs, concerns, and fears of those we know closely but also for a cross section of those we do not know that well but who we discover have problems plaguing them.  In other words pay attention to what people are saying around you at church and announcements being made from the pulpit!  That way you gain the maximum information about the situation of your fellow Christians.                

 

            6:19     and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.  Because of the special dangers Paul faced and the degree of great good he had done for Christ’s cause, it was logical that they pray that he continue to be given wise “utterance(s)” to share with others . . . “that God will give me the right words to say” (GW).  Inspiration was not something to feel arrogant about.  It was so important that it was imperative that one pray for the wisdom and speech to say the right things in the right way and manner. 

It wasn’t a doubt that he would receive such assistance but an acknowledgement that he had no control over receiving it:  It was strictly a Divine decision when, on what occasions, and the manner it was given.  Furthermore though God provided the content (Matthew 10:18-20), one was not to take the arrogant attitude  that he had no personal responsibility to present it in the most effective manner.  Hence we may also be dealing with the matter of stylistic presentation rather than just the actual substance of what is to be said and presented.   God gives the message but it is Paul who must present it in the most effective manner and not arrogantly rely upon God rather than putting his personal best into the presentation as well.  

            Having this skill as well as the needed insight and knowledge was only half the battle.  The other half that needed to be prayed for was the courage “that I may open my mouth boldly” to do that needed teaching.  When you are faced with important and powerful individuals, courage and confidence are not always the easiest things to maintain!  He could use God’s help there as well.

            The preached message would be “mak[ing] known the mystery of the gospel.”  It would no longer be something hidden—fully or partly—from human knowledge and comprehension.  It would be freely revealed.  Weymouth effectively shares the meaning of the words:  “make known the truths (hitherto kept secret).”  Now they were no longer disguised or hidden from human sight.  They are laid out to be either accepted or rejected.         

 

            6:20     for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.  Although appointed as an apostle—and therefore an “ambassador” representing God through the teaching of the gospel (verse 19)—that did not assure him respect or acceptance.  In fact he was “in chains” for the very offense of fulfilling his duties as a spiritual ambassador.  That could undermine the confidence of any regal representative!  Hence the prayer that he have full confidence . . . not in the truth he spoke for that was a given . . . but in the ability to ably present the message . . . doing so with all the confidence (= “speak boldly”) that his restrained earthly circumstances could have drained out of him.

 

 

 

 

 

Parting Salutations

From The Apostle

(6:21-24)

 

 

            21 Tychicus, my dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will make everything kn1own to you, so that you too may know about my circumstances, how I am doing.  22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.

            23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.  --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            6:21     But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you.  The quality of Tychicus as a human being can be found in his dual descriptions.  First as “a beloved brother,” with the implication that among those Paul has in the past and is currently working with, he enjoys a special quality of excellence.  The second description is of being a “faithful minister in the Lord;” hence, reliable and trustworthy in spiritual matters. 

Although “minister” is the normal translation in the current context, perhaps “faithful helper in the Lord’s service” (Weymouth) is better since he has the task of delivering this epistle to Ephesus and the one to Colosse as well (Colossians 4:7) . . . he is literally helping Paul by taking this long distance travel as his responsibility.  Ephesus was in Roman Asia and that province was his home (Acts 20:4).

            Furthermore Tychicus is a minister/helper “in the Lord”—in His service, in His ministry, in His cause . . . in whatever manner he can be of use.

            Tychicus “will make all things known to you.”  After all, he “know(s) my affairs.”  Time has passed since Paul and the Ephesians had last been together and a lot of things have occurred.  Paul has just written a letter aimed at covering the main items he believes they need to hear.  But the things they are merely curious about or strange teachings they may have heard vaguely attributed to the apostle (cf. the caution in 2 Thessalonians 2:12) they could check out through him.  He will be available to “make all things known to you.”  He’s there to share anything you might have an interest in.   

            The desire for supplemental information beyond written correspondence:  Paul’s wish to give and receive back supplemental information was not uncommon among those in a position to arrange it.  Hence we find Cicero writing to Atticus, “Send us some letter-carrier, that both you may know how it goes with us, and that we may know how you fare and what you are going to do” (v. 18).  (As quoted by Vincent’s Word Studies)

 

            6:22     whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.  Paul had sent Tychicus for the core “purpose” so that they might be fully informed about “our affairs”—how he is being treated and how he is psychologically holding up.  Not to mention whatever else is happening around him while in imprisonment.  Paul is convinced that a candid report will be vastly reassuring to them and bring “comfort [to] your hearts.”  Worry will be replaced with understanding and a far more balanced picture:  Far away from them, it would be easy to assume only the worst.   

 

            6:23     Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that all of the local Christians would have “peace” with both the Father and with His Son and that, of course, can only be obtained through their continued obedience to the gospel.  He wishes that they will enjoy “love [along] with faith” from both as well. 

The scriptures normally speak of our having both love toward and faith in the Father and Son.  For them to flow from rather that to the Father and Son obviously requires the same prerequisite as receiving “peace” from them—our loyalty and persistence in the faith.  Hence “faith” in this earthward direction becomes virtually synonymous with “confidence” in our continued loyalty—as demonstrated by our pattern of behavior.

 

            6:24     Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  Amen.  In his last words of closing, Paul wishes that Divine favor (“grace) be upon all faithful Christians.  Claiming to be a Christian is not enough.  They need not only to “love” (=obey, respect, follow) Him but it also has to be with “sincerity” (= wholeheartedly, without pretense).  Remember that both Christ and His Father can tell when it is all a veneer and when it is actually part of our heart rooted emotions and commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources quoted:

 

James B. Coffman.  Commentary on Ephesians.  Internet edition at: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ephesians.html.

 

Marin R. Vincent.  Word Studies.  Internet edition at:  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/ephesians.html.

 

A. E. Humphreys.  Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Ephesians (1891).  Internet edition at:  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/ephesians/1.htm.

 

H. D. M. Spence, editor.  Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians.  Internet edition at:  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/ephesians/1.htm.