The truths of the first nine verses of this chapter are a continuation of the theme introduced in chapter 5. In Ephesians 5, the Spirit-filled wife is subject to her husband. In this chapter, we learn that Spirit-filled children obey their parents (see Ephesians 6:1-3).
The phrase “in the Lord” is interesting. Paul undoubtedly has the Christian family in view. Christian children should obey their parents with the attitude that they are obeying the Lord. Secondly, it means that they should obey in all matters which are in accordance with the will of God. In the case of being ordered to do that which is contrary to the will of God, they should continuously refuse and suffer any consequences meekly.
Paul gives four reasons why children should obey their parents:
It is right (Ephesians 6:1)—This is a basic principle that is built into the family structure; that those who are immature, impulsive, and inexperienced should submit to the authority of parents who are older and wiser.
It is scriptural (Ephesians 6:2)—Paul quotes Exodus 20:12, which says, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” This is the first of the Ten Commandments with a promise attached. It calls for children to love, respect, and obey their parents.
It is in the best interest of the children (Ephesians 6:3)—“That it may be well with thee.” We can see all around us the effects of the lack of instruction and correction. Some children are personally miserable and socially intolerable.
For obedience to one’s parents, the Jewish child was promised “length of days” (Ephesians 6:3)—In this age, a life of discipline and obedience is conducive to good health and longevity.
Paul continues his instruction in the domestic sphere by giving advice to fathers (Eph. 6:4). They are “not to provoke their children to anger.” They must not make unreasonable demands upon them. They must not treat them with undue harshness. They must not be constantly nagging them. On the contrary, they should be brought up with discipline and correction—verbal or corporal. They should be admonished (i.e. warned, rebuked, and reproved) “in the Lord.” The one who administers the discipline must always remember that he is acting as a representation of God.
The third, and final, sphere of submission in the Christian household concerns servants’ submission to their masters. The first duty of the servant is to “obey.” Ephesians 6:5 reads, “Servants, be obedient.” Secondly, the servant should be respectful, acting “with fear and trembling.” This does not mean that they should act with cowering servility or abject terror, but rather it means that they should treat their masters with respect and a fear of offending the Lord as well as employees. Thirdly, the servants’ service should be conscientious—in singleness of heart. Fourthly, the servants’ work should be done as “unto Christ.”
A servant’s performance should not be determined by the geographical location of the master. Instead, it should be determined by the presence of the ever-present Lord. Those who serve their earthly master well are serving Christ and doing the will of God (Eph. 6:6). The monetary reward may not be commensurate with the service rendered to our earthly master, but in the future it will be recognized and rewarded by the Lord Himself.
Masters should be guided by the same general principles as servants. They should be kind, fair and honest. They should abstain from threatening and abusive language. In disciplining their servants they should remember that they also have a master in heaven who does not recognize that which is an earthly distinctive (Eph. 6:9).
In Ephesians 6:10, the apostle is drawing a close to his letter. He makes a final appeal to the family of God as soldiers of Christ saying, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” The spiritual believer is engaged in total warfare. The hosts of Satan are committed to hinder, obstruct, and totally destroy the individual believer (think of Adam and Eve). The closer a believer walks with the Lord, the more he will experience the savage attacks of Satan and his hosts. Consider David (see Acts 16 and Matthew 10:2). In our own strength we are no match for the devil (see James 4:7). Hence, we are exhorted to be strong in the Lord and to draw continually from the inexhaustible resources of His power.
Paul issues his second command here, saying, “Put on the whole armor of God.” The believer must be completely armed to stand. Paul mentions this three different times. The devil has many modes of attack. These include discouragement, frustration, confusion, moral failure, doctrinal error, worldly pleasure, and mediocrity. If he cannot disable us by one method, he will try another.
In Ephesians 6:12, we are called to wrestle. This battle is not against human enemies, but against demonic powers, hosts of fallen angels, and evil spirits who wield tremendous powers. These wicked spirit-beings can oppress and harass the believers. He need not be anxious by their presence if he puts on the whole armor of God. Paul names some of our spirit enemies, which include principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places. These evil beings are present in the heavenly places— the air.
Ephesians 6:13 says, “Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God.” Notice it is the ‘whole armor.’ This is mentioned twice here (see Eph. 6:11). We must put the whole armor of God on if we expect to stand when the conflict reaches its fiercest intensity. The evil day is the day of attack. The armor is for the front. Satanic opposition comes in waves. We never know when the attack will come, hence the importance of having all the armor on at all times.
There are seven pieces of armor:
(1) The first piece of armor mentioned is the girdle or belt of truth. Every Christian should be armed with the truth of God’s Word. Everything moral, spiritual, doctrinal, and ethical should be tested by the truths of the Word. Jesus said, “I am the TRUTH.” This is the believer’s first line of defense. Example: The Lord in the wilderness.
(2) The second piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. Every believer is clothed with the righteousness of God (see 2 Cor. 5:21). He also should manifest integrity and purity of personal life. When a believer is clothed in practical righteousness, he is impregnable. David put on the breastplate of righteousness (see Psalm 7:3-5). The Lord wore it at all times. (See Isaiah 59:17, which asks, “Which of you convicteth?”)
(3) The soldier’s feet must be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” (Eph. 6:15). This suggests a readiness to go forth with the Gospel of peace, as a literal invader into enemy territory. “How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the Gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things” (see Romans 10:5). “Take my feet. Swift and beautiful for thee.”
(4) The soldier is also commanded to take “the shield of faith” in Ephesians 6:16. By doing so, he is able to protect himself against the flaming arrows from hell. Faith here is from confidence both in the Lord and in His Word. When temptation harasses, when circumstances are adverse, when doubts assail, when all seems lost, faith looks up and says, “I believe God.”
(5) The believer must put on a helmet (Eph. 6:17). The helmet God provides is a helmet of salvation (see Isaiah 59:17). No matter how fierce the battle, the believer should be undaunted, knowing that ultimate victory is sure. The assurance of eventual deliverance should inspire him and so prevent retreat or surrender. If God be for us, who can be against us? See Romans 8:31.
(6) Furthermore, believers must take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The classic example of this is our Lord’s use of this sword in His encounter with Satan in the wilderness. He quoted the Word of God three times, under the direction of the Spirit. This was sufficient to discourage him from further attack. (Example: Moonie Girl).
(7) Finally, Ephesians 6:18 speaks of, “praying always with all prayer.” Prayer is not mentioned as part of the armor, but every believer at all times should be enveloped in an attitude of prayer. Prayer should be done without ceasing. We must be “praying always” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
The believer should use all kinds of prayer, praying “with all prayer.” This should include both public and private prayer, deliberate and spontaneous prayer, along with supplication and intercession. There should also be confession and humiliation, along with praise and thanksgiving. The Spirit should inspire the believer’s prayers. Of what use are formal, ritualistic prayers against the forces of hell?
There must be vigilance in prayer. We must be always “watching thereunto.” We must guard against complacency and carelessness. Prayer requires keenness, alertness, and concentration. There also must be perseverance in prayer, “with all perseverance.” We must keep on asking, seeking and knocking (see Luke 11:9). Finally, supplication should be made for all saints. All believers are engaged in the conflict and need the supportive prayers of fellow soldiers.
Ephesians 6:19 says, “Pray for me.” Paul is in prison at this time. He did not ask for prayer for an early release, rather he asked that they would pray that the opportunity would be given him to declare the gospel. Usually ambassadors are granted diplomatic immunity from arrest and imprisonment. No such treatment was given Paul. He considers himself an ambassador in bonds; he considered himself to be the prisoner of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:20). Even in chains he asks them to pray that he may “open his mouth boldly” and speak the full revelation of God.
These verses draw this remarkable letter to a conclusion. Paul mentions that he is sending Tychicus to them to let them know how he was faring. Tychicus’ task was twofold. He wanted first to tell them of Paul’s welfare in prison and second to encourage their hearts, allaying any unnecessary fears.
In Ephesians 6:23, he desires that his readers may have peace and love with faith. Peace would garrison their hearts in every circumstance of life. Love would enable them to worship God and work with one another. Faith would empower them for exploits in Christian warfare.
Finally, in Ephesians 6:24, the beloved apostle prays that the grace of God will be the position of every true believer. The Roman prison no longer holds its noble inmate. The beloved apostle has entered into his reward, and has seen the face of his beloved Lord. But his letter is still with us, as fresh and alive as it left his heart and his pen. This possibly is one of the most wonderful and majestic spiritual letters ever written.