The Apostle Paul had reminded his readers of the glory and promise of God, our need for His grace and provision, our new standing before God—as both individuals and as a family of believers, the magnificence of God, a healthy perspective of suffering in the life of a believer, the love, power and provision of God, and His calling to a life of holiness, and greater specificity as to how one lived a life of holiness.
In Chapter 6 he addressed parent-child relationships, slave-master relationships, and spiritual warfare.
6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.
6:2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely,
6:3 “that it may go well with you and that you will live a long time on the earth.”
6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Lord, Your blessings are conditional, they come in response to obedience. May I be salt and light in my family and community because of my obedience to You as Your devoted child.
Paul begins with a paraphrase from the 10 Commandments “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. (Exo. 20:12, Deut. 5:16) then addresses parents “... do not provoke your children to anger.”
Only a few notes are in order as the verses, at least as translated in the NET Bible, are self-explanatory.
In 6:1 the phrase “... in the Lord” may be understood in one of three ways;
The first is to infer that Paul means Christian parents—this is reasonable since his primary audience throughout the Book of Ephesians is believers.
[Note: Paul does not specifically address the obedience of children toward non-Christian parents and the admonition to the parents to “raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” may be taken to affirm exclusivity in the text to Christian parents; however, Paul is not condoning the rebellion of children against a parent merely because they are not believers.]
The second understanding infers that Paul intends that the children remember that they are Christians and that they must view their parents through the eyes of the Lord, being obedient, patient, and prayerful.
There is nothing in the context or the literal text to justify the exclusion of either the first or second inference/understanding.
The third understanding would misrepresent the apostle Paul as he does not offer “raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” as a mere suggestion but as both a way to avoid “... provoking your children to anger” and as strong directive for a true Christian parent; therefore, one may not rightly-infer that avoiding conflict and avoiding discipline is a wise form of parenting.
[Note: Paul does not encourage parents to delegate this discipline and instruction to others but is telling them that it is their direct responsibility.]
[Note: The Biblical definition of anger, it’s sources, and the correct response were discussed earlier in the Ephesians study series, for our purposes here suffice to say that absent maturity in the Lord every child will be angry and hopeless.]
[Note: Our eternal and supreme ‘parent’ is the Lord God, therefore, a Christian child may find no parental-order to sin acceptable; though a child must be willing to accept the worldly-consequences of righteous-obedience (to God) when they take a stand for holiness. It is remarkable how often a child (or an adult) may be willing to risk and receive punishment for sinful rebellion but how rare it is that they will do so for righteousness, even in Christian homes. The influence of the Fall is powerful.]
The Lord God knows what is best. God says that children are to obey their parents since there are few other sources of authority who care more or understand better; God gives parents to children for a reason. Raising a child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord helps them to be more emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually healthy and safe.
What are practical examples of the meaning of “... do not provoke your children to anger.”?
The Lord God knows that when we “raise them [children—literal and spiritual] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” we equip them to be more emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually healthy and safe.
When have you observed the consequences of a parent’s failure to raise their child the way that the Bible teaches may cause them to drift into an angry relationship with the parent(s) and the world?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a child, be he or she a literal child or a child-in-faith, new to the family of God, for whom He would like you to pray and to minister in His Name.
Today I will offer to teach the discipline and instruction of the Lord the one whom the Holy Spirit has directed me. If I am that ‘child’ I choose to be obedient, patient, and prayerful as I humbly submit to the teaching of the one(s) whom God has sent to disciple me.
6:5 Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ,
6:6 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.
6:7 Obey with enthusiasm, as though serving the Lord and not people,
6:8 because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord.
6:9 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.
Lord, You require that we give our best to every effort, no matter the circumstances. Our most important reward is with You and not here in this temporary world. May I remember this, especially when the task is dreary or unpleasant, and therefore be salt and light by example.
Paul addressed an unfortunate condition of man since early in his existence, that of slavery, in which circumstance one man compels another to provide labor without freedom. "Master" could refer to "overseer" or "slave-owner". It is important to note that Paul is in no way condoning slavery.
[Note: Slavery is a heinous tool of greed and oppression, sometimes one of the ‘spoils’ of war, sometimes driven by the selfish pursuit of power, wealth, and worldly prestige, and sometimes an expression of some twisted demographic superiority. The use of the terms “master” and “slave in this case do not appear to refer to a context parallel to African slaves captured and sold by their peers to pre-Civil War American plantations or Caribbean and central/south American plantations, nor the slavery known in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere in the past and even today but to the more common “bond-servant” arrangement.]
A bond-servant is a Biblically-described sub-category of slavery entered into willingly to resolve debt and was generally protected with a limited 7-year maximum length and dismissal at 30 years of age. Physical abuse of a bond-servant was historically-uncommon. The other most common form of slavery was typically unlike the righteously-condemned brutal and heinous slavery, which has historically received the greatest attention, but rather was one in which slaves (however they fell into bondage) were allowed a great deal of freedom to earn money, own property, and to raise their families. Many bond-servants as well as many slaves, especially those captured in war, were educated and thus were used as care-givers and teachers to children.
In Paul’s address to “Masters” he warned them to treat their slaves “... as though serving the Lord ...”. The NET Bible transliteration of the text immediately following says “...because ... both you and they have the same master in Heaven ...” actually reads “... because of both they and you, the Lord is, in Heaven ...” which implies that Jesus is Lord of both because he is addressing Christians who are in slavery.
In the Sudan today the children and parents of the Bahai, Christian and competing Muslim sect religious groups are kidnapped and forced into slavery by brutal and lawless militias. The ugliness of slavery, as but one visible evidence of fallen-nature of man, lives on.
How do you handle the challenge that when we are as 'bond-servants' as a contractor or in a place of employment, we have agreed to perform a service in return for a benefit—within the rules of that organization; do you serve with the integrity you would if they were Jesus?
When we are the equivalent of the master or the over-seer—do we treat the one(s) we supervise with the honor due a fellow, or potential, child of God?
When have you observed an example of someone who handled authority in a Biblical manner. What was the result in the workplace?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a way that He wants you to change the way that you handle authority, whether as one humbled by it, or being humble in your use of it. Ask Him to identify a specific person with whom you have been interacting with a less-Biblical attitude than you should.
Today I will intentionally and prayerfully bring myself into alignment with the Word of God. Today I am choosing to ask a fellow believer to pray in agreement with me and will report back to them the results. I will thank the Lord God that as a bond-servant in a contract or a job I may be a positive witness to the truth of His promise and power as I serve my employer with the integrity I would were they Jesus. If I am in a role that is the equivalent of the master or the over-seer may my conduct honor your name as I treat the one I supervise with the honor due a fellow, or potential, child of God.
Exhortations for Spiritual Warfare
6:10 Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
6:11 Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
6:12 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.
6:13 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.
Lord, You warn us that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare, and You provide us with the tools for victory. May I be wise in gathering and using those tools daily.
Paul addressed the threat of the “schemes” or craftiness of “... the devil ...” and the need to defend oneself through the power that comes from God “... be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His power.”
The Apostle is not stuttering or repeating himself, he is saying two similar but different things; first, “... be strengthened in the Lord”; that is, to learn and to apply what the Lord God is teaching in order to mature, second “... be strengthened ... in the strength of His power.”; that is, to leverage His power as your power as a Child of God.
“Clothe yourself with the full armor of God ...” was how he addressed the how of leveraging God’s power, and “... so that you may be able to stand ...” addressed the why.
[Note: He used the word “may”, that is because one has to have done the first part of “... strengthening in the Lord”, so as to be discerning enough to know when, informed enough to know how, and strong enough to act despite ones fear, because “... our struggle” denotes the reality of the struggle, not that it may be avoided or ignored, and explains that “... is not against flesh and blood”; therefore, we must not be too distracted by the things in the visible world, “... but against the rulers, the powers ... of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”. The battle is a spiritual battle and we are in it—like it or not.
Paul concluded with a summary; “... take up the full armor of God” to “... be able to stand your ground” “... on the evil day”. The “... evil day” is to come, and is now, both at once; every day is an “evil day” as we only get one chance to stand with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit when tested, else we to surrender our position to the Enemy, which once gone means that we have failed “to stand” and it is not reclaimable. No do-overs. The “evil day” is also yet to come in the existential sense of the day when the chains are released and the Enemy and all of his desperately evil demons are allowed to mount a final attack. In that day we will need every shred of “in Him” and from Him” spiritual power which we should have been storing up and testing out all-along.
We each have our struggles, usually more than one. The symptom of the substance abuser is their physiological addition but there is a back-story that has a spiritual element. The obsessive-compulsive seeks control due to the false belief that through a forced and artificial ordering of their environment they may create a bubble of safety in a challenging world, but there is something more to their fears. The one in slavery to gambling, money, pornography, power, prestige, or some other idol also does so out of a false need to compensate for something and is a casualty in need of reinforced armor in waging their part of the larger spiritual battle.
What are some specific ways to practically apply Paul's teaching.
Although we all have weaknesses in our imperfect flesh, because of grace, in and through Jesus we are made strong. Acknowledge that the battle is first spiritual and then physical and that we must have His full armor to have any hope of safety.
When have you faced a challenge in your life where you have applied Paul's teaching?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a clearer understanding and implement of the disciplines necessary to prevail in spiritual warfare and where you most need strengthening.
Today I will humbly receive a better understanding of what are my weaknesses and what are the ways that the Enemy has been exploiting them. I will select one weakness and ask someone I trust to assist me with accountability, encouragement, and prayer as I partner with the Holy Spirit to overcome it.
6:14 Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness,
6:15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,
6:16 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.
6:17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Lord, You equip us for battle because our choice for Jesus places us in opposition to the evil one, incurring his venal wrath. May I remember that the attacks are coming, both obvious and subtle, and therefore not be found unprepared and unarmed.
Paul addressed the how-to of the “... full armor of God ...” in defending oneself against the devil using the visual imagery of a Roman soldier. “Stand firm therefore, by”:
“... fastening, the belt of truth around your waist,” (This is to what most other elements of the armor would be attached—truth, God’s absolute truth, is the central connecting value.)
“... by putting on the breastplate of righteousness,” (Clipped to the belt to keep it from moving the breastplate is defensive in purpose and is a result of applying God’s truth to our life through righteous living that keeps us safer from temptation.)
“... by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,” (The soldier’s feet were covered and protected, the believer is covered by positional standing as a child of God and protected by His power and the certainty of salvation through the peace that comes in accepting the propitiation of Christ which established our right-standing with God with whom we were formerly eternal enemies due to sin. Many of Satan’s lies go back to the Garden of Eden—certainty of Who God is and of His certain-promise to us as His eternal children is powerful protection indeed.)
“... 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.” (The shield was a defensive tool covered in metal as enemies would literally set the old wooden shields ablaze with flaming arrows, so also the believer needs the shield of faith which provides both salvation and the ‘ultrafidian’ (beyond faith) capacity to fearlessly serve God knowing that he is our defender.)
“And take the helmet of salvation ...” (Another defensive tool in Paul’s illustration, looking back to Isaiah 59:17, refers to justice and righteousness.)
“... the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (The only tool primarily used for offense, though surely also defensive as well. In addition to the two foot long short-sword carried by a Roman soldier for close-in fighting Paul may have had in mind the sword carried by a “bystander” Mark 14:47 and used offensively to defend Jesus from capture, a machete-like sword used against wild animals, roadside attackers, and clearing bushes and branches during off-path travel. A sword is only as useful as the abilities of it’s owner, in the hands of an impulsive or inept person it could escalate an otherwise less-violent confrontation or be taken and turned against them. Similarly the Word of God is an effective and powerful tool in the hands of a “good Berean”, or one readily misquoted and used against the careless believer by the Enemy.)
The Lord God’s absolute truth is the “belt” or anchor we need as a point of reference for stability in a chaotic world. If I view myself as a child of God, a saint, guaranteed Heaven for eternity how my certainty of salvation can help me to ward-off many of Satan’s lies about vulnerabilities that do not exist and fears that are irrational. God gives us, through the Holy Spirit, an “ultrafidian” (beyond faith) capacity to fearlessly serve God “and the very gates of Hell cannot prevail against it”. (Mat. 16:13, Gal. 10, Mal. 1:1-5)
What are some non-legalistic righteous living-based boundaries that can help to keep us safer from temptation when we are tested?
When perfect justice is defined by God, it is certain at the “End”, and it is not confused with a mere human definition of “fairness”. For the same reason, righteousness defines the way I view the world, thus my clear-thinking is protected. The Word of God is an effective and powerful tool in the battle for truth, and in warding-off the attacks of the Enemy; the better we learn to handle that tool the more valuable it will be.
When have you experienced the enemy had been lying to you about something he wanted you to believe was an impossible-to-overcome weakness or vulnerability and a better understanding of the truth of God’s Word set you free?
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of His truth, His definition of righteous living, His assurance of salvation, His provision of opportunities for 'ultrafidian’ (beyond faith) service, and His standard for and provision of the last word about justice.
Today I am choosing to thank the Lord God for all of the tools that are in His “full armor”. I am choosing to put on that full armor at the beginning of the day and to walk through the process again later in the day as I feel myself weakening. I will seek an opportunity to encourage a fellow saint to do the same, or to affirm them if they are already doing so.
6:18 With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.
Lord, You have given us Your presence through Your Holy Spirit, and You have instructed that we pray for others with the guidance, perspective, and power of the Spirit. May I remember to Whom I am praying, through Whom I am praying, and for whom I am to raise most of my prayers; others.
Paul instructed the Ephesians to pray “... in the Spirit”, to “... be alert”, and to do so “... with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.”
His purpose to remind believers that their prayers are facilitated by the indwelling Holy Spirit, are motivated by Him, and are blessed. Our prayers are to be righteous, we are to be alert to deception and aware of needs, and as he noted elsewhere to “... pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17) for other the requests of other saints.
Paul’s instructions are tied to the preceding text as prayer is part of the “full armor”, it is necessary to wisely use the armor, and is what keeps us grounded in Christ.
Prayers are also designed to keep us constantly-close to the Lord God in conversation so that we remember Whose we are, we remember Who dwells within us, and we remember that we are to pray with hearts of loving-compassion.
The Lord God will bless and protect us if we exercise the discipline to remember to “put on the full armor” every morning there thereby we acknowledge the Holy Spirit.
When you have prayed first thing in the morning did you discover that it got your daylong conversation started with the Lord God?
When we activate the armor we become alert as a good spiritual soldier should be.
Have you experienced that persevering in prayer, especially for others, kept you humble and focused on what was most important to the Lord God?
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you to remember to put on the full armor of God, to pray without ceasing all day, to be alert to the deception and trickery of the Enemy, and to pray for others so that you remain in a mindset of humble service
Today I am choosing to keep a simple journal of my day and share it with a friend—noting the difference that this spiritual discipline made in my day.
6:19 Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak—that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel,
6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.
Lord, it is Your message and not my own that I speak in Your Name, and my confidence comes from You and is because of You. May I be bold to share Your saving and maturing Word.
Paul asked the Ephesians that they pray in-agreement with him for the challenges that he faced.
Even Paul valued the prayers “in the Spirit” of the saints, raised in-obedience to his prior teaching and with perseverance (without ceasing).
He wanted the Ephesians to understand that no mere human, not even Jesus in the temporary human shell He occupied (and without His full glory), walked without constant refreshment from the Lord God through prayer.
The Ephesian believers had to be far more alert, due to their desperate need for the Lord God’s presence, because their enemies (physical and spiritual) were actively opposing them.
When we awake every morning and begin with a prayer of dependency on the Lord God He will bless that. When we remember fellow saints in prayer, in the morning, and all day—He honors that. When we maintain a continuous conversation with God all day He blesses us with comfort and discernment and wisdom in all that we think, say, and do.
How would you develop a practical discipline to wake every morning and begin with a prayer of dependency on the Lord God, without it becoming like a pagan chant or a mindless ritual?
We have active enemies in both the physical and spiritual realms.
When have you tried maintaining a continuous conversation with God all day? How did He bless you with comfort and discernment and wisdom in all that you thought, said, and did? Compare and contrast that with a different day when you did not do so.
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you to begin your day with a prayer of dependency on the Lord God, to remember a fellow saint or saints by name in the morning and all day in prayer, and that I will maintain a continuous conversation with Him.
Today I will ask a fellow believer to join me in this, and at the end of the day (or some time the following day), we will compare our experiences.
6:21 Tychicus, my dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will make everything known to you, so that you too may know about my circumstances, how I am doing.
6:22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.
6:23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6:24 Grace be with all of those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Lord, You provide grace and love and peace to Your children, and as we understand that better we experience it more profoundly. May I grow in understanding so that I may be better encouraged and equipped through Your grace and love and peace.
Paul concluded his letter to the Ephesians with a letter-of-introduction for Tychicus and a blessing for all believers.
He promised them a report of praise and of need, from his ministry to them—with the assurance that what they hear about them will “... encourage your hearts”.
Paul commended to them peace and love with faith from “... God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.
He reminded them that grace is with all “... those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
Paul once-again affirmed the divinity of Christ when he referred to Him as “Lord”.
The concluding words of Paul contained a believer-only qualification, and a powerful word of encouragement.
The Lord God’s desire is that though grace and love we will have peace with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Does our Christian-faith flow from an undying love for Jesus that provides the grace we need to live in peace with one-another?
Give thanks to the Lord God that, if you choose the path of faithful-obedience, you will have peace and love with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
When has grace flowed to you, and/or through you to another, as a result of your intentional love-relationship with Jesus?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a specific brother or sister in Christ, with whom a loving and peaceful relationship has been difficult, for whom He wants you to pray and to reconcile.
Today I am committing to pursue peace and love with a difficult brother or sister in-Christ, beginning in prayer and followed by communication and fellowship. I will ask a fellow believer to pray in agreement with me for success in this reconciliation.
All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated—http://bible.org
Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.
Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.
Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2011 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study— “Ephesians”—prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in October of 2011. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.