3. The Conduct and Duty of the Church (Ephesians 4-6)
In the study so far, we have finished the first half of this great epistle with its clear and blessed revelation of the calling and design of the Church. We have learned something of how God planned the Church before the foundation of the world, how that, in the fullness of time, the Son of God purchased it with His own blood, and finally, how the Holy Spirit came as the deposit, or pledge, that the whole transaction will be satisfactorily completed.
The first part of the epistle is doctrinal. The fact of God’s love to us ere we were ever born is propounded. The great doctrines of salvation are set forth in the first three chapters. Now Paul is ready to enumerate the duties of the Christian.
Proper conduct springs from a correct understanding of one’s calling; duty springs from doctrine. Dr. N. B. Harrison writes: “To harangue people into better living is one thing; to root our appeal in a relationship we sustain to Christ through the eternal purposes of grace is quite another.” A babe in Christ must lay hold of some God-given revelation as to the dignity of his calling before he will lay hold of his duty as a Christian.
This order we expect in Paul’s epistles: it is typical of his writings. He teaches doctrine before deportment, calling before conduct, wealth before walk, position before practice, revelation before responsibility. The believer, having realized his high calling, is now ready to be led into a life of holy conduct. If you believe in doctrinal Christianity, you will desire practical Christianity. If your heart said, “Amen” (3:21), to the doctrine, you will yield as readily to the deportment. The way God sees us in Christ in the heavenlies is the way men should see us in action on the earth.
Two great truths stand out in this part of the epistle: the believer’s walk, and the believer’s warfare. The teaching deals at length with these two thoughts, referred to by some as conduct and conflict. The larger part of the last three chapters has to do with the former (4:1-6:9).
A. The Christian Is to Walk Characteristically (4:1-16)
Certain distinguishing traits of character mark the believer in Christ. Having set forth the believer’s position doctrinally, Paul now calls upon him to prove the reality of his calling through right conduct: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (4:1).
The “therefore’s” of Paul are significant. Here the “therefore” stands as a signboard to tell us that there is no divorcement of Christian doctrine from Christian duty. Wherever there is faith, there will works be found also.
For the second time Paul mentions the fact that he is “the prisoner of the Lord” (see 3:1). This is not a plea for sympathy. The man who was about to expound the walk and warfare of the believer knew whereof he spoke. It was for their sakes that he was a made a prisoner; and if his bonds did anything at all, they added dignity to his position. True he was the prisoner of the Roman state, but more exactly he was “the prisoner of the Lord.”
On the ground of the believer’s calling, Paul would “beseech” him--not scold or command. Doubtless the Ephesians were touched by such an earnest entreaty from one who was suffering for their sakes. While his bondage was permitted by Christ, it was the direct result of his having preached Christ’s Gospel to them, as well as to others. These “beseechings” were not human commands but divine compulsions. Having received the authority of apostleship from God, Paul had a right to command, but he had a heart to beseech. To command is law; to beseech is grace. Elsewhere Paul wrote: “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin [command] thee that which is convenient, yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee … “ (Philem. 8-10). This humble servant of God chose to entreat them, to desire God’s best for them, to pray for them.
Paul besought them to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called. One’s vocation is one’s calling. Paul is saying: “I entreat you to live your life worthy of the call you have received.” The saint’s calling is described in Scripture as high (Phil. 3:14), holy (2 Tim. 1:9), and heavenly (Heb. 3:1). Recipients of God’s mercies, resulting in a miraculous change in heart, should deport themselves consistent with their high position. Beware lest the term “walk” lose its meaning to you. I know that it is a familiar figure of speech. But do not forget that it suggests a course of life; hence we have here solemn exhortations to live in obedience to God’s Word lest the steps we take create false impressions in men’s minds regarding the Christian life.
1. The Christian Walk Preserves Unity (4:1-6)
“All lowliness” suggests the idea of perfect humility. Genuine humility becomes the Christian at all times under every circumstance. We dare not pretend on the outside that we are lowly while on the inside we are deceitful and haughty. Lowliness might be despised by the world, but it is esteemed by God. Humility is the first step to unity.
“Meekness” is next mentioned as a characteristic virtue of the believer’s walk. The incarnation and earthly life of our Lord echoed “lowliness and meekness.” He said: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek, and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). And “he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6).Meekness in heart is that fruit of the Spirit that esteems the brethren higher than one’s self. In meekness, envy, malice, or an underestimate of another’s gifts and ability finds no place. Meekness is the next step to unity.
“Longsuffering” follows. This is a gracious tolerance that never desires revenge. Pride and self-seeking, with a revengeful spirit, show that one has never taken one’s rightful place before God. Are: you long-tempered or short-tempered? Do you get in a heat easily or do you remain calm and serene under fire? Longsuffering is another step toward unity.
“Forbearing one another in love.” This expression appears also in Colossians 3:13 and signifies to bear with, to endure—an extraordinary patience, with restraint of one’s feelings. One of the early lessons we learn as Christians is how to get along with one another. Mutual forbearance among us means that we pray one for the other in each other’s weaknesses and offenses, and while we are called upon to forbear it is to forbear in love.
All of these virtues contribute toward keeping “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). Notice, please, what we are not asked to do here. We are not asked to make unity. God Himself has made unity already, both of the Spirit and of the body of Christ created by God. When we were born again the Holy Spirit united us to that body, and nothing can ever sever us from it. Believing Jews and believing Gentiles have been made a new unity by God, thus forming the body in its unity. This was explained in the first part of the epistle.
Within the Church, differences in wealth, education, race, color, and social standing create the temptation to deny that unity. But God warns His people to guard the unity which He provided. Dr. A. C. Gaebelein has said: “We keep the unity of the Spirit when we recognize in every true believer a member of the same body.” Preservation of an ecclesiastical or organizational unity is not implied. This plea of the apostle does not apply to any ecumenical movement in church history, present or past.
Commenting on “the unity of the Spirit,” Dr. H. J. Ockenga wrote: “But this spiritual unity is more difficult to keep than organizational unity. It is easy to exercise authority, to discipline, to rule, to excommunicate those who agree not with us, but it is difficult to preserve love, respect, faith, humility, mutual honor one of another, which is necessary in a spiritual unity. The latter becomes a matter of self-discipline, in which most of us are lacking. We are always willing to discipline others, but very unwilling to discipline ourselves. For this reason the indwelling Spirit is the principle of unity among Christians, and this may be promoted or disturbed.” Hence the need to walk worthily with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love as the Scriptures enjoin.
The basis of spiritual unity in the Church follows in verses 4-6. It is sevenfold. Observe the seven “one’s.”
(a) “One body.” Here is the oneness of the Church itself. This mystical body of Christ (the Church) already exists. It originated on the day of Pentecost and answered the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “That they all may be one: as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:21 ) . There are many denominations, many churches, many forms of administration, many gifts, but only one body, one true Church. The members of this body differ in color, nationality, ability, mentality, and outlook; but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, “are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). Beloved Christian, we are one body. Therefore our lives must be lived in the light of our vital relationship with other fellow Christians.
(b) “One Spirit.” Doubtless Paul means the Holy Spirit. The unity is of His begetting. It is called “the unity of the Spirit.” By His operation men are born again and added to the body. The individual member who is led by the Holy Spirit is thereby preserving the unity. Beware of other spirits. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). Watch out for “the spirit of error” (1 John 4:15). None but the Holy Spirit is the activating power in the body; hence, a sin against the body is a sin against the. Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost 1.0 form that body, the disciples “were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Such is the unity of the Spirit.
(c) “One hope.” In Chapter 1:18, Paul wrote about “the hope of His calling”; here it is “one hope of your calling.” It has been mentioned that the believer’s calling is high, holy, and heavenly. The hope of such a calling is our final glorification when we shall be like the Lord and be forever with Him. The saints have a rich inheritance in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. While we will not enter fully into our inheritance until Christ returns, we have the earnest of the Holy Spirit to strengthen our hope. He keeps that hope alive. There is no hope like it in all the world, and in this one hope all Christians share. Think of it: millions having the same hope! This one thing in itself is a bond of unity. One body, one Spirit, one hope—what is powerful incentive to keep the unity of the Spirit!
(d) “One Lord.” The one Lord is God’s eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude speaks of ungodly men who deny Him (Jude 4). The believer owns Him and walks in obedience to His will. Jesus Christ is our Saviour; but He is more: He is our Lord. It is the recognition of His Lordship that preserves the unity of the Spirit. When each individual Christian acknowledges Jesus Christ as his sovereign Head, there can be no schism in the Church. Elsewhere Paul writes: (‘And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:5). There are many gifts but one Giver. There are many ways of exercising and administering those gifts, but the same Sovereignty owns and rules over all.
The Lord spoke these solemn words: “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils [demons]? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23). How fitting a climax to the Sermon on the Mount! The day of judgment will bring to light some unusual things. Some profess His Lordship but do not practice submission to Him. Sad will be the day of reckoning for all such! In that day ‘‘every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11), but then there will be neither joy nor reward.
(e) “One faith.” There is only one system of truth; it is “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). One may possess the right attitude of faith but the wrong object of faith. It matters not how one believes if he does not embrace the one saving object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul testified that he preached “the faith” (Gal. 1:23). Christian faith has the Word of God as a standard; hence it recognizes one access to God, and that through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. When anyone embraces the faith, he immediately is made a part of the body, thereby becoming a contributing factor in keeping the unity of the Spirit.
(f) “One baptism.” Because of the existence of various schools of thought on the subject of baptism, we can expect divergent interpretations on the “one baptism” mentioned here. I do not believe that baptism in the Spirit is meant in this verse. Baptism in the Spirit has already been dealt with in the preceding verse. Here the apostle refers to water baptism. It is that ordinance which, according to the New Testament, should follow one’s acceptance of the “one faith” and one’s embracing of the “one Lord.” It is sad to meet those who have submitted to the rite of Christian baptism but who have not been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is but one outward rite whereby the believer declares his faith in, and union with, Jesus Christ; it is the “one baptism.”
(g) “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (4:6). The message of this verse recognizes the Trinity actively engaged in forming the unity.
Looking back from verse six, we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The triune God is sovereign in the Church. His Presence is all that we need and all that we should desire. He is the Father of all of us who have accepted Christ; hence we believers bear the same relation to Him and to one another. As we recognize Him as “above all,” we preserve the unity of the Spirit. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
2. The Christian Walk Promotes Usefulness (4:7-16)
Unity is a pre-requisite to usefulness, especially in the Church, where one finds the widest variety of personalities and the greatest diversity of gifts. But no matter how striking and winsome the personality, or how capable one might be in the exercise of gifts, grace is needed. And so, writes Paul: “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (4:7).
In the verses before us attention is drawn to the gifts that our ascended Lord has bestowed upon the members of His Church which is His body.
Before examining the various gifts and the contribution that each member makes to the whole, Paul tells us that every one has been the recipient of the gift of grace. Each gift is a bestowment of grace, each comes from the same divine source, and each is in proportion as the Lord Himself is pleased to bestow. The gifts are given by measure, each member receiving his gift from the same Person. As we shall see later, there is a difference in gifts (Rom. 12:6) as well as a difference in the ministration of them, but each member functions to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the body.
In support of his statement that the ascended Christ gives gifts unto men, the apostle dips back into the Old Testament and brings forward, with some alterations, a quotation from Psalm 68:18. Paul writes: “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (4:8). Upon examining the words of the Psalmist it is apparent that when Paul quotes the words, he introduces some changes. The quotation from the Psalm reads:
Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them (Psalm 68:18).
Apparently David writes in this Psalm of an historic incident during his own reign as king over Israel, perhaps of the conquests over his enemies when he led as captives those who had attacked his people. Which of the battles David had in mind we cannot be certain of, but it would seem that, upon the conquering: king’s return from battle, the giving of gifts was a part of the celebration. We are not here attempting to show whether the king gave gifts to his subjects, or the subjects gifts to the king. The point for us to observe is that Paul saw in this Old Testament Scripture our Lord Jesus Christ, the Antitype of the story, in His incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (4:9, 10). In the conquest of the Old Testament king,, Paul saw our Lord’s triumph over death as well as over him that had the power of death, even Satan (Heb. 2:14). Upon His triumphant return to His Father’s house, He distributes gifts to His subjects. All of this Peter must have understood when he said at Pentecost: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Pentecost was the first great display of the exercise of gifts. The main thought in these four verses (7-10), then, is the bestowal of gifts by the ascended Christ.
The mighty victories which God wrought for Israel were noble triumphs. But, says Calvin: “The noblest triumph which God ever gained was when Christ, after subduing sin, conquering death, and putting Satan to flight, rose majestically to heaven, that He might exercise His glorious reign over the Church.” Vow the Church on earth has a goal toward which she moves, and Christ as the Church’s Head determines her actions. The duty of the Church is to evangelize the world, to preach the gospel to every creature. The enablement and equipment for the task is supplied by the Head, for, says Paul: He “gave gifts unto men” (4:5). The proper exercise of the gifts will preserve unity and promote usefulness in the Church.
“And He gave some, apostles” (4:11). To some He gave the gift of the apostolate. No individual could choose or decide to become an apostle. The choosing of the man and the bestowal of the gift were of God. I consider this to be of extreme importance, for God did not merely confer upon a man the name of “apostle”; He endowed him with the gift and enabled him to discharge the office. This office of an apostle was a highly exalted one appointed directly by Christ. These specially-called spokesmen for God were missionaries in a peculiar sense in that they had to see the risen Lord and be sent by Him. Because of the very nature of the qualifications, this office could not be passed on to others. Some sects claim “apostolic succession.” In the very beginning of the Christian Church some claimed to be apostles but, under trial, were found to be liars (Rev. 2:2 ).
“And some, prophets.” The New Testament prophets were men who received revelation from God for the time, and announced the same in power for the edifying of the body of Christ. Sometimes the prophet was a fore-teller of predictive prophecy; at other times he was a forthteller (preacher) of a divinely-revealed truth for the present, pertaining to doctrinal instruction (1 Cor. 14:3). There are neither apostles nor prophets today. Their work was to lay the foundation for the Church (Eph. 2:20).
“And some, evangelists.” The evangelist is the bearer of the glad tidings of the gospel to a lost world. The gift of evangelism is a remarkable thing indeed, since evangelism is essential to the growth of the Church. Philip was a successful evangelist in the early Church (Acts 8:26-40). Paul must have recognized in Timothy this gift, for he wrote: “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Teaching the Word of God and building up the saints is an important phase of Christian service, but the taking of the gospel to those who have not heard is an unique privilege.
“And some, pastors and teachers.” Not some as pastors and some as teachers, but rather the combined office of pastor-teacher. He is a ruler and feeder of the flock. The pastor needs a heart to shepherd the sheep as well as a mind to teach them. This dual function he performs as minister of a particular congregation. His gift is divinely bestowed; so no Bible school, or seminary, or college can make a man a pastor-teacher.
The purpose of the gifts is “for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (4:12). Special gifts were bestowed to equip the saints to do the service, and the intent of this service is the building up of the body of Christ. Each gift is a contribution to the whole body. From these special gifts responsibility passes to each member.
This service continues “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (4:13). Our blessed Lord gave these gifts that each of His followers should serve Him, and that service must continue as long as the Church remains on the earth.
When Christ returns to take us home to heaven, we shall see the full expression of unity and possess complete knowledge of Him. There will be no need for the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the teacher, or the pastor, because we will have attained perfection in unity and knowledge. The members of the Church will not be as many members in that day, but as “a perfect [fullgrown] man.” We shall be like our Lord, having attained that standard of perfection of Christ Himself, “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” This is God’s goal for the Church.
A. C. Gaebelein writes: “The measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ will be reached when the body is joined to the Head.” Until the Head returns He will continue to give gifts to His own. Faithfulness in the proper exercise of these gifts will result in others being added to the body and trained to carry on Christ’s work on earth till He comes.
Furthermore, the purpose of the gifts is “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (4:14). False doctrine abounds. Satan has his sleight-of-hand men who, with cunning craftiness, prey upon babes in Christ. These spiritual babes are sometimes powerless to resist and are tossed about by varying winds of doctrine. Hence the need for Christians to walk in unity and usefulness. Lack of unity and laxity in usefulness reveal a condition of spiritual infancy and immaturity. We must grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. In order to do this we need to be established in the great doctrinal teachings of God’s Word. God has chosen to edify and instruct His people with special gifts. There is no substitute for a careful study of the Word.
Having said that we ought not to remain children, immature and untaught, Paul now exhorts the believer to grow up: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (4:15). The gifts were given by the ascended Christ to edify the body so that believers might manifest the truth in love. It is not enough to know and speak the truth; it must be manifested in love. While we insist upon a good confession we must live the truth in love. One can be fearless in standing for the truth and at the same time gentle and kind. Truth declared in a cold, contentious manner will neither preserve unity nor promote usefulness.
An aid to perfecting the positive purpose of the gifts is doing (living) the truth in love. Truth must be spoken but never harshly or bitterly. No amount of loyalty to the truth, however eloquently and forcefully expressed, signifies spiritual maturity unless spoken in charitable sincerity. It is not enough that our tongues hold to the truth; the truth must hold our tongues in love.
Elsewhere in the epistle the Church is called “His body” (1:23), “the body of Christ” (4:12), of which He is “the Head” (4:15). When each member functions in its proper order “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,” nourishment is added to the body, and “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (4:16). As each member looks to the Head, he finds there are no giftless and useless parts, but that each part is a gifted and useful member in a relation of interdependence to every other part. As the incapacitation of one member of the human body robs strength and limits the usefulness of the whole body, even so a believer who is dwarfed spiritually holds down the increase of the body of Christ unto the edifying of itself in love. Each member receives grace and gifts from the Lord, and all members are so constructed to join together fitly. God planned this to be so in the human body and, as it is in the human body, so it is with the body of Christ.
In conclusion, I refer you to a phrase used by Paul in verse 12, namely, “for the perfecting of the saints.” Sometimes the word from which “perfecting” is derived is used to mean to mend. Such is the case in Matthew 4:21, where James and John are seen in a ship with their father “mending their nets.” The saints are saved to engage in harmonious and happy service with the other members of the body. Some of the saints are like broken nets that need mending, or like fallen brothers needing to be “restored” (Gal. 6:1). At some time we all have been acquainted with some Christian (perhaps you were that Christian) who, like a net torn and full of holes, had lapsed into a state of disrepair in need of mending. Christ’s gifts to the individual believer, and to the Church as a body, are the media through which He works to mend the saints. When the saints are mended they are fit for the work of the ministry.
They edify the body of Christ, they preserve Christian unity, they promote maturity, and they speak the truth in love.
Beloved Christian, do you need some repair or adjustment? Is your net torn or full of holes so that you are no longer a fisher of men? God in His mercy has saved you, to be sure, but He also has made wondrous provision for any adjustments that are necessary in Christian experience. Let Him mend you and cast you out upon life’s sea where souls wait to be rescued.
B. The Christian Is to Walk Consistently (4:17-5:14)
Sometimes a believer’s acts and his profession are in discord. A man may testify to certain beliefs and purposes and yet be incongruous in his life, his speech and his deeds not fitting well together. He is inconsistent. Such incompatibility should not be found in a child of God. The Christian is to walk differently, in outward manifestation of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The spiritual garments of the “new man” must be worn in exchange for the natural clothing of the “old man.” This teaching is now before us.
1. The Consistent Walk Is in Separation (4:17-32)
Paul turns now to warn his readers against returning to any form of the old pagan mode of life. If they were truly saved, then they should be living as those having a true knowledge and clear understanding of God’s way of salvation in Jesus Christ. If they continued in the practices of the unsaved, they were only giving evidence that their understanding was still darkened.
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind” (4:17). The Scriptures do not waste words. Paul is not merely talking; he is testifying, that is, making a solemn appeal in the name of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ they would at once recognize the mark of divine authority in his speech and would, therefore, heed what he had to say. They would give proof by a consistent walk. They would not walk as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind. The life of the Christian, no longer regarded as a Gentile or a Jew, is in contrast to the life of Gentiles or Jews who are not Christians.
C. R. Erdman emphasizes the fact that Paul is not comparing his readers with “other Gentiles.” Paul indicates that his readers are now fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of Gold. They were surrounded by pagan associates and heathen customs, hence they would be tempted and even enticed to fall back into those sinful practices of the past. But if their minds were not empty of the truth, like the minds of the “other Gentiles,” and if they were no longer vain in their imaginations (Rom. 1:21), their lives would conform to their Christian profession.
A reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28) may hear the gospel, but such a mind is unreceptive. Now an unreceptive mind may give assent to the truth, yet it never can result in a changed life. By the consistent walk of the Ephesian believers they would prove that they understood and received the truth of God. A consistent walk in righteousness is the only outward evidence that one has been born again. To this end God had sent Paul to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26:17, 18). So testified the mighty apostle to Agrippa. How disappointing to Paul if the walk of the Ephesians was no different from that of other Gentiles!
The condition of the unconverted Gentiles is expressed further as “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (4:18). There is not so much as a spark of divine life in an unregenerated man. He is the natural man and, as such, he cannot understand, or discern, spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14). The unsaved man may boast of his knowledge and understanding of the things of this world, but he is unable of himself to discover spiritual truth. His mind is irresponsive to the things of God. Before a man sees his lost condition and exercises heart faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his powers of thought are darkened so that he cannot receive divine truth but remains in mental darkness.
Next, unsaved persons are in a state of spiritual death, “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Sin has both a blinding and deadening effect upon people. The marginal rendering for “blindness” is “hardness.” It really means a dullness as though one were drugged. Such willful blindness has produced an impotence whereby the sinner can continue in sin with little sense of shame or need. Because of ignorance and the hardness of their hearts, the unsaved are cut off from the life of God. When a man continues in this state the blame is all his own. God has given His Word and His Spirit to deliver from death and darkness, but so long as one resists the truth, one chooses to remain spiritually blind and spiritually dead. The knowledge of God is true light and life. God never refuses it to the believing heart which casts itself on His mercy. Only a consistent walk in righteousness would prove that the Ephesians no longer had their understanding darkened.
This condition of mental darkness and spiritual death leaves the sinner in a state of awful degradation. Such are described as those “Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (4:19). What an awful condition to be in! “Past feeling”-a calloused heart, a seared conscience; abandoned to wallow in gross sensuality and to indulge greedily in all sorts of uncleanness. There are those in the world for whom there is little hope of ever refining their feelings or raising their moral standards. Certainly such a state is not true of every unsaved person, but it is of many unsaved, and it shows just how far one can go if he resists the truth. Let us not dull the senses of our hearts lest we drift into indulgence of the pleasures of sin without restraint. How sad when one’s conscience is past feeling! How awful to be delivered up to all manner of uncleanness!
When one walks consistently in righteousness, he proves that he has understood spiritual truth. When Paul labored among the Ephesians he taught and preached Christ. In the apostle’s life and labors they “learned Christ,” “heard Him,” and were “taught by Him.” All that the Ephesians knew about God they learned in and through His Son. Paul had preached Christ to them and they had learned that to become a Christian one had to receive Christ. Paul here contrasts the inconsistent life of an unsaved man with the consistent character of the man in Christ. The Gentiles walked in darkness but the Ephesian Christians had learned Christ and were therefore different.
To be “in Christ” means that the believer is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), in a new order of things, with a new standard for living. This calls for a laying aside of the old ways and a putting on of the new. Since the Ephesians had been taught as the truth is in Jesus, they are exhorted to “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (4:22). The new life calls for the laying aside of the old garments which label the unbeliever. The “old man” is the unregenerate, natural man, and his manner of life is corrupt, deceitful, and lustful.
Just as the coming of light dispels darkness, so the presence of Jesus Christ in one’s heart dismisses corruption. At no time did our Lord ever call upon the “old man” to put off his manner of life. The old man has neither the desire nor the power to lay aside his polluted garments of self-righteousness. Trying to get the “old man” to lay aside his corrupt garments and replace them with the garments of righteousness is like sewing a new patch on a worn-out garment, or like pouring new wine into an old wine skin about to burst (Luke 5:36-38). Christianity cannot be comprehended, much less apprehended, by the “old man.” He does not want the new life. The Lord Jesus read this in the heart of the Pharisee, when He said: “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better” (Luke 5:39). To the worldling, the Christian is a kill-joy; the former has no desire to do the things that the Christian does. Like the Pharisee who would go away saying, “We do not want the new wine; the old is better,” even so the worldling is content to enjoy the pleasures of sin, though they be but for a season.
The demand upon the “new man” continues: “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (4:23). The spirit of man is that part of him that is born anew (John 3:6) and which worships God (John 4:24). When man’s spirit is regenerated it feeds the mind with pure desires and motives. As we surrender moment by moment to the Holy Spirit and feed on God’s Word, He renews our spirit and enables us to do those things that please God.
Now, in contrast to putting off “the old man” we are urged to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:24). The words “righteousness” and “holiness” sum up the believer’s walk before man and God. “.Righteousness” expresses the right behavior of the Christian before men; “holiness,” his behavior before God. The former is an outward attitude expressed in words and deeds; the latter is the attitude of heart and mind toward God. Since we are a new creation we are to wear the garments of the “new man,” a new conversation, and a new conduct. The desire of every Christian should be like that of Zacharias, who said: “That He would grant unto us, that we … might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74, 75).
Have you put off the old man and put on the new? Have you exchanged your old life for the new? God wants to make you a new creation now. Further proof that one has been renewed in the spirit of his mind is seen in the putting off the garments of the “old man,” some of which are mentioned in the closing verses of our present chapter. The first of these is the garment of un-truthfulness: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (4:25). The garment of falsehood must be put away, since it does not become the new man in Christ. Since we are all members of the same body we are exhorted to give expression to truth when dealing with one another. Honest dealing in word and deed, and not deceit and hypocrisy, should characterize every saint. Let sincerity mark every form of communication among us. Misrepresentation, half-truth, pretense, and deceit are practices of the “old man.” They are characteristic of the devil and his children (John 8:44). Since lying is a part of the deeds of the “old man,” Paul writes: “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9). Dr. Erdman wrote: “Nothing so divides and separates Christians as falsehood, misrepresentations, suspicion, and unscrupulous partisanship. Mutual confidence is the essential bond of Christian fellowship.”
The second exhortation follows: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil” (4:26, 27). Verse 26 might be translated: “If you do get angry, you must not sin in your anger.” This verse suggests that one can be angry apart from sinning. There is a righteous anger that is not sinful, referred to sometimes as “righteous indignation” or “righteous resentment.”
Our Lord was angry at different times and always apart from sinning. He showed a deep, moral resentment against those who turned the temple into a house of merchandise (John 2:13-16). He spoke in strong language against all who neglect the spiritual needs of children, thereby causing the little ones to stumble (Matt. 113:6; see also Mark 3:15).
But Paul is exhorting against sinful anger particularly among Gad’s children. He is warning against permitting a hidden malice or a smouldering resentment to remain in the heart of any one of us. Anger, when allowed to linger in the heart, is a mighty weapon in Satan’s hands. It is a dangerous state of mind and becomes a wedge for more open and damaging forms of sin. When I am wrong, I must show patience. I accept with literalness the words, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Resentment must not be cherished beyond the sunset, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Let us never retire to our beds angry; let us kneel first and confess to God the sin in the anger.
“Neither give place to the devil” (4:27). These words, along with those of verse 26, are all a part of one sentence. Satan works through that heart which cherishes anger. It is a part of his scheme to get Christians to act in malice against other believers. Elsewhere Paul said that we were to forgive one another “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us” (2 Cor. 2:10, 11). Oh, that we Christians might learn the strategy of Satan in his evil work among the saints of God! The devil has no place in the life of a Christian, so let us beware lest we give him something to lay hold of.
Paul turns now from the sin of anger to the sin of theft: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (4:28). The present form is suggested in the translation of J. N. Darby: “Let the stealer steal no more.” It is addressed to those in the church at Ephesus, or any church, who may yet be guilty of this sin. The Christians in Paul’s day were new converts from a heathenism that practiced such sins. Their knowledge of God’s Word was limited; they might yield, therefore, to the temptation to obtain something dishonestly, or at the expense of another.
There are various forms of stealing. One may steal time from his employer. Another may steal someone’s good name and reputation. The misuse of another’s funds, even when practiced with the intention of replacing the “borrowed” money, is accounted stealing in a court of law. Gambling, unpaid debts, deception in some business transaction, misrepresentation of facts on one’s income tax return, withholding from God that which should have been given to Him, graft in politics, pleading want--these all are forms of stealing.
Opposed to the vice of stealing is the virtue of service to others: “Let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” It is not enough that we engage in honest labor merely to satisfy our own needs and wants, but we are to toil diligently so that we might render service to others. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to minister and not to be ministered unto, and if I have accepted Him as Saviour and Lord, then His standard of life should be my highest aim. The “new man” expresses himself most genuinely when he ministers to him who has need. Dr. Ironside has said: “I could live up to the righteousness that is in the Law if I refrained from taking what is another’s, but I cannot live up to the holiness of grace except I share with others what God in His kindness gives to me.” The joy of the giver is far deeper and richer than that of the receiver. It is more blessed to give than to receive. “Whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17).
Unholy speech is dealt with next: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (4:29). Worthless thoughts ought never to be expressed. ‘We need to pray with David: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psa. 141:3). The wise man makes God the Doorkeeper of his mouth (Prov. 4:24) that he might be preserved from lip sins. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6). When our speech is seasoned with salt, our words have a gracious flavor; and when we have salt in ourselves, we have peace one with another (Mark 9:50). Wrong words reveal a wrong heart. Bitter water comes from a bitter fountain. Worthless conversation is a misrepresentation of true Christianity.
Over against the vice of corrupt communication Paul presents the virtue of “that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” How delightful to be in the presence of one whose words are helpful to others according to the need of the occasion! How refreshing to see the x-ray of a pure heart in the words that emanate therefrom! “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). As the Word of Christ dwells in us richly (Col. 3:16), our words will be guided by His Word, and this will build up the body of Christ, bringing to others the blessing of grace.
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (4:30). Perhaps there is no passage so worthy of being lifted out of its context as this. It is an established fact, attested by both Scripture and experience, that at the time of the new birth the Holy Spirit enters the believing sinner to take up permanent residence. The initial work of the Spirit, after having wrought conviction to the heart, is to create a new nature within. His full title is the Holy Spirit, and His divine nature grieves when any wrong thought, word, or deed occupies the mind or body of the believer. He abhors those sins just mentioned by Paul: lying, anger, stealing, and evil speaking. The Holy Spirit is a Person with personal feelings. Hence He may be grieved. We cannot now enter into a study of the many phases of His ministry, but since He has made secure our eternal redemption, we will be most ungrateful if we cause Him to grieve. His Presence with us should make us want to lay aside all that is ungodlike. Sin wounds and pains the Holy Spirit. Grieving Him is synonymous with backsliding. Only when we give the Holy Spirit His rightful place can we expect a revival in the body of Christ. As we yield our human spirit to Him, He makes us holy.
The blessed assurance is here added that the believers “are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Paul had said: “Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:13, 14). Here again, in chapter four, he tells us how long we are sealed-”unto the day of redemption.” The day of redemption is not the day Christ died to redeem us. Christ’s death was the payment for our redemption and His finished work at Calvary paid in full the penalty of our sins. But the believers’ redemption will not be fully experienced until Christ comes back for His own and redeems our bodies. We are “waiting … for the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22, 23).
When our Lord returns He will recognize all of the redeemed, since God has impressed His Spirit upon us as the seal and mark of ownership. There is not the slightest danger of a single true believer being left behind at the rapture of the Church. Jesus gave certain signs whereby the saved on earth could know that His appearing would not be far hence, and then He added: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 2 1:28). The seal of the Spirit is the stamp of divine likeness upon the heart of the believer and is, thereby, the mark of ownership and security.
In view of the Spirit’s sensitiveness to sin and the approaching day of redemption, a list of sins follows which should be put away from us: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice” (4:31). Bitterness is the opposite of sweetness. Bitterness suggests the acrid, sharp, severe, sarcastic. Bitter words and actions show that the heart is not right, for only the mouth of the unrighteous is full of bitterness (Rom. 3:14), Believers must take heed “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15). No fountain can send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter. Therefore, if we have bitter envying and strife in our hearts, it is earthly, sensual and devilish (James 3:11-15).
We are to put away “clamour.” Clamour is the audible expression of anger, wrath, and bitterness in the heart. It is the cry of one’s passions in railing against others while asserting one’s own rights. All evil speaking must be put away, with all malice. “Speak not evil one of another, brethren” (James 4:11). Yes, dear Christian, let it all be put away from you. Put away bitterness. Put away wrath. Put away anger. Put away clamour. Put away evil speaking. Put away all malice. These things defile the believer even as commercialism defiled the temple in our Lord’s day, so that He said to them that sold doves: “Take these things hence” (John 2:16).
Our chapter concludes with an exhortation to a virtue which, if cultivated, will drive out those sins that grieve the Spirit: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (4:32). Kindness should characterize believers in their relationships with one another. Kindness is that gentle, gracious, easy-to-be-entreated manner that permits others to be at ease in our presence. The word “kind” comes from such words as “kin” and “kindred,” so that to deal kindly with others is to deal with them as our own kin. And after all, believers are brethren. Kindness and tender-heartedness go together. They express a warm sympathy and love for all men, both the righteous and evil doers. I fear that sometimes we are not very pitiful and compassionate toward others.
Kindness and compassion find expression in forgiveness: “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Divine forgiveness is our greatest example: sin is the only ugly, hateful thing that separates man from God. And still God forgives all our sins when we come to Him for salvation because Christ, the sinner’s Substitute, paid our penalty. This is the example we are to follow. Perhaps the one who wronged you does not deserve your forgiveness. Neither did you deserve God’s forgiveness.
No one could ever wrong us as much as we have wronged God. Still He loves us and forgives us all our sins. This, beloved, should be the measure of our forgiveness.
2. The Consistent Walk Is in Love (5:1-7)
The division of chapters at this point seems unfortunate, for the exhortation at the beginning of the fifth chapter is inseparably linked with that of the preceding verses. The words, “Be ye therefore …” show the close relation between 4:32 and 5:1, 2. Having exhorted believers to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving of one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, Paul adds: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (5:1).
The word, “followers,” is most generally translated “imitators.” To imitate is to duplicate, to mimic, to impersonate. Children learn by imitation. Since God is the best educator, He used the method of imitation to teach His creatures.
The exhortation to imitate God is addressed to Christians only. It is useless to plead with an unregenerate man to follow “in His steps.” To walk in His steps is not the means of our redemption but the result of our having been redeemed. Until one becomes a partaker of the divine nature through being born again, any attempt on the part of a lost sinner to imitate God is futile. It is only as “dear children” that we can begin a true imitation of Him. The children of the devil find it quite natural to imitate their father. Our Lord said as much (John 8:44). We have often heard it said: “Like father, like son.” We have seen in our own children how they love to imitate their parents. Now when God saved us He gave to each believing sinner His own life and nature; therefore He expects that we will pattern our habits and manner of life after His. It is expected that children will resemble their parents.
God Himself is the standard of every thought, word, and act of His children. This was so in the life of Israel. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:1, 2). The object of the whole ceremonial and moral law under the Old Covenant was the same as the purpose of Christ’s coming under the New, namely, to make men like God. The Apostle Peter wrote: “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-16). This mandate of God seems an impossibility, as far as our producing holiness is concerned.
The practice of holiness does not happen all at once. As we read the Word of God, and pray, and exercise ourselves to obey His will, we are conformed to His image. The eternally productive seed of holiness, which is God’s very nature, is in us as believers (1 Pet. 1:4). As we behold our blessed Lord in the mirror of God’s Word, the seed develops, and we “are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Since God commands us to be holy, we may be certain that He is ready to minister the needed grace and strength. God intends every believer to be like Himself, so He has given us His nature to get us started, and in this one sense the Christian is perfectly sanctified positionally now (1 Cor. 1:2). But in a more practical sense holiness is progressive. Therefore, we are exhorted to “become holy.”
The whole plan of redemption has this for its ultimate purpose. “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7); “[He] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). Holiness is the property of God, but He has placed it within our reach. As He possesses the whole man, the transformation takes place.
Does the command to be holy, as God is holy, appear unfair since we are asked to imitate Him whom we have never seen? The satisfying answer to such reasoning is found in the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to reveal the Father (John 1:18), and in His holy life He demonstrated in a practical way how we should walk. Christ is God, “for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). His flawless life was a demonstration of divine holiness. Now when a man receives Jesus Christ, it is not merely that he is brought into relationship with the Holy One but also into participation in His holiness. Once we accept the salvation which is in Jesus Christ, we are empowered by the divine Presence in us to imitate Him. There follows next in Paul’s teaching three ways by which we are to imitate God. It is done by our “walk.” We are to walk in love (5:2), walk in light (5:8) and walk circumspectly (5:15). First, we are exhorted to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (5:2). Before one can walk in the sphere of love he must get into that sphere. Do we know the love of Christ? We were poor, wretched sinners, and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:5). One of the attributes of God is love. That love reached us at Calvary, and the moment we believed, the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:5). Since Pentecost, God’s love has been reaching out to others through those of His children who walk in love. Here is one of the strongest evidences of our regeneration:
By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death (1 John 3:14). Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:7, 8).
The true believer will imitate God in love, and God in love is God in action: “As Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us … “We are to walk in love. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). We can never give ourselves as Christ gave Himself, but we can imitate Him in self-sacrificing love for the good of our brethren. Such love is unto God “a sweetsmelling savour.” Such sacrifice, described in terms of the Old Testament ritual in the whole burnt offering, is “at sweet savour [smell] unto the Lord” (Lev. 1:9). It indicates something well pleasing to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the great Burnt Offering, a sacrifice of a sweet odor to God. And since we have been redeemed, we too can be “unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15).
If we are to walk in love, there are those things that must not be a part of us in any way. There is “fornication.” He who is not walking in love might readily succumb to this degrading and corrupt form of lust. In the circle of the unsaved, “fornication” and “uncleanness” are regarded as common practices without scruple. The old nature, which is present in every believer, is subject to every form of impurity. Added to these is covetousness,” seen in either an unlawful desire for gain or in that vile greed for sensual gratification. Unmentionable vileness is prevalent all around us, on newsstands, on billboards, on the cinema screen; yes, the very air we breathe is polluted with it. Of all such Paul adds: “Let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.” It as not enough that we do not engage in such vile things; they should not even be talked about among saints. Obscenity and indecency are not becoming to “saints,” hence they should not even be mentioned. Beloved, let us guard against lust of every form and description, and let us not so much as indulge our thinking in them. Saints should remain free from every appearance of evil.
“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (5:4). We are to shun “filthiness,” which is everything inconsistent with the modesty of a saint. Filthy words and filthy deeds bring dishonor and shame. Next the apostle deals with “foolish talking” and “jesting.” Paul is not here condemning a sense of humor. I have always been quite careful not to become too intimate with these very pious folks who are too holy to engage in laughter. H. A. Ironside said: “God meant man to laugh. That is the one thing that distinguishes him from all the other creatures. Until scientists can find a monkey who can laugh, they will never find the missing link.”
Notice that filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting are linked together. I believe we are being warned here against taking any part in the telling of or listening to “dirty jokes.” People who engage in such buffoonery act like fools. It is a sign of degeneracy when one must take part in immoral pleasantry in order to laugh. Laughter at the expense of decency is sinful. Some persons cannot be witty without using double talk and suggestive phrases. Many a Christian has spoiled his testimony with such low frivolity. It is never “convenient” (befitting) to make light of sin. Instead of using our speech in a scurrilous way, we should exercise ourselves in “giving of thanks.” Walking in love and talking in lust are incompatible. If we are grateful to God for saving us, then we should use our lips to honor and glorify Him.
Paul reminds his readers that he is not telling them anything new: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (5:5). The words and deeds of the vile man are just as empty as his heart is of the grace and love of God. The dwellers in darkness are doomed to spend eternity with the devil and his own. Some church members and some professing Christians feel that they will get to heaven in spite of their sinful words and deeds. To all such Paul would add: “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (5:6). Where there is genuine faith in Christ, fruit follows. “The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:1’?). Society is corrupted by immorality, and the end of every immoral person is the wrath of God. “Be ye not therefore partakers with them” (5:7). You cannot afford to be deceived in this all-important matter.
3. The Consistent Walk Is in Light (5:6-14)
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (5:8). Here Paul again contrasts the believer’s past with his present. Earlier in the epistle the contrast was between death and life (2:1); here the contrast is between darkness and light. The appeal is made to what we now are in contrast to what we once were. We were darkness but now are we light in the Lord; hence we are not to be partakers with the children of disobedience.
There are two great kingdoms, in one of which every man is to be found. There is the kingdom of Satan, which is the kingdom of darkness; and there is the kingdom of our Lord, which is the kingdom of light. The unsaved man is by choice under the dominion of the rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6:12). He prefers the darkness to the light because his deeds are evil (John 3:19). He is not merely in the dark, but he is darkness. Darkness is ignorance, and every unsaved man is ignorant of the things of God. They are foolishness to him, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). He practices the works of darkness by choice, since that is all he knows.
Every Christian was at one time in darkness. But when Christ, who is the Light of the world (John 8:12), came into our hearts, we were immediately delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). Now since “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), we walk as children of light, no longer practicing those things of which we are now ashamed. The coming of the Light has dispelled the darkness, so that engaging in those things for which the wrath of God now cometh upon the children of disobedience has long since passed. The actions of the believer should differ widely from those of the unbeliever; hence Paul refreshes the remembrance of the Christians by contrasting their former position with the present: “Ye were darkness; ye are light.”
Our Lord said to His disciples: “Ye are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16). Many kinds of darkness abound in the world—sin, suffering, and sorrow. Instead of complaining that we must live in the midst of such darkness, we should thank God that He has placed us here as the light of the world, to shine in the midst of such conditions and circumstances.
The light must be securely fixed in a conspicuous place, not under a bushel, “but on a candlestick,” or lampstand (Matt. 5:15). We will need to be kept filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit and kept trimmed, not that we should be looked at, but that He might be seen and the Father glorified. It was the glory of the Father that Christ ever had in mind all during His earthly life. Guy H. King has said: “The shining of our light is not to say ‘Look at me!’ but ‘Look at Him!’” Never allow the bushel of cowardice or compromise or carelessness to hide the light, for “if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” (2 Cor. 4:3). Of John the Baptist our Lord said: “He was a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35).
Do you want to shine? If so, you must be willing to burn.
Shining calls for sacrifice. What a blessed privilege is ours as Christians! He who said, “I am the Light of the world,” said to His own, “Ye are the light of the world.” In His absence we arc to shine for Him as lights, “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). The wise man has said: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).
The apostle gives three features of a walk in the light which he calls, “The fruit of the light” (A.S.V.). They are “goodness and righteousness and truth” (5:9). Goodness is kindness in action, beneficence. This grace should characterize the children of the light. It is a fruit whereby believers are distinguished from those who dwell in darkness. Active goodness is the natural result of light. Let something come between you and the Light of the world, and your life will no longer be controlled by selflessness.
The fruit of the light is in righteousness. Here the word “righteousness” is the same as that in 4:24, and is simply thinking right and doing right. Moral uprightness is a scarce commodity among the children of darkness, in spite of wishful thinking among theologians and statesmen. More and more the selfishness of the unregenerate heart shows itself. In the world today the rule of life seems to be “every man for himself.” But where men are walking in the light they have fellowship (communion) one with another (1 John 1:7). They share things commonly.
Finally, this verse reveals that the fruit of life is in truth. This is truth in “the inward parts” (Psa. 51:6) as opposed to sham and hypocrisy. The fruit of the light permits no secret compromise with evil. Moreover, there is abstinence from every appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).
He who walks in the light is daily “proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (5:10). To prove is to test by experience, not before the eyes of man but before God. We dare not test our conduct by the standards of certain denominations and churches, nor by the things everyone does. The test of the light is that “ye may prove [test] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). If our words, thoughts, and acts are “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), we may be certain that we are walking in the light.
Then, too, we are to “have no fellowship with the un-fruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (5:11).
The Christian cannot have fellowship with those in darkness and expect to escape the pollution of evil. Paul’s epistles sound the warning repeatedly against Christians keeping company with unbelievers. “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators” (1 Cor. 5:9); ‘(Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). The unequal yoke in marriage, business, lodges, secret societies, or even churches, is forbidden God’s children, for “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:5, 6). Our negative action is to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; the positive action is that we must “reprove them” both by our lives and our lips. We are not to deal lightly with sin. The appearance of our Lord exposed the darkness in men’s thoughts and deeds. It must be so with His own. “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (5:12). Dr. Erdman warns against Christians acting as moral detectives to spy out the sins of their fellow men. A further warning is given against making public such sins.
Verses 13 and 14 teach us that when the light is turned on, the vices of those who walk in darkness are revealed in their odious character. All things, when they are discovered, are made manifest by the Light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light (5:13). Light is the very nature of God, and when we let the light shine by a Christlike life, the sinner sees himself in the pure light of God’s holiness.
Dear Christian, do our lives expose the foulness of the evil in others? Are the unsaved being transformed by the illumination of our words and actions? If not, we are not worthy of the name Christian. May God use us to make sin appear sinful.
There follows next a strong exhortation: “Awake thou that deepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (5:14). Paul quotes in part from Isaiah 60:1, 2, applying it to the Church. In view of the sin all about the people of God, through the Prophet Isaiah He called upon His own to put on the light of Jehovah’s glory in the midst of the surrounding darkness. Israel’s light had not been shining, so that they were as those who were dead; hence the call to arise and stand out as lights in the midst of those who were dead.
Many Christians today are as those who are still in death and darkness. Some of you have not been letting your light shine. You are scarcely discernible from the unsaved. If you will arise from your slumber, Christ will bless you and cause It is light to shine through you to others.
C. The Christian Is to Walk Carefully (5:15-6:9)
1. The Careful Walk Is in Sagacity (5:15-21)
This is the last appearance of the word “walk” in this epistle, and it is not without significance. Paul writes: “See then ,that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” (5:15). The consistent walk of the believer, that is, his daily deportment, is with full knowledge of the temptations that :surround him. Still he is not as the unwise but as the wise. He looks carefully how he walks, not ignorant of Satan’s devices. The wise Christian is strict with himself about his .walk. He watches each step as he goes, certain where the next step will lead him. Strictest consistency is essential lest one wrong step prove fatal. The unwise person is the unthinking person who follows the line of least resistance and very often surrenders his convictions.
Christian, you are not to go along with the crowd; you are not to do something because every one else is doing it. Be careful where you walk. Look about you before you put down your feet. The word “circumspectly” carries the idea of strictness and exactness based on careful observation. He is a wise man who looks all around him as he walks. The reason for walking in wisdom is expressed in the following words: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:16). Paul lived in evil days when there was bitter opposition to the gospel, but the days in which we live are no less evil. This whole present age is evil (Gal. 1:4), the one difference, I believe, being the increase of wickedness as the age nears its end. With evil waxing worse, the opportunities to do good become less. Therefore, we are to be “redeeming the time,” which means simply that we are to seize upon every opportunity and avail ourselves of every means to spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a wise shopper would go bargain-hunting to buy up every scarce commodity, so must the Christian lay hold of every fleeting moment of time to advance Christ’s cause in the earth. The doors in some countries are closing to the gospel. Communism and Romanism are suppressing the spread of the Truth. It is quite possible some of us may live to see the day when opportunities to preach the gospel, apart from persecution and even death, will be scarce. Beloved, make every moment count for God and for lost souls.
Because the days are evil, Paul adds: “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (5:17). We are not to allow the evil days to cause us to become foolish. Too often the Christian acts without intelligence in the face of sin. He needs true wisdom to discern between right and wrong as well as knowledge to deal with the wrong-doers.
A walk in wisdom is defined as “understanding what the will of the Lord is.” When God asks us to walk wisely, it means that He has made provision for such a walk. We can know what His will is, and the wise and thoughtful Christian will give prayerful attention daily to “the will of the Lord.”
The only way that we can be delivered from the foolishness of the natural mind is to be divinely enlightened. Let us not make the foolish mistake of becoming worldly-wise, “for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish … But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (Jas. 3:15, 17). “The wisdom that is from above” is “the will of the Lord” and it is given to those who earnestly seek it. Prayer and the ‘careful reading of the Bible will make clear to any Christian what the will of the Lord is. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas. 1:5).
The shame of the Christian church is the sad and tragic neglect of thoughtful Bible reading on the part of its members. Quite often we are faced with decisions. What shall we do about such and such a thing? Beloved, if we use the Bible aright, we can turn to God’s Word to see what He says about it. The Word of the Lord reveals the will of the Lord. The Bible is the Christian’s rule of faith and practice, so that “he is no superficial optimist nor is he a despairing pessimist but a confirmed Biblicist.” Acquaintance with the Book and its Author is the secret to a knowledge and understanding of God’s will. But basic to all else is the matter of my heart. Am I willing and ready to obey God’s will?
The thought in verse 18 is connected with that in verse 17 by use of the word “and.” “Be ye not unwise … and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” An unwise and senseless man will become drunk with wine, but a wise and sensible Christian will be filled with the Spirit. The worldly man and woman seek exhilaration in excess indulgences of various forms, but the Christian reaches the height of safe and divinely-guided exhilaration by being filled with the Holy Spirit. To be under the control of the Holy Spirit, so that one walks wisely in the will of God, is not an exceptional experience for any one Christian or any one special group of believers; it is the normal experience for all who know our Lord Jesus Christ.
While the evil of intemperance is surely before us in verse 18, the weightier matter is the positive command to all Christians to allow the Spirit of God to have full control of their lives. However, let a solemn warning be sounded. It is an easy thing to mistake a fleshly enthusiasm for the filling of the Spirit. Of the disciples on the day of Pentecost the Scripture says: “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:4). However, the unbelievers said of the Spirit-filled followers of Christ: “These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13).
Beware of the false intoxication of Satan! He has his counterfeit in many of the so-called “holiness” movements. The command to be filled with the Spirit does not mean that we are to pray for the baptism of the Spirit to seek some kind of experience. Every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has been baptized in the Holy Spirit, hence he is indwelt by the blessed Third Person in the Godhead. Our being “filled with the Spirit” means that the Holy Spirit has complete control of our whole being. It is possible that some Christians who read these lines have never reached that crisis in life where the whole personality was surrendered to God. When a man is drunk, he is completely given over to the influence of liquor and has no self-control; when a Christian is filled with the Spirit, he is completely given over to the Spirit and makes no attempt to please self. The fruit (of walking in wisdom is a heart overflowing with praise to the Lord: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (5:19). The song of a man reflects his soul. Let me hear a man sing and I will be guided somewhat in determining where his devotion lies. Please do not misunderstand me. Mere vocalizing in itself may determine nothing. Every Sunday there are hypocrites who sing praises to God with their lips while their hearts are not right before Him. It is true that we sing together to praise God in unison and to encourage one another, but such singing glorifies God only when we are singing and making melody in our hearts “to the Lord.” Such singing begets vocalizing that honors God.
Not all of us can sing well with our voices. Some of us cannot make melody on a musical instrument, but every child of God can make melody in his heart to the Lord. The secret of the singing heart is to be Spirit-filled, and when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit we will not be singing to entertain ourselves or others, but to please the Lord. When the believing sinner receives a new heart, he should be able to say with David: “And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” (Psa. 40:3). Only the Spirit can cause us to sing songs that are in harmony with the purposes of God. Is there a song in your heart just for the Lord?
Further evidence of walking in wisdom is the giving of “thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20). Thankfulness goes along with spirituality and godliness. Would you understand what the will of the Lord is? Listen to the Scriptures:
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18); “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). As we surrender to the Holy Spirit, He causes us to see that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28). Do we thank God for all things? Do we thank Him for the sobs as well as for the songs? We all can thank God for some things! But for “all things,” and “always”—let it be to our shame that we have grumbled and complained about our little ailments. God has wonderfully provided for us in this life and in the next, and He has willed that we praise Him for all things. “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). We may not know now why all the difficult things of life come our way, but we do know that all things are for our good. God sees the end from the beginning and He will not permit us to be tested beyond that which we are able to bear. May God deliver us from the thankless spirit.
The Spirit-filled Christian is submissive: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (5:21). Mutual subjection is sorely lacking among us. When it is too hard to admit our wrong, or when it is too difficult to give place to another, we may be certain we are not filled with the Spirit. In a church whose members are Spirit-controlled, one sees no dissension, no quarreling, no selfishness, no jealousy. Loving submission to our Lord will make us subject to one another. Let us seek to cultivate that genuine lowliness that esteems others better than ourselves. When the wills of two persons are yielded to the will of God, there will be mutual subjection. The Spirit-filled believer, then, is joyful (verse 19), thankful (verse 20), and submissive (verse 21). Indeed, this is the test of spirituality. A profession which lacks these things is false.
2. The Careful Walk Is in Submissiveness (5:22-6:9)
a. The Husband-Wife Relationship (5:22-33).
The apostle has just finished stating that we are to submit ourselves one to another in the fear of God. Here he presents/some concrete, down-to-earth teaching about reciprocal relations in the home. He begins with the relationship between husband and wife. Let it be said here that submission in the home is not something enjoined upon the woman only; it is a mutual relationship.
Paul begins: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (5:22). This is a subject which, in our day, is not easy to teach. Woman suffrage groups and woman’s rights leagues are opposed to the plain teaching of Scripture on the subject of female submission. Some educated women have been quite vociferous in their rebellion against the headship of the man. But let every woman keep her mind and heart open to the plain teaching of Scripture on this subject as well as any other. God has spoken. To Eve He said: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). Eve overstepped her bounds when she yielded to Satan, thereby giving evidence that she should not be free but instead subject to her husband and dependent upon him. This divinely-instituted subordination of the woman was the result of her display of her own weakness. Paul states elsewhere: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (1 Tim. 2:11-14). Paul insists upon the subjection of the woman on Scriptural grounds. Adam ate the forbidden fruit by his own choice, with his eyes open; on the other hand, Eve was deceived. There is not the slightest inference here that man is, or ever was, mentally, morally, or spiritually superior to woman; but the woman, because of her greater trustfulness, is controlled by her heart more than her head.
Women enjoy the highest happiness in Christian communities and in Christian homes where the Bible, with its Christian principles, is accepted and obeyed. The subjection of a wife to her husband is “as unto the Lord.” There is nothing here that would suggest the husband’s authority to be equal to Christ’s authority, but that in subjecting themselves to their husbands wives are subjecting themselves to the Lord, since the command to do so came first from Him. In another place Paul writes: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Col. 3:18). The submission here is not always, but the submission of loyalty and obedience to a God-given arrangement. Such submission of a wife to her husband is part of her obedience to the Lord.
There is a reason why such a command is given to women: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (5:23, 24).
At once it becomes obvious that the Apostle Paul has drawn an analogy between the relationship of Christ and the Church on the one hand, and the marriage relationship of husband and wife on the other. Frequently in the Old Testament we see the relationship between Jehovah and Israel discussed in a similar way. Israel is referred to as “the wife of Jehovah.” Isaiah wrote: “as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isa. 62:5). And in the New Testament, speaking of his own relationship to the Lord, John the Baptist referred to himself as “the friend of the Bridegroom” (John 3:29). Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2).
It is quite clear, then, that the people of God in every dispensation stand to Him in the relation analogous to that of a husband and wife. Whenever His people transferred their love and allegiance to another, He was moved with deep displeasure. The marriage relation is exclusive, hence all violators of the marriage vow, such as fornicators and adulterers, will be judged by God. Even as our loyalty and allegiance can be sustained to one God only, so with every wife to her own husband. So sacred and binding is the marriage union between a husband and wife that Paul uses it as a fit symbol of the blessed relation between Christ and His Church. Christ is the Saviour of the body. The right of responsibility and leadership of the Church is Christ’s; the right of responsibility and leadership of the wife is the husband’s. ‘The union of husband and wife is a vital and enduring one, like the union between Christ and the believer. The sinner is in bondage until he comes to Christ, but, said the Lord Jesus: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’’ (John 8:36). The subjection of a wife to her husband is not that of force and fear and slavery, but of loving subjection which comes from freedom. “Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” A body with two heads is a monstrosity; a Church with two heads cannot prosper; a house with two heads cannot stand. Wife, be subject to your husband in a sweet spirit of reasonableness, and do it “as unto the Lord.’’
Now in the verses that follow we have the reciprocal relationship brought out in the duties of the husband. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (5:25). Just as Paul used Christ and the Church to illustrate the submission of the wife to her husband, here again Christ and the Church are mentioned, this time to illustrate the responsibility of the husband to the wife. Christ loved the Church enough to die for it, and when a husband manifests such love for his wife, submission on her part will be a joy and delight. The Christian husband who bears the image of Christ will be like his Lord in the exercise of sacrificial love. No Christian wife can dispute the ruling place in the home when her husband displays such love. Every right of husbands to headship in the home must be exercised in love toward their wives, “and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:19). The wife is not told to submit to “bitterness”; on the other hand, she will readily submit to love. Husband, does your action in the home give expression of the redeeming love of Christ? Is yours a selfless, sympathetic, sacrificial care of your wife?
Christ gave Himself for the Church “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word” (5:26). His redeeming love precludes the ultimate holiness of the Church to the end “That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (5:27). A dirty bride is unthinkable. The purpose of Christ for His own, as expressed in verse 26, is to be accomplished in the present. As we read and study the Bible carefully we are kept cleansed of the defilements we are apt to gather day by day. This verse does not mean that the cleansing is effected by water baptism, but by the “Word,” of which the water here is but a symbol. The holy Bridegroom must have a holy bride; so, as her Head, He must provide everything for her now as well as prepare her for the marriage feast when she will be presented to Him at His return. By His love He saved her; by His Word He sanctifies her; at His coming He will glorify her. He took the form of a Servant for her and become obedient unto the death of the cross, and until now He continues to serve her from His position in heaven so that the Church, His bride, gladly yields in willing submission to Him. When a husband’s love toward his wife is expressed in sacrificial service in her behalf, “giving honour unto the wife, an unto the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), then will she willingly become subject to her godly and Christlike husband.
Already in Ephesians we have seen that the Church is Christ’s body (1:23) as well as His bride. Even so a man’s wife is both his bride and his body. After vividly describing how God made woman from the side of man, Moses adds: “Therefore [because of this conjugal relation] shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). So Paul writes: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (5:28). A man who would injure his wife is as one who would injure himself. While Adam slept God removed a bone from his body and, from it, made woman, so that Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh’’ (Gen. 2:23). Let every husband and wife learn the truth that both are one flesh. Then will they experience the joy and blessing of kneeling together to bring their problems to the Lord in prayer and of walking together in mutual love and subjection. The mind of the modern world is opposed to this teaching from God’s Word, but the sacred relationship between husband and wife, and Christian doctrine concerning it, still stand. Adulterers and adulteresses are strangers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, for while the state may sanction immorality, God will judge it.
By nature every man loves himself. In both the Old and New Testaments we read: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’: (Lev. 19:18; cf. Matt. 19:19; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14). Now no man in his right mind will do or say anything to hurt himself. If he did he would be a monster at heart. Between a man and his wife there is a oneness by the bond of marriage illustrated by the weighty example of Christ and His Church. By becoming partakers of the divine nature, believers “are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (5:30). Christ is the Head of His own body; therefore He cherishes and nourishes it with tender love. He will do nothing to injure it. Since the husband is the head of the wife, she is as his own body; therefore he cherishes and nourishes her with tender love. Our Lord supplies everything for our comfort and happiness; so does the husband care for his wife.
When the soldiers pierced the side of our Lord “and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34), the bride of Christ was being taken from His side, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Beloved, that was the greatest demonstration of love the world has ever seen, or ever will see. When God pierced the side of Adam, He did it to take Adam’s bride from his side. Thus she became bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Adam “is the figure of Him [Christ] that was to come” (Rom. 5:14). Eve is a type of the Church. Let every Christian husband be to his wife what Christ is to His own. Marriage is a union for life between one man and one woman. Therefore let the husband be the complement of the wife, and the wife the complement of her husband, for “they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (5:31). What can be added to this? Certainly we can conclude that the husband-wife relationship is more intimate than any other earthly union, even than that between parents and children. As the Son of God left His Father’s house to claim and care for His bride, even so the husband his wife. Beloved, Christ will never cast off His Church. Husband, take good care of the wife God has given you.
Perhaps more has been left unsaid about these verses than what we have written. But Paul himself realized and declared the fact of the mystical union between Christ and His Church to be a great mystery: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (5:32). The relationship between Christ and His Church, and its analogy, namely, the relationship between husband and wife, have hidden meaning, the import of which is beyond human knowledge. For my own part I am overwhelmed at the depth of revelation and I acknowledge that in my own life there is room for improvement. I readily accept Paul’s closing word of admonition to husbands: Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself …” (5:33). In every way, I am far below par, yet I have thought well of myself and have put up with myself quite nicely. I know my wife is far from perfect, but I desire to do equally as well, and perhaps better, in caring for her than I have for myself. The whole context presents challenging truth to both husband and wife, so let “the wife see that she reverence her husband.” When people see these truths practiced by us in our homes, they may begin to realize the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian home is the most sacred institution on earth. Let us guard it with the greatest of care.
b. The ParentChild Relationship (6:1-4).
The main thought in the last part of the preceding chapter, namely, submission, continues in the first part of chapter six. Paul has been dealing with the thought of submission on the part of the Christian. In chapter 5:22-33 the apostle showed that when the child of God is walking carefully, the relationship between husband and wife is one of love and subjection. Now he applies the same lessons in parent-children relationships (6:l-4).
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (6:1). The command to children is to obedience. To obey means to submit to, or to comply with, a command. There is an obedience which comes not by willing submission to authority but as a result of force. Examples of this are recorded in Scripture. When a great tempest arose while our Lord and His disciples were in a ship, He rebuked the winds and the sea and they obeyed Him (Matt. 8:27). Natural elements are forced to obey their Creator. Elsewhere demons are forced by Christ into submission: “for with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him” (Mark 1:27). Such submission will characterize man and beasts during the Millennium.
However, the obedience of which Paul speaks in Ephesians is the glad and ready willingness to hearken to and heed the divine commands. According to the Word of God, “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Obedience is the first law between the Creator and His creation. The whole world is regulated by the law of * obedience. The millions of stars, the seasons—all are under this law. Man must exercise obedience in every sphere of life, beginning as a child in the home, then as a citizen of the state, as an employee at work, and as a member of the church. We are subject to the laws of life.
The first lessons in obedience must be learned in child-hood. The home is where basic training begins and, if there is to be harmony in the home, submission must be practiced. Before ever the child is born the wife learns subjection to her husband and the husband loves his wife as himself. Then as the children follow, they too must learn obedience. Perhaps there never has been such a day as ours for lawlessness on the part of children and a reckless disregard for parental instruction. In too many houses the children’s word is law. There is little respect for parents. The revolt of American youth has caused the breakdown of many homes. Since the family is the strength of the church and of the state, a fresh study of respective rights and reciprocal responsibilities in the home demands the attention of Christians everywhere.
Here the command is to “children.” When applied to the human race the child is regarded as such from birth to maturity. Children are the fruit of marriage, and in a certain sense they are held responsible to their parents. Every child should learn from its parents by instruction and by parental example that children will become the parents of the next generation. Obedience is one of the first lessons a child must learn. In two lists of sins, one list describing the godless pagan world of the past (Rom. 1:29-31) and the other predicting the perilous times of the last days (2 Tim. 3:2), Paul mentions the sin of “disobedience to parents.”
Is it not significant that the Holy Spirit should mention this sin in such a striking manner? Evolution teaches the moral and spiritual ascent of man. God shows the heart of the natural man in the end of the age to be no better than it was among the heathen. As we read the Bible we might imagine ourselves reading the newspaper or standing in a juvenile court. There is scarcely room to house the juvenile delinquents in the reformatories and prisons of our country. A child honoring its parents in obedience is a rare sight these days. And yet the command is clear: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”
The basis for Paul’s teaching on the parent-child relationship is found in the words, “in the Lord.” He is addressing his remarks to Christians, not to the unsaved. We cannot hope to see Christian principles practiced in a home if its members are not Christians. The manner of obedience is “in the Lord,” and before a child can obey in the Lord, he or she must be in the Lord.
While a child might not be mature enough to understand his need for salvation and how one becomes saved, he must see the Lord in the lives of his parents before he will learn to obey the Lord. The children’s obedience should arise out of the conviction that such submission is the will of God. The family altar, where the Bible is read together and prayer is offered for each other, will be a daily reminder of our responsibilities in the Lord. Happy the family that worships together day by day! Obedience to parents, then, is one of the ways in which children can glorify God.
Two reasons are given in Scripture for this command. First, it is the right thing to do: “for this is right.” Second, children are to obey their parents “in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20). Children, recognize parental authority in your own home. If you have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, be subject to your mother and father and in loving-kindness obey them. The greatest example of this was our blessed Lord Himself, of whom it is written concerning His relationship to His mother Mary and Joseph, his foster-father: “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them” (Luke 2:51). Let every young person reading these lines be quick to hear and willing to heed the counsel of parents. Do it, not merely to please your parents but because in God’s sight “this is right.” Since it is right to obey, it is wrong not to obey.
The command to obey is followed by that to honor: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:2, 3). To honor means to esteem with deference or respect. The estimate of parents in the mind of a child should be the very highest, for this “is the first commandment with promise.” God gave to Moses ten commandments, and the offer of a reward is peculiar to the fifth one (Exod. 20:12). Obviously God attaches much importance to children honoring their parents. To those children who obey this command He assures prosperity, good health, and length of days. This promise is to be taken literally. Children, respect the judgment of your parents and pay them deference because it is the right thing to do. For it you will receive a rich reward. To reverence our parents stands at the top of the list of social duties.
Children need to learn that, in their parents, God has made wonderful provision for the child. How grateful we should be for the gift of parenthood! The experience and superior knowledge of parents over children must be recognized by the child. And if a child persists in pursuing a wrong course in spite of parental guidance, disciplinary measures should be taken. Following is a word of wisdom to parents: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Prov. 13:24.) Let parents pattern their discipline in the home after the divine order, as taught in Hebrews 12:5-11. Then esteem and respect from children will be forthcoming in a larger measure.
We have an example of the tragic end of the sons of Eli and of God’s judgment upon Eli’s house “because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (1 Sam. 3:12, 13). Here is a case where both the children and parents failed, the children refusing to obey and honor their parents (1 Samuel ;!:22-25), and the parents failing to chasten the children.
The apostle continues with a word to parents. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). While we parents must insist upon obedience and honor from our children, we must guard against treating them harshly and burdening them needlessly. Parents must rule the home well under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, so that even when firmness and chastening are necessary, it will be with a loving desire for the welfare of the children.
Some parents are known for their harsh and hasty judgment of their children. One father I know repeatedly strikes his child in heated anger. Certainly God never chastens that man in such a way. This father has been a stumbling block to his child, so much so that the child has lost heart and has become discouraged. Elsewhere Paul warns parents against irritating their children by unreasonable severity “lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Never quarrel with a child and lose your temper; never give a command unless it is given in loving consideration of the child’s good; do not chafe your child by needless fault-finding, for if you do these things you will only arouse resentment. In the exercise of parental authority there is great need for an understanding of the child.
There is also the positive command in verse 4: “but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Let us parents remember that we were children once. Patience was needed to instruct and educate us in the way we ought to go. And what problem-children some of us were! We needed nursing, fostering, training, and the repeated exhorting and warnings of parents. Our children need it too. We must pray for them, exercise watchful care daily, admonish and correct them. Fathers should take time to sit down with their sons, and mothers with their daughters, to counsel them regarding the temptations of life, the books they read, the hobbies they choose, and the friendships they form. In all that we seek to do for them, it must be “of the Lord.” In other words, parents are to give their children Christian education, and for this there is no substitute. Point the child to what the Bible teaches about conduct. Certainly do not leave this sacred task to the Sunday school or church. Plant the seed of God’s Word in that tender heart, and ere many years are passed you will have the joy of seeing your children decide for Jesus Christ. Any earthly inheritance we leave our children is worthless if we have failed to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Our Lord said: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18:14); “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).
We have an excellent example of the fruit of Christian education in the home in the person of Timothy. Paul wrote: “But continue thou in the things which thou has learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14, 15). As a child Timothy had learned obedience and honor from the Scriptures at the knees of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Having been equipped for life and service when he was but a child, Timothy needed to have no fear of the evil men and seducers. Timothy’s parents had brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He was taught the Holy Scriptures in the home: therefore he was well furnished and fortified against evil temptations. I feel certain that Timothy’s parents and grandparents will be richly rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ.
c. The Servant-Master Relationship (6:5-9).
Paul’s teaching on submission continues. However, in the five verses before us he deals with the duties involved in the relation between servants and masters, or between employee and employer. Here is truth which, if applied, can solve some of the industrial problems today. The relations between labor and management are very often bitter, and in some instances open hostility has resulted. Paul’s problem in the Orient was quite different from ours. In the apostle’s day there were servants in the household, and while the servant was counted a part of the household in which he served, he was a slave nevertheless. The abolition of slavery in most countries has become effective since Paul’s day. However, we are all servants to some extent.
In our day, when social “thinkers” are stirring up the masses to rethink their relationships to management and to the state, and inciting them to demand equality and security, the teaching of Scripture on the subject must be brought to the attention of the Christian. Bear in mind the fact that the servants and masters here exhorted are Christians, members of one body in which there is neither bond nor free. Moreover, verse eight makes it clear that Paul is not thinking merely of those slaves purchased in the slave market, for he says: “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” Dr. Ironside has well written: “The instruction which of old was given to slaves now applies to all employees. Slaves were purchased with the money of a master, or born into the house and raised up by the master, but today we enter into an agreement, we sell our labor, and in that way enter into a certain relationship which makes us just as responsible to heed the admonition given here.”
Of course we are not attempting here to apply this admonition to the unsaved. We agree with Dr. A. C. Gaebelein, who has pointed out that the slavery existing throughout the Roman Empire when this epistle was written was never attacked by Paul, not even in his beautifully written and courteous letter to Philemon, which letter was all about Onesimus, the runaway slave. Reforming the world and improving social conditions is nowhere included in the Biblical definitions of the gospel. We are not to preach social reform to the unsaved. Here is the message for Christians.
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (6:5). A man who hires himself out for a stipulated wage has a responsibility to his employer. Certain rules and regulations issued by the employer are to be obeyed. Each employee should go about his daily work “with fear and trembling,” which means, of course, the fear of willfully neglecting his responsibility, which not only robs his employer but makes him chargeable to God. It was “in fear and in much trembling” that Paul came among the Corinthians as the servant of Christ (1 Cor. 2:3), lest he fail both them and his Lord. Thus all true believers are called upon to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Christianity is not something we work for but something we work out. Whether in a factory, coal mine, field, office, classroom, or pulpit, the Christian renders proper service, fearing nought but God.
Because we are already saved we demonstrate in every phase of our labors the Christian life by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Your pastor, your church, or your wife cannot be a Christian for you. If you are truly saved, you will fear God and render faithful, obedient service to your employer. Let every man do his work “in singleness of heart,” which means without duplicity, no tricky doubleness, not pretending to be a friend of the “boss” to his face while speaking ill of him behind his back. There must be no hypocrisy or pretense. True, those who are over us, whether in domestic, civil, industrial, or legal relationships, are “masters according to the flesh” as distinct from our Master in heaven; nevertheless obedience to them is rendered by the Christian “as unto Christ.” In other words, when we obey those in authority over us, we obey our Lord Jesus Christ. When Christians are consistent in doing what is right, more unsaved persons will be won to Jesus Christ.
Paul continues: “Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:6). “Eyeservice” is service done when the boss is watching. Those who slow down their pace when not under the eye of the foreman or manager, but who work well when being watched, are guilty of seeking favor that they do not deserve. All such Paul calls “men-pleasers,” those who seek to curry favor with men in authority. Such standards not only rob labor of its dignity but are far beneath the dignity of the Christian. The Christian worker does not go to his daily task in a spirit of bitterness, but “with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (6:7). When a saved person goes to his job “doing the will of God from the heart,” he has his employer’s interest at heart; hence he will seek to do him good.
When you return home from your day’s work, do you merit the approbation of your Lord? If my employment is digging ditches, I am to dig ditches from my heart as unto the Lord. When the ditch-digger sets to work with his pick and shovel, and digs as unto God, he need not be concerned as to whether or not his employer is recognizing him. Since I am the servant of Christ, my desire is to please. Him. This makes my obedience a matter of the heart.
There is encouragement and consolation for all who heed this teaching of Scripture: “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (6:8). The promise given here applies to all that Paul has been teaching about the servant-master relationship. The Christian who obeys those in authority over him has the assurance that God keeps an accurate record of all faithful service and that no act of service done as unto Him will go unrewarded. If my employer does not appreciate my sincerity and faithfulness, I know that God does. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
The Christian stands or falls before God, and no matter what his status in the world, he will receive his reward both in this life and in the life to come. In this world some men are rich and some are poor, some men are masters and some are servants, some men are honest and some are dishonest; in the next world there will be no such distinctions. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). The question then will not be whether you were servant or master, foreman or laborer. In that day the commonest slave may hear the Lord Jesus Christ say: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:23). When our Lord spoke the parable in which we read these words, He likened it unto the kingdom of heaven. Let the poor but faithful servant be comforted. However ungrateful your master down here may be, God will not allow your faithfulness to go unrecognized and unrewarded. You may even be blamed and punished unjustly, as was Joseph (Gen. 39)) but God will reward you if you are faithful (Matt. 6:1-4).
In bringing to a close this section on The Christian Family (5:22-6:9) with its admonition to submission and obedience, Paul is consistent in that he teaches mutual and reciprocal responsibility in each case. In the wife-husband relationship, submission is required of the wife, and self-sacrificing love on the part of the husband. In the child-parent relationship, obedience is enjoined upon children, and tender, loving care is required of parents. And now, in the servant-master relationship, obedience and loyalty are expected of the servant and kindly consideration of the master.
“And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him” (6:9). The Lord to whom the servant must answer is the same Lord before whom the master must stand. Both will reap reward or suffer loss before a common Master. The same Lord who owns the employee owns the employer. False promises or threatenings ought never to be engaged in by Christian employers. Charles
R. Erdman has said: “The obligation of right conduct and fair dealing rests upon the master quite as truly as upon the slave, and upon the employer as well as upon the employee.” Masters are exhorted to act upon the same Christian principles as are the servants: “Ye, masters, do the same things unto them.” This means that masters are to rule their servants as unto the Lord, with regard to the will of God. If loyalty and fairness are enjoined upon servants, such virtues are required of masters in a greater measure, since masters and employers are in a position of greater privilege and authority.
The key to this entire section is verse 9. As the servant serves his master looking after his master’s interest, so the master serves the servant in looking after his welfare. A master must never seek to rule his servant by threatening but by kindness. When Boaz came to the fields to meet with his employees, he greeted them in the morning with the words: “The Lord be with you”; and they answered: “The Lord bless thee” (Ruth 2:4). When Christ comes into a man’s heart, such an attitude should prevail. Then the perplexing problem between capital and labor will be solved.
Let every one of us who is in a position of authority be reminded that he has a Master in heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and let us perform graciously toward those under us even as we are ministered unto by Him. If those under us are placed under our authority, by the same law we are under the authority of our Master in heaven. As we insist upon those under us rendering an account to us, so must we give an account at the judgment seat of Christ. Our rank on earth will not influence Him at the day of judgment. He will condemn the inconsiderate and unkind master as severely as He will the disloyal servant. These truths need to be brought to our attention with regularity, lest we cause those outside of Christ to stumble.
D. The Christian Is to War Courageously (6:10-21)
In the last two chapters, the main burden of Paul’s message has been the believer’s walk. Now he is to deal with the Christian’s warfare. It is a subject sadly neglected in the pulpit ministry today. The silence concerning the continual conflict in the Christian life is responsible for a passive acceptance of the depressions and defeats which are so prevalent in the majority of professing believers. There are those who have confessed Christ and yet have no knowledge of the continual spiritual warfare that is relentlessly being pressed against the children of God.
When one reads through Ephesians at one sitting he is jolted somewhat as he meets the sudden change in chapter 6:10. The first half of the epistle portrays vividly the wonders of predestinating grace in the divine selection of hell-deserving sinners. We were held in ecstasy as we beheld our present possessions in Christ, our past position in the world, and our prospective place in heaven. With what rapture we read of the creation and design of the Church. Then we moved into the practical side of the epistle. Knowing we were reading one of Paul’s letters, we fully expected Christian responsibility to be set before us. We were not surprised to learn of the conduct and duty of the Church. But here is a call to arms, and we learn that we are not only saved and the servants of Christ, but soldiers as well. From the calm of Christian home life, where wives and husbands, children and parents, and servants and masters live together in Christ, we are removed to the battlefield where we are brought face to face with our infernal foe.
Although the redemption that is ours in Christ is complete and free, our inheritance, which we receive here and now, is contested by the enemy. Satan does not want to see the Christian possessing his possessions. The moment we begin to appropriate our blessings in Christ, we discover at once how hostile Satan is toward Christ’s own. When the Israelites entered Canaan, they discovered the enemy in the land and, before they could possess the land, they had to conquer it. The experiences of Israel in Canaan have their counterpart in the spiritual experiences of every Christian. With Israel, the land had been entered, but the enemy was there to contest them: with the believer, the new life has been entered into, but the enemy seeks to keep from us those precious experiences and spiritual blessings that await the redeemed in this life; hence, the Christian’s walk merges into a warfare.
We are not caught unawares. As Paul put it, we are warned “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). Having no hope of salvation for themselves, Satan and his fallen angels seek to render man’s redemption ineffective in individuals. But where men are being saved, there Satan intensifies his warfare in the heavenlies against the newly-begotten children of God. Satan has so shaped his present program to include a furious onslaught against all true believers. He has become the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Now that God’s plan of salvation has been perfected and consummated, and Satan knows his certain forthcoming doom, he carries on an uninterrupted warfare of spoiling men and women by seducing them to neglect the necessary spiritual exercises of prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers, while he spreads the table of the world’s “dainties” to attract and to appeal to the children of God. Satan knows that he can never remove a child of God from the nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ (John 10:28-30), but he continues to wage his warfare in the heavenlies against God’s own. If he can weaken our allegiance to Christ, he has gained an advantage. Hence the need for Paul’s message in the closing part of Ephesians.
1. The Encounter( 6:10-13)
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (6:10). The word “finally” suggests both the conclusion and a commencement. While the word itself means the remainder, the rest, it introduces something new in this epistle. The balance of the message will discuss the struggle which, to many believers, will be something new. The struggle is certain, however. None who is Christ’s can escape it. The apostle addresses it to “my brethren,” an all-inclusive term which included the saints of Paul’s day and ours. Satan aims his darts at the whole body of Christ, so that all brethren are conscripted for the battle. Walking, working, and witnessing do not make up the sum total of Christian activity. As brothers, we are called to the battle to stand side by side against our common foe. We are warriors.
Now it is common knowledge that the best of the “brethren” are ill-fitted to face the foe in their own strength, so Paul exhorts all to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” Weapons must be taken up, and this will call for strength. No weaklings can stand against our infernal foe. The warfare is not “a mere moral conflict between reason and conscience on the one side, and evil passions on the other” (Hodge), but between the devil himself and the saints. Since the enemy possesses supernatural strength, our source of strength is not in nature. It is “in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” Thank God, victory is not dependent upon our own strength, else we would fall; but we are assured of conquest by His mighty power.
It is good for us when we recognize our deficiency and His sufficiency. We need to be endued with His strength, and such is available if we are “in” the Lord. It is our position “in” the Lord which makes us strong, just as the vigor of an arm is its position in the body. For His strength there is no substitute.
Paul was always cognizant of his own weakness. He wrote: “I was with you in weakness” (1 Cor. 2:3). But he added: “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). When we are conscious of human weakness and emptied of self, then it is that God endues us with His mighty power.
When Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong,” he was speaking, of a time of great suffering and physical infirmity in his own body. There was no question about the reality of the thorn in his flesh, but his attitude of heart toward God in the hour of his suffering was the secret to his strength. He accepted God’s will for his life, and he discovered that the infirmity was, in the divine plan, to be the medium of strength. Strength in weakness is one of the paradoxes of Christian experience.
Paul testified to the Philippians that, in spite of his own weakness, he had strength for all things. Said he: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). If Paul attempted to withstand Satan in his own strength, he failed utterly. But he knew better than to try. He had learned that strength for spiritual battles lay in Christ’s presence within him. Our Lord does not defer us from the battle, but He does make Himself responsible to equip us with His strength to fight. His presence in us is the secret of victory. We need not be spiritual weaklings. If we are “in the Lord” we can be strong.
The exhortation to be strong in the Lord is followed by another, namely: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (6:11). Here our adversary is named. He is the “devil,” and his weapons are referred to as “wiles.” He wages his warfare with cunning and deception; therefore the believer must put on all of the armor which God supplies.
In chapter four we are told to put on clothing suited to the saint; here we are told to put on clothing suited to the soldier. God knows the stratagems of Satan, and He alone can provide a panoply to protect His own. Satan can easily outwit us but never God. So the wise Christian will put on God’s armor and keep it on.
In the verses that follow, Paul explains the armor piece by piece, but here he calls all saints to see their need of armor of God’s providing. If we clothe ourselves with God’s full armor we will “be able” (dunamai), be powerful to stand and not fall. Many a young believer who has failed to heed this command to put on the whole armor of God has fallen “by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (4:14). Satan and his emissaries are too clever for us. He beguiles young believers from the simplicity of the gospel (2 Cor. 11:2, 3), transforms himself into an angel of light when it serves his purpose (2 Cor. 11:14, 15), and deceives with all power, signs, and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2:9). Thus we are told to “resist” him (James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9).
By submitting to God and clothing ourselves with the divine armor, we are able to resist the devil. The only safe protection against Satan’s methods is God’s armor. Our enemy is a master in the art of deceit. If our adversary was a man possessing nothing more than human strength, then we might attempt to face him and defend ourselves by human means. But since we are dealing, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, “we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)” (2 Cor. 10:3, 4). While we walk in a body of flesh we do not war after the flesh, that is, we do not rely on the principles of the unsaved. We are compelled to live as men live, by sight and sound and strength; but when we are fighting spiritual battles, the weak weapons of the flesh will not suffice. How foolish to turn from heaven’s arsenal to the puny, ineffectual weapons of the flesh! Only God’s weapons can batter down the bulwarks of hell.
(‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (6:12). Here it is obvious why carnal weapons are useless in this warfare. Who our enemies are and where they are is given as the reason for needing God’s armor. We are not contending with mortal men but against superhuman authorities who rule the sphere of the world’s moral darkness. These forces of evil have access to where we are. The believer is in the “heavenlies” where Christ and His Church are, and into this sphere Satan comes to attack the children of God. Christian, our difficulties are far greater than if we were merely fighting men like Hitler and Stalin. On the battlefields of earth we can match the enemy man for man and plane for plane, for here we resist human strength. But the struggle against Satan is not a physical one; it is against wicked spirits and darkness, against a superhuman foe we cannot see. No soldier has ever entered a more difficult and dangerous war. To be ignorant of the nature of the conflict and the enemy is to invite calamity in our spiritual lives. Satan and his kingdom are arrayed against us. If you have not realized it before, learn it now.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (6:13). The repetition of this twofold injunction to put on the whole armor of God, and to stand, is significant. God expects us to heed it. Our day is evil and, as the age nears its end, evil will wax worse. But no matter what the extent of the evil or the fierceness of Satan’s attacks, the Christian must stand. We are not to flee but to stand; we are not to hide but to stand.
The days are becoming increasingly perilous, so that the whole armor of God must therefore be put on. Then, too, an evil day may dawn upon any one of us individually, a day of fierce persecution, a day of severe testing resulting from some crisis in our lives, a day of moral peril. Unless we are properly protected with God’s panoply, we may fall instead of stand. So to the least and the lowliest, Paul says: “Stand.” Never retreat! The battle is not ours but the Lord’s. If we fully equip ourselves according to divine direction, we shall be standing firm after the smoke of battle has cleared away. If the enemy returns to attack again, keep on standing. Remember, there is no standing in the strength of the flesh; so then, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” It is in Christ that we maintain our position. There seems to be a promise here that, if we will put on the whole armor of God, we shall be able to stand and there will be no attack of the enemy that we shall not be able to meet successfully by the power of God.
2. The Equipment (6:14-20)
Since we are engaged in warfare, equipment for both defensive and offensive purposes is essential. Paul calls the equipment “armor,” a metaphor he uses on other occasions. In Romans he writes: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Rom. 13:12). The thought here is that of a change of dress. The believer not only casts off the garments of darkness (which is sin) but he puts on the armor of light, the idea being that he is now engaged in offensive warfare against the powers of darkness which are evil. Elsewhere Paul writes that we approve “ourselves as the ministers of God … by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Cor. 6:4, 7). In this latter Scripture he has in mind the armor of right living and right doing, the practical rectitude and uprightness which should result when we are justified through faith in Christ, having had God’s righteousness in Him imputed unto us.
Here in Ephesians the different pieces of the armor are explained in greater detail. There is, first, the girdle of truth: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” (6:14). In the dress of the oriental, the belt or girdle was used to strengthen and support the body, as well as to hold in place other pieces of apparel. The girdle is therefore mentioned first, and it is called the girdle of truth.
The “truth” here is not alone perfect sincerity and truthfulness; for one may be perfectly sincere and truthful, yet still be wrong. But it means truth subjectively considered; that is, the knowledge and belief of the truth revealed in God’s written Word. Of course, such knowledge and belief result in perfect sincerity and truthfulness. The girdle of truth is something, then, that the believer is exhorted to “put on.” The loin-cloth of truth must be girt about us so that our progress is not impeded and our vital parts are not exposed to the enemy.
A careful reading and study of the Bible, therefore, are essential to victory over the devil and his wiles. Peter writes: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13). This means simply that we are to have our minds girt about with the truth of God’s Word. The mind of the Christian must be clear and discerning, unhampered by selfish, sinful thoughts, guarding against error and the making of wrong decisions. The believer’s warfare is dangerous and strenuous and will not permit of mental sluggishness. We need to have controlled minds girt firmly about with the Scriptures of truth.
Beloved, do some hard, calm, deliberate thinking on the ways of Gold as revealed in the Word of God. Bible study is essential to victory over Satan. Novels and magazines may have their place, but far too little time is being given to studying the truths of God’s Word. As the girdle on one’s body lends strength to vital organs, so the study of the Word of God girds and strengtlhens the inner man. In the warfare against Satan we cannot afford to become entangled with the affairs of this life; therefore we need God’s Word to govern our conduct and guide our course of life. Many professing Christians are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (4:14), simply because they fail to appropriate and comprehend the “truth.” When our Lord was tempted of the devil, He answered the enemy with the truth of Scripture: “It is written …” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). So let us give first place to the “truth.” “Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth,” the truth of Bible doctrine, even the Word of truth (1:13).
The second piece of the Christian’s armor follows: “and having on the breastplate of righteousness” (6:14). This piece of defensive armor covered the body, both front and back, from the neck to the thighs. It offered special protection for the heart. A warrior without his breastplate was dangerously exposed to the thrust of the enemy.
Now we can think of no better protection for the heart than a walk in righteousness consistent with our position in Christ. Paul is not referring alone to that imputed positional righteousness which is the possession of all true believers, but the practical righteousness which results from the positional. It is the righteousness of both standing and state. It is not enough that we have the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ; our walk must be consistent with our position. Most certainly no man can live righteously who has not had the righteousness of God in Christ communicated unto him. All the righteousnesses of the natural man are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), so that we must say with Paul: “That I may … be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:8, 9).
The righteous ones are the redeemed ones, and to all such God says: “yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). If we are not living righteously we are easy targets for the enemy’s darts. Sinning saints cannot stand in the day of adversity when Satan attacks. Right living is wound-proof; therefore, “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). I[f we fall instead of stand when Satan attacks, it is because we have not been living right. Let every one with unconfessed sin in his life confess it here and now, lest the devil gain an advantage over any one of us.
Dr. Charles R. Erdman writes: “One who binds himself about with a determined loyalty to the holy will and law of God is secure against the deadly thrusts of the tempter. A man who is; conscious of being in the wrong is usually a coward; a man who knows that he is right can withstand a multitude arid enters the conflict without fear.” Righteousness is a matter of the heart continually; it is not something we piously and fraudulently parade one day a week. Strictest integrity must be maintained at all times, the heart being kept purged of every lustful desire and the mind clear of every unholy thought. Notice the words, “having on.” Christians are expected to be ethical and righteous. None but the righteous can stand. Righteousness is Jehovah’s breastplate (Isa. 59:17). Make it yours.
Next, there is something for our feet: “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (6:15). In any warfare, ancient or modern, messengers who are swift of foot, as well as soldiers who can stand firmly, are needed.
Two ideas are suggested in this verse. First, the believer must stand firmly confirmed in the gospel. Second, he must be ready to carry the good news of salvation with speed. Paul bore witness to this twofold experience in his own life. He stood firmly for the gospel when he testified: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16), and he expressed a readiness to spread the gospel to the Greeks, the Barbarians, and even to those at Rome also (Rom. 1:14, 15). Paul’s feet were shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Are yours? Are you resting firmly with confidence in the gospel, in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection? Here, beloved, is a good standing-place where we can rest undisturbed amid the battles and storms of life. The gospel of Christ is the gospel of peace, and it makes possible a calm in the midst of the storm.
Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
Blest assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea Jesus speaks to me,
And the billows cease to roll.
Many a (Christian warrior has been fearful and restless until he has learned to stand in the gospel shoes. Allow me to refer you to the Israelites eating their first passover. The hard and bitter attacks of Pharaoh had the people fearful and well-nigh exhausted. He was their enemy, bent on their destruction. But on the night the death angel appeared over Egypt, the Israelites who were behind blood-sheltered doors were safe. There was no need for any one to be fearful or restless. God had promised protection to all who applied the blood, so that the people could enjoy eating the passover in peace. God had said: “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet …” (Exod. 12:11). They were to enjoy perfect peace in spite of the worst the enemy could attempt. Let us rest securely and serenely in the good news of our reconciliation to God by the death of His Son, thereby making peace for us.
The gospel shoes not only provide for our security but they also prepare us for active service as well. They speak not only of steadfastness in warfare but swiftness in witnessing. The word “preparation” suggests the idea of “promptness and readiness.” There are unsaved men and women who are held in the fear and bondage of Satan and who need our help. Satan holds them as his prisoners. As we “preach the gospel,” we “preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). Quoting the prophets Isaiah and Nahum, Paul writes: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Rom. 10:15) ! Beautiful feet in God’s sight are those feet swift to carry the gospel message of deliverance and peace to those held captive by Satan.
Bringing the good news of salvation to the sinner is a vital move in the warfare against evil. Too many Christians are not in a state of preparedness to witness to the lost. They are unshod. Little wonder they become foot-sore, lame and weary! Some of you who read these words may need a new pair of shoes. YOU have not that joyful readiness to talk to sinners “bout the Lord. The soldier’s shoes are not the dancing slippers of this world or the lounging slippers of the slothful, but the shoes of the Christian warrior who knows Christ and makes Him known. Readiness to speak a word for the Saviour is one of the noble virtues of every child of God. Put on the gospel shoes. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that I, asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Be prepared for war or witnessing.
One word further about the gospel shoes. Reference was made to the Israelites eating the first passover. They were told to eat lit with their shoes on their feet in readiness for the pilgrim journey. In this connection there is an interesting statement from the Lord, recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy: “And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot” (29:5). God had taken care of their shoes so that they lasted throughout the entire journey. The burning desert sands and the sharp stones could not wear them out. Beloved, the gospel has not lost any of its old-time power. Nor will it ever! As we stand firmly for the truth and speak it to others, we shall witness the same mighty victories such as the apostles won in the early Church. Only be thou ready!
Ready to go, ready to stay, Ready my place to fill; Ready for service, lowly or great, Ready to do His will. Verse 16 adds to the list of the Christian’s armor: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” The words “above all” are often translated “in addition to.” The girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the gospel shoes are necessary pieces of equipment; but, in addition, to these and possibly more important, the Christian warrior must take up the “shield of faith.” The design of Satan is to destroy the children of God; hence our need for the kind of armor that will withstand the devil’s forces. His weapon is here referred to as “fiery darts,” those burning missiles of evil, ablaze with the Rames of destruction. There are a thousand and more perils that would burn themselves into our lives to render us helpless in the battles of life. Against these satanic, fiery darts of pride, envy, jealousy, covetousness, worry, unbelief, impurity, and many others, we need a sure defense. Paul calls that defense “the shield of faith.”
A question arises as to the identity of the shield. The symbolism of the shield is used in the New Testament in Ephesians alone, so that we must of necessity look at its more frequent use in the Old Testament for clearer understanding. It seems to this writer that, in the metaphorical language of the Bible, the shield generally represents the Person of God in His protecting care over His children. In other words, God Himself is the shield of His people.
The first mention of the shield came from God to Abraham at the close of the patriarch’s struggle against the unbelieving kings who attacked the king of Sodom and his allies. Moses writing,, says: “After these things,” that is, after the events recorded in Genesis 14, “the Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). This new revelation of God was appropriate to the need of the moment, for the struggle recorded in the previous chapter is the first war mentioned in the Bible. Undoubtedly there was a measure of fear in Abraham’s heart, else God would not have told him not to fear. Over against that fear God assured His child that He was Abraham’s protection. If Abraham was alarmed and apprehensive about any further attacks of Chedorlaomer, he could now quiet his troubled heart in the assurance that God would be his shield and defense. You see, beloved, if we have God for our shield, we need not fear the worst that man or demons can do to us; for our Shield and Defender will never suffer His trusting child to be a loser.
The next time the word “shield” is used is in Moses’s song of praise to God for His majesty and excellency in Israel. It is used in connection with words familiar to us all: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also His heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places” (Deut. 33:27-29). Again the context makes it obvious that God is revealed as the shield to defend His children against their “enemies.” Israel is to be delivered from all her enemies and in that day she will say with the psalmist: “He is our help and our shield” (Psa. 33:20) ; “O God, our shield” (Psa. 59:11 ; 84:9) ; “For the Lord God is a sun and shield” (Psa. 84:11). In all of these passages God Himself is the shield of His people, their sufficient covering and strong tower in the day of trouble (cf. Psa. 61:3).
Now notice that Paul says: “Taking,” or “Taking hold of” the shield of faith. God is our shield, but only as we lay hold of Him in faith does He become our protection against the fiery darts of the enemy. The shield is our sovereign God; faith is the human responsibility. The “faith” here is not that system of Christian teaching “which was once delivered unto the saints,” and for which we “should earnestly contend” (Jude 3). It is, as Dr. Ironside has said, not what you believe but how you believe. And to this we might add that it is also whom you believe. Faith here is confidence, complete reliance in the Person, purposes, and power of God. Implicit trust in Him alone can quench the enemy’s darts.
Flying missiles have always been a weapon of war to destroy or disable the forces of opposition, and Satan has his. These must be staved off and quenched before they can strike us. If we put confidence in the flesh, we can never hope to ward off the devil’s darts. Only as we look to our blessed Lord and draw continually upon His strength can we expect to come forth triumphantly. The believer’s mighty bulwark is his confidence in almighty God. No arrow of fear, no dart of temptation can penetrate the soul that lays hold of the shield of faith. God has provided for us a shield in the Person and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, but you and I must believe.
“And take the helmet of salvation” (6:17). A number of teacher: of Greek have pointed out that the word for “take” here is not the same as that used in reference to the shield, but that it means to accept from the hand of another, as a gift. God has prepared salvation for all, and He offers it to all as His gift. We need only to accept it in order to possess it.
Now the head is prominent and vulnerable, and it needs plenty (of protection. For this protection God has provided a helmet of salvation. A covering for the head is not a modern invention in warfare. Some form of headgear for soldiers dates back to ancient Egypt and Assyria, and replicas of these, as well as some originals, can be seen in many museums. But the helmet of salvation in the Epistle to the Ephesians is God’s gift of salvation to man. Unless that salvation is received, man cannot hope to escape the fiery darts of Satan.
The helmet of salvation for the believer is first the knowledge arid assurance of salvation. The experience of salvation is not an emotional one merely: it is reasonable and rational as well. The saved man has intelligent understanding and assuring knowledge that God has saved him. He knows whom he has believed. He may not always be able to answer the questions and criticisms of skeptics, yet no one, man or devil, will ever be able to get him away from the fact of his experience of salvation. The knowledge of sins forgiven is a mighty fortress against the attacks of modernism, atheism, communism, and every other ism. If you have the knowledge and assurance of salvation, you have the protection against many of Satan’s darts and the solution to many of life’s problems. When a man receives the helmet of salvation he can hold up his head with confidence and face the most potent foe.
To be saved and know it can make us “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). After the man born blind had been given sight by our Lord, the Pharisees, by their questions, sought to get the man to renounce Jesus. To most of their questions, he could only repeat: “I know not”; but they could never tear from him one thing he did know. He said: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). The Apostle Paul likewise did not know a lot of things, for there were times when he had to acknowledge that “we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12); but at no time were the enemies of the gospel able to put Paul to shame, for he could always testify: “I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12).
Salvation was Paul’s helmet. Is it yours? If you have any doubt as to your being saved, you will not be able to stand with real confidence when facing the foe. An experiential knowledge of salvation removes all sense of doubt and all fear of condemnation, giving to the believer a sense of security in his Lord.
In one other passage Paul mentions the helmet. “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8). Salvation is not only the beginning of hope for man, it is future also. Salvation touches the past, the present, and the future, saving from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and the presence of sin. The Scriptures teach that we ore saved (Eph. 2:8), that we are being saved (2 Cor. 1:10), and that we shall be saved (Rom. 5:10). The helmet of salvation must be worn at all times for every circumstance and occasion. Every Christian can stand in the calm confidence that the death of Christ has saved him, the resurrected Christ is keeping him, and the coming Christ will preserve him safely throughout eternity. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Beloved, if you have trusted Christ, you can fight, knowing without any doubt whatever that you are saved. As you wear the helmet of salvation, no power in heaven or on earth can rob you of confidence and boldness in battle. The professing Christian, without the helmet of salvation, is an easy target $or the (devil. If you have any doubt that you are saved now, or if you’ll fear that you might not be saved in the next life, you cannot confidently meet the enemy of your soul from day to day. Assurance of salvation that is based upon the Bible protects the believer from false doctrine, doubt, and fear. Take the helmet. It is God’s gift to you. What an anchor for our thinking;!
Every warrior needs a weapon for offensive warfare, and the divinely-provided weapon is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’’ (6:17). The sword here is not the Spirit but the Word spoken by the Spirit, the Bible. When the Christian warrior is thoroughly acquainted with the Word and has acquired skill and ability in its use, he can ward off every attack of the enemy.
This is not the only place in Scripture where the Word of the Lord is referred to in a militant manner. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read: “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Sword is quick (living), for the words God speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63). The Sword is active (energetic), for as it pierces the heart it compels men to retreat. The Sword is sharp to pierce, to divide, and to discern. There is no amount of satanic subtlety, there are none of hell’s barriers that the Word of God cannot break through when wielded aright. The Word of God is, in the highest sense, the most dreaded weapon we can use against the foe. No doubt the double-edged bronze Roman sword appeared to Paul a fierce and formidable weapon. But how much sharper is the Word of God than weapons of men and demons!
When, writing of our ascended Lord, the Apostle John said: “Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword’’ (Rev. 1:16). The Sword of the Almighty Conqueror is His own resistless ‘Word. He speaks and it is done. One word from Him and His enemies fall back powerless. More than seven hundred years before His birth the prophecy was written: “He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword” (Isa. 49:2).
The Sword is the Word of the Lord. How wonderfully this Book has vindicated itself through the centuries! How marvelously this Book has met the needs of men in every age! How great has been the triumph of the Word wherever it has gone! The Word was the weapon the apostles used when facing the bitter opposition of pagan powers. The prophets in the old dispensation and the saints in the new make up a mighty army of glorious conquerors because they had ready access to the Sword. They were good swordsmen for God. The Word was in their heads and hearts, and they knew how to use it. These faithful warriors for Christ met the enemy in exactly the same way as did our Lord Himself, by the sword-thrusts of His own Word. There was never a time when God’s people had greater need for studying and spreading the Scriptures.
As we anticipate our Lord’s return, we know that with His coming to the earth to rule, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth” (Isa. 11:4). Until we see Him, let us wield the Sword of the Spirit, meeting every temptation with a “Thus saith the Lord.” The last victory to be won will be won by the Sword of the Spirit. The rider on the white horse will come forth; “His name is called The Word of God … and out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations” (Rev. 19:13, 15). With this same Sword we, too, can conquer, for the Word of God is the Sword that the Spirit gives and uses.
We have come to the end of the divinely-provided equipment for the Christian’s warfare. Last, but not least, the child of God must have recourse to prayer: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (6:18). Some teachers do not regard prayer as a part of the equipment but, rather, that exercise of soul that takes us into the realm of the believer’s resource where the whole armor is rendered effective.
Such all interpretation may be right. However, the important truth for us to learn is the absolute necessity of earnest, constant prayer if we are to live triumphantly as Christians. It is not the possession of the armor and the weapons that makes a great warrior. No resource of strength or strategy lies within ourselves. Rather do we need to look to the One who is superior to the enemy’s greatest strength and who can outwit his every maneuver. It is by prayer that we come boldly to God’s throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Every conquering Christian in every generation has been a prayer warrior. The one necessity of every good soldier of Jesus Christ is to keep in constant touch with his great Captain and Commander.
We must ever keep in mind that the battle is not ours but God’s. If we break contact with Him, we have severed ourselves from the One who orders the battle and who alone can empower us to win. Study the wars in the Old Testament in which Israel fought against her enemies, and in every instance you will find the principle of God’s working to be the same. When Israel fought in her own strength, she suffered defeat; when she cast herself upon God’s mercy and trusted in His might, victory followed. Abraham took his trained servants, numbering only 318, and conquered the coalition of kings that fought against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 14). Gideon, his army reduced from 32,000 to 300, delivered Israel from the yoke of Midianitish slavery (Judg. 7 and 8). Joshua, with the odds against him, led Israel to a mighty conquest over Jericho (Josh. 6).In his first battle, Joshua was much less experienced in warfare, but certainly no less trustful in the power of God to defeat the Amalekites (Exod. 17). These all, along with King Hezekiah who conquered the Assyrians, could testify: “With us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (2 Chron. 32:8).
The Old Testament saints were often outnumbered and ill-equipped when compared with the armies and weapons of their enemies, but when they were on God’s side, when they trusted and obeyed Him, they could not lose. We, too, must meet the enemy of the Church and of our souls in the strength and wisdom of Almighty God. It is through prayer that we receive a never-ending supply of strength and wisdom for the battle.
There must be constancy in prayer: “Praying always.” At no time dare we break contact with God. The enemy watches for prayerlessness in our lives and then takes advantage of us. We must be constantly in prayer because we are constantly in danger. Do not stop praying when you have health and prosperity, for such neglect will only expose you to Satan’s darts. Vigilance in prayer must be maintained at all times, whether the day be an ordinary one or a day of crisis. God is not asking us to do the impossible when He commands us to pray always.
Our contact with God should be just as natural as our breathing. We breathe always. Physically, we could not survive without breathing; spiritually, we cannot survive without praying. Certainly we are not expected to be constantly on our knees or in some church, but we are expected to be constantly in contact with God. Prayer will release a power from heaven on our behalf greater than the power of all those which are against us. Daniel prayed for three weeks and learned afterwards that his prayer prevailed over the demon spirits that were against him. Elsewhere Paul exhorts to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Our Lord commanded: “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
Then, too, we are to pray “with all prayer and supplication.” This suggests that we must avail ourselves of every method and approach in prayer. There is private prayer, family prayer, silent prayer, audible prayer, mealtime prayer, church meeting prayer, the set time for prayer, the emergency prayer. A constant sense of God’s nearness and a consciousness of our need of Him will make us versatile in our prayer life. At times our prayer will take on one mode; again it will assume a different appeal altogether. There are prayers of commission, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of intercession, prayers of supplication, and prayers of petition, and the true soldier of Jesus Christ will practice them all from time to time. We should pray at all times, in all places, and under every circumstance.
Third, we are directed to pray “in the Spirit.” The opposite to praying in the Spirit is praying in the flesh, the latter being a form of prayer without power. We saw earlier in our study that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Even our prayers must be guided by the Spirit of God, “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26). There are times when we cannot collect our thoughts or express ourselves in words, and yet we desire to pray. Thank God, we may be assured that the Holy Spirit sees the battlefield and knows the position of the enemy, and He will pray for us. If we are not praying “in the Spirit,” we had better not pray at all. To pray in the Spirit one must be born of the Spirit and led by the Spirit. There is a lot of spirited praying that is not praying in the Spirit. Those who pray in the Spirit never pray selfishly but always in the will of God; therefore, they get answers to their prayers and they know the blessings of victory over the foe. Praying in the Spirit glorifies God, and where God is glorified victory is assured.
Fourth, we are to pray “watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication.” There must be wakefulness and watchfullness in prayer, never weariness. The disciples slept when they should have been praying, and our Lord said: “What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:40, 41). Spiritual drowsiness opens the gates to the enemy, so let us attend to our praying, “continuing instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).
Finally, we are to pray “for all saints.” All true believers in Christ, who make up His body, are Satan’s targets, so that we should pray for all saints. We are not alone in the struggle against wickedness. Christ has His soldiers in almost every part of the earth; therefore, we should be making supplication for the whole army of the Lord. Every day is “All Saints Day” for the believer in Christ, for we should pray daily for one another. If you do not have a prayer interest in the saints in India, Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the islands of the seas, you are omitting from your prayer life a necessary and vital phase of the ministry of prayer. The devil’s victories in other lands are sometimes caused by our prayerlessness here at home.
The importance that Paul attached to intercessory prayer is all the more obvious in his words that follow. Having exhorted his readers to pray for all saints, he adds: “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (6:19, 20). Paul was a prisoner in Rome when he spoke of himself as “an ambassador in bonds”; nevertheless he was in the thick of the fray and felt the need for the prayers of other Christians. He was in a prison cell; still he was God’s soldier and servant in Rome. If anything, Paul was in the forefront of the battle. What he wanted the Ephesians to pray for, was not for his release from Nero’s chains but for liberty and boldness to speak the claims of Christ. He was asking the saints to pray that he would have God’s help in preaching. “Keep on praying for me,” he writes to his battle-weary friends. He would have the Romans, as well as others, know the glorious revelation of the gospel. No preacher stands above the need of being prayed for. The critics in some of our churches would render a service if they would pray more for the preacher and criticize him less. Dear friend, all of God’s servants need help from heaven. None of us has strength and wisdom of his own to carry the battle to the enemy; so pray always, in the Spirit, with all perseverance, for all saints, and please include the writer of these lines.
Having completed the message, Paul sent it to Asia by the hand of “Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (6:21). Tychicus might have been looked upon by some as Paul’s errand boy, but he was more than that. This faithful messenger had the high honor of bearing this inspired and priceless epistle to the Church at Ephesus and to all the saints of succeeding generations. Suppose Tychicus had failed! Have you ever given thought to what a great loss the Church would have suffered? But he did not fail. God bless you, dear brother. You have fulfilled your mission and our hearts have been comforted (6:22). You not only have relieved the anxiety of the Ephesians concerning Paul, but you have brought from Paul the inspired Word that has lifted our burdens.
In closing, Paul turns to the Lord to invoke a twofold benediction upon the saints:
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)