1: Well, there isn’t much to the verse, but it begins a general charge from Paul to important classification groups of people, beginning, as did the Lord, with the children in the congregation. To the children, Paul has one simple command, and gives his reasoning as well: Children [teknon], obey [hypakouō, to hear as a subordinate, that is, to listen attentively, by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority] your parents [goneus, parent] in the Lord [the sense here is the parents God gave you to oversee your development]. Paul’s simple reasoning? It is right. It is correct. It is the right thing to do. Vv.2,3 are a quotation from the 10 commandments, and Paul parenthetically mentions that this is the first of God’s commands that have a promise attached to it, and verse 3 is the part of the quotation that mentions the promise – you may laugh a little, but Star Trek fans will get the reference: peace and long life. All for listening to your parents and doing what they say.
4: Like Husbands in chapter 5, there is a direct statement to fathers: do not provoke your children to anger. Instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. “Son, your hair needs cutting.” “I don’t want a haircut, I like my long hair, it helps me fit in with my friends.” “Son, I’m going to shave your head myself while I sit on you so that you don’t look like a girl.” (Regardless of the statement being false, a boy doesn’t look like a girl in his teens, and he smells quite a bit worse, also.) Hmmm. Provoking? Oh, just a little bit…and I’m never sarcastic. You know, past about the age of 13, you can’t control them anyway. You have to steer them and guide them, not order them about. Just saying.
5: “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ…”
None of us are slaves in the conventional sense today. But think of what this could mean for you in the realm of work. As far as it goes, you are to listen to what your employer says. The word here is hypakouo, the same word it uses to say in verse 1 that children should listen to their parents. It says to do it with fear and trembling! I’m not particularly in fear of my employers, but it conveys a certain importance, a seriousness, a gravitas to the whole affair. Then it says “…in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ…” Our employers pay us to do things for them. We should do this not for the wage, but in the sincerity of our heart as to Christ. That word for sincerity is haplotes, meaning singleness. (If it helps, this is where geneticists get their term “halploid cells” from, which are typically gametes used in reproduction. Sorry, that’s the biology coming back on me…) We are to serve our employers with single hearts. We do a good job because we are really working for Christ, and we will do our very best for Him.
6: “…not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”
Not for the purpose of eyeservice [ophthalmodoulia, compound word meaning what pleases or serves the eyes]. We don’t do stuff just to look good. We definitely don’t do things to please men [anthropareskos]. Men are inherently sinful, according to Scripture. What pleases man is often in contradiction to what pleases God. This means that we must conduct ourselves in certain ways. What if your boss asks you to do something questionable, like deliberately misreport the stock count on something? We must respectfully refuse. Why? Well, because he may pay us, but we are slaves of Christ, bound to do the will of God.
7: “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men…”
Rather our attitude should be reflecting the good will of a servant of Christ, not man. I’m not saying there won’t be consequences to taking a stand for Christ with your employer. I have been unselected as a hire because I wouldn’t sell want ads to prostitutes for the Ottawa Sun. I’m telling you the job was mine. He wanted me to start the next day. I had to say no, because it would contribute to the spiritual depravity and condemnation of humankind as a whole. He was stunned into speechlessness for a moment. I ended the moment by saying something like, “I’m sorry we couldn’t do business.” He began to justify himself and tell me that people had the right to do what they wanted. I could hardly disagree, it just wasn’t what I wanted. I had to be faithful to my Master, Jesus. And I went on to have a very hard time for a couple of months trying to make rent and eat. But the Lord provided. We must not render our service to men, but to Christ.
8: “…knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”
I believe the Lord honoured my decision. I may have had trouble, but the Word says here that when we stand for Him, we will be rewarded for it. It never specifies the reward, though I’m sure it will befit the circumstances, and it doesn’t specify the timeframe. We may never see those rewards this side of eternity.
9: “And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”
And here is a word for you if you are or ever become the boss! You serve Christ, not your employees, as strange as that may sound. You do owe them a wage for working for you. Pay it. And don’t threaten your employees. We don’t see a lot of this today in classic terms. If you were displeased with your slave back then, you owned him and could kick his rear if you thought he needed it. Paul here commanded that behaviour cease for the Christian. Today, there are other kinds of threats. I once had a boss that threatened to can me if I wouldn’t perform sexual acts with her. I told her to go ahead. A week later, she laid me off, saying that my position was being reorganized out of existence. (A week after that, she hired a guy to do my exact job.) You cannot threaten your employees over anything. You can’t even threaten them to go to Church! And you shouldn’t anyway. Why not? Because YOUR Master in Heaven sees everything, and He doesn’t care that you’re the boss. You are mistreating a person He created in His own image! There is no partiality with God, we are all the same.
Now we begin a very famous and very cherished part of Scripture. Paul begins to describe what he calls the “Full Armour of God.” You have to bear in mind that Paul at this point was under arrest. The Romans had the practice of chaining a guard (sometimes two) to people that sere in longer-term custody awaiting judgment in their cases, as Paul was. Paul had a lot of time to examine their garb, and under the influence of the Spirit, was able to draw parallels to spiritual things, as a pastor often does. You must also bear in mind that Paul is NEVER talking about physical warfare. His application, and he states this throughout, is always spiritual in nature.
10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
Paul charges us here to be strong [endunamoo, empowered or enabled to perform] in the Lord. Nothing earthly is the source of the Christian’s true strength. It always comes from our relationship with Him, as we have been reading in the preceding chapters. Our help, as per this verse, literally comes from the “dominion of His power” [ἐν, in; τῷ, the; κράτει, strength; τῆς ἰσχύος, of might; αὐτοῦ, His (Phonetic: hen toe kratei tees ischos ahutou)]. Remember our inaugurated eschatology – we live in the in-between times. Christ has inaugurated the Kingdom of God, but we are still living in the old cursed creation with its fallen people and accused rules of being and doing. Our job, since Christ has redeemed us, that is we died with Him, He has raised us to (His) new life, and we are (present tense) seated with Him in Heavenly places, is to live in the New Kingdom, wherein only righteousness dwells, as it says. And because we have had Christ literally come to dwell in our hearts by faith, He has given us the power to live righteously in this present evil age, as the preceding chapters tell us.
11: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
Paul tells us that God has even equipped us for the task. He has given us a FULL suit armour, along with some very powerful weapons to use in our spiritual battle, which we will come to in the next verse. Full Armour may also be translated as “all the tools.” Armour today implies defensive only capability, and that isn’t necessarily all there is to this. However you understand it, you have reason to use it. Why? So that you will be able to make a firm stand against the methods of the “diabolou,” or devil. Notice: we are to STAND, not “run to the battle,” speaking. The enemy will attempt to overwhelm us and inundate us with his thoughts, means, works, servants, and we are to make a firm stand whatever comes our way.
12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Paul here describes our battle. Make no mistake, this battle is real – but it is NOT a PHYSICAL battle, and it does not have physical opponents. To understand this passage, you must allow that there are beings and forces that oversee our physical realm from outside of it. These individuals are capable somehow, of existing outside of our reality. We cannot normally see them. I don’t think I have ever actually seen one, though I have felt the presence of one once, and it was absolutely frightening. I was by the war memorial evangelizing with a friend, and stuff happened. Won’t go into it here, if you want to know, ask me and I’ll tell you. These beings are NOT flesh and blood. Instead, Paul identifies them as the rulers [arche, beginning or origins, dominion; perhaps the original governors?], powers [exousia, the power to act, authority], world forces [kosmokrator, a ruler of this world], who represent this darkness [skotos], and who are called spiritual forces of wickedness [pneumatikos, spiritual; poneeria, malice] in the heavenlies [epiuranous, heaven]. He tells us that we are against all of THESE individuals or forces. NOT against people. Our approach to people must needs be with patience and gentleness (meekness).
13: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
With that point about meekness and patience toward people said, Paul uses our magic word “Therefore.” So we will make our firm stand, resist in the evil day, and having done all that, stand firm, and continue to read to see what our “therefore” is there for. [I did tell you last time I was a comedian, no?]
I will tell you of an excellent treatise on this following subject called The Christian in Complete Armour, by William Gurnall, written in about 1860. You can find it online as a free PDF here:
If you like to own the physical book (and I’m one of those ludites), you can get it on Amazon here:
I recommend the book personally. It will give you an insight into why we need the armour in the first place, and some key thoughts on how it is fully implemented in the life of the Christian.
NB WARNING – you can expect spiritual warfare in the form of trials and trouble if you read it. I have experienced that, as has every other individual I know that read the book, and that totals about 20. I know that’s anecdotal, but I feel it fair to warn you. Let’s go on.
14: “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…”
Paul begins to describe the equipment, and sometimes a brief statement about how and/or what it guards. The first of these is truth [alētheia, what is true in any consideration, what is real, what is certain, what is fact], and it guards the loins, which we may understand as the center of human creative motive and force. That is to say, our creative force is to be guarded by truth, and THAT truth as it is in Jesus, so that everything we do is for Him, and to Him, and through Him in all things.
The next item Paul mentions is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate was to guard the vital organs, most importantly the heart, the figurative center of motivation. This is closely associated with our emotions. These are to be guarded, Paul says, by righteousness [dikaiosynē, equity of character or act; specially of justification; in a broad sense the state of us as who we are supposed to be, in the righteous condition that is acceptable to God, reflected by integrity, virtue, purity, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting]. Right acts, that result from our emotions, that line up with what we know (thinking) as the facts, reality, the truth.
15: “…and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…”
Our feet are what help us walk. They take us where we need to go to do God’s will. These are to be guarded by our preparation [hetoimasia, the act of being prepared, or the state or condition of readiness from making ready] of the gospel [euaggelion, good news] of peace [eireenee, welfare]. What this tells me is that our feet are to be guided by making ready to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people. Are we prepared to do that? Do we know how? Questions to ask yourself. If you are interested, we can start a class on how to share the gospel. Let me know what you think.
16: “…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
We have also a shield, and it operates through faith. Anyone ever see a Roman shield? Big, rectangular, curved affair. It was tough, used in hand-to-hand combat to deflect enemy weapon strikes, and used at range for what our passage says, to catch arrows and protect the man behind the shield. Our shield is even better, as it will apparently extinguish flaming arrows shot at us by our enemy. What does that look like? I believe the temptation of Jesus and Jesus’ responses to the devil are how it operates. “Worship me in this area and I will benefit you.” “Yeah, you’re a liar – I’ll worship God – He is my benefit.” Something like that. Faith? That is the Greek word pisteos, and is a form of the word pistis, a firm persuasion or opinion held. So – be persuaded about Jesus.
17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The helmet of salvation. Well, the helmet guards our brain, the center of our thoughts. Salvation does that for us. It guards our thoughts, teaching us (with the help of the Holy Spirit) right from wrong, and inspiring us to do right. You know that question “What would Jesus do?” This answers that with the question, “What did Jesus do?” Meditate (exercise clear and directed thought) on that for a while.
The verse also describes and offensive tool – a sword. Our sword is the Word of God, that is to say, the Bible. Does that mean we go out and fight people with our Bible or Bible knowledge? NO. It does not. We fight against the principalities, powers, rulers of this present darkness. With people, I will remind you – patient and gentle. ESPECIALLY when they’re wrong. It says in 2 Tim. 2:25,26 that we should be “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” that even encapsulates WHY we fight. We fight for them. It is NOT our job to condemn people. It IS our job to rescue them if we can.
18: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”
Every army has a version of heavy artillery. Ours is no different. We call it prayer. In this case, we are interceding for all the saints, so intercessory prayer. “Oh God, do your will in this place. Protect the brothers and sisters there as you do so.” Like that. And when do we “work that into our schedule?” We don’t – we are always in prayer, anytime we can be. We don’t even have to speak – God knows our thoughts. Interestingly, the enemy does not, but he is good at reading people. So Paul gives a specific prayer request.
19: “…and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel…”
He asks for utterance [logos, the divine expression that embodies an idea; a statement, a speech] be given to him. Pray for me as I prepare to preach, Paul is asking. Pray for me this way also! He also prays for boldness [parreesia, freedom of speech] to communicate the gospel, that is, the Good News of Jesus Christ! You can pray for me that way too.
20: “…for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Paul references that he is in custody, chained up to one or two Roman guards (tradition says one here if I’m remembering it right). He realizes that He is an ambassador for Christ, as we all should be, but he references his chains, indicating he is not free at this time. He then goes back to his request to speak boldly for Christ.
21: “But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.”
Paul, being confined, was not free to travel to Ephesus. He has said very little of his own condition, and therefore Paul names the individual who will carry the report of Paul’s state to Ephesus, as well as gives some credential for Tychicus.
22: “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.”
23, 24: “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.”
Paul closes with his typical doxology and greeting, giving glory to Christ in his benediction.