1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
2HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),
3SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.
Paul continues to deal with family matters, speaking now to the children. They are to obey their parents, submitting to them in all things, unless, of course, they tell them to go against Scripture. It is dishonoring to a parent for their children to not respect them. Parents should train their children to listen to them, and children should willingly obey them. Obedience to parents is right, as in upright, righteous, godly, acceptable, and pleasing to God. In Exodus 20:12, as part of the Ten Commandments, God commands the children of Israel to honor their father and mother. God was making a covenant with Israel, and it is interesting that He involved the children in the covenant. Children are not irrelevant, extras, or tag-alongs, but they matter, they have dignity, and they can make a difference. They have an obligation to God and a responsibility to Him and to their parents. This commandment has a promise attached to it that if the children honor their parents that things will go well with them and they will live long on the earth. In the original context, the promise pertains to the people of Israel remaining long in the land of promise (see Exodus 20:12), but Paul through the direction of the Holy Spirit modifies it here to have a universal application for general blessing, health, and long life. It is not that long life is a guarantee if a person obeys their parents, but it is setting up a general principle that it is best for individuals, families, and societies if children obey their parents. Children who refuse to submit to authorities end up in trouble, on the street, on abusive substances, dead, or in prison. Rebellion leads to harm for the individual, the family, and society. If a society wants to endure and an individual wants to make wise choices for his own general benefit, then he needs to learn submission beginning with obeying his parents. This is so important that listed with the characteristics indicative of the last days is that children will become disobedient to parents (2 Timothy 3:2). God takes children seriously because He loves them and desires them to come to Him. He hates it when others lead them astray (Matthew 18:6), and He delights when godly people, such as parents, lead them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). But children have their own will and responsibility before God, and they must accept that fact and obey. This will be best for them and for those around them. Children who learn early to obey their parents will be able to quickly learn to obey God as well.
4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Though certainly the principle of not provoking children to anger applies to both parents, it is directed at fathers specifically. It seems that fathers in general are more prone to exasperate their children as children look to them for encouragement and affirmation more than they do mothers. Children generally run to mom for comfort and affection whereas they tend to look to dad to see if he approves of them and what they do. Thus, fathers play a particularly important role of encouraging their children and giving them confidence in the love of their earthly father as they obey and are free to be themselves. This leads to a view of God the Father as One Who adores them, encourages them, supports them, and rightly leads them. Fathers can easily exasperate their children and cause them to feel like giving up, that they are no good, that they are not loveable, or that their father is not always unconditionally loving or trustworthy. This is very dangerous because the father figure needs to be one that the child feels safe with and can trust to care for and protect them, not tease them or provoke them. God doesn’t tease His children as if He delights in seeing us struggle or suffer, but He does all that He can to enable us to enjoy Him and the world and calling which He has given us. Children should feel safe to enjoy themselves and their fathers rather than fearing a tease, provocation, insult, or abandonment. Fathers should nourish their children to grow to maturity in Christ, which they will do as they guide them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. God causes all things to work for our good (Romans 8:28), and He delights to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). Fathers should treat their children the same way, delighting in doing them good always and doing what they can so that the best possible things happen for their children according to the principles of God’s Word.
The ultimate goal of child training is for the child to grow to a place of maturity in Jesus which involves knowing God’s Word well and having learned to walk after the Spirit rather than indulge the desires of the flesh. There is a training in holiness through discipline and through instruction, the first encouraging obedience to the Lord and the second showing how to obey. The father must know God and the Bible so that he is able to communicate the eternal truths about God to his children. The children should be able to look to him for spiritual guidance and insight into the Word of God.
To let a child live in rebellion and not be corrected and reproved is to not love them as a father ought. Our God disciplines us because He loves us (Hebrews 12:6), and earthly fathers need to discipline their children. Secondly, they must teach them God’s Word and ways, demonstrating Christ through their own example, because the issue at stake is the child’s heart and mind, not just mere outward conforming behavior.
5Slaves, 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;
6not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
7With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,
8knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
The Bible does not condone slavery as in demeaning a human being, treating them as of lesser worth and value, or in allowing a master to abusively treat a slave. The word for slave could also be translated as servant or attendant. So whether a relationship is employee-employer, president-cabinet, master-servant, or any other relationship where a person is under the authority of another, it is imperative that those under authority obey their authorities as long as the commands of the authority do not require them to violate God’s Word. In such instances, we must always submit to our ultimate Authority.
Servants are to be subject to masters according to the flesh, implying that the relationship is merely circumstantial, not spiritual or indicative of basic human worth. No person has a right to be master of another in that he or she should be able take away their freedom and set themselves up as God in their lives. God has ordained government, authority structure in family, and authority structure in the church. There will be authorities, and it is important for us all to learn to obey them as long as we don’t violate God’s Word. It is not right for the authorities to manipulate, abuse, micromanage, insult, or act in any other demeaning way. But the responsibility of the servant is to obey the master with fear and trembling, not being afraid of abuse, for such is not condoned by the Bible, but reverently and respectfully honoring the place God has given them as one’s authority. To respect a God-ordained authority is to respect God Himself, and we are always to fear and tremble before God. Those in authority must remember that those under their authority deserve love, care, justice, and to be treated as one equal in worth and dignity. They are in authority because God has allowed them to be in such a place, not because they are inherently better or more valuable than somebody else.
Service is to be sincere and from the heart, being mindful that we are ultimately serving God in our service (Colossians 3:17, 23). God will reward us accordingly, and so we need to serve Him as we serve man with all of our hearts. We are not to give lipservice, saying we will obey and then not obeying, or eyeservice, looking busy and submissive when in reality we are lazy and rebellious at heart. Many act respectful to their authorities when they are being observed, but behind their backs they speak ill of them and rebel. God’s call is to do our work under authority as if we are doing it to Christ as slaves of Him. We fulfill God’s will as we honor our God-ordained authorities, and this pleases God. Rather than being bitter and resentful, we are to serve with good will, being respectful to our authorities and being mindful that we are serving Christ in all that we do. He is our ultimate Boss, and we must always live as a willing servant of Him. We will be recompensed fairly by Him one day, but we must be faithful now to our earthly authorities. Whether in authority or under authority, whether the master or the slave, all will be judged by the final authority of Jesus Christ, so all should live in light of His authority, doing all things with all of our hearts unto the glory of Christ (Colossians 3:23).
9And 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.
Those who have authority over others are to be respectful of the needs and rights of their servants, employees, attendants, etc. They should not “lord it over them” (Matthew 20:25-26) as if they can flaunt their position as if they are inherently a superior person than their servants. They should not abuse or mistreat their servants, and they should be mindful that Jesus is their Boss as well. He is watching, and He will recompense them for how they treat their servants. They should not threaten their servants as if motivation by cruelty is to be desired. God is vehemently against such inhumane treatment of people made in His image. God is impartial, and ultimately justice will be served because He is Himself just. He loves all people the same, and so masters should treat their servants as those equally loved by God, as with dignity, and as with equal value before God. It is not right to boss around another creation of God, but masters should treat their slaves as those whom God loves and as God would treat them, fairly, with kindness, with grace, and with compassion.
We will always have to deal with authority structures and systems on earth, some better than others, and those in authority have a responsibility before God just as those who are under authority have. Each must respect and love the other and treat them with courtesy, kindness, love, fairness, and compassion. How each one lives should be in light of Christ and reverence for Him, always leading or serving as to His glory and according to His example. Christ was the ultimate Master, but He was also the ultimate Servant. Masters could learn a lot from how Jesus treated others, and servants should serve as He served His authority, His Father, being always submissive, obedient, and respectful.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12For 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.
13Therefore, 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.
As Paul brings this letter to a close, he desires the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling by living in victory over sin and the devil. They must know how to resist and win the battles against the devil so that they can persevere in godliness and endurance. They need to recognize and believe that their strength and might comes from the Lord. Satan is stronger than mortal men, but Jesus in redeemed men is far stronger than the devil. In fact, if we by
Christ’s strength resist the devil, he will flee, guaranteed (James 4:7). And God is always able and willing to provide a way out of temptation as it comes our way (1 Corinthians 10:13). We will always be able to withstand and endure Satan’s attacks, no matter how long or short, because God is faithful. He alone is our confidence and our strength. With Christ we can do all things (Philippians 4:13) which includes resisting sin and temptation.
In order to resist, we must put on the full armor of God. It is the armor of God which will enable us to stand firm against the tricks, wiles, schemes, and deceptions of the devil. It is not we ourselves who will withstand, but it is Christ Who is Himself our armor. Our strength is found in Him as we believe in His Word and promises to us. We must put on Christ. As Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Putting on Jesus means reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God. It means believing that we don’t have to give into sin and trusting God that Satan will always lie to us. It means relying up the truth of God’s Word that we don’t have to give in to sin, no matter what we feel like or how tired we are. It means trusting in the Lord with all of our hearts and leaning not on our own understanding. It means resisting by exercising our will according to the strength which the Spirit supplies to resist the lusts of the flesh. It means not putting ourselves in a vulnerable position where the flesh could be fed. We are to meditate and reflect on God’s Word, feeding ourselves on the Bread of Life (John 6:48).
Our struggle each and every day is ultimately against Satan and his minions. It is not ultimately against our feelings, our memory, other people, or our circumstances. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the devil, a powerful, dark, spiritual foe and his forces of wickedness in the heavenly realm. We don’t see him, though we might sense him in our spirit as he attacks us, tempts us, or leads us into despair and discouragement. The Holy Spirit will often alert us that we are in a dangerous place, about to be attacked or already being attacked. He points us to be alert and put on the armor of God in Christ so that we can stand firm and not give in to sin. There is spiritual warfare which goes on, and there is an entire hierarchy of evil forces. Satan is the boss of darkness, and there are rulers, powers, and forces under his command. Of course, Satan is under God’s authority, though God permits him in this present age to do evil and lead men astray. He allows us to battle by His strength so that He might receive the glory as we walk in victory in Jesus. Though we cannot see the spiritual world, we need to remember and believe that it does indeed exist. Evangelism, for example, is not just a matter of winning an intellectual battle, but it is ultimately a matter of releasing a captive of the devil. We don’t need to look for a demon behind every event or feeling, but we should recognize that God is at work. We shouldn’t be consumed with the devil and his plans and scheming, but we should rest in the sovereignty of God. We should be looking for God to work, praying for His intervention and direction, and looking to Him for victory. We know Satan is behind temptation and evil, and we need to focus on Jesus, keeping our eyes fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:1-2, Isaiah 26:3), so that we can win.
The bottom line that Paul is trying to communicate here is that we must take up the spiritual armor of Christ because our enemy is not earthly but spiritual. Our spiritual and earthly victory will thus come from winning the spiritual war behind the earthly war. Victory is not in us but in Christ in us so that He gets the glory, not us. He is spiritual, and we, too have a spiritual component. As we win the battle by faith in Christ, we defeat the spiritual enemy and advance the kingdom of God on earth. We must not forget that we are in a spiritual battle daily and that the only way the kingdom of God advances in the hearts of men is by faith and according to ultimate spiritual victory. This reminds us of our need and dependence upon Christ as we realize that our intellect, strategies, and hard work are not enough to win left to themselves. They need to be infused with the power of God as we are filled with the Spirit of God.
14Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
Paul describes specific ways we can put on Christ as we by faith put on the armor of God. Doing this will enable us to stand firm practically. We are to gird our loins with truth, essentially putting on a belt to keep things orderly and ready for battle. The loose flowing clothing and robes of ancient times needed to be girded around the midsection so that the person could be ready to run without tripping or getting held back by the wind, for example. Putting on the belt of truth thus enables us as Christians to be efficient and effective in our Christian lives. If we don’t get sidetracked by lies but walk in truth, we will continue to live in freedom and victory. We will be armed and ready to fight. But if lies invade the truth of God’s Word and we start to doubt the Bible and believe the lies, then we will grow weak and vulnerable, struggling to stand firm when temptation comes. The soldier of Christ must be grounded in truth, and he should pray that any lies get revealed and exposed. The worst is if a person not only believes the lies but begins to live a pattern of lies. This person can get into great deception, error, and hypocrisy such that the devil will be having a field day even if the person has deceived himself into thinking he is living victoriously. Lies must be purged from the Christian for true freedom and fruit-bearing to be experienced.
The breastplate of righteousness guards the heart. The idea is that all that is in the heart, the desires and affections, is to be directed toward holy things and righteousness. We are to be desiring good and not evil, rejoicing with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). If the breastplate is removed, we can easily start lusting for sin and being led astray by wrong desires. We will lose our healthy desires for God, for ministry, for sacrifice, and for service, preferring rather to have temporary pleasures of sin. The more we follow false desires, the more difficult it will be to determine what God desires of us. Above all else, we must guard our hearts lest we be consumed by sin and deception (Proverbs 4:23). If we delight in God, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). Thus, wrong desires imply a disdain of God and His commands and a delighting in the devil and his ways. Right desires, on the other hand, are accompanied by righteousness. Wrong desires and behavior must be repented of and rectified so that God’s will can be known and followed. The situation God desires is for believers to so delight in Him that even their desires are His will for their lives. If we want this abundant life of knowing and doing God’s will and enjoying it, we must put on the breastplate of righteousness by faith in Christ, remembering that His ways are always the most fulfilling.
15and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;
16in 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.
The next piece of armor is our shoes. We need to be ready to sprint to a person with the gospel or to be nimble and quick to dodge an attack of the enemy. We are always to be ready to share the gospel with people, having our hearts ready and our minds prepared to be able to communicate the word of Christ which can lead to faith (Romans 10:17). The soldier of Christ is expecting resistance from the enemy when God opens a door for the gospel. When he puts a Bible in his hand and goes to the lost, he expects a challenge and a fight from the devil. He expects to encounter hard hearts and blind minds. But he is ready and eager to go and do battle with the devil by faith in Christ because he is prepared. He knows that the gospel is the only hope for peace for the hearer, and he is willing to go to them with the message. Thus, the person who is standing firm against temptation is not merely holding his ground, but he is laboring to advance the kingdom by preaching the gospel. We have the greater power within us in Christ, and when we learn to fight by His strength rather than our own, we will be more eager to intentionally engage the enemy with the going forth of God’s Word.
We are also to take up the shield of faith because with it we can extinguish the flaming missiles of the evil one. Satan will launch temptation at us, and he, if God allows, can also bring calamity into our lives, even afflicting us personally as the minister of the devil did to Paul, tormenting him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Satan has a lot of options when it comes to oppressing the soldier of the cross, and he will use whichever ones he thinks will take us down the best. Yet we know that God will not give us more than we can endure by His strength, so we can keep winning by living in holiness even if our world feels like it is falling apart. No matter what comes our way, we can win if we keep believing God’s Word and His promises to us. If we let our guard down by lowering our shield, the enemy will fire his missiles right at us. Our undoing is when we stop believing. We can wave our sword all around to win the battles by sharing the Word of God, but we will sustain heavy damage and not be able to endure because we have started to doubt God’s power and goodness. We must always believe and walk by faith, rather than sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We cannot lose hope, but we must keep believing that God can work and accomplish even beyond what we can ask or imagine. When we believe God’s Word, Satan can fire as many temptations and discouragements our way as he possibly can, and we can block them all. Satan knows this. He knows that it is possible for him to combat us with everything he’s got, and for us to sustain no damage whatsoever. Thus, he will do everything he can to get us to lower our shield by ceasing to believe in God’s love, power, and providence such that we live in fear, doubt, and cowardice. Satan loves it when Christians doubt God’s Word, and thus he labors intensely to challenge it any way he can. Christians who don’t believe God still does great things are easy targets for the devil because they have lowered their shields. We must keep our faith strong as we rest in the bountiful and abundant promises of God.
17And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The helmet guards our minds so that we don’t get led astray by the deceptive thoughts that Satan brings our way. Sometimes hideous things will come into our mind, and we will wonder where they came from. These are temptations, and we haven’t sinned until we start dwelling on them. When Satan puts wrong thoughts into our minds, we must take them captive unto obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This demolishes Satan’s attempts at creating strongholds in our minds by getting us to dwell on evil thoughts which lead to evil behavior and a lack of growth and good behavior. These strongholds must be removed by faith and confession if we want to be victorious. The best situation is to not let the thoughts take hold by resisting them immediately and thinking on that which is good, right, pure, and noble (Philippians 4:8). The helmet is a helmet of salvation, meaning that our defense is not our rationalizing ability or intellectual prowess but faith in Christ. We are not to negotiate with the devil or entertain him. Jesus didn’t when He was tempted. He merely quoted a Scripture and then moved on (Matthew 4:1-11). Eventually after three attempts, the devil fled, which he always does. He hates hearing God’s Word, and he knows he cannot win against a person who has his shield raised in faith. As Christians we are new creations in Christ, children of God. The same power with which God raised Christ from the dead is the same power which is at work in us to the glory of God. If we can remember who we are in Christ, no longer slaves to sin but of righteousness, then we can present our members, including our minds, as instruments of righteousness. We can resist Satan’s attempts at influencing our thought lives negatively by resting in what we have become in Christ. We must keep believing that it is better this way, which it most certainly is, and we must not go to where we always regret going once we go there. We must think on Christ, not laboring in self-effort of mental discipline, but simply resting in the truth of our freedom in Jesus. We just need to by faith think on Scripture and believe it. Faith is the victory.
18With 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,
19and 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,
20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Given the reality that we are people at war with the devil and his forces, we must be praying for one another. We must plead with God for strength and faith to resist and stand firm. We must pray that Christians will learn how to walk in victory by faith. We must be on the alert ourselves, not falling into sin and doubt, so that we can pray rightly and according to God’s will for others. If we have sin in our hearts that goes unconfessed, God does not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18). Thus, our sin impacts our ability to intercede for others. We must stand firm so that we can pray for others to do so as well.
We are to pray at all times, in the Spirit, and for all the saints. It is impossible for each individual to be literally praying constantly, but the command to the church as a whole is to do their best so that prayers are being offered around the clock. Prayer should also be in the Spirit, meaning our hearts need to be pure, we need to pray in faith, and we need to pray perseveringly according to God’s will. Prayer is not ordering God to do our bidding, nor is it a time to impress God with our words or emotions. It is a time to yield to the Spirit, and pray to God as He gives utterance. We are not to pray just because but as He leads us (Romans 8:26-27). Finally, we are to pray for all the saints, at our local church for sure and around the world as best we can. Some we will pray for specifically, but often times we will pray in generalities, which is Biblical. Christ said, for example, to pray that God would raise up workers for His harvest, which is worldwide (Matthew 9:38). We need to pray what Scripture tells us to pray for, and we need to pray for people in Jesus around the world.
Paul recognized his need for prayer and his dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He also recognized his need for other Christians by asking them to pray for him. He didn’t live his life on a spiritual pedestal or island, but he joined his heart and mind with the church around the world. He wanted them all praying for him, and he prayed for them. He asked for boldness that he might speak as the Spirit led him to speak as he preached the gospel of Christ. He needed the work of Christ to have boldness, and he put no confidence in his flesh. We, like Paul, so benefit from the prayers of others, and we need to be willing to ask for prayer. We all need prayer all the time. It need not be an inconvenience, but it should be a way of life. Given Satan’s aggressive attacks, it only makes sense.
21But 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.
22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
Paul was sending Tychicus, a faithful laborer with him (Acts 20:4, Colossians 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:12, Titus 3:12), to Ephesus to communicate with the brethren there about his circumstances and well-being. He explains to them that Tychicus is a beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord so that those who receive him will receive him gladly and with trust and confidence. Paul sent him so that he could comfort their hearts as they heard about Paul and his companions and what God was doing in their hearts and through their lives. The communication’s ultimate purpose was for edification in the Lord.
23Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
24Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
Paul wishes the brethren peace and love with faith which is from God and Christ. We can only have peace with God through Christ, and we only can enjoy the peace of God through Christ. We can only love God and others if we are in Christ, and we can only please God by faith, which even itself is a gracious working of God in our hearts. So Paul’s desire is for the Christians to live as they are called and enabled by Christ to love, be at peace, and walk by faith. We all need the grace of God, and we are dependent upon it to be saved and sanctified. We will also be glorified because of God’s grace which will keep us in His love which has no bounds. All who have come to love Christ, having received Him as their Lord and Savior, are controlled by love (2 Corinthians 5:14). In fact, their love for God, though they might get deceived, stumble, or rebel (thus the need to put on the armor and stand firm), is sure. It is incorruptible, perpetual, and enduring forever because the promises of God endure forever. God will keep His children, and none, not even the devil, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). Our love is forever because God’s love to His children is forever. By His grace we are saved, sanctified, and glorified.