SUMMARY.--Mutual Duties of Children and Parents. Of Servants and Masters. The Warfare of the Saints. The Armor of God. The Sword of the Spirit. Constant Prayer Commended. Benediction.
1-3. Children, obey your parents. The duty of obedience to parents is older than Christianity; as old as the parental relations. In the Lord. Unless they require of you things forbidden by the Lord. Our duty to Christ is superior, and if parents require us to disobey him, we must still be loyal to him. This passage has been thought to imply that all children of Christians are baptized in infancy into the church, but the children addressed are surely not babes, but old enough to hear and obey the apostolic command, and hence old enough to have heard and obeyed Christ. 2. Honor thy father and mother. Both of them, both alike. Which is the first. The first of the ten commandments which has a promise attached. 3. That it may be well with thee. Quoted from Exodus 20:12. This is the promise. A temporal blessing was conditioned upon the promise to Israel, and to honor parents still brings blessing.
4. And ye fathers. Parents have duties as well as children. Two are named. Provoke not, etc. Passionate and unreasonable rebukes, intemperate language, or cruel usage, would provoke resentment on the part of children. In the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Revision reads: "Nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." Training and restraining as well as admonition are implied. The Lord holds all parties responsible for a Christian training of their children.
5-8. Servants. The term does not refer so much to hired servants, as slaves, of whom there were many millions in the Roman Empire at that time. These were of all races, prisoners taken in war, or their children. Christianity did not violently destroy this relation, but regulated, mitigated and undermined it by introducing a new element into human life which would destroy it. Masters according to the flesh. Earthly masters whose dominion will go no farther than this world. With fear and trembling. Not for fear of punishment, but for fear that the service is not done right. As unto Christ. Christ will see and reward your fidelity to duty, even if an earthly master does not. 6. Not with eye-service. Service that seems faithful when under the eye of the master, but relaxes when he does not see. Such is the usual service of slaves, unless they have a high sense of duty. 7. With good will. With a well disposed mind towards the master. As to the Lord. It pleases the Lord, whatever may be the relations of life, for us to do our service well. We may engage in very lowly duties to the glory of the Lord. 8. Knowing that whatsoever, etc. If a man renders good service anywhere, whether he be bond or free, the Lord will see that he is rewarded.
9. And ye masters. The Roman law allowed masters to treat their slaves as brute beasts, to abuse and even to murder them. But Christianity at once put Christian masters under restraint. Do the same things unto them. Act on the same principles towards them, that the Lord requires of them towards you. There must be mutual good will and mutual service. Forbearing threatening. The habit of cruel masters. Knowing that your Master. That you have a Master who sees you, to whom your slave is just as dear as you are, and who will hold you to account if you wrong him.
10. Be strong in the Lord. He comes to his final admonition. They are engaged in a fearful warfare (verse 12). They need to be equipped for it. Let them be strong by using the armor, weapons and means which are named in the next section.
11-13. Put on the whole armor of God. The ancient soldier was not equipped for war until he had put on his armor. Paul was at that time a prisoner, probably living near the prætorian camp in Rome, as he was by the Roman customs under the charge of the prætorian prefect. It is possible that the figure was suggested by the sights he so often witnessed. Against the wiles of the devil. The great enemy. The armor was designed not only to protect, but there were weapons also with which to assail him. 12. For we wrestle. Fights then were a hand to hand grapple. Not against flesh and blood. While flesh and blood may seem to assail us, the real enemies are evil spiritual powers. Principalities and powers. These terms designate different rank of evil spirits. These were fallen angels. In 1:21, The same terms are applied to the different ranks of holy angels. Against the rulers of the darkness of this world. Satan is described as the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). He uses for his dominion not only evil spirits, but wicked men, and his sway is darkness rather than light. Spiritual wickedness. See the Revision. It is likely that the meaning is the same as in 2:2. The high places, the air, is a dwelling-place and medium of these evil influences. 13. Wherefore, take unto you. Seeing you have such enemies, arm! Put on the whole armor of God. In the evil day. The day of peril and assault. To stand. To stand the assault, and to stand victorious, when it is beaten back.
14-16. Stand therefore . . . girt. He next gives the armor that must be worn. The Roman soldier wore a girdle, breast-plate, shoes with iron nails, a helmet to protect his head, and carried a great shield on his left arm which was thrown in front of his body. His weapon was the sword. It was with the sword, not the spear as other nations, that the Romans conquered the world. And these represent parts of the Christian's spiritual armor. About with truth. The girdle kept the armor in place and supported the sword. So truth holds the Christian armor and supports the sword of the Spirit. Breast-plate of righteousness. The breast-plate was over the lungs and heart. If Christ's righteousness is over our hearts they can hardly suffer harm. 15. And your feet shod. Not with shoes, but with the preparation to carry the gospel of peace, to be a messenger of good tidings (Isaiah 52:7). 16. Above all, taking the shield of faith. The Roman oblong shield, four and a half feet long, covered the whole body, and was a protection of itself. So faith, the faith that fully trusts in God and never doubts, is the best of all defenses. It will quench, stop, put out all the doubts, whisperings and evil suggestions of the wicked. Fiery darts. These were missiles hurled by the hand, and very dangerous unless stopped by the shield.
17. Take the helmet of salvation. The Roman soldier wore on his head a metallic cap to protect it from blows, called a helmet. Isaiah 59:17 says: "He put a helmet of salvation on his head." See also 1 Thess. 5:8. Salvation, the consciousness that we have a Savior "able to save unto the uttermost," gives the Christian soldier courage for the conflict. And the sword of the Spirit. The armor before described is to protect; the sword to assail. It is the Christian soldier who is to wield the sword of the Spirit. That is, the Spirit conquers through him. The word is the word of God. Thus Peter conquered on Pentecost, and Paul in his labors. Thus always and everywhere. The Christian soldier filled with the Spirit must "preach the word." See Heb. 4:12.
18-20. Praying always. No one can wield the sword of the Spirit rightly without constant prayer. In the Spirit. As spiritual men. For all saints. Our supplications are not to be for ourselves only, but for all the people of God. 19. And for me. He especially felt the need of the supplication of his own spiritual children. He was in bonds and enduring fiery trials. Yet he does not desire prayers in behalf of his life or comfort, but for the gospel's sake, that though a prisoner he may still open his mouth boldly. Mystery of the gospel. See notes on 1:9 and 3:9. 20. For which. The gospel. An ambassador in bonds. As an ambassador is sent to a foreign court to declare the will of the king, so Paul, though in chains, was Christ's ambassador sent to Rome to declare the will of his King.
21, 22. Tychicus. He is named in Acts 20:4. See also Col. 4:7; Titus 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:12. He probably carried this letter, and could tell the brethren at Ephesus and Asia Minor about Paul's present condition. He was "a faithful minister," and could not only satisfy their longing to know of Paul's state, but could comfort them.
23, 24. As was his custom he closes with a benediction. Compare those of the preceding Epistles.
NOTE.--Some have urged that the absence of individual salutations is a proof that this letter could not have been addressed to the Ephesians where he was so well acquainted. The same argument might apply to the Corinthian, Galatian and Philippian letters also, and indeed his letters to all the churches which he had founded. It rather implies that his acquaintances were so numerous that he could hardly have space to single out individuals, and sent his personal salutations by the messengers. Besides, there are reasons for the opinion that the Ephesian letter was intended also for other churches of "Asia."