Ephesians 6 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Ephesians 6)


1. obey--stronger than the expression as to wives, "submitting," or "being subject" (Eph 5:21). Obedience is more unreasoning and implicit; submission is the willing subjection of an inferior in point of order to one who has a right to command.
in the Lord--Both parents and children being Christians "in the Lord," expresses the element in which the obedience is to take place, and the motive to obedience. In Col 3:20, it is, "Children, obey your parents in all things." This clause, "in the Lord," would suggest the due limitation of the obedience required (Ac 5:29; compare on the other hand, the abuse, Mr 7:11-13).
right--Even by natural law we should render obedience to them from whom we have derived life.

2. Here the authority of revealed law is added to that of natural law.
which is . . . promise--The "promise" is not made the main motive to obedience, but an incidental one. The main motive is, because it is God's will (De 5:16, "Honor thy father and mother, as the Lord thy God hath COMMANDED thee"); and that it is so peculiarly, is shown by His accompanying it "with a promise."
first--in the decalogue with a special promise. The promise in the second commandment is a general one. Their duty is more expressly prescribed to children than to parents; for love descends rather than ascends [BENGEL]. This verse proves the law in the Old Testament is not abolished.

3. long on the earth--In Ex 20:12, "long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," which Paul adapts to Gospel times, by taking away the local and limited reference peculiar to the Jews in Canaan. The godly are equally blessed in every land, as the Jews were in the land which God gave them. This promise is always fulfilled, either literally, or by the substitution of a higher blessing, namely, one spiritual and eternal (Job 5:26; Pr 10:27). The substance and essence of the law are eternally in force: its accidents alone (applying to Israel of old) are abolished (Ro 6:15).

4. fathers--including mothers; the fathers are specified as being the fountains of domestic authority. Fathers are more prone to passion in relation to their children than mothers, whose fault is rather over-indulgence.
provoke not--irritate not, by vexatious commands, unreasonable blame, and uncertain temper [ALFORD]. Col 3:21, "lest they be discouraged."
nurture--Greek, "discipline," namely, training by chastening in act where needed (Job 5:17; Heb 12:7).
admonition--training by words (De 6:7; "catechise," Pr 22:6, Margin), whether of encouragement, or remonstrance, or reproof, according as is required [TRENCH]. Contrast 1Sa 3:13, Margin.
of the Lord--such as the Lord approves, and by His Spirit dictates.

5. Servants--literally, "slaves."
masters according to the flesh--in contrast to your true and heavenly Master (Eph 6:4). A consolatory him that the mastership to which they were subject, was but for a time [CHRYSOSTOM]; and that their real liberty was still their own (1Co 7:22).
fear and trembling--not slavish terror, but (See on 1Co 2:3; 2Co 7:15) an anxious eagerness to do your duty, and a fear of displeasing, as great as is produced in the ordinary slave by "threatenings" (Eph 6:9).
singleness--without double-mindedness, or "eye service" (Eph 6:6), which seeks to please outwardly, without the sincere desire to make the master's interest at all times the first consideration (1Ch 29:17; Mt 6:22, 23; Lu 11:34). "Simplicity."

6. (Col 3:22). Seeking to please their masters only so long as these have their eyes on them: as Gehazi was a very different man in his master's presence from what he was in his absence (2Ki 5:1-18).
men-pleasers--not Christ-pleasers (compare Ga 1:10; 1Th 2:4).
doing the will of God--the unseen but ever present Master: the best guarantee for your serving faithfully your earthly master alike when present and when absent.
from the heart--literally, soul (Ps 111:1; Ro 13:5).

7. good will--expressing his feeling towards his master; as "doing the will of God from the heart" expresses the source of that feeling (Col 3:23). "Good will" is stated by XENOPHON [Economics] to be the principal virtue of a slave towards his master: a real regard to his master's interest as if his own, a good will which not even a master's severity can extinguish.

8. any man doeth--Greek, "any man shall have done," that is, shall be found at the Lord's coming to have done.
the same--in full payment, in heaven's currency.
shall . . . receive-- (2Co 5:10; Col 3:25; but all of grace, Lu 17:10).
bond or free-- (1Co 7:22; 12:13; Ga 3:28; Col 3:11). Christ does not regard such distinctions in His present dealings of grace, or in His future judgment. The slave that has acted faithfully for the Lord's sake to his master, though the latter may not repay his faithfulness, shall have the Lord for his Paymaster. So the freeman who has done good for the Lord's sake, though man may not pay him, has the Lord for his Debtor (Pr 19:17).

9. the same things--Mutatis mutandis. Show the same regard to God's will, and to your servants' well-being, in your relation to them, as they ought to have in their relation to you. Love regulates the duties both of servants and masters, as one and the same light attempers various colors. Equality of nature and faith is superior to distinctions of rank [BENGEL]. Christianity makes all men brothers: compare Le 25:42, 43; De 15:12; Jer 34:14 as to how the Hebrews were bound to treat their brethren in service; much more ought Christians to act with love.
threatening--Greek, "the threatening" which masters commonly use. "Masters" in the Greek, is not so strong a term as "despots": it implies authority, but not absolute domination.
your Master also--The oldest manuscripts read, "the Master both of them and you": "their Master and yours." This more forcibly brings out the equality of slaves and masters in the sight of God. SENECA [Thyestes, 607], says, "Whatever an inferior dreads from you, this a superior Master threatens yourselves with: every authority here is under a higher above." As you treat your servants, so will He treat you.
neither . . . respect of persons--He will not, in judging, acquit thee because thou art a master, or condemn him because he is a servant (Ac 10:34; Ro 2:11; Ga 2:6; Col 3:25; 1Pe 1:17). Derived from De 10:17; 2Ch 19:7.

10. my brethren--Some of the oldest manuscripts omit these words. Some with Vulgate retain them. The phrase occurs nowhere else in the Epistle (see, however, Eph 6:23); if genuine, it is appropriate here in the close of the Epistle, where he is urging his fellow soldiers to the good fight in the Christian armor. Most of the oldest manuscripts for "finally," read, "henceforward," or "from henceforth" (Ga 6:17).
be strong--Greek, "be strengthened."
in the power of his might--Christ's might: as in Eph 1:19, it is the Father's might.

11. the whole armour--the armor of light (Ro 13:12); on the right hand and left (2Co 6:7). The panoply offensive and defensive. An image readily suggested by the Roman armory, Paul being now in Rome. Repeated emphatically, Eph 6:13. In Ro 13:14 it is, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ"; in putting on Him, and the new man in Him, we put on "the whole armor of God." No opening at the head, the feet, the heart, the belly, the eye, the ear, or the tongue, is to be given to Satan. Believers have once for all overcome him; but on the ground of this fundamental victory gained over him, they are ever again to fight against and overcome him, even as they who once die with Christ have continually to mortify their members upon earth (Ro 6:2-14; Col 3:3, 5).
of God--furnished by God; not our own, else it would not stand (Ps 35:1-3). Spiritual, therefore, and mighty through God, not carnal (2Co 10:4).
wiles--literally, "schemes sought out" for deceiving (compare 2Co 11:14).
the devil--the ruling chief of the foes (Eph 6:12) organized into a kingdom of darkness (Mt 12:26), opposed to the kingdom of light.

12. Greek, "For our wrestling ('the wrestling' in which we are engaged) is not against flesh," &c. Flesh and blood foes are Satan's mere tools, the real foe lurking behind them is Satan himself, with whom our conflict is. "Wrestling" implies that it is a hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot struggle for the mastery: to wrestle successfully with Satan, we must wrestle with GOD in irresistible prayer like Jacob (Ge 32:24-29; Ho 12:4). Translate, "The principalities . . . the powers" (Eph 1:21; Col 1:16; see on Eph 3:10). The same grades of powers are specified in the case of the demons here, as in that of angels there (compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24; Col 2:15). The Ephesians had practiced sorcery (Ac 19:19), so that he appropriately treats of evil spirits in addressing them. The more clearly any book of Scripture, as this, treats of the economy of the kingdom of light, the more clearly does it set forth the kingdom of darkness. Hence, nowhere does the satanic kingdom come more clearly into view than in the Gospels which treat of Christ, the true Light.
rulers of the darkness of this world--Greek, "age" or "course of the world." But the oldest manuscripts omit "of world." Translate, "Against the world rulers of this (present) darkness" (Eph 2:2; 5:8; Lu 22:53; Col 1:13). On Satan and his demons being "world rulers," compare Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Lu 4:6; 2Co 4:4; 1Jo 5:19, Greek, "lieth in the wicked one." Though they be "world rulers," they are not the ruler of the universe; and their usurped rule of the world is soon to cease, when He shall "come whose right it is" (Eze 21:27). Two cases prove Satan not to be a mere subjective fancy: (1) Christ's temptation; (2) the entrance of demons into the swine (for these are incapable of such fancies). Satan tries to parody, or imitate in a perverted way, God's working (2Co 11:13, 14). So when God became incarnate, Satan, by his demons, took forcible possession of human bodies. Thus the demoniacally possessed were not peculiarly wicked, but miserable, and so fit subjects for Jesus' pity. Paul makes no mention of demoniacal possession, so that in the time he wrote, it seems to have ceased; it probably was restricted to the period of the Lord's incarnation, and of the foundation of His Church.
spiritual wickedness--rather as Greek, "The spiritual hosts of wickedness." As three of the clauses describe the power, so this fourth, the wickedness of our spiritual foes (Mt 12:45).
in high places--Greek, "heavenly places": in Eph 2:2, "the air," see on Eph 2:2. The alteration of expression to "in heavenly places," is in order to mark the higher range of their powers than ours, they having been, up to the ascension (Re 12:5, 9, 10), dwellers "in the heavenly places" (Job 1:7), and being now in the regions of the air which are called the heavens. Moreover, pride and presumption are the sins in heavenly places to which they tempt especially, being those by which they themselves fell from heavenly places (Isa 14:12-15). But believers have naught to fear, being "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" (Eph 1:3).

13. take . . . of God--not "make," God has done that: you have only to "take up" and put it on. The Ephesians were familiar with the idea of the gods giving armor to mythical heroes: thus Paul's allusion would be appropriate.
the evil day--the day of Satan's special assaults (Eph 6:12, 16) in life and at the dying hour (compare Re 3:10). We must have our armor always on, to be ready against the evil day which may come at any moment, the war being perpetual (Ps 41:1, Margin).
done all--rather, "accomplished all things," namely, necessary to the fight, and becoming a good soldier.

14. Stand--The repetition in Eph 6:11, 14, shows that standing, that is, maintaining our ground, not yielding or fleeing, is the grand aim of the Christian soldier. Translate as Greek, "Having girt about your loins with truth," that is, with truthfulness, sincerity, a good conscience (2Co 1:12; 1Ti 1:5, 18; 3:9). Truth is the band that girds up and keeps together the flowing robes, so as that the Christian soldier may be unencumbered for action. So the Passover was eaten with the loins girt, and the shoes on the feet (Ex 12:11; compare Isa 5:27; Lu 12:35). Faithfulness (Septuagint, "truth") is the girdle of Messiah (Isa 11:5): so truth of His followers.
having on--Greek, "having put on."
breastplate of righteousness-- (Isa 59:17), similarly of Messiah. "Righteousness" is here joined with "truth," as in Eph 5:9: righteousness in works, truth in words [ESTIUS] (1Jo 3:7). Christ's righteousness inwrought in us by the Spirit. "Faith and love," that is, faith working righteousness by love, are "the breastplate" in 1Th 5:8.

15. Translate, "Having shod your feet" (referring to the sandals, or to the military shoes then used).
the preparation--rather, "the preparedness," or "readiness of," that is, arising from the "Gospel" (Ps 10:17). Preparedness to do and suffer all that God wills; readiness for march, as a Christian soldier.
gospel of peace--(compare Lu 1:79; Ro 10:15). The "peace" within forms a beautiful contrast to the raging of the outward conflict (Isa 26:3; Php 4:7).

16. Above all--rather, "Over all"; so as to cover all that has been put on before. Three integuments are specified, the breastplate, girdle, and shoes; two defenses, the helmet and shield; and two offensive weapons, the sword and the spear (prayer). ALFORD translates, "Besides all," as the Greek is translated, Lu 3:20. But if it meant this, it would have come last in the list (compare Col 3:14).
shield--the large oblong oval door-like shield of the Romans, four feet long by two and a half feet broad; not the small round buckler.
ye shall be able--not merely, "ye may." The shield of faith will certainly intercept, and so "quench, all the fiery darts" (an image from the ancient fire-darts, formed of cane, with tow and combustibles ignited on the head of the shaft, so as to set fire to woodwork, tents, &c.).
of the wicked--rather "of the EVIL ONE." Faith conquers him (1Pe 5:9), and his darts of temptation to wrath, lust, revenge, despair, &c. It overcomes the world (1Jo 5:4), and so the prince of the world (1Jo 5:18).

17. take--a different Greek word from that in Eph 6:13, 16; translate, therefore, "receive," "accept," namely, the helmet offered by the Lord, namely, "salvation" appropriated, as 1Th 5:8, "Helmet, the hope of salvation"; not an uncertain hope, but one that brings with it no shame of disappointment (Ro 5:5). It is subjoined to the shield of faith, as being its inseparable accompaniment (compare Ro 5:1, 5). The head of the soldier was among the principal parts to be defended, as on it the deadliest strokes might fall, and it is the head that commands the whole body. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it has laid hold of the sure Gospel "hope" of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine, or give way to Satan's temptations to despair. God, by this hope, "lifts up the head" (Ps 3:3; Lu 21:28).
sword of the Spirit--that is, furnished by the Spirit, who inspired the writers of the word of God (2Pe 1:21). Again the Trinity is implied: the Spirit here; and Christ in "salvation" and God the Father, Eph 6:13 (compare Heb 4:12; Re 1:16; 2:12). The two-edged sword, cutting both ways (Ps 45:3, 5), striking some with conviction and conversion, and others with condemnation (Isa 11:4; Re 19:15), is in the mouth of Christ (Isa 49:2), in the hand of His saints (Ps 149:6). Christ's use of this sword in the temptation is our pattern as to how we are to wield it against Satan (Mt 4:4, 7, 10). There is no armor specified for the back, but only for the front of the body; implying that we must never turn our back to the foe (Lu 9:62); our only safety is in resisting ceaselessly (Mt 4:11; Jas 4:7).

18. always--Greek, "in every season"; implying opportunity and exigency (Col 4:2). Paul uses the very words of Jesus in Lu 21:36 (a Gospel which he quotes elsewhere, in undesigned consonance with the fact of Luke being his associate in travel, 1Co 11:23, &c.; 1Ti 5:18). Compare Lu 18:1; Ro 12:12; 1Th 5:17.
with all--that is, every kind of.
prayer--a sacred term for prayer in general.
supplication--a common term for a special kind of prayer [HARLESS], an imploring request. "Prayer" for obtaining blessings, "supplication" for averting evils which we fear [GROTIUS].
in the Spirit--to be joined with "praying." It is he in us, as the Spirit of adoption, who prays, and enables us to pray (Ro 8:15, 26; Ga 4:6; Jude 20).
watching--not sleeping (Eph 5:14; Ps 88:13; Mt 26:41). So in the temple a perpetual watch was maintained (compare Anna, Lu 2:37).
thereunto--"watching unto" (with a view to) prayer and supplication.
with--Greek, "in." Persevering constancy ("perseverance") and (that is, exhibited in) supplication are to be the element in which our watchfulness is to be exercised.
for all saints--as none is so perfect as not to need the intercessions of his fellow Christians.

19. for me--a different Greek preposition from that in Eph 6:18; translate, therefore, "on my behalf."
that I may open my mouth boldly--rather, "that there may be given to me 'utterance,' or 'speech' in the opening of my mouth (when I undertake to speak; a formula used in set and solemn speech, Job 3:1; Da 10:16), so as with boldness to make known," &c. Bold plainness of speech was the more needed, as the Gospel is a "mystery" undiscoverable by mere reason, and only known by revelation. Paul looked for utterance to be given him; he did not depend on his natural or acquired power. The shortest road to any heart is by way of heaven; pray to God to open the door and to open your mouth, so as to avail yourself of every opening (Jer 1:7, 8; Eze 3:8, 9, 11; 2Co 4:13).

20. For--Greek, as in Eph 6:19, "On behalf of which."
an ambassador in bonds--a paradox. Ambassadors were held inviolable by the law of nations, and could not, without outrage to every sacred right, be put in chains. Yet Christ's "ambassador is in a chain!" The Greek is singular. The Romans used to bind a prisoner to a soldier by a single chain, in a kind of free custody. So Ac 28:16, 20, "I am bound with this chain." The term, "bonds" (plural), on the other hand, is used when the prisoner's hands or feet were bound together (Ac 26:29); compare Ac 12:6, where the plural marks the distinction. The singular is only used of the particular kind of custody described above; an undesigned coincidence [PALEY].

21. that ye also--as I have been discussing things relating to you, so that ye also may know about me (compare Col 4:7, 8). NEANDER takes it, "Ye also," as well as the Colossians (Col 4:6).
my affairs--Greek, "the things concerning me."
how I do--how I fare.
Tychicus--an Asiatic, and so a fit messenger bearing the respective Epistles to Ephesus and Colosse (Ac 20:4; 2Ti 4:12).
a beloved brother--Greek, "the beloved brother"; the same epithet as in Col 4:7.
minister--that is, servant.
in the Lord--in the Lord's work.

22. for the same purpose--Greek, "for this very purpose." Col 4:8 is almost word for word the same as this verse.
our affairs--Greek, "the things concerning us," namely, concerning myself. "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas" (Col 4:10).

23. love with faith--Faith is presupposed as theirs; he prays that love may accompany it (Ga 5:6).

24. Contrast the malediction on all who love Him not (1Co 16:22).
in sincerity--Greek, "in incorruption," that is, not as English Version, but "with an immortal (constant) love" [WAHL]. Compare "that which is not corruptible" (1Pe 3:4). Not a fleeting, earthly love, but a spiritual and eternal one [ALFORD]. Contrast Col 2:22, worldly things "which perish with the using." Compare 1Co 9:25, "corruptible . . . incorruptible crown." "Purely," "holily" [ESTIUS], without the corruption of sin (See on 1Co 3:17; 2Pe 1:4; Jude 10). Where the Lord Jesus has a true believer, there I have a brother [BISHOP M'IKWAINE]. He who is good enough for Christ, is good enough for me [R. HALL]. The differences of opinion among real Christians are comparatively small, and show that they are not following one another like silly sheep, each trusting the one before him. Their agreement in the main, while showing their independence as witnesses by differing in non-essentials, can only be accounted for by their being all in the right direction (Ac 15:8, 9; 1Co 1:2; 12:3).