Ephesians 6

1 The child with godly parents should have no trouble with this command. The parents are attempting to raise the child so he will grow up to know God and be obedient to Him. Even with ungodly parents, their rules and discipline are meant to help and protect the child. The family is supposed to be a picture of our relationship with God. Just as the Christian is obedient to God, so the child is to be obedient to his parents.

There will be a time when the child grows up and leaves his or her parents. This is not disobedience -- it is how God intended new families to start. The parents' goal is twofold: to raise their children to know God, and to teach them how to be members of society (which includes having families of their own). As the child grows there should be a parallel progression where the child becomes more independent and the parents gradually let them do so.

The phrase "in the Lord" indicates that Paul is referring to a Christian family. This is not to say that a Christian child in an unsaved household may freely be disobedient, but there may be times when the child must choose to obey God rather than his parents. On the other hand, obedience may serve as an example to the parents, which might encourage them to seek the Lord.

On the other side, Christian parents do not give birth to Christian children. God has still placed them in authority over their children, and they have the right to expect their children to be obedient. Again, the manner in which they raise the child should point them to Christ.

2 From the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:12).

Obedience is part of honoring your father and mother, but there is more to it. A child can respect his parents and learn from them. Parents have experienced more than their children, and can impart wisdom to them. Furthermore, the life he lives should be a credit to his parents, regardless of what the child (or adult) thinks about their parents' rearing capabilities.

As a note, nine of the Ten Commandments are expressly repeated in the New Testament as commands that are still to be followed. Only the commandment about the Sabbath rest is downplayed.

3 There are many benefits from honoring your father and mother. If we learn to obey our parents, it will be easier for us to obey God. In society, it will also be easier for us to obey those who are in authority in church, government, and other organizations. In this way we can work together peaceably and accomplish more than a single person could alone. We can learn how to avoid dangers from our parents. If a child learns to be healthy and properly manage risks, he is more likely to live longer from a physical standpoint. Of course, if the child learns the same principles in the spiritual realm, he will have eternal life with God.
4 Fathers are not to frustrate their children by making unreasonable requests and rules or by planning the child's career and life for him. However, all fathers are responsible for raising their children in such a way that they know about God and how He expects people to behave. He should also teach his children how to make godly decisions on their own.

A person will often project the characteristics of his father onto God. Thus, it is vital, as a representative of God, for a father to show the love of God to his children.

Of course, both father and mother are to raise their children in a godly manner, but the father is given the responsibility to see that it is done well. Some people do not teach their child about Christ under the guise of letting the children "make their own decision." This is an error. The child will quickly reason that if Christ is not important enough to the parents to talk about, He may not be important enough to believe in. It is also important for such parents to remember that they can not "force" their children to accept Christ anyway, but if they allow Christ to work through them, their children will have good and accurate information with which to make that choice.

The unpleasant side of training a child is punishing him when de does something wrong. Parents should be careful, however, because the extremes can lead to anger and sociopathic behavior. If a child is punished without reason, or the punishment is much more severe than the offence, the child will be resentful -- especially if this is a pattern. On the other hand, the child who is never punished will disdain his parents, and perhaps all authority figures. If such a child disdains God, then he remains a child of wrath (Eph 2:3).

If we are to be like Jesus, we can learn a few things from how He disciplined people. Usually He used verbal rebukes, not to tear the people down, but to get them to realize that their way of thinking was wrong and dangerous. We must remember, though, that adults understand rational, verbal rebukes better than children do. When Jesus saw flagrant disobedience, He was not hindered at making a whip and clearing the merchants from the Temple courts (John 2:15-16). Sometimes physical punishment is the best way to get a child's attention and associate pain with flagrant disobedience or severe breaches of conduct. In all cases, it is also important that the child know exactly why he is being punished. The child is likely to remember the pain much longer than the offence, but if the intended effect is to take hold, the two must not become disconnected.

The parents must also love their children and be gentle with them. They are not to be drill sergeants. The parents should let their little children come to them to be blessed by them (Mark 10:14-16).

5 Slavery was a fact of life for the people to whom Paul wrote. There were different kinds of slavery. Some were like indentured servants who would eventually be set free, while others were considered permanent property. Some slaves were treated well, while others were abused. Some willingly became slaves, while others were enslaved against their will. Some had particular rights, while others had no legal protection. Slavery is not prevalent today, but the characteristics Paul talks about here can be easily applied to an employee.

Whether a slave was content in his position or resentful, Paul calls for Christian slaves to have a different attitude than those around them. He commands them to be obedient. This may sound odd since slaves were compelled to be obedient. However, a Christian slave is to have a sincere attitude of obedience. We have all been compelled to do things we would rather not, but if we hold on to that attitude, we will become resentful and bitter. If, on the other hand, we develop a desire to serve, then the completion of it will bring personal satisfaction. Employers can tell the difference between a willing and reluctant worker. The willing worker will do things better, more efficiently, and cheerfully. Christians should have this kind of reputation.

One thing we need to remember is that our employers only rule over our physical lives -- they can not control our spiritual lives. A Christian may be a slave on earth, but he is a prince in heavenly places. We do not need to be resentful of our current situations because we know that we will attain a much better inheritance in heaven.

Christians are to serve their employers as if they were serving Christ. Since they rule all or some of our physical lives, they are due the respect that this position holds. After all, they are administrators of our lives.

This is another parallel between our physical and spiritual lives. By being obedient to our physical authorities, we prove that we can recognize authority in someone people see as well as well as to Christ, whom they can not see. However, if we are disobedient to physical authorities, why would anyone believe that we are obedient to the spiritual Authority they can not see?

We might also see our employers "as Christ" in the sense that we depend on them to provide us with work and a means of living. Of course, even these things ultimately come from God, but in the spiritual realm, we must depend completely on Him for providing opportunities for us to be spiritually productive.

6 Some people only work hard when the boss is watching. Others will only do those things that will help them advance their own position. Others might bow to peer pressure and be intentionally slow, so as not to "show up" their fellow employees.

Christians, however, are to work diligently even when they are unsupervised. We are to look beyond the present task and do those things that will be most beneficial in the future. Not everything that is right and beneficial is appreciated by bosses or coworkers, but it is important for even an obedient Christian employee to take a stand for these things. The insightful employer will appreciate these efforts and, based on the Christian's good reputation, may implement new ideas.

7 While employers may appreciate a Christian's work ethic, we must remember that we do not do this primarily for them. Our primary objective is to please God, and He is pleased when we gladly render good service. When people link our good reputation with our relationship with Christ, then He is glorified.
8 Work is often difficult, and sometimes we do not enjoy it. After all, part of the curse of sin is that we will suffer in our labors (Gen 3:17-19). However, we are still called to do the best job we can. We work for money here on earth, but the more important objective is to build treasure in heaven (Mat 6:19-20). Whatever hardship we may suffer in our present work situation, we have the promise that what we will have in heaven will be so wonderful that it will more than counteract any current circumstances.
9 Masters are to remember that they are stewards for Christ. Having employees (or slaves) means that people have been put in their charge. Yes, the employees work for the employer, but they are also to be cared for. The Christian employer also has the additional responsibility of seeing that his employees' spiritual needs are met.

At the time this was written, masters could not only threaten their slaves, but beat them and put them to death as well. Christian masters were to be radically different. On one hand, there should be no need to threaten his Christian slaves, since they had already been exhorted to render good service. On the other, the non-Christian slave is likely to respond better to a compassionate and caring master. Even more importantly, such an attitude should direct their hearts towards Christ.

In all societies people are placed in authority over others. Though it seems necessary to keep order, in the overall scheme of things it is artificial and temporary. In God's eyes, all people are equal in their need for Him. Those who follow Him are all equal heirs with Christ. Therefore, masters and employers should keep this in mind and live accordingly. They must not abuse the authority and power they have been granted.

10 Paul's final exhortation in this book is that we be good soldiers for Christ. We are not an army like the armies of the nations. The kingdom of God, to which we belong, is primarily spiritual. The nations of the world have strength based on the strength of their fighting forces. In the kingdom of God, the fighting forces have strength based on their dependence on God. In worldly wars, the desire is to keep physically alive, because they believe death is the end. The soldier for God knows that there is a much better life waiting beyond the grave. Thus, he sacrifices his time, efforts, and even his life for the sake of God's kingdom and righteousness. God's soldiers are not focused on martyrdom (which focuses on self), but the goal is to be used of God in whatever way He chooses.
11 Worldly armies issue their soldiers protective equipment in the hopes of preventing serious injury and death for as long as possible. God also provides armor for His army. Unlike worldly armor, spiritual armor is impenetrable by the enemy. Granted, if the soldier does not put it on, or puts it on improperly, it will be less effective, but even then, God has guaranteed us with eternal life through His Son. Thus, our charge is to put on the entire suit of armor that He gives us so that we will be effective and protected. We can stand up to the devil when we rely on God for power and protection.
12 In 2 Cor 10:3-5, Paul explains that the war is not fought with physical weapons, and here his confirms that the goal is not to harm or kill people. The real battle is in the spiritual realm. We are not to forget that He created us in His image. We are primarily spiritual beings, despite what the world wants us to believe. Although we seem confined to the physical world, we are part of God's army that He uses against spiritual forces. Certainly, God could (and does) defeat the enemy on His own, but He created us to have a relationship and collaborate with Him. Satan fights against Christians by physical means, perhaps because he knows that he can not defeat us spiritually and sees limiting our numbers (or effectiveness) as the primary way of stifling God's power.

We are not to see Satan's members in the same way, though. They are used by him in a similar way that we are used by God. Our goal is not to eliminate the people, but to help them see that true life is with God, not Satan. One of our goals is to limit Satan's influence in peoples' lives, not eliminate the people.

Some people take pleasure in pointing to the Crusades as an example of how violent Christians can be. Even today, we see wars waged as "Christians" against "Muslims" and "Protestants" against "Catholics." Such "holy wars" are completely misguided and mislabeled. In these instances, the so-called Christians are trying to use Satan's tactics against Satan's influence. Such a contradiction shows that they have already succumbed to what they pretend to be fighting. The real motives of such battles usually stem from pride and greed.

13 The armor is primarily defensive. It protects us and enables us to resist evil's relentless attacks against us.

We are not told to advance and attack. We are simply told to hold the ground that God's has already won. Satan attacks us; we do not attack him. We are able to hold our ground as Christians when we are protected by God's armor.

14 The belt (or girdle) is used to hold the armor together. If it is lost, the armor falls apart. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). Jesus is the incarnation of the word of God (John 1:14). Thus, to know the truth you must know God's word and His Christ who represents Him to the world (John 5:39). It is not enough just to know what the Bible says. After all, many atheists have read and studied it. Faith in Christ is good, but the uninformed believer can be ineffective if he does not understand who Christ is or what is expected of him. The Bible is like a training manual, but to be truly effective, the actions must be assisted by the Author. Likewise, you might know the author of a book, but if you do not read it, you will miss what he wants to communicate to you.

The breastplate protects the heart. Christ makes us righteous before God and cleanses our hearts from sin. When Christ surrounds our heart, no sin can penetrate in. We must be diligent to live a life of righteousness, assisted by Christ, if we are to be protected during the battle.

15 Shoes help people keep their footing. Here, the Gospel of Christ keeps our stand secure. We do not slip on doubts, nor can we be dislodged from the ground on which we are anchored. We are prepared for any attack, and we can move to and stand on any new ground that God may conquer before us.
16 The shield is an overall protection device that protects the parts of the body not specifically covered by specialized pieces of armor. How this comes into play in our spiritual lives is in combating the doubts that come into our lives. The first thing we need to realize is that we do not and can not know everything -- only God can. We must recognize the fact that people will ask us questions about God and about Christianity to which we will not have answers. Someone may have the answer to a specific question, but there are many things that God reserves to reveal at the proper time. In any event, our faith is what protects us when questions designed to raise doubt are shot at us.

In today's world, for example, many people stumble over the question of creation versus evolution. Most people do not know what to think because they are uninformed. Scientists spend many years learning their specialized fields, and the amount of information they provide tends to overwhelm those who are not specialized in science. The average person is likely to believe whatever an expert says because they do not have the time or specialized education to evaluate what they are told. Thus, if the majority of scientists say that life started spontaneously two or three billion years ago, people will accept it at face value as a factual statement. They do not have the time or ability to dig into these claims to find whether they have any physical or philosophical backing. Most people hear that scientists seek "truth," but they do not realize that the majority of scientists define truth in physical terms only. They do not know (or want to know) that Truth is found in God alone. The physical world reflects Him, but it is marred by sin, so we can not get an accurate picture through it alone. Most people also do not know that evolution is a religion itself, and do not know that scientists who hold to this faith are motivated to "evangelize" their beliefs regardless of what the "evidence" might say.

When confronted with questions of doubt, our best answer may be, "I do not know the details, but the Bible says (or implies) this, and I have faith that the word of God is true, despite what this opposing view might propose." Christians are ridiculed for this kind of response and are accused of "leaving their intellect at the door" or "having a closed mind." Neither statement is true (in fact, the Bible encourages us to be informed, gain knowledge, and use it wisely). There are experts on earth, but there is only one Expert who knows everything about the universe and all things past and presence. We trust Him completely. We can also be reassured that in many things throughout history that God said was true has proven to be so, despite the questions of doubt.

A wonderful example of the application of the shield of faith is found in John 9. The religious leaders were peppering the blind man whom Jesus had healed with questions he could not answer. His response boils down to "I do not know the answers to all these questions you are asking me. I know only one thing -- I was blind, but now I see. That is enough evidence for me to believe that He is the Messiah and God." As Christians, we know that God has saved us. Such faith should be sufficient to deflect any doubt that Satan can throw at us. Those Christians who know and study the Bible will have a more effective shield. Those who study in specific areas such as science, politics, ethics, etc. will have specialized shields that they can use at the appropriate times. We can hold our shield up with confidence, knowing that God is reliable. No lie can come our way that would deter us from holding our ground.

17 Our assurance of salvation guards the most important part of the body: the head. When we commit our lives to God through faith in Christ, He puts this helmet on us that can not be removed. Regardless of how we handle the other parts of the armor, and no matter what attacks are successful, we can be assured that our salvation will never be taken away from us. Satan may be able to influence Christians (Mat 16:23), but he will not be able to reside in the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor 6:19).

The word of God is pictured as a weapon that is both defensive and offensive. Jesus was able to expose the trickery of the devil by using the word of God properly (Mat 4:3-10). The word of God is powerful, and will accomplish what He intends it to do (Isa 55:11, Heb 4:12).

Several have noted that there is no armor to protect the back. There should never be a need to retreat.

18 In all things, we must be in communication with God. He is the soldier's commander. We take orders from Him. The Holy Spirit makes this possible for us to know what His will is. He knows how best to run the battle. Prayer keeps us alert to where God is working. It keeps us alert to see where Satan is attacking. We can pray about our own position and actions, but we are also to pray for others.

Jude 1:20 is the only other place were the phrase "pray in the Spirit" is used.

19 In His own mysterious way, God works with our prayers to advance His kingdom in the lives of others. Paul specifically asked for others to pray that God would give him the right words to say and the boldness to say them no matter what the opposition was. This is more than just moral support or badgering God to act. God very much wants us to be active participants in His work, and He acts in response to prayers that are in line with His will.
20 Most people would be intimidated or discouraged if they had been beaten and imprisoned for doing what is right. Paul was praying that he would continue his ministry despite his personal sufferings. His focus was not on his circumstances, but on his goal to advance God's kingdom.
21 Paul does not burden his readers with his troubling circumstances. If they wanted details, they could ask the messenger by whom Paul was delivering this letter.
22 Paul spoke highly of Tychicus and trusted him not only to deliver this letter, but also to encourage the people he was visiting.
23 Paul's circumstances were not ones of peace and love, and the readers of this letter may have been distressed as well. However, Paul's true source of peace and love was God. He wants to remind his readers that He is, by faith, their source of peace and love.
24 Those who truly love Jesus and accept Him as Lord of their lives will receive grace (unmerited favor) from God. It is only by grace through faith that the death of Christ atones for the sins of people and allows them to approach and know the God of love and peace.