Paul concludes this epistle asking for prayer, a request that he would be as bold as he ought to be. He is not, after decades of ministry, wresting with stage fright, or a bad case of butterflies. He knows what happens to him whenever the gospel is declared with power.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord . . .” (Eph. 6:1-24)
Summary of the Text
Children are told to obey their parents. This is the right thing to do (v. 1). Paul then cites the commandment to honor father and mother, and adds the point that this is the first commandment with a promise attached (v. 2). He picks up the promise and expands it to encompass the whole earth (v. 3). Fathers, for their part, are told not to exasperate their kids, but to provide them with a Christian education and upbringing (v. 4).
Slaves are told to obey their earthly masters with fear and trembling, as rendered to Christ (v. 5). They are told not to work for show, but rather with whole-hearted service to Christ (v. 6). The service they offer is for the Lord, not for men (v. 7). They should know that however any man works, free or slave, is reckoned up by the Lord (v. 8). Masters are to have the same mentality. They should not threaten, and they must remember that they have a Master in heaven, one who is not impressed by earthly status (v. 9).
Paul then tells his brothers to be strong in the Lord, in the power of His might (v. 10). They are told to put on the entire armor of God, in order that they might stand against the devil’s wiles (v. 11). Our fight is not primarily an earthly one; we fight against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world’s darkness, and against wickedness in high places (v. 12). This is why it is important to take up the full armor of God, and to stand in the evil day (v. 13). Stand therefore, with belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness (v. 14). Your feet should be shod with gospel boots (v. 15). These boots are the gospel of peace and they are part of our armor. Take the shield of faith, which extinguishes the fiery darts of the wicked (v. 16). Then take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (v. 17), and proceed to the battle, which is the battleground of persevering prayer for all the saints (v. 18). Paul requests prayer for himself in this regard, so that he might unlock the treasuries of the gospel (v. 19). He requests that he might be able to speak boldly, as he ought to (v. 20).
Tychicus is then recommended to them (v. 21), and he will tell the Ephesians how Paul is doing (vv. 21-22). He concludes with a benediction—peace to the brothers, and love proceeding from faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus (v. 23). Grace to all who love Jesus sincerely (v. 24).
Christian children are to be brought up in an environment or culture that his shaped by the Word of God. They are called to obey their parents in the Lord, which is right. They are told to honor their parents, a commandment from the Old Testament which is given to the Christian children of Ephesus. This passage is one of the best illustrations of how we are apply the Old Testament authoritatively to our lives now.
When Paul warns Christian fathers to not be exasperating to their children, he does this because this is the one of the faults that Christian fathers are prone to. So listen to him. Before you just brush this admonition off, and say that of course you don’t do this, consider that it is possible that this defensive and self-serving attitude is one of the most exasperating things about you. And remember that your children frequently will not be able to explain this to you. First, because they are little and defenseless, and then later because they moved to the East Coast and never call.
Slaves & Masters
God’s methods for societal overhaul are reformational, not revolutionary. This is one of the places where we must insist on a policy of not apologizing for the Bible. Christian slaves are told to be obedient. They are told to work hard, offering it to Christ. Whatever their earthly masters do, He will honor their labors. Work offered to God is the way to true freedom. This is the biblical way of overthrowing unjust social institutions. Christian masters (assuming then that there were some) are told to internalize the same biblical framework. God does not show partiality, and so they should not govern through threats. This being the case, how much more does it apply to employers and employees.
The Armor of Jesus
The Ephesians were told earlier to put on the new man. Here they are told to put on the full armor of God, which amounts to the same thing. Every piece of the armor is the Lord Jesus. He is the truth (John 14:6). He is our righteousness (Jer. 23:6). He is the gospel of peace (Is. 9:6). He is the faithful one in whom we have faith (Rev. 19:11). He is our salvation, which we may wear as a helmet (1 Thess. 5:9). He is the sword of the Spirit (Rev. 19:15), the Word of God (Rev. 19:13; John 1:1-3).
But when you are fitted out in this armor, what do you do? First, you should take note of the enemy. You are called to stand against wiles (v. 11), and since we are fighting wickedness in high places, you should assume the lies are coming down on you from above. Paul then says, three times, that you should be outfitted so that you may withstand in the evil day (v. 13), and having done all to stand (v. 13). Stand therefore (v. 14). How do you do that? Fitted out, what do you do? You pray for all the saints, and particularly for the proclamation of the gospel (v. 19).
Treasuries of Grace
Paul has already spoken of the mystery of the gospel. It is as though, Jerome observes, that Paul now says that God has declared “let the treasuries be opened.” He is standing by the doors of these treasuries (filled beyond our imagination), and is set to fling them open. But there is a fierce battle by those doors. If they get opened all the way, then the wickedness in the high places is completely undone.