Having appreciated our heavenly calling in chapters 1 to 3, and something of our earthly conduct that continues from chapter 4 to verse 9 of this chapter, we will then be confronted with our satanic conflict as we draw to the close of this majestic Epistle.
There are actually three sections in the chapter:
The word teknon speaks of those who are born into the family. The word is found five times in Ephesians and never refers to infants but to those of maturity, 2. 3, or to the believers.
Unlike wives, who are called to submit, which is a voluntary attitude, children are charged to obey. The definition by Strong’s Concordance is very clear as to its meaning, ‘to hear under (as a subordinate), that is, to listen attentively’. But how much better if believing children ‘understand what the will of the Lord is’, 5. 17, and simply obey their mother and father, in the Lord.
The call to obey in verse 1 is set against the background of our conversion; it is in the Lord. It is a call to honour, that is ‘to value, revere, venerate’, Thayer. This honour is the frame of mind from which obedience springs and is in accordance with the mind of the Lord Jesus who, on various occasions, drew attention to the fifth commandment. That God adds a promise to the commandment in Exodus chapter 20 verse 12 reveals the estimation the Lord has for the position of the parent who brought a life into being, and the regard children should have toward them as a result.
In verse 3 there are two specific blessings that are promised on giving this honour. The first is material, ‘that it may be well with thee’; the second is physical, ‘that thou mayest live long in the earth’.
Whereas the child is to ‘obey your parents in the Lord’, involving submission both to the mother and to the father, now it is the father who is addressed directly as the head of the home. The father must take the lead in controlling household affairs. Even in the home of a Roman soldier we find how Cornelius caused his fear of God to affect his family, Acts 10. 2.
Fathers must not provoke their children, that is, ‘to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger’. There should be no unreasonable blame, vexatious demands or uncertain temper against them. To nurture is to discipline, to train by act, though admonition is to put in mind, to train by word. How sad when fathers act like Eli who, when his sons made themselves vile, ‘he restrained them not’, 1 Sam. 4. 13.
The heart, v. 5
Having dealt with marital and parental responsibilities, the apostle now deals with occupational duties. A Christian ought to be a model servant, always manifesting the virtues of Christ in their employment.
The service of Christian servants should be carried out in total obedience, with a fear of displeasing their masters according to the flesh, for all service has a higher calling attached to it. Ultimately, it must be done as unto Christ. Service is to be from the heart with a greater master in view.
The eye, v. 6
The verse before us makes it clear that a Christian should give unstinted service at all times, not only when under the eye of others. As the servants of Christ, it is God’s will that must control our actions, and the heart, not the eye, motivates our service.
The will, v. 7
The service is rendered, as being in the position of a servant and acting accordingly. The word service, douleuo, is ‘to be a slave’, literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily.1
The slave should always have the master’s interests in view.
The mind, v. 8
The apostle draws our attention to the benefit of carrying out our service as to the Lord. We should have an appreciation mentally as we serve, that such service is not in vain, for the paymaster is the Lord Himself. Unlike the masters of James chapter 5 verse 4 who have ‘kept back by fraud’, he shall receive from the Lord a benefit for the good things he does.
The attitude, v. 9
This section, though dealing with slaves, puts the masters and lords on the same footing, and bids them ‘do the same things’, that is, to act as the slave has been counselled to do in verses 5 to 7. If the servant is encouraged to know that the Lord will reward his faithful service in a coming day, the master is charged by knowing that he also is a servant, and his master is in heaven. The Lord is no respecter of persons, and will require of him his failing, surliness and domineering character.
Prepared soldiers, vv. 10-17
Dependent saints, v. 10
Again, we are confronted with a favourite word of Paul, ‘Finally’. In it he is encouraging the saints as to where their strength is for the conflict we are faced with. It is not in your position of chapters 1 to 3, nor in your practise of chapters 4 to 6. No, your ability to be victorious in the battle is found in the Lord and in the power of His might. We have seen that this power raised up Christ and exalted Him, 1. 19-22; it is the power that enables a true minister to make known his message, 3. 7, and it is a power that enables us to pray as we ought, 3. 20. It is this power that will enable us to stand in the conflict.
The dress required, v. 11a
It is spoken of as the panoply; it is that of a heavily-armed soldier. Today, the devil is a defeated enemy and well might James write, ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’, 4. 7. Yet we must not underestimate his power. If we do not wear the whole armour, it will give the devil an opportunity to bring us down.
The Devil’s strategy, v. 11b
We must remember that we stand against a cunning foe. We find that this word ‘wiles’ only occurs elsewhere in chapter 4 verse 14, where it is translated ‘deceive’. It carries the thought of working by method, pursuing an orderly procedure. The Greek word methodeia would indicate that Satan will use strategy, and lie in wait until the opportunity comes to make his attack.
The destroyers, v. 12
The devil is not alone in his efforts to frustrate the desires of God. We are confronted with all the powers of darkness, said here to be ‘principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits, margin] in high places’. It is against such powers that we wrestle. In verse 11, it is the captain who orders the planned attacks that we have to contend with; in this verse, it is his army that carries out the assault.
The day of attack, v. 13
The divine provision for every believer is brought before us. It is not enough to be supplied with this armour and leave it in a safe place for use when the assault takes place; we need to be constantly arrayed, since we know not when the enemy will make his sudden foray.
Defeat is not contemplated in this war. The believer has all that is required to be victorious in the battle and has the ability to stand against these pernicious foes when the evil day comes. This ‘evil day’ is a specific time in the experience of a believer – a definite approach will be made, aimed at destroying our spiritual life and testimony. We know not when this will be, or in what form it will come, hence the injunction to, ‘take unto you the whole armour of God’ so that we will be prepared to repel the attack when it comes. Even then, we cannot relax our vigilance, for we know not when these satanic forces will return. So we are exhorted ever to be on our guard, ‘and having done all, to stand’.
The defensive weapons, vv. 14-16
These weapons are those that speak of the practical outworking of all that the Lord would desire of a Christian, that is, truth, with righteousness guarding the affections, so that we do not allow evil to dominate our lives. Then, constantly prepared with our feet shod to carry the gospel, this will enable us not only to testify but, as we do, to manifest the godly conduct people expect. It is essential that we take to ourselves this very large shield as a complete cover against the assault of the wicked one. The shield of faith is an absolute necessity, for self-confidence in spiritual things is very destructive, and the tempter will act very quickly on any part that is open to being assailed. Confidence in the Lord, and complete dependence on Him, is the only preservative in this warfare.
Our mentality – the helmet of salvation, v. 17
How blessed it is to have in constant remembrance the salvation into which we have been brought; just to rest in the salvation that has secured our eternal blessing. Such a helmet is a great preservative in the day of battle. To be conscious of the deliverance from the power of Satan and of the realm in which he moves, and to know our fellowship with the Father and with His Son, this is a good helmet to wear every day.
Our authority – the sword of the Spirit, v. 17
Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12 leaves us with no doubt as to what we are presented with here. It also reveals its potency; it is effective in all it is used for. Although this weapon is often spoken of as the only offensive weapon in the armour, we should remember that the sword is just as effective when used defensively. It is not only ‘quick and powerful’ in attack, but it is also ‘a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’.