Paul closes his letter to the Ephesians in this chapter beginning with the admonition for children to “honor your father and mother,” referring to the fifth of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) as being “the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'” It was the only one of those ten commandments to contain a promise; and the emphasis throughout the Bible on children being expected to obey their parents is nothing to be taken lightly. Consider the opposite of the aforementioned promise, for example. Verse 4, as with all of these “submission passages” reminds fathers of their duty to them – to love their children enough to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” As Proverbs 22:6 teaches, such instruction will stay with them.
He continues the theme of Christians submitting one to another that he began in Chapter 5:21 with similar instructions for bondservants and their masters. Verses 5-9 do not constitute an endorsement of slavery or servitude on the part of the Apostle. Its applications then and today are relevant to the relationship of people to any lawfully established authority (and vice-versa, which is sometimes forgotten).
The “meat and potatoes” of this chapter come in verse 10 and following. The “whole armor of God” described in these verses correlate to a fully armed soldier, and the descriptions would be familiar to people throughout the Roman Empire. Verse 12 reminds us that the spiritual forces of evil – the devil himself – is a very real adversary, not some imagined foe, but the very real “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Christians arm themselves for this battle with a list of items he relates to this armor and weapons – truth, righteousness, and the readiness given by the gospel of peace. Faith, he says, is our shield against “flaming darts of the evil one.”
As he encourages them to be strong in prayer, he asks also for their prayers for him to be strong, as he declares himself their “ambassador in chains.”
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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