Ephesians 6

We pass from the relationship of husband and wife to those of children and fathers, servants and masters, as we open chapter 6. Obedience is to mark the child, and careful nurture and admonition the father. But all is to be as under the Lord, as indicated in verses 1 and 4. This sets everything on a very high level. So also it is with the servant and the master. Their relations are to be regulated as before the Lord, as verses 7, 8 and 9 show.

All these exhortations are very important today for strong Satanic influences are sweeping through Christendom, to the denying and disturbing of all that should characterize these relationships. But the very fact that this is so presents to the believer a great opportunity for witness to the truth, by carefully maintaining the relationships in their integrity according to God's word. The opportunity for witness as servants or masters is very pronounced, inasmuch as that relationship is much in the public eye. The sight of a Christian servant marked by obedience and service with all good will, as rendered unto the Lord, is a very fine one. So also is that of a Christian master marked by an equal good will and care, in the sight of the great Master of both in heaven.

Thus far the epistle has given us a very wonderful unfolding of truth as to Christ and the church, followed by exhortations to life of a very exalted character. Now in verse 10 we come to his final word. It concerns the adversaries and the armour that we need, if we are to maintain the truth and live the life that has been set before us. We are not left at our own charges. The power of the Lord is at our disposal and we are to be strong in His might.

The adversaries that are contemplated here are not human but Satanic. They exist in the world of spirits and not in flesh and blood. Satan is their chief, but they are spoken of as principalities and powers, and also as "world-rulers of this darkness" (R.V.). We know very little about them, and do not need to know. It is enough for us that their evil design is unmasked. They are "world-rulers" for the whole world system is controlled and dominated by them, little as the human actors on the world stage may suspect it. The effect of their domination is darkness. Here is the explanation of the gross spiritual darkness which fills the earth. How often after the Gospel has been very clearly preached have we heard people express their wonder that unconverted folk have listened to it all without a ray of light entering their hearts. In this scripture, and also in 2 Corinthians 4: 4, is an explanation which removes all element of wonder from the phenomenon.

The point here however is that these great antagonistic powers exert all their wiles and energy against believers. They cannot rob them of their soul's salvation, but they can divert them from an understanding of their heavenly calling, and from a life which is really in keeping with it; and this is what they aim at doing. Now it stands to reason that we cannot meet such powers as these in our own strength. Thank God we need not attempt any such thing for all the armour that we need is freely provided of God. But we have to take it. Otherwise we shall not experience its value.

We are to take unto us the whole armour of God, and also we are to put it on. Then we shall be able to withstand, and to stand. The conflict here is viewed mainly as being defensive. We are set in an exalted and heavenly position by the grace of our God, and there we are to stand in spite of every attempt to dislodge us. In keeping with this the various parts of the armour specified are, with one exception, of a defensive nature. Girdle, breastplate, shoes, shield and helmet are none of them weapons of offence; only the sword is that.

The Apostle is speaking figuratively of course, for we find that each item of the armour is something of a moral and spiritual sort which is to be taken up by us: things which though given to us by God, and hence to be taken by us, are also to be put on in a practical and experimental way. The first item is truth. That is to be as a girdle to our loins. The girding up of the loins expresses a preparing for activity. All our activities are to be circumscribed by truth. The truth is to govern us. The truth is given to us by God, but we are to put it on, so that it may govern us. God's word is truth; but it is not truth in the Bible which is going to defend us, but rather truth applied in a practical way to all our activities.

The breastplate is righteousness. We are the very righteousness of God in Christ, but it is when we as a consequence walk in practical righteousness that it acts as a breastplate, covering all our vital parts from the blows directed by our powerful foes. How many a Christian warrior has fallen sorely wounded in the fight because there were grievous flaws in matters of practical righteousness. Chinks in the breastplate offer an opening to the arrows of the enemy.

In a normal way we hardly think of shoes as being in the nature of armour, yet inasmuch as it is with our shoes that we continually come into contact with the earth, they take on that character from the Christian standpoint. If our contact with earth is not right we shall be vulnerable indeed. What does "the preparation of the gospel of peace," mean? Not that we should be preparing the way of the gospel in an evangelistic sense (though to do that is of course very desirable) but that we ourselves should come under the preparation which the gospel of peace effects. If our feet are shod in this way we shall carry the peace of the Gospel into all our dealings with men of this world, and be protected ourselves in so doing.

Then besides all this there is faith to act as a shield; that faith which means a practical and living confidence in God; that faith which keeps the eye on Him and His Word, and not on the circumstances nor on the foes. With the shield protecting us, outside our other armour, the darts of fiery doubt flung by the wicked are averted and quenched.

The helmet protects the head, which next to the heart is the most vulnerable point in man. Salvation, known, realized, enjoyed and worked out in practice, is that helmet for us. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure," (Phil. 2: 12, 13) he was really exhorting them to take and wear the helmet of salvation.

Lastly comes, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." This may be used both defensively and offensively. The Word of God will parry every thrust which our adversary may make; it will also put him to eight with one well directed blow. It is spoken of as the Spirit's sword, for He indited it at the outset, and He it is who gives skill and understanding in its use. Our great Example in the use of this sword is the Lord Himself, as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

Our Lord is also our Example as to the prayer which is enjoined upon us in verse 18. Luke's gospel specially emphasizes this feature of His life. Having assumed Manhood, He took the dependent place which is proper to man, and carried it through in the fullest perfection. Hence prayer characterized His life, and it is to characterize ours. Prayer is always to be our resource, and especially so in connection with the conflict of which we have just been reading. The Word of God is indeed the sword of the Spirit. But just because it is we shall only wield it effectively if we are praying always in the Spirit. Without continued and abiding dependence on God we shall not wear any piece of the armour aright.

Our prayers are to reach that earnestness which is indicated by the word, supplication; they are also to be accompanied by watching. We are to be on the look-out to avoid all that would be inconsistent with our requests on the one hand, and to welcome the answer to our requests on the other. This indicates intensity and reality in our praying, so that our prayers are indeed a force and not a farce.

We are not to be circumscribed in our prayers. We have to begin with ourselves doubtless, but we do not stop there. We enlarge our requests to include "all saints." Just as all saints are needed for the apprehension of the truth (Eph. 3: 18), so the scope of our prayers is not to be less than all saints. The scope of our prayers is enlarged to "all men" in 1 Timothy 2: 1. Ephesians is however pre-eminently the church epistle and hence "all saints" is the circumference contemplated here.

Yet we are not to be so occupied with all that we wander off into indefiniteness. So the Apostle adds, "and for me." Great servant of God though he was, he desired to be supported by the prayers of others not so great as he. Only he desired prayer, not that he might be released from prison, and his circumstances eased, but that he might be able to fully accomplish his ministry though a captive. He was in bonds, yet as much an ambassador as when he was free (See 2 Corinthians 5: 20).

When free he thought of himself more as an ambassador of the Gospel, beseeching men to be reconciled. Now in captivity he regards himself as an ambassador of the mystery-that mystery which he has briefly unfolded in the earlier part of the epistle. It is "the mystery of the Gospel," inasmuch as the one springs out of the other and is its appropriate sequel. If we do not understand the Gospel we cannot understand the mystery. The mystery, for instance, must be as a closed book to those who imagine that the Gospel is intended to Christianize the earth and thus introduce the millennium.

Paul's closing desires for the brethren though simple are very full. How happy must the brethren be when peace, love and faith, all proceeding from a Divine source, have free course in their midst. Then indeed grace rests upon them. Only there must be purity of heart and motive. The last words of verse 24, "in sincerity," or, "in incorruption" are a reminder to us that even in such early days, as those in which Paul was writing, that which was corrupt had found an entrance amongst those who professed to be Christian. To love the Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption is the hallmark of reality, the fruit of the genuine work of God.