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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ephesians 6

 

 

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Verses 1-4

Ephesians 6:1-4. The apostle, having explained the duties of wives and husbands, proceeds to the duties of children and parents, and then to those of servants, or slaves rather, and masters, with which he finishes his account of relative duties. Children, obey your parents — Even your unbelieving parents, in every thing consistent with your duty to the Lord. In all things lawful, the will of the parent is a law to the child: for this is right — Manifestly just and reasonable. Honour — That is, love, reverence, obey, assist in all things; thy father and mother — The mother is particularly mentioned, as being more liable to be slighted than the father. Which is the first commandment with promise — For the promise implied in the second commandment does not belong to the keeping that command in particular, but the whole law. Whereas the fifth is the first commandment which hath a promise annexed to it in particular. This observation concerning the promise in the law, to those who honoured their parents, was made by the apostle, to show that the honouring of parents is a matter of the greatest importance to the well-being of society, and highly acceptable to God. That it may be well with thee — In temporal as well as spiritual things; and thou mayest live long on the earth — A promise that is usually fulfilled to eminently dutiful children; and he who lives long and well, has a long seed-time for an eternal harvest. But this promise in the Christian dispensation is to be understood chiefly in a more exalted and spiritual sense. And ye fathers — On the other hand, (whom he names rather than mothers, as being more apt to be stern and severe; mothers, however, are also included;) provoke not your children to wrath — By any harsh usage, or rigorous treatment of them. Do not needlessly fret or exasperate them; but bring them up — With all tenderness and mildness, and yet with steadiness; in the nurture and admonition εν παιδεια και νουθεσια, in the discipline and instruction; of the Lord — As these expressions stand connected with the word Lord, it seems reasonable to explain them of such a course of discipline and instruction as properly belongs to a religious education, which ought to be employed by those that believe in the Lord, in forming their children for him, by laying a restraint on the first appearance of every vicious passion, and nourishing them up in the words of faith and sound doctrine.


Verses 5-8

Ephesians 6:5-8. Servants δουλοι, bond-servants; or he may include also those that were in the station of hired servants; be obedient to your masters — For the gospel does not cancel the civil rights of mankind; according to the flesh — That is, who have the command of your bodies, but not of your souls and consciences. Or, the expression may mean, who are your masters according to the present state of things: hereafter the servant will be free from his master; with fear and trembling — A proverbial expression, implying the utmost care and diligence; in singleness of heart — With a single eye to the providence and will of God; as unto Christ — With that sincerity and uniformity of conduct, which a regard to the honour of Christ, and his all-seeing eye, will require and produce. Not with eye- service — Serving your masters better when under their eye than at other times; as mere men-pleasers — Persons who have no regard to the pleasing of God; but as the servants of Christ — As those that desire to approve themselves his faithful servants; doing the will of God from the heart — Performing that duty to your masters which God requires of you; or doing whatever you do as the will of God, and with your might. With good-will doing service — Not with reluctance, but cheerfully, and from a principle of love to them and their concerns; as to the Lord, and not to men — Regarding him more than men, and making every action of common life a sacrifice to God, by having an eye to him in all things, even as if you had no other master. Knowing that whatsoever good thing — Whether for kind or degree; any man doth — Though never so poor and mean, in one station of life or another; the same shall he receive of the Lord — That is, a full and adequate recompense; whether he be bond or free — A slave or a free-man; whether he be the meanest servant or the greatest prince. For God is the universal guardian and protector of his people, and esteems men, not according to their stations in the world, but according to their behaviour in those stations, whether high or low.


Verse 9

Ephesians 6:9. And ye masters — On the other hand; do the same things unto them — That is, act toward them from the same principle, and after the same just and equitable manner, having an eye to the will and glory of God, and endeavouring to approve yourselves to him; forbearing threatening — Conducting yourselves toward your servants with gentleness and humanity, not in a harsh or domineering way; knowing that your Master also — Namely, Christ; is in heaven — On the throne of God, and that his authority over you is much greater and more absolute, than yours is over any of your fellow-creatures; neither is there respect of persons with him — Whatsoever difference there may be in their stations on earth: but he will administer to all the most strict and impartial justice, rewarding or punishing every one according to his real character, and especially showing that he remembers the cry of the oppressed, though men may consider them, on account of the inferiority of their circumstances, as below their regards.


Verse 10-11

Ephesians 6:10-11. The apostle having delivered the preceding precepts respecting relative duties, now adds a general exhortation to the believing Ephesians, to be hearty and zealous in the performance of all their duties, which he enforces by the discovery of another deep article of the mystery of God; namely, that evil angels are leagued together against men, and are continually occupied in tempting them to sin. Finally το λοιπον, as to what remains; my brethren — This is the only place in this epistle where he uses this compellation. Soldiers frequently use it to each other in the field. Be strong in the Lord — Since every relation in life brings along with it corresponding duties, and requires vigour and resolution in the discharge of them, whatever therefore the circumstance or situation may be which you are in, see that you do not rely on your own strength, but apply to the Lord, for his strength, and arm yourselves with the power of his might

Confiding therein by faith, persuaded that nothing else will suffice to enable you to withstand the assaults of your spiritual enemies, and to do and suffer the will of God concerning you. Remember, that to be weak and remain so, is the way to be overcome and perish. Put on the whole armour of God — The Greek word here used, πανοπλια, means a complete suit of armour, offensive as well as defensive; consisting in the exercise of all those Christian graces with which we are furnished by God, to be used in his strength, as well to annoy the enemy, as to defend ourselves: and it appears, by the particular description which the apostle here gives of it, that it includes every sort of armour, and is adapted to the defence of every part liable to be attacked. He says, not armour, but whole armour; and the expression is repeated Ephesians 6:13, because of the strength and subtlety of our enemies, and because of an evil day of sore trial being at hand. Macknight thinks the apostle contrasts the graces and virtues which he mentions, with the complete armour fabled by the heathen poets to have been fabricated by the gods, and bestowed on their favourite heroes. “That armour was vastly inferior to the complete armour of God. For, 1st, The Christian’s complete armour is really of divine workmanship, and is actually bestowed on the Christian soldier; whereas the other is mere fiction. 2d, The armour said to have been given by the heathen gods, consisting of brass and steel, could only defend the body of the hero who was covered with it; but the complete armour given by the true God, consisting of the Christian virtues, is useful for defending the minds of the faithful against all the temptations with which their enemies attack them. 3d, The complete armour of God gives strength to the Christian soldier in the battle; and therefore is far preferable to any armour made of metals, which may defend, but cannot strengthen the body of the warrior.” That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil — Against all his artifices and subtle methods, against all the snares he may lay for you, and all the rage and fury with which he may attack you. The original expression, μεθοδειας, signifies crafty ways. The apostle does not simply intend the temptations which arise from the motions of the flesh, the love of pleasure, the fear of persecution, the contagion of evil example, the solicitations of the wicked, the sophisms of the philosophers and the unbelieving Jews, and the false glosses of heretical teachers in the church itself; but all these temptations as prepared and pointed against men, by such skilful, experienced, and malicious enemies as the devil and his angels. See the next verse.


Verse 12

Ephesians 6:12. For we wrestle not — Greek, ουκ εστιν ημιν η παλη, our struggle is not; against flesh and blood — Not merely against human adversaries, however powerful, subtle, and cruel, nor against fleshly appetites; but against principalities, against powers — The mighty princes of all the infernal legions: and great is their power, and that likewise of the legions which they command. Against the rulers of the darkness of this world — Greek, προς τους κοσμοκρατορας του σκοτους, του αιωνος τουτου, against the rulers of the world, of the darkness of this age. Dr. Whitby explains this of “those evil spirits that ruled in the heathen nations which were yet in darkness,” and of “those that had their stations in the region of the air.” “Perhaps,” says Mr. Wesley, “these principalities and powers” (spoken of in the former clause) “remain mostly in the citadel of the kingdom of darkness; but there are other evil spirits who range abroad, to whom the provinces of the world are committed.” By the darkness of this age, that spiritual darkness is intended, which prevails during the present state of things. “Evil spirits,” Macknight thinks, “are called rulers of this world, because the dominion which, by the permission of God, they exercise, is limited to the darkness of this world; that is, this world darkened by ignorance, wickedness, and misery, and which is the habitation or prison assigned them, until the judgment of the great day, Jude, Ephesians 6:6.” Against spiritual wickedness — Or rather, wicked spirits, as the Syriac translates the expression. The word πονηρια, rendered wickedness, properly signifies malice joined with cunning, and is fitly mentioned as the characteristic of those wicked spirits with whom we are at war; and it is a quality so much the more dangerous, in that it exists in beings whose natural faculties are very great. And it must be observed, that they continually oppose faith, love, holiness, either by force or fraud, and labour to infuse unbelief, pride, idolatry, malice, envy, anger, hatred. In high places — Greek, εν τοις επουρανιοις, in, or about, heavenly places. Those who translate it in the former way, think the expression refers to those places where they rebelled against the God of heaven, and drew in multitudes who were before holy and happy spirits, to take part with them in their impious revolt. But it seems more probable the sense is, about heavenly places; namely, the places which were once the abodes of those spirits, and which they still aspire to, as far as they are permitted; labouring at the same time to prevent our obtaining them. Dr. Goodwin, however, thinks that not heavenly places, but heavenly things are intended; namely, spiritual and eternal blessings, about which we may be properly said to wrestle with them, while we endeavour to secure these blessings to ourselves, and they to hinder us from attaining them.


Verse 13-14

Ephesians 6:13-14. Wherefore — On this account, because the prize for which you contend is of such great value, and the enemies that oppose you are so subtle, powerful, and malicious, and will assuredly exert themselves to the utmost to effect your destruction, again let me say, Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand — These dangerous enemies; in the evil day — The day of temptation and trial. The war, we may observe, is perpetual: but the fight is one day less, and another more violent, and may be longer or shorter, admitting of numberless varieties; and having done all — Having exerted yourselves to the utmost, and used the grace conferred upon you, and the means and advantages vouchsafed you, according to the will of God, which indeed it will be absolutely necessary for you to do; or, having gone through all your conflicts, and accomplished your warfare; to stand — Victorious and with joy, before the Son of man. Stand therefore, having your loins girt — And being in readiness for the encounter as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; with truth — Not only with the truths of the gospel, but with truth in the inward parts, without which all our knowledge of divine truth will prove but a poor girdle in the evil day. Indeed, as faith is mentioned afterward as a distinct part of the spiritual armour, truth in this place cannot chiefly mean those truths which are the objects of the Christian faith, but rather a true or unfeigned profession of that faith, in opposition to that which is hypocritical, and uprightness of heart in our whole behaviour toward God and man, and a sincere desire to know and do the will of God, in all things. “It has often been observed,” says Doddridge, “that the military girdle was not only an ornament but a defence, as it hid the gaping joints of the armour, and kept them close and steady, as well as fortified the loins of those that wore it, and rendered them more vigorous and fit for action. The chief difficulty here is to know whether truth refers to the true principles of religion, or to integrity in our conduct: and how, on the latter interpretation, to keep it distinct from the breast-plate of righteousness, or, on the former, from the shield of faith. But it seems probable to me, that it may rather signify some virtue of the mind, as all the other parts of the armour enumerated do; and then it must refer to that uprightness and sincerity of intention, which produces righteousness, or a holy and equitable conduct, as its proper fruit.” Thus our Lord is described, Isaiah 11:5; and as a man girded is always ready for action, and a soldier, who is girded with the military belt, is fitted either for marching or fighting; so this seems intended to intimate an obedient heart, a ready will. Our Lord adds to the loins girded, the lights burning, Luke 12:35; showing that watching and ready obedience are inseparable companions. And having on the breast-plate of righteousness — Imputed and implanted, justification and sanctification, or pardon and holiness. See on Romans 4:5; Romans 4:8; Romans 6:6-22; 1 Corinthians 1:30. In the breast is the seat of conscience, which is guarded by righteousness imputed to us in our justification, implanted in us in our regeneration, and practised by us in consequent obedience to the divine will. In the parallel place, 1 Thessalonians 5:8, this piece of spiritual armour is called the breast-plate of faith and love; justification being received by faith, and love being the source of all our holiness. Perhaps the apostle, in this passage, alluded to Isaiah 59:17, where the Messiah is said to have put on righteousness as a breast-plate; that is, by the holiness of his conduct, and his consciousness thereof, he defended himself from being moved by the calumnies and reproaches of the wicked. No armour for the back is mentioned; we are always to face our enemies.


Verse 15

Ephesians 6:15. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace — Let peace with God, and, consequent thereon, peace of conscience and tranquillity of mind, in all circumstances and situations, (for which ample provision is made in the gospel,) arm you with confidence and resolution to proceed forward in all the ways of duty, however rough and difficult, through which you are called to pass, and enable you to receive with resignation and patience all the dispensations of that wise and gracious Providence, which is always watching over you for good, and is engaged to support you under your trials, to sanctify them to you, and in due time to deliver you out of them. In this way, and in no other, will you be enabled to pass through all difficulties unhurt, surmount all oppositions which obstruct your progress, to endure to the end, and finish your course with joy.


Verse 16

Ephesians 6:16. Above all επι πασιν, upon, or over all, these and the other parts of your armour, as a sort of universal covering; taking the shield of faith — Continually exercise a strong and lively faith in the truths and promises of the gospel, and in the person and offices, the merits and grace of the Lord Jesus, in whom all these truths and promises are, yea and amen, 2 Corinthians 1:20. Wherewith — If you keep it in lively exercise; ye shall be able to quench — To repel and render without effect; all the fiery darts — The furious temptations, the violent and sudden injections; of the wicked του πονηρου, the wicked one, Satan, called so by way of eminence, because in him the most consummate skill and cunning are joined. Anciently they used small firebrands, in the form of darts and arrows, which they kindled and shot among their enemies. These were called βελη πεπυρωμενα, tela ignita, fiery darts. And in battle they were received by the soldiers on their shields, which were covered with brass or iron, in order to extinguish them, or prevent their effect. Or, as Dr. Goodwin and many others suppose, the apostle may refer to an ancient custom, still prevailing among some barbarous nations, to dip their arrows in the blood or gall of asps and vipers, or other poisonous preparations, which fire the blood of those who are wounded with them, occasion exquisite pain, and make the least wound mortal. And some Greek writers tell us, that it was usual for soldiers to have shields made of raw hides, which immediately quenched them. It is also certain that some arrows were discharged with so great a velocity, that they fired in their passage. See Doddridge.


Verse 17

Ephesians 6:17. And take the helmet of salvation — That is, the hope of salvation, as it is expressed in the parallel passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:8. The helmet was for the defence of the head, a part which it concerned them most carefully to defend, because one stroke there might easily have proved fatal. Thus it concerns the Christian to defend his mind, courage, and fortitude against all temptations to dejection and despondency, by a lively hope of eternal life, felicity, and glory, built on the promises of God, which ensure that salvation to those disciples of Christ, whose faith continues to the end to work by love. Armed with this helmet, the hope of the joy set before him, Christ endured the cross and despised the shame. Hence this hope is termed (Hebrews 6:19) an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil. Hitherto our armour has been only defensive: but we are to attack Satan, as well as to secure ourselves. The apostle therefore adds, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God — Here the apostle calls the word of God the sword of the Spirit, because it was given by inspiration of the Spirit; and because the doctrines, promises, and precepts of it, are the most effectual means of putting our spiritual enemies to flight. Of this efficacy of the word of God, we have an illustrious example in our Lord’s temptations in the wilderness, who put the devil to flight by quotations from the Scriptures of the Old Testament. And if we would repel his attacks with success, we must not only take the fore-mentioned shield in one hand, but this sword of the Spirit in the other; for whoever fights with the powers of darkness, will need both. He that is covered with armour from head to foot, and neglects this, will be foiled after all.

We may observe here, with Beza, that all the parts of the complete armour of the ancients are elegantly introduced in the apostle’s account of the Christian’s complete armour. For there is, first, the military belt, called by the Greeks ζωστηρ, and by the Latins balteus. This covered the two parts of the breast-plate where they joined. The breast-plate was the second article of the complete armour, and consisted of two pieces; the one reaching from the neck to the navel, and the other hanging from thence to the knees. The former was called θωραξ, the latter ζωμα. Accordingly, in the parallel passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the breast-plate is said to consist of two parts, faith and love. Next to the breast-plate were the greaves, which made the third article of the complete armour. They were called by the Greeks κνημιδες, and by the Latins ocreæ, and were made of gold, or silver, or brass, or iron, and were designed to defend the legs and feet against the strokes of stones or arrows. Thus Goliah had greaves of brass upon his legs, 1 Samuel 17:6. The fourth article of the complete armour was the helmet, which likewise was made of metals of different sorts, and was used to defend the head against the strokes of swords, and missile weapons. Add, in the fifth place, the shield, and the whole body is completely covered. But, besides the defensive armour, just now described, offensive weapons were likewise necessary to render the soldier’s armour complete; particularly the sword, to which, as we have seen, the apostle alludes, in speaking of the Christian armour. They had darts, likewise, or javelins, referred to Ephesians 6:16. This whole description, given by St. Paul, shows how great a thing it is to be a Christian: the want of any one of the particulars here mentioned makes his character incomplete. Though he have his loins girt with truth, righteousness for a breast-plate, his feet shod with the peace of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, and the sword of the Spirit; yet one thing he wants after all. What is that? It follows in the next verse.


Verse 18

Ephesians 6:18. Praying always — As if he had said, And join prayer to all these graces, for your defence against your spiritual enemies, and that at all times, and on every occasion, in the midst of all employments, inwardly praying without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:7; with all prayer — Public and private, mental and vocal, ordinary and extraordinary, occasional and solemn. Some are careful with respect to one kind of prayer only, and negligent in others: some use only mental prayer, or ejaculations, and think they are in a high state of grace, and use a way of worship far superior to any other; but such only fancy themselves to be above what is really above them; it requiring far more grace to be enabled to pour out a fervent and continued prayer, than to offer up mental aspirations. If we would receive the petitions we ask, let us use every sort. And supplication — Repeating and urging our prayer, as Christ did in the garden; and watching thereunto — Keeping our minds awake to a sense of our want of the blessings we ask, and of the excellence and necessity of them; and maintaining a lively expectation of receiving them, and also inwardly attending on God to know his will, and gain power to do it. With all perseverance — With unwearied importunity renewing our petitions till they be granted, Luke 18:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:8; notwithstanding apparent repulses, Matthew 15:22-28. And supplication for all saints — Wrestling in fervent, continued intercessions for others, especially for the faithful, that they may do all the will of God, and be steadfast to the end. Perhaps we receive few answers to prayer, because we do not intercede enough for others.


Verse 19-20

Ephesians 6:19-20. And for me also — See on Colossians 4:3; that utterance may be given unto me — Free liberty of expression, every inward and every outward hinderance being removed; that I may open my mouth boldly — May deliver the whole truth without any base fear, shame, or diffidence, considering how important it is to the glory of God, and the salvation of mankind, that it should be so delivered; to make known the mystery of the gospel — In the clearest and most effectual manner. For which I am an ambassador in bonds — The ambassadors of men usually appear in great pomp: in what a different state does the ambassador of Christ appear! The Greek, πρεσβευω εν αλυσει, is literally, I execute the office of an ambassador in a chain. See on Acts 28:16. As the persons of ambassadors were always sacred, the apostle, in speaking thus, seems to refer to the outrage that was done to his Divine Master in this violation of his liberty.


Verse 21-22

Ephesians 6:21-22. That ye also — As well as others; may know my affairs — The things which have happened to me, and what I am doing at present: or, the things which relate to me, as the expression, τα κατεμε, which occurs likewise Philippians 1:12, signifies. The apostle means that he wished the Ephesians, as well as the Philippians and Colossians, to know what success he had had in preaching at Rome, what opposition he had met with, what comfort he had enjoyed under his sufferings, what converts he had made to Christ, and in what manner the evidences of the gospel affected the minds of the inhabitants of Rome. These, and such like things, he sent Tychicus to make known to them.


Verse 23-24

Ephesians 6:23-24. Peace be to the brethren — That is, all prosperity in matters temporal and spiritual; and love — To God, one another, and all the saints, arising from God’s love to you; with faith — In God, in Christ, and his gospel, accompanied with every other grace; from God the Father — The original source of all our blessings; and the Lord Jesus Christ — Through whose mediation alone they are communicated to us. Grace — The unmerited favour of God, and those influences of his Spirit, which are the effect thereof; be with all them that love our Lord Jesus in sincerity εν αφθαρσια, literally, in incorruption: that is, without any mixture of corrupt affections, or without decay; who continue to love him till grace shall end in glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ephesians 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ephesians-6.html. 1857.

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