CHILDREN AND PARENTS (6: 1-4)
The precept of submission one to another is continued in the counsel to children and parents. And first the children are mentioned, because theirs is the duty of obedience. "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." Obedience to parents is right € naturally so, and by divine appointment. It is required by the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20: 12; Deut. 5:16) and has separate mention in Lev. 19: 1-3. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God." It is thus prominently associated with holiness, with all the emphasis of the Lord's claims upon them as their God. The ordered home life, guided by such a law of God, provided the best foundation for wholesome national life. In this respect as in all other respects, the Gentile world, given over to their own devices by God, degenerated. It is one of the marks of degeneracy enumerated by Paul in Romans 1, that they were disobedient to parents. The last days of Gentile times have the same characteristic. Only too well are Paul's words (2 Tim. 3: 2) being fulfilled to-day. The difficulties of parents who, living amidst such conditions, endeavour to maintain obedience, are greater than when there is general recognition of the wisdom of such a course. When the English nation had a greater regard for the Word of God, before Higher Criticism had so undermined faith, there was a better disciplined home life. But when parents cease to regard any authority higher than themselves they do not inculcate obedience. On the parent's side, a negative and a positive duty is pointed out by Paul. There must be an avoidance of an unfair or unjust exercise of parental control, "that they be not discouraged" (Col. 3:21); or "provoked to wrath". Positively, there must be instruction in obedience, and in the ways of God (verse 4).
SERVANTS AND MASTERS (6: 5-9)
The third illustration concerns servants and masters € bond-slaves and lords, more precisely to describe first century relationships. The servants come first. The bondslave was servant to two masters, one after the flesh, and the other his spiritual lord. In both cases there was ownership based upon purchase; but how different the price paid! Christ had paid a price which while it enslaved them to him also set them free. Bondservice to Christ is at once slavery and freedom; for Paul reminded the slaves in Corinth that they were Christ's free men, while the masters were Christ's bondslaves. A misapplication of this thought of freedom in Christ could, and probably did in some cases, lead to social disturbance. But the Lord's servant is not revolutionary. He accepts the social conditions, and discharges his duties as a service to Christ. He finds in the daily round opportunities for serving his spiritual Master. The way work is done € well or badly; the spirit in which it is done € cheerfully or complainingly; these indicate the manner of our service to Christ. So Paul puts it: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, die same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (verses 5-8). "Singleness of heart"; "from the heart"; "with goodwill"; these expressions define the motive with which men should work, whether in the first or the twentieth century. Masters may be bad; mass production to-day may make a man feel he is a cog in an organization as soulless as a machine; the reward may be small. But the real Master is not unmindful of the service; neither is he unobservant of those who work as unto him and for him. His reward is sure, and amazingly generous. It is "good" to those who render good service € so good in fact, that it is a gift and not something earned. There is encouragement here for the toiler; an inducement to continue to the weary. The necessity for this exhortation to the servant may be deduced from its recurrence. Thus to Timothy Paul wrote, "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort " (1 Tim. 6: 1-2). Similarly to Titus: "Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please diem well in all things ; not answering again ; not purloining but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2 : 9, 10). See also 1 Peter 2: 18. Masters have also a duty to perform. They must be guided by the same motives as the servants. They must remember that they have a Master who is the One Master of both the master and the slave who believe in him. And a warning is added, needed more by masters than servants, because of their many preferences in this life; "there is no respect of persons with him". For the master is servant to Christ, and in the exercise of his authority he is serving Christ, and as a servant Christ will take account of him.
THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR (6: 10-20)
The epistle passes from the particular exhortations to different classes on subjection to one another, to a general appeal to all. The brotherhood had a common foe, and all must equip themselves for the fight. The passage, which is very picturesque, is very familiar. It is generally thought that the figure which Paul uses was suggested to his mind by the soldiers who were constantly about him and to one of whom he was chained. Stalker has thus put the matter: "His attendant was changed every few hours, as one soldier relieved another upon guard. In this way there might be six or eight with him every four-and-twenty hours. They belonged to the imperial guard, the flower of the Roman army. Paul could not sit for hours beside another man without speaking of the subject which lay nearest his heart. ... To men accustomed to the horrors of Roman warfare and the manners of Roman barracks, nothing could be more striking than a life and character like this; and the result of these conversations was that many of them became changed men, and a revival spread through the barracks and penetrated into the imperial household itself. His room was sometimes crowded with these stern, bronzed faces, glad to see him at other times than those when duty required them to be there. He sympathized with them and entered into the spirit of their occupation; indeed, he was full of the spirit of the warrior himself. We have an imperishable relic of these visits in an outburst of inspired eloquence which he dictated at this period: "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." That picture was drawn from the life, from the armour of the soldiers in his room; and perhaps these ringing sentences were first poured into the ears of his warlike auditors before they were transferred to the epistle in which they have been preserved. There is doubtless truth in these words, but they are not the whole truth. Sensitive as Paul was to the lessons of human life about him, he was more responsive to the lessons of the Scriptures. And a very similar figure had been used before by Isaiah. He describes an "evil day" when Israel's sins had separated them from God, when they looked for judgment, and there was none, and for salvation, but it was far from them. Using the three words that are found together in the command that on the Day of Atonement Aaron must lay his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, the prophet testifies, "For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them" (Isa. 59: 12). Therefore judgment was turned away backward; righteousness stood afar off; truth was fallen in the street, and uprightness could not enter. God looked on these conditions, and was displeased. Yet in this time of utter failure the prophet sees a divine warrior who accomplishes salvation: "And God saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it upheld him. And he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke" (verses 16, 17). This "arm" of the Lord is none other than "the Redeemer who comes to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob" (verse 20). The work of both advents is combined in the picture, as in many other places; there is a time of suffering and a time of glory. There is the time when salvation protected the Saviour as a breast-plate and helmet. Here, then, in the first instance, is the source of the apostle's figure; its details are adapted from the Roman soldiers' equipment. And if this was the panoply of the saviour, how necessary that his followers should be thus clad. The weapons are not carnal: the fight is not physical. The opponents may be civil magistrates or pagan priests; kings or papal emissaries. But resistance is not by the sword, or artillery, or any other weapon that some of the defenders of liberty who are called "the earth" in the Apocalypse have not hesitated to use. The attack must be met by a faithfulness to the truth, by steadfastness in the faith. In the words of Brother. Thomas: "Sin in its sovereign manifestations among the nations executes its will and pleasure through the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of a state. What, then, is decreed by emperors, kings, popes, and subordinate rulers, are the mandates of the Prince of the World who works in them all to gratify their own lusts, oppress the people, and 'make war against the saints' with all the energy they possess. Taken collectively from the chief magistrate to the lowest, they are styled principalities and powers; the world rulers of the darkness of this age; who are the spirituals of wickedness in the high places of the kingdoms. So the apostle writes of the rulers of his day; and from the conduct they now exhibit before the nations in all their kingdoms, it is clear that the style is as characteristic of the rulers, and of these times, as it was in the first century of the Christian era. Iniquity has only changed its form and mode of attack against the truth ... € " In apostolic times it was the privilege of the ecclesia to make known to the world-rulers 'the manifold wisdom of God'. This mission brought the disciples of Christ into contact with them, as related in the Acts. When they stood before these men of sin, in whom the thinking of sinful flesh worked strongly, the truth of God proclaimed to them brought out the evil of the flesh in all its malignity. They imprisoned the disciples of Christ; threatened them with death; tempted them with rewards ; and when they could not shake their fidelity to the truth, tormented them with the cruellest tortures they could invent. The apostle styles these the artifices or wiles of the accuser; against which he exhorts believers to stand firm, being panoplied with the whole armour of God" (Elpis Israel, pages 97, 98).
Because of these foes arrayed against them, and that defeat may be avoided, Paul says, "Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand''. He then proceeds to the details of the armour. It is possible to overstrain these details. Paul himself uses some of them with slight variations in writing to the Thessalonians. "Let us, who are of die day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thess. 5:8). We glance at the details.
The girdle of truth. The belt served to keep the rest of the soldier's clothes in place, securing freedom and ease of movement. It was essential to all that is expressed in the word soldierliness. Truth has the same work in the Christian's armour. Paul has several times referred to truth in this epistle. The gospel is the "word of truth"; "truth is in Jesus"; his followers have "to deal truly in love"; each has to "speak truth with his neighbour"; "the fruit of the light is goodness and righteousness and truth"; and as God's creation they had "been created in righteousness and holiness of truth". These references show how vital truth is. Its absence vitiates every other quality. It is necessary in the pursuit of knowledge; in business dealings; in friendships. Its absence undermines character. It is manifested in sincerity, veracity, and integrity of purpose. It is the girdle, holding together and making effective the other parts of die garments of character with which the Christian must adorn himself.
The breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate covers and protects the heart. In the letter to the Thessalonians the breastplate is faith and love € a difference in words but not in fact. Personal righteousness is based upon faidi in God, and love expressed in loyalty to God's commandments. And the keeping of God's law is a defence. The heart is protected by the law of God hidden therein.
Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Preparation is readiness, preparedness, equipment. Feet thus shod are ready to run with the gospel of peace. Here is a paradox € the warrior is shod for the errands of peace. Isaiah is the source of the figure. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace: that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth" (Isa. 52: 7). And this prophecy is given a present application to Christ's brethren. "How shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things" (Rom. 10: 15). The "peace of God "and "peace with God" are essential for the Christian's warfare. While opposing the foe, his feet carry a message of peace.
The shield of faith. The shield was large and oblong in shape. While the warrior is girded with belt, guarded with breastplate, and with his feet shod, the equipment visible to the foe consists of shield, helmet and sword. Faith is trust in God; believing His word. "Fiery darts" alludes to the fire arrows, which were productive of panic and terror amidst ancient armies. But panic and terror pass by the soldier of Christ. He knows the counsel of God, and is assured that victory is with God and His people. The fiery darts of the present time are seen in pseudo-science, and philosophies of men, which would bring to naught the word of God. The defence is faith; faith in God, in His Word, in the purpose revealed in that Word. With such a defence the shafts of the sceptic fall harmless to the ground.
The helmet of salvation. The head is protected by salvation, or "the hope of salvation" (1 Thess. 5:8). The hope of the gospel gives the spirit of a sound mind, and does not allow destructive thoughts to find entrance. It was thus Christ himself was equipped (Isa. 59: 17). For the joy set before him he despised the shame, and endured the cross. He gave up his life in the confidence that his flesh would rest in hope, and that on the third day he would rise again.
The sword of the Spirit. This is the only weapon of attack, and it is a word € the Word of God. It is called die sword of the Spirit because forged by the Spirit as it directed the minds of the writers of the Scripture. Christ was the master swordsman of this school. He wielded it mightily in the wilderness when assailed by temptation. It is sharper than a two-edged sword in dividing between things natural and things spiritual. It reaches to the inner recesses of the heart of a man and brings to light the evil hidden in the mazes there. It is effective in the exposure and destruction of false doctrine and all thoughts that are contrary to the mind of God. It must be known to be used. It can only be known by careful reading and meditation. In time and with practice the mind recalls the statement of the Word that is suitable to the occasion, and which puts to flight the foe.
The Christian fight is not a guerilla warfare by detachments of troops cut off from headquarters, making their own plans and schemes. That way lies plundering, disorder and ultimate defeat. The soldier of Christ must always € for he can always € keep in touch with the One in command. Therefore Paul continues, passing from the figure of armour, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (verse 18). Such prayer, "in spirit", is sincere, hearty and true. There should be no half-heartedness in the service, nor in the approaches to God. But not only does the soldier keep in communication with God; he also remembers that he is a unit in an army, and his interest in other units finds expression in his prayers. He feels a close sense of fellowship with others engaged in the same warfare, and remembers them in his intercession with God. His prayers are for all units.
The Ephesians were exhorted also to remember Paul in their prayers: not only their fellow soldiers, but this leader among them who exceeded them all in zeal and labour, in suffering and trial. "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (verses 19, 20). Can we not think of Paul smiling somewhat whimsically as he dictated the words, "an ambassador in chains"? An ambassador was sacrosanct. He should not be imprisoned but sent back to the power he represented. Nero did not recognize Christ or his ambassadors. But the embassage was to all, rulers and ruled, and imprisonment did not restrain Paul from discharging his mission. He spoke boldly to those who visited him; he sent letters to those far away. And his work, in God's arranging, has been imperishable. This letter, and the letters to the Colossians and the Philippians, together with the personal letter to Philemon, were written while in bonds.
CONCLUSION (6: 21-24)
The letter closes with personal matters. He informs them that Tychicus, "a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord", will tell them his affairs. The letter to Colosse closes with similar words, the two letters being sent together. Tychicus is enumerated in the list of delegates who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem with the collections made for the needy there during the third journey. He was also with Paul during his last imprisonment (2 Tim. 4: 12). While in Colossians we have a list of salutations, in this circular letter the salutation is a general one. "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." The two last words, rendered "with incorruption" (A.V. margin), and "in uncorruptness" (R. V.), call for a remark. There is no parallel in any other conclusion to an epistle. The word itself is used elsewhere of the future state. "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour and immortality (incorruption, R.V.), God will render life" (Rom. 2: 7). "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." " For this corruptible must put on incorruption" (1 Cor. 15 :42, 53). Jesus Christ "has brought life and immortality (incorruption, R.V.) to light" (2 Tim. 1: 10). The word has to do with the imperishable and the unchanging. To those who love Christ with such a love is the invocation of Grace.