In our study of Ephesians chapter six, we look at the fact that the church (believers) are called to be soldiers. This chapter gives us the basic training that we need to fight the spiritual battles that we face every day.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' - which is the first commandment with a promise - 'That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'
The first lesson that a soldier has to learn is discipline and obedience. As we see with this passage, this begins in our earliest childhood and it begins at home. In chapter five, we saw a different word for obey than we do here. The word there meant respond while this word speaks of service and actually means to do what you are told to do. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy chapter five and we are reminded that all of the Ten Commandments were repeated in the New Testament except one (the Sabbath day). The promise of this discipline is that we will be ready to face the world. Today, it is not popular for parents to discipline their children and, in many homes, it is tough to see who is actually in charge (the child or the parents). When this child hits the real world, they do not adapt very well because they are used to getting everything that they want when they want it.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
In any military unit, the soldiers that have been in service longer are asked to help the new recruits to learn the basics. The same is true in the family situation as the children from the previous passage grow up to be parents themselves. Then, they are responsible for training their children in the things of God. This training is not giving them a list of rules just to be giving them rules but is in fact showing them what is best for them and that is found in God's Word. The biggest problem today is that we have had generation after generation that has grown up not being trained in the Word. If they are not trained, then how can they train up their children?
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.
The discipline that we learned as a child prepares us to enter the workplace as an adult. This verse is telling us that we are to listen to our bosses and do our jobs as if our bosses were Jesus. A Christian should be the best worker at any job that there is and that brings glory to God.
Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.
We are to obey our earthly employer whether he or she is watching us or not because it is God's will that we glorify Him in everything. This is a reminder that we are to do the right thing because it is the right thing and not for earthly gains.
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
Because we understand that we work for the Lord, whatever we do, we are to give it our best effort. Just as a worker gets a paycheck, we are going to receive a reward for the good that we do on the earth. This is also talked about, in Revelation 20, when the dead are judged.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
This discipline (basic training) extends to those who have been blessed by God with the authority over others in the workplace. If you are a supervisor, owner, foreman, etc. then you are to treat those under you (slaves) as you would if Jesus came to work for you. After all, He is the Boss (Master) of all. Brothers and sisters, if you are in a workplace that you hate, then introduce your supervisor to his Master and then show him/her this passage of scripture. Jesus can change anyone and it could become the place where everyone would like to work.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
The second lesson that a soldier learns in basic training is teamwork and trusting the man/woman next to them in the heat of the battle. In our spiritual boot camp, that teamwork is trusting in Jesus and His power to fight the battles with us. When we try to do things on our own, we will often fail but, with Christ, we are victorious! That is what John was talking about when he said that faith is the victory that allows us to overcome the world (see 1 John 5:4).
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Armor is used to protect the soldier during battle and the same is true for the Christian. The armor does not do any good unless it is put on the body and so Paul tells us to put it all on. The word "schemes" is talking about the methods that the devil will use against man. We can be assured that, whatever the scheme, we will be protected with the armor that God has provided us.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The third skill that we need to develop as a soldier is the ability to recognize the enemy. In this verse, Paul tells us who the enemy is and, as we see, it is not the people around us but the spirit of evil. This is talking about the devil and his demons. They are at work in this world and many times they work through people that don't even know it. It seems that, today, more people are wounded in their battles by the "church" than they are the devil. This is caused by the fact that many Christians have not developed this ability to recognize the enemy. The devil uses this "friendly fire" to spread division in hopes of slowing or even stopping the work of God here on earth.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Paul repeats how important it is to put on the "full armor" so that we can stand. God has given us everything that we need but we have to choose to put it on and to use it.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Paul begins to show us what our armor is and it starts with "the belt of truth". A belt is designed to keep your garments in place so that you do not trip over the ends of them. It is designed to be worn at the waist which is our balance point. The belt that we have to keep us from tripping and falling is the very Word of God. The second piece of armor is the breastplate which was designed to shield the heart and, as we see here, our heart is guarded by the fact that we have a righteousness that is granted by God and cannot be lost. Our feet are to be ready to carry the Word (gospel of peace) and to share it with others. When we understand what God has done for us (through a knowledge of His word), we will be ready to tell others about how they can have that peace as well.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The previous pieces of armor were all put on and then they just did their thing but the shield is different. The shield must be picked up and carried and it reminds us that this battle takes some effort on our part. A shield is not only used for defensive purposes but can also be used to attack when in close. As believers, our shield is our faith in Jesus for salvation and provision. We know that we are God's chosen children and we know that He is faithful in caring for His children. Therefore, we know that "the evil one" can not overcome us.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
A helmet covers the head and protects the mind. The helmet of salvation speaks to the fact that we know that we are children of God and are saved. As we fight these spiritual battles, one of the favorite tactics of the devil is to try to get us to doubt our salvation but if we hold to our helmet we will not be affected by that tactic. We are also called to fight using the sword (word of God). Jesus gave us the example of this as He used the word of God to correct the devil when He was being tempted. (see Matthew 4)
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
No soldier wants to go into battle alone and that is why Paul reminds us that, as Christians, we do not have to. Prayer is a direct connection with the Creator who has the power to do all things and so we can be encouraged. Paul also reminds us to pray for our fellow soldiers (saints).
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
The "mystery of the gospel" refers to the fact that it was revealed even in the Old Testament that Jesus Christ would come and pay for our sins. It is a mystery in that we can never understand what it would be like to send our only son to die for those that hate him. That is exactly what God did and Jesus came willingly. Even as Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, he asked for prayer to enable him to be bold. He also asked that the words be from God and not his own understanding.
Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.
We should remember that Paul was in prison still caring for others while he wrote this. We see from this passage that he was sending a messenger with this letter to encourage the Ephesians. One of the signs of a mature Christian (one who has completed their basic training for believers) is that they are able to encourage and build-up others even as they face some tough circumstances.
Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Paul ends this basic training with encouragement to the believers. It is common for leaders to give a "pep talk" to the troops before they go into battle and that is sorta what Paul does here. He reminds us that the battle is not between us as believers and so we can have peace with our brothers. Along with that, God has given us faith and love to overcome all that we will face. As always, Paul reminds us that it is a gift (grace) from God. We can face anything when we know that God has already given us the victory!