Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The #Churches' #Walk: In #Wisdom, #Warfare: Ephesians 5b - 6

Theme: Christ's body, the church

2. It's Walk (3-6)
     E. In wisdom (5:15-6:9)
     F. In Warfare (6:10-20)
     Conclusion (6:21-24)

Verses 1-9, stating that children should obey their parents and slaves their masters, concludes instructions about walking in wisdom. Verses 10-20 show how to defend against spiritual attacks which will come as the believer tries to walk according to their position in Christ. Verses 21-24 give closing remarks.

In Wisdom (1-9)

Children should obey their parents. The word for children, here, means "offspring", and is not necessarily limited to minors, although the following instruction about fathers bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord seems to suggest this. In Matthew 15:3-6, while refuting the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus pointed out that they made their own way around God's command to honour father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Apparently they taught that a person could be excused from meeting their parents material needs, by claiming their possessions were "Corban", that is a gift "set aside for God's service". This allowed them to keep their possessions, and thus "honour not his father or his mother". The instruction to obey parents is of primary importance, and carries the promise of long life (Ex. 20:12), a general benefit of such discipline (cf. Eli's sons [1 Samuel 4:11]). In Acts 5:29, however, Peter shows that one obeys God, rather than men, if our earthly authorities command us to do something which clearly contradicts God's will.

Fathers should not provoke children to anger, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (4). The word for provoking to anger, here, is also used in Romans 10:19, where God provokes Israel to jealousy and anger by opening the door of salvation to the Gentiles. Colossians 3:21 shows that one reason for this instruction is also so that children do not "loose heart" (NAS). "Nurture" means to bring up, feed, or nourish. "Admonition" comes from roots meaning "the mind", and "lay". It probably refers to giving them spiritual instruction like that in Ephesians.

Slaves should obey masters (5-9). In Paul's day, slavery existed, and he didn't oppose it (5-9; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:21-24). He here instructs christian slaves of christian masters to obey, as they would Christ, with trembling, and sincerity, not just when masters are looking, because the Lord would return the favor (8). He instructs masters to treat slaves right, not threatening them, since Christ is the master of both.

In Warfare (10-20)

Many explanations have been offered about what the armor of God is and how to put it on. It does not seem that Paul, in the closing verses of the epistle, would introduce, without explanation, a new body of doctrine, but that he expected the Ephesians to understand what he meant. The context of the book should guide the interpretation of this passage. What insight, then, does Ephesians offer? 

The first three chapters were devoted to showing us our wealth and position in Christ. The second half of the book shows how to walk in accord with that position. It seems, then, that putting on this armor would involve understanding (1:18; 3:14-19), relying upon, and bearing the fruit of (5:9) our spiritual wealth in Christ.

The emphasis is on being strong in God's power. We cannot wage spiritual warfare in the strength of our flesh (cf. Romans 7-8:16). This is because we wrestle not against flesh and blood (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:2-5), but against the Devil, his schemes, his spiritual forces, and our own darkened, depraved, deadened, fallen nature (2:1-3; cf. "flesh" [Romans 7-8:16]). The armor consists of our wealth and position in Christ. Putting on the armor of God may imply understanding, relying upon, and bearing the fruit (by the Spirit [cf. Eph. 5:9]) of our spiritual position and wealth in Christ (cf. Romans 6:1-13). The armor of God that believers should put on
consists of:

Truth:

This word for truth is used six times in the epistle. It seems, then, that God's armor of truth is the gospel of Christ we trust for salvation (1:13), which makes us stable, enables us to discern doctrinal error, and promotes the growth of the body (4:14-15), which exposes the deceitful lusts of our old nature (4:21), and through which the Spirit bears the fruit of righteousness in our daily lives (for example, telling our neighbor the truth instead of lies [4:25]).

Righteousness

This word occurs three times. In 4:24, it describes the God-like character in which our new nature has been created. In 5:9, it is the fruit the Spirit bears in our lives, which leads us to refuse sinful ways, and walk in righteous ways. It may then refer to the imputed righteousness of Christ to the believer (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21), as well as the fruit of righteousness the Spirit works in our lives, with the resulting righteous conduct (avoiding sin, doing right) of that fruit.

Faith

Described as being important, "above all", the same word for "faith" is used eight times in this epistle. It relates to saving trust in the gospel (1:13; 2:8; 3:6), confidence in Christ which gives us bold access to God in prayer (3:12), the means by which Christ makes Himself at home in our lives (3:17), and the objective body of doctrine we believe ("one faith" [4:5]) and grow in the knowledge of ("unity of faith" [4:13]).

Helmet of salvation

1 Thessalonians 5:8, another passage describing spiritual armor, instructs to put on "for an helmet, the hope of salvation". There, the hope was the fact that God has not ordained believers to endure God's wrath, but that He would rapture the church prior to the great tribulation of Revelation 4 - 19. Ephesians describes the believer's hope as that of an eternal inheritance in Christ. Romans 8 insures believers of the hope of the future redemption of their bodies, and that nothing will be able to separate them from the love of God in Christ.

Sword of the Spirit

This is clearly identified as the Word of God. Romans 10:17 describes this as the preached Word of Christ, by which God imparts saving faith. Ephesians 4 says this truth is what enables us to discern false teaching, become rooted and grounded in faith, grow into the spiritual maturity of Christ, and build one another up as we speak the truth in love (12-15; cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17). In Matthew 4, Christ used Scripture to resist the spiritual attacks and deceit of the Devil. Hebrews 4:12-13 says the Word of God is quick, powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. John 17:17 says God's word is the truth which sanctifies us. 

Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace

Since the Christian is here told to stand against the attack which the Devil will bring to him, the sandals may be a source of protection for the feet, rather than an active ministry of going out and taking people from Satan's domain with the gospel. If so, it may refer to our positional peace with God through faith in Christ's atonement for our sins (Ephesians 2:16-18; cf. Romans 5:1), which (atonement) makes unity with other believers (2:14-15), and gives peace of mind toward God (Romans 5:1ff.).

Prayer

Believers should pray at all times, in the Spirit, and be keeping alert ("persistent") in their petition for the saints in general. Paul requested they pray for him specifically, i.e. that God would give him bold utterance of the gospel. The concept of "boldness", here, can mean "without fear", or "with clarity"

Concluding remarks (21-24)
 Writing from prison, Paul sent Tychicus to inform them of his circumstances. He wishes peace, love, faith, and Grace to all believers who love Christ with a love incorruptible.

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