Children and Parents
6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Bondservants and Masters
5 Bondservants,1 obey your earthly masters2 with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master3 and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brothers,4 and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
So, here is how you stand in the battle: know the truth, do what is right, and advance the gospel. Do this in fellowship with other believers, confident of your ultimate triumph in Christ. If your armor is in place, you will stand in the battle, and when you are standing, you will be able to move forward using “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
When you became a Christian, four things happened. First, you were brought into a new relationship with God in which your sins were forgiven and your condemnation was removed. Second, you became a new creation as God’s Holy Spirit invaded your life. Third, being a child of God, you became part of His family, the church. And fourth, you provoked the attention of an enemy, whose set purpose is to oppose and destroy the work of God: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Our enemy first appeared at the beginning of the Bible story when he came to Eve in the form of a serpent. His great objective was, and still is, to destroy the work of God. So when God began a new work in your life, you took on a new significance for the enemy.
Satan used to be your master. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked … following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1–2). Your enemy had you where he wanted you, but then God made you alive in Jesus Christ, and when that happened, your old master became your new enemy.
Having lost you, the enemy’s immediate objective is damage control. Satan is determined that you should not pose any further threat to his kingdom. He will therefore do everything in his power to make you ineffective and unproductive in your Christian life. Becoming a Christian is not the end of your battle; it is the beginning of a new warfare.
The primary battles of your life will be fought in four areas: your mind (Ephesians 4:22ff.), your home (5:22–6:4), your work (6:5–9), and your church (4:1–16).
The first objective of your warfare is to stand: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (6:11). The enemy will try to push you back to a position in which your life will count for very little in the advance of Christ’s kingdom. Satan does this primarily through the use of “schemes,” working through two infrastructures, which the Bible calls “the world” and “the flesh” (1 John 2:15-17).
During the Second World War, a woman sewing army uniforms in England would have said that she was fighting Hitler, even though she never actually came within a hundred miles of him, or ever saw him directly. While we may rightly say that we are engaged in a great battle against the devil, we are normally contending against his schemes, and it is important to know what they are (see 2 Corinthians 2:11).
The best way to identify Satan’s schemes is to consider the armor God has given us to defend against them.
The Belt of Truth: Debunking Deception
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth” (Ephesians 6:14).
Satan’s first scheme in the garden was to confuse Eve so that she thought she was doing good when, in reality, she was disobeying the Word of God. Deception is one of Satan’s most successful schemes.
A man is involved in a Bible study, but when he comes home, he may be cold, aloof, and distant. He thinks that he is pleasing God because he is studying the Bible, but he does not see that he is lowering the temperature of his marriage.
A woman may be involved in ministry, but she is arrogant, overbearing, and unpleasant to the people around her. She thinks that she is pleasing God because she is serving, but she is blind to the effect that she has on others.
The enemy will be quite content for you to pray, study and serve the Lord, as long as you don’t discover what he is up to. Your enemy hides his work in a fog of unreality in which you can think yourself spiritual while living in defeat where he is waging the battle. That’s the heart of deception.
The way to stand against deception, is to put on “the belt of truth” (6:14). Paul is not talking about the truth of the Bible here. That comes later when he speaks about “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:17). The belt of truth is what David spoke about when he said, “You delight in truth in the inward being” (Psalm 51:6).
Putting on the belt of truth is an intentional act in which you build specific disciplines into your spiritual life. You practice self-examination. You ask God to search you and show you your own heart. You use the Bible as a mirror. Don’t lie to yourself. Learn to listen to close friends and wise counselors who will speak the truth to you and hold you accountable.
Then review your thought life regularly. Are your thoughts predominantly negative, critical, or self-centered? Can you see lust, greed, bitterness or envy in your heart? Do your thoughts reflect faith in God, or are you giving way to despair? Review your home life. How have you shown love to your spouse in the last week? If you are single, how are you contributing to the lives of the family and friends God has placed around you? Review your reputation at work and at church. How do people experience you?
Questions like these will help you to avoid deception and get in touch with reality. We need to put on the belt of truth because the fastest way to become an ineffective Christian is to live in the shallowness of an unexamined life.
The Breastplate of Righteousness: Combating Compromise
“Stand therefore… having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).
One of Satan’s favorite ways of leading us into compromise is by suggesting that God’s commands are only ideals.
God says: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
We respond: “Yes, but I have good reason to be angry.”
God says: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths…” (Ephesians 4:29).
We respond: “Well, that’s something we can work toward.”
The enemy will be happy if we regard God’s commands as ideals rather than standards. There is a big difference. One of my college professors pointed out the distinction by saying, “It is a standard in this college that the students do not beat up the faculty, and the day people start talking about that being an ideal, I’m out of here!”
A person who calls God’s standards “ideals” has opened the door to a compromised life. This is a scheme of the enemy, and our defense against it is the breastplate of righteousness. This is not the righteousness of Christ that is counted as ours when we come to faith in Him, but the daily, personal choices we must make to do what is right. The only way to prevail in the battle is to determine what is right before God and choose to do it, irrespective of the cost.
The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness are at the top of the list because the first questions to ask in any conflict are: “What is true?” and “What is right?” A father tells his daughter that she must be home by midnight. When she arrives at 2 a.m., he is ready to unload. But first he must find out what is true. It may be that she has flouted his curfew, but it could also be that her car has broken down. If he takes time to discover what is true, he will be able to discern what is right. That principle holds true in any situation of conflict.
The Shoes of the Gospel: Kicking Complacency
“And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace…” (Ephesians 6:15).
Another of the enemy’s schemes is to use our natural love of comfort to keep us from doing anything that might cause significant damage to his kingdom. The way to stand against this scheme is to put on the shoes of the gospel. Shoes are for movement, and putting on these shoes means that you become intentional about advancing the gospel.
The enemy is happy to see the church in slippers, comfortable wear for those who have no intention of going outside. But God calls us to take off our warm slippers and put on sturdy boots. Our calling is not to sing songs by the fireside but to take the gospel to every people.
The Shield of Faith: Avoiding Isolation
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
Roman soldiers protected themselves with two different shields. A small, round shield worn on the forearm was used in hand-to-hand combat, but it did not offer protection against a volley of flaming arrows.
The picture here is of a larger, rectangular shield, four feet high and two feet wide, like a police riot shield. The Romans developed the idea of a phalanx, in which a small group of soldiers would stand together, arranging their shields to form a protective cover around the whole group, rather like the shell of a tortoise.
Satan wants you isolated in the battle. He would love to have you fighting alone against attacks in your mind and in your home that nobody else knows about. But God never intended you to fight alone. Share your struggle with someone you trust who will stand with you. Take the shield of faith and bind yourself together with other believers under its protective cover.
The Helmet of Salvation: Overcoming Discouragement
“Take the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17).
If you are to sustain a lifetime of useful service to Jesus Christ, you will need to overcome discouragement. There will be times when the results of your work will be disappointing. Prayers won’t seem to be answered as you hoped, and you will find yourself facing problems to which there is no obvious answer. Tiredness will cloud your judgment and you may begin to despair.
The New Testament talks about salvation in the past, present and future tense, and when Paul writes about the helmet, he is referring to the hope of future salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8). A student struggling through his or her studies for exams would do well to think about graduation day. And when our problems seem overwhelming, we are to look forward to our ultimate victory.
Paul placed his sufferings alongside the glory that would ultimately be revealed, and concluded that it was well worth the cost of staying in the battle. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18).
- What is your initial reaction to the 4 things that happen to everyone who becomes a Christian?
- If the primary battles of your life are fought in your mind, your home, your work and your church, where is the battle most intense right now?
- Where do you feel most vulnerable in your battle today? In the area of deception, compromise, complacency, isolation, or discouragement?
- What one step could you take in order to stand more firmly in your battle?
- React to this verse: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”
(2 Corinthians 4:17–18).