CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:1. Children, obey.—Until the days of discretion arrive this is the grace of childhood. If through obedience the child errs, the responsibility of that is with those who commanded. It is only a “surrendered soul” that can sing:
“I would be treated as a child,
And guided where I go.”
Ephesians 6:2. Honour thy father and mother.—As long as they are so.
Ephesians 6:3. That it may be well with thee.—If ever “that it may be” could mean “and so it shall be,” we should strenuously plead for that meaning here. For it would be a pitiable thing indeed to find a man showing filial piety as a profitable course.
Ephesians 6:4. Nurture and admonition.—The former word is more general than the latter, including everything that goes to the instruction of the child. “Admonition” is reproof, either of word or punishment, or yet again, warning.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:1-4
Duties of Children and Parents.
I. The duty of children to parents is to obey.—
1. This obedience has the divine sanction. “In the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). Both the command and the obedience must be in harmony with the relation in which both parents and children stand towards God. The parent who has not himself learnt to respect and obey the law of God is ill prepared for the grave responsibilities of family government. Natural affection and the instincts of common sense will guide the parents in the ordinary affairs of home-life, and the sense of dependence and respect should induce instinctive obedience in the child. No parent has any right to enforce an obedience which is not in harmony with the supreme claims of God. The child who submits to the will of his parents is taught at the same time to obey the higher law of God. If he defies parental authority and persists in disobedience, he is sure to be treated in the same way if he ever has children of his own. To be able to govern we must first learn to obey.
2. This obedience is in harmony with natural order and the eternal principles of justice.—“For this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). Obedience is the law of the universe, and without it everything would rush into anarchy and chaos. Law is so all-pervasive as to cover every department and relationship of life, and its breach in any sphere carries with it its own punishment. Disobedience is not only a wrong to the person who commits it, but it is an injustice to somebody else. Obedience to parents in things lawful is no hardship. It is becoming and commendable because it is right. It is the perversity of our nature when it becomes difficult to do right. Disobedience is a wilful divergence from the straight line of rectitude, and is the essence of all sin.
3. This obedience ensures the divine blessing (Ephesians 6:2-3).—It is our duty to obey irrespective of any advantage to be secured. The loyal heart looks, not to the reward, but to the duty. It is no merit to do what it is our duty to do. Yet such is the condescension and goodness of God that He attaches a special blessing to every act of unselfish obedience. Filial obedience should not be dilatory and reluctant, but prompt, cheerful, self-denying, and uniform. Obedience is the path of safety. A pointsman in Prussia was at the junction of two lines of railway, lever in hand, for a train that was signalled. The engine was within a few seconds of reaching the embankment when the man, turning his head, perceived his little boy playing between the rails on which the train was running. He stuck to his lever, but shouted to the child, “Lie down! lie down!” The train passed, and the father rushed forward to pick up what he feared would be the mangled body of his child; but what was his joy to find the boy had at once obeyed his order, had lain down, and the train passed over him without injuring him. His prompt obedience saved his life. Dutiful children secure the blessing of God. Filial obedience practised in the Christian home forms habits of promptitude, self-control, and self respect which are important conditions of success and prosperity.
II. The duty of parents to children is to exercise discipline.—
1. Not by enforcing commands that tend to irritate. “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). Children are a sacred trust and solemn responsibility; not to be weakly fondled or foolishly spoilt, but to be wisely, kindly, and strictly disciplined into obedience and duty. The Chinese have a proverb, when a son is born into a family a bow and arrow are hung before the gate. In Eastern books sons are spoken of as arrows of their fathers. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth” (Psalms 127:4). As the bowman straightens and polishes his arrow, gives it a sharp and solid point, and wings it with feathers, so parents must train and equip their children that they may go straight to the point of duty and hit the mark. The arrows that are not prepared and directed when in the hand may, when they are gone abroad into the world, and all parental training is too late, prove arrows in the heart that will rankle with unspeakable pain. The training of children is also a training of the parent. Many a hint is unconsciously given as to “training up a parent in the way he should go.” While there should be firm discipline, there should not be exasperating and tantalising severity. Rousing a child’s anger is not the best way of subduing it. A sullen submission gained, by provoking and then crushing an angry opposition, is rendered with a sense of injustice and wrong that will breed future mischief. Monod says: “Correction and instruction should proceed from the Lord, and be directed by the Spirit of the Lord in such a way that it is not so much the father who corrects his children and teaches them, as the Lord through him.” The father who chastises in wrath provokes the child to wrath and rebellion.
2. But by judicious religious culture.—“But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Children are the glifts of God to be trained for God. They are susceptible of genuine religious experience, and are often nearer the truth than grown-up people. Christ recognised the spiritual faculty in children, and gave them a conspicuous place in His kingdom. When He wished to show the type of true greatness, He did not point to stars or mountains or earthly dignities, but “called a little child unto Him and, set him in the midst” (Matthew 18:2-4). Children are capable of useful religious service, and in many ways may be little missionaries for Christ. Dr. W. L. Breckenridge once said to his mother: “Mother, I think you ruled us with too rigid a rod in our boyhood. It would have been better had you used gentler methods.” The old lady straightened up and said: “Well, William, when you have raised up three as good preachers as I have then you can talk.” The smaller magnets have proportionately much the greater power, and children have a remarkable spiritual force with which the Christian parent has to deal.
1. Parental discipline should be in harmony with the law of God.
2. The rigour of parental discipline should be tempered with love.
3. Respect and obedience to parents will be divinely rewarded.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:1-4. The Mutual Duties of Children and Parents.
I. Children are to obey and honour their parents.—
1. Children owe to their parents an inward affection and regard. Their obedience should flow from love, gratitude, and esteem. The love parents bear to their children entitles them to reciprocal affection.
2. They are to honour their parents by external tokens of respect.
3. They are to obey the just commands of their parents.
4. They are to receive with decent and humble regard the instructions, counsels, and reproofs of their parents.
5. They should remunerate the favours received from their parents.
6. They are encouraged in their obedience by the divine promise.
II. The duties of parents to children.—
1. To instruct their children in the doctrines and duties of religion.
2. To endeavour by arguments, exhortations, and reproofs to form their lives according to those instructions.
3. To regulate the diversions of their children.
4. To maintain the worship of God in their houses.
5. To let their conversation be exemplary.
6. To train up their children with diligence in some honest business.
7. To commend their children to God and the word of His grace.—Lathrop.
Ephesians 6:1-2. Obedience.—The dutiful obedience of children is declared by God in the fifth commandment to be the foundation of all social happiness and of every social virtue.
I. The behaviour of a child to its parents is no such trifle as too many perverse children and too many foolish parents are prone to fancy it.—How often we hear mothers saying, “It is only the poor child’s way; it is a little pettish and fractious at times, but it means no harm by it. To be sure it does not mind me quite so well as it ought to do; but children will be children.” So the child goes on uncorrected, and grows up disobedient and undutiful—with habits and dispositions so evil that God has classed them with the very worst crimes, with false swearing, theft, adultery, and even murder. If undutifulness in children had been a mere trifle, would God have put it into this black list?
II. Observe the reasonableness and justice of the duty of children to obey their parents.—The child is helpless and entirely dependent on its parents’ care and kindness. So strong and lasting is a mother’s love that, while other animals drive their young away as soon as they can feed themselves, the love of human parents descends and prolongs itself even to their offspring’s offspring. Think of their fears, their wishes, their prayers for your souls’ welfare. Your love to them should be dutiful love, showing itself in acts of gentleness, respect, and kindness, and in the strictest and readiest obedience. Children are bound to obey, not from constraint, nor from fear of blows, but readily, willingly, cheerfully. The obedience paid for fear of stripes is the obedience of a mule, not of a son. What can a child know save what its parents teach it? Its parents for a time stand in the place of God to it; as such, it must believe them and obey them. You may be the better for their experience, you may profit by their warnings, you may learn from their lessons.
III. Observe the use and benefit of obedience in forming the character of the child.—It is in the school of home, amid the little hardships, restraints, crosses, and disappointments which every child must needs meet with, that the great lesson of obedience is best learnt. There is a root of self-will born in every man, and out of this root grow two evil and misshapen stems—pride and disobedience. You may as well expect water to burn and fire to wet, you may as well expect a barren common that has never been ploughed and sown to produce a crop of wheat, as that a child, which has gone on year after year in pride, self-will, and disobedience to its parents, will readily or easily tear off its habits and its nature, to walk humbly and obediently before God. We must cultivate obedience in the child that it may outgrow, overtop, and stifle, or at least keep under, the evil stem of disobedience. We must cultivate humility in him, that it may keep under the evil of pride. We must train and accustom him to habits of steady self-denial, which our Lord has recommended to us as the best yokes for our headstrong and else unmanageable self-will. Thus the fifth commandment is a kind of practical school where the child, in obeying its parents, learns to obey all to whom it owes obedience.—A. W. Hare.
Ephesians 6:4. A Father’s Charge.
I. The duties parents owe to their children.—
1. Children are weak and helpless and totally incapable of caring for themselves—hence arises the first duty which parents owe them, that of feeding and clothing them.
2. Are ignorant and without understanding—hence they should not only be fed but taught.
3. Are unruly, and therefore must be governed.
4. Are prone to evil, and therefore must be restrained.
II. The obligations parents are under to practise these duties.—
1. They should do it for their own sakes.
2. For their children’s sake.
3. For society’s sake.
4. For God’s sake.
1. The practicability of a religious education.
2. How awful is the responsibility of parents—of fathers especially.—Sketches.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:5. Servants, be obedient.—R.V. margin, “bond-servants.” There was One who had “become obedient even unto death,” having taken “the form of a bond-servant” (Philippians 2:7). With fear and trembling.—“With that zeal which is ever keenly apprehensive of not doing enough” (Meyer). The same phrase is used of the way in which our personal salvation is to be worked out (Philippians 2:12).
Ephesians 6:6. Not with eyeservice.—A word used only by St. Paul. The thing it describes is easily recognised to-day.
Ephesians 6:7. With good will doing service.—If a philosopher-slave like Epictetus could rise superior to his condition, surely Christianity could do as much for the humblest believer.
Ephesians 6:8. Knowing that whatsoever good … bond or free.
“This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold,
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.”
Ephesians 6:9. Do the same things unto them.—The utmost application of the “golden rule.” Forbearing threatening “may either mean abating or giving up.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:5-9
The Duties of Servants and Masters.
I. The duty of the servant to the master is to obey.—
1. This obedience is to be rendered with conscientious solicitude. “With fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart; … not with eyeservice, as menpleasers” (Ephesians 6:5-6). There must be a genuine care for our work. “Be obedient, with fear and trembling.” The fear enjoined is no dread of human displeasure, of the master’s whip or tongue. It is the same fear and trembling with which we are bidden to work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12). The inward work of the soul’s salvation and the outward work of the busy hands labouring in the mine, or at the loom, or in the lowliest domestic duties—all alike are to be performed under a solemn responsibility to God and in the presence of Christ, the Lord of nature and of men. No man, whether he be a minister of state or a stable-groom, will dare to do heedless work who lives and acts in that august Presence. The sense of Christ’s Lordship ensures honesty in work. “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers.” It is the common fault and temptation of servants in all degrees to observe the master’s eye, and to work busily or slackly as they are watched or not. Such workmen act as they do because they look to men and not to God. Their work is without conscience and self-respect. Let us all adopt St. Paul’s maxim; it will be an immense economy. What armies of overlookers and inspectors we shall be able to dismiss when every servant works as well behind his master’s back as to his face, when every manufacturer and shopkeeper puts himself in the purchaser’s place and deals as he would have others deal with him (Findlay).
2. This obedience should be cheerful and hearty as rendered unto a higher than an earthly master.—“As unto Christ; … doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:5-7). Obedience should be not only careful and honest, but hearty. The heart is the source of our greatest power. Nothing can be translated into an act that has not first been conceived and set in motion by the heart. As the stroke of the piston sets in motion the most complicated machinery and produces certain results, so the throb of the heart brings all our activities into play and gives direction and character to our work. The worth of our work as a whole will be decided by the heartiness we throw into every single duty. Workmanship counts for much. I have read of a chain, weighing two ounces, costing £170, being 163,000 times more than the value of the original bit of iron from which it was made. The work of the artist made all the difference; he put into it his best self, his heart, his genius. So in the works of the divine Creator. The symmetry, the beauty, the perfect balance and shining magnificence of the world are the result of the patient work and hearty enthusiasm with which the great Architect has put together and finished the most minute parts of the planet.
3. Genuine obedience is always rewarded.—“Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). Even in this world conscientious work is not without reward. “In all labour there is profit. The diligent hand maketh rich.” A stationer settling a large account with a paper-manufacturer, said: “I owe all my success in business to you; but let me ask you how a man of your caution came to give credit so readily to a beginner of my slender means?” “Because,” said the paper-maker, “at whatever hour in the morning I passed to my business, I always observed you at yours with your coat off.” Work gives character, and is the pathway to success and wealth. But in the world to come, when servant and master stand before the bar of Christ, reward will be equitably meted out according to the work of each.
II. The duty of the master is to act towards his servant on the same principles as obedience to himself is regulated.—“And, ye masters, do the same things unto them” (Ephesians 6:9). The master is to put himself in the place of his servant, and act towards him as he would desire to be treated if their positions were reversed. It is a practical application of the great rule, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them”—a rule we are in danger of interpreting on one side only: our own side.
1. To avoid irritating severity.—“Forbearing threatening” (Ephesians 6:9). The slave in early times was treated as scarcely human, and was ruled by the fear of punishment. Christianity in the beginning did not interfere with domestic slavery; but it introduced principles which, wherever, adopted utterly abolished slavery. The Christian master cannot act on the policy of cruelty, but treats his servants with justice and kindness.
2. To remember that both are servants of a higher and impartial Master.—“Knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him” (Ephesians 6:9). A party of friends setting out together upon a journey soon find it to be the best for all sides that while they are upon the road one of the company should wait upon the rest, another ride forward to seek out lodging and entertainment, a third carry the portmanteau, a fourth take charge of the horses, a fifth bear the purse, conduct, and direct the route; not forgetting, however, that as they were equal and independent when they set out, so they are all to return to a level again at their journey’s end. The same regard and respect, the same forbearance, lenity, and reserve in using their service, the same mildness in delivering commands, the same study to make their journey comfortable and pleasant which he whose lot it was to direct the rest would in common decency think himself bound to observe towards them, ought we to show to those who, in the casting of the parts of human society, happen to be placed within our power or to depend upon us (Paley). Master and man must give an account to Him who will judge every act according to its merit.
1. Masters and servants are amenable to divine law.
2. Neither master nor servant gains any advantage by tactics that violate divine law.
3. Where the Christian spirit predominates trade disputes will soon be satisfactorily settled.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:5-9. The Duties of Servants and Masters.
I. The duties of servants.—
1. To be obedient to their masters. This must be understood with the same limitation as all other commands enjoining relative duties. We are to obey God rather than men. Servants no further obey their masters according to the will of God than they make His will the rule and measure of their obedience to their masters.
2. Servants owe their masters reverence as well as obedience.
3. There is an honour, as well as fear, due to their masters.
4. Cheerfulness in their obedience is recommended by the apostle.
5. Diligence of faithfulness is another duty which they owe to their masters.
6. They are to be patient and submissive, though they meet with usage more severe than they think reasonable, not breaking their own obligations, or deserting their master’s service for trivial causes, but bearing his smaller indiscretions without complaint, and in cases of real injury seeking relief in a prudent manner and by lawful means.
7. In all their service they should act with an aim to please God and to obtain His approbation.
II. The duties of masters to their servants.—
1. Their government is to be mild and prudent, not passionate and severe.
2. With respect to apprentices, the contract binds the master not only to give them comfortable support, but to instruct them in his business and profession.
3. With respect to labourers, justice obliges us to give them the stipulated wages when they have faithfully performed the promised service.
4. With respect to all servants, equity requires that we treat them with humanity and kindness, and contribute all proper assistance to render them useful, virtuous, and happy.—Lathrop.
Ephesians 6:6-8.—Christian Servitude.—
1. To propose to ourselves the pleasing of men as our great design is inconsistent with the work of grace in the heart and with that subjection we owe to Christ. The meanest service is service done to Christ, and will be accepted by Him as such. 2. So ingrate is man, and so slow to reward those from whom he receives favour, that a man can never heartily do service to the most of men, except he look to God, whom to serve in the meanest employment is a reward in itself.
3. The Lord in dispensing rewards looks not to the external beauty, splendour, or greatness of the work, but to the honesty and sincerity of it.—Fergusson.
Ephesians 6:9. Masters accountable to God.—
1. There is no power among men so absolute—not that of kings and supreme rulers—but implies an obligation, through virtue of God’s ordinance, on those invested with it to make conscience of duties towards their inferiors and subjects.
2. As it is usual for powers on earth sinfully to oversee and not to punish the cruel and unjust dealings of masters towards servants, so those sins most connived at by men are most severely taken notice of by God.
3. It is too ordinary for men in place and authority to carry themselves as if they had none above them to be accountable to, or to dream that the Lord will not take such strict account of them as of their underlings and servants.—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:11. The whole armour.—“The panoply.” “A complete suit of armour.” The wiles of the devil.—A craftily designed plan of attack.
Ephesians 6:12. For we wrestle.—We need not suppose a transference of the metaphor. It may describe the hand-to-hand fight in which equally matched opponents refuse to back an inch. Not against flesh and blood.—With “vulnerable crests” (Macbeth). When ghostly combatants appear, unassailable, and with powers of injury against which we are helpless, we may well say:
“Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:10-12
The Christian Warfare—
I. Can be fought only with divine help.—“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). The apostle has dwelt like one enraptured on the sublime constitution and glorious destiny of the Church; now he deals with the formidable foes with which the Church will have to contend. He sees the evil forces gathering, and hears the clash of arms among the approaching enemies. He warns believers that unaided they will be powerless in the strife and must suffer defeat. They are secure and will be victorious only as they make the strength of God their own. The strength of the general, in other hosts, lies in his troops; he flies, as a great commander once said, upon their wings; if their feathers be clipped, their power broken, he is lost. But in the Christian army the strength of every saint lies in the Lord of hosts. God can overcome His enemies without their hands; but they cannot even defend themselves without His arm. Man is impotent without the strength of God. If the ship, launched, rigged, and with her sails spread, cannot stir till the wind fills them, much less can the timber in the carpenter’s yard hew and frame itself into a ship. Power to contend with the spiritual foes must come from God.
II. Involves a fierce conflict with the powers of evil.—
1. A conflict, not with men, but with unseen spiritual enemies. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities” (Ephesians 6:12). The apostle brings out in bold relief the terrible foes they are summoned to encounter.
(1) As to their position. They are no subalterns, but foes of mighty rank, the nobility and chieftains of the spirit-world.
(2) Their office. Their domain is this darkness in which they exercise imperial sway.
(3) Their essence. They are not encumbered with an animal frame, but are spirits.
(4) Their character. They are evil—their appetite for evil only exceeds their capacity for producing it (Eadie). The Church is engaged in a double conflict—of the flesh and of the spirit. We are assailed with the temptations of the world of sense, and with seductions of error that attack us in the world of mind; and in both spheres we have to contend with the subtle influences set in motion by the rulers of the darkness of this world. Our foes invade “the high places” of our faith and hope, and would rob us of our heaven.
2. A conflict with unseen spiritual enemies led by an astute and subtle commander.—“That ye may be able to withstand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). The New Testament assumes the personality of Satan. This belief runs counter to modern thought, governed as it is by the tendency to depersonalise existence. The conception of evil spirits given us in the Bible is treated as an obsolete superstition; and the name of the evil one with multitudes serves only to point a profane or careless jest. To Jesus Christ, Satan was no figure of speech, but a thinking and active being, of whose presence and influence He saw tokens everywhere in this evil world. Satan’s empire is ruled with a settled policy, and his warfare carried on with a system of strategy which takes advantage of every opening for attack. The manifold combinations of error, the various arts of seduction and temptation, the ten thousand forms of the deceit of unrighteousness constitute “the wiles of the devil.” Satan is no longer the God of this world since Christianity lose to its ascendant. The manifestations of demonism are, at least in Christian lands, vastly less conspicuous than in the first age of the Church. But they are more bold than wise who deny their existence, and who profess to explain all occult phenomena and phrenetic moral aberrations by physical causes (Findlay).
III. Is victorious only as the warrior is armed with the divine panoply.—“Put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11). They who put on Christ are well clothed; they are armed from head to foot, and are proof against the darts of the devil. The Christless man is defenceless; his own understanding and gifts do not sufficiently arm him. The soldier comes into the field with no arms but what his general commands: it is not left to every one’s fancy to bring what weapons he pleases; this would breed confusion. So the Christian soldier must put on the armour God provides, and be completely clothed with it. To leave one part unguarded will bring disaster. In one of the famous battles between the English and French, that which lost France the day was a shower of English arrows which so galled the horses that they became unmanageable, put the whole army into disorder, and trod down their own men. So if there be the least loophole in our armour the wily adversary will quickly discover it and shoot through his fiery darts which will effect confusion and defeat.
1. The Christian life is a conflict between good and evil.
2. God is always on the side of the good.
3. The Christian warrior must fight with weapons divinely provided.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:10-12. A Call to Christian Fortitude.
I. Here is an exhortation to Christian fortitude.—“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” It is not bodily but mental strength which is here intended. True fortitude or courage is a temper of mind by which we steadily follow the calls of duty, without being deterred by danger or diverted by difficulty. It is a virtue founded in a regard to God and supported by faith in Him. It is cool and deliberate, not rash and impetuous; it is kind and compassionate, not cruel and revengeful; it is steady and patient, not fickle and inconstant; it continues in well-doing, persuaded that its labour is not in vain.
II. A warning against the enemies to be opposed.—The apostle mentions two sorts of enemies.
1. The first he calls flesh and blood.—The motions of our animal nature. The phrase may further intend those sensible objects which are suited to gratify fleshly desires; or it may intend mankind, who are partakers of flesh and blood.
2. The other kind of enemies with whom we are to contend are evil spirits.—These spirits are enemies to mankind. Their number is great, and the terms used denote a subordination among them. They are not divided against themselves, but act in concert under the direction of one leading spirit, who is called the devil and Satan. They have great power over such as submit to their dominion. Their chief influence is over the ignorant and superstitious. They most successfully carry on their designs in the dark. When the gospel began to shine, Satan began to fall. Among those who reject the gospel he recovers his full dominion.—Lathrop.
Ephesians 6:11-12. The Christian Warfare.
I. Consider the danger to which we are exposed.—As in other cases so it is in this: our greatest danger lies in not feeling our danger, and so not being prepared to meet it.
1. View the enemy we have to contend with.—He is one who bears an inveterate hatred against us, and seeks nothing less than our destruction or eternal overthrow.… He hates us as God’s creatures, but especially as those who have been rescued from his power and taken up arms against him; nothing now will satisfy him but our eternal ruin.… It is therefore a struggle of life for life; if we do not overcome him, he will overcome us. It is in vain to think of being neuter, or making peace with him.
2. He is mightier than we are; and unless we have help from above, we are no match for him.… We know but little of the power of wicked spirits, abstractly considered; but viewed as the god of this world, Satan has all its temptations in alliance with him.
3. He is an artful enemy.… We are told of the “wiles of the devil,” hiding his designs, and falling upon us when we least expect it. We are in his net before we are aware, and when Providence seems to smile upon us (Deuteronomy 8:12).… He studies our propensities, and suits his temptations to them (Ephesians 4:14).
4. He is invisible.… If he were “flesh and blood,” like ourselves, we might beware; but his influence is like the mighty pestilence, which walks in darkness.… When least suspected, danger is nigh.
5. He is near us, as it were, within our gates. The safety of a nation menaced by an enemy often depends on his being kept at a distance, by walls or seas, or fortresses of defence. But here it is supposed that the enemy has entered into our borders, and that we have no other resource left but to struggle as it were for life.…
6. What is still worse, he has a strong party within us.
7. On the issue of this warfare depend all our hopes.—If we “stand” not in this, our loss when defeated can never be retrieved.
II. The armour provided for us.—
1. In general, this armour is the grace of the gospel believed and trusted in. In common warfare it is usual for the commanders to persuade their enemies to think highly of their strength; but in this it is quite the reverse. We must go as Israel was always taught to do, as having no might of our own, but deriving all our strength from the Lord.
2. It is described as a whole or perfect armour.—Sufficient to defend us in every part.… “Truth” is the girdle to strengthen us; “righteousness” a breastplate; the “gospel” of peace as shoes, by which we shall be able to trample upon the lion and the adder, the young lion and the dragon; “faith” is a shield; “salvation,” or the hope of eternal life, a helmet.… All this armour is to be drawn from the truths of the everlasting gospel.
3. The use to be made of it is, that we may be able to “withstand,” and to face the enemy. There is no armour for the back; he that fleeth is wholly defenceless, and must inevitably fall.
III. The necessity of putting on this armour.—Armour is of no avail, unless it be used. The application of the gospel is that which proves our security.
IV. The inducement to put on this armour.—“That we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Many neglecting this armour have been foiled in the day of battle.—Theological Sketch Book.
Ephesians 6:11. The Wiles of the Devil.
I. Some of those artifices by which the devil entices men to sin.—
1. He often presents to man the pleasing advantages of sin, while its judicial consequences are kept in the background. Sin is often presented to man under the form of virtue or religion. The names of sins are changed in order that their natures may seem changed. Sin is thus recommended to the more tender conscience. The vileness and criminality of sin are often extenuated to man by plausible excuses. They need an apology—youth, old age, strong temptation, a desire to please, to prevent loss of place, provision for a family, etc. The inconsistencies of the acknowledged people of God are often pleaded as an apology for sin. The falls of God’s people have been recorded for good; but the record has been perverted to evil. A legitimate use of the record is to prevent despair on the part of God’s people who have fallen. But, by Satan, the beacon has been converted into a decoy.
2. The sinner is often freed from his difficulties in sinning by false views of God’s character and of the design of Christ’s work.—God is regarded as a Being of mere mercy. Christ is thought of as saving from sin’s consequences, rather than from sin itself. The individual is often persuaded to expose himself to temptation, under the impression that he will resist it.
II. Some of the artifices by which he entices men from the performance of positive duty.—
1. Many are restrained from duties by a consideration of their hardness in themselves (Matthew 10:34-39).
2. Many are persuaded to let duty alone, on account of the sacrifices which a performance of it involves.
3. Argument against a full devotedness to the service of God may sometimes be drawn from the fewness and meanness of those who are engaged in it (John 7:48).
5. The worth and value of all performances are taken away by the trust in them for righteousness to which Satan prompts the heart.—Stewart.
Ephesians 6:12. The Invisible Enemies of Man.
I. Spiritual forces are much greater, much more efficient, much more formidable than any mere material forces.—A strong will is a more formidable thing than the most highly developed muscle. An idea which appeals to the intelligence and heart of the multitude is likely to do more work and to wield a greater sway in the end than any number of batteries and parks of artillery. It is in the encounter, not of brute force with conscience and with thought, but in the encounter of ideas with ideas, in the encounter of wills with wills, that the destiny of the world is ultimately decided. St. Paul knew that the Church had to contend with the thought and the reason of paganism much more truly than with its proconsuls and its legions; and as he wrote to the Ephesians, he did not mean merely human principalities and powers, since he contrasts the beings of whom he is speaking with mere flesh and blood.
II. Behind all that met the eye in daily life the apostle discovered another world that did not meet the eye.—He discerned other forms hovering, guiding, marshalling, arranging, inspiring that which met the eye. “Do not let us deceive ourselves,” he cries, “as if we had only to encounter so many social or political forces, so many human minds and wills, so many human errors, human prejudices, human traditions, human passions; our real enemies are not human, they lie in ambush behind the manifold activities of man; they are really supersensuous. Two great departments of moral life among men are watched over, each one of them beyond the sphere of human life, by beings of greater power, greater intelligence, greater intensity of purpose than man in the world of spirits. These spiritual beings, good and evil, act upon humanity as clearly, as certainly, and as constantly as man himself acts upon the lower creatures around. It is not any mere disposition, inseparable from the conditions of human thought, to personify, to externalise passion, which has peopled the imagination of Christendom with demons. It is within ourselves that we meet now, as the first Christians met, the onset of the principalities and powers. It is in resisting them, in driving from us in the name of Christ the spirits of untruthfulness, of sloth, of anger, and of impure desire, that we really contribute our little share to the issue of the great battle that rages still.”
III. To love truth and righteousness is to hate their contraries.—Hatred of evil is distinct from any hatred of those who do evil, and who are objects of sincere sorrow, and have claims on Christian charity. The easy tolerance of moral evil is one of the most alarming features of our day. Only when the struggle with evil is a matter of personal experience do we hate it, and enter even remotely into the apostle’s stern language about its agents and its champions.—H. P. Liddon.
The Enemies of Believers.
I. The enemies referred to are here described as numerous.—
1. They are here spoken of in the plural number, as they are also in other passages: “The angels which kept not their first estate,” “The devil and his angels.” The names here employed are collective, and imply numbers. We read of a single person being possessed with many devils.
2. Hence the whole world has been filled with their worship and studded with their temples.
3. Hence the strength of the temptations with which each one is tried.
4. Hence the intensity of human wickedness.
5. Hence the need of watchfulness.
II. The enemies here spoken of are represented as being in a kind of subordination the one to the other—there are “principalities.”—
1. There may be remains among them of that diversity of rank which originally existed.
2. It may be a submission called for by difference of intellectual and innate power.
3. It may be made conducive to the more successful waging of the war in which they are engaged—giving unity of aim, of plan, of co-operation. They leave no point neglected; turn all their strength to account. All unity is not of God.
III. The enemies here described are singly and as detached mighty for evil.—They are “powers.”
1. Power intellectual.
2. Power physical.
3. Power directed.
4. Collective power.
IV. The apostle characterises these adversaries as the rulers of the darkness of this world.—
1. Here a limitation of Satan’s dominion is expressed. “Rulers of the darkness of this world”—of the hiding and blinding errors which abound—of those deceived and misled.
2. It is as the prince of darkness that he contends, using falsehood and the wicked as his instruments.
V. The enemies are spiritual in their nature.—
1. They are intelligent and crafty.
3. Active and unwearied.
VI. They are wicked spirits.—
1. They are in themselves wicked.
2. They would make others wicked.
3. They employ the most wicked means.
1. Watch. 2. Pray.
4. Stand fast.—Stewart.
I. The nature and properties of evil angels.—
1. Their original properties were the same as those of the holy angels.
2. We do not know either the occasion of their apostasy or what effect it immediately produced upon them.
3. From the time they shook off their allegiance to God, they shook off all goodness, and contracted those tempers which are most hateful to Him and most opposite to His nature.
4. In the prosecution of their infernal designs they are diligent in the highest degree.
5. They do not wander at large, but are all united under one common head.
II. The employment of evil angels.—
1. They are, as far as God permits, the governors of the world.
2. Satan and all his angels are continually warring against us, and watching over every child of man.
3. By them the foolish hearts of those who know not God are darkened.
4. They hinder every good word and work.
5. There is no evil done, spoke, or thought without the assistance of the devil.
6. Such is the malice of the wicked one that he will torment whom he cannot destroy. In all these instances we say “the devil,” as if there was only one, because these spirits, innumerable as they are, all act in concert, and because we know not whether one or more are concerned in this or that work of darkness.—Wesley.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:14. Stand therefore.—The words ring short and sharp as a bugle-call. Loins girt about with truth.—“To speak of a well-equipped warrior without a girdle is a contradictio in adjecto, for it was just the girdle which produced the free bearing and movement and the necessary attitude of the warrior” (Meyer). “Truth is a subjective conception corresponding with the eternal realities” (Beet). Breastplate of righteousness.—“As the actual warrior has protected the breast when he has laced the corslet over his chest, so with you righteousness … renders your breast (heart and will) inaccessible to the hostile influence of the demons” (Meyer).
“He is but naked though locked up in steel
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.”
Ephesians 6:15. Feet shod.—Ensuring agility and a firm foothold. Preparation of the gospel of peace.—“Preparation” might perhaps give way to “preparedness.” St. Paul does not mind a paradox. “What hast thou to do with peace?” said one soldier to another; but the herald was a soldier too.
Ephesians 6:16. Above all, taking the shield.—Large enough to block the entrance to a doorway—being about four feet by two and a half. The lighter missiles were harmless against a roof of these shields over-lapped. They were of wood, thickly coated with leather. Quench the fiery darts.—“Arrows tipped with inflammable material, and shot off after having been kindled” (Meyer).
Ephesians 6:17. Take the helmet of salvation.—For the large shield might leave the head exposed to the archer’s aim. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.—How effectual in fence and thrust it was in the hands of the Captain of our salvation, the “world-ruler” had experienced.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:13-17
The Christian Warrior equipped.
I. He is clothed from head to foot with defensive armour.—
1. The girdle of truth. “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth” (Ephesians 6:14). The military girdle was the belt or cincture with which the warrior braced himself round the waist, to tighten and keep every part of his armour in its true place, that there might not be anything loose and trailing about him to encumber his movements. Everything about him must be tense and firm, that he may be prepared to receive the attack of the enemy, however suddenly and powerfully made, and to act with decision and concentrated energy. So the Christian warrior must be strengthened and sustained with the girdle of truth. The truth of the gospel must be known and conscientiously embraced, so that we may detect the numerous foes that error is constantly letting loose upon us, and be able to attack and conquer them. To cast away our girdle is to incapacitate ourselves for the combat, and to expose ourselves to wounds and defeat. Conscious integrity inspires the spiritual warrior with confidence and bravery. “Let this be my brazen wall, that no man can reproach me with a crime, and that I am conscious of my own integrity.” On the truth we take our stand, and by the truth we stand. If we keep the truth, the truth will keep us, and we shall not be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” “The luxury of agnosticism, the languors of doubt, the vague sympathies and hesitant eclecticism in which delicate and cultured minds are apt to indulge; the lofty critical attitude as of some intellectual god sitting above the strife of creeds, which others find congenial—these are conditions of mind unfit for the soldier of Christ Jesus. He must have sure knowledge, definite and decided purposes—a soul girdled with truth.”
2. The breastplate of righteousness.—“And having on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). The military breastplate or cuirass was the chief piece of defensive armour. It consisted of two parts or wings: one covered the whole region of the thorax and protected the vital organs of the body, and the other covered the back as far down as the front part extended. As the breastplate guarded the vital functions contained within the region of the thorax, so righteousness—the life of God in the soul of man—defends everything on which the spiritual existence and triumph of the Christian warrior depend. Righteousness—conscious integrity of character—is an impenetrable mail from which the missiles of the enemy fall pointless. Rectitude of life is an invulnerable defence against the most furious attacks of calumny and oppression: it is an immovable rock that breaks up the dark billows of opposition into clouds of helpless spray.
3. The greaves, or feet-guards.—“Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). The military greaves or brazen boots covered the shin or front of the leg. A kind of solen was often used which covered the sole and laced about the instep, preventing the foot from being wounded by thorns or rugged ways, and giving firmness and security to the foothold. Thus shod, the warrior would take his stand with safety, or move with alertness over all sorts of ground. Being “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” indicates that the Christian soldier is ever ready to move with expedition and willingness in publishing the good tidings of peace. The Israelites were commanded to eat the passover with their feet shod to show that they were ready for their journey. Christ commanded His messengers to be shod with sandals, that they might be ready to go and proclaim the gospel wherever they were sent. The Christian warrior is on his way through a strange and hostile country, and should be every moment not only prepared to proceed, but be every moment in actual progress, proclaiming peace on his way to the land of eternal peace. Progress in truth is made by being firmly established in its principles; every advancing step is taken with confidence and with the air of one who is assured of the ground on which he is treading. The gospel of peace establishes peace between God and man, and proclaims goodwill and peace to the universe. “The objection that the apostle is addressing the faithful at large who are not all of them called to preach the gospel is mistaken. Every believer should be prepared to witness for Christ so often as opportunity affords and needs a readiness thereto. The knowledge of Christ’s peace qualifies him to convey its message. He brings it with him into the strife of the world. And it is the consciousness that he possesses himself such peace, and has it to communicate to others, which enables him to walk firmly and with sure step in the way of faith” (Von Hofmann). We preserve the truth by spreading it; and the best defence against the enemies of the truth is to persuade them to accept the gospel of peace. The Christian warrior is not a fighter, but a peacemaker.
4. The shield of faith.—“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). The shield signified is not the small round buckler or targe of the light-armed man, but the oblong, doorlike shield, measuring four feet by two and a half, and curved to the shape of the body, that the Greek hoplite and the Roman legionary carried. Joined together, these large shields formed a wall, behind which a body of troops could hide themselves from the rain of the enemy’s missiles. These military shields were made of wood, covered on the outside with thick leather, which not only deadened the shock of the missile, but protected the frame of the shield from the fire-tipped darts used in the artillery of the ancients. So faith is the shield of the Christian soldier, defending him from the fierce attacks of the foe, from within and without. By “the fiery darts of the wicked” the apostle may allude to the darts called falarica, which were headed with lead, in or about which some combustible stuff was placed that took fire in the passage of the arrow through the air, and often burnt up the enemies’ ships and engines, or stuck in the shields and set them on fire. The shield of faith cannot be pierced or destroyed by the fiercest fires of hatred or malice. The arrows of the wicked, flaming with cruelty, are caught on this shield, blunted, and extinguished.
5. The helmet of salvation.—“And take the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). The helmet was the armour for the head, was of various forms, and embossed with a great variety of figures. On the top of the helmet was the crest or ridge, adorned with several emblematic figures, either for ornament or to strike terror. The apostle may refer to a helmet which had an emblematic representation of hope—that the person who wore it should be safe, should be prosperous in all his engagements, and escape unhurt from battle. So the hope of conquering every adversary, and surmounting every difficulty by the salvation of the gospel, is a helmet that protects the head, and is of such impenetrable texture as the blow of the battle-axe cannot cleave. The hope of continual safety and protection, built on the promises of the gospel, protects the understanding from being confused by the subtle attacks of Satan or the sophisms of unbelief. Salvation guards the whole man, the head and heart, and is both helmet and shield.
II. He is armed with an all-potent offensive weapon.—“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The military swords were of various sizes, and in the earliest times were made of brass. The swords of Homer’s heroes were all of this metal. Great dexterity was acquired in the use of the sword, and an expert swordsman was an antagonist greatly dreaded. The word of God is the offensive weapon wielded by the Christian combatant. It is called the sword of the Spirit, because it comes from the Holy Spirit, and receives its fulfilment in the soul through the operations of the Spirit, who alone can teach its potent use. Facility in quoting the word in times of temptation and trial enables the spiritual warrior to cut in pieces the snares of the adversary. The shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit are the principal armour of the soul. The enemies of the cross of Christ fall humiliated and defeated under the powerful strokes of the Spirit’s sword. There are times when the Christian soldier must not only stand on the defensive, but must lead the attack with unflinching bravery on the forces of evil. He is safe only by slaying the enemy.
III. He is fully prepared to resist and conquer his terrible opponents.—“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” (Ephesians 6:13). Stand is the spiritual battle-cry. Being armed, defend your liberties, maintain your rights, discomfort your spiritual foes, hold your ground against them, never put off your armour, but be ever standing ready to repel any new attack. The defence is necessary, for the evil day is at hand, is already dawning. The early Church had its evil day of persecution and defection, and the Church of to-day is threatened by an evil day of subtlest error. The unwary and supine will go down before the forces of evil, and only the brave and steadfast will survive.
1. The Christian armour is invulnerable.
2. The Christian warrior must attack as well as defend.
3. The Christian warrior can conquer only as he uses the armour provided.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:13-17. The Christian’s Armour.—St. Paul lay in prison at Rome, bound with a chain to the Roman trooper who watched him day and night. He employed his prison hours in writing. It was very natural that his language, like his thoughts, should be coloured here and there by the objects around him; and we find that whilst writing this circular epistle to the Ephesians his eye had actually been resting on the soldier to whom he was chained. In the outfit of the Roman legionary he saw the symbol of the supernatural dress which befits the Christian. The ornamented girdle or balteus, bound around the loins, to which the sword was commonly attached, seemed to the apostle to recall the inward practical acknowledgment of truth, which is the first necessity in the Christian character. The metal breastplate suggests the moral rectitude or righteousness which enables a man to confront the world. The strong military sandals spoke of the readiness to march in the cause of that gospel whose sum and substance was not war, but spiritual even more than social peace. And then the large oblong, oval, wooden shield, clothed with hides, covering well-nigh the whole body of the bearer, reminded him of Christian faith, upon which the temptations of the evil one, like the ancient arrows, tipped as they often were with inflammable substances, would light harmlessly and lose their deadly point; and then the soldier’s helmet, pointing upwards to the skies, was a natural figure of Christian hope directed towards a higher and better world; and then the sword at his side, by which he won safety and victory in the day of battle, and which you will observe is the one aggressive weapon mentioned in this whole catalogue—what was it but the emblem of that word of God which wins such victories on the battle-fields of conscience, because it pierces, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth? Thus girded, thus clad, thus shod, thus guarded, thus covered, thus armed, the Christian might well meet his foes. He was indeed more than a match for them, and might calmly await their onset.—H. P. Liddon.
The Whole Armour of God.
I. Truth.—“Having your loins girt about with truth.” By truth is intended sincerity in our Christian profession, or a firm belief of and full consent to the gospel of Christ. A rational conviction of its truth, joined with a sense of its importance, is our best security against apostasy in the evil day.
II. Righteousness.—“And having on the breastplate of righteousness.” A holy and inoffensive life will prevent many injuries. It will command the reverence of bad and the compassion of good men. It will obtain the protection of God’s providence and the supports of His grace. It will preserve peace and serenity of conscience under the reproaches of a malignant world.
III. Peace.—“Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” This peaceable disposition is a preparation for the trials of an evil day, and an excellent defence against the asperities of our Christian path. This will go on before us to smooth the rough passages of life, or attend us to guard our feet against the sticks and traps which our enemies cast in our way. Possessed of this disposition we shall give no offence and provoke no injuries by an insolent, overbearing behaviour.
IV. Faith.—“Above all, taking the shield of faith.” Faith is a grace of universal influence. It is the basis of all Christian graces. It is the groundwork of all religion in the heart. Faith is a more effectual defence against the temptations of Satan and the world than the shields of the mighty against the darts and spears of their enemies.
V. Hope.—“And take the helmet of salvation.” The hope of salvation. God brings salvation. We appropriate it by hope. We must fight the good fight of faith in hope that the Captain of salvation will support us in the conflict and lead us to victory.
VI. Knowledge.—“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The divine word is called the sword of the Spirit because it is rendered effectual by the Spirit in slaying the fleshly lusts and repelling the outward temptations which war against the soul.
1. We see of what importance it is that we have the power of religion in our hearts.
2. It concerns us to live much in the exercise of faith.
3. Let us exercise our courage according to the various exigencies of the Christian life.—Lathrop.
The Duty of Believers in the Evil Day.
I. The time to which the exhortation refers—the evil day.—
1. By the evil day we are clearly to understand the season of temptation. When “we wrestle.”
2. This evil day may be understood of life itself.—“Few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage.” Man is tempted till his death.
3. The evil day may refer to seasons during which temptation is peculiarly strong.—With our first parents whilst they listened to Satan. With Christ in the wilderness—near death (John 14:30).
4. Of such seasons we have many examples in Scripture.—The lives of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, Lot, Samson, David, Asa, Hezekiah, Peter, Demas.
5. Such seasons each believer can mark in his history.—They are generally turning-points. They are attended by every variety of outward circumstances, prosperity, adversity, society, solitude, health, sickness.
6. With the wicked such days are evil.—Days of suffering, of danger, of backsliding, of apostasy, of dishonour to Christ, and triumph to the world and to all the enemies of Christ.
7. This season of temptation is short.—A day. We should not grow weary.
8. Though it be short it is important.—The day of battle is generally most important in its results. So in spiritual warfare. The temptation in Eden, etc.
II. The duty which falls to be performed in the evil day.—
1. To withstand.
(1) This has reference to Satan as an assailant.
(2) It binds us to resistance, i.e., to perform the duty from which Satan dissuades, to refuse the sin which he recommends, to hold fast that which we have, and to reject that which he offers in exchange (Revelation 3:2).
2. To proceed from the defensive to the offensive.—“Having done all,” or “conquered all.”
(1) The believer, as “the good soldier of Christ,” is, like his Master, to be an assailant.
(2) By attacking, Satan discovers himself; and the believer, having resisted, may gain an advantage. When his stronghold in the heart is found out, it may be pulled down. Is it pride? (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
(3) Satan can be contended against only by carrying on an offensive warfare—in the heart, in the world. The Romans could be conquered only in Italy.
3. That having resisted and conquered, we still stand.—
(1) Though repulsed, Satan is not slain, his resources are not exhausted, “his wrath” continues.
(2) We must therefore “stand” after victory. Our armour must be kept on. We must be vigilant. We must be in an attitude for the fight.
III. The preparation necessary to the performance of the peculiar duties of the evil day.—
1. The evil day is a day of war, and hence its duties and the kind of preparation called for.
2. There are three things to be noticed in the account of the believer’s preparation.—
(1) He must be armed—divine grace. An unarmed soldier a contradiction; he is useless for duty, exposed to death.
(2) He must be completely armed. For defence and for offence.
(3) His armour must be that “of God.” Human virtues will not do. Human energies will not do.—Stewart.
Ephesians 6:14. The Girdle of Truth.
I. Honesty and truthfulness of character.—Love of truth as being from God, hatred of lies as being from the devil—this is a primary condition of being strong in the Lord. Nothing can be more injurious to the character of the Christian religion than the suspicion that it shuns examination, that its claims are in antagonism with demonstrated truth. There is a kind of false liberalism concerning religious truth. It is easy for a man to fancy his loins are girt about with truth when the fact is they are girt about with indifference; and a person so armed may assume an attitude of impartiality with regard to religious questions because he cares nothing concerning the issue; and sometimes it seems to be assumed that a writer possesses a virtue, compensating for all vices, if he is apparently free from all bias either for or against revealed truth. The true path is taken by him who, strong in his own faith and love, fears no honest investigation, and shrinks from adopting in matters of religion any tone of thought or line of argument which he cannot justify upon the broadest grounds of calm judgment and sober reason.
II. But the words of the apostle refer not only to truthfulness, but to truth itself, to that which we know to be true.—It would be unworthy of an apostle if he should include under the title of truth, necessary for the protection of a Christian champion, all human knowledge which is rightly so called. Do not consider that the progress you make in human knowledge lies beside your path as Christians. As members of Christ, as His soldiers and servants, take a nobler view of your work than that. Christ has taken the elements of this world and sanctified them for Himself; there is nothing really secular but what is evil, and all that is not evil ought to be used on the side of truth.
III. The apostle has in mind that definite form of revealed truth which in Scripture is described as emphatically the truth.—The great doctrine of godliness, the incarnation of the eternal Son, and all those truths which flow from this one mysterious spring. While there is no antagonism between Scriptural and human knowledge, there is a wide difference between the sources from which they are derived, the evidences by which they are established, and the conditions of their being rightly apprehended. Whereas other knowledge is the slow accumulation of the experience of ages, and the result of the guesses and labours of gifted men, and is consequently an ever-growing and changing body of truth, Christian truth admits of no change and no growth. It admits of application to new circumstances; it admits too of growth, between the limits of a mustard seed and a full-grown tree, in its subjective apprehension by each believing heart; but objectively it knows neither diminution nor expansion, it is ever one and indivisible, because it resolves itself ultimately into the one great mysterious fact, the manifestation of God in human flesh. No amount of argument would ever turn religious belief into religious life, if the articles of the creed did not attest their divinity by filling up the void of the human heart and by their constraining influence on human conduct; and, on the other hand, no religion could maintain its ground and command the assent of thinking men, unless its historical claims and its objective truth would stand the test of the severest scrutiny. The truth of Christ rests upon both grounds; and because this is so we are bound to gird it about our loins as our only sure support in our conflict with the spiritual wickedness of this world, our support in the hour of death, our support in the day of judgment.—Harvey Goodwin.
Truth the Girdle of the Christian.
I. The particular grace which is here mentioned—truth.—
1. By this exhortation we might understand that we must in all things act according to truth or what is truth. This implies the knowledge of truth, the yielding up of ourselves to truth, so as to embody it.
2. By the truth we may understand sincerity.—Being in appearance what we are in reality, seeming to follow what we do follow, expressing the real thoughts and feelings of the heart. This sincerity is displayed towards God, towards our fellow-men, and towards ourselves.
II. The uses or purposes of truth in the Christian life: it is a girdle.—By comparing truth to a girdle the apostle suggests the purposes which it serves:
1. The ancient girdle was meant to give firmness and strength.
2. To fit for activity, by binding up the loose, flowing garments.
3. To the girdle arms were attached.—Stewart.
Ephesians 6:15. The Gospel of Peace.
I. The nature of this peace.—
1. It is peace with God.—A mutual reconciliation following a mutual estrangement.
2. It is peace with ourselves.—This includes both the silencing of the accusations of conscience and the restoration of the internal harmony of our nature.
3. It is peace with our fellow-men.—Between nations and classes, and families and individuals.
4. It is peace with our fellow-Christians.
II. The relation of the gospel to this peace.—
1. In the gospel it is proclaimed.
2. In the gospel its grounds are unfolded.
3. By the belief of the gospel it is conveyed.—G. Brooks.
Ephesians 6:17. The Bible the Sword of the Spirit.
I. The Bible is a sword.—
1. Like a sword, it is of no use till it is unsheathed. The Bible must not lie idle in the library or in the intellect. Must be used.
2. Like a sword, when it is unsheathed it cuts deeply.—Makes deep gashes in the heart and conscience.
3. Like a sword, it is a weapon of defence as well as of offence.—“It is written.”
II. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit.—
1. Because He inspired it. Those whom we call the sacred writers were its penmen; He alone was its Author.
2. Because He interprets it.—Its Author is also itsinterpreter. Wherever it is carried He is. and in answer to the prayer of faith He expounds its true meaning as far as saving truth is concerned.
3. Because He wields it as the instrument of His victories.—Refer to some of the remarkable revivals, to individual conversions.
III. Our duty with regard to the Bible as the sword of the Spirit.—
1. Take it and study it. Sword exercise.
2. Take it and bind it to your heart.—Delight in it.
3. Take it and employ it vigorously till your life’s end.—“His sword was in His hand.” “There is none like it.”—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:18. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.—Here we have the recognition of a directing Superior. The true soldier fights under the direction of his ἀρχηγός. The “sounds of strife” are dying away in this verse.
Ephesians 6:20. An ambassador in bonds.—R.V. “in chains.” Sustaining the honour of Christ under personal indignity. That I may speak boldly.—It needed not only the apostle’s own, but his readers’ prayers to enable him to speak freely within stroke of the “lion’s paw” (2 Timothy 4:17).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:18-20
The Programme of Prayer.
I. Prayer should be constant and varied in its methods.—“Praying always with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18). The Christian warrior is armed from head to foot with the girdle, the breastplate, the greaves, the shield, the helmet, and the sword; no weapon of defence or offence is wanting; it would seem as if nothing was needed to complete the equipment. The one essential now is the spirit and courage to fight, to use the spiritual weapons with dexterity and effect; and the power to do this is secured by prayer. Prayer should be constant; the soul should be ever in a praying mood; and supplication, earnest entreaty, should be used in the special emergencies that occur in the battle of life. “Praying always with all prayer”: all kinds and methods of prayer should be employed—prayer in public aided by the sympathy and inspiration of numbers, in private when alone with God, in the family, in the whirl of business, in the stress of battle, in the intervals of recreation, in the heart without a voice and with the voice from the heart. The earnest and needy soul will find its own way of keeping up a prayerful intercourse with God. “Some there are,” said Wesley, “who use only mental prayer or ejaculations, and think they are in a 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.”
“Warrior, that from battle won,
Breathest now at set of sun;
Woman, o’er the lowly slain,
Weeping on his burial plain!
Ye that triumph, ye that sigh,
Kindred by one holy tie:
Heaven’s first star alike ye see—
Lift the heart and bend the knee.”
II. Prayer is prompted and sustained by the divine Spirit.—“Praying … in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). The Spirit is the author and element of the believer’s life in Christ. It is He who gives the grace and power to pray; He helps our infirmities, and intercedes for us and in us. Prayer is one of the highest exercises of the soul, and achieves its loftiest triumphs under the inspiration and help of the Spirit. He suggests topics for prayer, proper times and seasons, imparts urgency and perseverance in supplication, and He alone makes prayer effectual.
III. Prayer should be accompanied with persevering vigilance.—“Watching [keeping awake] thereunto with all perseverance and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18). We must not only watch and pray, but watch while we pray. Watch against wandering thoughts, against meaningless and insincere petitions, against the seductive suggestions of the tempter, and against the tendency to trust in our prayers or in our earnestness rather than in God, whose help we supplicate. “With all perseverance” means a sustained, unsleeping, and unresting vigilance. The word implies stretching out the neck and looking about in order to discern an enemy at a distance. Without watchfulness prayer and all the spiritual armour will be unavailing. The best-appointed army, over-confident in its strength, has suffered inglorious defeat by neglecting to watch. The wakeful and earnest suppliant must persist in prayer, undaunted by opposition and unwearied by delay.
IV. Prayer should be offered on behalf of the Church in general.—“For all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer that in its nature is generous and comprehensive is apt to become selfish and narrowed down into despicable limits. The man prays best for himself who prays most earnestly for others. “Prayer for ourselves must broaden out into a catholic intercession for all the servants of our Master, for all the children of the household of faith. By the bands of prayer we are knit together—a vast multitude of saints throughout the earth, unknown by face or name to our fellows, but one in the love of Christ and in our heavenly calling and all engaged in the same perilous conflict. All the saints were interested in the faith of the Asian believers; they were called with ‘all the saints’ to share in the comprehension of the immense designs of God’s kingdom. The dangers and temptations of the Church are equally far-reaching; they have a common origin and character in all Christian communities. Let our prayers at least be catholic. At the throne of grace, let us forget our sectarian divisions. Having access in one Spirit to the Father, let us realise in His presence our communion with all His children” (Findlay).
“The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word and deed and mind;
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.
“Nor prayer on earth is made alone—
The Holy Spirit pleads;
And Jesus on the eternal throne
For sinners intercedes.”
V. Prayer should be definite and special in its petitions.—
1. For the preacher of the gospel in unfavourable circumstances. “And for me … an ambassador in bonds” (Ephesians 6:19-20). An ambassador, being the representative of his king, his person was in all civilised countries held sacred, and it was regarded as the greatest indignity and breach of faith to imprison or injure him. Contrary to the lights of nations, this ambassador of the King of heaven was put in chains. Even Paul, with all his magnificent endowments, felt the need for the prayers of God’s people and craved for them. The fortunes of the gospel were bound up with his life, and he was now suffering for his courageous defence of the truth. It was of immense importance to the early Church that he should be true and faithful in this crisis, and he asks for the prayers of God’s people that he may be sustained and the gospel victorious. Here was a definite and special theme for prayer. Occasions of great peril evoke the spirit of earnest supplication. It is an aid to devotion to have some one to specially pray for.
2. For courage and facility in unfolding the mystery of the gospel he feels constrained to declare.—“That utterance may be given unto me, that I may … make known the mystery of the gospel, … that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak [as I must needs speak]” (Ephesians 6:19-20). The apostolic prisoner was more concerned about his message than his own fate. He hailed the occasion of His defence before the civil authorities as an opportunity for unfolding and enforcing the gospel, for preaching which he was now in chains. He feels the gravity of the crisis, and he is nervously anxious to do justice to his grand theme. Clear as was his insight and firm as was his grasp of the leading truths of the gospel, he invokes the prayers of the Ephesian saints that God may give him liberty and power in their exposition, and that he may win converts to the truth from the midst of his enemies. The pulpit will become a greater power if the people of God pray fervently and unitedly for the ambassadors of Christ. Prayer is more potent in winning souls than the logic and eloquence of the preacher.
1. The topics for prayer are abundant and ever present.
2. Prayer nerves the soul with divine power.
3. Earnest and believing prayer will prevail.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:18-20. Praying with all Prayer.
I. The apostle supposes our obligation to prayer to be so plain that every rational mind will see it, and so important that every pious heart will feel it.—Our obligation to prayer naturally results from our weakness and dependence and God’s all-sufficiency and goodness. Desires directed to Him are prayers. To clothe our desires in language is not essential. God hears the desire of the humble. There is the same reason for daily prayer as for daily labour. Prayer is a means of enlivening our pious sentiments and exciting us to the practice of duty and thus preparing us for divine favours.
II. Prayer is of several kinds.—Social and secret, public and domestic, stated and occasional; and consists of several parts—confession, supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving. The apostle points out no part or kind of prayer in distinction from all others, but exhorts in general to pray with all prayer.
III. The manner in which our prayers should be offered.—The spirit and temper of the heart in our prayers is the main thing necessary to qualify them for God’s acceptance. The first thing necessary in prayer is faith. Our desires must be good and reasonable. Attention of mind, collection of thought, and warmth of affection are qualifications required in prayer. Our prayers must be accompanied with justice to men. Charity is an essential qualification in prayer. Our prayers must be joined with a sense of and sorrow for sin, and submission to the divine will. We are to continue in prayer, and watch thereunto with all perseverance.
IV. The apostle here teaches the duty of intercession for others.—If God is good to others as well as to us, there is the same ground on which to offer our social intercessions as our personal petitions. We are commanded to pray for all men, and especially for all saints; this is to pray for the general virtue and happiness of the human race in this and all succeeding ages. Christians ought to pray for their minister. There was something special in Paul’s case—he was an ambassador in bonds.
V. The apostle points out the manner in which he aimed and all ministers ought to preach the gospel.—The apostle desired to make known the mystery of the gospel, and to speak boldly. In a minister boldness is necessary; not that impudent boldness which assumes an unmerited superiority, but that pious fortitude that dares to utter the important things of religion without reserve and without fear of personal inconvenience. He must persevere in the faithful execution of his office, whatever discouragements may arise from the opposition of the world, the frowns of the great, the contempt of the proud, the want of concurrence, or the smallness of his success.—Lathrop.
Ephesians 6:18. Praying in the Spirit.
I. The time.—“Always.”
1. The frequent practice of prayer.
2. The constant cultivation of the spirit of prayer.
II. The manner.—“With all prayer and supplication.”
1. The prayer of the closet. Secret.
2. The prayer of the family. Domestic.
3. The prayer of the social circle. United.
4. The prayer of the sanctuary. Public.
III. The matter.—“With all prayer and supplication.”—
1. There are thanksgivings to be rendered.
2. There are confessions to be made.
3. There are petitions to be offered.
4. There are intercessions to be presented.
IV. Spirituality.—“In the Spirit.”
1. With our own heart.—Not formal or mechanical.
2. In dependence on the aid of the Holy Ghost.
V. The continuance.—“With all perseverance.”
1. In the general habit. Prayer never to be given up.
2. In special objects. No fainting in prayer.
VI. The intercession.—“And supplication for all saints.”
1. For the whole Church. 2. For any part of the Church that is in danger of distress.
3. For our own section of the Church. 4. For our Christian friends.—G. Brooks.
The Duty of Prayer.—Prayer is the communion of the soul with God, and the casting of itself upon Him for help and guidance.
I. God has implanted prayer as an instinct in the hearts of men.—In times of danger the soul instinctively cries out for God or some unseen power to interpose and save.
II. God desires that men should pray regularly and constantly.—Blessings are promised in answer to prayer which the soul can obtain in no other way.
III. God commands men to pray.—To abound in prayer and to pray without weariness and fainting.
IV. God teaches how to pray and what to pray for.—The Spirit helps our infirmities.
V. There is no religious life apart from prayer.—The Bible saints were men of prayer. At the very beginning of human history men began to call upon God. And in the visions of heaven which St. John has recorded, when the Lamb had taken the book to open its seals, the twenty-four elders fell down before Him, “having every one of them harps and golden phials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints, and they sang a new song.” Prayer leads to praise.
VI. How can we make the duty a privilege and the privilege a pleasure?—If Christ was comforted and strengthened by prayer, can we as Christians live without it? Is not a prayerless Christian in danger of being no Christian at all?—Homiletic Monthly.
Ephesians 6:19-20. A Picture of Moral Bravery.
I. An ambassador charged with a message of world-wide significance and importance.—“To make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
II. An ambassador, contrary to the law of nations, imprisoned because of his message.—“For which I am an ambassador in bonds” (Ephesians 6:20).
III. An ambassador irresistibly constrained to declare the message for which he suffers.—“That therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:20).
IV. An ambassador imploring, not the sanction of civil authorities, but the prayers of God’s people that he may be emboldened to discharge his high commission.—“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly” (Ephesians 6:19).
Ephesians 6:19. The Gospel a Mystery.
I. Because it is known only by divine revelation.—Such a secret it is that the wit of man could never have found out. As none but God could lay the plot, so none but Himself could make it known.
II. Because when revealed its truths exceed the grasp of human understanding.—They are to the eye of our reason as the sun to the eye of our body, that dazzles and overpowers. They disdain to be discussed and tried by human reason that there are three subsistences in the Godhead and but one divine essence. We believe, because they are revealed. God and man united in Christ’s person is undeniably demonstrable from the gospel, but the cordage of our understanding is too short to fathom this great deep. “Would’st thou see a reason,” said Augustine, “for all that God says? Look into thine own understanding, and thou wilt find a reason why thou seest not a reason.”
III. The gospel is a mystery in regard of the kind of knowledge the saints themselves have of it.—
1. Their knowledge is but in part, and imperfect.—The most of what they know is the least of what they do not know. The gospel is a rich piece of arras rolled up this God has been unfolding ever since the first promise was made to Adam, opening it every age wider than the other.
2. It is mysterious and dark.—Gospel truths are not known in their native beauty and glory, but in shadows. Our apprehension of things are manly compared with those under the law, but childish compared with the knowledge of glorified saints.
IV. The gospel is a mystery in regard to the rare and strange effects it has upon the godly.—It enables them to believe strange mysteries—to believe that which they understand not, and hope for that which they do not see. It enables them to do as strange things as they believe—to live by another’s spirit, to act from another’s strength, to live by another’s will, and aim at another’s glory. It makes them so meek and gentle that a child may lead them to anything good, yet so stout that fire and faggot shall not fright them into sin. They are taught that all things are theirs, yet they dare not take a penny, a pin, from the wicked by force and rapine. They can pray for life, and at the same time desire to die.—Gurnall.
Ephesians 6:20. Boldness a Duty in a Minister.
I. The nature of the boldness desired.—
1. To speak all he has in command from God to deliver.
2. To speak with liberty and freedom of spirit, without fear or bondage to any. Speaking openly and plainly.
II. Boldness to be shown in preaching the gospel.—
1. In asserting the truth of the gospel.
2. In reproving sin and denouncing judgment against impenitent sinners.
III. The kind of boldness a minister should cultivate.—
1. A convincing boldness.
2. A meek boldness.
3. A zealous boldness.
IV. The means of procuring ministerial boldness.—
1. A holy fear of God.
2. Castle thyself within the power and promise of God for assistance and protection.
3. Keep a clear conscience.
4. Consider that which thou most fearest is best prevented by freedom and boldness in thy ministry.
5. Consider how bold Christ was in His ministry. What greater incentive to valour can the soldier have than to see his general stand with undaunted courage where the bullets fly thickest! Such valiant captains do not breed white-livered soldiers. It is impossible we should be dastardly, if instructed by Him and actuated by His Spirit.—Ibid.
Ephesians 6:20. The Gospel Ambassador.
I. The dignity of his office.—Seen:
1. In the majesty of the Prince from whom he comes.
2. In the greatness of the Person whose place he supplies.
3. In the excellency of the message he brings.
II. How the duty of his office should be discharged.—
1. Stain not the dignity of thy office by any base, unworthy practices.
2. Keep close to thy instructions.
3. Think it not enough that thou deliverest thy message from God, but show a zeal for thy Master whose cause thou negotiatest.
4. Let not any person or thing in the world bribe or scare thee from a faithful discharge of thy trust.
5. Be kind to and tenderly careful of thy fellow-subjects.—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:21. Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister.—If all servants were “brethren” first, the troubles of our modern commercial life would be few.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:21-22
A Trusted Messenger—
I. Commended for his acknowledged Christian character.—“Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:21). These are high and honourable designations, and indicate the genuine esteem in which he was held by the apostle. He had become endeared to Paul by the many valuable services he had rendered to him, and by the marked fidelity of his ministerial work. He appears to have joined St. Paul’s staff, and remained with him from the time he accompanied him to Jerusalem in the year 59. He was sent to Ephesus to relieve Timothy when Paul desired the presence of the latter at Rome. He was well known to the Asian Church, and every way qualified to discharge the mission with which he was entrusted. He was “the beloved brother” in his relation to the Church in general, and the “faithful minister in the Lord” in his special relation to the apostle. It is better to be loved than to be simply popular. Genuine piety forms character, and commands the confidence and respect of all lovers of the truth.
II. Entrusted with personal details of special interest.—“Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs” (Ephesians 6:22). There were probably some details about St. Paul’s imprisonment that could be communicated better in person than by letter, and certain allusions in the letter that could be more fully explained in a personal interview. Every item about Paul was of intense interest to the Asian Churches. Many of the members had been brought to Christ through his instrumentality. They were alarmed as to his fate and as to the future of the gospel. They were anxious to know if there was any prospect of his release and of his return to his missionary labours. Tychicus, enjoying the full confidence of the apostle and the affection of the people, was just the man to give them the information they so eagerly desired, and would be cordially welcomed everywhere. The trusted messenger of a great and good man is regarded for the time being with the reverence and respect cherished towards the man he represents and of whose affairs he is empowered to speak.
III. Competent to minister encouragement.—“That he might comfort your hearts” (Ephesians 6:22). Tychicus was not only a newsman and letter-carrier, but also a minister of Christ. He knew how to present his message so as to allay the fears of his hearers, to comfort their hearts, and to encourage their faith in the power and triumph of the gospel, notwithstanding the sufferings of its preachers. The gospel is full of consolation, and it should be the constant aim of the minister to make it known and apply it to the circumstances of his people. A diligent pastor in his visitations comes in contact with much suffering and sorrow, and has many opportunities of administering the balm of gospel comfort. Great tact and sympathy are necessary, especially in visiting the sick. Referring to this, a godly and experienced minister said, “Tenderness is essential. Enter the chamber gently. Tread noiselessly. Get near to the sufferer. Speak as softly as may be. Remember his nerves; noise is often torture. Sympathise with his weakness, restlessness, and pain. True you are not come to minister to his body; but enter into his sufferings and symptoms. Ask what his doctor has said. Avoid a professional, official, conventional air. The case may be too grave for cheerful words; but if otherwise, let your face carry a little sunshine into the sick-room. Avoid fussiness. Go with a brother’s heart. Be brief—brief in your talk, brief in your readings, brief in your prayers—your whole visit brief. Take up one point. A sick man’s brain is soon overtasked, his nerves soon jar, his strength soon fails. Let your good-bye be ‘God bless you.’ Let your last look be one of tenderness and love. Whatever you are in the pulpit, Barnabas, not Boanerges, is your pattern by the sick-bed.” It is the privilege and mission of every minister and believer to be a messenger of comfort and strength to those in trouble. We shall be remembered for our kindness when many of our sermons are forgotten.
1. The character of the good is self-evident.
2. A good man should be trusted and honoured.
3. The value of a good man is recognised in times of stress and difficulty.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:21-22. Apostolical Care for the Church.
I. Paul was careful to keep up an intercourse and communion with the Churches of Christ.—There ought to be fellowship and correspondence among the Churches. They should all unite their endeavours for the common edification and comfort. The Church of Christ is one. We should seek the counsel of sister Churches under our difficulties, and be ready when requested to afford them our counsel under theirs.
II. Paul was solicitous that the Christians among whom he had preached should know of his condition and doings.—He was a prisoner, but suffered not his time to pass in restless impatience or useless indolence. He received all who came to him and preached to them the kingdom of God. He instructed his fellow-prisoners. He spent much of his time in prayer. Several of his epistles were written when he was in bonds. Paul’s example teaches us that we should do good in every condition.
III. When Paul sends Tychicus he gives him written testimonials that he might be received in the character of a minister.—This precaution was taken that the Churches might not be imposed upon by ignorant pretenders or artful deceivers. The Church is a regular, organised community. We are to receive none as ambassadors of Christ but those who come to us according to the order He has settled. Ministers ought to act in concert and unite their labours in building up the kingdom of Christ. Tychicus co-operated with Paul.
IV. Fidelity is an essential part of the ministerial character.—Paul calls Tychicus “a faithful minister.” Such a minister undertakes his work with pure intentions and abides in it with constancy, even though he may meet with worldly discouragements. Tychicus was sent to comfort the Ephesians under their grief for Paul’s imprisonment, and to guard them against any discouraging apprehensions. Ministers are to strengthen new converts and young professors to constancy and perseverance in religion by laying before them the comforting and animating motives of the gospel.—Lathrop.
A Faithful Minister.—
1. It concerns Christians to inform themselves of the life and way of eminent men in the Church, and chiefly of those who have been sufferers for truth, that they may be incited to sympathise with them, to follow their example, and bless the Lord on their behalf.
2. It is in a singular manner required of a minister that he be faithful—diligent in his work, sincere in his aims and endeavours, neither adding nor paring what God has committed unto him to speak.
3. We should labour so to inform ourselves of the case and carriage of others and how it goes with the affairs of Christ’s kingdom elsewhere as to draw spiritual edification thence.
4. To know God’s gracious providence towards His suffering servants, together with their undaunted courage under sufferings and the use God makes of their sufferings to advance His truth, is sufficient ground of comfort and encouragement to God’s people.—Fergusson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Ephesians 6:23. Peace, love, and faith.—A worthy triad, and the greatest of these is love.
Ephesians 6:24. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.—Paul’s favourite word “grace” comes in as “epilogue”—as it was “prologue” (Ephesians 1:2). Sincerity means incorruptly—to love in a spirit corruption cannot touch.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— Ephesians 6:23-24
A Suggestive Benediction—
I. Recognises the divine source of all blessing.—“From God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 6:23). All our blessings are divine, and flow from the inexhaustible fountain of the divine beneficence. “God the Father,” in the eternal counsels of His wisdom and love, “and the Lord Jesus Christ,” who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself as an atonement for human sin—the glorious Trinity of Persons in the Godhead—contribute from their combined perfections the spiritual good that enriches every believing soul. “The God of Christians,” says Pascal, “is not barely the Author of geometrical truths, or of the order of the elements—this is the divinity of the heathen; nor barely the providential Disposer of the lives and fortunes of men, so as to crown His worshippers with a happy series of years—this is the portion of the Jews. But the God of Abraham and of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and of consolation; a God who fills the heart and the soul where He resides; a God who gives them a deep and inward feeling of their own misery and of His infinite mercy, unites Himself to their spirit, replenishes it with humility and joy, with affiance and love, and renders them incapable of any end but Himself.” The religious character of the Lancashire people was illustrated by an incident that happened towards the close of the cotton famine. The mills in one village had been stopped for months, and the first waggon-load of cotton that arrived seemed to them like the olive branch that told of the abating waters of the deluge. The waggon was met by the women, who hysterically laughed and cried and hugged the cotton bales as if they were dear old friends, and then ended by singing that grand old hymn, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”
II. Implores specific blessings upon Christian brethren.—“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith” (Ephesians 6:23). Where there is no love there is no peace, and peace and love without faith are capricious and worthless. Love is the strength of the forbearance and self-suppression so essential to the maintenance of peace. As faith grows and intensifies it opens up new channels in which love can flow. We are to contend for the faith, not that peace may be disturbed, but that it may rest on a firmer and more permanent basis. What greater boon can we desiderate for our brethren than that they may abound in “peace and love with faith”?
III. Greets with expansive generosity all genuine lovers of Christ.—“Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Ephesians 6:24). The overflow of divine grace submerges the barriers of sects and effaces the distinctions of a selfish and pretentious bigotry. Sincere love to Christ opens the heart to the richest endowments of grace, and blends all hearts that glow with a kindred affection. If we love Christ, we love one another, we love His work, His word, and are eager to obey Him in all things He commands. We may not agree in a uniformity of creeds, but we reach a higher union when our hearts are mingled in the capacious alembic of a Christ-like love. The benediction of grace to all who love Jesus is answered and confirmed by an appropriate Amen. “Amen” under the law was answered to the curses, but not to the blessings (Deuteronomy 27:15-26). Every particular curse must have an “Amen.” But in the next chapter, where the blessings follow, there is no “Amen” affixed to them (Deuteronomy 28:2-12). But it is otherwise in the gospel. To the blessings there is an “Amen,” but not to the curses. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 16:22)—a fearful curse; but there is no “Amen” to that. “Grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity”: there is an “Amen” to that.
1. Christianity is freighted with blessings for the race.
2. It has special blessings for present need.
3. It points men to God as the true source of all blessing.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ephesians 6:23. Elements of Religious Comfort.—The apostle prays that, with faith, there may be peace and love.
I. Faith captivates the soul into obedience to the gospel by giving efficacy to its precepts, examples, and doctrines. Where faith operates, love will appear, and peace will follow.
II. Love produces peace.—
1. Inward peace. It extinguishes malice, envy, hatred, wrath, revenge, every unfriendly passion.
2. Social peace.—Christians will be careful not to give offence, either by real injuries or unnecessary differences. They will be slow to take offence.
III. Love brings religious comfort.—Love is comfortable in its immediate feelings and in its pacific influence. It brings comfort to the soul as it is an evidence of godly sincerity. If we would enjoy the comfort, we must maintain the comfort of religion.—Lathrop.
Ephesians 6:24. The Christian’s Truest Test and Excellence.—Other things may be required to complete the character of the Christian; but without love to Christ there can be no Christian at all. It is the master-spirit which must animate and enliven the whole combination; and in whomsoever this spirit prevails we are entitled and enjoined to welcome that person as a disciple.
I. Consider the love of Christ as a duty we owe to Himself.—
1. Bring to your remembrance His personal excellences.
2. Consider the great and glorious object of all He did and endured—the everlasting happiness of human souls.
II. Consider the love of Christ as a principle which works in ourselves.—
1. It does not destroy natural affections, but teaches us to fix them on proper objects and to give a right direction to their fullest energies.
2. A due sense of the Saviour’s love makes us feel at once that He merits all our best affections in return.
3. It gives delight in meditating on the precepts and promises of God’s word.
4. It helps in all the duties we owe to our fellow-creatures.
5. It animates the soul in the hour of death and the prospect of eternity.—J. Brewster.
Loving Christ in Sincerity.
I. On what account Christ is entitled to our love.—
1. He is a divine person.
2. He was manifest in the flesh. In the man Christ Jesus appeared every virtuous quality which can dignify and adorn human nature.
3. His mediatorial offices entitle Him to our love.
4. He is an object of our love because of His kindness to us.
II. An essential qualification of love to Christ is sincerity.—
1. Our love to Christ must be real, not pretended.
2. Must be universal. It must respect His whole character.
3. Sincere love to Christ is supreme. It gives Him the preference to all earthly interest and connections.
4. It is persevering.
5. It is active.
III. How sincere love to Christ will discover itself.—
1. It will make us careful to please Him.
2. Will be accompanied with humility.
3. We shall be fond of imitating Him.
4. We shall promote His interest and oppose His enemies.
5. We shall do good to His needy brethren and friends.
IV. The benediction connected with this temper.—It is called grace. It comprehends all the blessings the gospel reveals and promises.
1. Justification before God.
2. The presence of the divine Spirit.
3. Free access to the throne of grace.
4. The gift of a happy immortality.—Lathrop.
Love to Christ.—What is it that constitutes Christ’s claim to love and respect? What is it that is to be loved in Christ? Why are we to hold Him dear? There is but one ground for virtuous affection in the universe, but one object worthy of cherished and enduring love in heaven and in earth, and that is—moral goodness. My principle applies to all beings, to the Creator as well as to His creatures. The claim of God to the love of His rational offspring rests on the rectitude and benevolence of His will. It is the moral beauty and grandeur of His character to which alone we are bound to pay homage. The only power which can and ought to be loved is a beneficent and righteous power. The ground of love to Christ is, His spotless purity, His moral perfection, His unrivalled goodness. It is the spirit of His religion, which is the Spirit of God, dwelling in Him without measure. Of consequence, to love Christ is to love the perfection of virtue, of righteousness, of benevolence; and the great excellence of this love is, that by cherishing it we imbibe, we strengthen in our own souls the most illustrious virtue, and through Jesus become like God. I call you to love Jesus that you may bring yourselves into contact and communion with perfect virtue, and may become what you love. I know no sincere, enduring good but the moral excellence which shines forth in Jesus Christ.—Channing.
The Apostolic Benediction.
I. The subjects of the benediction.—“All them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”
1. The object of their love.—“The Lord Jesus Christ.”
2. The character of their love.—They love in sincerity. This proved by the effects it produces.
(1) Love to God’s word.
(2) Prompt obedience to Christ’s precepts.
(3) Brotherly love.
(4) Zeal for God’s house.
II. The nature of the benediction.—
1. The prayer embraces the communication of divine grace.
2. All Christians need the grace of God.
(1) In all trials peculiar to the age in which they live.
(2) In time of temptation and spiritual darkness.
(3) In the discharge of Christian duties.
(4) To sanctify, refine, and make them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
1. Imitate the catholicity of the apostle.
2. Sectarian bigotry and hostility should cease.
3. How perilous the state of those who love not Christ.—Pulpit Themes.