The relationship and responsibilities of wives and husbands in chapter 5 leads naturally to that of children and parents in verses 1-4, and employees and employers in verses 5-9. This continues the general theme of submission from 5:21. This section also concludes the second major division of the epistle focusing on our conduct (ch 4-6). The following section (vv 10-20) shifts the focus from the human level to our conflict with the spiritual forces of darkness still in control of the world, and the necessary protection and provision for overcoming.
6:1-4 Family Relationships: Children and Parents
Submission to authority is fundamental to stability and blessing in life (vv 1-3). As “the first commandment with promise” (v 2), it is a first responsibility given by God to a young child entering into life on earth, and promises divine blessing of both quantity and quality of life (v 3). It is also a community blessing with ongoing consequences for a society. Honoring parents involves obedience while under their authority, and lifelong respect. In verse 4, the father is challenged to fulfil his responsibility as head while, obviously, the mother is included. First of all, we are warned against exasperating our children, destroying their desire to please us. Some examples would be: showing favoritism, making comparisons between children, ridicule, unbalanced or inconsistent discipline, neglect, unreasonable expectations. Instead, we are to recognize our children as a very precious and temporary stewardship entrusted to us – ultimately they belong to the Lord and His purposes. We are literally administering the Lord’s own love in nurturing and training them. His Word provides essential insight into sinful human nature, and ways of curbing evil, and cultivating good. Training in respect and obedience is fundamental. Parental example is equally vital in developing the child’s character and attitudes. The final goal of all discipline and training is a self-disciplined person, prepared for adult freedoms and responsibilities, with a balanced appreciation of God and His principles.
6:5-9 Work Relationships: Servants and Masters
We should be grateful for the changed legal and social conditions governing employee/employer relationships today. Yet the exhortations to obedience, respect, sincerity, and good will are just as relevant today for Christian employees, because the underlying spiritual reality is equally true. In fulfilling our daily work responsibilities we are actually serving Christ, and fulfilling the will of God (v 6). What a transforming incentive to realize that the Lord Himself is our true employer and will recognize and reward every good thing done in every sphere of life (vv 7-8)! Christian employers are likewise exhorted to the same excellence of care and respect for employees, avoiding any abuse of authority. The same great reality exists: you also have a Master in heaven to Whom you will give account (v 9).
6:10-20 Our Warfare in Christ: Conflict – Key Verse 6:11
Spiritual warfare is an invisible but real dimension of conflict involved in all of our relationships and circumstances of life, as already hinted at in the epistle (2:1-3; 4:14, 26-27; 5:3-17). Divine power overshadows us and indwells us, equipping us to resist the deceptive assaults of the Evil One and his emissaries who control the “darkness of this age” (vv 10-13). Comparing Paul’s references to armor in Romans 13:11-14, 2 Corinthians 6:7, and 1Thessalonians 5:4-8, it seems that the “whole armor of God” (v 13) is not only the light of His revelation (Eph 1:18), but the “fruit of the light” in our character (5:9).
The armor is listed as put on by a Roman soldier (vv 14-17):
a) “loins girt about with truth”(v 14): We entered the element of truth and reality in Christ, so truthfulness becomes the only compatible character for us (4:20-25). Knowing the truth sets us free from deception and bondage, and gives us assurance. Just as a belt keeps everything together and secure, so integrity (living in the element of truthfulness) secures us in every circumstance and temptation.
b) “breastplate of righteousness:” The breastplate was considered the heart-protector. God has justified us by the death of Christ. He has also imparted righteousness to us in the new life in Christ (4:24; 5:9). We are to guard our emotions and desires with this simple question: IS IT RIGHT? How easily Satan can destroy a believer by a wrong love – a love not controlled by what is right!
c) “feet shod … preparation (foundation, firm footing) of gospel of peace” (v 15): Peace and reconciliation with God and with one another (2:13-19), are the best foundation for a stable Christian life, and for unity among saints.
d) “shield of faith” (v 16): When we begin to lose confidence in God, truth loses its power to hold us, and we lose the will to maintain righteousness. Satan seeks above all to destroy our faith in the Word of God, and our confidence in God’s character. His fiery darts include doubts about God’s integrity and care toward us, His love to mankind, as well as deception in the realm of knowledge. “I believe God” will withstand the assaults of rationalism, as well as the challenge of affliction.
e) “helmet of salvation” (v 17): The protection of our thinking by the certain knowledge of salvation in Christ. The reality of our deliverance and destiny of blessing should govern and protect our thinking and behavior.
f) “sword of the Spirit … the Word of God:” (“a saying of God,” rather than the whole Bible): Learn from the example of the Lord Jesus when tempted by Satan in the wilderness.
“Praying always … and being watchful … for all saints; and for me …”(vv 18-20) describes the vigilant and dependent attitude necessary for our own preservation, and also our care for each other in the battle. Paul humbly invites their supplication for his strengthening to speak the gospel boldly, as an ambassador, though a prisoner.
The closing blessing summarizes the wealth of the epistle: divine peace, love, and grace upon those who love our Lord Jesus in sincerity (vv 21-24)!