Welcome back to our Gospel Wednesday series. Last week we took a look at Ephesians 4-5 where Paul addressed Unity in the Body of Christ and how we are to walk in Love. We closed in chapter 5 where Paul’s discussing of how we are to live as individuals because he is transitioning into addressing specific relationships God sets as pictures of the relationship of Christ with His Church.
Our Relationships in Christ
How we relate to one another in Christ, is modeled after how Christ relates to us. Paul is reminding the Ephesians of the Gospel and of the Law. The Law is from God and points to God. God is the standard for godliness. I know that might seem a “given”, but we tend to make “Grace” the standard, but that isn’t quite right. Grace is the means by which we are forgiven for our ungodliness; therefore, it cannot be the standard of godliness. God is the standard, and His Law is the testimony of God’s standard of godliness. We are to extend Grace and Love to others because He first loved us, and extended grace to us. Before we get to the new portions, let’s revisit the closing portion of Ephesians 5 on individual behavior.
Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV) 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
After building his readers up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, reminding them of their place in Christ, Paul sums up how we are to walk as individual Christians, being filled with the Spirit, giving thanks always and for everything… submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. It all begins and ends with Christ. Christ frees us to serve one another in love, and we are to serve each other in love out of reverence for Christ. This is the groundwork for where Paul goes next. Now, we will start looking at specific relationships in the Christian walk, each one is indeed an expression of the Law of God, meaning that all breaking (and falling short of) these laws is sin. Paul is not just laying down the Law for these relationships in our lives, we already know that we will sin in these areas and we know where to go for forgiveness (the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Paul is also presenting these relationships, in their Lawful standard, as pictures of relationship between the Church (us) and Christ.
Ephesians 5:22-33 (ESV) | Wives and Husbands
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 6:1-9 (ESV) | Children and Parents
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Bondservants and Masters
5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Paul’s primary focus here is to highlight the focus of the Christian walk, conduct of the Church, in light of the Biblical standard for these earthly relationships. In his letters to the Corinthians, to Timothy, and Titus, Paul actually takes time to provide instruction for these areas of life. The Ephesians are being reminded of these standards in light of our relationship with Christ. Any attempt to turn these passages into legitimized harsh earthly rule or lordship over women, children, slaves, or employees is to utterly and completely fail at understanding this text. Such a reading turns the text into swiss cheese, completely skipping over the standard of leadership as service to God. Husbands, you are expected to lay down your life for your wife as Christ did for His Church. That is the standard of the Law. If not for the Grace of God, you stand guilty of failing to love your wife. We will spend the rest of our lives growing in this area, both in the earthly covenant of Marriage to our wives and in the eternal covenant of adoption into Heaven by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Bondservants and Masters isn’t limited to slavery; rather, it covers all levels of authority. Government, business, and staff members. All of it is covered. And everyone has One Master in Heaven… and there is no partiality with Him.
Now that the aside is wrapped up, and we’ve been reminded of the Law (Love God, Love Others), Paul returns to the message of the Gospel. He does so, however, in a very interesting way. This passage is often taught as a commandment, or as a Law; however, I don’t think that is the best reading of this passage. It is less about “doing” something and more about “resting” in someone.
Ephesians 6:10-24 (ESV) | The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
We’ll explore these in greater detail later, but for now I want to highlight that none of this armor or preparedness comes from within us. This doesn’t get “put on” by our efforts. The only Truth in all of Creation is God and His Word. We are not born with faith, it comes only by Hearing the Word of God; therefore, our shield of faith comes by hearing the Words of Christ (Romans 10:14-17). Faith is a gift from God (we saw that in Ephesians 2:8-9). The breastplate of righteousness is NOT our righteousness. It’s not a reference to your good works. Your good works are not the means by which you stand against evil; rather, it is the righteousness of Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22). As for the gospel of peace… peace with whom? It is NOT with the world. The Gospel is not about making peace with the world, it is about making peace with God, a peace purchased by Christ’s atoning sacrificial work on the cross. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is the Passover Lamb, who bore the full penalty of our sin on our behalf, so that in Him we can be made right with God. Peace with God can only be made by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by no other means. Our salvation being a helmet, a seal on our foreheads set by the Holy Spirit. We stand not by our own strength, but in the strength of God’s might. That is the Gospel, that is the Good News… that Christ has won the victory, paid the price, and He is returning to take us all home.
Ephesians 6:21-24 (ESV) | Final Greetings
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
In his final greetings, Paul is letting them know that Tychicus will speak on his behalf to encourage the Ephesians. This closing is worth highlight, too… an encouragement to love with faith from God the Father. God is so good. In closing, let us revisit Paul’s written prayer in Ephesians 3.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,