This was more than just a ‘general’ letter for Paul. He wanted the church to know what and how he was doing, as well as Tychicus “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord,” who would “make all things known” to them (v. 21). Paul seems to always have at least one helper with him. Tychicus was also sent to provide the church some comfort to their hearts (v. 22 cf. II Cor. 1:3-7). Comfort is seen in peace, love, and faith, “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 23 cf. I Cor. 13:13) We sometimes see the word ‘sincerely’ at the end of a letter, and perhaps consider it a mere formality. However, for Paul it is intentional. Some may profess Christ or Christianity, but without grace or love, but eventually one’s true colours will be seen. Paul hoped for the good.
This is one of the most commented on passages of all of holy scripture. The word ‘finality’ means more than just the end of Paul’s letter. Rather, from giving specific directions to folks in various stations in life, he here wants to say what we all need to do as individually, and as the body of Christ together. “Brethren means we are family, adopted children of God who before all else need to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” (v. 10) The NGSB puts it well on this verse: “Paul uses similar terms in 1:19 to describe the power that raised Jesus from the dead. We are encouraged to face the evil hosts of darkness in our strength, but in the strength that raised Jesus and believers with Him.” (1871)
We are in a war. This is why we need the full armour on, because we are stronger than anything, including the devil, if we are strong in the Lord (v. 11). So we are to put on the full armour of God, that we “may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (v. 11) The ESV rightly renders the NKJV’s ‘wiles’ as ‘schemes’, for he is great at devising war strategy, or so he thinks. However, in God’s word, and by His power, we have smarter and more powerful weapons and strategies, this being the word, prayer, and the community of faith together. It is not against flesh and blood per se, but the spiritual forces behind everything, rulers and the “forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (v. 12)
The word ‘wrestle’, pallo, refers to a conflict that will only end when one is laid prostrate by the other. This is a battle that will not end until Christ returns, and the church militant joins with the rest of the church triumphant. First of all, we are all Jacobs who need to become Israels (Gen. 32:22-32). Again, with a ‘therefore, we ask what is the ‘therefore’ there for? Here we are to understand what we need for the battle, that we be the ones left standing, under God (v. 13). Only if we have done all shall we stand (v. 13). With another ‘therefore we are called to stand, “having girded” our waists “with the truth.” (14a) This is exactly what is wrong with our post-mod culture, there is no longer a belief in absolute certain truth.
With God’s help, the enemy will have to pry God’s word out of my cold dead hand if it comes to that. Then it will still be the hammer to dash them to pieces. In the whole of human history, from Adam to today, all men have known the truth, but many have suppressed it in unrighteousness, along with their eternal punishment (Rom. 1:28-32). Standing with the truth requires Christ’s righteousness and not our own – it protects all our vital organs (v. 14b Cf. Is. 59:16-17), “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (v. 15) We are all called to be ready to communicate the gospel in word and deed. Only by faith in God will we be able “to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” (v. 16)
What does Paul mean when he says that we need our feet shod “with the preparation of the gospel of peace?” (v. 15) It is expanded on by Paul echoing the prophet Isaiah again (40:9, 52:7 cf. Is. 53:1), being Christ’s missionary call 61:1f.), and Nahum 1:15, and Paul in his letter to the Romans (10:14-15). We all need to be ready to bring glad tidings, good news about the gospel of peace. Both “the breastplate of righteousness,” and “the helmet of salvation” also are mentioned by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians at 5:8, adding to faith, love and hope.
“But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and “as a helmet the hope of salvation.” This salvation is summarized in I Th. 5:9.Just so there is no confusion about what “the sword of the Spirit” (v. 17) is, Paul adds that it “is the word of God.” It is not a so-called “the Spirit led me,” or “God spoke to me,” or “I felt the Spirit lead me.” ‘The sword’ is the word.” Period! Full STOP! “Praying always with all prayer and
supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (v. 18) As important as Paul’s work was, he asks for prayer “for all the saints.” Furthermore, no matter how important his work as an apostle was, he asked for prayer for himself that he would be able “to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (vv. 19-20)
This song by Dylan is truth. Everybody has a boss. As Christians we know who our ultimate boss is, because he is everyone’s ultimate boss, whether they acknowledge this or not. However, we are still called to be obedient to those who are our human bosses, provided they don’t ask or try to force us to do what is contrary to God’s infallible and inerrant word. We are not to do so grudgingly, but as that which sets us apart, we serve “with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” It can’t just be surface service, but must come from the core of who we are. Again, whether in human terms one is a ‘slave’ or ‘free’, we all are called to serve, and by doing good from the heart, and to the Lord, we are promised that we “will receive the same from the Lord,” (v. 8) for there is no partiality of rank or station with God (v. 9).
Paul, like Jesus, nowhere abrogated the law (Mt. 5:17-20). Here Paul continues to address family issues, and with respect to children and parents he quotes Dt. 5:16. What is especially significant is his comment that the 5thcommandment is the first with a promise (Cf. Dt. 6:2). What is perhaps equally significant is the nature of the promise, not heaven, as some may assume, but rather “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Too many fundamentalists and evangelicals, and even some Reformed have a pagan view of life, that we were only born for the next life. There will certainly be a resurrection, but it will be to a new heavens and a new earth, and now there is this promise of wellness, and long life to those who obey and honour their parents, as the commandment requires.
I also disagree with those who see this commandment as the first toward our fellow human beings. Rather, I think it belongs to those concerning our direct relationship to God, for parents are uniquely his vice-regents over a godly seed, given children as gifts that they are to offer back to the Lord. It is worth noting that the command includes mother and father, and in fact Lev. 19:2 has this order, and the first mark of holiness (Lev. 19:1)! There is in fact a promise of wellness and long life given to all the covenant people who keep his law. Beyond the decalogue that Paul refers to, Moses said the same earlier to all at Dt. 4:40. Moses is careful to add that it comes after redemption (Cf. Dt. 5:1-5). Here Paul says that Fathers as the normal heads of household are directly accountable to God for the covenant seed he gives them (v. 4).
It is a shame that a break is made here between v.22 and v. 21, because Paul began the following admonishments after what he wrote in v. 21, namely, “submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.” In other words, it is not just directed to wives. Although it is true that the Husbands are the covenantal head of the family in most cases, nevertheless it is a headship of love, and in this way husbands do submit to their wives, most importantly through teaching the word. For Paul it went beyond this however, as he was first laying down how the members of the church must submit to one another as well. The husband’s love is to follow Jesus’ pattern (vv. 23-7) There is a simple principle for Paul – husbands show their love for their wives, in the same way they love themselves. However, for Paul what he had just written was secondary to how he viewed the life of the church as a whole.
Paul turns to the Christian marriage as an example of submitting one to another. Wives are called to submit to their husbands as their head, and husbands in their love for their wives – both are centred on Christ. However, for those cases where either side is out of step with these directives, other scripture must come into play. No woman should be forced to live with an abusive man, nor a believing man with a rebellious wife. Forgiveness should be sought and given, otherwise the innocent party needs to take the case to two witnesses, and if there is still no change, then to the church. During this time it would be best if the couple were separated, and if true believers, give themselves to prayer, not letting the devil gain a foothold. Marriage is a great mystery, as is the union of Christ with his people therefore. “let each one of you love…his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (v. 33)
It is a shame that a break is made here between v.22 and v. 21, because Paul began the following admonishments after what he wrote in v. 21, namely, “submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.” I other words, it is not just directed to wives. Although it is true that the Husbands are the covenantal head of the family in most cases, nevertheless it is a headship of love, and in this way husbands do submit to their wives, most importantly through teaching the word. For Paul it went beyond this however, as he was first laying down how the members of the church must submit to one another as well. The husband’s love is to follow Jesus’ pattern (vv. 23-7) There is a simple principle for Paul – husbands show their love for their wives, in the same way they love themselves. However, for Paul what he had just written was secondary to how he vied the life of the church as a whole.
Uncleanness, covetousness, and filthiness are to be replaced with thanksgiving, looking toward one’s “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (vv. 3-5) The former is evident in “the sons of disobedient.” (v. 6) “Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (v. 7) From darkness we are called to walk in the light of the Lord (v. 8). Evident in the children is the fruit of the Spirit – “goodness, righteousness, and truth, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” (vv. 9-10) The light of the Lord that shines through his people exposes the darkness of “the sons of disobedience.” (5:6, 11-13; 2:1-10)
With Paul we are to look to scripture to know what is acceptable to the Lord. For this immediate context Paul goes to the prophet Isaiah, which some refer to as the 5th gospel. “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (v. 14 cf. Is. 26:19; 60:1) How amazing to learn that the promise of a resurrection is found here, and on us the glory of the LORD has risen! The NGSB puts these words of Isaiah in context as a possible hymn, “calling upon the spiritually dead to rise up and receive the light of Christ.” (cf. 2:1-10) We are made “alive together with Christ.” (2:5)
Therefore, we are to walk ‘circumspectly’ or carefully, “not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (v. 15) There is an apologetic force to these injunctions. “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.” (Col. 4:5) How are we to do this? “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:6) “Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mt. 10:16b cf. Eccl. 10:12; Mk. 9:50). Peter also saw the apologetical thrust of this walking in the light amidst darkness – hope (I Pet. 3:15 cf. vv. 16-17).
Eph. 5:1-2 Walk in Love.
‘Therefore’ indicates that what follows is based on what precedes. This putting off the old and putting on the new is a key motif for Paul. ‘Putting on’ here means being “imitators of God as dear children.” (v. 1) We are children of God in this sense of being imitators, by means of adoption, and not by our own means. Walking is also a popular metaphor for how we are to live our lives, and for adopted children, this means that we are called to walk in love. Again, this love is based on Christ’s love for us, a love that was more than a feeling, rather, it evidenced itself in his giving himself for us, and we are called to then give ourselves back as “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.”
Paul, like the other biblical writers, when seeking to make a point, employ two or three witnesses from previous canonical writers to show the unity of the message given by God by the inspiration of the Spirit. This was in fact how the present canon was formed, by showing that new revelation was consistent with what had come before. In this passage, Paul’s main point is garnered from the three old testament references he refers to. Speaking truth to one’s neighbour is the opposite of lying, as Zechariah stated (8:16), which Paul applies to fellow members in the church (v. 25).
One can be angry without sin, and therefore we should not harbour unjustified sinful anger against anyone in the church, for to do so would be to give the devil a foothold (v. 26). These second references may come from two of the Psalms, 4:4 and 37:8. The antidotes, according to these references, is to meditate, ie., keep silent, practice righteousness to the Lord, and trust in the Lord, waiting patiently on the Lord to have his way. Fostering sinful anger gives a place for the devil to operate from within the body (v. 27). Stealing from one another is also forbidden, instead we should give to those in need, as we are able (v. 28).
There is a time to keep silent, but there is also a time to speak, as long as our words are edifying, imparting grace to those in need (v. 29 cf. Eccl. 3:7). Anyone not following these principles is in danger of grieving the Holy Spirit, by whom the saints are sealed for a future full redemption (v. 30). This is not to suppose that we can be perfect in this life. If this were the case then none could be saved, there would be then no need for these admonishments, and also no need for forgiveness, one to another (vv. 31-32). Verse 31 lists the sinful marks, which we must “put away,” evidencing instead the fruit of the Spirit (v. 32).
The saints are called to learn Christ, which does not come by futility, blindness, or ignorance (vv. 17-20). It comes through hearing and being taught by Jesus, the Christ, as the truth is in Him (v. 21). We are to put off those things of vv. 17-19, 23, and be renewed in the spirit or attitude of our minds, that our lives might be transformed into something new, “created according to God” and not ourselves, “in true righteousness and holiness.” (v. 24 cf. Rom. 12:1-2)