Ephesians 6 -Life the Body of Christ (part 2)

Ephesians 5:21-6:24

C. Submit to one another. 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.*

This portion is a continuation of Paul previous exhortations about life in the Body of Christ. In this passage, he discusses submission. This is such an important topic in the Church and runs throughout its life. We are all subject to one another. No one in the church is an authority to himself. Even the highest ranking bishop is still subject to others and has his own spiritual father to whom he submits. When followed properly, a level of humility is developed that reflects the Trinitarian life of submission. Christ submits to the Father and we follow His example when we submit.

St. Jerome: “In the Church, leaders are servants. Let them imitate the apostle. The difference between secular rulers and Christian leaders is that the former love to be lord over their subordinates whereas the latter serve them.”

1. Submission in Family life.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."* 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Once again our relationship with Christ affects and colors all our relationships. There seems to be two things that are going on here. One is that mutual submission is the basis for Christian marriage and then two that marriage is a type of the mystery of Christ and the Church. Marriage points to and finds its fulfillment in Christ and the Church. Marriage is a mystery as well and communicates God’s grace to those who submit it. There is a tendency within the Church for monasticism to be exalted above marriage as a path of holiness. However, repeatedly throughout her history, the Church has upheld marriage as an equal path of holiness. One aspect of the Orthodox wedding service is to focus on marriage as martyrdom. Each person dies daily in an act of mutual submission. It is interesting that the model of monastic life, St. John the Baptist, was martyred while defending the sanctity of marriage.

In summary, wives are to respect and submit. Fr. Farley states: “submission does not include loss of dignity”. Christ submits to the Father yet He is co-equal and one in essence with the Father. Husbands are to love their wife as Christ. Christ does all things necessary for the Church’s joy and salvation.

The orthodox Husbands are to love their wives in order that their shared life may daily reveal the truth, grace and glory of God. Since the great union of Christ and the Church discloses the inner essence of the vocation and work of marriage, the Apostle graciously develops this type to describe five ways that marital partners may live out their union: 1) self-giving (Eph. 5:25), 2) dying to self (vs. 26), 3) glorifying the other (vs. 27), 4) loving the other (vss. 28,29), while 5) functioning as one body and one flesh (vss. 30-32). “As we consciously joined ourselves to His dying in Holy Baptism, so also in marriage, let us daily determine to die in order to deepen our union with our spouses. Let marriage be a school for learning to die, taught by the One Who loves perfectly; and as we learn from Him to die, we may also expect His Resurrection life to be manifested in our marriages [From the Orthodox devotional-Dynamis].”

2. Submission of Children (6:1-4) 1 CHILDREN, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."* 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

To ”provoke not” is to irritate not, by vexatious commands, unreasonable blame, and uncertain temper; not to punish so strictly that they become discouraged. To ”bring up” is to nurture; and is used in 5:29 of how we treat our own bodies. Admonition is training by words.

On a personal note, I could see that this verse could be read that fathers should not treat their children in such a way that would lead to their condemnation (wrath) but to their salvation. This may not be a proper reading of this verse, but I do think the idea is Orthodox. In fact, this is the way the canons of the church are treated. The canons are often to disciplinary in nature in order to bring man to salvation. Occasionally a canon may lead man to condemnation rather than salvation and “economy” may be used by a bishop. Perhaps this is how us as fathers should raise our children. All our actions and discipline are directed to their salvation and away from their condemnation.

3. Submission in Work Life (6:5-9) 5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also* is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

This passage is not condoning slavery. Gal 3:28 strips away the basis and justification for slavery, because we are all one in Christ. The book of Philemon gives Paul’s personal opinion on the issue, even though he is reticent to try to impose on such an ingrained part of Roman society. Paul here assumes the existence of slavery and how to live in it.

Fortunately we don’t live with these conditions, but it seems reasonable that we can take this passage and apply it to work life. As employees we can work as to Christ; this allows us to turn our employment into an act of worship. This is a transformation of something that is seen as something purely secular into something holy. As employers, we are to treat those we employ as Christ. Every relationship that man has is transformed through the person of Christ. This is true implication of the Incarnation.

III. Be strong & fight. (6:10-20)

A. Be Strong. 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

To be strong in the Lord is to be empowered by God and to trust in God’s power as we wrestle with those things that would destroy communion with God.

B. Fight
1. The Enemy. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,* against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Wrestling implies sweat and blood, and in this instance hand to hand combat. This is not struggle free Christianity, but it is a life full of blood, sweat, and tears. Heb 12:4 “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

2. The Armor & Weapons. 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. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints-- 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Paul has been in prison looking at the armor of his guards, and he uses that image to reflect what we use to fight. Also this idea of the Lord in armor is a theme found in many OT books such as the Psalms, Isaiah, and in the book of Wisdom 5:17-24. Several comments can be made here. First, Paul expects the Christian to always to be wearing the armor. There is no rest. Vigilance is upheld as a high virtue. Even a cursory reading of ascetical literature of the church will emphasize the desperate need for the Christian to guard all his senses so that nothing sinful will enter the heart.

Paul admonishes us to ”stand”. This is the second time mentioning it. We are to maintain our ground; we can’t run because the armor only covers your front.

”Gird waist with truth” – Because of the custom of wearing long robes and cloaks, one of the functions of the belt was to hold fast the cloak when it was pulled through the legs into the belt. This allowed movement without getting tangled in one’s garments. The same word for truth is translated in the OT as faithfulness (Is. 11:5).

The Apostle says to gird “your loins with truth” (vs. 14). The loins are that portion of the body between the hip-bones and the lower edge of the rib cage, the soft, easily pierced area of the mid-section, where wounds do great damage. A “gut shot” in the belly is very serious not simply because it tears up vital organs, but because of the likelihood of infection and complications. The soft part of our spiritual life, where our Faith can be lanced, is located wherever we miss the truth and fail to guard the Gospel from attacks coming at us from the media, friends, colleagues, casual conversations - those thousand paths of misinformation that beckon to us. (from Dynamis devotional).

”Breastplate of righteousness” - Is. 59:17 Christ must be present in our hearts. ”Shod your feet with...peace” - Is. 26:3; Is 52:7. We are to be prepared and ready no matter the attack. St. Moses of Optina offers this addition: “If you want to be spiritually tranquil, never part from someone while feeling agitated, but try in every way to forgive everyone in your soul and to make peace as much as possible.”

”Sword of the Spirit” – This is the first weapon in the fight. The prime example is the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Christ Himself uses Scripture to withstand the attacks of the devil. (Ps. 149:6). ”Praying” – This is second weapon in the fight. We are to pray with perseverance. Ultimately we are putting on Christ.

IV. Conclusion 21 But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; 22 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Sources used:

Prison Epistles

The Orthodox New Testament

Ancient Christian Commentary

Also Chrysostom’s commentaries which can be found online here:

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