27 October 2012

Ephesians 6:1-24

"Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ." (vv. 23, 24)


This is the final section of the Letter to the Ephesians, containing advice for children, parents, slaves and masters.

The instruction to children about how to behave is from the Ten Commandments. These are from the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 5:16) and were given to God's people as they journeyed away from slavery in Egypt. In today's passage, it is followed by advice to fathers - it is general encouragement for children and parents to treat each other properly.

For many readers in our contemporary society, the section about slaves and masters is more problematic. If we live in a culture where the idea of slavery is abhorrent then unsurprisingly this section will not read easily. But the writer was addressing the situation of that time, and within that culture the advice may seem appropriate.

All in all it is a tough call to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and to live just as he expects. There has been a suggestion that the writer was in prison and was looking at the soldier on guard. The military uniform becomes something designed not for normal warfare, but to be the necessary clothing to provide protection against everything that threatens life in the Spirit (verses 13-17). So, the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and sword are all employed in holding fast against all the evil in the world.

And finally, the ultimate weapon is prayer (verse 18) - for the individual Christian and for the writer of this letter. The letter ends personally: after all it is a letter to those fellow Christians who are struggling to understand what it means to follow Jesus in the society in which they were living. The letter can be a challenge to Christians in the 21st century too!

To Ponder

  • How do you think that the advice to children and fathers might be helpful today?
  • What sort of armour might you need if you want to be a follower of Jesus?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.