Bernardin de Piconio Commentary on Ephesians 6:1-9
Posted by Dim Bulb on October 26, 2010
Chapter 6~In this chapter the Apostle urges the duty of parents and children, of masters and servants, to one another; advises the Ephesian Christians to arm themselves in the panoply of God; requests their prayers for support in
his approaching interview with the emperor; and concludes the epistle with his apostolic benediction.
1. Sons, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is just,
2. Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment in promise;
3. That it may be well to thee, and thou be long-lived upon earth.
4. And you, fathers, do not provoke your sons to wrath: but educate them in discipline and reproof of the Lord.
This is the second branch or division of the general injunction in 5:21, Be subject to one anothev in the fear of Christ. The Apostle has already treated of the duties of wives and husbands; in these verses he deals with the relation of parents and children. Sons stands here for either sex; the Greek has τέκνον (teknon), children. Obey your parents in the Lord, it being evidently the design and intention of the Creator of the world that children, while young, should be obedient to their parents. And in accordance with the law of Christ, that is, except when the command given is evidently inconsistent with Christian obligation, which in pagan times might happen not unfrequently. Honour thy father and mother is the first commandment which has a special promise attached to it, namely, length of life, a promise adapted to the hopes and wishes of the rising generation of the age in which it was given, before whom the hope of eternal happiness in heaven had not as yet been clearly set forth, but who were encouraged to look forward to earthly prosperity and enjoyment in the land promised to their fathers. St. Thomas observes, in one of his minor works, that children hold life from parents as vassals hold a feof from a king (see note and link at the end of this paragraph). The soldier retains the feof as long as he pays the homage and yields the service, and children are similarly entitled to the preservation of life while they honour their parents. The rebel soldier is spoiled of his possession, and rebellious children deserve to be deprived of life. The Apostle does not mean that the literal promise holds good in every case; for the temporal prosperity of the Hebrews of old was only a figure of the eternal joy of heaven, promised to the obedient and faithful Christian. If God does not always give long life on earth, he will give an eternal life hereafter. Parents, in their turn, are not to provoke their children to wrath by excessive severity. Neither on the other hand (this is understood) are they to do them the injustice of leaving their faults entirely uncorrected. Educate them in the discipline and reproof of the Lord, with such instruction as will guide them in the knowledge of Christ’s law; such correction as is moderate, gentle, suited to the doctrine of Christ, who said, Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble; and such warning and advice as will prepare them to meet the perils of the life they are about to enter.
Note: Feof is identical to fief and is related to words such as fiefdom and feudalism. While modern usage, under the influence of Protestant and Enlightenment canards, have give the system a bad name, it was in fact advantageous to all involved. A feof is basically a contract (covenant might be a better term) between a wealthy landowner and a vassal. The Legal Dictionary has a pretty good explanation.
5. Slaves, obey your carnal masters with fear and trembling, in simplicity of your hearts, as Christ:
6. Not serving to the eye, as pleasing men; but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
7. Serving with good will as to the Lord and not to men.
8. Knowing that every one, whatever good he shall have done, will receive this from the Lord, whether slave or free.
9. And you, masters, do the same to them, forbearing threats, knowing that both their Lord and yours is in the heavens; and acceptance of persons is not with him.
Your carnal masters, those who have the control of your bodies, which according to the laws existing in those times was absolute, though doubtless under restriction and control from public opinion. With fear and trembling, fear to displease, not altogether excluding fear of corporal chastisement, by
which large establishments of slaves were then ordinarily kept under control. The Apostle is not defending the existence of this state of things, which had arisen from the wars carried on for centuries in the countries near the Levant, and the capture of large numbers of prisoners, but he gives directions as to the wisest and best course to be pursued under the circumstances, until a better condition of society should arise. In the simplicity of your hearts, not with feigned alacrity, but a genuine desire to please, as serving Christ, seeing Christ in the master to whom your service is rendered. The same idea is restated and expanded in slightly different terms in verses 6, 7. Serving with good will, or benevolence, as to the Lord and not to man. For you know that from his hands you will receive an eternal reward for any good thing you do. Masters are to do the same, act on the same principle in relation to their servants, treating them with humanity, kindness,
and benevolence, and the respect due to all men, made in God’s image, remembering that the Lord and Master of all men dwells in heaven, and before Him all men are equal. This statement is in direct contradiction of the opinion of the philosophers, that the majority of mankind are created and exist only for the pleasure of a few. Personarum acceptatio non est apud eum.