The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 19, 2014

This post opens with Fr. Callan’s brief summary of Ephesians 6:10-20, followed by his comments on the individual verses.

THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT AND THE MEANS OF VICTORY
A Summary of Ephesians 6:10-20.

After giving particular precepts for the home circle, St. Paul now passes to the outer world and admonishes all Christians to be ready for the warfare which must be waged against the enemies of their salvation. He first exhorts his readers to prepare for the conflict (Eph 6:10-13); then describes the armor of the Christian warrior (Eph 6:14-17); and finally reminds them of the necessity of continual prayer and vigilance as the means of vanquishing Satan and his hosts, and asks in particular that they would pray unceasingly for himself and the spread of the Gospel (Eph 6:18-20).

Eph 6:10. Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power.

Finally. Literally, “For the rest,” i.e., as to what remains to be said regarding necessary precepts.

Brethren is wanting in the best MSS., and is probably not authentic, as it does not occur elsewhere as here used in this Epistle.

In the Lord, the one source of spiritual strength.

And in the might of his power, i.e., in His omnipotent power.

Eph 6:11. Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.

The armor of God, i.e., the spiritual panoply which God has provided for our spiritual warfare and by which the necessary strength is given us to win the combat against the secret attacks of the devil.

To stand, i.e., to resist his wiles and temptations.

The devil. See on Eph 2:2. That passage reads: “Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief.” Commenting on this Fr. Callan wrote:

Wherein, etc., i.e., in which state of moral death you lived and wrought in your pagan past.

According to the course of this world, i.e., according to the evil principles and customs of this present order of things, which is under the sway and influence of Satan, who is “the prince of the power of the air” (i.e., who is the ruler of the authority of the air, or the evil ruler whose sphere of authority is the air, and who exercises his nefarious influence “on the children, etc.,” on those who refuse to believe, or who reject the Gospel). Among the Jews the air was popularly regarded as the abode of evil spirits, as heaven was God’s abode and the earth the place of man’s sojourn. Moreover, Satan’s legitimate sphere of activity is no longer in heaven (Rev 12:9; Luke 1018); nor is it on the earth, which has been reclaimed by the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Hence, the Apostle speaks of it figuratively as being between heaven and earth—in the air.

Power is more probably to be taken in an abstract sense for domination, and “spirit,” a genitive in Greek, is governed by “prince,” and means the mind or tendency by which the evil spirit, Satan, is actuated.

Children of unbelief, or better, “sons of disobedience,” is a Hebraism to signify all those who do not accept the Gospel.

Eph 6:12. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.

It is necessary that our armor be strong, for our struggle “is not against flesh and blood,” i.e., against weak mortal men, “but against principalities, etc.,” i.e., against the evil spirits of darkness; “against the rulers of the world, etc.,” i.e., against the demons who are the leaders of the world of sin and moral darkness; “against the spirits of wickedness,” i.e., evil spiritual beings and forces, “in the high places,” i.e., in the place where these evil spirits dwell and where our battle with them is waged (see on Eph 1:3, 2:2). For other allusions to the Evil One and his mysterious authority over the world of men, see Luke 4:6; John 14:30, 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:18.

Eph 6:13. Therefore take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.

Therefore, i.e., since our fight is so unequal, being against evil spiritual forces and powers, the Apostle urges that we take up “the armor of God,” i.e., that we make use of grace and the spiritual resources at our disposal, so as to be “able to resist in the evil day,” i.e., at the time and moment of temptation and hostile attack, with the result that when the struggle passes we may be able “to stand in all things perfect,” i.e., firm and immovable in grace and virtue, ready for the next attack.

Eph 6:14. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice,

The Apostle now begins to describe the various parts of the Christian soldier’s equipment, and his imagery is drawn partly from the dress of the Roman soldiers who in turn had charge of him in prison, and partly from two passages in Isaias where the Messiah is described as a warrior (Isa. 11:4, 49:17). He speaks first (Eph 6:14-17) of defensive and then of offensive arms, giving a spiritual meaning to each of the arms and each article of dress of the Roman soldier. The Christian soldier must “stand” (i.e., be ready for the conflict), having “truth” (i.e., sincerity and moral rectitude) for belt, and “justice” (i.e., loyalty in word and action to the law of God) as breastplate; for shoes he must have readiness and alacrity of soul to affirm “the gospel of peace”; “faith” must be his shield, and the inspired “word of God” his sword.

Eph 6:15. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace:

Preparation. The Greek for this word occurs here only in the New Testament, and it most probably means readiness and alacrity of soul to preach the Gospel. Spiritual equipment gives the meaning of the term as well as anything. St. Chrysostom says: “The preparation of the gospel is nothing else than the best life.”

Eph 6:16. In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

In all things, etc. A lesser reading has “above all things, etc.,” which would mean that, besides all that has been just said, we should take the shield of faith, etc. But “in all things, etc.” is the better reading; and it means that in all the circumstances of our life of warfare faith is our shield, the heavy armor of our souls, by which we can ward off “the fiery darts of the wicked one,” i.e., of Satan.

Eph 6:17. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).

“The helmet of salvation” means our salvation, the salvation offered us by Christ (Cajetan), or the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). The helmet protects the head, and the salvation offered us by our Lord is the pledge of our eternal inheritance. The “sword of the Spirit” is “the word of God,” i.e., the utterance of
God; the two phrases are in apposition here, and they explain each other: “The word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12).

Eph 6:18. By all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the spirit, and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints:

Here the Apostle admonishes that we must pray at all times, in all places, and for all persons, as a means of making really effectual the foregoing helps in the battle for salvation. All our help comes from God, and prayer opens the door to God’s treasure-house of graces.

Prayer and supplication are perhaps used together here for the sake of emphasis, though the former word can be distinguished from the latter as meaning a general offering of our thoughts and desires, while the latter has reference to our special petitions.

The Spirit. Literally, “in spirit,” i.e., in the fervor of our souls as animated and inspired by the Spirit of God.

For all the saints, as all are members of the same mystical body whose head is Christ.

Eph 6:19. And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel.
Eph 6:20. For which I am an ambassador in a chain, so that therein I may be bold to speak according as I ought.

The Apostle now asks a part in the prayers of his readers that he may be able courageously and efficaciously to preach “the mystery of the gospel,” i.e., the perfect equality of Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic kingdom, the universality of the salvation of Christ. It was for preaching this equal salvation for all men in Christ that the Apostle was cast into prison ; and this made him, though a prisoner, the representative of Christ the King in the imperial city, “an ambassador in a chain,” i.e., coupled by a chain around his right wrist to the left of a Roman soldier in his hired lodging in Rome.

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