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

Commentary on Ephesians 6:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 22, 2018


In these verses the Apostle continues his instruction on Christian submission, begun at Eph 5:21. Having spoken of the mutual duties of husbands and wives, he now goes on to consider those of children and parents (Eph 6:1-4), and of servants and masters (Eph 6:5-9). Children must obey their parents (Eph 6:1-3), and parents must lovingly instruct their children in the discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Similarly, let servants be obedient to their masters as to Christ, remembering that they will receive a reward from God (Eph 6:5-8); and, on the other hand, let masters be kind to their servants, reflecting that they themselves are servants of Christ, and that there is in heaven one Lord of all who will judge all in justice and equity (ver. 9).

Eph 6:1. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is just.

Obey your parents, etc. The Apostle is speaking to Christian children and parents, but of course his words have a wider application.

In the Lord. These words restrict the obedience of the children and the commands of the parents to things in harmony with the law of God, and they also indicate that the obedience of children should be prompted by a supernatural motive. From this we may infer the practice of infant baptism in the Apostolic Church, because the Apostle seems to take it as understood that the children of Christian parents were already baptized, therefore “in the Lord.” The supreme example and model of such obedience was given by our Lord Himself (Luke 2:51): “For this is just,” i.e., dictated by nature and in conformity with the divine commands.

Eph 5:2. Honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with a promise:

The first part of this verse and verse 3 are from Ex 20:12, and Deut. 5:16, verbatim according to the LXX.

Which is the first, etc., i.e., (a) the first in the Second Table of the Law, for the First Table contains the commandments that pertain to God, the Second those that pertain to men (Ambrosiaster); or (b) the first in dignity or the principal commandment, having a promise annexed, which is immediately given. This is the principal commandment for children, as comprehending the rest (Voste). The clause, therefore, simply means: this is the principal commandment for you children, and it has a promise attached to it, as you can see from the words that follow.

Eph 6:3. That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest he long-lived upon earth.

These words of the Old Law refer directly to the promised land of Palestine, but indirectly to heaven, of which Palestine was a figure. It is to be observed regarding this promise that, since our earthly life is subordinated to the good of life eternal, even obedient children are sometimes taken away by premature death lest they should be contaminated by a wicked world (Wis. 4:10-11), while bad children not infrequently enjoy length of days in order that they may turn from an evil life and be saved.

Eph 6:4. And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger; but bring them up in the disciphne and correction of the Lord.

And you, fathers, etc. The “you” here and in ver. 9 (Vulgate, vos) is not expressed in the Greek. The father is mentioned as head of the family, but the mother’s authority is included with that of the father because of the oneness of husband and wife, as explained above. The Apostle means to say that, while children should be obedient to parents, the latter ought to show themselves worthy of obedience, not by rigorous domination but by just and gentle persuasion. And this applies to all superiors, who should be guided in the control of others by justice and charity, instead of being blinded by authority, which they at times unjustly exercise,ignorant or forgetful of this full-meaning verse of St. Paul.

The discipline, etc., refers to moral formation in general according to the will of Christ, and not according to one’s own ideas, regardless of the expressed divine will. Parents are stewards of Christ as regards their children, and therefore are seriously bound to exercise in this capacity a faithful stewardship by word and example. See Col. 3:20-21 for a parallel passage.

Eph 6:5. Servants, be obedient to them that are your lords according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart, as to Christ:
Eph 6:6. Not serving to the eye, as it were pleasing men, but, as the servants of 
Christ doing the will of God from the heart,
Eph 6:7. With a good will serving, as to the Lord, and not to men.
Eph 6:8. Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man shall do, the same shall 
he receive from the Lord, whether he be bond, or free.

In these verses St. Paul is admonishing “servants” (literally, “slaves”) to render to their human masters a conscientious and respectful service which has its motive, not in personal or outward advantage, but in a sincere desire to please their spiritual Lord and Master, Christ, to whom their earthly lords are subordinated; and which further looks forward with the eyes of faith to the heavenly reward which Christ, the supreme Master and just Judge of us all, will render to each one, “whether he be bond, or free.”

Eph 6:9. And you, masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatenings, knowing that the Lord both of them and you is in heaven; and there is no respect of persons with him.

The Apostle now admonishes masters to be animated by the same supernatural motives toward their servants, seeing in them the person of Christ and being kind and merciful to them, mindful at all times that there is in heaven one Judge of all, slaves and masters, Jesus Christ, who cares nothing for the titles and positions of men, but will reward or punish according to the works each one has done while in the flesh: we are all slaves of Christ, our common divine Master, and all must appear before His judgment seat.

In this section, verses 5-9, it is worthy of note that St. Paul is not speaking of the rights of slaves and masters respectively, but of the obligations incumbent on each class of doing their respective duties, one to the other: it is duties, not rights, that the Apostle is emphasizing. For parallel passages see Col. 3:22—4:1; 1 Cor. 7:20-24.

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