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Paul's epistle to the Ephesians is, in some ways, a continuation of his epistle to the Romans. It enlarges upon Romans 1-8 in regard to the believer's position and right standing with God. We are "seated" with Christ, so we must "walk" according to our calling, and "stand" in the full armor of God against those who would oppose us.
Category - Bible Commentaries
After addressing the responsibility of slaves, Paul briefly turns to slave masters and tells them in Eph. 6:9,
9 And masters, do the same things to them [slaves], and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
More literally, Paul says, “omitting the threat” (The Emphatic Diaglott). This instruction is based on the knowledge that God is impartial, as we read in Gal. 3:28, 29,
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Paul was not denying the existence of physical or class distinctions but was telling us that God loves them all impartially. Believers, whether Jew or Greek, have equal access to God and are equally the children of Abraham. A slave who believes in Christ has equal status with God as a free man in the sight of God. And while God did indeed separate humanity into male and female, they each have equal access to God and do not have to go through a spouse to hear from Him.
The “dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14) in the temple in Jerusalem, which separated Jews from Greeks and men from women, has been abolished in Christ, for it stood in the way of the unity that Christ desired. When Paul says, “you are all one in Christ Jesus,” he was referring to Gen. 2:24 (“one flesh”) and to the ultimate fulfillment of that verse according to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23,
20 I do not ask on behalf of these [disciples] alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
Such unity is possible only through a New Covenant relationship. In fact, the problem with the Old Covenant is that it remains in force as long as sin exists. If a man steals, he may be “sold for his theft” and endure a time of slavery to reset his character and to re-establish the lawful order among men. This solution is far superior to the existing prison system, and if a slave master treats his slave as Christ would, the sinner would have a Christ-like example to follow and to learn the ways of God.
When Paul says to “give up threatening,” perhaps his thoughts turned toward Philemon and his slave, Onesimus.
The law itself commands Israelites to love the foreigners (“aliens”) among them, saying in Num. 15:16 and 29,
16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you… 29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them.
Lev. 19:33, 34 says further,
33 When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.
Deut. 10:19 affirms this, saying,
19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
The Israelites had suffered injustice and slavery in the land of Egypt, and later under Rome, so they should have learned how not to treat aliens and slaves. Their experience should have taught them quite naturally the New Covenant principles inherent in the mind of their impartial God. However, they failed to understand the “law of liberty” (James 2:12), thinking that the law favored the Israelites and that foreigners were inherently unequal in the sight of God.
For this reason, when the temple was dismantled and rebuilt by King Herod—a task which took 46 years (John 2:20)—he instructed the workers to build a dividing wall in the outer court to separate men from women and Jews from foreigners. This dividing wall was never commanded in the instructions for Solomon’s temple, nor even in the Second Temple in the days of Haggai. The dividing wall was a violation of God’s law and a human invention that prevented unity among God’s children. It took Christ Himself to reestablish the principle of God’s impartiality and to end hostility and resentment.
This is the underlying principle of Paul’s instruction to slave masters as well, for he wrote, “there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:9).
Eph. 6:10, 11 says,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
If we step back for a moment to see the progression of Paul’s epistle, we note that Christ has “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). From there, we are instructed “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Finally, we are to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Watchman Nee wrote a short book about this entitled, Sit, Walk, Stand, where he pointed out this progression.
In other words, we must first establish our position in Christ and know who we are. Then we must know our calling and “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.” We walk worthy of our calling largely by understanding Old and New Covenant relationships and by recognizing the impartiality of God. By walking in a manner that is worthy, we are able to “stand firm” in the full armor of God. This is a basic outline of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians.
Eph. 6:12 says,
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Some interpret this to mean that our struggle, or warfare, is purely in the spiritual realm and has nothing to do with the people on earth. Others deny the existence of evil spirits or the devil, claiming that these are just metaphors for physical or mental illness. Hence, they deny the validity of spiritual warfare, or they limit it to the earthly realm. Such people interpret this to mean that our struggle is only against illness, disability, and ungodly earthly rulers.
In my view, the devil and evil spirits are the spiritual forces behind ungodly men and women on earth, just as the Holy Spirit is the spiritual force behind those who are godly. The same spiritual laws apply equally to both realms; the difference lies in the nature of those spiritual forces. Hence, we must acknowledge the power of both sides.
We must know and respect the power of the enemy, while at the same time we must know that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. We have authority over the entire realm of evil spirits.
Likewise, when evil men are influenced or commanded by the devil to curse a city, region, or individuals, we are not affected negatively, because we have put on the armor of God.
Conversely, when we bless, none can revoke it. Balaam learned this lesson when he tried to curse Israel. He said in Num. 23:19, 20,
19 God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? 20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless; when He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.
Balaam was motivated by his own greed, but he was influenced by an evil spirit operating in his life through his greed. On the other hand, we are constrained by the love of God and influenced by the Holy Spirit operating in our lives as we walk worthy of our calling. In both cases, the spiritual manifests in the earthly realm through people. To have a clear understanding of this, we must recognize both realms and how they relate and interact.
We then can “stand firm” without being wounded emotionally or spiritually or even killed by the enemy. In all these things, we are more than conquerors, being fully equipped to build God’s Kingdom in the manner that our particular callings allow us.