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Bible: What Does Ephesians 5-6 Teach Us About Family, Work, and Societal Responsibilities?

Updated on September 8, 2016

The Apostle Paul


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Mimic the Father

God’s beloved children ought to mimic their Father’s character by manifesting the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus exemplified as a human being (vv. 1-2; cf. Lev. 1-3).

Their godly habit of giving thanks should preclude others from being able to point the finger of blame at them for committing any number of improprieties.

Paul focuses their attention on avoiding sins related to sexual immorality and impurity in word and deed (vv. 3-4).

He reminds them that those who habitually exhibit such behavior will not inherit any part of the kingdom (v. 5).

They should not allow slick talkers to trick them into believing otherwise; the world’s ungodliness and unrighteousness merit God’s present and future wrath (v. 6; cf. Rom. 1:18; Eph. 2:2-3).

Paul commands them not to participate with sinners in their evil deeds (v. 7).

Recalling to their minds the spiritual change that took place in them (from “darkness” consisting of ignorance of God, to “light”—spiritual understanding and knowledge), the apostle exhorts the Ephesians to learn what pleases God as they live from day to day (vv. 8, 10).

[Verse 9 gives parenthetically a motivational reason why they should conduct themselves properly: they will manifest different Christ-like qualities if they live in harmony with their spiritual knowledge of God.]

Besides living an upright life (positive), they ought to separate themselves from and not participate in activities with those who do evil (negative) [v. 11a; cf. v. 7].

Reproving those who practice such things without dwelling upon the sin itself ought to be a third part of their Christian responsibility (vv. 11b-12).

They should make known the existence of the evil by speaking the true knowledge (light) [v. 13].

Paul concludes his thoughts on this subject by alluding to Isaiah’s exhortation that Israel wake up from their spiritual slumber (see Is. 26:19).

By implication, the Ephesians also need to “awake” that Christ might give them spiritual understanding of how they should live (v. 14).

The apostle urges his readers to be conscientious about their conduct; they should live wisely by taking advantage of every opportunity afforded them during this evil age (vv. 15-16).

It is of utmost importance that the Ephesians prevent themselves from becoming fools by coming to understand what God’s will is (v. 17).

[One discovers “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” by dedicating one’s entire self to the Lord, not permitting the world system to form one’s value system, and having one’s mind renewed through a spiritual metamorphosis (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).]

Paul compares and contrasts how wine influences a drunkard to behave with how biblically-based music affects believers when it controls the heart.

Both substances (wine and music) obviously control the individual, but they result in widely divergent outcomes.

Excessive wine-bibbing leads to profligacy and clamorous singing, while filling one’s mind with God’s word and will elicits

(1) reverential, joyful worship (both in corporate and individual settings),

(2) the non-stop, indiscriminate giving of thanks to God the Father because of what Christ has done for His people, and

(3) the manifestation of mutual regard for others’ needs based upon respect for God (vv. 18-21).



The Family and the Workplace

Using the Church’s relationship to Christ as an analogy, Paul carries the need for submission into the human family (5:22-6:4) and the “workplace” (6:5-9).

Wives must submit themselves to their husbands’ divinely ordained leadership role as the head of the family in the same way they bow the knee to Christ as the Lord and Savior of the Church (vv. 22-24).

In response to their wives’ submission, husbands must show their love for them in the same sacrificial way Christ manifested His love for the Church by giving His life for her (v. 25).

Paul indicates two reasons why Jesus submitted Himself unto death:

(1) He wished to set apart and cleanse the Church from her sin through the preaching of the gospel (v. 26); and

(2) He wanted for Himself a holy, unblemished and glorified bride (v. 27).

Just as Christ tenderly cares for His Body (the Church), so husbands ought to love their wives as much as they love their own bodies (vv. 28-30).

Paul employs Genesis 2:24—the text that states God’s standard for future marriages between men and women—as an illustration of the kind of close, “mysterious” relationship that exists between Christ and the Church (vv. 31-32).

The apostle concludes his comments about the husband-wife relationship by reiterating his “big idea”: husbands should love their wives, and wives should respect their husbands (v. 33).

Obedience to Parents/Love for Children


Ephesians 6

Next, Paul instructs children to obey their parents and thus do the right thing.

To encourage this behavior, he attaches God’s fifth “word” (a commandment promising prosperity and long life) as support for his own directive (vv. 1-3).

[Can a Church-age believer, then, expect to live a long, prosperous life if he honors his Christian parents?

How would he know whether he honored his parents well enough—and long enough—to merit such a life?]

Coupled with this exhortation to children comes the apostle’s warning to fathers not to nag their children and thus cause them to rebel against their authority; instead, male parents should exercise spiritual leadership at home by rearing their progeny to obey and reverence the Lord’s commandments (v. 4).

The call to obedience also extends into the master-slave relationship (or by application to modern society, into the workplace) [vv. 5-9].

Those with no rights in Roman society (slaves) should still sincerely serve their human owners in the same way they obey Christ, their heavenly Master (v. 5).

Paul emphasizes that they can have the right heart attitude toward serving their earthly masters, and not just obey them when the masters can see them.

By developing the mindset that they are, in reality, serving Christ and doing God’s will, they can bear the difficulties inherent in such a social position (vv. 6-7).

They can also comfort themselves with the knowledge that Christ will reward them for their good service (v. 8).

Paul’s exhortation to Christian masters/employers directs them to treat their Christian “employees” fairly; he admonishes them that threatening to do violence to their servants does not meet with their Heavenly Master’s approval.

God does not give masters the right to harm slaves simply because of their higher social status (v. 9).

The Whole Armor of God


Fighting the Spiritual War

Addressing the Ephesians as brethren, the apostle directs some final instruction about how to fight the spiritual war (vv. 10-20).

Obviously, Christians should depend upon the Lord’s strength, not their own, as they wage their individual battles (v. 10).

To help them understand what they have available in Christ to help them in this struggle, Paul introduces “the whole armor of God” concept —a metaphor referring to the spiritual equipment they must use to defeat Satan’s schemes—and instructs them to employ it (v. 11).

He reminds them that their opponents are not other human beings, but a whole host of demonic forces against which they fight in a spiritual conflict (v. 12).

Understanding that such is “reality,” they must wear “the whole armor of God” not only to endure the onslaughts of evil beings, but also to keep standing against those forces (v. 13).

Paul now delineates the separate pieces of their divine armor: the belt of truth (v. 14a), the breastplate of righteousness (v. 14b), the sandals of the gospel of peace (v. 15), the shield of faith (v. 16), the helmet of salvation (v. 17a), and the sword of the Spirit (v. 17b).

With truth firmly securing their righteousness in its place of protection, the Christian warrior takes the good news of reconciliation “on the road” (vv. 14-15).

Of utmost importance, his faith in God enables him to fend off spiritual attacks from the devil (v. 16).

His salvation protects his mind from intellectual assault, and by skillfully wielding the Holy Spirit’s sword, God’s word, he can defeat his enemies’ arguments (v. 17).

The apostle asks the Ephesians to pray regularly for other believers’ needs as well as for his witness, so that he, an imprisoned ambassador of Christ, might be able to proclaim confidently “the mystery of the gospel.”

He encourages them to maintain an attitude of prayer (“watchful . . . with all perseverance”) under the direction of the Spirit (vv. 18-20).

Paul’s final words to this local church in Ephesus direct them to seek out faithful Tychicus, whom the apostle has sent to them not only to learn more about his circumstances, but also to calm their fears about his safety and health (vv. 21-22).

He prays that both God the Father and God the Son would give “the brethren” peace and love with faith (v. 23), and grant them grace because of their sincere love for Christ (v. 24).

Study Questions for Ephesians

  1. What is the Father’s purpose in election?
  2. What other “blessings” has the Father bestowed besides election? Delineate, define, and discuss.
  3. Who is the Father’s downpayment on the believer’s inheritance?
  4. How does the Spirit act as a seal?
  5. What is the “purchased possession”?
  6. Grace will enable the Ephesians to know experientially three potentially life-changing truths. What are they?
  7. According to chapter one, in what ways has God shown His omnipotence?
  8. What two prerogatives has the Father given the Son as the result of His ascension?
  9. How does Paul see human beings prior to regeneration?
  10. By whose rules do all unregenerate people operate their existence?
  11. By what title does Paul designate him?
  12. With what two words does Paul introduce his argument that the Lord exercises His agape toward spiritually dead sinners and gives them life?
  13. Why does God make people “new creatures in Christ”?
  14. Whom does Paul designate as the “uncircumcision”?
  15. What was the cause of racial hatred between Gentiles and Jews, and what eliminated it?
  16. Who are the chief cornerstone and the foundation of the “holy temple”?
  17. What does Paul mean when he calls his ministry “the dispensation of the grace of God”?
  18. What is a biblical mystery, and what mystery did the apostle come to understand?
  19. What wonderful things happen when God daily renews the believer’s inner man?
  20. Chapters __-__ comprise the doctrinal section of this epistle, and chapters four through six make up the ___________ exhortations.
  21. According to chapter four, what moral qualities should characterize believers’ relationships with one another?
  22. What are the several aspects of spiritual unity?
  23. What is the purpose of Christ’s round-trip from His throne to earth at His incarnation, and then back to the Throne at His ascension, and what does this phrase mean?
  24. List the various “gifted men” which Christ has given to the Church, and discuss their responsibilities.
  25. Describe the spiritually lost condition of typical Gentiles.
  26. List Paul’s exhortations toward the attainment of righteous conduct.
  27. What characteristics ought God’s beloved children mimic in their Father?
  28. How does one discover the “perfect will of God”?
  29. What does it mean to be “filled in/with the Spirit/spirit”?
  30. Give two reasons why Jesus submitted Himself to death.
  31. What is the apostle’s “big idea” regarding the husband-wife relationship?
  32. Discuss the following relationships: child to parents, slave to master.
  33. Describe the “whole armor of God.”

© 2013 glynch1


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