To the Ephesians 6:1-24

6  Children, be obedient to your parents+ in union with the Lord, for this is righteous.  “Honor your father and your mother”+ is the first command with a promise:  “That it may go well with you* and you may remain a long time on the earth.”  And fathers, do not be irritating your children,+ but go on bringing them up in the discipline+ and admonition of Jehovah.+  Slaves, be obedient to your human masters,+ with fear and trembling in the sincerity of your hearts, as to the Christ,  not only when being watched, just to please men,+ but as Christ’s slaves doing the will of God whole-souled.+  Slave with a good attitude, as to Jehovah+ and not to men,  for you know that whatever good each one does, he will receive this back from Jehovah,+ whether he is a slave or a freeman.  Also, you masters, keep treating them in the same way, not threatening,+ for you know that both their Master* and yours is in the heavens,+ and there is no partiality with him. 10  Finally, go on acquiring power+ in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength. 11  Put on the complete suit of armor+ from God so that you may be able to stand firm against the crafty acts of the Devil;+ 12  because we have a struggle,+ not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces+ in the heavenly places.+ 13  For this reason take up the complete suit of armor from God,+ so that you may be able to resist* in the wicked day and, after you have accomplished everything, to stand firm. 14  Stand firm, therefore, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist,+ wearing the breastplate of righteousness,+ 15  and having your feet shod in readiness to declare the good news of peace.+ 16  Besides all of this, take up the large shield of faith,+ with which you will be able to extinguish all the wicked one’s burning arrows.+ 17  Also, accept the helmet of salvation,+ and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,+ 18  while with every form of prayer+ and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.+ And to that end stay awake, constantly making supplication in behalf of all the holy ones. 19  Pray also for me, that the words may be given to me when I open my mouth, so that I may be able to speak boldly in making known the sacred secret of the good news,+ 20  for which I am acting as an ambassador+ in chains,+ and that I may speak about it with boldness, as I ought to speak. 21  Now so that you may also know about me and how I am doing, Tychʹi·cus,+ a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.+ 22  I am sending him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may comfort your hearts. 23  May the brothers have peace and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24  May the undeserved kindness be with all those loving our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptness.

Footnotes

Or “That you may prosper.”
Or “Lord.”
Or “withstand; stand your ground.”

Study Notes

in union with the Lord: Although some manuscripts omit “in union with the Lord,” the longer reading has strong manuscript support.

Honor your father and your mother: By quoting the fifth of the Ten Commandments, Paul shows that honoring, or respecting, one’s parents was not only a requirement of the Mosaic Law but also an obligation for Christians. (Ex 20:12; De 5:16) This was the first command with a promise because it specifically promised well-being and a long life to those who obeyed.​—Eph 6:3.

do not be irritating: The Greek verb for “to irritate” could literally be rendered “to provoke to wrath; to make angry.” It does not necessarily refer to the minor irritations a parent might unwittingly cause his child because of imperfection. One reference work states that this irritation could be caused by “the hasty, rough, moody treatment of children, so that . . . they are repelled and enticed to opposition, defiance and bitterness.”​—Compare Col 3:21.

the discipline and admonition of Jehovah: Jehovah God is the ultimate authority on how to raise children. When Moses told the Israelites that they “must love Jehovah” with all their heart, soul, and strength, he also instructed them to inculcate Jehovah’s words in their children. (De 6:5-8) Jehovah is described as the one disciplining his servants.​—De 11:2; Pr 3:11, 12; Heb 12:6; for the use of the divine name here, see App. C3 introduction; Eph 6:4.

discipline: The Greek word for “discipline” (pai·deiʹa) is related to a word for “child” (pais). Therefore, one aspect of the Biblical term “discipline” involves what is needed when bringing up children​—instruction, education, correction and, at times, firm but loving chastisement. One lexicon defines this term as “the act of providing guidance for responsible living, upbringing, training, instruction.”

admonition: Or “instruction; guidance; training.” Lit., “putting mind in.” The Greek word used here (nou·the·siʹa) is a compound word composed of the word for “mind” (nous) and the word for “to put” (tiʹthe·mi). In this context, the word indicates that Christian fathers are to help their children to understand God’s thoughts on matters. They are, in effect, to put the mind of Jehovah God in their children.

your human masters: Paul here urges Christian slaves to be obedient to their “human [lit., “fleshly”] masters.” Christian slaves as well as their earthly masters needed to keep in mind that they had a higher Master in the heavens.​—Eph 6:9.

not only when being watched, just to please men: Lit., “not with eye-service as men pleasers.” A slave who was also a Christian was not to try to make an impression by being obedient or working hard only when his master was present. Instead, he was to serve “whole-souled,” with fear of Jehovah.​—Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22-25.

whole-souled: The Greek expression rendered “whole-souled” occurs twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at Col 3:23. In this expression, “soul” refers to the entire person, including the physical and mental abilities; some Bibles thus render it “wholeheartedly.” Therefore, serving whole-souled means that a person serves with his whole being or his whole life, using all his faculties and strength to the fullest extent possible.​—De 6:5; Mt 22:37; Mr 12:29, 30; see Glossary, “Soul.”

as to Jehovah and not to men: In this context, Paul encourages literal slaves who have become Christians to be obedient to their “human masters.” (Eph 6:5) They are to render service to them “as Christ’s slaves doing the will of God whole-souled.” (Eph 6:6) Paul emphasizes that they should remember their relationship with Jehovah God in whatever work they were doing. When they obeyed and honored their earthly masters, or owners, they would not bring reproach on “the name of God.” (1Ti 6:1) Paul gives very similar counsel to literal slaves in his letter to the Colossians, written about the same time as the letter to the Ephesians.​—Col 3:22-24; see “Introduction to Ephesians”; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; Eph 6:7.

he will receive this back from Jehovah: Throughout the Bible, Jehovah God is described as the one who rewards the good deeds of those faithfully serving him. Some examples are found at Ru 2:12; Ps 24:1-5; Jer 31:16. Jesus also describes his Father in that way.​—Mt 6:4; Lu 6:35; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; Eph 6:8.

a freeman: See Glossary, “Freeman; Freedman.”

complete suit of armor: This phrase translates the single Greek word pa·no·pliʹa that refers to the defensive and offensive military equipment used by foot soldiers in combat. Paul likely based his detailed illustration on the Roman soldier. (Eph 6:13-17) Paul could have seen Roman soldiers wearing such armor in various parts of the Empire but certainly in the Praetorian camp, where he was likely taken on his arrival in Rome. (Ac 27:1; 28:16) Christians need a spiritual kind of armor that comes only from God because they are engaged in a spiritual struggle rather than a physical one.​—Eph 6:12; see Glossary, “Armor,” and Media Gallery, “Roman Soldier’s Suit of Armor.”

the crafty acts: Or “the schemes.” The Greek word here rendered “crafty acts” occurs only two times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, both in a negative sense. Here it describes the cunning tricks and tactics that Satan the Devil uses to ensnare Jehovah’s servants. At Eph 4:14, it is rendered “schemes.”

the ruler of this world: A similar expression occurs at Joh 14:30 and 16:11 and refers to Satan the Devil. In this context, the term “world” (Greek, koʹsmos) refers to human society that is alienated from God and whose behavior is out of harmony with his will. God did not produce this unrighteous world; it is “lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1Jo 5:19) Satan and his “wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places” act as the invisible “world rulers [form of the Greek word ko·smo·kraʹtor] of this darkness.”​—Eph 6:11, 12.

a struggle: The Greek word rendered “a struggle,” used only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, originally referred to “a wrestling,” as in a sports contest. Here the word conveys the idea of a personal fight against wicked spirits. Because the context refers to the spiritual war of Christians and the figurative suit of armor, some suggest that Paul may have had two types of struggles in mind, that of a wrestler and that of a soldier. (Eph 6:11-18) Combining the images was natural, since ancient warfare could involve hand-to-hand combat and well-equipped soldiers were often skilled wrestlers. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul also combined a military image with an athletic one.​—2Ti 2:3-5.

the world rulers of this darkness: Paul calls these “world rulers” the wicked spirit forces, that is, Satan and his demons. (See study note on Joh 12:31.) Their intention is to keep mankind in spiritual darkness, alienated from the light of Jehovah God. The Greek word ko·smo·kraʹtor, rendered “world rulers,” occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, though it is used in ancient Greek writings in reference to such mythological gods as Hermes.

in the heavenly places: Here this expression refers to the invisible spirit realm from which Satan, “the ruler of the authority of the air,” influences mankind.​—Eph 2:2.

Be dressed and ready: Lit., “having your loins girded around.” This idiom refers to binding up the ends of a long outer garment with a belt to facilitate physical work, running, and so forth. It came to denote a state of readiness for any activity. Similar expressions occur many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. (For example: Ex 12:11, ftn.; 1Ki 18:46, ftn.; 2Ki 3:21, ftn.; 4:29; Pr 31:17, ftn.; Jer 1:17, ftn.) In this context, the form of the verb indicates a continuous state of readiness for spiritual activity on the part of God’s servants. At Lu 12:37, the same Greek verb is rendered “dress himself for service.” At 1Pe 1:13, the expression “brace up your minds for activity” literally means “gird up the loins of your mind.”

put on an apron: The Greek word pe·ri·zonʹny·mai, rendered “put on an apron,” literally means “gird oneself about,” that is, to bind on an apron or to tighten the garments, often with a belt, in order to be prepared for service. In this context, the Greek word could also be rendered “get dressed and ready to serve.” The Greek word occurs at Lu 12:35, 37 and Eph 6:14.​—See study notes on Lu 12:35, 37.

the sword of the spirit: The sword, one of the most important weapons used by Roman soldiers, is the only offensive weapon mentioned in Paul’s illustration. (Eph 6:14-17) The Greek word translated “sword” in this verse could refer to a short weapon with at least one sharp edge. The sword used by Roman soldiers was double-edged and designed for close combat. It varied in length but was typically about 60 cm (24 in.) long, and the handle was often fitted with a knob at the end to help the soldier keep hold of his sword. (See Media Gallery, “Roman Sword.”) Many soldiers practiced daily with the sword to become adept at its use. Christians make similar use of “God’s word,” their main weapon for waging spiritual warfare. (2Ti 2:15) Paul was not suggesting that Christians use God’s word to harm others. (Compare 1Pe 3:15.) Rather, they tactfully use Scriptural truths to expose false teachings that mislead people and enslave them spiritually. (Joh 8:32; 17:17; 2Co 10:4, 5) Just as a soldier uses his sword defensively to parry, or block, an enemy’s blows, so Christians use God’s word to protect their minds and hearts against the deceptions of false teachers and against temptations to do wrong.​—Mt 4:1-11; 2Ti 3:16.

the belt of truth: Soldiers of ancient times prepared themselves for battle by fastening a belt around the waist. (Isa 8:9, ftn.) Therefore, “putting on the belt,” or “girding oneself,” was an idiom that meant “prepare for action.” (See study notes on Lu 12:35; 17:8.) Appropriately, then, this is the first part of the armor that Paul mentions in his list. The Roman soldier wore a wide belt of leather with metal plates attached to decorate and stiffen it. With his belt fastened tightly, the soldier was better able to stand firm in battle. He suspended an armored apron from the belt, so that his midsection was protected. Just as a belt can provide support and protection for the soldier, an unbreakable attachment to divine truths can strengthen a Christian to remain firm in the face of trials. The Roman soldier’s sword was usually suspended from his belt and attached by rings. (See study note on Eph 6:17.) Paul’s illustration suggests that Christians need to use the truths of God’s Word as a constant protection against spiritual attack. Christians who clearly understand those truths are protected from false teachings.​—Eph 4:13, 14; 1Ti 2:3-7.

the breastplate of righteousness: Roman soldiers of the first century C.E. used a variety of body armors. One type of breastplate was made of overlapping iron strips attached to leather pieces by means of hooks, straps, and buckles. Such a breastplate offered protection for the vital organs, the heart in particular. In fact, Greek historian Polybius of the second century B.C.E. described this breastplate as “the heart-protector.” Paul saw that Christians have a need to protect their figurative heart. (Compare 1Th 5:8.) Just as that metal armor prevented arrows and swords from piercing the soldier’s heart, so love for God’s righteous principles and standards protects the Christian’s figurative heart. (Ps 119:97, 105; Pr 4:23) Because of sinful inclinations, an imperfect human is always in urgent need of such protection. (Jer 17:9) In the Hebrew Scriptures, Jehovah himself is described as wearing righteousness like armor.​—Isa 59:15, 17.

feet shod in readiness: “In readiness,” or “in preparedness,” could also be rendered “with the equipment.” A soldier prepared to march into battle by binding on the equipment for his feet. Paul uses this image to explain that a Christian needs to be ever prepared to share “the good news of peace.” (Isa 52:7; Ro 10:14, 15; 1Pe 3:15) First-century Roman soldiers typically wore sandallike boots made of three layers of leather fastened together. The soles were studded with metal nails. This durable footwear gave them an excellent foothold even on difficult terrain.

the large shield of faith: The Greek word for “large shield” that Paul here uses was derived from the word for “door.” A Roman soldier used a curved, rectangular shield that was large enough to cover his body from the shoulders to the knees. Such a shield was commonly made of a kind of plywood covered with leather. The edges were bound in metal, and a metal boss was in the center. The soldier used his shield to ward off blows and arrows of various kinds. Paul’s illustration shows that a Christian could meet a wide variety of challenges because he had strong faith, that is, a deep-seated confidence and trust in Jehovah and his promises.​—Heb 11:1.

burning arrows: The Greek word for “arrows” might also be rendered “missiles; darts.” It was a common practice in ancient warfare to set arrows or other projectiles ablaze, sometimes using burning naphtha, before shooting them at the enemy. A Roman soldier may have used his shield to fend off such an attack. Paul’s illustration suggests that the faith of a Christian will enable him to ward off all the wicked one’s, or Satan’s, “burning arrows,” his spiritual attacks. Paul had seen Christians “overreached by Satan,” and he knew that Satan’s designs were many. (2Co 2:11) Satan’s figurative arrows include the temptation to commit immorality, the lure of materialism, and the emotional pressure caused by fear and doubt. (Ro 8:15; Col 3:5, 6) Strong faith in Jehovah can thwart every attack, extinguish every burning missile.​—1Pe 5:8, 9.

the helmet of salvation: A Roman soldier’s helmet protected his head, face, and neck. Paul uses the helmet to symbolize a Christian’s hope for salvation by God. (1Th 5:8) As a helmet protects the head, so the Christian’s hope of salvation protects his mind, his thinking faculties. Satan subtly promotes such poisonous influences as selfishness, hatred, and disloyalty. By focusing on the Christian hope​—figuratively wearing hope like a helmet​—the Christian rejects any negative influence on his thinking. (Mr 7:20-22; 2Co 4:4; Re 12:9) Satan also promotes direct persecution, but the hope of salvation helps a Christian maintain his joy even under dire circumstances. (Isa 12:2; Mt 5:11, 12) In the Hebrew Scriptures, Jehovah is said to wear salvation, or victory, as a figurative helmet. (Isa 59:17; ftn.) God keeps ever in mind his intent to save his people and to gain victory.​—Jer 29:11.

the sword of the spirit: The sword, one of the most important weapons used by Roman soldiers, is the only offensive weapon mentioned in Paul’s illustration. (Eph 6:14-17) The Greek word translated “sword” in this verse could refer to a short weapon with at least one sharp edge. The sword used by Roman soldiers was double-edged and designed for close combat. It varied in length but was typically about 60 cm (24 in.) long, and the handle was often fitted with a knob at the end to help the soldier keep hold of his sword. (See Media Gallery, “Roman Sword.”) Many soldiers practiced daily with the sword to become adept at its use. Christians make similar use of “God’s word,” their main weapon for waging spiritual warfare. (2Ti 2:15) Paul was not suggesting that Christians use God’s word to harm others. (Compare 1Pe 3:15.) Rather, they tactfully use Scriptural truths to expose false teachings that mislead people and enslave them spiritually. (Joh 8:32; 17:17; 2Co 10:4, 5) Just as a soldier uses his sword defensively to parry, or block, an enemy’s blows, so Christians use God’s word to protect their minds and hearts against the deceptions of false teachers and against temptations to do wrong.​—Mt 4:1-11; 2Ti 3:16.

had made supplication: Or “had prayed earnestly (pleadingly).” The Greek verb deʹo·mai refers to the offering of earnest prayer coupled with intense feeling. The related noun deʹe·sis, rendered “supplication,” has been defined as “humble and earnest entreaty.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the noun is used exclusively in addressing God. Even Jesus “offered up supplications and also petitions, with strong outcries and tears, to the One who was able to save him out of death.” (Heb 5:7) The use of the plural “supplications” indicates that Jesus implored Jehovah more than once. For example, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed repeatedly and fervently.​—Mt 26:36-44; Lu 22:32.

every form of prayer: Paul adds an essential element to “the complete suit of armor” that he has been discussing. (Eph 6:11, 14-17) The Greek word for “prayer” is a general term for any worshipful address to God, and the expression rendered “every form of” suggests different forms of prayers, such as prayers of thanksgiving, of praise, or of repentance. Supplication is an intense, earnest request or plea addressed to God. (See study note on Ac 4:31.) The various forms of prayer and supplication may be employed according to need and circumstance.

on every occasion: Some occasions for prayer might be public; others are private and personal. They might include regular occasions, such as at mealtimes, and occasions when the need arises for spontaneous prayer. Such regular prayer strengthens the bond between Jehovah and his worshippers.

we are ambassadors: Paul is here speaking of himself and his fellow workers as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” In Bible times, ambassadors and other messengers could be dispatched for several reasons. For example, during periods of hostility, ambassadors were dispatched to see if warfare could be averted or to arrange terms for peace where a state of war prevailed. (Isa 30:1-4; 33:7) In Paul’s day, peoples, cities, or provinces of the Roman Empire would send ambassadors to Rome to reinforce friendship, to receive assistance, or to plead for some cause. The Greek verb for “to be (act as) an ambassador” (pre·sbeuʹo) appears twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at Eph 6:19, 20, where Paul speaks of himself as an ambassador for the good news. At Lu 14:32 and 19:14, the related noun pre·sbeiʹa is rendered “body of ambassadors.” Both of these words are related to the word pre·sbyʹte·ros, meaning “older man; elder.”​—Mt 16:21; Ac 11:30.

substituting for Christ: Or “instead of Christ; in the name of Christ.” After Christ was resurrected to heaven, his faithful followers were appointed to act in his place, as “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” They were first sent to the Jews and then to people of the nations, all of whom were alienated from the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah. These anointed Christians serve as ambassadors to a world not at peace with God. (Joh 14:30; 15:18, 19; Jas 4:4) In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written during his first imprisonment in Rome (c. 59-61 C.E.), he described himself as “an ambassador in chains.”​—Eph 6:20.

with the greatest freeness of speech: Or “with all boldness (fearlessness).” The Greek word par·re·siʹa has also been rendered “outspokenness.” (Ac 4:13) This noun and the related verb par·re·si·aʹzo·mai, often rendered “speak boldly [with boldness],” occur several times in the book of Acts. Boldness was, from the beginning of Luke’s account to the end, an identifying mark of the preaching done by the early Christians.​—Ac 4:29, 31; 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26.

I am acting as an ambassador in chains: Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians when he was imprisoned in Rome, which explains why he called himself “an ambassador in chains.” (Eph 3:1; 4:1) In Biblical usage, an ambassador is an official representative dispatched by a ruler on a special occasion for a specific purpose. As one of God’s spirit-anointed ambassadors, Paul bore a message to the people of his day about being reconciled to God through Christ.​—See the study notes on 2Co 5:20.

I may speak . . . with boldness: Or “I may speak . . . with freeness of speech.” Paul was a prisoner in Rome, and here he asks his fellow believers to pray for him so that he “may speak . . . with boldness [a form of the Greek verb par·re·si·aʹzo·mai].” (Eph 6:19) The account in Acts reveals that while imprisoned, Paul continued preaching the Kingdom of God “with the greatest freeness of speech [a form of the related Greek noun par·re·siʹa], without hindrance,” indicating that the prayers made in his behalf had been answered. (Ac 28:30, 31) Boldness was an identifying mark of the preaching done by the early Christians.​—Ac 4:13, 29; see study note on Ac 28:31.

Media

Roman Soldier’s Suit of Armor
Roman Soldier’s Suit of Armor

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul uses a suit of armor to illustrate the spiritual protection needed by a servant of Jehovah. (Eph 6:11-17) Paul may have been thinking of the armor worn by a Roman soldier. Each piece in such a suit of armor played a vital role in protecting the soldier in battle. The spiritual suit of armor that Paul describes consists of a belt, a breastplate, footwear, a large shield, a helmet, and a sword. This video shows what the different parts of a Roman suit of armor may have looked like.

Christians Preach on a Street in Ephesus
Christians Preach on a Street in Ephesus

The street in ancient Ephesus that led from the city’s large theater to its busy harbor was spacious and lined with colonnades. Ephesus was a crossroads of the ancient world. On this street, Christians could preach “the good news of peace” to people of all sorts. (Eph 6:15) The apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Ephesians, was familiar with Ephesus; he had preached there for some three years. (Ac 20:17, 18, 31) As a result of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, “all those living in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Ac 19:10) This fruitful territory yielded a vibrant congregation that continued to grow.​—Ac 19:20.

Burning Arrows
Burning Arrows

The photo (left) shows an arrowhead 19 cm (7.5 in.) long that dates to Roman times. Flammable material would be placed in the enclosure behind the tip. Armies sometimes shot a barrage of burning arrows (as shown in the illustration on the right) over the walls of a besieged city to set it ablaze. Paul wrote that the wicked one shoots “burning arrows” at Christians, who can extinguish them with “the large shield of faith.”​—Eph 6:16.

Paul’s Prison Bonds While He Was Under House Arrest
Paul’s Prison Bonds While He Was Under House Arrest

During his first imprisonment in Rome, the apostle Paul was permitted to live under guard in a rented house. (Ac 28:16, 30) Roman guards typically restrained prisoners with chains. The prisoner’s right wrist was usually chained to the guard’s left wrist. This kept the guard’s right hand free. Paul referred to his chains, bonds, and imprisonment in most of the inspired letters that he wrote during his house arrest in Rome.​—Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Php 1:7, 13, 14, 17; Col 4:3, 18; Phm 1, 9, 10, 13.