THE LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS
Lesson 3: Chapters 4:25-6:24
The Daily Conduct of Christians and the Unity of the Church
Eternal Lord and Father,
The more we grow in faith and Christian maturity, the more we should strive to reflect Your goodness. Help us to imitate Christ as our pattern of behavior and to demonstrate love that is the foundation of all virtue. If we will strive to remain one with Christ, we know that we will also remain one with You. We can achieve this oneness only through the gift of grace and the exercise of self-denial and selfless love. We must recognize that all sin, whether it emerges out of misplaced affection or craven appetite, separates us from a loving relationship with the Most Holy Trinity. Help us to overcome both the deficiencies of self and the temptation to sin by giving You constant thanks and praise on our journey to eternal salvation. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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See how love is the foundation of
everything. Where love is present there is no anger, no passion, no railing,
no blasphemy. All this is put away. Now he [Paul] states his chief
point: How have you become a child? Because you have been reconciled. On the
same basis on which you have received so great a privilege, offer this same
gift to others....And as the Lord has loved you, so you love your neighbor. Even
if you are not able to do that completely, you must do it according to your
St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Ephesians 17.4.32 on Ephesians 5:2
The Christian who seeks to purify
himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God's grace is not
alone. "The life of each of God's children is joined in Christ and through
Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in
the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1474 quoting Indulgentiarum doctrina, 5
The Daily Conduct of Christians and the Unity of the Church
In 4:24 St. Paul urges the readers of his letter to ... put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth. Next, in an exhortation on the right kind of daily conduct for the baptized Christian who is a "new creation" in Christ Jesus, St. Paul stresses that the right conduct of the individual member contributes to the unity of the Church as a whole. Paul's exhortation can be divided into seven parts:
Ephesians 4:25-32 ~ Rules for the New Life as Imitators of Christ
25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, 27 and do not leave room for the devil. 28 The thief must no longer steal but rather labor, doing honest work with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need. 29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. 30 And not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
In verses 25 and 29 St. Paul asks his readers to lead a morally exemplary life in response to God's gift of grace. He points out that the words one speaks are important, especially when one is angry. Speech that is not righteous threatens the unity of the Church (Mt 12:36-37; Eph 4:29).
Question: What does the Book of Proverbs record concerning bad
deeds that God despises; which of these are concerned with a "lying tongue."
See Proverbs 6:16-19.
Answer: The Book of Proverbs records the seven vices that are an abomination to God: haughty eyes (excessive pride), a lying tongue, murder of the innocent, a person who continually plots wicked schemes, a person that is drawn to commit evil, a false witness, and someone who promotes discord in the community. Two of these vices concern bad speech: lying and being a false witness against another person.
Christians have the obligation to speak the truth because they are indwelled by the Spirit of truth. Paul may be thinking of the words of God spoken to the prophet Zechariah: These then are the things you should do: Speak the truth to one another; let there be honesty and peace in the judgments at your gates, and let none of you plot evil against another in his heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate, says the LORD (Zech 8:16-17).
Question: What kind of damage can bad language do when spoken by
the individual Christian and how can that individual's bad language have an
impact on the faith community as a whole?
Answer: Foul language can damage the reputation of the individual, but it can also damage the reputation and credibility of the entire community by hurting the community's Christian witness as a people who are committed to living in the image and likeness of Christ.
It is particularly disturbing to hear a person, especially a young adult, curse in Jesus' name or God's name. Sadly, they do not realize the danger they have put themselves in because what they have uttered thoughtlessly is a self-curse concerning their own eternal of salvation.
26 Be angry but do not
sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, 27
and do not leave room for the devil.
Not all anger is sinful or harmful. Righteous anger is permissible within limits and is even an appropriate response to acts that are committed against justice "for example anger at the abuse of children, the murder of unborn babies, or racial discrimination. Yet, Paul warns that one's anger must not become an excuse for sin and an opening for the devil's influence.
do not let the sun set on your anger, 27 and do not leave room for the devil.
Paul is probably alluding to Psalm 4:5, 9, Tremble and do not sin; upon your beds ponder in silence ... In peace I shall both lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me secure.
Question: Why does Paul recommend not letting "the sun set on your anger"?
Answer: Paul recommends that one seek reconciliation before the day is over and not to let anger fester like an infected wound, becoming an opportunity for sin. The devil knows our weaknesses and will use our unrighteous anger against us.
Unrighteous anger is one of the seven capital sin: "Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called "capital" because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath (anger), lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia" (CCC 1866). Capital sins can also lead us to participate in the sins of others.
|The Seven Capital Sins||The Ways We Participate in Sin|
By silence in not disclosing or hindering sin
By protecting evil-doers
By defense of the sin
28 The thief must no
longer steal but rather labor, doing honest work with his [own] hands, so that
he may have something to share with one in need. 29 No foul language should come out of
your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may
impart grace to those who hear.
Paul urges those who have supported themselves by stealing to reform. Honest work must replace one's immoral past and the appropriate atonement for past sin is reparation. Reformed thieves should work to provide for themselves and for those in need (see Lk 3:11; Acts 20:35; CCC 2444, 2487).
30 And not grieve the
Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
It is God the Holy Spirit who has "sealed" us "for the day of redemption" in the Sacrament of Baptism in which the Christian dies to sin and is resurrected to new life in Christ Jesus (see Eph 1:13 and 2 Cor 1:21-22, CCC 1296). The "day of redemption" is the day of our bodies will be redeemed in the general resurrection (see Rom 8:23). Baptized Christians can "grieve the Holy Spirit" when they do not live in the image of Christ in their new life, but instead exhibit traits of the old, sinful life. In Isaiah 63:10 the prophet wrote that the Exodus generation grieved God's Spirit when they rebelled against God's mediator Moses and therefore against God's divine will concerning the unity of His covenant people. Paul is speaking about grieving the Holy Spirit in the same context. The one Spirit that keeps the one Body of Christ united is grieved when anyone or anything threatens the unity of the Body (see 1 Cor 12:13; Eph 4:4, 30).
The traits of the old life are listed by St. Paul in verse 31, and he
also lists the traits of living in imitation of Christ is verse 32.
Question: What are the traits that grieve the Holy Spirit and threatens the unity of the Church that Paul lists in verse 31? What are the traits of living in imitation of Christ listed in verse 32, and why should we strive to possess these good traits?
Answer: Bitterness (generated by a failure to forgive), fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice are the traits that must be avoided. On the other hand, traits that imitate Christ are kindness, compassion and forgiveness. These are virtues we must demonstrate in gratitude to God who in His kindness and compassion has forgiven our sins for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Jesus gave a warning concerning the failure to forgive at the end of
His teaching on how to pray (the Lord's Prayer) in Matthew 6:14-15, and He told
the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to demonstrate the importance of forgiveness
in Matthew 18:21-35. In the parable, the Unforgiving Servant refused to
forgive the debt of his brother servant even though his Master had forgiven him
a much greater debt. It was his punishment that he was turned over to the
torturers until he had paid back the debt he owed his Master.
Question: How did Jesus conclude the teaching in Matthew 18:35?
Answer: He said, "So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
Denying our forgiveness to someone when God has so graciously forgiven us for our past sins can become a barrier in our relationship with God and can shut us off from His gracious forgiveness. As Jesus said at the end of the Lord 's Prayer, "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Mt 6:15).
Question: What did Jesus say about forgiving someone and being
reconciled prior to offering worship to God in Matthew 5:21-24?
Answer: Jesus said we must be reconciled with each other before coming to God's holy altar to offer worship and to be in communion with God.
Question: When does the Church encourage us to forgive our
"brother" prior to receiving Christ in the Eucharist? What does St. Paul's
write about being in a state of grace prior to receiving the Eucharist in 1
Answer: We have one last opportunity to extend forgiveness within the covenant family before receiving Christ in the Eucharist in the "Sign of Peace" during the celebration of the Mass and prior to the Eucharistic procession. According to St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, we must examine ourselves to be certain that we are in a state of grace prior to receiving Christ in the Eucharist, and that includes forgiving one another.
Ephesians 5:1-5 ~ Living as Imitators of God
5:1 So be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. 3 Immortality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, 4 no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
St. Paul challenges his readers to love each other as God loves us and to forgive as God has forgiven us. We become imitators of God (5:1) in forgiving and in loving as Christ loved us in giving up His life on the altar of the Cross so that those who belong to Him might live eternally in His presence. It is a sacrifice of love that He also asks of us when, in the Eucharistic procession, we come forward to offer up our lives as a sacrifice to Him and to receive His life, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.
The "fragrant aroma" in verse 5:2 recalls how the Old Testament represents sacrifices in the liturgy of worship as "food" or a "pleasing aroma" for Yahweh (Gen 8:21; Ex 29:18; Lev 1:9; Num 28:2). However, it was understood by the faithful of the old covenants that an omnificent God was not in need of earthly nourishment or the pleasing smell of sacrifices (Ps 50:12-14; Sir 35:6-7/5-9). It was the "spiritual food" of the self-surrender of the individual and the covenant people as a whole that pleased God, as David wrote in Psalm 51 and as Samuel admonished the people in 1 Samuel 15:22-23:
*Presumption is the sin of idolatry because to presume that one knows better than God what is right or wrong behavior, or that Sacred Scripture doesn't really reflect the commands of the Almighty God, is to put oneself above God, making oneself a god by believing one has the power over one's own destiny.
Under the old covenants, it was God's plan that the quality of the sacrifice must be united to the righteousness of the offerer in order for sins to be forgiven and for fellowship between the offerer and God to be restored. In the Sinai Covenant, as in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus, God deserves the sacrifice of personal surrender and not the empty ritual of the mere material gift of the offerer. A sacrifice offered without prayer and without the contrition of a truly repentant heart is like a body offered without a soul; it is an empty and lifeless gift not worthy of a holy God. In the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, we surrender our lives to Christ, and God gives us the life of God the Son to nourish us spiritually on our journey to God's holy Sanctuary in Heaven.
3 Immortality or any
impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among
holy ones, 4 no obscenity or
silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.
In verses 3-7 Paul points out the wrong kind of conduct and then turns his attention to righteous conduct in verses 8-10. The outcome of an immoral lifestyle is a deadly serious matter. St. Paul reinforces the teaching of the Holiness Code in the Book of Leviticus that a holy God deserves holy children. Yahweh told the Israelites: "For I, the LORD [Yahweh], am your God; and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy" (Lev 11:44). Any unholy behavior grieves the Holy Spirit who indwells our sanctified souls.
5 Be sure of this, that
no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any
inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Notice that St. Paul uses the same three words that he used in verse 3 but this time as adjectives: immoral, impure, greedy compared to immorality, impurity, and greed. Paul gives the same teaching in Colossians 3:5-6, Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
The key teaching in these verses is that the obedience of faith in living in imitation of Christ is necessary for salvation. Paul defined sexual immorality and listed those deadly sins in Romans 1:24-32. Homosexuality and "gender confusion" isn't a new sin "it is an age old mortal sin that abuses God's gift of fertility. Such sins were widely accepted by pagans. Paul also gives a list of grievous sins that can prevent one from eternal salvation in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
Question: Why does Paul identify sexual immorality and
greed with idolatry in verse 5?
Answer: The result of indulging in these activities that promote sin is that they take one away from God and make those things more important than the commands and prohibitions of God that promote holiness. These activities then become a form of idolatry. Immoral sexual behavior elevates the sins of the flesh above the holiness of the spirit. Love of money over love of God makes a god of wealth.
Ephesians 5:6-20 ~ The Christian Duty to Live in the Light of Christ
6 Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. 7 So do not be associated with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, 9 for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. 10 Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, 12 for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." 15 Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, 16 making the most of the opportunity [kairos], because the days are evil. 17 Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. 18 And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
Paul is well aware that the abuse of the gift of human sexuality is a problem in society in his time just as it is today. It was one of the first blessings (Gen 1:27-28) and one of the blessings most abused, especially sex outside of marriage that people try to deny is a sin or excuse. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses this sin against the purity of the temple of the Christian body and refutes the empty argument that some use to claim that sexual conduct is only a natural activity of the body similar to the need to eat and sleep (see 1 Cor 3:16-20). Paul also warns about the consequences of sexual immorality and not to be deceived by the morals of society that excuse sins that can cost one's eternal salvation in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-20 (also see the same teaching in Mk 7:21-23; Rev 21:8; 22:15).
Question: How are many deceived today with "empty
arguments" that excuse sins like abortion and the homosexual lifestyle? What
is the ultimate penalty for embracing practices that are contrary to the moral
teachings of God according the Scriptures and His Church?
Answer: The "empty arguments" include the false ideology that a woman should have complete control over her body to include the murder of an unborn infant, the acceptance of the homosexual or transgender lifestyle is a civil rights issue, and the "empty argument" that these moral prohibitions were for another age and are not relevant today. These are moral issues that have been condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. God has never been moved by the consensus of what is right or wrong according to human society. Persons who embrace these false arguments are in rebellion against God and do so at the risk of their immortal souls.
10 Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Question: What simple test is Paul asking Christians to make before committing any act?
Answer: The Christian should ask "Is what I am about to do something that would please Christ?" Or to ask the simple question, "What would Jesus do?"
In verses 7-20 Paul urges the readers of his letter to work to avoid sin and to "live as children of light" "as children of God the Son who is Himself "the Light of the world" and who drives away the darkness of sin (Jn 8:12). If we are filled with Christ there is no room for the darkness of sin and the "light" of Christ's teachings will expose sin: 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. It is Paul's hope that the light of Christ shining through Christians will illuminate the path to rightness for those who are still in the darkness of sin and will result in their conversion to the "light" of Christianity.
14b Therefore, it
says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you
This is probably an early Christian hymn, perhaps from a baptismal liturgy in which the newly baptized Christians is urged to awake from his old life in which he was morally dead in sin and to arise in Christ to a new life of grace in the light of faith (see Rom 13:11-14 and 1 Thes 5:5-8 for the same "sleep" imagery). The hymn may have been inspired by such Old Testament verses as Isaiah 60:1-2 and 26:19.
15 Watch carefully how
you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, 16 making the most of the opportunity [kairos], because
the days are evil. 17 Therefore,
do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the
St. Paul's focus in Ephesians 5:15-20 is the necessity of understanding the will of God by being filled with the Spirit and reflecting on what Christ wants. After reminding his readers of their "new life" in the Sacrament of Baptism by which they have become "a light in the Lord," Paul returns to exhorting them to right Christian behavior. He contrasts the wisdom one received through "new life" in the Sacrament of Baptism with the foolishness of those who reject a relationship with Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life (also see 1 Cor 1:18). The Greek word kairos, which is rendered as "time" in some translations, refers to the content of the point in time in which we find ourselves in the situations and the opportunities which that moment offers as regards to the ultimate purpose of life. Therefore, St. Paul is encouraging Christians to do more to make the most of time by not wasting it; he urges Christians to use every situation and every moment to give glory to God. St. Josemaria Escriva wrote that "time is a treasure that melts away"... "it escapes from us, slipping through our fingers like water through the mountain rocks. Tomorrow will soon be another yesterday. Our lives are so very short. Yesterday has gone and today is passing by. But what a great deal can be done for the love of God in this short space of time!" (Friends of God, 52).
Question: According to the Biblical wisdom books, what should be
the inspiration for wise and righteous conduct? See Ps 14:1-5; Wis 1:1-12; Sir 1:12, 14, 18, 22-24.
Answer: Our motivation in doing right should come from fear of offending the Lord. He will judge all acts of unrighteousness, just as He will reward the righteous who act with justice.
The opportunity to live according to the will of God is a pressing matter because, as St. Paul writes, "the days are evil." St. Peter makes the same point in 1 Peter 5:7-9 writing, So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all our worries upon him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.
18 And do not get
drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks always and for everything in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
Question: Instead of falling into sin by keeping bad company, Paul calls his readers to be filled with the Spirit by taking part in what Christian activities that promotes righteous behavior? The Greek word translated "playing" in verse 19b usually refers to using stringed instruments.
Answer: He recommends quoting from the wisdom of the psalms, singing hymns and spiritual songs, playing a spiritual song of joy from the heart, and giving thanks in the name of Jesus to God the Father.
When a person's life is in harmony with the obedience of faith, true wisdom is the result. Such a person makes the most of the time and the opportunities that he has on his journey through life to be filled with the Spirit of God (verse 18), doing the will of God in works of righteousness (verse 15) and in avoiding sin and debauchery (verse 18). Christian wisdom comes from knowledge and understanding of God's divine plan, submitting one's life to the will of God, and rejoicing with other Christians by addressing God with hymns of thanks and praise in the liturgical assembly (verse 19).
In the next verses, Paul begins with an exhortation to all members of the Christian community which sets the tone for the entire section. Then he continues with an exhortation to wives and husbands in 5:22-33:
Notice that the three sets of exhortations to wives and husbands, children and parents, and slaves and masters in 5:22-6:9 all begin by addressing those in what was considered by the customs of the times the subordinate role instead of beginning with what was considered the superior role. Paul does this to emphasize the obligation of the burden of responsibility that is placed on the more dominate persons in these relationships and not their superiority of status.
Ephesians 5:21-32 ~ Advise to Wives and Husbands
21 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head [kephale] of the Church, he himself the savior of the body. 24 As the Church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her 26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, 27 that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. 33 In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.
In his advice to wives and husbands, St. Paul begins by urging them to be imitators of Christ (5:1) and to offer each other a mutual submission in their responsibility to each other in the unity of their marriage. This sentence is the key to understanding the entire section. In verses 23-24 Paul writes 23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head [kephale] of the Church, he himself the savior of the body. 24 As the Church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
The Greek term kephale (head) is found 75 times in the New Testament. In the Bible the word is used in the New Testament and in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to refer to the physical head of a man, an animal, or a statue (Mt 5:36; Gen 3:15; Dan 2:32). It also can be a synonym for "ruler" as in the case of King David who is called "the head over nations" (Ps 18:44) and Jesus Christ who Paul calls the "head over all things to the Church" (Eph 1:22). The word can also mean what is the "source" or "origin," as in the "head of a river" or the male progenitor of a family. Paul is using this term to encourage husbands to be heads or leaders within their families just as Christ is head over the Church (also see Eph 5:23 and 1 Cor 11:3). Notice that St. Paul uses imagery from the Creation narrative of Genesis where the first man, Adam, was both the "head" and "source" of his wife, Eve, born from his side (Gen 2:21-23). In the same way, Jesus Christ is the "head" and the "source" of the Body of Christ that is His Bride, the Church.
Wives are encouraged to cooperate with their husbands in their
leadership roles in the family, but Paul places more responsibilities upon the
husbands in what is a mutual submission in their relationship with their wives.
Question: In what three ways are husbands to serve their wives? What verse does Paul quote in verse 31 from the Old Testament creation story of the marriage of Adam and Eve that Jesus also quotes in Matthew 19:5?
25 Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her 26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the
bath of water with the word, 27 that
he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or
any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Paul compares the purification of an Israelite bride in her bridal bath before her wedding day with the Sacrament of Baptism. Through the waters of Christian Baptism, Christ sanctifies the Body of Christ that is His Church, purifying His Bride of sin to make her holy and without blemish or defect as she offers herself to Christ, the divine Bridegroom.
In verse 31, Paul emphasizes that marriage is a God ordained institution, quoting from God's words to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:24. He writes that Christian marriage takes on a symbolic meaning in imitation of Christ the Bridegroom's love for His Bride the Church. Wives should lovingly serve their husbands in the same way the Church serves Christ (verses 22 and 24). And at the same time, husbands should honor and care for their wives with the same devotion of Christ in caring for His Church (verses 25-30). Paul is making the point that the Sacrament of Marriage is a path to holiness, and if couples live this way in their marriage relationship one will not dominate or abuse the other.
32 This is a
great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. 33 In any case, each one of you should love his
wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.
The great mystery is Christ's unique relationship to the Church as Bridegroom to Bride.(1) It is a mystery that we can come to grasp somewhat in the ideal loving and unselfish union between husband and wife and that is why Paul is using marital love as a metaphor for the love between Jesus and His Church. He urges Christians to demonstrate a strong and unselfish mutual love, especially in their martial relationship. In making the comparison between marriage between a woman and a man and Christ and the Church, Paul makes these two concepts compliment and illuminate each other. Christ is the husband of the Church because He is her head and because He loves His Bride the Church like a man loves his wife. Paul is using symbolism Jewish-Christians would have readily understood. The imagery of the covenant people as the Bride of Yahweh is a reoccurring symbol image of the Old Testament prophets; see the chart: Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets. It is a mystery, however, that will not be fully revealed until Christ returns in glory, and the Church celebrates the "wedding day of the Lamb and His Bride" (see St. John's vision in Rev 19:6-10).
Ephesians 6:1-4 ~ Advice to Children and Parents
1 Children, obey your parents [in the Lord], for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother." This is the first commandment with a promise, 3 "that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth." 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.
In his advice to children, Paul writes that children are under God's command to respect and obey their parents. He quotes from the fourth of the Ten Commandments that is the first of the seven commandments concerning love of neighbor (Paul is quoting Dt 5:16 but the command is also found in Ex 20:12; also see CCC 2214-18). Paul observed that rebellion against parental authority was common among in pagan families in Romans 1:30. However, under Mosaic Law rebellion against parental authority was a capital offense (Ex 21:17; Dt 21:18-21).
Question: In 6:2b-3 St. Paul rightly points out
that it is the only one of the Ten Commandments that contains blessings for
obedience to the command. What are those blessings? See Ex 20:12; Dt 5:6; Sir 3:1-16.
Answer: Happiness and longevity are promised to those who honor their parents with their obedience and care for them in their old age.
As in his advice to husbands, Paul places a greater
responsibility on the one in the leadership role.
Question: In what two ways must parents behave toward their children?
Answer: Parents must not be so harsh in their discipline that they discourage their children and harm their relationship with their children. They must provide reasonable discipline and moral and intellectual instruction in the truth of the message of the Gospel.
Ephesians 6:5-9 ~ Advice to Slaves and Masters
5 Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, sincerity of heart, as to Christ, 6 not only when being watched, as currying favor, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 willingly serving the Lord and not human beings, 8 knowing that each will be requited from the Lord for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. 9 Masters, act in the same way toward them, and stop bullying, knowing that both they and you have a Master in heaven and that with him there is no partiality.
Paul is not defending the institution of slavery.
Slavery was a fact of life that was accepted in the ancient world. In dealing
with what could sometimes be a very unpleasant reality, Paul stresses the equal
dignity of both slaves and their masters before God, while at the same time
trying to improve the relationship between slave and master.
Question: What advice does Paul give to both slaves and masters?
Answer: Slaves are obligated to honestly serve their masters in the same way they would serve Christ. He reminds both slaves and masters that their works will be judged equally by Christ despite the difference in their human status. It is for this reason that Paul warns masters, who are more likely to abuse their positions of authority, to treat their slaves with respect and kindness.
Ephesians 6:10-17 ~ Continuing the Battle Against Evil
10 Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. 11 Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 13 Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to hold your ground. 14 So stand fast with you loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, 15 and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
St. Paul turns his attention to the Christians' daily battle against evil in the world; it is an attack that is led by man's perennial adversary "Satan. He urges all Christians to arm themselves with the graces given by God to protect the faithful in times of temptation. Our weapons are both offensive and defensive.
Question: What is our offensive weapon and what
are our defensive weapons? Paul mentions five ways we are to protect ourselves.
Answer: Our offensive weapon is the "sword of the Spirit" "trusting in the Holy Spirit dwelling within the Christian to lead us to the truth and to help us define evil. Our defensive weapons are the armor of:
Paul was probably thinking to two Old Testament passages that depict God equipping Himself in preparing for battle with the ungodly:
Paul assures us, if we are prepared to face the enemy in the company of Christ, God will fight for us and will give us ultimate victory over Satan and evil in the world. St. Jerome wrote: "To put on the armor of God is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Called truth and righteousness, our Savior is our belt and our breastplate. Called the living Word of God, he is the sword who is sharp on both sides" (St. Jerome, Commentary on Ephesians, 3.6).
Ephesians 6:18-20 ~ The Commitment to Constant Prayer
18 With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones 19 and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.
However, victory cannot be ours unless we devote ourselves to prayer. Our persistence in prayer must match the persistence of evil (Lk 18:1; 1 Thes 5:17). It is a battle we must fight until Christ's return and all the enemies of Christ will be defeated on the Day of the Lord's Judgment; as St. Peter wrote: For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment ... the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship (2 Pt 2:4, 9).(2)
St. Paul requests their prayers for the holy ones in the Church and for him. He asks them to pray that he will continue to have the courage to defend the Gospel and God's divine plan for mankind's salvation despite his sufferings.
The Conclusion to Saint Paul's Letter
Ephesians 6:21-24 ~ Tychicus' Mission and Paul's Salutation
21 So that you also may have news of me and of what I am doing, Tychicus, my beloved brother and trustworthy minister in the Lord, will tell you everything. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us and that he may encourage your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in immortality.
Tychicus (Greek = Tychikos) is the bearer of Paul's letter and is a member Paul's ministry team. He traveled with Paul on his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4) and was sent with a letter from Paul to the Christian community at Colossus (Col 4:7-9). In this letter and in the letter to the Colossians, Paul affectionately describes Tychicus as a "beloved brother" and a "trustworthy minister." He is a Gentile convert from Asia Minor who, along with Trophimus, accompanied Paul on his missionary journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He was also probably with Paul during Paul's first and second Roman imprisonment. Paul chose him to take this letter to Ephesus and probably to other churches in Asia Minor, and also to carry another letter to the Colossians. Tychicus is mentioned five times in the New Testament "in Acts of Apostles and in Paul's letters to the Colossians, to Titus, and to Timothy:
Tychicus has a three-fold mission:
Since Tychicus is mentioned in Acts 20:4 as one of the "Asians" (Greek = Asianoi) who had accompanied Paul in his ministry, it is possible he was known by the communities that he visited. Since Paul told Timothy he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim 4:12), where it is believed Timothy was then the pastor, some scholars have suggested Tychicus was sent to assist Timothy in his ministry and perhaps for Tychicus' safety since the letter is believed to have been written shortly before Paul's martyrdom in Rome.
23 Peace be to the brothers,
and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus
Christ in immortality.
St. Paul closes the letter with a blessing for the "brothers" "the Greek word means both men and women in the communities of the faithful "from God the Father and the Son. Finally, he prays that the gift of God's grace and the love of the Resurrected Christ will be with them in their journey to their eternal salvation.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
These characteristics are called the "Four Marks" of the Church. These are the "Four Marks" we have learned in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed: "We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" (Nicene-Constantinople Creed). The "Four Marks of the Church" is a term describing four specific adjectives " one, holy, catholic and apostolic " indicating four major distinguishing characteristics of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The belief that the Church is characterized by these four particular "marks" was formally expressed as doctrine by the First Council of Constantinople in its revision of the Nicene Creed in the year 381. However, the concept of the "Four Marks" has been expressed in the Church since the early years of Christianity. We can find allusions to the "Four Marks" in the writings of the early Church Fathers, including St. Ignatius of Antioch who was martyred in c. 107 AD.
Question: How is the Church "one"? How is the
Church "holy"? How is the Church "catholic" "what does "catholic" mean? And
how is the Church "apostolic" "a claim very few churches can claim?
1. In St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation of Ephesians 5:32, he translated the Greek word mysterion ("mystery") as the Latin word sacramentus ("sacrament"), a word in Latin that means "oath" but which the Church used to designate the seven Sacraments that are a participation in our "oath" of covenant obedience. In his translation, St. Jerome was interpreting Paul's connection between Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride to the Sacrament of Marriage by using the word sacramentus. See CCC 774-76.
2. Tartarus is a word from Greek mythology for the "Hell of the damned;" also see Jude 6.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
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Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016