For context, I start at Ephesians 4:1 (NASB). While the entire letter should read in full for context, 5:15 also has the word “evil” in it. That will help in understanding Ephesians 6:13. The first three chapters were completely doctrinal. 4:1 begins the practical side of the book (hence the word “therefore” at the start). I go from Ephesians 4:1 to the end of the book (6:24). I offer commentary as needed.
Unity of the Spirit
4 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21), is imploring the church (made up of believers) at Ephesus (see Ephesians 1:1) to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called. Paul stresses unity in his imploring.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
Verses 7-16 of chapter four place emphasis on how Jesus Christ endows and builds the church. Christ gives the gifts.
The Christian’s Walk
17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Paul implores the church to not walk as they once did (verses 17-19). He instead emphasizes the new self (verses 20-32).
Be Imitators of God
5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
These believers in Ephesus are to walk in love as children of Light.
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
In continuing his exhortations, Paul makes mention of the word “evil” for the first time in this book in verse 16. He is telling his believers to make the most out of the time because the days are evil. This is present tense. The “days are evil” are not referring to something in the future (although the future at that time would be now, and things are pretty evil currently in the United States). Recall that Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison in Rome sometime in AD 60-62 (Acts 28:16-31). He had already endured quite a few hardships by the time he penned Ephesians (see 2 Corinthians 11:16-33). Even Peter and James went through some hardships (to say the least) themselves (Acts 12:1-19).
Marriage Like Christ and the Church
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
The doctrine of vocation is at play in the above section of Scripture. Husbands, wives, children, slaves (employees for modern day) and masters (employers for modern day) are to walk in the good works Jesus Christ has called them to do (Ephesians 2:10).
The Armor of God
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. 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.13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish 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.
In verse 13 is the appearance of the word “evil.” This word falls within the context of a section of Scripture that is full of imperatives. We have already briefly seen how Paul was referring to evil days in the present. He does the same in this instance here. The evil days will not cease until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-22:21).
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
21 But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
Paul concludes the letter with both an appeal for prayer in the church and a benediction.
In closing, please understand that the evil days have been happening since the fall of man in the garden. They will continue until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. If you don’t believe evil days are still happening, that’s fine. I would challenge you to look at the current events around you, though. People are getting murdered. Abortions occur everyday. Athletes are giving more respect to criminals than law enforcement officers. Finally, so-called “pastors” and “evangelical leaders” like Todd Smith, Joseph Prince, Max Lucado, Craig Groeschel, Bob Goff, Christine Caine, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, Priscilla Shirer, Tony Evans, Ray Johnston, Brian Houston, William Paul Young, Henry Blackaby, Dan Southerland and Brian McLaren (among a whole lot of others) have blasphemed God’s name, twisted His Word and done a bunch of other things that have done damage to Christianity. The best thing a person can do is repent and believe the Gospel. If you don’t believe you need saving, please understand that your default mode is being dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains (NASB):
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9).
Thankfully, Jesus came to solve the sin problem 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Please do so before the evil days get worse.