Be Strong in the Lord and the Power of His Might
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NKJV)
Written to a fragile band of Christians meeting in homes throughout Ephesus, Paul writes Ephesians to encourage this family of God that they are more powerful than they realize. While addressed to the Ephesians, we receive his letter as an inspired word to us today. The first half of the letter emphasizes the unfathomable blessings the church community enjoys in Christ as the Father’s dearly beloved. Paul shows how God has taken two groups of people, the Jews and the Gentiles, and forged one new man in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is not simply another god among gods, he is the Lord Supreme over all powers and principalities, and the church is his ruling body on the earth. Thus God has chosen to reveal his glory in the church and display her as a masterpiece before all. The family of God is immersed into His fathomless love and it is transforming us into His glory. Once the people of God begin to grasp the depths of God’s blessings, we can live from the position of blessing in Christ. Our words and actions all serve to strengthen the bonds of love between the body. Instead of being seducing by the old dead-end lifestyle that worships a false power (Diana and the Imperial Cult) and leads to corrupting behavior, we embrace our high calling and submit ourselves to one another to serve in the love. In so doing, we are transformed and the world around us is transformed. With this glorious vision in mind, Paul now exhorts the community to find their power in the Lord as they face attacks ultimately coming from the forces of darkness designed to break the bond of love within the community.
II. The Power of His Might
There is only one strength that can withstand the attack against the evil forces, which seek to divide the church, and that is the Lord Himself. All through the letter, Paul emphasizes that we are blessed “in Christ Jesus.” He is our blessing and he is our covering. Christ alone is the armor that protects. This passage will draw heavily from Old Testament imagery, and without that imagery, we might miss some of Paul’s allusions. The Old Testament consistently pictures the Lord as a mighty warrior.
13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”
14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”
15 Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
The Lord is not in our army. He is the Commander. We don’t send Him on mission, we bow before His holiness. All throughout the Old Testament, He comes as the warrior that truly leads the charge on behalf of His people. The battle is not in the strength of the horse or the rider, the battle belongs to the Lord. This is the only way we can begin to talk about or understand spiritual warfare. He comes to a people who are oppressed by evil attackers and He defends his people and ultimately vindicates them.
III. We wrestle not against flesh and blood…
Paul uses language that indicates a hand-to-hand combat. But we must be careful not to over emphasize his metaphor and vie the Christian life primarily in terms of warfare and battle. There are battles. There are days when we are attacked and we must find protection in the Lord. War is not the father of all things, and life is not a struggle between two gods: one good and one evil. There is one Creator and Lord of all things. The bible acknowledges the presence of evil in this world and recognizes its destructive forces, but it never suggests evil has any equal standing with God and it really does not spend much time focusing on the origin of evil. Rather, the Bible focus on what God does about evil. We will be attacked. That is the nature of life here. Until the victory of Jesus is fully unveiled, we will face attacks that seek to move us out of love and into struggle with other believers. Our refuge for these attacks is the power that evil cannot resist: Jesus Christ. We find our hope and refuge in Him alone.
IV. Putting on the Splendid Armor
The word “panoplia” is usually translated “whole armor.” Yet the Old Testament mentions other armor in the Lord’s arsenal than what Paul lists. According to Barth and other commentators, the armor listed focuses on God’s covenantal relationship with His people. God will vindicate His people and publicly reveal His glory in them. Isaiah describes the dramatic appearance of the Lord to overcome evil and restore His people.
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
6 “ The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
With this in mind, we might speak of the splendid or glorious armor instead of the whole armor. This armor is a splendid public display of God’s favor, revealing beauty, honor, radiance, and terror upon our enemies.
A. Girdle of Truth
There were at least three different types of girdles used by the military when Paul was writing.
a. One leather apron design to protect the lower abdomen.
b. A belt used to hold a sword and dagger.
c. A belt designating a high official or officer in the army.
The Isaiah passage above references a belt: “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.” This belt is the distinctive sign of the Messiah. If Paul is alluding to this passage, he might especially be referencing the third type of belt: we wear the belt of truth (Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.) He has called us and appointed us as kings and priests to reveal his glory and rule and reign with Him.
B. Breastplate of Righteousness
Once again there were a variety of types of breastplates, but the nobleman wore a scale or chain mail that covered the chest and hips. It is the finest protection available. To be clothed in righteousness indicates noble power that can act in the city gates on behalf of the poor: this is to be a righteous judge. Jesus is the righteous judge who protects the oppressed and stands up for the downtrodden. By clothing ourselves in His protection, we emulate his rule and demonstrate his nobility in our actions toward the weak among us.
C. Feet Shod with the Gospel of Peace
When Jesus walks, he is sure footed. He does not stumble but stands his ground against the evil one (think temptation in wilderness). The wicked do not know what makes him stumble but the righteous walks forward into the light. In Christ, our feet stand sure footed against the chaos the seeks to envelope this world resulting from sin and rebellion from the evil one. In Christ, we stand our ground and bring harmony, shalom to all things.
D. Shield of Faith
All through the Old Testament we can find references to God as a shield. Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” He is the one who takes the fiery darts of the enemy. All we do is rest in His faithfulness.
E. Helmet of Salvation
Isaiah 57:17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
God’s helmet of salvation is a sign that He is the victories ruler. Much like a crown, it indicates his glory and authority. This helmet of victory is God’s victory handed to us so that we are “more than conquorers.
F. Sword of the Spirit
The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.