In the movie Braveheart, William Wallace wants nothing to do with fighting for his people until his own wife is put to death. Often it takes something painful to wake us up to the sober realities of how this world functions. If you were dropped into an arena as a gladiator and had to fight, it would be a battle to the death for a chance to live another day.
Truly, being a Christ-follower involves being a soldier of God in a life-and-death struggle for the souls of people. If we are not in a battle, or if we are not attacked, then we must not be doing something correctly.
The good news is that God has already given us all the resources we need to not only stand our ground in these life-and-death battles but to be victorious! The following passages teach us how to win battles against the evil one.
Text: Ephesians 6:10-20 (NKJV)
I. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God.”
1. “Finally” has to do with summarizing all that was already taught by Paul in the first five chapters of Ephesians. In other words, if you hold no bitterness, know your authority in Christ, do not grieve the Holy Spirit, flee from temptation, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is the same as putting on the whole armor of God.
2. “My brethren” teaches us that an individual by themselves cannot possibly put on the armor of God. It takes the whole church supporting one another as we read in Ephesians 4:16.
3. We are to be strengthened with His power and His might because it is not our armor but the armor of God that we are putting on; it is putting on the attributes of God Himself! (The armor is the same as putting on the new self; read Galatians 3:27, Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24.)
II. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
1. There is no choice in the matter: If you don’t put on the Lord Jesus Christ you will not make it as a Christian.
Practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, scripture meditation, being in community and walking in the presence of God are essential to allow God space to work in our hearts, minds and emotions so that we are not walking in the power of the flesh but in the power of the Holy Spirit to live in this life.
2. Principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness are different levels of demonic power that come against us in the same way there are different ranks in the military.
“The term ‘world-rulers’ appears in the second century AD in astrological and magical traditions in relation to the planets and their influence in human affairs.
“Although they are powerful, and are described as existing in the heavenly realms, this ought not to frighten believers. We have been given every spiritual gift in Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3), made alive and seated with him in this domain (Ephesians 2:6), so that our struggle is against subjected powers. They may rule the realm of darkness and evil, but Christians have been transferred out of this realm (Ephesians 5:8, 16; Colossians 1:13).” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
3. The more strategic you are in the Kingdom of God the more high-level demonic attacks you will encounter against the church and individuals in the kingdom.
III. “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.”
1. Sometimes God is not asking for us to have victory. Sometimes just standing and not quitting is all He expects us to do, which is victory anyway because our enemies are already vanquished foes because of the cross of Christ.
Also, as we are faithful in keeping our faith in the midst of the battle, then God Himself undertakes on our behalf and gives us a great victory after our period of testing during the “evil day” is over. (The evil day can be a day, an hour, or several years depending on how long the test lasts.)
2. Having “done all” is now explained in the next few verses.
IV. “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
1. The “belt of truth” is walking in integrity according to the word of God, which keeps the armor together. If we do not obey the word of God, the armor will fall off us when we attempt to go into battle.
“For a Roman soldier this belt probably referred to the leather apron which hung under the armor and protected the thighs, rather than the sword belt or the protective girdle worn over the armor. The idea of fastening clothing securely around one’s waist signifies preparation for vigorous activity (Luke 12:35, 37; 17:8), in this case, readiness for battle. The apostle’s language clearly alludes to the Septuagint of Isaiah 11, which declares of the Messiah: ‘With righteousness shall he be girded around his waist, and with truth bound around his sides’ (vv. 4–5).” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
2. The “breastplate of righteousness” has to do with being on guard and protecting our hearts from evil influences, as it teaches us in Proverbs 4:23. It also has to do with knowing we are forgiven and righteous in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthian 5:17).
“For the Roman soldier, the breastplate was ‘a piece of armor covering the chest to protect it against blows and arrows’. Paul’s language here is drawn from Isaiah 59:17 (see also Isa. 11:5, righteousness is the Messiah’s girdle), where God puts on ‘the breastplate of righteousness’ as he comes to deliver his people and to punish the nation’s enemies. According to Ephesians 6 believers need to be armed with God’s own righteousness if they are to be protected against the blows and arrows of their spiritual enemies.” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
3. “Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”
“The Christian also needs to be outfitted with proper footwear in order to be ready for battle. The Roman soldier frequently wore caliga, a half boot, which were not strictly a weapon but part of his equipment that was used especially in long marches. Paul does not refer directly to believers’ footwear here; instead, he employs an unusual expression that speaks of ‘having [their] feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace’.
“The language has been borrowed from Isaiah 52:7, ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace’.
“The gospel of peace: The peace, which God’s messenger brings, deals with both vertical and horizontal relationships.” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
4. “Taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one”
“The shield referred to is not the small round one, which left most of the body unprotected, but the large shield carried by Roman soldiers, which covered the whole person. In the Old Testament the shield was used as an image of God’s protection of his people (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 5:12; 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7, etc.). He is ‘a shield to those who take refuge in him’ (Proverbs 30:5). Here the shield, which believers are to take up, is ‘the shield of faith’; the genitive is best understood as one of apposition, meaning that faith itself is the shield. ‘Faith’ has appeared at key points throughout Ephesians (1:13, 15, 19; 2:8; 3:12, 17; 4:5, 13; 6:23), particularly as the means of acquiring divine strength (1:19; 3:16–17). Although it is possible to interpret faith here as God’s or Christ’s faith [fullness], it is preferable to understand it of believers laying hold of God’s resources, especially his power, in the midst of the evil one’s attacks. To take the shield of faith, then, is to appropriate the promises of God on our behalf, confident that he will protect us in the midst of the battle. According to 1 Peter 5:8–9, firm faith, described as ‘a flint-like resolution’, is called for in resisting the devil.
“By responding in this way believers ‘will be able to extinguish all the burning arrows of the evil one’. The large shield used by Roman soldiers was specially designed to quench dangerous missiles, particularly arrows that were dipped in pitch and lit before being fired. These flaming missiles often inflicted deadly wounds, or caused havoc among soldiers, unless the shields had been soaked with water and were able to quench them. Here the burning arrows depict, in highly metaphorical language, every kind of attack launched by the devil and his hosts against the people of God. They are as wide-ranging as the ‘insidious wiles’ (v. 11) that promote them, and include not only every kind of temptation to ungodly behavior (see Ephesians 4:26–27), doubt, and despair, but also external assaults, such as persecution or false teaching. Paul’s expression conveys the sense of extreme danger. The forces of ‘the evil one’ are incredibly powerful, and left to our own devices we would certainly fail. But these flaming arrows cannot harm those whose trust and confidence are ‘in the Lord and in his mighty power’ (v. 10). They are able to resist and overcome these satanic attacks.” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
5. “And take the helmet of salvation”
“The helmet used by the Roman soldier was made of bronze and had cheek pieces so as to give protection to the head. Here Paul’s language is once again drawn from Isaiah 59, where God the victorious warrior wears ‘the helmet of salvation’ (v. 17) as he saves his people and judges their enemies. Now, according to Ephesians, he gives his helmet to believers for their protection. This helmet is salvation itself (the genitive is one of apposition: ‘the helmet which is salvation’), and believers are urged to lay hold of it as they engage in the spiritual warfare.
“Earlier in the letter, salvation language was used to summarize what God has already accomplished for believers: his making them alive with Christ, raising them up, and seating them with him in the heavenly places (2:5, 6) are comprehensively described as his having saved them by grace (vv. 5, 8). The present aspect of salvation is emphatically stressed: God has rescued them from death, wrath, and bondage, and transferred them into a new dominion where Christ rules. The position of power and authority with Christ to which they have been raised is greater ‘than that possessed by their mighty supernatural enemies’. As they appropriate this salvation more fully and live in the light of their status in Christ, they have every reason to be confident of the outcome of the battle.” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
6. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
“The term used refers to the short-handled sword, which was an important offensive weapon in close combat. In the expression ‘the sword of the Spirit’, the former is not identified with the Spirit (i.e., a genitive of apposition); rather, ‘of the Spirit’ is probably a genitive of source, indicating that the Spirit makes the sword powerful and effective, giving to it its cutting edge (see Hebrews 4:12). This sword of the Spirit is identified with ‘the word of God’, a term which in Paul often signifies the gospel. However, he normally uses logos (‘word’) instead of rhema, which appears here. The two terms are often interchangeable, but the latter tends to emphasize the word as spoken or proclaimed (as in Ephesians 5:26).” (Quoted from The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter T. O’Brien)
An example of how to use the spoken word of God against the enemy is shown in the encounter between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness in Luke chapter 4.
7. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 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, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
• These are commands only the whole church can keep because it says to pray at all times.
• Part of our armor is the intercession of other believers.
• “All prayer” is really all kinds of prayer: waiting on God, intercession, petition, praise, declarations of faith.
• Prayer is especially to be made for the apostolic and pastoral leaders of the church who are the biggest targets of the evil one.
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