Yeshwanth Bakkavemana

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Stand! A Call to Spiritual Warfare: An Exposition on Eph. 6:10-18

Armor of God

I. Introduction

The greatest obstacle for missions today is the church itself. The reason is that the church is not well-equipped to face the threats from within that divides the church and from without that threatens its existence. The failure of the church is the failure of its members as the members fail to take up the arms to fight the Satan’s schemes. We live in a world where at every nook and corner, there is spiritual war going on. May it be in the house, workplace, street, and even in the church itself—we are at war all the time. Besides, young people are more vulnerable to fall into the traps of the devil because they are not properly trained to fight the schemes of the devil. The message of Eph. 6:10-18 is very much relevant to us. The call to Stand!—is the call to take up the arms for the Spiritual warfare. Paul in this section commands the church to be prepared for the battle and to put on the armor of God to fight the devil. Therefore, as Christians we are commanded to proclaim the Lord’s victory over the Satan by being strengthened in the Lord, and by fully equipped to engage in the spiritual warfare. A Christian is, then, a man at arms—a soldier, who is at war every moment. Keeping this in mind, I would like to entitle this sermon as “Stand! A Call to Spiritual Warfare.”

II. The context:

Let us briefly look in to the context and the purpose of this letter. Ephesus is a metropolitan city. It is a very strategic point for evangelism. Paul wrote this letter from prison (3:1; 4:1; 6:20). He is also well aware of his death sentence (Phil. 1:19-26; 2:17, 23). It is very interesting that Paul talks about fighting the battle, at the verge of his death. This can be treated as Paul’s farewell speech. Most probably this letter might have been written between 60-61 AD.

The purpose of this letter is that Paul encourages the Ephesian church to be “prepared” to fight against the devil. He commands the church to take up the arms to fight all the possible schemes of the devil that disunites the church.

III. Stand! A Call to Spiritual Warfare

A. Be made strong in the Lord: Vv. 10-13

10Finally, be made strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you can (may be) stand against the wiles of devil.

12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you can withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

i. A close relationship with God: A prerequisite to be strong

10Finally, be made strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.

The word ‘finally’ (Tou/ loipou/), indicates that Paul is bringing his letter to climax. Besides, this word suggests ‘continuation’ of what Paul has been saying earlier. Paul explained God’s sovereign plan in Christ, His relationship with church and the appropriation of the gift of salvation in the everyday life of a believer. In order, the church should be strong; the personal piety of the believers needs to be strong. Therefore, Paul opens this section with his call to be prepared and to fight the devil.

Kindly note he phrase, “be made strong.” In NRSV, NIV and Nepali versions, it is translated as “be strong.” However, the accurate expression is “be made strong” (passive) for three reasons. Firstly, we cannot strengthen ourselves. We do not possess the strength to fight the devil. Secondly, the phrase is connected to the source of our strength, i.e., “in the Lord.” In other words God is our source of our strength. It is only He, who can strengthen us. Note that Paul does not say “by the Lord” but he say “in the Lord.” We may be strengthened by our friends, by our loved ones but you don’t find the strength “in” them. We can only be strengthened in the Lord. Thirdly, to be made strong, one needs to be in close relationship with God. The result of such close and intimate relationship is being strong and experience ofthe strength of his power.” Therefore, it is only when we are in close relationship with Christ, then we will be strengthened to Stand.

 ii. A Call to put on the Armor of God: Vv. 11-13

11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you can (may be) stand against the wiles of devil.

12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you can withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Having explained what it means to be strengthened in the Lord, Paul goes on to explain the manner in which we can be strengthened. In v. 11, Paul talks about “putting on the whole armor of God.” The phrase “put on” in Greek understanding to “be clothed.” This is something similar to what Paul says in Eph. 4:24 —“clothing oneself with the new humanity—a gift that God has given us in and through Jesus Christ. In other words, we need to appropriate this gift of new humanity or our salvation in and through our lives.

Here we can observe an imagery of a Roman soldier. Probably, as Paul was imprisoned at Rome, very often he would see one of these armored soldiers. Conversely, Armor of God in this passage has two aspects­—one is that the armor God himself wears and the other armor God supplies to his people. In the Old Testament, the picture of God as heavenly warrior is given in Isa. 59:17. The difference between the armor of God that God wears and the armor that is supplied to us is that in the former, armor is worn by the victorious warrior and in the later the same armor is supplied to us.

The purpose of being clothed or putting on the armor is to “Stand” against all the schemes of the devil. Here we need to notice two wordsStand  and wiles or stratagem. The word “stand” is the key word of this passage. The word “stand” is a military term “for holding on to a defensive position.” We can imagine a battle ground where the soldier is holding on to his position to face the attack of the enemy. The other word is “wiles or stratagems.” This word is not to be understood only as “physical attack” of the devil who is the commander-in-chief of the opposing force. It should be taken as physical attacks that we can see and “cunning devices, subtle ways” that we cannot see. This means that we can be attacked from outside and also from within—our own temptations and our choice to fall into sin, anger, pride, greed, and many more.

In verse 12, Paul warns the church to be aware of the invisible enemy behind visible enemy. To show the comprehensive power of this invisible enemy, Paul mentions “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers.” We should not think that our rulers and authorities are evil but we should be conscious of the fact that the devil may use them for his attacks on the believers. In other words, church can face threat of persecution from outside and the threat of spiritual temptations from within. Likewise, even an individual believer should be aware of the same.

Having explained the intensity and insidiousness of the devil and his schemes, Paul urges once again to “take up” the armor. Observe the change in the verbs—in v.11, Paul says “put on,” here he says, “take up.” This means the armor is given to us by our commander-in-chief i.e., our God who has already won the battle. The phrase “on that evil day” means the day we may face an extreme attack and also a lesser attack by the devil. In other words, the evil day means the moment in which we are attacked by the devil. Paul urges us that in such moments we need to take up the armor to stand against such cunning attack.

B. The description of the Armor of God: Vv. 14-17

14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.

15 And your feet fitted with the preparedness that comes from the Gospel.

16 With all of these, take shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

There are six items in the armor that Paul describes. The order in which Paul describes is the order in which a soldier wears these items. These items have two aspects. One is that they are divine endowments or gifts given to the believer. Second one is that they are virtues, a believer has to develop.

The first item is “belt of truth.” This here truth is depicted as the belt. Paul seems to draw this picture of wearing the belt of truth from Isa. 11:5—Messiah wearing the belt of righteousness and faithfulness. Here truth should be understood as truth of the Gospel (Eph. 1:13; 4:15) and truth in the inward being as in Psa. 51:6. The act of biding the belt of truth indicates “preparedness” for the battle.

The second item is “breastplate of righteousness” which is closely connected with the belt of truth. The breastplate would cover the body from neck to the thighs. Righteousness means “uprightness and integrity in the character” which is the direct result of appropriating the Christ’s righteousness. It is only in and through the person, life and work of Christ, one is made righteous. Our life is then, should be the reflection of Christ’s righteousness.

The third item is “preparedness” for the battle. This “preparedness” comes from the Gospel of peace. Paul seems to have taken this aspect from Isa. 52:7—“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace!” Here, the readiness to fight comes from our grounding in the gospel of peace. The paradox is that we are called to fight a spiritual battle to establish peace in the world.

The fourth item is shield of faith. The phrase “with all of these” in v. 16 means in all the circumstances, we are called to use our faith as our shield against devil’s schemes. The shield is actually made of two large wooden planks attached together and covered with the leather that is soaked in the water. It is then covered with iron. It covers the whole body in the combat. It would catch the flaming arrows and extinguishes them. Faith here means our trust in God. This trust comes when we believe in God. Only then, our faith becomes defensive equipment that extinguishes all the devilish schemes. Here the phrase “all the flaming arrows of the evil one” may mean comprehensiveness in the devils attack on God’s people. It can be a temptation, doubt, self-pity, and at times devil might even use our loved ones against us. It is such a time; we are called to take up our faith as a shield to defend ourselves.

The fifth item is helmet of salvation. Helmet is used to protect the head. Salvation means deliverance from the bondage of sin. It is a gift given to us by God. Here, Paul seems to use the imagery of Isa. 59: 17—“He (Yahweh) put on a helmet of salvation on his head.” In this context, helmet of salvation means helmet of victory because God needs no salvation but he gives salvation to us. The Greek verb (de,xasqe), indicates the “givenness” of salvation to us. While we were given freedom to choose the above items, this item, is specially given by God to us. Elsewhere, Paul mentions about “hope of salvation” as a helmet at the second coming of the Lord. Putting all together, in the present verse helmet of salvation means our awareness of victory in the Lord over sin and hope for the complete redemption at the Lord’s second coming. So, we are to be confident in the victory and hope in the Lord in the battle.

The sixth item is sword of the Spirit. This is the only item in the armor used to offend the enemy or attack the enemy. Here, Paul describes this sword to be the word of God. This is the ultimate weapon to attack the devil. The best example is how Christ fought the temptation of Satan using the Word of God (Matt. 4:1-10). This calls us for a serious and honest study of the Scripture.

IV. Conclusion

Finally, as I bring this to a close, I want to share a true incident that has happened many years ago. This story is about a very young pastor. He loved God so immensely. His hope was very strong. He reflected that light and glory of God in everything he did and said. He contracted cancer. He and his wife were told that he had only few months to live. But they have not shown any sign of pain or anxiety. In his last Sunday sermon he said, “Our Lord suffered and died for our sins. Why should I not share in his sufferings? After this he sang this beautiful song which made everyone to cry. Hear these words that he sang:

Must Jesus bear the Cross alone,

And all the world go free,

No, there is a Cross for everyone,

And there’s a Cross for me

How happy are the saints above,

Who once went sorr’wing here,

But now they taste unmingled love,

And joy without fear

The consecrated Cross I bear

Till death shall set me free,

And then go home my crown to wear,

For there is a crown for me.

It is just amazing how this Pastor, even fought death. My dear Church, look at the maturity of faith this Pastor has displayed. He showed a confident faith in his crisis. He saw life beyond the grave i.e., the power of Christ’s resurrection. My dear church, the call for the church today is a call to war—a spiritual war. We are called to be prepared for the battle not to win but to proclaim victory of the Lord to the world. We are called to put on the armor of God to take stand against the attacks of the devil. Finally, my dear church, Stand firm! And see the deliverance of the Lord!