Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ephesians 6:10-13

We’re looking at verses 10-24 of chapter 6, in which Paul begins with the word, “Finally,” and comes to the end of his letter. In conclusion, we are taught and encouraged to stand firm in spiritual warfare against the spiritual forces of darkness. Paul gives us a call to arms against the real enemy (not flesh and blood) and details the armor (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness of gospel peace (reconciliation), the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation), weaponry (the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God), and strategy (stand firm in prayer) for battling this enemy successfully.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Paul knows that Christians face many obstacles in this world, including the desires of the flesh and the tendencies to lean to the right into legalism or to the left into antinomianism. But the greatest obstacle to Paul is “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v12). The Christian duty of unity and purity is complicated by hostile spiritual powers. In fact, there is a war ongoing! But this war is not against “flesh and blood.” It’s a battle against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v12). Christ has won the war, and victory will be finalized (Romans 16:20); however, though darkness is defeated, it is not yet harmless. And Paul can teach on sound doctrine, on applying that doctrine to our hearts and minds, and on living out that doctrine in the various relationships we have, but if we lack an understanding of this final category of struggle, then we will fail to overcome with great joy. So Paul explains how we are to persevere in this life en route to the next, how we are to make progress unto unity in the faith, how we are to stand firm in this spiritual war that is going on over us, in us, and in our midst.

Compare v10 to Ephesians 1:19; 3:16-19. We are to be strong, or perhaps better translated as be strengthened, in the Lord and in His mighty power, not our own, for we have none, especially none capable of battling the devil and his schemes. The new clothes Paul mentioned earlier (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:10,12) have now become full battle gear, the full armor of God (v11,13). Paul combines Roman soldier armor with Old Testament imagery, especially that of the Messiah. Strikingly, Paul applies what is said of God in the Old Testament to believers in this passage. In Paul’s culture, Roman soldiers were everywhere. The source of Paul’s imagery is obvious. He takes the physical reality of warfare, that one prepared for battle requires weapons and armor crafted for physical battle by skilled craftsman, and turns it into an illustration of the reality of spiritual warfare, that one prepared for spiritual battle requires weapons (God’s Word and prayer) and armor (truth, righteousness, readiness for the gospel peace of reconciliation, faith, and salvation) crafted for battle by a skilled craftsman (God Himself).

The command here is to be strengthened, knowing how God has empowered us, and the word “stand” is used in this section four times (v11,13-14); it describes action, opposed to sitting in weakness and idleness in the faith. Though Paul’s emphasis here is on the defensive, his war analogies can prove be aggressively offensive as well (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Regardless, with the full armor of God on, when the day of evil comes, we will be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. In other words, we need to be strong to stand during battle, so that once the battle is over, we will be able to stand. Calvin says, “There will be no danger which may not be successfully met by the power of God; nor will any who, with this assistance, fight against Satan, fail in the day of battle.” 1 John 5:18 assures believers of victory as well.

So Paul’s message here is simply to be armed spiritually for what we’re up against spiritually for the sake of, first, survival and, second, progress and conquering and overcoming. To summarize, we need to realize the war we are in; we need divine strength to wage this war; we need to see the enemy for who he is (powerful and wicked) and what he will try to do (deceiving schemes that employ the “rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world,” to which, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 2 Timothy 2:26, unbelievers are destined to fall prey); and we need to put on – intellectually (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) – the full spiritual armor that God gives us in order to defend ourselves and ultimately win this war in His strength.

No comments: