Ephesians

Chapter 6, lesson 1

Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

I don’t need to tell you that there is constant warfare in this life.  You know that as well as anybody!  Every day we struggle or battle against the common problems and obstacles of life.  We have business deals that fall apart, vehicles that break down, schedule conflicts, kids that need braces, unexpected bills, and lawns that we can’t mow because it rains five days a week!  Sometimes, it feels like nothing is easy.    

Every day we battle against the common problems and obstacles of life!

In addition, the Christian is also engaged in spiritual warfare. The powers of darkness are trying to destroy our relationship with God and our testimony amongst men.   

Given our situation, it is fitting that Paul uses the analogy of a soldier to prepare us for what lies ahead. 

Notice what our first two preparations are to be – one, we are to be strong in the Lord, operating in his might.  In other words, we are to have spiritual strength and courage.  We need to mature past the point where we are babies in Christ.  We should be engaging in the enemy through prayer, fasting, praise and worship, quoting the word, etc.   Each answered prayer is a victory, and each victory strengthens us in the Lord and gives us courage to battle even bigger foes.  Each victory causes faith to grow.

Why don’t you take a moment right now and reminisce about your last three or four victories?  Share your testimony with someone else.  It will build your faith and make you stronger! 

Our second preparation is to arm ourselves with the armor and weapons God has provided.  God provides them and makes them available to us, but it is our responsibility to pick them up and become skilled at wielding them!  The reason for putting on the armor is that we may be able to stand against the devil.  This involves withstanding temptations, recognizing deceit/lies, avoiding traps and snares, rescuing those still under Satan’s grasp and spreading the gospel message. 

Clearly, it takes both the armor/weapons and spiritual courage in order to be successful soldiers for Christ.

Spiritual warfare also has a very pleasing benefit – it draws you into a more intimate relationship with Jesus.  As you battle the enemy, you will be drawing on the strength and wisdom of God.  You will be pressing into his presence with prayer and praise.  You will find yourself enjoying communion and intimacy with him as he stands with you against the foe.     

Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

“Flesh and blood” is a euphemism for people.  If human strength and cunning were the extent of the opposition we faced, the battle wouldn’t be too overwhelming.  It would be human against human and we would have a chance of victory.  However, that is not the case.  As Christians we need to remember that people are the instruments or tools used in the attack, but the true enemies are evil spiritual powers.  They are far stronger and more cunning than we are; we cannot withstand them in our own power or strength.

What we truly face are “rulers, authorities and cosmic powers” as well as “spiritual forces of evil” in the heavenly realms.  These phrases denote ranks of demonic powers.  They seem to have an organization with differing levels of power, just as an army would.  They are numerous.  They are powerful.  They are experts at temptation, violence and evil of all kinds.  Back in the garden of Eden Satan won the rights to earth from Adam and Eve.  This world has been the seat of his empire since then.  Therefore, this world is considered in present darkness.  Paul tells us this not to overwhelm us with fear, but to stir up diligence within us, so that we can be prepared to fight.       

Ephesians 6:13 – 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 firm.

An ‘evil day’ is a time when we face temptations, persecution, trials, etc. Therefore, any day can be an evil day.  Since we don’t know when the next attack may come, we are to take up God’s armor and be ready to fight the enemy at all times. 

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We are instructed to “take up” and to “stand”.  Notice that we are not expected to achieve the victory.  That is because Jesus has already won victory over Satan.  Our job is to enforce that victory.  We must be prepared to stand our ground in faith, rejecting temptation, repelling sickness and disease, warring against injustice, spreading the gospel and in general, fighting Satan’s evil schemes where we find them. James tells us that if we stand firm and resist the devil, he will run away. Obviously, he is not scared of us, but of Christ who lives in us.

Ephesians 6:14 – Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…

Continuing with his military analogy, Paul now takes the time to give us the particulars of our spiritual armor.  We are not going to make an in depth study of the actual pieces of ancient armor, because this is only an analogy; it is intended to focus our minds on what is necessary for the Christian life. 

The belt of truth:  Truth is actually a very broad topic.  There is truth of action, meaning honesty in all our dealings and relationships.  There is truth of the heart, which refers to our intentions.  God is very, very interested in our intentions or motivations. This is clear throughout the Bible.  For example, remember when Samuel was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel?  A number of Jesse’s strong young sons were brought before him, but this is what the Lord said:

1 Samuel 16:7 –  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart”.

There is also truth of speech, which entails much more than just an absence of lying.  It also includes building up and strengthening others through truthful words.  Perhaps someone told your best friend that she was a failure and she would never amount to anything.  As a Christian, you should use words of truth to encourage her.  You need to tell her that she is a victor in Christ.  Tell her that God has a plan and purpose for her life.  Tell her that God loves her so much, he numbers the hairs of her head and he has her name tattooed on the palm of his hand.  Truth of speech not only builds up others, it protects us as well.  We too, need to know the truth of how God views us.  We need to realize that he is pleased with us, that he loves us, that his love does not depend on performance, etc.  

Just as a belt encompasses our entire body, the spiritual belt of truth surrounds all aspects of what we do in the spiritual realm.

The breastplate of righteousness: This weapon is fairly easy to understand.  It signifies the practice of righteousness or living a holy life.  A soldier’s breastplate protected the vital organs from the chest to the thighs.  These were the most likely areas of enemy attacks, because any injury here would have a good chance of being fatal.  As we live holy lives, we defend and protect our spiritual man from attacks of the enemy that could be very serious indeed. How often have we seen Satan ruin the life or even the ministry of a man/woman of God because of sin?  We should develop a thick breastplate through personal holiness.          

Ephesians 6:15 –  and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

Roman soldiers wore heavy sandals studded with hobnails which gave them a secure foothold when fighting.  (The best modern day example we have would be the athlete’s footwear called ‘spikes’.) 

Being properly shod indicates that the Christian soldier is constantly ready to move forward, taking new ground for Christ by sharing the good tidings of peace. The Israelites were commanded to eat the Passover with their feet shod to show that they were ready for their journey. Christ commanded His messengers to be shod with sandals, so they were prepared to proclaim the gospel wherever they were sent.  You and I should be prepared to witness for Christ as the opportunity arises.

I think this is an excellent place to stop for reflection.  If you are experiencing weariness in your Christian life, perhaps you need to re-think your position and check your armor.  Are you trying to do accomplish things for the kingdom using your own power?  You should be getting your strength from the Lord, who has an infinite supply.  Isaiah tells us that those who ‘wait’ on the Christ will run the race of life without being weary. David tells us in Psalms 18 that it is God who gives us strength for the battle.

Psalms 18:39 – For you (God) equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. 

How are you progressing in the area of personal holiness?  All of us fail at times; you should not allow the devil to condemn you for that, but overall is your level of personal holiness greater now than it was six months ago?  A year ago?  If you are not sure, this might be a good time to check your armor.

2 Corinthians 7:1 – … let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.  

How important is truth in your life?  Are you governed by it’s principles?  [FYI, if you base your life on principles of truth, things will go much smoother and more trouble free for you!]

When was the last time you spontaneously prayed for someone or shared the gospel?  If called upon to share it right now, are you able to give a reasonable, clear account of the salvation message? 

I share these thoughts not to make you feel badly about yourself, but just as a check.  A good soldier has routine maintenance performed on his gear and weaponry.  Now is a good time for us to do the same to our spiritual gear!

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