Since the beginning of recorded history, only 8% of that time has been peace time. In 3,100 yrs., only 286 have been warless and 8,000 treaties have been broken. What is intriguing to me is that in nearly 2,000 yrs. of church history, there has never been a single year where there has been peace between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. There’s a war going on in the spiritual realm and every Christian is in it.
As Paul prepares to close this epistle, he makes a final grand & sweeping declaration of war (Ephesians 6.10-20). Christians are engaged in a war as old as time as the forces of light wage war against the forces of darkness. Nevertheless, God has equipped with everything we need to wage war victoriously. The Christian has been endued by God with strength and armor for battle.
Forces Against the Godly (10-12)
The war Christians wage is spiritual in nature, against the forces of darkness & evil.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Finally: Having laid out the doctrines & duties of Christianity, Paul has one more admonition…
Be strong in the Lord: Lit. be strengthened by the Lord. Christians are empowered constantly by the Lord. The Lord does the strengthening; He makes us powerful. There is no other source which can provide the Christian with the strength he/she needs to live in this world. Cf. 3.16
In the strength of His might: This is God’s might and by faith it becomes ours. To be strengthened is our duty; to be weak is our sin. In a single verse, Paul uses three (3) different words for power. While each has a subtle distinction, the message is that God’s power enables Christians.
There’s a war going on and only the Lord can provide us with the help, the strength we need to be victorious. Depending upon our power, our own strength will have disastrous results.
11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Put on the whole armor of God: Put on as we would the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13.14), perhaps eluding to baptism (aorist). The whole armor (Gk panoplian) will be listed in detail (v.14-17) and every piece is vital. God is the One who supplies & provides the Christian with this armor.
That you…the devil: the schemes (Gk methodeias) or “wiles” of the devil are the various tricks the our great enemy will use to deceive us unto sin. Elsewhere Paul says we know his tricks (2 Cor 2.11) and here he says we stand against or face off on the battlefield of life with him.
Put on your armor because life is a battlefield (not soft with ease; hard conflict with foes within and without); put on your whole armor, you need every piece for protection. Why? Because we have a cunning, cleaver enemy, an artful adversary who wants to mount our heads above his mantle in the high halls of hell! He will use all his stratagem and tactics, every trick in his book to get us. But clothed in the armor of God, we can stand against his attempts.
12For 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.
For…flesh and blood: “flesh and blood” (reverse order in Gk.) is a Hebraism for men or human beings. This denotes the weakness of men and points to the strength of these real, spiritual enemies. In antiquity, wrestling was a contest in which opponents tried to throw/hurl the other to the ground and victory came when one could hold the other down by the neck.
“Wrestle” is found nowhere else in the NT. This description of the Christian is unique. These spiritual forces of darkness have not gone away. These are the minions of Satan who assail the Christian, trying to pin us down to the ground by the throat. This is life and death. They want to take you down and choke you out! Cf. Matt 13.7, 22. These are still active and are a constant threat to the believer. Neutrality is not an option for the child of God.
But…the present darkness: cf. 1.21; 3.10. While some scholars attempt to make a distinction between each of these classes, New Testament usage does not lend itself to noting significant distinctions between these forces and powers. Only cosmic powers is new here. This was a title applied to pagan gods (Patzia 286) but here seems to be a special designation for the devil & special forces of his. Their power is limited to this present darkness, i.e. this world.
Against…heavenly places: The spiritual forces of evil is a comprehensive way of speaking of the Christians foes. While there is no place in the world where their influence is not found, our battle is waged in the heavenly places where we are seated with Christ (2.6).
Full Armor of God (13-20)
The Christian has access to the panoply of God as well as the ear of the Father in prayer.
13Therefore 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.
Therefore: Since we have so great a host of foes who seek our destruction…
Take up…of God: In v.11, it was “put on;” now it is “pick up” the armor God provides. Neglecting the armor of God will leave us vulnerable and open to attack from the evil forces.
That you…to stand firm: Our active resistance to the spiritual forces of darkness (withstand) is dependent upon our wearing God’s armor. Concerning the evil day, “any day the evil one comes upon us in force is an evil day.” Having done all means having conquered or overcome.
Most commentators say that Paul’s mind was stimulated by his daily encounters with Roman soldiers to whom he was chained. Morris is typical: “Day by day the apostle, at this time of his confinement (see on v.20), was in all probability chained to a Roman soldier. His mind must often have turned from the thought of the soldier of Rome to the soldier of Jesus Christ, and from the soldier to whom he was bound to the heavenly warrior to whom his life was linked by more real, though invisible, bonds” (178). If that is the case, Paul used a contemporary figure to illustrate transcendent truths. I wonder what this would sound like if he used a modern-day figure…
- Breastplate: Put on the Kevlar vest of righteousness, bulletproof against the bullets of guilt, shame, and anger that sin shoots.
- Feet: put on the combat boots of the gospel of peace.
- Helmet: Take up enhanced high-strength polyethylene combat helmet of salvation.
- Sword: Pick up your M16A4 rifle which is the Word of God
14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
Stand therefore: v. 11, 13 (2); four (4) times Paul exhorts Christians to stand victoriously. “Stand against” (v.11), “withstand” (v.13), “stand firm” (v.13), “stand” (v.14) are all related by the same root. Gk antihisthemi, Eng. antihistamine; a histamine is an amine (C5H9N3) which is released from mast cells as part of an allergic reaction in humans. It stimulates gastric secretion, causes dilation of capillaries, constriction of bronchial smooth muscle, and decreased blood pressure. An antihistamine blocks these reactions. Paul pictures the devil as an allergen the Christian resists, stands against when in the armor of God.
Having…belt of truth: The belt which was tied around the waist would be the 1st item a soldier would put on. So truth (i.e. sincerity, integrity) even in “the inward parts” (Psa 51.6) is essential.
Having…breastplate of righteousness: cf. Isa 59.17. The breastplate protected the heart of the warrior. So the righteousness (i.e. right standing and actions) of God protects our heart from the guilt sin brings. The Christian is to belt and clothe himself in truth & righteousness (middle voice).
What stands out in the description of the armor is the tenses – all of them are aorist tense. These are definite actions which enable our standing (also aorist tense). We belt, clothe, and shoe ourselves with truth, righteousness, and the gospel.
15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
And, as shoes for your feet: “The Roman sandal was furnished with nails that gripped the ground firmly, even when it was sloping or slippery” (PC 259). Without shoes a soldier could not gain traction for the fight and stand against his foe.
Having put on the readiness: or “preparation” (NASB, NKJV). Readiness could mean the Christian soldier is prepared to march forward with the gospel. However, the context (“stand”) indicates that what is in view is firm footing for the conflict so the Christian is unmoved by the enemy.
Given by the gospel of peace: Even in the midst of war the Christian has peace in heart & life due to the gospel.
Ready in mind and willing to share the gospel with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Perhaps Paul has Isaiah 52.7 in mind when he writes these words. The message the Christian brings into this “holy war” is one of peace with and from God. Peace for those who are far off and near (2.17).
16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
In all…shield of faith: In all circumstances or “above all.” The shield the Romans carried was 4 ft X 2½ ft, and was designed to protect the combatant fully. Faith (in God, Christ) is that shield which round about encompasses the Christian (Psalm 5.12).
With which…the evil one: Though Satan hurl the whole hoard of hell as flaming darts (common practice of antiquity in battle), by faith we extinguish them.
The metaphor here is one where thoughts or ideas “dart” into the mind which inflame lust, pride, anger, revenge, even guilt & shame or any other evil feelings. Should a fire-tipped dart hit the Christian, the danger is the flame spreads and consumes him. Eph 4.27. The painful experience of every Christian is when these kinds of thoughts and ideas suddenly enter our mind despite our efforts to keep them. In moments like these we are no doubt thankful for the shield of faith to quench those darts. By consciously focusing on the abiding presence of Christ, by remembering His love & sacrifice, by resting upon His grace, by recalling the promises found in Scripture, we can extinguish those fiery darts.
17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
Take the helmet of salvation: Take may imply that these items are handed to the soldier after he has dressed for battle. The helmet protected the head of the Roman soldier. So salvation protects the mind of the Christian. Knowing God’s salvation is a blessing which guards the mind.
“Take” is what is called a middle voice verb which means the subject (in this case “you,” i.e. the Ephesians) is participating in the action directly or indirectly and yet the action is also upon the subject. So what that means is that the Ephesians receive or take hold what is being given to them by God. God gives the helmet/salvation and the sword/word; the Christian accepts them, receives them, takes hold of them.
The sword of the Spirit: The Roman had two different swords. The sword (Gk machairan) spoken of here was the short sword or dagger which was used in close combat. It is the same kind of sword Peter used in Gethsemane (Matthew 26.51-52). This is the only offensive weapon mentioned.
Don’t let anyone tell you the Spirit is the Word; the Spirit is God, the sword we yield is the word which is supplied by the Spirit. The Spirit inspired the Word (Bible) and when you put the sword in the Spirit’s hand (fill yourself up with God’s word and allow the indwelling Spirit to work), powerful things will happen in your life.
Which is the word of God: The word (Gk rhêma) is a single unit in a discourse (i.e. a quote) or a spoken word or saying.
Connect this spoken “word” with what Jesus does in Matthew 4: when tempted He said, “It is written…” and then shared a quote from Deuteronomy 6 or 8. They are just brief quotations but sufficient for the occasion. Here Jesus is showing us how to wield the dagger of the Spirit. See we sometimes make the mistake that what is needful is to memorize huge chunks of Scripture; what is sufficient and all that you need is a short saying. We need not think on the big scale when memorizing Scripture; if you can great! But we do need the dagger, the short saying and it is enough. Jesus shows us that.
18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Praying…in [the] Spirit: There is debate about whether prayer is the final piece of armor. Grammatically, it is not or else keep alert would have to be also. However, properly using the armor in glorious battle requires a disposition of prayer at all times. In [the] Spirit speaks to the Spirit’s role as our helper in prayer (cf. Romans 8.26).
True prayer is spiritual (see Rom 8.15, 26; Jude 20). The Spirit is in us (1 Cor 3.16; 6.19, Eph 3.16: Acts 2.38) and He helps us. “The ordinary habit of the soul should be prayerful, realizing the presence of God and looking for his grace and guidance.”
With all prayer and supplication: Paul uses two different words for prayer (Gk proseuchês & deêseos). While each has it subtle meaning, Paul intends merely to emphasize prayer.
To that end…perseverance: Keep alert is a metaphor from staying awake & not falling asleep. The idea is a Christian is to make an effort to watch for potential threats. Coupled with perseverance the idea of intense constancy comes to the forefront.
Making supplication for all the saints: i.e. for all Christians. Christians ought to be mindful of the needs of other Christians and be constant in seeking God’s grace for them.
Prayer must be unceasing (“at all times”), intense (“keep alert with all perseverance”), and universal (“all the saints”). We cannot spend our entire lives in quiet with God, but we can & should live in continual communion with God through prayer.
Pray for all Christians. We should do this: (1) because they are our brethren – though they may have a different skin, language, or name. (2) because, like us, they have hearts prone to evil, and need, with us, the grace of God. (3) because nothing tends so much to make us love others and to forget their faults, as to pray for them. (4) because the condition of the church is always such that it greatly needs the grace of God. Many Christians have backslidden; many are cold or lukewarm; many are in error; many are conformed to the world; and we should pray that they may become more holy and may devote themselves more to God. (5) because each day many a Christian is subjected to some special temptation or trial, and though he may be unknown to us, yet our prayers may benefit him. (6) because each day and each night many Christians die. We may reflect each night as we lie down to rest, that while we sleep, some Christians are kept awake by the prospect of death, and are now passing through the dark valley; and each morning we may reflect that “today” some Christian will die, and we should remember them before God. (7) because we shall soon die, and it will be a comfort to us if we can remember then that we have often prayed for dying saints, and if we may feel that they are praying for us.
19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
And also for me: The great apostle who was in constant prayer for the saints asks for their prays.
That words…the gospel: Of all the things Paul could request prayers for he seeks prayers for boldness in speaking the gospel to others. Paul employs a rabbinic phrase (Lit. in the opening of my mouth) to describe the gravity of his ministry. Due to his sober calling, Paul desired for God to give him words (Gk logos) in order to proclaim or “make known” (NKJV, NIV) the mystery of the gospel, i.e. Jews & Gentiles in one body reconciled to God (cf. 3.4-6).
Throughout this epistle, Paul’s emphasis on prayer has been instructive. Once again Paul realigns the prayer lives of the saints by seeking not freedom from prison or good health or safe travel or for the guards to be nice to him; he prays for boldness in speaking the gospel! When is the last time you heard someone pray that God would give us the words we need in order to speak the gospel with boldness?
20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
For which I…in chains: It was because of his preaching “the mystery of the gospel” that Paul was not in chains, i.e. in prison (3.1; 4.1). But even in prison he was an ambassador or a representative of a dignitary or ruling authority, in this case the King of kings. Some see a play on the idea of ambassadors who, during festive occasions, wore ornamental chains as a mark of prestige.
That I may…speak: Paul’s chief concern was not that his chains be loosed but that his tongue be loosed for the sake of the gospel. He seeks to take unto himself the confidence and freedom to speak that only God can give. He knows how he ought to speak and so the double request for boldness.
Do you know how you ought to speak? Paul tells us it should be confidence. Do you speak this way with folks about the gospel? If not, have you prayed for boldness? Herein lies another key to praying in the Spirit: it involves engaging God and going beyond our immediate concerns (i.e. prison). Also, we should note the use of plural nouns and verbs. In other words, prayer must be a church-wide emphasis – we pray for one another but also we get together regularly and often to pray about BIG things like our mutual need for boldness in evangelism. Remember the other things (health, travel, etc.), but keep the main thing the main thing.