Ephesians 6:10-20 Biblical Commentary:
CONTEXT: Understanding Ephesians 6:10-20 requires a familiarity with what went before. Paul had called these Christians to "walk worthily of the calling with which you were called" (4:1)-the key verse for chapters 4-6. Everything in these three chapters spells out what is involved in Christians walking worthily of their calling. Paul called these Christians:
• Not to be "alienated from the life of God," but to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (4:18-24).
• To put away falsehood and to speak truth with their neighbors (4:25).
• To deal with their anger-not allowing it to cause them to sin-not letting the sun go down on unresolved anger (4:26). "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you" (4:31-32).
• Not to be foolish or drunken, but to be filled with the Spirit (5:17).
• Paul called wives to be subject to their husbands-and husbands to love their wives even as Christ loved the church-and children to obey their parents-and slaves to obey their masters-and masters to treat their servants kindly and respectfully, "knowing that (God) is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and (that) there is no partiality with him" (5:22-33; 6:1-9).
Paul knew that obeying the counsel that he was giving in 4:1 - 6:9 would not be easy, so he adds this "whole armor of God" passage (verses 10-20) to give the Ephesian Christians (and us) the spiritual resources to do what is needed. This is the most oft-quoted passage from the book of Ephesians and one of the most quoted from the whole Bible-so it deserves special attention. People quote it, because it addresses real-life issues. We live in a world where the Rulers of Darkness and "the spiritual forces of wickedness" (v. 12) dominate many people's lives-and our culture reflects their influence. Every time I think things couldn't get worse, they suddenly move to a new, dark level-with the entertainment industry (including sports) leading the way. Living as Godly people in an ungodly world poses a whole host of problems.
We need practical advice to help us cope as we swim in spiritually-polluted waters. The fact that people feel a need for advice is reflected in the ease with which self-help gurus enrich themselves. Some of those gurus offer good advice, but others are agents of the Rulers of Darkness. Being able to discern the good from the bad is critical-if we want to heed the counsel of secular advice-givers.
But in these "whole armor of God" verses, Paul provides an alternative. First, he warns that we are facing powerful, malignant opponents-"principalities, ...powers, ...the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and ...spiritual forces of wickedness" (v. 12).
If you think that Paul has overstated the danger, you have closed your eyes to the overwhelming presence of evil in our midst-the violence and ruthlessness and greed that dominate so many lives-the self-destructive behaviors that hamstring so many people-the great divide that separates the very rich from the very poor. While there are many wonderful people in our world, there are also many who are evil at their core. The hymn, "Just as I Am," talks about "fightings and fears within, without." Those words reminded me that pollution is not just without-in the waters in which we swim. It is also within-in our hearts. The Rulers of Darkness have infiltrated our spiritual bloodstream, and aspire to sit on the throne of our hearts. While we struggle to deal with the evil that exists all around us, we must also contend with the evil that lurks within.
Verses 6:10-20 tell us how to protect ourselves-how to establish a solid defense-how to mount an effective offense-how to parry the Rulers of Darkness. They tell us how to live Godly lives and serve God well in a spiritually challenging world.
THE ADVERSARY: THE DEVIL, SATAN, RULERS OF DARKNESS
The New Testament uses various names or titles for our spiritual adversary-such as the devil, Satan, rulers of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness. The Greek word diabolos (devil) is the equivalent of the Hebrew word satan. In the Old Testament, Satan is an accuser in the heavenly court. In the New Testament, the devil takes on the character of a tempter here on Earth (Matthew 4:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 3:5).
Jesus' ministry started with his forty-day temptation by Satan (Mark 1:13-called the devil in Matthew 4:1). His temptation was much akin to Israel's forty-year sojourn in the wilderness-but with a different result. Israel succumbed over and over again to Satan's wiles, but Jesus parried successfully everything that Satan threw at him. Finally, "the devil left him" (Matthew 4:11)-but only for the moment. The scribes and Pharisees would act as Satan's surrogates as they opposed Jesus and plotted his death. At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would engage in a spiritual battle with Satan so intense that his sweat was "like great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44).
▪ Jesus came to destroy the devil's work (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8), but that victory awaits its final consummation (1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Hebrews 10:12-13). Only in the last days will the devil be thrown into the eternal fire for his final denouement (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
▪ As he was preparing to leave Ephesus, Paul warned, "After my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore watch!" (Acts 20:29-31a). In the letters to the seven churches, Jesus commended the Christians at Ephesus for their perseverance and their intolerance of evil. But he went on to say, "But I have this against you, that you left your first love" (Revelation 2:4). They no longer had the passion for Jesus that they had in earlier days.
▪ Peter warned, "The devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8)-an apt metaphor. Lions might roar, but they also stalk-quietly and with great stealth. They don't always succeed in bringing down their prey, but they prowl relentlessly until their bellies are full. When they begin to feel hungry again, they restart the process, looking for new prey, striking again and again. In like manner, the devil pursues us relentlessly-skillfully assessing whether we might be most easily tempted by high things or low-whether we might be most easily persuaded to go an inch in the wrong direction-or a mile.
▪ Many Christians today would be embarrassed to speak of the devil as a person. They have become too sophisticated to think of Satan as a vicious wolf or a roaring lion. While they acknowledge the presence of evil, they would blame poverty or bad schools or poor housing or racism or the legal system or any number of sociological factors for that evil. But that understanding is derived from humanistic sources, and is totally at odds with the Biblical accounts of Satan.
▪ One of Satan's most successful ploys has been to persuade people that he doesn't even exist. The Bible portrays Satan as a person (Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; Hebrews 2:14; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9)-a person possessed of a clever mind-and a malevolent heart-and a wicked soul-and a fierce determination to subvert our faith in God and our obedience to God. Satan is among the most powerful persons in the universe-a person who has inspired all the evil in our world, and who will not experience his final defeat until Christ comes again. We have much to fear from Satan, but God has given us his Holy Spirit to live within us. That assures us of our ultimate victory.
EPHESIANS 6:10-12. BE STRONG IN THE LORD
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against [a]flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might" (v. 10). The word "finally" connects the following verses to what went before. See "The Context" above.
"be strong." The verb is passive, so a better translation is "be strengthened." Not only is that a better translation linguistically, but it is also better theologically. Paul isn't suggesting that we go to a spiritual fitness center to gain spiritual muscle-mass to enable us to whip the devil. Instead, we are to invite the Lord to strengthen us. The difference is huge. When we say, "Be strong," the emphasis is on what we can do-a humanistic effort doomed to failure. When we say, "Be strengthened," the emphasis is on what the Lord can do. That points to the heart of our faith.
"in the strength of his might." The emphasis here is the vastness of the Lord's strength. When we go to the Lord for empowerment, we tap into a vast reservoir of power that far exceeds anything that we will require-or even imagine.
▪ Consider this: In the beginning, God spoke the world into being. He said, "Let there be light," and light appeared to dispel the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4). A few more Godly words brought into being "an expanse in the middle of the waters"-and dry land-and vegetation-and "lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night"-and "swarms of living creatures"-and a person created in God's image, "male and female" (Genesis 1:5-31). If a few Godly words could accomplish all that, just imagine what God can do to empower us for the work that he calls us to do.
▪ Or watch (from a safe place) during the next thunderstorm. See the pyrotechnics of thunder and lightning. Observe the torrential rainfall. Feel the power of mighty winds. Then stop to consider that you are seeing just a tiny portion of the Godly power that is manifesting itself at that same moment in millions of places across the whole globe.
▪ When Paul tells us to "be strengthened in the strength of (God's) might," he is calling us to let God use some small part of God's mighty power to empower us to do what he has called us to do-to be what God has called us to be.
"Put on the whole armor of God" (v. 11a). Partial armor would leave us dangerously vulnerable. If a Roman soldier were to leave behind his breastplate or his boots or his shield or his helmet or his sword, his enemies would immediately target the place where he had failed to protect himself.
▪ The same is true of Godly armor: Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God (vv. 14-17). Which one could we ignore without leaving ourselves fatally flawed? Take truth as an example. If we were known for all the virtues except truth, what kind of reputation would we have? What kind of witness could we bear? If the world knows us as liars, it will not trust us, and our witness will be fatally compromised. So it is with each piece of spiritual armor. Each piece (truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God) serves an important function, and each piece is essential.
▪ So don't leave yourself vulnerable. "Put on the WHOLE armor of God"-truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God.
"that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (v. 11b). Paul will repeat the emphasis on standing firmly in verses 13-14. We can expect REPEATED attacks by the tempter, so we need to GET READY and STAY READY-feet planted, knees flexed, eyes scanning, head planning, arms ready to ward off blows.
"the wiles (methodeia) of the devil." What are the wiles of the devil?
• In C.S. Lewis' novel, The Screwtape Letters, an experienced devil (Screwtape) is advising a young nephew (Wormwood), who has been tasked with preventing a young man from becoming a Christian. Screwtape says: "Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
• A former Army Chief of Chaplains, MG Kermit Johnson, warned against SAM-sex, alcohol, and money-three tempters that ruin clergy and ministries.
• Billy Graham said, "We cannot be dedicated to Christ without giving Him our bodies. The devil gets at the soul through the body."
• Thomas a Kempis warns, "The devil is continually tempting thee to seek high things, to go after honors."
• Samuel Taylor Coleridge warns, "We shut our eyes to the beginnings of evil because they are small, and in this weakness is contained the germ of our defeat."
• Shakespeare speaks of "saint-seducing gold."
• Martin Luther warns, "By all means flee solitude, for the devil watches and lies in wait for you most of all when you are alone."
▪ These are but a few examples of the wiles of the devil-a sampler, so to speak. A full listing would fill a book-or a library. What can we do to defend ourselves from the devil's wiles? Traditional spiritual disciplines are a great help-participation in public worship-private prayer-scripture study. We will do well to choose our friends carefully. Peer pressure has enormous power to influence our behavior, so we will do well to choose friends who will help us to act in accord with God's will-friends who will not lead us into temptation.
"For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood" (v. 12a). Wrestling was a popular sport in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) where Ephesus was located, so Paul uses it here as a metaphor for the Christian struggle against Satanic powers. The fight is not with "flesh and blood" people, but is with malignant spiritual forces. Paul uses several names or titles in this verse, but they all point to the same spiritual being-Satan. The multiplicity of names is a way of emphasizing the danger.
"but against the principalities" (arche) (v. 12b). The word arche means "beginning" or "first." In this context, it means "rulers"-people who are first in power and authority.
"against the powers" (exousia) (v. 12c). In this context, the word exousia means "those in authority or power."
"against the world's rulers (kosmokrator) of the darkness of this age" (v. 12d). The word kosmokrator comes from two Greek words-kosmos (world) and krateo (to hold). As used here, it means "ruler of this world" or "prince of this world" or "world power."
▪ Paul says that these kosmokrators are "rulers of the darkness of this age." In the New Testament, "this age" is often contrasted with "the age to come" (Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:34-35; Galatians 1:4). In that dichotomy, "this age" is evil, and "the age to come" is the time when God's kingdom will be fully established and righteousness will reign.
▪ While these worldly rulers could be men such as Pilate and Herod, they would also include spiritual powers such as "the god of this world" who blinds the minds of believers to the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
"and against the spiritual forces (pneumatikos) of wickedness (poneria) in the heavenly places" (v. 12e). A spiritual person (pneumatikos) could be a Christian (1 Corinthians 2:13, 15; 3:1; Galatians 6:1). However, in this verse, Paul specifies that Christians are facing opposition from "the spiritual forces of wickedness."
▪ These are spiritual forces more dangerous than the ordinary evil person. They are headquartered "in the heavenly places." From those elevated places Satan directs the activities of his minions in the earthly realm below-the realm in which you and I live.
EPHESIANS 6:13-17. PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
"Therefore, put on the whole armor of God" (v. 13a). Partial armor would leave us dangerously vulnerable. See the comments on verse 11a above.
"that you may be able to withstand (anthistemi) in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand"(histemi) (v. 13b). Anthistemi means to stand against or to resist. Histemi means to stand, to endure, or to sustain. The two words together portray a person mounting a highly determined defense.
▪ This is consistent with Paul's military metaphor. A Roman soldier would be expected, in the heat of battle, "to withstand" (anthistemi) and "having done all, to stand" (histemi).
▪ Paul is calling Christians to adopt that same courageous, "never say die" determination in our fight against Satan. A modern proverb says, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." That's what Paul is encouraging us to do.
"Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth (aletheia) buckled around your waist" (v. 14a). Roman soldiers wore a loose tunic that could get in their way in hand-to-hand fighting, so they used a belt to cinch the tunic so that it wouldn't restrict their movement. Paul uses that belt as a metaphor for the truth that Christians must adopt as part of their protection against the wiles of Satan-"the belt of truth."
▪ Aletheia (truth) is that which is real, untainted by falsehood. There are different kinds of truth. A person who avoids telling lies will gain a reputation as truthful. That is critical to our Christian witness.
▪ However, the greater truth is Jesus-the one in whom we believe and on which we have staked our lives. Jesus is truth personified-"the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Jesus promised, "If you remain in my word, then you...will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32).
▪ To learn what Christ taught, we need to look first to scripture, especially the New Testament, and not to pop psychology or politically correct thought. The reformers said "sola scriptura"-scripture only. Practiced rightly, this means that all other authorities are subordinate to scripture and must be judged by their adherence to scriptural teachings.
▪ Biblical teaching will often prove unpopular, because it is not in synch with the popular culture. It stands against the popular culture-opposes it in the name of Christ.
"and having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (v. 14b). Paul takes this from Isaiah 59:17, which says, "He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head."
▪ Each Roman soldier wore a breastplate that protected his torso-his vital organs. The breastplate was designed to stop arrows, spears, and blows from a sword. Paul uses the breastplate as a metaphor for the protection afforded the Christian by righteousness.
▪ The Greeks thought of righteousness as conforming to tradition or custom. Jews thought of righteousness as conforming to Torah law. However, the Christian's hope is based on grace-the righteousness given by Jesus-the righteousness that we never could have earned.
▪ Paul had pursued righteousness fervently. In his letter to the Philippians, he said: "If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I (have) yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the (church); concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:4b-6).
▪ But after encountering Jesus, Paul learned that true righteousness comes through Jesus. Recounting his personal experience, Paul said: "What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ....that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ,the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Phil. 3:7-9).
▪ That is classic Pauline language. While Paul wants Christians to live Christ-like lives, he makes it clear that moral behavior is the outgrowth of salvation rather than the cause of it. This emphasis on God's mercy "strikes at the very heart of human pride and thus denies people the opportunity of exalting themselves" (Lea and Griffin).
"and having fitted your feet with the preparation (heoimasia) of the Good News of peace" (eirene) (v. 15). This verse takes its inspiration from Isaiah 52:7: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"
▪ Soldiers know the value of a good pair of boots-boots that will stand up to hard use-boots that are comfortable and won't cause blisters-boots with cleats for good traction-boots that allow the feet to breathe. A bad pair of boots can turn a soldier into a casualty in short order. Paul uses a soldier's boots as a metaphor for the protection afforded by "the preparation of the Good News of peace."
▪ The word heoimasia (preparation) means ready or readiness. Paul is telling us that we need to prepare ourselves for encounters with wickedness-and the way to do that is through the Good News of peace.
Peace (eirene) is a significant word, occurring nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which was used frequently in the Old Testament. The LXX (the Septuagint-the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the Greek word eirene to translate the Hebrew word shalom nearly two hundred times. In other words, as used in the Bible, eirene (Greek) and shalom (Hebrew) are essentially synonymous.
▪ Both eirene (Greek) and shalom (Hebrew) can refer to an inner kind of peace-the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God-the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer.
▪ Elsewhere, Paul says, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)-in other words, "If God is for us, who cares who might be against us?" or "If God is for us, what does it matter who might be against us?" Paul's point is that a close relationship with God confers on the believer a confidence that cannot be shaken by any opponent or any danger. It would be appropriate to call that state of mind "peace"-eirene-shalom.
▪ But both eirene and shalom can also refer to an external kind of peace-the absence of rancor or violence. Paul is calling these Ephesian Christians to live in harmony and tranquility with each other.
"above all, taking up the shield (thyreos) of faith" (pistis) (v. 16a). The word thyreos is related to thyra (door). The Romans used thyreos as a name for their large door-like shield that was wide enough and tall enough to protect most their bodies. Soldiers configured into a battle line would hold their shields in front of their bodies, and their fellow-soldiers would do the same. Standing close together, they would erect a solid wall of shields protecting the entire line of soldiers against whatever the enemy might throw at them. There was, therefore, a communal aspect to the use of the shield. A soldier gained maximum value from his shield when he joined it with the shields of his fellow soldiers.
▪ Paul uses that shield as a metaphor for faith (pistis). In the New Testament, pistis (faith) has to do with the person's response to the kerygma (the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ). In other words, Christian faith is faith in the Lord Jesus-steering our ship by Jesus' star.
▪ Just as the Roman soldier gained the maximum value from his shield when he joined it to the shields of his fellow soldiers, so also Christian faith gains its maximum value when joined to the faith of fellow Christians. Our faith reaches its peak strength as we worship and pray together as a community of faith.
"with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one" (ho poneros) (v. 16b). Soldiers would wrap arrows with cloth, dip them in pitch, set the pitch afire, and shoot the arrows. When the arrows hit, the pitch would spatter, setting fires. If it landed on a person's clothing or skin, it required immediate attention to prevent a disabling injury-and sometimes there was little that anyone could do to put out the fires. It was the napalm of its day-a fearsome weapon. These were "the fiery darts of the evil one" that Paul mentions in this verse.
"the evil one" (ho poneros)-the devil, Satan. "In one parable, ...Matthew uses 'ho poneros' (13:19) precisely where Mark uses 'Satan' (4:15) and Luke 'the devil'...' (8:12)" (Lipsett, 361). In other words, the three terms (devil, Satan, and evil the one) all refer to the same Satanic person.
The fiery darts that the evil one hurls our way are temptations of various sorts. See THE ADVERSARY section near the beginning of this commentary for detailed information on Satan and his methods.
"And take the helmet of salvation" (v. 17a). Paul quotes Isaiah 59:17: "He put... a helmet of salvation on his head." A helmet protects the soldier's head. A blow to the head is more likely to kill or disable a soldier than a blow to the body, so helmets are one of the most important pieces of armor. Consider this: When you see pictures of people whose jobs are dangerous (police, fire fighters, soldiers, etc.), every one will be wearing a helmet. First-responders understand that helmets are essential equipment. The protection for the believer's head is "the helmet of salvation." Paul earlier described what salvation means:
• "God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (2:4-5).
• "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast" (2:8-9).
▪ But Satan tries to strike a knockout blow to our spiritual heads by causing us to doubt God-to doubt our salvation-to doubt that God has forgiven us-to doubt that God answers prayer-to doubt that God cares-to doubt, even, that God exists. Once Satan succeeds in planting a doubt, he then pries and wheedles and coaxes and cajoles to see if he can use that opening gambit to bring about the collapse of the whole edifice of our faith.
Two lessons! First, God has assured our salvation, and that assurance will protect us from Satan's hammer blows to the head-if we will simply believe God's promises (such as the following):
• "Those who wait for (the Lord) will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run, and not be weary. They will walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
• Jesus promised, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don't let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful" (John 14:27).
• John promised, "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is" (1 John 3:2).
Second, Satan is always trying to sow doubt, so we need to be on guard to strengthen our faith.
"and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (v. 17b). The sword was the principal weapon of the ordinary foot soldier. It allowed him to take the offense-to strike a blow against the enemy. Roman soldiers carried their swords in a scabbard to keep it readily available.
▪ Paul likens the Roman sword to "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The Christian's sword is the word of God-the scriptures-inspired by the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere Paul says: "Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,
that the (person) of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he cited scripture to refute each temptation:
• When tempted to make stones into bread, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4).
• When tempted to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, relying on angels to save him, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16: "Again, it is written, 'You shall not test the Lord, your God'" (Mt. 4:7).
• When the devil offered to give Jesus the whole world if Jesus would fall down and worship him, Jesus
quoted Deuteronomy 6:13: "Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only'" (Matthew 4:10).
▪ Jesus was able to use the word of God (the scriptures) to defend himself against Satan's best efforts, because Jesus knew the scriptures. Using "the sword of the Spirit," he was able to take the offensive-not only to parry Satan's thrusts, but also to strike blows of his own-blows that proved decisive. In like manner, we can use the word of God defensively to defeat every temptation.
▪ Furthermore, we can use the word of God offensively to preempt Satan. For instance, we can participate in a Bible study where we might learn something that will help us to overcome temptation-or where we might teach something that will help someone else to do so.
▪ Regular study of the Bible is necessary if we are to make effective use of the word of God. When Satan strikes, we need to be able to respond quickly and decisively-rather than trying to find a Bible and blow away the dust and use a concordance to find the right verse. By the time we do that, the battle will have been decided-and we will be the losers.
▪ Take your spiritual health as seriously as you take your physical health. Just as you exercise regularly to keep yourself physically healthy, establish also a program to keep yourself spiritually healthy. That program needs to include some sort of regular and serious Bible study.
EPHESIANS 6:18-20. PRAYING AT ALL TIMES IN THE SPIRIT
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
▪ We tend to be ambivalent about prayer:
• On the one hand, we often think of prayer as a last resort. We say, "All we can do is to pray," reflecting our preference for something more concrete, such as a proven medical procedure or a winning lottery ticket.
• On the other hand, we feel a deep need for God's help and, at some level, acknowledge that God has power beyond our understanding-and that God sometimes chooses to wield that power to intervene in human history in ways that we couldn't have predicted.
▪ Both Old and New Testaments are full of prayers of four kinds (general prayers, petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving)-and calls to prayer, such as the one in these verses from Ephesians. The underlying assumption is that prayer gains us access to "the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).
▪ Jesus gave us the Parable of the Importunate Widow (Luke 18:2-5) to stress "that (we) must always pray, and not give up" (Luke 18:1). Jesus said, "Be watchful all the time, praying that you may be counted worthy" (Luke 21:36). He taught us to "pray for those who mistreat (us)" (Matthew 5:44)-and to pray in secret rather than as a means of advertising our piety (Matthew 6:1-8).
▪ Jesus gave us a model prayer that begins, "Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" (Matthew 6:9-10). We need to acknowledge God's holiness before we ask God for daily bread-or forgiveness-or relief from temptation-or deliverance from the evil one (Matthew 6:11-13a).
▪ In an ending not found in some manuscripts, Jesus ends the prayer, "For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:13b)-closing the prayer as it began, by honoring God. That's an important point. Our prayers will gain strength when they emphasize honoring God.
▪ Jesus also assures us, "Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in
the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14). That promise, of course, is subject to the condition that we pray in Jesus' name. That requires that we first try to understand Jesus' mind so that our prayers represent his will as closely as possible. To pray in Jesus' name is to bring our prayers into accord with Jesus' character and will.
▪ After Pentecost, the first disciples "continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer" (Acts 2:42)-a four-point spiritual discipline that incorporated prayer as one of its key elements.
▪ Paul assures us that "we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in (Christ)" (3:12). Consider this. We would be highly honored if the president were to invite us to the White House. Only a few trusted people have regular access to the White House, and even fewer to the president. But we have "boldness and access" to Christ-the highly exalted one-the one who has been given the name above all names, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11). Just think about that! We have bold access to the one who sits on his throne in heaven-but who came to earth to bring us salvation!
▪ That leads to the question, "Why aren't we using that bold access?" Why aren't we praying? Why are we taking Christ for granted? Why do we wait until our backs are to the wall before bowing our heads and pleading that Christ will prevent our wild oats from germinating? How foolish we are to disregard this source of strength!
"Pray at all times" (v. 18a). This is the first of four all's-"all times" and "all prayer" and "all perseverance" and "all the saints." Paul intends this repetition of the word "all" to emphasize the importance of prayer.
Paul uses similar language in his first letter to the Thessalonian church: "Pray without ceasing."
▪ How can we do this? Life places many demands on us, and we cannot spend every moment in prayer. But we can live every moment in the confidence that we are connected to God's love. We can look to God for guidance when we need to make a decision.
▪ If we have eyes to see, we will find a thousand things for which to give thanks-and a thousand situations around the world that require God's help. There are any number of people deserving of our supplications-our family and friends, co-workers, the church and its members, church leaders, governmental leaders, the person standing in line with us at the supermarket, and the clerk who takes our order at Burger King.
"Pray...in the Spirit" (v. 18b). Praying in the Spirit involves prayer inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit-prayer that seeks the Spirit's guidance and the Spirit's will for our lives. It involves praying as best we can, acknowledging that "we don't know how to pray as we ought," but praying with confidence that "the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can't be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
▪ While some equate praying in the Spirit with speaking in tongues, praying in the Spirit is a broader category. Speaking in tongues is only one manifestation of praying in the Spirit.
with all prayer (proseuche) and request" (deesis) (v. 18c). Proseuche is a general word for prayer. Deesis has to do with supplication or prayers to meet particular needs, and can take on a beseeching, pleading quality.
and stay alert in this with all perseverance (Gk. proskarteresis) and intercession (deesis) for all the saints" (hagioi) (v. 18d). Paul calls for these Ephesian Christians to "keep on keeping on" with their prayers for the saints. The Greek word proskarteresis has to do with persistence and perseverance. It could be translated "steadfast." Paul is calling us to be firm and unwavering in our prayers "for all the saints."
▪ As noted above, deesis has to do with supplication or prayers to meet particular needs, whether for oneself or others. I used the word intercession-prayer in behalf of others-in my translation. While deesis doesn't necessarily mean prayer for others, Paul specifies that he is talking about "prayers for all the saints." That makes them intercessory prayers.
"for all the saints" (v. 18d). While the word saint has come to mean a super-Christian, the New Testament uses hagios/hagioi to refer to ordinary Christians (Acts 9:13, 41; Romans 1:7; 12:13; 15:26; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1, etc.). Hagios means holy-set apart for God's service-which is true of all Christians.
"Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel" (v. 19). Paul requests prayers for himself-something that he often does (Romans 15:30-32; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Colossians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 4:3-4).
▪ Even though Paul is writing from a prison cell (v. 20a), he doesn't request prayers for better food or kinder guards-or even for freedom. He requests prayers that God will give him the right things to say as he has opportunities to witness for the gospel. He often succeeded in converting guards and fellow prisoners, and intends to convert Caesar.
"the mystery (mysterion) of the gospel" (v. 19b). We need to be careful with the word "mystery," because we use it today to mean something quite different than what Paul meant. We use mystery to mean something beyond our understanding.
▪ But for Paul, a mysterion (mystery) is not something that can't be known. In fact, it is quite the opposite. For Paul, a mystery is spiritual knowledge that God has revealed to those who can see through eyes of faith (Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Ephesians 3:3-5; Colossians 1:26).
The mystery that God has revealed is the gospel-the Good News of Jesus Christ.
"for which I am an ambassador (presbeuo) in chains" (v. 20a). Originally, the word presbeuo meant "old" or "eldest." However, it came to be used for important positions that required the kind of wisdom that comes with age and experience. In this instance, ambassador is a good translation, because that word brings together the idea of wisdom and authority.
▪ An ambassador is the agent of a ruler. An ambassador does not decide what shall be done, but instead delivers to others the message that the ruling authority chooses to send.
▪ Nevertheless, an ambassador is far from a simple lackey. According to Jewish custom (saliah), the one sent is fully representative of the one who does the sending. Therefore, an ambassador speaks with the authority of the ruling authority, and people to whom the ambassador has been sent are expected to treat the ambassador with the kind of respect that they would pay the ruling authority.
▪ But Paul is "an ambassador in chains." Paul was imprisoned on several occasions-initially in Philippi by the high priest and other Jewish leaders (Acts 5:17-18; 21:27-30), but later (at the instigation of Jews) by the Romans (Acts 16:19ff; 21:31ff). The Romans took him via Caesarea (Acts 24:1ff) to Rome (Acts 28:11ff). As a Roman citizen, Paul has a right to plead his case to Caesar, and that is what he intends to do. As a private citizen, he would never have the prospect of witnessing personally to Caesar, but his arrest affords him that opportunity. So he considers himself Christ's ambassador, responsible for taking Christ's message, the Gospel, to Caesar himself.
"that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (v. 20b). This is what Paul wants these Christians to pray for-that he might speak boldly in the face of human power-that he might not be intimidated in the presence of Caesar-that he might not flinch in the face of death-that he might have the courage of his convictions. Later, from his prison cell in Rome, Paul reported: "At my first defense, no one came to help me, but all left me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me,that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion" (2 Tim. 4:16-17).
Ephesians 6:10-20 Biblical Commentary - JW
BACKGROUND-CONTEXT: "When you become a Christian," say some, "all your troubles are over. God smoothes out all the troubles and life is easier." OR "When you become a Christian," say others, "your troubles are just beginning. Satan didn't bother with you before, since you were on his side. Not he will buffet you unmercifully. Fasten your seat belts."
Both are distortions of the truth, which is this: Before you were a Christian, whole areas of your life was devastated because of the way you lived, as well as from the emptiness and purposeless in your life. Now that you have become a Christian, God is renewing your mind and helping you to change your lifestyle. This in itself will save you from a lot of troubles. You now have the Holy Spirit within you to guide and teach and comfort you. You are a lot better off.
But you will face some terrible conflicts ahead. Before you were a Christian, you just gave into the temptations and then suffered the consequences of your sins. Now as you begin to stand against those temptations, you are beginning to realize the real source of them -- Satan himself. This struggle against temptation and evil is not against people. It is against the unseen evil spiritual world of the demonic. But you can stand your ground when you equip yourself with the tools God has given you.
In this passage, Paul spells out for the Ephesians the nature of the battle and describes how to find the strength to resist the temptations we will face.
Relying on God's Strength (6:10-11a) - "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (6:10-11)
So often we are overcome with a feeling of powerlessness. Much of powerlessness -- not all -- comes from not using what God has provided. The command in verse 10 is "Be strong1 in the Lord and in his mighty2 power."3 Our problem is that we try to be strong in ourselves, and have not learned the secret of drawing our strength from God.
∆ Paul was afflicted with some kind of disease, it appears from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. What it was we do not know, though he called it "a thorn in my flesh" and recognized its source: "a messenger of Satan to torment me." Paul didn't sanctify his illness, even though God was using this evil thing, he asked for God to remove it. But God denied his request and instead told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." God used evil for good once again (Romans 8:28), so that Paul would remain humble and so that he would learn in his weakness to draw on God's strength. Paul learned to glory in it, "For when I am weak," he said, "then I am strong."
∆ Not that he wasn't tested. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 he enumerates some of his trials: prison, severe floggings, shipwreck, betrayal, hunger, the pressure of his responsibilities. To the Corinthians, he said, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) and to the Philippian church he wrote, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do4 everything through him who gives me strength!"5 (Philippians 4:12-13)
∆ Indeed, the secret is to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (6:10). Paul likens it to the armor (and armament)6 of a soldier, perhaps using one of his prison guards as a model as he penned these lines. "Put on6 the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." When we do not rely on God's strength, we have not donned the full "armor"7 which he gives us for the struggle.
The Diabolical Nature of the Struggle (6:11b-12) - "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." (6:11-12)
Most of us in Western cultures grew up with a scientific, materialist mindset. If you cannot see it or touch it or measure it in a scientific manner, then it is not real. Science has made great strides in the last few decades in "seeing" particles so small they once eluded our electron microscopes, as well as heavenly bodies so far away that we couldn't find them with our finest telescopes, though they were huge.
∆ But there are some things which science is not equipped to measure. Love, for one. Right and wrong, for another. Science can measure the physiological responses to fear, but it cannot "see" fear.
∆ The place where you are reading this, this very moment, is being penetrated by all kinds of waves and signals --TV, radio, microwave. But you can't hear or see them unless you turn on a listening or viewing device. Spiritual beings are the same way. While we can't "see" spiritual beings, we can sense them so long as we have our antennae up.
∆ "I believe in Jesus," I've heard people exclaim, "but I don't believe in Satan and demons." Interesting, since Jesus had a great deal to say about both. That kind of in-your-face ignorance is like a blind man denying the existence of street lights. In case we didn't know, Paul instructs us on the nature of our spiritual struggle in 6:11b-13:
Now for a few definitions of the Greek words which underlie our English translations:
∆ "Devil" translates Greek diabolos (from which we get words such as "diabolical"): 1. adj. "slanderous", 2. noun, "one who engages in slander," in the New Testament the title of the principal transcendent evil being "the adversary, the devil."8 The proper name Satan (which is not used here) is a transliteration of the Hebrew word satan meaning "adversary," and in the Bible, in a very special sense, the enemy of God, simply "Satan, the Enemy."9 The word diabolos is used synonymously with satan in Revelation 2:9-10 and 20:2.
∆ "Rulers" (NIV, NRSV) and "principalities" (KJV) translate Greek archē (from which we get words such as "archbishop") which means "ruler, authority, official."10 It can be used of good rulers as well as bad. The idea here is that some of the "rulers" in the spiritual realm are demonic in their allegiance. We believe (though the scripture is pretty silent here) that Satan was once an archangel who rebelled against God and was thrown, with the angels under his authority (perhaps a third of heaven's angels), out of heaven (Revelation 12). We call these rebel angels "demons" or "evil spirits," though that terminology was mainly used by Jesus in the Gospels, not so much in Paul's writings.
We see in a hint of this in Daniel 10:12-13, 20, where Daniel relates an experience in which Michael the archangel was delayed in answering Daniel's prayer because of a battle with "the prince of the Persian kingdom." Peter Wagner and others in the intercessory prayer movement in the US believe that spiritual rulers seek to control and influence neighborhoods, cities, regions, and countries. Wagner reports local spiritual breakthroughs in response to prayer directed against the ruling spirits of an area.11
∆ "Authorities" (NIV, NRSV) and "powers" (KJV) translate the plural of Greek exousia, a generic word meaning "the right to control or command, authority, absolute authority, warrant," both good and bad.12 When the words archē and exousia ("principalities and powers") are used together in the New Testament, they always refer to the evil spiritual powers (1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 15; 1 Peter 3:22).
∆ "Powers of this ... world" (NIV), "cosmic powers" (NRSV) or "rulers ... of this world" (KJV) is Greek kosmokratōr which means "world-ruler." But the world here is described as "darkness," in other words, Paul is describing here the "rulers of this sinful world."13
∆ "Spiritual forces (of evil)" (NIV, NRSV) or "spiritual (wickedness in high places)" (KJV) is Greek pneumatikos, "pertaining to the spirit, spiritual," here pertaining to evil spirits. Notice the words to which "spiritual" is appended: "evil" and "heavenly realms" (epouranos, "heavenly"). Since Hitler's day it is common to hear people try to make Paul's words refer to the evil social structures of the day -- institutionalized evil -- and translate the Greek word epouranos as "high places," but this doesn't really fit the context here. (Though there is such a thing as institutionalized evil that must be resisted!) We have seen the word "heavenly realms" (epouranos) used a number of times in Ephesians, always concerning spiritual realities (Ephesians 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). Paul is speaking here about spiritual wickedness in the unseen but very real spiritual sphere in which we presently dwell.
Stand Your Ground (6:13) - "Therefore 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." (6:13)
Our problem is that we don't see the spiritual realm and often misunderstand the very nature of the life and death struggle in which we as humans are engaged. It's easy to focus on people as evil. Often they are. But the real struggle is not with the people themselves ("flesh and blood"), but with the evil spiritual forces that are motivating them. If we fight the people, we lose. If we try to fight with intellectual or psychological or metaphysical weapons we will lose. But if we will arm ourselves with God's weapons and fight they way he instructs us, we can succeed.
∆ What is victory? Is it to swashbuckle our way across the hoards of hell and capture Satan himself? No. But it certainly is to remain standing at the end of the battle. If Satan can discourage us, wear us down, we may fall, we may retreat, we may give up. But victory is to remain, to stand, to be left standing at the end of the day.
∆ One of my interests is American Civil War history, especially the mighty battles of Gettysburg, Antietam, Sharpsburg. The army that was left standing in possession of the battlefield at the end of the day was the victor, even though it may have been wounded and took serious casualties. The armor of God is designed to help us to stand. Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, KJV).
The Nature of the Armament (6:14-17) - "14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."(6:14-17)
Let's look at the pieces of the armor Paul describes as he develops this military analogy:
∆ Belt of Truth (6:14a) - "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist..." (6:14a). First, the belt16 of truth. Think of the wide belt that the weight lifter wears to protect and strengthen him. "If you hold to my teaching," Jesus said, "you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). When we don't know any better, the "father of lies," the "great deceiver" can hoodwink us and get the better of us. But when we hold firmly to the truth that we know and seek diligently to acquire wisdom, we are protected. This is a good piece of equipment to put on in the morning with a regular reading of the Scriptures.
∆ Breastplate of Righteousness (6:14b) - "... With the breastplate of righteousness in place..." (6:14b). The steel, leather, or coat of mail breastplate (thorax17) of the Roman soldier protected the torso in the thick of battle. Our protection is righteousness. This is two-fold. First, we have been made righteous by Christ's death on our behalf (imputed righteousness). We are "holy," "set apart," we are "saints," we belong to God now. His righteousness is our righteousness, and his blood covers our sins. We can often be fooled when Satan reminds us of our sins and weaknesses, and tells us, "You've done it now! God will never forgive you after this." Our protection is our understanding of the righteousness in which we stand in Christ. But this righteousness must not be only imputed righteousness from Christ. We are also protected by living holy lives, by obedience, by walking in God's ways righteously. When we do that we deprive the devil of a "foothold" (Ephesians 4:27) from which to attack us further. Our righteous ways are a powerful protection from the destruction that sin brings with it.
∆ Footgear for Battle (6:15) - "... With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." (6:15). Strong footgear18 is important in a battle situation. If we wear thongs on our feet instead of Army-issue boots, we may slip in the struggle, and leave ourselves exposed to the enemy. But notice that shod feet are also an offensive weapon, an enablement for us to be ready to run with and share the gospel of peace. Truth and good news are a weapon in that they give us sure footing against darkness, deceit, and despair. "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7)
∆ The Shield of Faith (6:16) - "In addition to all this, take up the shield19 of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (6:16). Often before battle, soldiers would soak their leather shields in the local creeks. This made them much heavier, but made them impervious to the flaming arrows shot by the enemy. A shield is both a defensive weapon to hide behind as well as an offensive weapon, which enables you to strike with your sword hand while protecting your body with the shield held in the other. Sometimes we have devastating circumstances that come upon us like a flaming arrow and threaten to consume us, our family, and our whole position in life. We can react with fear and terror. Or we can put up the shield of faith and start to trust God when all hell breaks loose. Your faith helps you to stand in the intense battles within your mind as well as in your home and workplace. Trust God no matter what is going on, for he knows what he is doing. Put up the shield of faith; don't let it hang useless at your side.
∆ The Helmet of Salvation (6:17a) - "Take the helmet20 of salvation" (6:17a). Helmets protect the head, hence, battle helmets, bicycle helmets, hard hats, and the like. Our salvation from God protects us against self-doubt and fear that God won't forgive us when we mess up. We must put on our confidence in His salvation daily and not let Satan slam us in the head with his lies. Lack of assurance of our own salvation can be devastating when we're in a spiritual battle for our lives. Get this straight. If you're not sure of your salvation, discuss this with a pastor who will give you some counsel and scripture to help you receive the assurance from God that you need to resist Satan. Remember, we are not saved by our own good works, but by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
∆ The Sword of the Spirit (6:17b) - "Take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (6:17b). The sword,21 too, is both offensive and defensive. We parry our enemy's blows with our sword, as well as thrust home when we see a weakness in his defense. Our sword is God's Word. When we study the Bible for its principles and truths, we can stand against Satan's lies. When Jesus was tempted during the 40 days he spent in the wilderness before beginning his ministry, he answered Satan's half-truths with Scripture (Luke 4:1-13), and so stood his ground against the Tempter. Reading the scripture often, studying it, and committing it to memory are all ways to sharpen this sword, so when we are attacked we'll know how to respond.
Pray in the Spirit (6:18) - "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (6:18). "Pray in the Spirit" is Paul's transition from the military analogy to a further exhortation, which we will study in the next chapter. Perhaps, though, the military analogy in our day would be, "Carry your walkie-talkie and call in when you get in trouble so we can direct firepower where you need it."
∆ To what extent are these weapons offensive or defensive? In a very real sense they are all offensive weapons, since they allow the warrior to continue in the battle instead of being wiped out early. Part of active fighting is protecting oneself from blows so one can continue to fight.
Sometimes I've wondered if these weapons are too weak. The battle rages and all I have is a hope and a prayer and my Bible. How can I expect to find victory?
∆ Martin Luther, who wrote that great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," had many well-chronicled battles with the devil. One line of this hymn is particularly telling about the devil: "One little word shall fell him." Truth will win the war with deceit and half-truth. "The pen is mightier than the sword," and God's truth is stronger than all of Satan's well-crafted lies.
∆ We are weak in ourselves. But in God these simple weapons -- truth, righteousness, the good news, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer -- are more than we need to fend off an attack and remain standing at the end of the day. "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand... and having done all, to stand." (6:11, 13)
COMMENT: Whether we like it or not, to succeed at the Christian life we must undertake it as a conflict, a fight. That doesn't mean that we have to be negative and pessimists -- only realists. There is a foe against which we must defend ourselves or live miserable, defeated lives. There is a King for whom we take the ground and claim the lives of those who are perishing. It is a fight, yes, but it is a good fight of faith, a joyous fight fought in the camaraderie of Christ and our brother and sister Christians. It is a positive fight, too, for if you've read the end of the book -- we win! "Fight the good fight (agōn) of the faith," Paul tells young Timothy (1 Timothy 6:12). Then close to the time of his death, Paul recalls his own struggle -- and victory in Christ:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 2:7-8)
Father, the more we know about the spiritual enemies arrayed against us, the more we realize we need you. I pray for faithfulness for me and for my brothers and sisters to put on the weapons daily and stand ready to fight. Help us, O Lord, for we are weak without you. Supply us continually with the strength and protection of your Spirit -- and teach us to fight! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.