{12}   Power (Eph 6:10-24)

Introduction

PART II. CHRISTIAN DUTY. SECTION D. NEW RELATIONSHIP.

Paul at the end of the letter warns the church about the invisible but raging battle against evil forces. Because this is a battle that cannot be seen and its casualties can be explained away, the church has a tendency to ignore it or to fight with its own armour and strategies. It is no wonder we experience defeat. We must arise, put on the full armour of God and be strong in His might.

 

Question: What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “spiritual warfare”?

 

Outline:

6:10-20            The armour of God

6:21-24            The final blessing

 

Explanation

6:10-11            Better manuscripts of the NT contains an expression which should be translated not “finally” (which introduces the conclusion) but “henceforward” meaning “for the remaining time”. If this is correct, then Paul is indicating that the whole interim period between the Lord’s two comings is to be characterized by conflict. The peace which God has made through Christ’s cross is to be experienced only in the midst of a relentless struggle against evil. And for this, the strength of the Lord and the armour of God are indispensable.

Beneath our visible world, an unseen spiritual battle is raging. Paul made no account of the origin of the forces of darkness to satisfy our curiosity. He simply warns us of their hostility and teach us how to overcome them. We need to have a thorough knowledge of the enemy and a healthy respect for his prowess. If we underestimate our spiritual enemy, we shall be quickly defeated.

Facing this kind of cosmic intelligences, we are far too weak. Only the power of God can defend and deliver us from the might, the evil and the craft of the devil. While the devil is powerful, God’s power is even stronger.

We are commanded to do 2 things: [1] general command: “be strong in the Lord”, and [2] specific command: “put on the full armour of God”. Paul expresses the proper combination of divine enabling and human co-operation. “Be strong” is a passive present verb, meaning we are to be strengthened.

6:12     Christians in Ephesus had knowledge of the spiritual forces of darkness. They witnessed two incidents: the unfortunate Jewish exorcists (Ac 19:13-17) and the burning of the books of magic (Ac 19:18-20).

The forces of evil have 3 frightening characteristics:

[1]   Might: they are powerful. “Principalities” and “powers” (“rulers” and “authorities”) may refer to the different ranks of evil spirits in the hierarchy of hell. They are called “the world rulers of this present darkness”. The Greek word (kosmokratores) points to a worldwide rule.

[2]   Evil: they are wicked. Darkness is their natural habitat, the darkness of falsehood and sin. They have no moral principles and no code of honour. They are utterly unscrupulous and ruthless. They operate “in the heavenly realms”, that is, in the sphere of invisible reality.

[3]   Craft: they are cunning. They use “schemes” (v.2). They seldom attack openly, preferring darkness to light. The devil transforms himself into “an angel of light” (2Co 11:14) and uses disguises. He prefers to seduce us into compromise and deceive us into error. He plays both the bully and the beguilder, practising force and fraud in turn. His wiliest scheme is to persuade people that he does not exist.

Some modern theologians take “rulers and authorities” to be social, political, judicial, and economic structures and institutions. But Paul is talking about the invisible world of “heavenly realms”. Many books have been written on this alternative explanation. While their theory is an interesting topic to study, it can divert us from focusing on the danger of demonic realities.

6:13     “Full armour of God” is the full armour of a heavy-armed soldier; it is forged and furnished by God. It helps Christians to remain standing and be stable even in the “day of evil”, that is, a time of special pressure. The 6 pieces of a soldier’s equipment in spiritual warfare are:

6:14     [1]        Belt of truth: Usually made of leather, the soldier’s belt gathered the tunic together and held the sword, ensuring that the soldier marched unimpeded. [a] “Truth” can mean “the truth”, the revelation of God in Christ and in the Bible. [b] But because the definite article is missing in Greek, it can mean “truth” in the sense of sincerity or integrity. Christians must at all costs be honest and truthful, as if everything is transparent and nothing needs to be hidden. The devil loves darkness; light causes him to flee.

[2]   Breastplate of righteousness: Covering the soldier’s back and front, the breastplate protected the vital organs. [a] In Paul’s letters, righteousness usually means “justification”, having a right relationship with God; this protects us against Satan’s accusations. [b] In 2Co 6:7, righteousness means “moral righteousness”, possessing moral character and conduct.

6:15     [3]        Boots of gospel: The “half boots” of the Roman soldier were made of leather, left the toes free, had heavy studded soles and were strapped to the ankles. They supported long marches and gave a solid stance, which prevented sliding. The term “gospel of peace” can be a subject or an object. [a] If it is a subject, the gospel is said to provide firmness or steadfastness to those who wear it because it gives us a firm footing to fight evil. [b] If it is an object, the gospel is something that we have to be ready to announce. A readiness to spread the gospel has a very stabilizing influence on our own lives.

6:16     [4]        Shield of faith: The oblong shield (not the round shield) covered the whole body and was designed to give protection from “flaming arrows”. These include the devil’s mischievous accusations or thoughts of doubt and disobedience, rebellion, lust, malice or fear. But faith lays hold of the promises of God in times of doubt, depression, and temptation.

6:17     [5]        Helmet of salvation: Made of bronze or iron, the helmet had an inside lining of felt, making the weight bearable. A hinged visor added frontal protection. [a] “Salvation” means the salvation of what we have already received: forgiveness, deliverance from Satan’s bondage, adoption into God’s family. [b] Another meaning can be found in 1Th 5:8 which talks about the helmet of the “hope of salvation”, that is, the confident expectation of full salvation at the end, including resurrection glory and Christ-likeness in heaven.

[6]   Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God: This was the only piece of armour used for attack as well as defense. Moreover, the Greek word (machaira) describes a short sword meaning that it is used for close encounter. The Bible is described as “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12) because it cuts through people’s defences, pricks their consciences and stabs them spiritually awake. We may use it both in resisting temptation (as Jesus did) and in evangelism.

6:18     Prayer is to pervade all our spiritual warfare. Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God, so is the putting on of God’s armour. Christian prayers need to be comprehensive, indicated by the fourfold use of the word “all”: [1] “on all occasions”, both regularly and constantly, [2] “with all kinds of prayers and requests”, including all forms, [3] “always keep on” or “with all perseverance”, never giving up, [4] “praying for all the saints”.

“Be alert” is to stay awake, as Jesus emphasizes “watchfulness” as the key in His teaching on His second coming, because the devil is always “prowls around like a hungry lion” (1Pe 5:8).

6:19     Paul asks for prayers in order to have strength not only for his confrontation with the devil but also for his evangelistic ministry. Even though he is in prison, he still works to spread the gospel. He asks for “words” and “boldness” (again in v.20). Clarity and courage remain two crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth to look at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night times: plenty to see but no light by which to enjoy it.

6:20     Christians are like ambassadors, duly accredited to represent his Lord in the world. “In chains” of course points to his iron prison chains but it may also represent a play on words. The term “chains” (Gr. alusis) can also mean adornments worn by rich ladies or high ranking men. When an ambassador attends a special occasion, he may wear such chains to reveal the riches, power and dignity of the government they represent. Here, Paul may be saying that his chains are the most appropriate insignia for the representation of his Lord.

6:21     Paul now reaches the end of his letter which he has been dictating, probably to Tychicus who would be the carrier of his letter to Ephesus. He is described as “dear brother” (to Christians) and “faithful servant” (to the Lord). Perhaps at this point he takes the pen from his scribe and writes an authenticating sentence in his own writing as he did in Gal 6:11, 2Th 3:17, 1Co 16:21, Col 4:18.

6:22     Tychicus was sent by Paul to tell the news about him in person: “tell you everything”, “that you also may know how I am and what I am doing”, and “that you may know how we are” and also to encourage them. Prayer (v.19), correspondence (v.21), and visits (v.22) are still three major means by which Christians and churches can enrich one another and so contribute to the building up of the body of Christ.

6:23     The letter began with “grace” and “peace” and ends with the same. Peace is the result of reconciliation with God and this peace expands to the relationship between brothers and sisters.

6:24     Grace of God is the root cause of everything described in this letter: the creation of a new community with a new standard. In addition to grace and peace are faith and undying love. The letter’s final words in Greek (undying) mean simply “in incorruption” (Gr. en aphtharsia). In normal reading, the phrase “undying love” describes the love from Christians. Some scholars, however, applies the phrase to describe God’s grace. Then the prayer becomes: may all who love our Lord Jesus Christ experience God’s grace in immortality or for ever. If this is correct, then this letter opened with a glance into the eternal past and now closes with a look toward eternal future, an immortal hope. If so, the last 2 verses add faith, love, and hope to grace and peace.

 

Summary

        We are at all times in a spiritual battle. We can get hurt if we ever let down our guard.

 

        In the final greeting, Paul talks again about grace and peace like in 1:2 and adds faith and love. Paul desires that the members of God’s new society may live in harmony as brothers and sisters, in His family, at peace and in love with Him and each other.

 

Application

 

Prayer

        Quietly reflect on the battle and the armour. Ask God to give you wisdom and strength for the battle and to help you to put on the whole armour of God.