Sermon Title: “Spiritual warfare” and the victory of the believer in Christ”
Text: Ephesians 6: 10-20
Date: Sunday, July 8, 2018
Speaker: Pastor Joseph
In Ephesians 6:10-20, unlike citizens of this world or in our country who are after all kinds of places of influence and honor to dominate, followers of Jesus Christ are not called to pursue cultural power, political power, economic power or intellectual power. The highest call of the Christian in this passage is to pursue spiritual empowerment in the Lord, that is to grow strong in Jesus so that the Christian will be able to endure and resist the strategies and schemes of Satan and his demonic allies. Ephesians 6:10 makes it crystal clear that the source of our strength is not money, power, drugs, family reputation and legacy, influence, or our education; God is the ultimate source of our strength and courage. Evidently, in this passage, Paul instructs the various Christian in house churches, both in the villages and cities in Ephesus, to put on the armor of God to fight against Satan and the spiritual forces in this world.
- We can construe Ephesians 6:10-20 in the pattern of a prebattle speech Paul gives to the Christian soldiers in Ephesus to encourage them to fight bravely against the schemes of the devil and his minions.
- This passage is a summary passage of the entire message of the book of Ephesians.
- It emphasizes the believer’s complete dependence on God and the usage of the resources God has gifted them to live a victorious Christian life.
- While these verses emphasize the strength of the Christian’ enemies (6:12) (not their weaknesses), it underscores the powerful resources the Christian believer has to defeat his enemies (vv. 14-17).
- The Christian foes are not weak. They rule over this present darkness (v.12), possess cosmic powers (v.12), are not flesh or blood (designating their strength not weaknesses as human beings) (v.12); Paul designates them as spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places; their location include the cosmos, the heavens, the earth, under the earth. Finally, their strength lies in the emphasis by this phrase: “the schemes of the devil” (v.11)
***The Christian objective in this passage is to resist the onslaught of the devil against them.
Key words: righteousness, truth, the gospel, salvation, word of God, faith
armor (panoplian) of God: 6:11, 13
to stand: 6:11, 113, 14
against 6:11, 12 (it is used six times in these two verses)
put on: 6:11, 14, 15,
take up: 6:13, 16, 17
The call to be strong in the Lord (v.10)
- The opening verse echoes God’s appellation to Joshua to be strong and courageous.
- The term is also translated to “grown strong” in faith, signaling a call to spiritual progress and maturity in the Christian life.
- This call is to maintain strength in God, not in oneself, as the believer’s life is already said to “be in Christ” and connected to the very life of God through the power of God’s Spirit.
- The call to grow strong in the faith is not dependent on the believer’s resources, but upon what God has already provided to him or her, as noted in vv. 11, 13. 14. The process of growing in the Lord attain spiritually capability and maturity to be able to resist the onslaught and strategies of the devil; the success of the believer’s battle is grounded on on his total obedience to Christ and to use the right resources provided to him by God himself.
The are two OT passages that serve as the background for this passage: Isaiah 11:4-5
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips she shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
While in the first passage, the Messiah will be clothed with these moral virtues, the second passage presents God himself as a warrior putting on his own armor (or an amor-equipped warrior). In this passage, Paul, however, calls on the believer to put the armor of God. The interesting thing is this: “In Isa. 59:17, God wears the armor, but here in Ephesians God provides his own armor for his people to wear” (Thielman, 425). The question we must now ask what did Paul command the Christian at Ephesus to “put on the whole armor of God” (v.11)?
- What is at stake here in their life?
- Is there any possible threat to the Christian life?
- Why did Paul even order them to “be strong in the Lord” (v.10)?
- What is God’s power?
- Why are both commands necessary?
- What was exactly that the new Christian community in Asia Minor (Ephesus) were facing or going through at this very moment in their Christian life?
To provide a blunt response to these questions, we have to say that the perpetuating threats to the Christian life is nothing less than the strategies or schemes of the devil. But, one may ask: what is that? How can one know discern or discover the devil’s threats (v. 11)?
Let us now look at the text more closely by allowing Paul to speak to our Christian mind and conscience. First, the imperatives:
- To put the whole armor of God (v. 11)
Reason: the Christian struggle is nonphysical or natural, but spiritual and supernatural (v. 12)
Purpose: “so you may be able to resist or endure the devil’s schemes (11b)
The identity or names of the Christian’s foes or enemies:
- rulers = archai
- authorities= exousiai
- cosmic powers = kosmokratores (world-rulers)
- spiritual forces of evil= pneumatika
Why is the world so dark?
- It is simply because of the overwhelming presence and interruption of evil supernatural forces in human affair.
- The invasion and influence of evil forces in this world including bad angels who are classified as rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, or all other spiritual forces of evil and their constant menaces and threats toward Christians and everyone else make this world dark.
- These demons not influence the present world, they dominate its contours, direction, and course. They work through human agency to detour God’s plan and to bring about their own goals, desires, plans, and objectives.
Denial of the Existence of the Devil and its demonic allies
- From Ernest Best,
How should those who no longer accept the idea of supernatural evil powers as affecting human life understand what the author of Ephesians is saying?…Such forces still exist, though we may not term them supernatural. They are the pressures of society, which if not wholly evil are not wholly good (Qtd in Arnold, Ephesians, 470).
- Similarly, Hands Hubner writes,
“A believe in the devil has lost its plausibility. Whoever today still feels threatened by the devil or believes in his fangs (large, sharp tooth, especially a canine tooth of a dog or wolf) is probably himself in the fangs of a fanatical sect” (Qtd in Arnold, Ephesians, 470)
The activities of the Devil and the demons in Scripture
- Each nation in the modern world is ruled or governed by a demon/prince: Daniel: 10:13, 20
- The princes of the nations work together to disrupt the world and social structures: Daniel 10:20-21
- Ephesians 2:2, 6 talks about “the ruler of the realm of the air” as a refence to the devil himself.
From Thielman, Ephesians, page 419
- “The devil is identical with the evil one in 6:16 who fires ignited missiles at believers.
- He is the being who in 2:2 is called “the rule of the realm of the air” and is said to be powerfully active among unbelievers, who blindly go along with the sinful structures of the world.
- In 4:27, Paul has told his readers that they need to be alert to the devil’s willingness to take advantage of opportunities, such as anger, to harm believers.
- Elsewhere in the Pauline corpus, Satan is a plotting, clever adversary (2 Thess. 2:9-10; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14)
- He bent on hindering the gospel’s progress (1 Thessa. 2:18)
- He is ready to take advantage of any opportunity to lead believers into sin (1 Cor. 7:5) or
- To inflict pain on them (2 Cor. 12:7).
From Arnold, Ephesians, page 472 on the activities of the devil in Scripture
- “Interjecting an image into our minds of something enticing but sinful (Matt 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8)
- Exploiting a sinful tendency, such as anger, and causing it to flare out of control (Eph. 4:27)
- Inspiring others to create a principle, teaching, or idea that sounds plausible, but is wrong and dangerous to our souls (2 Cor. 11:3, 15)
- Afflicting us with a physical illness or condition (2 Cor. 12:7)
- Sending a horrible dream or demonic manifestation during the night that produces fear (Job 4:13-16; Ps. 91:5)
- Enticing us to lie (Acts 5:3)
- Instigating a series of horrible “natural” calamities, e.g. the death of a loved one, loss of one’s home, or destruction or loss of property (Job 1-2)
Some background information
- In the Testament of Solomon, “Solomon conjures seven demons, who identify themselves to him as “heavenly bodies, rulers of this world of darkness.” The description that follows makes it reasonable clear that these demons are planets. They are larger than the stars, change their positions, and are named like gods.” Five of them describe themselves as vices: deception, strife, fate, distress, and error” (Thielman, Ephesians, 421).
- To take up the whole armor of God (v.13/a repetition)
What is an armor?
Reason: to withstand tin his present age which is characterized in one single expression: “the evil day,” as Paul puts it “this present darkness,” that is the fundamental characteristic of this contemporary world or society is “darkness.” Paul considers the entire world under the influence of Satan and these demonic forces he names in verse 12.
By urgently calling Christians to withstand in the evil day, Paul supposes that the Christian life is not going to be easy; there will be hardships, moments of trials, difficulties, darkness in the Christian experience.
- To stand…firm (vv.13, 14)
Reason: so, you will not give in or fall to the schemes of the evil one.
How should the believer stand? On what he or she should stand? Or under which should the Christian stand? Let us see verses 14-17.
- To pray always or at all times (v.18)
- To keep alert (v.18)
- The Constituted Elements of the Christian Life: The armor of God (vv. 14-17)
***the mentioned elements in vv. 14-17 are appropriate military elements which corresponds to the virtues and content of the Christian life.
- Truth = belt (v.14), to fasten on the belt of truth
- Righteousness= breastplate (v.15), to put on the breastplate of righteousness
- Gospel=shoes (v.15), to put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace
- Faith=shield (v.16), to take up the shield of faith
- Salvation = helmet (v.17)
- Word of God= Sword (v.17)
- Belt or girdle “may refer to the leather apron beneath the armor or to the metal belt over the tunic protecting the lower abdomen.”
- Breastplate “normally consisted of leather overlaid with metal, and it protected the chest in battle;
- Like the helmet, it was used only in battle, not for the formal wear.
- “Soldiers needed to wear sandals or boots (technically the Roman caliga, a half boot) so they could advance toward the enemy undistracted about what they might step on.
- “the typical Roman solider carried a large rectangular wooden shield, four feet (about a meter) high. Its front consisted of leather, which would be wetted before any battle in which the enemy might use flaming arrows, in order to extinguish them.
- “Roman solider normally wore his helmet only for battle; equipped with cheek pieces and consisting of iron or bronze, it protected the head.
- “After soldiers in the front line had hurled their lances, they needed their double-edge sword (20-24 inches/60-60 centimeters long) for close combat with the enemy.” (Keener, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, p. 2069-70)
Craig S. Keener observes that Paul does not “include all the typical elements of Roman armor; e.g., he mentions the sword but omits the lance (the pilum) and dagger…Paul’s reason for the omission, however, is clear: Jesus’ followers have just one offensive weapon. Paul wants us to know that we need all these advantages to be victorious. All the elements, both defensive and offensive, relate to the truth of the gospel” (Keener, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, p. 2067)
Each one of these six pieces of armor corresponds to an element or virtue in the Christian life or the Christian existence in Jesus (vv. 14-17. Consider the following examples
- Truth (1:13; 4:15, 21-25; 5:9) righteousness (4:24; 5:9) faith (1:1, 13, 15, 19;
2:8; 3:12, 17; 4:5, 13)
- Gospel readiness or preparation (1:13; 2:17; 3:6, 8; 4:11) salvation (1:13; 2:5, 8’ 5:23)
***The ultimate reason Paul provides to the Christian to wear the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (v.16-17) is to cease all demonic flames (“the darts of the evil one” or the “flaming arrows of the evil one”) and to eventually eradicate them in all matters or circumstances in the Christian life.
Key Christian virtues and elements: truth, word of God, righteousness, peace, gospel, salvation, faith.
This is a clarion call to embody these moral virtues or to clothe oneself with these God-given resources. The battle in the spiritual realm will not be conquered by natural resources or human intelligence, but through the supernatural power from God himself. So the Christian is called (1) to be filled with the Spirit, (2) to pursue peace, (3) to maintain unity in the body of Christ, (4) to practice righteousness or to live righteously and rightly before the face of God’s holiness and the injustices of this world, (5) to embody the truth of the Gospel, that is the Christian life is characterized by faithfulness, dignity, and exaltation of God, and (6) to exercise faith, that is the total reliance of God for faith and the conviction that God provides saving faith through the proclamation of the Good news of his Gospel.
- The Role of the armor of God
- The breastplate provides protection to the chest in battle
- The belt (girdle) provides safety to the lower abdomen
- The helmet protects the head
- Sandals/boots (Roman caliga, a half boot) helps the soldier to advance to the enemy with full assurance and no distractions.
- The Call to pray incessantly (vv. 18-20)
- To pray at all times in the Spirit is to receive divine empowerment through the Spirit of God who provides insight to our prayer life, especially in the case of spiritual warfare. The expression to “pray in the Spirit” is connected with divine inspiration; here, Paul is accentuating the Spirit-led prayer.
- Prayer is the main weapon of spiritual warfare or is Christian’s most powerful resource.
- Prayer is the great energizer of the Christian life to conquer the spiritual warfare.
- It is presented here as the ultimate means to fight spiritual warfare
- Paul sums up the victory of the Christian in this on-going spiritual wrestling in one spiritual discipline: incessant, constant, non-stoppable prayer (6:18)
- It is a call to pray only for oneself or for personal empowerment. Verses 18-20 indicate clearly that Paul anticipates the Christian intercessory prayers to be cross-cultural, transnational, and global. He assumes that one Christian spiritual battle is also shared by other Christians in the global church; therefore, he could summon all Christians in the Ephesus churches to pray for each other for divine empowerment, to overcome the tricks of the evil one, and to walk in victory as children of God.
- Paul commands that all kinds of prayers and requests (v.19) to be made on behalf of all the saints, that is for God’s people (v.18)
In these three verses, Paul makes an urgent call to vigilance, arms, and Christian courage/resistance. The universal character of his urgent call to prayer is expressed by the little word “all.”
- Praying at all times (v.18)
- All prayers and supplications (v.18)
- Supplications for all saints (v.18)/all the people of God everywhere.
Besides prayer, let me add three practical other ways to fight the devil
- D) Three ways to fight spiritual warfare and gain victory over the spiritual battels in the Christian life.
- The case of Elisha: 2 Kings 6:15-17
- God releases his angle to encourage Daniel because of his words (prayer): Daniel 10:12
- Daniel fasted for three weeks because of his involvement in constant spiritual warfare: Daniel 10:1-3
- The people worship God in times of despair: 2 Chronicles 20:18, 21
- Supernatural and divine intervention occur when they praise God: 2 Chronicle 20:22-23 (God moves when we pray and praise him)
- Trust in God and Confidence in his promises
- You must believe that God will fight for you; just remain silent: Ex. 14:14
- Jesus says that “I have conquered the world.”
- God is a warrior who goes before us to strike our enemies: 2 Samuel 5:24
- Do not be afraid, the God who is with us is greater than that is in the world: 2 Sam. 6:15-17
- The battle is not yours: 2 Chronicle 20:15, 17
- The call to believe in God always: 2 Chronicle 20:20
- God’s power is available to all Christians.