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Standing Our Ground in the Spiritual War

Hello, brothers and sisters in the Lord! Thank you for bearing with me and sticking it out through this 12-week study. I pray that this comprehensive view of Ephesians has opened your eyes and filled your heart with joy after looking more closely at the marvelous plan of God to reconcile and consummate all things in Christ. 

I hope you have especially appreciated the mystery of Christ and His body now made known to everyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear. After all, as we have seen in this letter, the Father's plan for the Church encompasses our present age, and, having been reconciled to God in one body (Eph. 2:15-16), we are closer than ever to the return of our Savior, the Head of the body, and the consummation of the Age of Grace (Eph. 1:4; 3:2; 5:27)!

For your convenience, here are links to the previous installments:


And for the grand finale, I present to you...

Bible Study of Ephesians
The Reconciliation and Consummation of All Things through Christ

Week Twelve: Standing Our Ground in the Spiritual War (Eph. 6:10-24)


Scattered throughout Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we have seen glimpses of the ongoing spiritual war in the heavenly places (cf. 1:20-23; 2:1-3; 3:10; 4:8-10, 4:27), but now we arrive at the final showdown (6:10-24). Most assuredly, Christ has been victorious over the enemy and proclaims “peace” to everyone who has been reconciled to God through Him (2:14-18); however, the Devil and his dark forces are still proclaiming “war” on the people of God, and so the believer is not yet out of the fight.

The supernatural forces of evil seek to derail each believer from living up to their calling (4:1), thereby stunting their maturity and inner renewal (4:14, 4:23)—all with the aim of dividing the body and overturning God’s will to reconcile and consummate all things on heaven and earth through Christ (cf. 1:9-10). Therefore, every believer needs to know how to stand their ground and stay in the fight, because the enemy will relentlessly and ruthlessly exploit anyone who is undisciplined and unfaithful in their walk with the Lord (cf. James 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).

In previous sections (Weeks 7–11), Paul has shown us how to walk (i.e. “live”) in a manner worthy of our calling, and in the final section of this study, we will see, more or less, a summary of holy living according to the gospel. Thankfully, as Paul has already alluded to in the letter (1:19; 3:7,16-17, 20), God provides His limitless and incomparable power to the believer in order to overcome the spiritual opposition.

Moreover, in 6:13-17, divine empowerment for resisting the enemy’s attacks is identified as God’s own armor—an apt metaphor that describes God’s character and abilities (i.e. His truth, righteousness, peace, faithfulness, salvation, and word). Also, since there is strength in numbers, believers must stick together in this fight, praying for and encouraging one another. Boldness and courage are needed to fight the good fight of the faith, and an undying love for Jesus, the one who died for all, will fuel the believer to resist evil until the end.

So, without further introduction, here is a preview of 6:10-24:

1. The enemy exposed: a call to stand firm amidst attacks (6:10-13)
2. God’s armor defined and made available to believers (6:14-17)
3. The power of persevering prayer, intercession, and bold speech (6:18-20)
4. Strength in numbers: closing words of encouragement (6:21-24)



6:10-13:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Paul begins the conclusion of his letter by emphasizing the believer’s dire need for God’s own power and strength to withstand the wicked schemes of the Devil and all of his evil cohorts. Since the spiritual opposition is invisible, more numerous, and stronger than the Christian (Matt. 8:28; Mk. 5:2-5; Acts 19:15-16), the spiritual war cannot be engaged with mortal strength or human reasoning, because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” (6:12).

Hence, this is why Paul reiterates the place (or, sphere) of the believer’s true refuge and strength in 6:10, “be strong in the Lord,” (recall “in Christ” and “in the Lord,” as seen in Eph. 1:1, 3, 13; 2:10; 4:1). God graciously provides His own supreme power and strength to His children, and so, in order to tangibly describe this divine strength that believers must “put on” and “take up,” Paul utilizes the metaphor of battle armor as typically worn by the Roman soldiers of his day.*

*Also, there are Old Testament prophecies that depict Christ and His armor: see Isa. 11:4-5; 59:17.

Notice, too, that Paul doesn’t give the command for Christians to conquer territory, convert people by force, or pick fights with evil spirits; rather, the main focus is on “standing” (6:11, 13) and “resisting” (6:13) the enemy when he strikes “in the evil day” (6:13).* Thus, while “walking” in a manner worthy of God’s calling (cf. 4:1; 5:2, 8, 15), believers “having done all [to prepare]” are “to stand” firm against the perpetual waves of attacks that will hit them as they follow Christ.**

*Recall Eph. 5:16, "the days are evil," (cf. Gal. 1:4, "this present evil age"). Kuruvilla adds, "The 'evil day' may therefore refer to a present reality marked by specific times of satanic attack that come with extraordinary force and when the temptation to yield is particularly strong" (210).

**The Greek word for "schemes" (methodeias) in 6:11 is only found twice in the NT—the other place being Eph. 4:14. Thus, one major facet of "the schemes of the Devil" that believers are to stand against and oppose is false and deceptive teaching, "...every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming [methodeias]."

Total reliance upon God is critical, especially since the unseen opposition has been waging war against God and His people for thousands of years. Thankfully, because of the finished work of Christ (cf. Jn. 19:30; Eph. 2:4-10; Heb. 10:10), the victory for believers has been assured and the enemy has been disarmed and exposed:

“Paul refers to these hostile beings [Eph. 6:12] in the unseen realm earlier in Ephesians. He wrote that God raised Jesus from the dead and ‘seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every ruler [arche] and authority [exousia] and power [dynamis] and dominion [kyrios]’ (Eph. 1:20-21). It was only after Christ had risen that God’s plan was ‘made known to the rulers [arche] and authorities [exousia] in the heavenly places’ (Eph. 3:10). These cosmic forces are the ‘rulers [arche] and authorities [exousia]’ disarmed and put to shame by the cross (Col. 2:15). Had those ‘rulers’ [archonton] known that the death of the messiah was necessary for God’s plan to succeed, they never would have crucified Jesus (1 Cor. 2:8).” - Michael Heiser, The Unseen Realm, 330.

Therefore, standing firm in light of Christ’s victory, believers must put on God’s whole armor (6:11, 13; Grk. panoplia). It’s not the defensive gear and weaponry itself that’s key to remember; rather, it’s important to focus on what these items represent and signify (i.e. God’s character, words, and deeds). Nevertheless, believers are not to put on some of the armor some of the time—they need the whole armor of God all of the time during these evil days.



6:14-17:

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...”

Notice again, Paul stresses adequate preparation before future attacks, “Stand therefore, having girded...having put on...having shod…” (all past-tense verbs). Thus, the armor of God needs to be “put on” continually, not merely in the spur of the moment or after you’ve been ambushed. Moreover, this humble mindset of daily reliance upon the Lord coheres with the rest of Scripture (cf. Lk. 9:23; Jn. 15:5; 1 Cor. 10:12).

There are a total of six pieces that form our spiritual battle gear and emphasize God’s character: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, and shield of faith; His accomplishments: helmet of salvation; and His word: sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And since believers have “put on the new man” according to God’s likeness (Eph. 4:24; cf. Rom. 13:14), each of these elements must be embraced and applied by the children of God in order to overcome the enemy:

1. Belt-truth: The first piece of armor that a Roman soldier took up was the belt or leather apron that held together and supported the rest of the outer pieces of armor. Likewise, the soldier of Christ needs to live according to the truth of God in order to freely fight without fear of getting caught in the trap of hypocrisy and lies (cf. Eph. 1:13; 4:15, 21, 24-25).*

*The Greek verb perizonnumi ("to put a belt around; to gird oneself") is often used in the context of preparedness, or readiness for action (cf. Lk. 12:35, 37; 17:8; Acts 12:8).

2. Breastplate-righteousness: Just as the second piece of armor protected a Roman soldier’s heart during battle, so also the soldier of Christ needs to guard his soul by living righteously, “When Satan accuses the Christian, it is the righteousness of Christ that assures the believer of his salvation. But our positional righteousness in Christ, without practical righteousness in the daily life, only gives Satan opportunity to attack us” (Wiersbe, 58).

3. Shoe-peace: In order to gain traction and sure-footing in battle, Roman soldiers put hobnails (metal spikes) on the soles of their sandals. Similarly, the soldier of Christ needs “sure-footing” in the spiritual battle.* The solid-ground of “the gospel of peace” will keep the believer from falling short of the grace of God and stumbling on the battlefield, “It is the believer’s ‘sure-footedness’ in the tranquility of the mind and security of the heart in the gospel of peace that gives them readiness [“preparation”] to stand against the devil and his angelic hosts” (Kuruvilla, 211).

*The divine footwear in Eph. 6:15 is the only piece of armor not found in the OT description of the Messiah's armor (cf. Isa. 11:4-5; 59:17). However, the precious feet of those bringing good news [euaggelion, "gospel"] of peace in Isa. 52:7 represent the saving presence of Christ (Ibid., 210).

4. Shield-faith: When a Roman soldier covered his wooden shield with cloth and soaked it in water, he could extinguish the flames burning on the tips of the enemy’s arrows. Likewise, the soldier of Christ needs the shield of faith at all times to put out the fires of temptation from the evil one, “...faith is a requirement for every other activity, it undergirds everything else, and is the ground upon which the believer stands firm. Therefore, ‘in all’ the Christian is to utilize the shield, i.e., faith. And this shield is capable of extinguishing ‘all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’ No matter what the wile, the strategem, or device, faith in God in all circumstances rescues the child of God from all these devastating attacks” (Ibid.)*

*For OT passages that describe God as a faithful, protective shield, see Psalms 18:30; 35:2; 40:11; 91:4, "...His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall" (NET).

5. Helmet-salvation: For a Roman soldier, the metal helmet protecting his head provided a sense of safety and peace of mind while in combat. Thus, the helmet of salvation can refer both to the assurance that God will rescue believers from present attacks (cf. 2 Tim. 4:17-18) and the guarantee of their future deliverance when Jesus returns (cf. 1 Thess. 5:8, “...put on...a helmet, the hope of salvation”).

6. Sword-word: The Roman soldier wielded the sword during intense, close-range combat. Therefore, as the offensive weapon in God’s armor, the soldier of Christ must be able to wield the sword of the Spirit (the word of God) when facing various trials and temptations. The primary example of the faithful and effective use of the sword of the Spirit is found in the two accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). Jesus employs Scripture in his own spiritual warfare against the Devil, and in the first test, He specifically cites Deut. 8:3, “Man must not live on bread alone but by every word [Grk. rhema] that comes from the mouth of God” (Hoehner, 644).*

*Wiersbe adds, "Hebrews 4:12 compares the Word of God to a sword, because it is sharp and able to pierce the inner man just as a material sword pierces the body. You and I were 'cut to the heart' (Acts 2:37) when the Word convicted us of our sins" (59).





6:18-20:

...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Continuing with the topic of spiritual warfare, Paul transitions from the armor of God, specifically the sword of Spirit (6:17), to persistent prayer in the Spirit (6:18-20). Thus, the word of God and Spirit-driven prayer go hand-in-hand as the believer’s offensive weapon against the relentless attacks from the unseen powers of darkness that Paul exposed back in 6:12, “...the word authored by the Spirit is uttered by the believer to foes, and prayer in the Spirit is word uttered to God. Words to foes and words to God are both necessary” (Kuruvilla, 214).

In verse 18 Paul stresses the importance of not only praying for one’s own struggles, but also for others in the body who are engaged in battles of their own, “...praying always with all prayer...with all perseverance...for all the saints…”* Then, in verse 19, Paul asks the Ephesians to intercede on his behalf so that he will continue to speak boldly about the mystery of the gospel that he had just revealed and explained earlier in the letter (cf. Eph. 1:9-10; 3:3-4, 9; 5:32).

*Four times Paul uses the Greek word pas ("all, every"), emphasizing the critical nature of prayer for all believers in the ongoing spiritual war.

Furthermore, the sole reason that Paul was imprisoned, “an ambassador in chains” (6:20), was a result of boldly proclaiming God’s revelation about the mystery of Christ and the Church (Eph. 3:1; cf. Php. 1:12-14). Thus, even the apostle himself, highly esteemed and admired as he was, still enlisted the prayer support of his brothers and sisters in order to stand firm and not allow his “chains” to discourage him and hinder God’s will for his life (cf. Acts 20:24; Eph. 3:13; 2 Tim. 4:7).



6:21-24:

But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”

Paul’s closing words indicate that the Ephesians had a vested interest in the personal affairs of the apostle—they genuinely cared about his well-being and were concerned about how he was doing while under house arrest. Tychicus, also mentioned in the close of the letter to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-9), was most likely the one who delivered Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (cf. Acts 20:4; 2 Tim. 4:12).

And just as Christ is said to proclaim “peace” to both Jews and Gentiles, who are members of His body (Eph. 2:14-17; 3:6; 4:3), the apostle Paul also proclaims “peace” to his brothers and sisters (6:23). Along with promoting and preserving peace, he desires that the Ephesians love faithfully (lit. “love with faith”) just like their Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Paul concludes with the same crucial word from his opening address, “Grace” (cf. Eph. 1:2). Thus, we have the perfect bookend to a letter that thoroughly emphasizes the grace of God at work in the lives of His adopted children (cf. Eph. 1:4-6; 2:4-10; 3:2, 7-8; 4:7). Given all that God has done for believers, in response, grace should then characterize and flow from the hearts of all those who faithfully love the Lord Jesus Christ.* Amen!

*The Greek text of Eph. 6:24 reads literally, "The grace [be] with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptibility." Hoehner comments, "The Greek word aphtharsia ("incorruptible, imperishable") has the idea that believers' love for the Lord Jesus Christ is to be pure, not corrupted by wrong motives or secret disloyalty. Unfortunately, some Ephesian believers later did lose the fervency of their love for Christ; see Rev. 2:4" (645).




Application to the Body of Christ:

Summary of Ephesians 6:10-24:

“Victory against supernatural foes is achieved by divine empowerment in the form of God’s armor (commitment and dependence upon God) and by Spirit-driven prayer" (Kuruvilla, 218).

Believers in Christ living on earth during these dark and evil days (Eph. 5:16; 6:13) must recognize and stand firm against the attacks coming from their true enemy. The adversary is not someone to be seen or observed by physical sight, because we literally cannot see the enemy plotting and executing his schemes, and nor can we determine with certainty when the evil day will strike us like a sudden storm.

However, we can be prepared to face the attacks from our unseen foe and learn to stand strong by taking up the whole armor of God. In fact, we shouldn’t expect victory apart from the Lord and His strength at all. Total reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ for everything is essential:

“In one sense, the ‘whole armor of God’ is a picture of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and He is our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and our peace (Eph. 2:14). His faithfulness makes possible our faith (Gal. 2:20); He is our salvation (Luke 2:30); and He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14)” (Wiersbe, 59).

In summary of 6:10-24, believers are able to stand firm and hold their ground in the spiritual war, because they possess the six-pieces of the whole armor of God: belt-truth, breastplate-righteousness, shoe-peace, shield-faith, helmet-salvation, and sword-word—plus an implied seventh element—Spirit-driven prayer. When all of these are embraced and consistently applied in our lives, we can be confident of victory.

God Almighty, the Most High, is our refuge and strength, and there is protection for all of His little ones underneath the shadow of His wing (Ps. 91:1-2, 4, 9). Therefore, since we are one with the Ruler of all (Eph. 1:20-23) and raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6-7), then who is left to fear? (Ps. 27:1). “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Stand firm, then, and fight the good fight of the faith until the kingdom comes. Hallelujah, amen!


"You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear?"

Post A Comment

13 comments :

  1. "Four times Paul uses the Greek word pas ("all, every"), emphasizing the critical nature of prayer for all believers in the ongoing spiritual war."

    Amen to that. We must pray unceasingly, now more than ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's crunch time! Gotta armor up and pray up.

      Delete
    2. Great Amen Gary! Praying with! The Lord hears all our prayer!

      Delete
  2. Jeff, as I was attempting to read this article, I was interrupted with life circumstances that I can't get into, but needless to say, it was an obvious spiritual attack from my adversary. The LORD has been training me to bring my issues to Him (and Him alone) and allow Him to deal with it before I utter a word to anyone. So I stopped reading, and went to my journal to write:

    ----
    Great are You, LORD. You are worthy of all glory and honor and praise. I worship You. I praise Your holy name. Great is Your power. You call things into being that are not. How grateful and thankful I am to be Your child. To have opportunities to learn all You desire to teach me. In Christ, I have all that I need. All hope, peace, strength, love, patience, and endurance... even in impossible circumstances. I am free.

    LORD. In Romans 16:20, Paul said this:

    The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

    And in Malachi 4:2-3, You said this:

    But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.

    LORD Jesus. With these things in mind, I call upon Your name to move and act. Crush my adversary under my feet. Utterly trample those that come against Your children. Be our peace. Affect this realm. Move heaven into it concerning what I am facing now, by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

    May Your name be glorified. Allow me to see it. I approach Your throne and ask all these things of You through the covenant of Jesus' blood, shed for me. So be it.
    ----

    And then I resume reading the rest of your post, eventually finding the last section "Application to the Body of Christ", and the perfectly picked last song from Chris Tomlin, which has special personal meaning to me. Immediate answer to prayer. Always amazed, never surprised.

    I believe this could not have happened if it were not for you and the rest of the unsealed team abiding in Christ (John 15).

    Thank You, LORD.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, thank you, LORD!

      Wow, Daniel, thank you for sharing how God helped you today and modeling a heartfelt, Spirit-driven prayer.

      The Unsealed team will continue to abide! We want to be vessels that the Lord uses for His glory.

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  3. Thank you Jeff very-very much for all this study! Studying with all this time! It's very interesting! Making now a grate outline of this – from Grace till Spiritual War! And now the Lord Jesus comes for us quickly! Rev 2:25-26 (KJV) – Rev 3:21 (KJV) – Rev 4:1 (KJV).
    You are a great blessing indeed in the Lord! Amen! Maranatha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, sister Alla. You are a blessing too.

      Delete
  4. Unbeknownst to him, Jeff finished this article right as I was entering some spiritual warfare of discouragement and disillusionment. God used it to right course. It's amazing how active God's Spirit really is. He's operating 24/7 if we would just open our eyes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stay alert everyone. Keep your eyes peeled. The LORD is moving!

      Delete
  5. Still reading this, brother, but just wanted to say THANK YOU. It is perfect timing. And I'm so thankful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blessed to read this. Thank you, Hillary. Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might!

      Delete
  6. Jeff, thank you for all your hard work. This was truly a great study, delivered thoughtfully, I know the Holy Spirit is breathing life in the Saints and this study of God's holy Word in Ephesians has been so helpful in a time such as this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much. This comment came at a good time!

      Delete


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