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Ephesians

Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-24

There is a wonderful scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark in which the hero, Indiana Jones, finds himself faced with a sinister figure, faced wrapped in cloth, flashing a scimitar through the air. Jones sighs, reaches into his belt, pulls out his pistol and shoots the turbaned villain. I'm told the scene was an ad-lib on the part of Harrison Ford, but it gives us a point for today's lesson. Sometimes we need to remember who has the pistol.

In today's Scripture, Paul lays out for us the basics of Christian life in the face of Satan's attack.

(Eph 6:10-24 NIV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. {11} Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. {12} For 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. {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. {14} Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, {15} and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. {16} In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. {17} Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. {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. {19} Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, {20} for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. {21} Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. {22} I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. {23} Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {24} Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Introduction

This is the last of this letter to the Ephesians. It would be well to remind ourselves of what Paul has taught us:

·         How the church is formed, and what heavenly blessings we have.

·         Our relationships one to another, starting with the church leadership and on down to masters and slaves.

·         Now he gives us our instruction as individuals.

The Source of our Strength

He tells us to "be strong." That's good - but not very useful in itself. For most of us are not spiritual giants. We need to be told how to do this.

·         We are not to be strong in and of ourselves, but in the strength of the Lord - in the "power of his might." This is the first, and key, insight. We cannot do this in our strength; we must do it in his.

·         We do this via the "armor" of God - that is to say, we do it by using those tools that God has provided us. We may call them weapons or techniques, but the key point is that God provides them.

·         But if he provides them, we must put them on - put them to use. We must also become proficient in their use, practicing on a daily basis.

The need for this strength

All this might seem unnecessary; after all, we live in an age of peace. But Paul makes clear that our enemy, Satan, is ever vigilant:

·         We are to beware of the devil's schemes. Should we not take this as personal, things which Satan plots against us personally? Our temptations, our trials and thoughts?

·         There is also this world. We are clearly taught that the "rulers of this world" - this world in rebellion against its creator - are the demons of Satan. The system by which the world works is another need for this strength, for we will not be "going with the flow."

·         Finally, it will not always be peaceful. The day of evil will come. When it does, there is no sense in wishing you were prepared. One does not build the fire station after the fire starts.

The Whole Armor of God

Paul now begins a very visual section. He is in chains, and it has been suggested that his imagery comes from looking at one of his guards. That may be, but it still is a powerful image even in this day.

Whole Armor

First note that it is the whole armor. There is no sense taking up part of it. Satan is not stupid; he will see the gap in your preparations for him. If you won't take all of it, you will fail.

Belt of Truth

Truth holds the faith together. Of all the world's religions, Christianity is the one most often challenged - and defended - by the facts. If you do not know the truth of the faith at the factual level, you cannot defend it.

More than that, this belt helps distribute the load of life. Military personnel will remember the "web belt" of the services; this is a similar device. It helps distribute the load of your equipment over the hips, so that it is better balanced. In a like manner, truth helps you distribute the load of life. You cannot be an expert in everything in the faith, but you can lean on the truth, placing your load upon it - for it will not collapse.

There is another side to it. Remember Batman's "utility belt?" That handy strap with a contrivance for every occasion? It is the same with the truth. You may not know what to do in a given situation - but check with Solomon in the book of Proverbs for a little advice.

Breastplate of Righteousness

Note that the breastplate covers the heart. Righteousness is placed over the heart to control our passions. It defends us against the temptations such as anger and lust. When passion wells up, right living calms it down.

But there is another meaning: sometimes Satan accuses us directly. He says, "You can't be anything to God - look what you've done in your life." Then the Christian can defend himself with the breastplate of righteousness - the righteousness of Christ. "My defense is not my righteousness - but the righteousness of Christ, given to me at the Cross."

Feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace

The image is a bit obscure here. The Roman soldier armored his feet (getting your foot stabbed with a spear is not pleasant). Paul may mean one or both of these:

·         It may be the active sense - the feet of those spreading the Gospel.[1]

·         It may be in the defensive - the sense of standing on the peace that passes all understanding.

The shield of Faith

This is a stunning image of faith. Faith, in contrast to truth, involves that which you do not know - yet.

·         You cannot see through the shield. You cannot see through Faith. So there will come a time when Satan throws temptation at you and you cannot see how you will defend yourself. You do not have to see; you do need to have faith.

·         If the shield is properly maintained, however, it does not matter what the nature of the threat might be. It is a defense against anything Satan can throw at you.

·         Note the verb: quenching. It's like putting our a fire by drowning it. Faith not only stops the attack, it prevents it from flaring up again.

The Helmet of Salvation

If there's one area you want to protect most, it's your head. A helmet is now mandatory in almost all contact sports, for example. Paul amplifies this thought in another passage[2] to refer to the helmet as the "hope of salvation." The one thing you need most is salvation from sin. This is the most important part of the armor, and thus Paul portrays it as the helmet. It's interesting to note that the two most important defensive pieces are the helmet, which is salvation, God's work alone; and the breastplate, which is righteousness, which is our work with Him.

The Sword of the Spirit

There is a curious possibility here. The "sword" is the word of God. It is likely that the fall of Jerusalem has not yet happened. So we are not sure if John the Apostle has moved to Ephesus yet. But if he has, this sword could be taken to be Jesus Christ himself. Our offensive weapon is none other than the Lord.

More commonly, however, this refers to the Scripture. Note, please, that armor is put on; weapons, however, are used in practice. If we are to be effective Christians we must practice the use of the sword of the Spirit. So it is that we should read the Bible regularly, studying it, knowing its precepts. Then we can take the offensive.

Pray

Paul ends his letter with the injunction to pray. This is often taken somewhat like a benediction, and ignored, but it should not be. Note his instructions:

In the Spirit

We are to pray in the Spirit. We are not to attempt anything on our own strength, but rather do things in the Spirit of God, using his strength. We are to do this

·         At all times - not just when we feel the need

·         For all kinds of things - not just those that are socially acceptable.

·         In so doing, we are to be alert. Pay attention to what's going on around you; ask the questions.

For all the saints

It is not given to us to pick and choose which saints are on our prayer list. God may (and does) present certain ones to us for our particular prayers, but the church is one. Note also the phrase, "keep on." It implies that they have already been doing so - and that we should do so continually.

For their ambassador

A particular object of prayer for all Christians should be those who preach the Gospel - whether at home or on the mission field - as a leader of the faithful. In particular, we should ask God for two things:

·         That this leader will be given the words God wishes spoken. Not his own words, or his own theories, but the words of God himself.

·         That he will speak fearlessly. There is an interesting side note here. Sometimes a local preacher must consider not only how to say something, but what to say - for fear of giving offense. These delicate decisions are made much easier when he knows that his congregation is praying for - and expects - his fearless preaching.

The leader, in return, must encourage his flock. Paul, in chains, does this by sending Tychicus.

So ends the letter to the Ephesians, a people Paul loves personally. It is fitting that we use his last words as well:

(Eph 6:23-24 NIV) Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {24} Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

For anyone who teaches or preaches, here are three things we would wish to give to all who hear us:

·         Peace to the brothers

·         Love, with faith

·         Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.


[1] Romans 10:15

[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:8

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