Ephesians Study 18: War

Hello! You know how the last Harry Potter book was so big that they had to split it into two movies? Well, that’s what’s going on here. I was going to try to cover the remaining passage of Ephesians in one lesson, but instead, I’ll break this up into two. With this lesson and next, we wrap up the book of Ephesians with a look at the classic “Armor of God” passage.

Teaching Text: Ephesians 6:10-24

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 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 firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. 

Final Greetings
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. 

23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:10–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

There is so much in this section. We could actually spend an entire class on it alone. However, since we’ve been working on this for 18 lessons now, we’re not going to do that. We will be looking at this as a summation of the letter to the Christians in Ephesus.

Paul starts this section off with an exhortation to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” This “might” was mentioned back at the start of the letter in Ephesians 1:19 when he said “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…”. As we’ve studied this book, we’ve continually seen Paul call on these Christians to live out a life of righteous action that is fueled by grace which causes transformation. Remember in Ephesians 2:8 we are told that we are not saved by our own doing. Again, we are to be strong, not in our own strength, but the Lord’s.

Psalm 33:16 says:

16 The king is not saved by his great army; 
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 33:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

We are on a path to becoming transformed into being more and more like Christ. Dallas Willard puts it like this:

Spiritual formation in Christlikeness is all of this to human existence. It is the path by which we can truly, as Paul told the Ephesians, “be empowered in the Lord and in the energy of his might” (Ephesians 6:10, PAR) and “become mighty with his energy through his Spirit entering into the inward person” (3:16, PAR).

How are we to be strong in the Lord? By putting “on the whole armor of God.” This is an active process we undertake to put on the armor of God. This echoes what Paul tells them in 4:24 when he says to “put on their new self.” Let’s take a look at this armor and then in the next lesson we’ll come back and look at something we’re skipping over at the beginning of this passage.

Armor

Paul pulls this imagery, and even a couple of the specifics, from Isaiah 59:17:

17 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. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 59:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Based on Roman armor from that day, Paul lists five defensive elements making up the armor, then adds one weapon and tacks on prayer as an additional component. As already mentioned, an entire lengthy study could be done on the armor of God passage. We could spend an entire lesson on each element, the specific Roman history with each piece of armor and a word study on the associating spiritual topic. But rather than doing that, I want to tie each piece back to something already discussed in the letter to the Ephesians. This will show that Paul isn’t introducing new elements, but rather this is his culmination of all the thoughts presented.

Belt of Truth

The Roman soldier garb is gathered by the belt. The belt also holds weapons or other tools. Here, Paul equates the belt with truth. Near the beginning of the letter, Paul referred to truth when he said they had heard the word of truth.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:13–14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

This reference in chapter 1 also mentions salvation, the word, belief (faith), and the Holy Spirit. Paul leads the armor description here with truth because hearing that truth is what started the journey of the Ephesians. Romans 10:17 also mentions the importance of hearing.

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 10:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Not only were they being taught the truth in Christ (Ephesians 4:21), but they were also told to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) which would lead to growth.