28 April 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (6:10-6:13)

Ephesians 6:10-13

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 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. 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.

How many sermons have been preached on the armor of God. How many men have gone through and explained and exhorted us to take up the armor every day. Why? Why refer to intangible concepts such as faith and truth and righteousness by means of physical weapons? Are we to take our Bibles and beat people over the head with them? Are we not supposed to love our neighbor? Why then make war with them? Ah, but this is where the world—and the young Christian as well—do not quite understand how the Christian is to walk in this world. We saw in the last chapter, in verse 15, that we are to walk circumspectly…for the days are evil. The days we live in—this age that our physical bodies have been born into—is an evil one. It is one filled with all kinds of snares and traps just waiting for the unsuspecting Christian to partake of and be ensnared therein. Still, why this allusion to items fitted for a soldier?

After all, didn’t Jesus warn Peter thus: “All who take the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52)? So why does Paul now tell us to take up the “sword of the Spirit?” For this reason: Because, friend, you and I are soldiers—and soldiers indeed. We are not to simply go out and be mutely slaughtered. We are not to go trembling and fearful into this world. We have an enemy who commands many forces, and many strongholds in this world. And he would love nothing more than to crush you and me under his heel and destroy the church of the living God—the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we are bound by the covenant we have made with our Lord—the one He Himself ratified with His own blood—to uphold and defend His church from enemies without and enemies within.

For when does an enemy do the most damage? Standing outside the castle wall, hurling stones from a trebuchet? Or when he is inside, with sword in hand, decimating soldier, mother, and child? Therefore, we must always be on our guard, always ready to earnestly contend for the faith delivered once to all the saints (Jude 1:6). Richard Baxter, the great Puritan writer, warned the elders of the flock of such dangers in his classic, The Reformed Pastor. Consider this caveat to those who deigned to lead a flock, while only giving superficial heed to God’s written word:

Brethren, do you consider what you have taken upon you? Why, you have undertaken the conduct, under Christ, of a band of his soldiers ‘against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places.’ You must lead them on to the sharpest conflicts; you must acquaint them with the enemies’ stratagems and assaults; you must watch yourselves, and keep them watching.

If you miscarry, they and you may perish. You have a subtle enemy, and therefore you must be wise. You have a vigilant enemy, and therefore you must be vigilant. You have a malicious and violent and unwearied enemy, and therefore you must be resolute, courageous and indefatigable. You are in a crowd of enemies, encompassed by them on every side, and if you heed one and not all, you will quickly fall. And oh, what a world of work have you to do!

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Be strong in the Lord. Nowhere are we ever commanded—or even encouraged—to take up our own armor. We are never told to stand on our own two feet and fight Satan with the weapons of knowledge and willpower. For those are not weapons against the might of Satan. Those are merely inconveniences he will eventually disarm, overpower, and bring to naught. But when we fight—when we are strong—in the Lord, Paul tells us, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled (2nd Corinthians 10:4-6). What is our willpower, or knowledge, or wisdom, compared to that of one of the mightiest of all the mightiest creatures ever created by God? What is our mind against the one who tried to tempt our Lord?

We are to be strong in the Lord. That word “strong” in the Greek is ενδυναμουσθε(endunamousthe). It is imperative mood—a command. “Be strong!” It is present tense—“BE being strong!” It is passive voice. "BE BEING MADE strong!" Know what that means? It’s not something you can do yourself. It has to be done to you. You must be made strong. How? By seeking His protection—not by charging into battle under your own command. In this battle, there’s no such thing as “An Army of One.”

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Another great Puritan writer, John Bunyan, wrote what can only be called the most accurate allegory of the Christian walk of any who have put paper to pen after the close of the First Century AD. He called it The Pilgrim’s Progress. During his trip, the main character, a man named Christian, came face-to-face with Apollyon.

In the Valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was hard put to it; for he had gone a little way before he espied a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him: his name is Apollyon. Then Christian began to be afraid, and to wonder whether to go back or to stand his ground. But he remembered that he had no armor for his back, and therefore thought that to turn around might give Apollyon greater ease to pierce him with darts; therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground.

Did you catch that? There is no armor for the back. We are never told to run away from Satan. In fact, what are we exhorted to do by the words of James? Resist the devil. And if we resist the devil, what will happen? HE will flee. But how many times are we Christians tempted to turn and run from Apollyon. To expose ourselves to his darts. We are like those cowardly spies that Joshua and Caleb put to shame. We are not to flee from Satan! We are to stand our ground and fight him wherever he pitches the battle.

Put on the whole armor of God. How much of the armor? The WHOLE armor. All of it. every single piece. Would it be wise for a soldier to go into battle without his gun? Or his Kevlar vest? Would a soldier last very long in a battle if he just kinda threw some stuff together and went out to make war? When Paul wrote these words, he was chained to a Roman soldier. He considered how carefully the Romans prepared for battle. They were highly trained, they were a precision unit, they got their orders and they obeyed them. They made sure everything was ready before they engaged even the most untrained and barbarian group of hostiles. Why? Because they knew that if they let up even for a moment, and did not secure the most minute details, the battle could be lost. Does this sound familiar, friend?

Are we not susceptible to the weapons of our enemy—even those that seem the least threatening—if we let up, and do not take note of the enemy’s strategies? Remember Richard Baxter’s words—You have a subtle enemy, and therefore you must be wise. You have a vigilant enemy, and therefore you must be vigilant. You have a malicious and violent and unwearied enemy, and therefore you must be resolute, courageous and indefatigable. If we go out lacking in the things God has provided for us, the battle is lost before it is ever joined. If we leave our homes, ready to face the world using out own intuition, wisdom, and brain power—we might as well just pitch in with the enemy, because we have already lost. The word for “Put on” is in the middle voice—it something we do passively. Another way to say it is it is something we need to have someone do for us.

…that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. The word translated “wiles” is the Greek μεθοδειας (methodeias). Guess what English word we get from that? Yes, methods. “Cunning arts, trickery, schemes.” Do you think Satan just throws temptations at you without thinking through what he’s doing? Now, do not be mistake. He has been doing this for a while, so he can change strategies rather quickly when he needs to. But do not be fooled. When he sets out to pull us down, he starts out with a game plan. Much like a football team does not wait until the last second to decide what play to run. They scout the other team, finding their strengths and weaknesses. For all the talent in the world does not always equate to victory. What does it profit a team if they have the fastest wide receiver—but he’s always running the wrong way? And why do you think teams practice so much? To develop a game plan.

This is why we should also be on our guard against those who bring in false religions. It is good, no doubt, to know the truth. But we also need to be ready for the arguments and heresies Satan will throw at us with a knock at the door. Because guess what? Those nice young men with their white shirts and dark ties will be using the same Bible you use—but not in the same way. And how will you answer them when they do what they have been trained to do—to twist the Scriptures to make it sound like they're telling you the truth? Or will you not be ready? Will your faith be shaken, because you think they may be right? Take up and put on every piece of the armor so that when Satan unleashes his battle plan against you, you may stand strong against it.

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. Want to know what that word “wrestle” means? The Greek is παλε (pale). It means, literally, “wrestling (a contest between two in which each endeavours to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck).” Did you catch that last part? About the hand on the neck? That is what Satan wants to do to you. He will come against you, throw you around, use every trick at his disposal—all the while making up a few new ones—and wants nothing less than to put you flat on your back with his hands around your throat. Yes, it is that serious. He wants you to know that he is your boss, he is your master, and there is nothing you can do about it, so you might as well just stop fighting it, give in, and serve him.

But that’s not who we are. We are sons and daughters of God. We have a Father that we can call on, that we can plead to, who will fight for us—or at the very least, send His angels to fight—He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). You know what one of those spiritual blessings is? The Holy Spirit. Oh, sorry, do we need more than that? You see, all of the weapons we will be looking at over the next few weeks are really those things we have in the Holy Spirit.

  • Belt of Truth?
    John 16:13—“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth”

  • Breastplate of Righteousness?
    Ephesians 5:9—(For the fruit of the Spirit [is] in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

  • Shoes of the Gospel of Peace?
    Ephesians 1:13—In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise

  • Shield of Faith?
    Galatians 3:2—This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

  • Helmet of Salvation?
    2nd Thessalonians 2:13—God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth

  • Sword of the Spirit?
    2nd Peter 1:21—…prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
We are fighting against an enemy that is so powerful he will make the nations go to war against God Himself. In fact, did he not also lead one-third of the angels of God against their Maker? So what make you think, Christian, that you have anything in your own self that could stand up to such a foe? Let me answer that for you: you don’t!

Because while we may be able to fight against physical enemies all the live-long day, we have no idea how to fight against spiritual foes. 1st Corinthians 2:14 tells us that our natural minds cannot see spiritual things. We are fighting blind against Satan if we do not take God’s armor, stand strong in His might, and fight using His weapons.

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. Look at that little phrase. Having done all. Do you know what that means? It means that if you take up anything less than every single piece of armor God is able to give you; you have not done everything you could to stand against the enemy. You have left yourself open for Satan's attacks, you have left yourself vulnerable, and you have given the enemy an opportunity to blaspheme the name of the LORD our God. if we do not avail ourselves of every ability God gives us to resist the devil, we are doing nothing. Period. If we do not take up every piece of the armor—the word for “whole armor” is πανοπλια (panoplia)—if we do not take up the πανοπλια of God, we might as well not take any of the pieces. Because if we depend on ourselves in the smallest bit, we are not relying on the LORD our God totally, and we are doomed to failure.

Let me close with the dialog between Bunyan’s fictional Christian and the monster Apollyon. And consider that Christian did not turn his back and run, but responded with the promises of God, which are “Yes” and “Amen.”

CHRISTIAN. I was indeed born in your kingdom; but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could not live on; for the wages of sin is death; therefore, when I was come to years, I did as other thoughtful persons do, looked out, if perhaps I might better myself.

APOLLYON. There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as yet lose you; but since you complain of my wages, be content to go back, and what our country will afford I do here promise to give thee

CHRISTIAN. But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes; and how can I with fairness go back with thee?

APOLLYON. You have in this “changed a bad for a worse,” but it is common for those that have called themselves His servants, after awhile to give Him the slip, and return again to me. Do so and all shall be well.

CHRISTIAN. I have given Him my faith, and sworn my service to Him; how, then, can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?

APOLLYON. You did the same to me, and yet I am willing to pass by all, if now you will turn again and go back.

CHRISTIAN. The Prince under whose banner I now stand is able to set me free, and to pardon also my service with thee. And besides, O thou destroying Apollyon, to speak the truth, I like His service, His wages, His servants, His government, His company, and country, better than yours; persuade me no further; I am His servant, and I will follow Him.

APOLLYON. You know that for the most part His servants come to a bad end, because they are disobedient against me and my ways. How many of them have been put to shameful deaths! He never came yet from the place where He is, to save any that served Him. But as for me, how many times, as all the world very well knows, have I delivered, either by power or fraud, those that have faithfully served me, from Him and His, though taken by them! And so I will deliver you.

Then Christian drew his sword, for he saw he must be quick to save himself; and Apollyon made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail, by which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in the head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian draw back a little; Apollyon, therefore, followed him up, but Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, till Christian almost gave out. For you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, grew weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon, seeing his opportunity, began to close in on Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and, with that, Christian’s sword flew out of his hand.

Then said Apollyon, “I am sure of thee now.” And, with that, he almost crushed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, before Apollyon could give Christian the death blow, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall I shall arise”; and, with that, gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian, perceiving that, made at him again, saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.” And, with that, Apollyon spread forth his dragon’s wings, and flew away and Christian for a season saw him no more.

What would Christian’s fate have been had he not taken every piece of armor, that he could withstand the blows of the enemy? What will our fate be if we do not take all of God's armor to stand against the deadly blows of the enemy?

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