EPHESIANS-SERIES NR 11
Theme: Standing amid the struggle
Ephesians 6: 10 – 24
The impression sometimes created that the Christian life is just one great pleasure and solves all one’s problems, is absolutely incorrect. Eph 6: 10-24 proves that it is a fallacy. Because here the Apostle Paul shows us that a true Christian is continually involved in a struggle. Literally in a warzone.
Because when one becomes a Christian, something momentous takes place. You are literally snatched from the power/authority of the force of darkness (Eph 2: 1-3). According to Acts 26:18 you are rescued from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God! From Eph 6 it is clear that the enemy does not give in easily. To be a true Christian is not a part-time occupation.
The entire life of a true full blooded soldier who is at war, is taken up by the conflict. From the moment he opens his eyes in the morning, he thinks: “I am a soldier at war. Somewhere today I may make contact with the enemy”. Everything a soldier does connects with war. Even when he eats, it is to strengthen himself for the battle. When he rests, it is to again prepare himself for the battle.
Of course there are also people who appear to be soldiers, but who is not involved in battle – like the present SADF. To them being a soldier is a hobby or a career. True soldiers use their weapons. Hobbyist-soldiers only play with their weapons and keep them clean.
Paul however compares the Christian with a true soldier. The Christian life is a battle and it is dangerous. Look at the words he is using: be strong (v10), mighty power of the Lord (v10), full armour of God (v11), take your stand (v11), struggle (v12), day of evil (v13), flaming arrows (v16). Words of exertion, difficulties, trials.
The blessings of the Christian life are indescribable (Eph 1-3), but we should stop misleading outsiders when we make it sound so rosy. Eph 6 opens our eyes to the fact that the true Christian life is in direct conflict with the powers of darkness. Therefore there is a cost involved to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a cost involved with discipleship. It is a commitment of everything, 100%, totally and integrally – or it is nothing. That is why the Master told those who would follow Him: remember, we are going to have rocks for a pillow, no comfortable heated hotel rooms for us. We are soldiers!! We are at war!
In a war situation the days vary. Often days pass peacefully, but some days are evil and the skirmishes break out unexpectedly. You can never predict what tomorrow will bring!
That is exactly how Christians experience it also. Some days are days of evil, days of strife. It comes unexpectedly. Verse 13 puts it like that. Every day is not the same. Some days are wonderful and you walk on air, and then there are days of temptation.
When those days come, a believer must be prepared and ready to remain standing. Standing concerning what you believe and standing concerning your conduct in life. Because the attack is on your faith-confidence, trust in the Lord, obedience. Temptation to compromise, to be false, hypocritical, trade your servitude in the kingdom for indolence, worldliness etc. The idea is not to defeat the enemy, but to remain standing.
Our experience is that the struggle is against people. Also circumstances that are created by people. What verse 12 is saying though, is that there are demonic powers working through people, and that our actual struggle/wrestling match is really against them. That is why we do not have to become bitter or angry towards people because we know better.
So emphatic: “our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.
Plainer than that it cannot be written. What our eyes see, are people and circumstances – and we think that is the problem. What our eyes however do not see, is the structure of demonic powers that is all over in the air and that influences unsaved people and takes them into service against the Lord’s people. This invisible realm is hierarchically structured: satan as the general and then several commanding officers and then the downward ratings.
Daniel 10 reveals the interesting truth that there are demonic powers who are responsible for certain geographical areas and who focus on countries and leaders.
The wonder is that literally all these powers have already been defeated through Jesus’s resurrection from the grave and the position He now occupies at the Throne. Eph 1: 20-21, Col 2: 15, 1 Pet 3: 22.
Spiritual warfare does not mean that the Christ-believer must DEFEAT evil and that evil forces are rolling like skittles when we are done with them. That has already happened on the cross. The believer must stand his ground – THAT is the apostolic teaching. That appears several times in this passage. Just to remain standing. The believer must take a firm stand in the Lord’s great power – in the days of evil.
For this purpose the Lord has given us armour. The Apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter and had a Roman soldier (or two) watching over him day and night. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had taught Paul by way of the soldier’s outfit and equipment how it is with spiritual armour – which purposely has to be put on by a believer. It must not be put on only when the day of evil comes. It must be worn every day so that – when the evil day comes – the armour is already in place. Then you shall be able to remain standing. That is God’s promise. Armour to protect and attack.
Belt around the waist: Very thick wide leather belt almost like an apron that covers and protects the bottom part of the body.
Breastplate: Of thick leather that protects the top part of the body (front and back). Without this a soldier will not survive an attack.
Shoes: Almost like rugby boots – kind of sandal with nails/studs underneath for a firm foothold.
Shield: Rectangular and large enough behind which the soldier could be concealed.
Helmet: To protect the head and face.
Sword: The Roman soldier’s only weapon.
Spiritual meaning of each:
BELT AROUND THE WAIST: The belt of truth of the Gospel-message which I love and know and embrace. The absolute Truth.
BREASTPLATE: The fact that I am righteous in the eyes of God and have been saved based on the Lord Jesus’s 100% successful offer that God impute to me.
BOOTS: Readiness to go out taking the gospel of peace to others.
SHIELD: Faith-trust in the promises of God.
HELMET: Salvation – the fact I am, have been, shall be saved by the blood of Jesus.
SWORD: The Word of God – the only weapon.
The Word of the Lord promises that the enemy shall not penetrate this armour. Never. As simple as that.
But there is something more…
PRAYER (verses 18-20). Pray in the Spirit – complete surrender to the Spirit’s influence and control through the Word. Pray out of the Word – because that is where the Spirit speaks. Also listen to the Spirit‘s dictate in your human spirit when He reminds you of the Scriptures. Pray literally at every opportunity and in all circumstances. Pray for believers whom you know – as the Lord brings their names into your mind. Pray for preachers of the Word so that – when they speak – Words will be given them and that they would fearlessly proclaim the Gospel-message. With confidence.
Did you know that a preacher cannot proclaim the Word with confidence without the prayers of Christians! Some people seem to think that a preacher just have the ability to do it – some or other gift that automatically enables him. Well, the Apostle Paul did not think so. In verses 19-20 he says that he cannot preach without the prayers of the church. Not at all. Do we also think in such radical terms?
Then, in verses 21-24 Paul passes on information – according to which they can pray. Prayer is built upon information. You can hardly pray without information.
In verses 21-22 Paul is saying that he is sending Tychicus to them to tell them everything about his circumstances – SO THAT they will know how to pray for him. That is also the logic behind our own prayer initiatives in our own church – for example the prayer wheel. But the information means nothing if there is no prayer! All progress in the kingdom of God is by the collaboration of Word and prayer. Let us start to believe that – and make it practice. The power of God works through prayer.
There is the armour: Know and embrace the Truth, assurance that I am righteous in the eyes of God based on Jesus’s righteousness imputed to me, prepared to take the Gospel to people, faith-trust in God’s promises, present salvation – future salvation – past salvation, the Word of God and prayer.
Practical example: Take a stand with this armour against any form of impulse or temptation – any flaming arrow of the evil one. It does not matter what it may be. That flaming arrow will have no effect! That is the Lord’s promise! Think of any example: Your faith-trust is undermined; the temptation to watch pornography; the temptation to believe that you are a kind of ape that was developed millions of years ago out of some kind of bubbling chemical soup, and therefore do not have any origin or future or meaningful life and are not accountable to any Supreme Being; doubt in the Word of God sown in your heart; certain people make your life a misery… Name them. No flaming arrow of the evil one can pierce you when you are wearing the armour of God. You will be able to remain standing at your post. Hallelujah!
And now the Holy Spirit is sending us on our way from the Ephesians letter into the world, with the blessing in verses 23 -24: “Peace to all, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love”.
Translated by Marthie Wilson