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Ephesians 6:10-13: Be Strong in the Lord Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 January 2018

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‘We are at war!’ Would you believe me if I declared that this morning? Newspaper’s and politicians and military leaders have shouted that throughout the history of the world. It is news that soldiers need to know. It is news that citizens need to know. Any time a country decides to go to war, the people need to be informed as much as possible. Why? Obviously the soldiers need to know (and usually know first) so that they can get ready for deployment. But why do the citizens need to know? In the World Wars it was important for citizens to know about the war because it changed the way that life was lived in America. The shortage of men meant more women in the workforce. The need for weapons and ammunition meant various changes at factories and manufacturers. It changed the way money was spent and time was spent. It was talked about at school and work and church. The reality of war impacted much of life even for people who were not directly fighting. Things have obviously changed since then. Wars on foreign shores are not as publicized these days. People are not as knowledgeable of what is happening. Business and daily life is not impacted. In fact, you can live at home in America like the country is not at war. The declaration of war has almost become ho-hum in our society.

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The same is true for the spiritual war that is taking place right now. Christians tend to live as if there is no enemy and no battle to be fought. Some are not even sure if such spiritual forces exist. Some are responding to those who see demons around every corner. Some just haven’t given it that much thought. But here is the truth according to the Word: We are at war! There is a spiritual battle taking place right now all around us. So then, what do we do with that knowledge? Do we keep on ignoring that truth? Do we take on the mantra: ‘When in doubt, cast it out’? How do we respond as Christians to the reality of spiritual warfare? We start by looking at what the Word has to say about it. We cannot let experience (or lack of experience) drive the discussion. We must look to the Word. In our passage this morning, Paul teaches us about spiritual warfare. He is bringing the letter to the Ephesians to a close. He has told us who we are in Christ (ch. 1-3) and given us instructions for how to live our our faith (ch. 4-6). After finishing up his discussion of submission, where he has shown us the ideal for marriage, family life, and slaves and masters, he know turns to fighting the enemy that seeks to keep us from living out our faith as Paul has taught. This also allows him to bring many issues to a close, as we will see. So then, what does Paul teach us here about spiritual warfare?

We must be strong in the Lord (v. 10, 13)

Paul begins with a command. Look at verse 10. Paul commands us to be strong. Later he will use the language of standing firm. Look at verse 13. We must be strong and we must stand firm. Yet, as much as we must acknowledge that we have a role to play in this fight, we need to see that the strength is not our own. He does not tell us to be strong by ourselves or to be strong in our own strength. No, he tells us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. If left to ourselves in this battle, we have no chance. We cannot stand against the evil forces in this world in our own strength. Rather, we must be strong in the Lord. We must look to Him for strength. We must keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus our Redeemer. The only power we have comes from Him, which leads us back to Paul’s teaching on our identity.

As followers of Jesus, we are united to Him by faith. And so, His power is at work in us. Look back at 1:19-20. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us. Not only that, but Paul prayed that we would be strengthened by the power of the Spirit (see 3:16). The power of the Lord is at work within us (3:20), it is part of who we are in Christ. Yet, the battle rages on. We see in this the ‘already, not yet’ tension of the New Testament. Christ defeated all our enemies at the cross when He died and rose again. We have victory through faith in Him. But we must persevere in our faith. We must resist the Devil and fight against our sin. So Paul tells us here at the end of the letter: ‘Be strong in the power of the Lord.’

We must be strong in the Lord by putting on His armor (v. 11)

Although we are not going to cover the armor of God until later, we see the charge to put it on in our passage this morning. Look at verse 11. Paul answers the question for how we can stand strong in the Lord in this verse: we put on the whole armor of God. When we look at what this includes, we will see that Paul is talking about how we can protect ourselves from the lies of the evil forces. We need truth. And we need to abide in the truth, to remain in it, to stand fast in it. The armor of God will help discipline us to do just that. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes made ready by the gospel of peace, along with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, will all enable us to continue in the truth of the gospel. We put on the armor of God so that we can be strong and stand firm.

We must be strong in the Lord because we have a real enemy (v. 11b-13)

Of course, if we are going to fight the battle, we must know our enemy. Paul first tells us who are enemy is not. Look at verse 12a. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. This is Paul’s way of saying that we are not at war with our fellow man. Sure, there are evil people in this world and Christians must stand for justice. But the goal is not to win physically by taking people out. We must understand that there is more going on. The battle is not a physical battle, but a spiritual one. So then, who are our enemies? Look at verse 12b. What can we say about this list?

First, these individual names are not easy to identify. It is almost impossible to be certain who the rulers or the authorities are. People often guess, but that is the most we can do. I think what Paul is intending to do with this list is to help us see that the enemies’ reach is broad. Instead of trying to identify each one specifically, we need to see that the expanse of their influence and impact. Spiritual forces of evil are fighting against the church and against humanity in general.

Second, we must realize that the enemy is real. Some might read this list and be cynical and skeptical. ‘Show me a ruler or authority or cosmic power and I will believe in them.’ I understand that doubt. Yet, I believe in the reality of the enemy for at least two reasons. First, the Bible makes it plain that they exist. Paul is not just writing for his own time but for all time. Likewise, the gospels are filled with Jesus’ interactions with demons and evil spiritual forces. The Devil is present in the Garden of Eden. The Bible uniformly teaches the reality of spiritual forces of evil, so I believe in them. Second, I don’t know how else to explain evil in the world. Certain events (like the holocaust and other war crimes) are hard to understand if evil is denied. Granted, the sin of man is great, and these events were obviously perpetuated by evil men. But even allowing for that, it simply seems that more is going on. In light of the Bible’s teaching, I cannot help but conclude that the enemy is real. We deny the existence of evil forces to our own detriment.

Third, the goal of the enemy, particularly among believers, is to get us to believe lies. Paul tells us to put on the armor of God so that we can stand against the schemes of the devil. He is trying to convince us that the gospel is a lie. He is trying to convince us that our hope is false. He is trying to steal our joy and break our resolve. He does this by perpetuating lies. He whispers: ‘Did Jesus really pay for all of your sins? Does He really love you after all that you have done? Can you really believe in a God you cannot see? How do you even know that Heaven is real? Jesus will forgive this sin, so why resist it? (And after we have sinned) How could He keep forgiving a sinner like you?’ These (and more) are the lies of the devil. And we must fight them with the armor of God.

Finally, victory over these real enemies comes through faith in Christ. As real as the devil is and as much as we must fight against him, the truth is, his time is limited (you can read about his end in the book of Revelation). By turning from your sins and believing in what Jesus did at the cross, you can have victory over all these evil forces. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (see 1 John 3:8). As believers we have victory over him. Yes, we still fight, yes, we still resist, but we do so knowing that we have victory through Jesus. His death and resurrection is the guarantee that the war will ultimately be won by Jesus.

We are at war. The Bible teaches us that this is true, even if many choose to ignore the truth. The enemy is real. But as powerful as he is, he is still no match for Jesus. As Luther sang: ‘One little word shall fell him’ (“A Mighty Fortress”). And that word is the name of Jesus! If you have never trusted in Jesus, then turn from your sins and believe in Him today for the forgiveness of your sins and for victory over these enemies. If you are a believer, then I challenge you to stand strong in the Lord. Fight the spiritual battle, by being aware, standing strong, and persevering in the faith. Keep your eyes on the One who has guaranteed our victory! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 26 January 2018 )

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