Explore the Bible Series
November 28, 2010
Lesson Passage: Ephesians 6:10-24
I grew up during the Cold War, and my childhood was filled images of war. It seemed perfectly normal that my childhood toy box was filled with plastic soldiers and tanks, replica forts, and toy guns. At three or four, I fell on a plastic pistol and gashed my head, leaving a scar I bear to this day. Grownups, I suppose, rationalized that such play-time activities prepared little boys, in some way, for the adult possibility of combat. Perhaps these childhood dalliances did little real harm, the glorification of war seems strange to me now. Any real soldier would tell you that war is evil, sometimes a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless.
The Apostle Paul frequently used military imagery in his writings. It seems unlikely that he ever served as a soldier, but Jewish residents of Tarsus (Paul’s childhood home) and Jerusalem (the site of his education and work as a Pharisee) were no strangers to the Roman military. The imperial troops occupied the entire Mediterranean region, and Paul certainly knew of the bloody martial exploits of these highly trained warriors. No doubt, he had seen these men clad in their impressive combat array: helmets, shields, greaves, and swords. War, Paul’s day, was not a children’s game, and the apostle clearly employed these images with grave solemnity and respect. The Christian life, for Paul, was not a game, an adolescent dalliance: rather, he saw the believer’s warfare as the inevitable result of living in a fallen, sinful world. We would do well to heed his words carefully for we too must face the same hardships and conflicts as did his ancient readers.
I. The Believer’s Strength (vv. 10-12)
A. Inherent power (v. 10): Unlike a soldier, the believer’s strength resides, in a sense, outside of himself, in the derived power of the indwelling Lord (“be strong in the Lord, in the power of his might”). In this strength alone can he hope to stand firm in the hour of spiritual combat.
B. the armor of God (v. 11): In addition to the inner strength that attends the indwelling of Christ, the Christian soldier must don the whole armor of God. It will not do to omit any of the divine accoutrements of battle, but the whole armor must be utilized. The combatant’s duty, in a time of war, centers on the ability to stand and defend one’s ground, and he can only do this, in the face of his formidable enemy, by remaining steadfast in Christ’s strength and armor.
C. The nature of the enemy (v. 12): Every soldier must know his enemy. He does not wage war indiscriminately, rather, he prepares for battle with a definitive understanding of the identity and character of his foe. In this case, Paul identified the foe clearly, “against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of the age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness). Paul wrote with unmistakable clarity. The believer’s foe is not a man (or men), it is the spiritual forces of wickedness. Dr, Vaughan thought these descriptors provide some detail about the nature of these evil forces. “Wrestle” denotes hand-to-hand fighting, a reflection of the deeply personal nature of this conflict.
II. The Believer’s Armor (vv. 13-20): Again, Paul emphasized the importance of standing firm at one’s post—note the repeated reference to standing.
A. “girded your waist with truth” (v. 14a): Roman soldiers used a large leather belt to protect the lower abdomen, and, from this belt, they suspended the scabbard for the sword. “Truth” reflects Paul’s emphasis on sincerity and honesty.
B. “having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14b): The breastplate guarded the vital organs of the chest. “Righteous” means one of two things.
1. It may refer to the righteousness of justification, that act of God in which each believer is declared righteous through Christ.
2. It could denote moral rectitude, practical righteousness which grows from God’s work of justification.
C. “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15): Soldiers, in Paul’s day, wore heavy, hob-nailed sandals that enabled combatants to secure their footing and move efficiently. Peace with God, through Christ, provides Christians with a sure foundation that will hold securely in spiritual warfare.
D. “above all, taking the shield of faith” (v. 16): The ancients used two kinds of shields, a small cavalry shield used by mounted warriors and a large, oblong long shield used by infantry. Here, the apostle referred to the second of these weapons. The believer’s protection comes from an earnest faith in Christ.
E. “take up the helmet of salvation” (v. 17a): The helmet, of course, protected the head and neck. Perhaps Paul meant to highlight the protection of the mind, a favorite place for Satan to strike Christ’s disciples.
F. “take up the sword of the Spirit” (v. 17b-20): Dr. Vaughan believed “sword” referred to the Scriptures; that is, through the message of Scripture, believers may take the offensive against the great enemy of the soul. Paul marked a vital connection between the word of God and prayer. Believers avail themselves of the armor through the means of “all prayer.” Christian supplication should bear these marks.
1. It should be offered “in the Spirit” (v. 18a).
2. Watchfulness should attend prayer (v. 18b).
3. Believers must persevere in prayer (v. 18c).
4. Believers should pray for the spread of the gospel (v. 18d). In particular, Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him, that he might remain bold in evangelism despite his imprisonment (see vv. 19-20).
III. Conclusion of the Epistle to the Ephesians (vv. 21-24)
A. Commendation of Tychicus (vv. 21-22): The Bible mentions this faithful servant of Christ several times. Acts 20:4 indicates that he came from Asia Minor, and he travelled with the apostle during the Third Missionary Journey. It seems that he enjoyed warm relationship with the church in Ephesus (See II Timothy 4:12), and he also had some contact with the church in Colossae (See Colossians 4:7-9). Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus to comfort and encourage the church.
B. Benediction (vv. 23-24): These final comments echo some of the major themes of the epistle: peace, love, faith, and grace.