We are continuing our study this morning of Ephesians 6. We have spent five weeks looking at the subject of "Spiritual Warfare," which was an introduction to verses 10-17. In case you think that my introduction was too long, let me tell you that Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote two volumes of sermons on these verses. The Puritan, William Gurnall, wrote almost 1,200 pages of double-column, small print on them ("The Christian in Complete Armor")! So compared to them my time spent on these verses is short.
We have been talking about the "divine council" and the battle that was going on between Yahweh and the lesser gods. I believe that the battle that the first century saints were fighting was against "spiritual being.," Notice the terms Paul uses:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NASB
The word "rulers" is from the Greek arche, which has a wide range of meanings. The word "powers" is from exousia, which means: "power, ability, privilege." These titles are used of human and spiritual powers, but notice the other words used, "world forces," which comes from the Greek kosmokrator. This is its only use in the New Testament, but it is used in Testament of Solomon of spiritual beings. In the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, kosmokrator means:"'lord of the world, world ruler," and it occurs in pagan literature as an epithet for gods, rulers, and heavenly bodies. Why would Paul use this word that is used only here in the Bible, but was used in other literature for spirit beings if he did not mean spirit beings?
Paul goes on to say, "against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places"—these forces are "spiritual," they are not human, and they are in "heavenly places," which denotes the spiritual realm, the place where Yahweh dwells.
So in the first century their battle was with "spirit beings." What about us? If you got nothing else from the last five weeks of study, hopefully you at least realized that I do not believe that we are fighting with Satan or spirit beings today. This spiritual battle was unique to the first century saints. Having said that, let me say that I believe that we can find application of these verses in our lives today.
We are not fighting Satan, demons, or gods, but, as believers, we are in a battle. We fight to maintain our health, we fight to earn a living, we battle to maintain relationships, we battle with our own fleshly lusts; life is a struggle. And as Christians we battle the world view and regulations of non-believers. So I am certainly not saying that life is not a struggle, it is, but we (twenty first century believers) are not fighting against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, or against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. That battle was fought and won by our Lord Yeshua two thousand years ago.
Let's look at these verses and see if we can make applications to our lives today.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Ephesians 6:10 NASB
"Be strong" here is literally: "be continually strengthened." In the original text that's in the present tense. The passive verb suggests that we are not the ones who strengthen ourselves, but that we continually depend on the Lord to strengthen us.
The prepositional phrase, "in the Lord," denotes the sphere from which the strength comes; namely, in the Lord or in union with the Lord. Paul's command to be strong in the Lord rests on his first two chapters where he makes it clear what it means to be in the Lord. The phrase "in the Lord" refers to Christ, not to God, which is consistent throughout this Epistle.
We are strong only by the "strength of His might." As Paul taught earlier, that same power God wielded in the resurrection of Christ is being exercised for the benefit of those who are in Christ:
and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:19-20 NASB
The Greek here is "highly poetic," but he is essentially praying that the Christians might know something about the powerful force of the powerful power of God! Believers, our God Yahweh is omnipotent. The word means: "all-powerful," and refers to the fact that God's power is infinite and unlimited.
The strong Christian is one who has come to see more and more of his own weakness and propensity towards sin. That awareness drives him to depend all the more on the Lord's strength for any and everything.
While he was on the run from Saul, David had allied himself with the Philistine king and was about to go into battle against Saul and the forces of Israel when God intervened. David and his men were sent home from the battle. But they arrived to find their city burned with fire and their wives, children, and possessions taken captive by the Amalekites. At that point, David's men were so embittered that they were talking about stoning him:
Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 1 Samuel 30:6 NASB
The Lord graciously directed David to pursue the raiders and recover all of their families and goods.
That same strength that David depended upon is available to every Christian. You may be at your lowest point. You may be discouraged. It may seem that God's promises are not true. But no matter how much may seem to be against you, you can "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might."
We can have confidence to face pressure, adverse circumstances, and hostile powers knowing that God has put into our lives a power so strong that it raised Yeshua from the dead. This power is available to every person who is in Christ.
From start to finish, the Bible proclaims the mighty power of Yahweh. When fierce enemies threatened to annihilate His chosen people, time and again Yahweh provided deliverance. In one of the most dramatic instances, Sennacherib's army had Jerusalem surrounded. It looked like Israel was doomed. But in response to Hezekiah's prayer, Yahweh delivered His people:
Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. 2 Kings 19:35-36 NASB
Often throughout Scripture, Yahweh reminds His people of the obvious, that nothing is too difficult for Him (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:17, 27; Zech. 8:6; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; Rom. 4:21). Our strength comes from our dependance on our union with Him:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11 NASB
The words "of God" are genitives of origin, indication that God provides the armor. Please keep that in mind.
They are to put on the armor so they can "stand." "Stand" is a key word in this section. He repeats it in verses 11, 13, and 14. Also, the word "resist" (6:13) comes from a Greek compound word from the root, "to stand," meaning literally: "to stand against." It's a military term for holding on to a position that is under attack. Believers, I believe that we are to hold our position, we are to stand theologically against all attacks. And to stand we have to have on the armor of God.
Do you remember where Paul was when he was writing this letter ? Paul was in a prison in Rome as he writes this letter. And we know that he was in chains:
for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:20 NASB
So he was chained. And he had standing before him and around him a Roman soldier.
So many have suggested that Paul got the idea of putting on the full armor of God from the armor of the Roman soldier. That may be, but it also may be that he was thinking about Isaiah 11:5, which says of the Lord:
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. Isaiah 11:5 NASB
Or Isaiah 49:
He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. He said to Me, "You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory." Isaiah 49:2-3 NASB
Or, Isaiah 59:
He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. Isaiah 59:17 NASB
What do these texts from Isaiah have in common? If you're familiar with Isaiah, you will recognize immediately that Isaiah 11 is the great chapter of the Messianic king, and how he's going to come and establish his kingdom. Isaiah 49 is one of the great servant of Yahweh songs. And Isaiah 59 is a Messianic chapter, it has to do with Christ. All three passages, then, are passages that speak of the Lord Yeshua, the Christ as the warrior king of God.
The fact that he draws this description from the Old Covenant Messianic passages suggests that he's really thinking of Yeshua as the warrior, and we are in Him. And, therefore, we have His strength, His power, and His authority in the trials of life as we trust in Him.
The armor is just a graphic way of saying what Paul says in Romans 13:
But put on the Lord Yeshua the Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:14 NASB
In other words, Christ Himself is our armor. He is the belt of truth:
Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASB
He is our breastplate of righteousness:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB
He is the gospel of peace that we stand on:
But now in Christ Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, Ephesians 2:13-14 NASB
AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; Ephesians 2:17 NASB
He is the shield of our faith:
fixing our eyes on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 NASB
He is our helmet of salvation:
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Yeshua the Christ our Savior, Titus 3:5-6 NASB
He is our sword, the Word of God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 NASB
Yeshua is our full armor, capable of protecting us from every trial and situation we face:
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13 NASB
Here he talks about standing in the "evil day." The prepositional phrase "in the evil day" seems to be referring to a final cataclysmic satanic outbreak just prior to the second advent of Christ. Many commentators see "the evil day" are referring to the day in which we live. They see us as living in the "this age" of the Bible.
Commenting on this verse, one commentator says, "The word of God teaches that this world in which we live, the world into which we have been born, the world which we often call our home, is the Devil's realm. It is the place where the Devil holds sway. Indeed, we looked at the text, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 4, which reads: 'The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them'. To summarize it, it's saying: 'This world is his, he is the god of this planet'"!
He goes on to say, "This is the Devil's world! We hear sung: 'This is my Father's world'—no, it is the Devil's world. We must come to this conclusion—and this is important."
Are we living in the devil's world? No, in 2 Corinthians he is called the "god of this age" referring to the Old Covenant age. The evil day was the end times, the last days of the Old Covenant era:
who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:4 NASB
Yeshua came to rescue them from that age. That age and the reign of satan ended in AD 70 at the parousia of Christ. Notice what John wrote in Revelation:
Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." Revelation 11:15 NASB
Christ is ruling, and the devil has been defeated.
So I see Paul as saying the same thing in Ephesians 6 that he said in Romans 13. In Ephesians he calls it an "evil day," and in Romans Paul tells them to "know the time":
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. Romans 13:11 NASB
"Knowing the time"—as Schreiner puts it: "The eschatological dimension of the text surfaces with these words." The word for "time" has nothing to do with chronological time or calendars. It's the Greek term kairos that points to an event or an epoch or a significant happening, as in 12:2: "do not be conformed to this age," or as the Jews would say,"'the 'olam hazeh" Paul expects them to be familiar with the idea of the Old Age, which is passing away, and the New Age, which is dawning. They know the time. They know the evil of the last days:
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12 NASB
"The night is almost gone, and the day is near"—in the Second Temple period the Jews distinguish between two types of olam: olam hazeh (this world) and Olam Haba ("the world to come"). The "olam hazeh" or "this world" is characterized by darkness, wickedness, sin, and death. It is called "night." The "Olam Haba," or "the world to come," as it was called by the rabbis, was known as a time of joy, peace, light, eternity; it is known as "day."
He equates their salvation with the "day," which is referring to the New Covenant; the Old Covenant was "night," and it was about to pass away. The rabbis connected the Olam Haba and the resurrection. The "night" is the time when they were sleeping. The "day" is when they are raised.
"Put on the armor of light"—"the verb "put on" is ordinarily used of putting on clothes. I see putting on the armor of light as the same thing as putting on the armor of God, which is the same thing as putting on Chris:.
But put on the Lord Yeshua Ha'Moshiach, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:14 NASB
"Put on the Lord Yeshua Ha'Moshiach"—this is the heart of Paul's exhortation, this sums up all he has said from 12:1 thru 13:13. What does Paul mean by "put on Christ"? "Put on" here and in Ephesians 6:11, is from the Greek enduo, which means: "to put on clothes," or "envelope in." It has the idea of a garment which is wrapped around oneself, and the Greek word is used literally this way in a number of places in the New Testament. "A literary parallel to this use of 'put on' is quoted from Dionysius of Halicarnassus' Roman Antiquities 11.5, where 'to put on Tarquin' means: 'to play the part of Tarquin.'" Bruce, p. 229.
Enduo in Ephesians 6:11 and Romans 13:14 is an aorist imperative middle. An aorist imperative calls for a specific, definite, decisive choice: "Do this now, at once, once for all." The middle voice indicates the subject performs an action upon himself or herself. So believers are called to once and for all put Christ on as a garment, to play the part of Yeshua. Paul is saying, "Become like Yeshua Christ, act like Him. Put on Yeshua Ha'Moshiach when you get up in the morning. Make Him a part of your life that day."
Notice what Paul says in Galatians:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27 NASB
"Clothed" here is also enduo, but here is an aorist indicative middle, which simply states a thing as being a FACT. Believers have clothed themselves in Christ at salvation.
How can Ephesians 6:11 and Romans 13:14 say to believers to put on Christ when Galatians 3:27 says that we have put on Christ at salvation? I believe that Galations is talking about our position, where Romans and Ephesians are talking about practice. At salvation every believer puts on Christ in the sense that we receive His righteousness:
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:5 NASB
For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NASB
When you trusted in Christ, you received His righteousness. God declared you righteous in Christ, because positionally you are in Christ. You became united with Christ and share all He is and has.
In Ephesians 6:11 and Romans 13:14, Paul is talking to believers, he is not telling them to get saved and put on Christ's righteousness in a positional sense. In this text putting on Christ is an exhortation. Those who are positionally righteous are to practically act like it. We are to play the part of Christ. You are to live like Him, act like Him, put Him on. Many believers do not look like Christ, but we are all supposed to. When the world looks at you, they should see Him. How can we do this? Let's look at the different pieces of armor that Paul lists and see what we can learn from them:
Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, Ephesians 6:14 NASB
The clothing of the Israelites of old was not like our own. The men did not wear pants, sport coats, or suits. They wore garments which were much less form-fitting. Their garments not only were draped over their bodies, they went almost to the ground. If a man were going to run, he would first have to gather up his garment and tuck it into his belt or sash, so that he would not stumble and fall. Girding the loins was the first step in preparing for vigorous activity, which involved the feet.
In the soldier's armor, it is the belt that holds the rest of the items in place; likewise, truth holds everything together in our Christian walk. Without the truth that God has revealed in Scripture, there would be no righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation for us to "put on."
Our priority must be to gain knowledge of the truth. Since God reveals truth to us through the words of Scripture, we must pursue theological and biblical studies to construct the foundation of our spiritual life. As we increase in our knowledge of and
commitment to truth, we become increasingly protected from deception.
The late philosophy professor, Allan Bloom, began his best-seller, The Closing of the American Mind (Simon and Schuster, 1987), stating (p. 25):
There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2+2=4. These are things you don't think about.
He goes on to point out that although these students may be varied in backgrounds and religious beliefs, they are unified in their allegiance to relativism and equality. The danger they fear from those who hold to absolute truth is not error, but intolerance. And tolerance is the supreme virtue that our educational system has inculcated for many decades. Bloom says (p. 26), "The point is not to correct the mistakes [of the past] and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all."
Bloom was not a Christian. He was a Jewish philosopher at a secular university who was pointing out the absurdity of intellectual relativism. It effectively shuts down rational discourse, education, and all attempts to improve society by resolving problems. But it is firmly entrenched in our educational system and in our society at large. If we throw out the idea of absolute truth, we are also discarding absolute standards of morality.
This is not just a problem of the unsaved. A study by George Barna in the early 1990's showed that while only 28 percent of the general population expressed strong belief in absolute truth, among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, the number dropped to 23 percent!
Commentators line up on both sides of the question of whether truth here refers to God's truth as revealed in His Word or the truthfulness and integrity of the believer. I believe that it refers to both! The armor is a metaphor for Yeshua the Christ. He is the truth, and we are to play the part of Christ.
Paul referred to the Bible and its central message, the Gospel, as "the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Therefore, any deviation from God's Word is error or falsehood. Clearly, God communicated the truth of His Word in written, propositional statements that may be understood. The emerging Church movement rejects this and opts for a story-telling approach to the Bible. But in the process they make many false propositional statements about the propositional statements in the Bible.
We must hold firmly to the idea of God and His Word as absolutely true in every culture and in every age. As Gordon Clark wrote, "Since God is truth, a contempt for truth is equally a contempt for God."
How do we stand against the blatant attack on the morality of the Bible? How do we guard ourselves from falling into the moral relativism and tolerance of our degraded culture? Gird yourself with the belt of God's absolute, unchanging truth.
THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The breastplate covered the soldier from his neck to his waist, front and back. Thus it protected his heart and other vital organs. In Hebrew thought, the heart represented the mind and will, and the bowels were the seat of the emotions. Thus the breastplate of righteousness protects the believer's mind, will, and emotions.
The Christian is a righteous person, not because of his good works, but because he has been justified by God through faith in the work of Yeshua the Christ. This knowledge gives us the basis on which we can resist anything that tries to undermine our confidence in approaching God. Christians sometimes sin, but God has provided a solution for sins.
and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; Ephesians 6:15 NASB
Roman soldiers, in order to have facility of motion, were in the habit of putting on shoes that were thickly studded with sharp nails. Shoes give stability.
This is not talking about evangelism. Paul states, "having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace," not "having shod the feet with the proclamation of the gospel of peace." And the context here is about defensive, not offensive armor. The idea here is that believers are prepared to stand against attacks because they are firmly grounded in the gospel of peace. The gospel of peace gives believers tranquility of the mind and security of the heart.
in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16 NASB
"Shield" is thyreon, and Wood writes as follows: "Thyreon is derived from thyra (a door) and refers to the large oblong or oval scutum the Roman soldier held in front of him for protection. It consisted of two layers of wood glued together, covered with linen and hide, and bound with iron. Soldiers often fought side by side with a solid wall of shields. But even a single-handed combatant found himself sufficiently protected. For the Christian this protective shield is faith (pistis).
Believers, we are to trust in Yahweh our God. We are to trust Him in every situation we face. Our life is to be one of walking in faith.
And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17 NASB
By helmet, he means that the biblical truths about salvation is meant to protect the mind. Our understanding of the salvation we have in Christ and our justification by Christ serves to guard our conscience against doubts and fears. Doctrine protects the mind as a helmet protects the head.
The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, not our beliefs about the Word of God. By telling us to take up the sword, Paul is telling us to believe and apply it. He is calling his readers to take possession of the biblical doctrines and identify with them.
Paul uses a term here for the Word, which is probably a reference to an individual text. It's probably a reference to a particular word. Rema is distinguished from logos in that way. Now if we don't store up the Word of God in our minds, how can we have a word from God?
Believers, for us the satanic battle is ove,r because Messiah has come and was victorious over evil. But as believers we are still to "put on the armor of God" or "put on the Lord Yeshua the Christ." Paul is saying, "Become like Yeshua the Christ, act like Him." We are to play the part of Yeshua. We are to put Him on when we get up in the morning. Make Him a part of your life that day." If we do this, we will stand as Christians in the midst of a culture that is antagonistic to all we believe. We will be able to deal with trials and temptations. We will be victorious over all that we face in life.
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