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Eph 6,10-20 Spiritual Warfare and the Armor of God

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Spiritual Warfare and the Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

11 Put on the full armor of God

so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,

but against the rulers, against the authorities,

against the powers of this dark world

and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,

so that when the day of evil comes,

you may be able to stand your ground,

and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then,

with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

15 and with your feet fitted

with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

16 In addition to all this,

take up the shield of faith,

with which you can extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation

and the sword of the Spirit,

which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions

with all kinds of prayers and requests.

With this in mind, be alert

and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19 Pray also for me,

that whenever I open my mouth,

words may be given me

so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

20 for which I am an ambassador in chains.

Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

 

Last week I was watching an interview on TV

       where retired Israeli Defence Chief Yaalon Moshe

       was giving his views on the situation in the Middle East.

He suggested that we are in the midst of a global conflict.

World War III is already underway, he said.

There is widespread disagreement about this,

       but an increasing number of people believe

that September 11, 2001 was the event

       that provoked and set in motion World War III.

Moshe commented that Terrorism is active

       in all parts of the world:

       in North America, Europe, the Middle East,

Sout-East Asia, and even Latin America.

This is a conflict that spans all continents,

       And all countries involved form a coalition

       To fight against a common enemy – namely terrorism.

In the media we hear such expressions as “war on terror”,

       And those of you who have travelled recently

       Have felt the impact of this global conflict.

In his “State of the Union Address” in January 2002

       President George Bush identified the countries of

       Irak, Iran & North Korea as the “Axis of Evil” –

       To describe regimes that sponsor terrorism

       And seek weapons of mass destruction.

Almost daily reports of suicide-bombers

       and attempts to blow up airplanes

leave us with a sense that Satan is on the loose.

We have a clear sense that we no longer live

in a Christian world…

       and that the world we live in does not hold to the values

       and beliefs of the Christian faith of a generation ago.

Only ask your children and grandchildren, our young people,

       who have no choice but to work on Sundays…

       and who sit next to Hindu and Muslim kids in a school

where to recite the Lord’s prayer

       is against the law.

In many ways, as Christians we live in Exile…

We are people of God

       who live in a foreign land…

From the Word of God we know that

our homeland is not in this world…

And for us,

       Homeland Security does not mean

that we carry weapons to protect ourselves

from those who want to overtake us.

For us, Homeland Security is the Promise of Eternal Life

       that we have in Jesus Christ.

Our Kingdom is not of this world.

       and yet we live in the world

       that stands against the values of God.

One of the questions that we wrestle with as Christians today is,

       How shall we live as people of God

       in a world that wages war against us?

And where is God in all of this anyway?

What is the role of the Church

in an era that is no longer Church-friendly?

Will our children and grandchildren stand fast in the war

       that rages for the soul?

In the book of Ephesians Paul writes

That the church might understand better

       what God is up to in the world.

He explains to the church the eternal purposes of God

       so that they will embrace the grace and hope

       and see the high goals that God has for the church.

The letter starts with a sequence of God’s blessings,

       expressions of God’s wisdom,

       forethought and purpose for the world.

Paul emphasises that we have been saved,

       for our own benefit

       and also to praise and honor God.

The climax of God’s purpose (1:10),

       “when the times will have reached their fulfillment”,

       is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ.

Through the church

       God wants to bring everything under the sun

       together under Christ.

God wants to reconcile us as individuals with Himself

       as an act of grace and love.

God has also reconciled former enemies to each other.

Christ broke down the barriers that separate us from God.

And God invites the church to be his partner

in bringing down barriers

so that all things will be brought together under Christ.

And, God has done even more…

       He has reconciled and brought together former enemies

       into one body – the church –

       to be His partners in bringing in His Kingdom.

This is a great mystery.

       It is indeed a mystery that we cannot understand;

       how Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians

       can worship and serve the same Lord and Christ.

It is even more mysterious how today

       people who formerly were from different cultures

and world religions

       can come together under Christ.

It is through the Church that God demonstrates

       his “manifold wisdom”

       to the “rulers and authorities” in the “heavenly realms”.

It is in the power of the Cross,

       which is foolishness to the Greeks

       and a stumbling block to the Jews

       that God’s infinite wisdom finds expression.

God gave a variety of Gifts and equipped the church

       for works of service out of love for Christ Jesus.

These gifts enable the church to minister

       and be a witness in the world in which we live.

And it is in exercising those gifts and serving one another

       in the name of the Lord

       that we gain maturity in the faith.

Paul also shares practical ways to fulfill God’s purpose

       in the church.

A sign that God is alive and active in the church

       is when brothers and sisters

live together in peace and harmony

when people from different backgrounds and understandings

love and serve each other

not because they have so much in common

but because they have Jesus Christ in common.

The Reign of God in Jesus Christ is evident

       in all sorts of human relationships as well…

       in the way husbands and wives relate to each other…

       in the way parents love their children

and children respect and honor their parents

in the way masters treat their slaves

and slaves serve their masters.

As Paul shares with the Ephesians

       he makes a clear and unapologetic statement

       that we are at war in the world.

And not only that,

       our struggle is not against an enemy that we can see

       and size up and defeat easily in our own power.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood,

       but against the principalities and powers…

against the powers of this dark world

and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The ruler of this world is non other than Satan himself.

The early Christians knew that they lived in a world

       that was not friendly towards them.

Rome held a heavy hand of oppression over the early Christians.

Many were persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith.

And for many Christ-followers then, as it is now,

       it was very tempting

       to fight violence with violence.

The closing verses here in Ephesians

       speak about going to battle…

       they speak about fighting with all our might

       against a mortal enemy.

They speak about finding strength in the Spiritual Conflict

       in which we stand.

The image doubtlessly inspires some people to act in God’s name

to rid the world of its enemies.

We are all guilty of placing people into categories

as friends or enemies…

we set up barriers of discrimination and hate

across the whole world.

So, Paul’s imagery of doing Spiritual battle is quite dangerous

and it can easily get out of hand in our minds.

A close look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians

       tells us that God is not interested in destroying the Hezbollah

       or conquering the oilfields of Irak.

Before we jump to those conclusions,

we must look at the message of Ephesians.

Ephesians is about reconciliation and love,

the overcoming of racial and religious barriers,

the overcoming of social and economic differences,

the overcoming of unhealthy dynamics in family life –

between husbands and wives, parents and children,

between employers and their employees.

The message of Ephesians is that through the Cross of Christ

       the manifold wisdom of God is manifest.

The Cross, if you remember,

       is not a symbol of military might

       and violent power to subdue the enemy.

The Cross is a symbol of weakness and defeat and foolishness

       according to human standards.

But, according to God – it is wisdom!

       It is self-sacrificing love.

Ephesians celebrates the overcoming of powers

that destroy relationships

and bringing former enemies together in peace and hope.

The strategy to overcome these barriers

is to use the whole armor of God – God’s secret weapon.

Standing in Christ's shoes, as it were,

we reach out to people not to strike them

or push them away,

but to bring them the fulness of God's goodness,

which is God's great plan:

filling the world with love…

overcoming evil with good.

The role of the principalities and powers

       under the control of Satan, is to set up barriers…

       to divide and conquer…

       to fill us with doubt and disbelief…

       to convince us that we can overcome violence with violence.

The threat is real!

And the enemy is very real!

And for that reason,

       the follower of Christ needs to have a strategy

       to be able to stand against the attacks of the devil.

This is the armor of God.

This is the gear that we need to go into battle:

14 Stand firm…

with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness

that comes from the gospel of peace.

16 In addition to all this,

take up the shield of faith,

with which you can extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Did you notice how the armour is in a sense

disarming the destructive dynamics which threaten humanity.

Truth is one of the first casualties of hate.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation

of a just society.

It is generally some kind of unfairness, injustice or unrighteousness

that provokes conflicts in the home,

at the workplace,

and between nations.

Micah 6:8 has it right,

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God.

Further, the feet move not to march in war

but to bear the good news of peace,

like the prophet says in Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful on the mountains
       are the feet of those who bring good news,
       who proclaim peace,
       who bring good tidings,
       who proclaim salvation,
       who say to Zion,
       "Your God reigns!"

 

Another part of the Armor of God,

Faith is as much about faithfulness and trust and obedience

as it is about belief.

It’s about trusting that God is in control.

Salvation is the strong sense of security and hope,

of being sheltered in God’s grace,

and the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

This is the basis for our trust in God.

The sword as the a word of God

cuts through all the lies of the devil.

As Christians

who have been brought together into the body of Christ,

we have a place in God’s plan to bring everthing under Christ

when the time has reached its fullness.

We are called to get involved in the battle that rages on

in the heavenly realms…

to challenge the structures of injustice,

to break down the barriers and obstacles

that divide peoples and nations.

May we find strength in this struggle,

       that Jesus has already won the final victory

       and that he will reign forever.

Glory be to the Lamb that was slain!

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