1 Ephesians 6:10-18
Stephen Caswell © 2004
A letter from a missionary out in the jungles of New Guinea writing to his friends at home caught the nature of spiritual warfare: Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn’t waste time on a lukewarm bunch. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back.
When you’re on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No sir! That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah! The old fellow’s getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. Will he stick with it? And as they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We’re not going to run away. We’re going to stand.
Spiritual warfare was a part of the Christian life in the early church and it is just as relevant today. Many of the Ephesians were saved out of the occult and would have experienced first hand the power of God in setting them free. It was in Ephesus that the sons of Sceva a Jewish chief priest tried to exorcise a spirit from a possessed man. They were overcome by the man, or should I say the spirit in the man. So Paul instructs believers how to be victorious over Satan. He answers the question, Can Christians stand against the wiles of the devil? We will see: 1. Our Accessories, 2. Our Adversary, 3. Our Armor 4. Our Assistance
A wise soldier examines his enemy and his methods of attack before the battle. He studies his own weapons and plans the warfare beforehand. Likewise, Christians need to study their adversary and learn about him and his methods of attack. They need to know about their armor and how to use it in the battle.
1. Our Accessories - Power, Protection & Purpose
Ephesians 6:10-11: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
a. Power ... Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
The Lord doesn’t command us to be strong in ourselves, but in Him. We must draw strength from God. The words be strong ἐνδυναμόω mean to be empowered, enabled, made strong. The word power κράτος means the force needed to overcome resistance. God empowers us through Christ in us. The word might ἰσχύς carries the idea of inherent strength, or an unlimited reserve of power. God has made available to us all the power we need. We just have to draw on it by faith! This command is in the present continuous tense. Paul commands believers to be constantly strengthened by the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you do this every day? We should!
Illustration of a match tied to a nail. We must resist in God's strength. Submit to his rule. James 4:7: Therefore submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.
b. Protection.... Put on the whole armor of God.
The second command Paul gives is to put on the whole armor of God. The words put on ἐνδύω mean to clothe yourself. It means to get dressed. Paul commands us to do this. This is our responsibility, not God's. The Lord provides the armor, but commands us to put it on. We do this by prayer and faith. Some may feel that the armor spoken of here is only a metaphor and should not be considered as real. But why then does Paul command us to do something that is impossible? He repeats the command in verse 13 and then describes the armor in detail. What does the armor look like? Where does it go? It is described as the Armor of God and is therefore of heavenly origin and design. The warfare we are involved is of a spiritual nature. Therefore we place this spiritual armor on our spirit to defeat a spiritual foe like the devil.
A good example of this is found in 1 Samuel 17:43-47. So the Philistine [Goliath] said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field! Then David said to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a shield. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
Goliath cursed David by his gods or demons. David's strength and protection came from the Lord. He fought against Goliath by faith claiming God's power and victory. He withstood Goliath in the Lord’s Name. Make no mistake, this was spiritual warfare.
c. Purpose.... that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Illustration of a Chess Game
I used to play chess at school. To play well you need to be able to think and plan many moves ahead. You would try to work out what your opponent would do and then counterattack. A great deal of planning and strategy was involved before every move. Satan plans his attack in a similar way. Paul says the purpose for the armor is to enable us to stand against the devil's wiles. The word wiles means cunning or craftiness. Satan plans and schemes to make us stumble. He is an expert strategist, and without God's word, power and armor we will always lose.
Satan uses many weapons such as pride, lust, fear and deception. 1 Peter 5:8-10: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 2 Corinthians 11:3: But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:14: And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. He comes to us in many forms, like a lion seeking to devour, like a serpent seeking to deceive, and like an angel of light seeking to distract us from Christ. Do you pray for God’s strength and protection every day? You should! Without the Lord’s provision for battle we will be defeated!
2. Our Adversary - Principalities & Powers
Illustration of Wrestling
Have you ever watched world wrestling? I reckon that it’s rigged. All the same the idea is to get the opponent pinned down so that he cannot move. The word wrestling, πάλη, means hand to hand combat. The idea in ancient games was to hurl your opponent down and keep him down so that he couldn't move. This is the same sort of struggle that believers engage in. Before you go into battle it is wise to study the enemy and find out his strengths and weaknesses. Satan has 6000 years of experience. God has listed our enemies. There are four main categories.
Ephesians 6:12 says: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The first thing we observe is that they are not human forces. Mankind is not our enemy. Evil men are merely the pawns of Satan. Rather our enemy is the spiritual forces that dwell in the heavenly places. These forces have rank and organization.
The first rank of spiritual beings we wrestle against are princes ἀρχή or rulers. Satan is referred to as the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2. He has many high ranking demons working for him. In Daniel 10:20 we read of the princes of Persia and Greece who resisted Gabriel as he was bringing a message from the Lord to Daniel. These princes exercised great influence over the countries of Persia and Greece. Nevertheless God rules over them and He also has powerful beings, elect angels working for Him.
The second rank is called powers ἐξουσία and relates to the leading and more powerful spirit beings. They are superior to men in strength and wisdom. These are bellow principalities in rank but nevertheless are more than able to defeat believers who do not rely on the Lord's strength.
c. Rulers Of The Darkness Of This Age
The third rank is the rulers κοσμοκράτωρ of the darkness of this age. These fallen angels have certain parts of the cosmos under their sway. They have authority only in this age since Christ will confine all rebels to the lake of fire in the eternal age.
d. Spiritual Hosts Of Wickedness In The Heavenly Places
This final rank, spiritual wickedness in high places, πνευματικός πονηρία, embraces the entire system. These beings cooperate to promote wickedness and rebellion on the earth. Their sphere of activity is in the heavenly places. Satan is called the prince of the power of the air.
Give Satan Credit
We may not pay [Satan] reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person who has, for untold centuries, maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. -- Mark Twain.
Only when believers use God’s power and protection can they be victorious against Satan. Do you know the enemy? Are you aware of his schemes? Are you standing in God's power?
3. Our Armor - Preparation & Placement
Defense Against Attack
One of every 400,000 babies is born each year with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease, or SCID, a disease that leaves the child with no body-chemistry defenses to fight infection from the germs that constantly attack one’s body. For such children, life is often short and always filled with danger. In a similar manner, the Christian who is not protected by the armor of God is defenseless against the attacks of the flesh, the world, and Satan. Sin, like an infection, can eat its way into his life because he has no defense against it.
Ephesians 6:13 says: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Before entering into combat we are responsible to prepare ourselves. We must take up the whole armor, πανοπλία of God. This refers to a full suit of armor including helmet, sword and shield. A soldier put his armor on every time he was going into battle. Here Paul tells us to take up the armor and carry it into the battle. We need to use the armor every time we go into battle or we will get hurt. 2 Corinthians 10:4: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
These resources are given to us so that we can stand. The word stand is used in verses 11, 13 and 14. God desires that we should stand. This is the purpose of using God's protection. Sometimes it will require all we have to just stand. But this is what we must do. And having done all we are still standing! Believers must be ready at all times for the attacks of the adversary. We never know when he is about to attack, but we know he will. So, we must be clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 13:12-14: The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Illustration of Holding a castle
In medieval times people lived in castles for safety. To conquer a walled city was no easy task. It usually required a siege. The people in the city had quite an advantage over those trying to break in. They already had the ground and were well fortified. This is true of believers who stand in Christ's victory. We don't fight for victory but from victory! When we stand in Christ's power Satan has to advance against the Lord and is defeated. This is why we need God's resources. God doesn't give us the armor to advance against Satan but simply to stand firm. The enemy has to come to us and attempt to take the ground we have been given. Are you standing firm?
Ephesians 6:14-17 says: Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Each piece of armor has an important role, or covers some vital area, like the heart or the mind. Paul commands believers to stand with their armor on. Paul is talking about standing in readiness for battle. The soldier must live in anticipation of going into battle.
1. Stand therefore having girded your waist with truth
Why is the belt of truth listed with the armor? This is because in ancient times Roman soldiers used a belt to hold their tunic and clothing firmly in place. Without it soldiers could not move freely and would get their sword entangled in their clothing. The belt of truth gives the believer unity and consistency of character. The Lord Jesus Christ is truth. The truth sets believers free but lies bind us. Therefore truth should be the virtue that holds our lives together. Do you display truth in your life? Lying and hypocrisy only weaken a believer’s character.
2. and put on the breastplate of righteousness
The next piece of armor we are to put on is the breastplate, θώραξ, of righteousness. The breastplate protected the heart and vital organs of the soldier. It was made of metal plates or chains covering the body from the neck to the waist both front and back. This symbolizes both the believers righteousness in Christ and righteous life in Christ. The breastplate protects the believers heart from Satan's attacks. Is Christ your righteousness? Is your heart protected from Satan's temptations and accusations by Christ's righteousness? It needs to be!
3. and having prepared your feet with the gospel of peace
Roman soldiers wore sandals with spikes or nails in the sole. The nails provided sure footing for the soldier enabling him to stand firm during the battle. The gospel of peace is the solid footing that every believer needs to stand on during the conflict. The Gospel of peace gives us a calmness during the conflict. An assurance we can win. This helps us to fight effectively. Do you stand on the Gospel of peace?
4. above all take up the shield of faith by which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
Roman soldiers used very large shields in comparison to the Greek and Egyptian shields. They were four feet long by two and one half feet wide. They were overlaid with linen and leather and then dipped in water so that they could absorb the fiery arrows shot at them by the enemy. Believers are commanded to take up the shield, θυρεός of faith. This is so that they can carry it into battle. The faith described here is not saving faith but living faith. We must trust God and resist temptation through faith. The Lord has given us promises to overcome Satan's temptations through faith. Are you overcoming Satan's fiery temptations through faith in God?
5. And take the helmet of salvation
Take up the helmet περικεφαλαία of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. These weapons were usually the last pieces of armor a soldier picked up before going into the battle. The helmet worn by a Roman soldier was made of bronze with leather attachments. It protected the soldiers mind and therefore was very important. Satan attacks the believers mind so that he can lead him astray. Christians need the assurance of salvation protecting their mind.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We need to protect our mind with God's word. Do you have your mind protected by the Lord's salvation? Do you have His assurance? You can, by studying God's word. Truth exposes and defeats error.
6. And the sword of the Spirit
The Roman soldier had a sharp 2 edged sword, μάχαιρα, that he used in close combat. This is what is referred to here. Paul calls it the sword of the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who both gave it and uses it. This is the only attacking weapon that God has given the believer. It is also referred to as the word of God. Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
This is not the word logos, λόγος, commonly used for word. Logos refers to the body of truth that God has revealed to men. The word rhema, ῥῆμα, means a fitting word for the situation. An appropriate word drawn from the complete Scriptures. Jesus demonstrated this so ably against the devil in the wilderness. He chose specific Scriptures and put Satan to flight.
When we are tempted we should follow Christ's example and use the word to overcome Satan. This means we need to study the word of God and know it. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God are powerful weapons. Are you putting on the armor of God each day? Do you use God's word to overcome temptation? Do you know the word so that you can apply it appropriately? The armor is available to us through Jesus Christ. Let us use it!
4. Our Assistance – Perseverance & Prayer
Ephesians 6:18 says: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints --
Prayer is vital, since it keeps us in communication with our heavenly commander. We are to observe the enemies attacks and pray accordingly. This requires diligence or we will let down our comrades in arms. Prayer is linked to the command to stand in verse 14. In fact prayer enables us to stand.
a. Praying ......at all times, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit
You might ask, What has prayer got to do with standing firm in battle? It has everything to do with victory on the battlefield. It’s as we pray generally for the conflict and specifically for our needs that our Heavenly Captain sends in reinforcements. Believers obtain the Lord's strength, power and might through prayer. It is by prayer that we put on the armor of God each day. It is by prayer that we ask God for victory of the evil one in our warfare. Prayer is not just expedient for spiritual warfare, it is vital for success! See How Christ commanded us to pray for deliverance from the evil one! Matthew 6:13: And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
b. Watching .... therefore with all perseverance and prayer for all the saints
But God also wants us to watch out for our fellow soldiers on the battlefield so that we can pray specifically. Like advance army scouts we are to observe the conflict and pray for our comrades. We should ask God to send reinforcements where needed. The Lord Jesus emphasized this.
Matthew 26:40-41: Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Illustration of Moses and the Battle against the Amelekites Exodus 17:8-16
Exodus 17 describes a battle between in Israel and the Amelekites at Rephidim. Joshua led the army of Israel against Amalek in the conflict. Israel overcame the enemy as long as Moses lifted up his hands to God signifying reliance upon Him through prayer. Both aspects are needed in the spiritual warfare. Prayer enables the soldiers of Christ to draw on God's power and protection. Fighting the good fight of faith then follows prayer to God! Both are needed for victory.
Do you pray each day before the battle? Do you look out for wounded soldiers and pray for them? Do you intercede for those who are struggling on the front line in ministry?
We are involved in a spiritual battle and therefore need the Lord's provisions. God has given us Accessories, power and protection. He has described our Adversary, principalities and powers. He has given us the Armor of God. We also have God’s Assistance through prayer.
Stand up For Jesus
Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
Stand in His strength alone:
The arm of flesh will fail you-
Ye dare not trust your own
Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
Romans 16:20: Now the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.