By Sam E. Stone
Today we complete this quarter’s survey of practical help for Christian living. Having considered such themes as worship, prayer, and stewardship, we now focus on the reality of the believer’s battle with the devil.
William Hendriksen pointed out Paul’s emphasis on the source of power for believers: “Apart from Christ, Christians can accomplish nothing at all (John 15:1-5). They are like branches severed from the vine. On the other hand, in close fellowship with their Lord they can do whatever they need to do: ‘I can do all things in him who infuses strength into me’” (Philippians 4:13).
The Christian’s Conflict
Paul just completed giving careful instructions for various groups of people in the Ephesus church—spouses, parents, and children (chapters 5 and 6). As he described their responsibility both for hard work and holy living, he reminded them of the divine help that is available.
He compared the church to an army and indicated that their spiritual protection came from the Lord. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. The believer’s enemy is the devil himself. He is constantly working to trap and hold captive all people (1 Peter 5:8). The demons follow Satan, not God. They join with the powers of this dark world . . . the spiritual forces of evil.
Preparation for Battle
Preparing to do battle with the devil requires that we put on the full armor of God. Paul used this illustration in writing to the Roman Christians as well (Romans 13:12). “Stand your ground” is the challenge for all who fight Satan. Bible students point out that Paul was under the watchful eye of a Roman soldier as he wrote these lines. Undoubtedly Paul often saw the guard putting on each piece of equipment as he prepared for his daily responsibilities. Francis Foulkes noted, “The order in which the pieces of armor are described is the order in which the soldier would put them on.”
Around his waist the soldier would buckle the belt of truth. This includes not only the content of our faith, but how we live it out each day. The breastplate was a large leather or metal covering designed to protect the soldier in case of a frontal assault. The righteousness which it illustrates includes that which is given by God’s amazing grace, as well as the holy living he expects from his children (Isaiah 59:17). Proper protective covering for the soldier’s feet is also essential. Paul then mentioned the shield of faith—meaning not just our beliefs, but also our trust in the Lord. The helmet of salvation has a key role in protecting a person in times of warfare. The one offensive weapon carried by the Christian soldier is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Hendriksen added, “The underlying figure is that of the short sword, the one carried and wielded by the heavily armed Roman soldier. With it he not only defended himself, but sallied forth into the ranks of the enemy and won victories.”
Even when one has the best protective gear and the most powerful offensive weapon, something more is needed. Prayer! Pray in the Spirit on all occasions . . . and keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Michael Weed added, “The exhortation to prayer, alertness, and perseverance . . . calls to mind Jesus’ words to his disciples in Gethsemane: ‘watch and pray’ (Mark 13:33; 14:38; 1 Corinthians 16:13; cf. Colossians 4:2). Obviously the terms are also appropriate for the military metaphor.”
As he often did, Paul requested prayers for himself as well. Under house arrest in Rome, he faced all sorts of difficulties. He didn’t ask his readers to pray for his freedom, however, but rather for his faithfulness! While he prayed for the churches, he constantly asked their prayers for him (Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).
E. K. Simpson concluded this about Paul: “Shackled in body, he yearns for enfranchisement of spirit, the outspokenness and liberty from constraint which heartens every genuine preacher of the word. Though he is an ambassador of the heavenly kind, he has been made a prisoner. He knows, however, that this does not relieve him of his responsibility to God and the gospel.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.