The scholar Oscar Cullmann distinguished Good Friday from the Second Coming with an analogy. He likened Calvary to D-Day and the Second Coming to V-Day. D-Day was a decisive battle in WWII when the allied forces stormed Normandy, France. That battle was the beginning of the end for Hitler’s forces. But the war was not over that day. There would be many skirmishes until victory could be secured. That is not unlike our text today. On Calvary’s hill, Jesus had already won the decisive battle with sin, death, and the devil. But the final victory had not yet been secured. Today Christians live in the tension of the now (saved and sanctified) and the not yet (new Heaven and new earth).
Following the church section (4:1-16), the ethical section (4:17—5:21), and the household section (5:22—6:9) of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the apostle taught about how to wage war against the defanged dragon. The final section deals with spiritual warfare and the skirmishes against our defeated enemy.
If believers win against Satan it will be because they found wherein their strength lies. The phrase “Be strong” means “to be clothed with.” The same words translate the first phrase of 6:11, “Put on.” Christians must be clothed with strength from God to put up a valiant fight with the accuser of the brethren. Two significant prepositional phrases locate where this strength is found: “in the Lord” and “in his mighty power.” Too many times followers of Jesus try to fight the enemy in the power of the flesh instead of in God’s power. Even Jesus himself knew better than this (Matthew 4:1-11).
Know the Enemy
Ephesians 6:11, 12
Paul called Christians to stand against the devil’s schemes (i.e. methods) by putting on the armor of God. Paul developed the particulars of this in later verses. In these verses Paul reminded believers that our struggle (this is the only time in the New Testament where this word occurs) is unique. The enemy is not neighbors, government, or the church down the street. Those are small potatoes. The enemy exists in the heavenly realms—not flesh and blood (human). The enemy is unseen and spiritual in nature. The enemy works through a four-fold force: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil. Do we know the enemy’s “methods?” Do we know his “mind” (2 Corinthians 2:11)?
If we are to be successful in fighting the enemy, we must avail ourselves of the armor that God provides. Paul used a different expression for put on this time. The phrase means “take up.” Christians are take up their armor to stand (i.e. to the point of resistance) “when” the day of evil comes.
Paul might have been looking through the door of his Roman house prison (Acts 28), watching the Roman soldier who was guarding him, when he wrote these words. Perhaps he compared the pieces of armor of that Roman soldier to the experience of spiritual warfare for believers. He connected six pieces of armor with six qualities of the Christian life. Truth was like the soldier’s belt. A belt holds a person together. Righteousness was like the breastplate. God’s standards protect the heart. Peace was compared to the soldier’s shoes. They equipped the soldier to evangelize (see Romans 10:15). Faith was like the shield. The shield (often made of leather and immersed in water before battle so as to douse flaming arrows from the enemy) could protect the entire life. Salvation was like the helmet. The mind of Christ had to be protected for thinking through God’s deliverance. Finally, the Word of God was likened to the sword of the Spirit. The only offensive weapon of the armor was what the believers used in battle. Putting on those six qualities each day will ensure victory.
Pray Like Crazy
Since prayer was not mentioned as part of the six pieces of armor, Paul drew down on it in closing. Christians are to pray in the Spirit. Kenneth Taylor had this right by translating it, “Ask God for anything within the Holy Spirit’s wishes” (Living Bible). Christians are to pray on all occasions (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Christians are to use different types of prayers. Christians are to pray by interceding for the saints. Christians are to pray for church leaders—Paul even requested prayer for himself. Christians are to pray for boldness (translated, fearlessly) so that the revealed secret of God (gospel) will be made known.
The battle is won but skirmishes remain. May we be like Winston Churchill when he said, “There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without success.”
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.