Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers understand what spiritual warfare is, strategies to engage biblically in spiritual warfare, and how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

maxresdefaultEphesians 6:10-20 is a battle cry from the Apostle Paul written originally to addresses spiritual issues at the Church at Ephesus. The principles inculcated within this passage of Scripture are timeless and should be fully integrated into the life of the modern believer. Subsumed within Paul’s commentary is a comprehensive overview of spiritual warfare with the presentation of the battle that rages clearly outlined as a spiritual confrontation with eternal consequences between the people of God and Satan’s minions. As noted by author Warren Wiersbe, “sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is – apart from the Lord.”[1] Thus, Paul’s discussion of spiritual warfare is replete with various methods by which Christians can “fight the good fight of faith” as noted in 1 Timothy 6:12. These methods are described in a warrior motif with spiritual battle armor provided by God as the method by which this spiritual warfare is to be properly waged against the enemy.

Perhaps most important is the applicatory nature of this passage and the urgency by which Paul endorses persistent engagement of the enemy through the weapons of spiritual warfare provided to the believer by God to include an active prayer life. Paul admonishes believers to utilize the full armor of God in order to effectively withstand the incessant spiritual barrage which they will daily confront. Without this armor, the Christian, both in the context of Paul’s era and the modern one, can easily fall prey to the wiles of the adversary.

Paul begins Ephesians 6:10-20 with the word “finally.” This word indicates that the final section of Ephesians is built upon the preceding chapters where Paul presented a thorough outline for unity within the church. As noted by theologian A. Skevington Wood, “the body of Christ must be united and built up so as to be ready for the inevitable encounter with evil.”[2] Now that Paul has provided the modality by which the body of Christ could be unified, he then provides an enchiridion of spiritual warfare complete with a depiction of the method and weaponry by which believers can engage the enemy.

The metaphor of the armor of God utilized by Paul in Ephesians 6 connotes a fully armed, well-trained warrior. Of particular note is the method by which Paul contrasts a typical Roman soldier to the average believer. Theologian Michael Gudorf avers that the Greek word πάλη (palē) that Paul utilizes in Ephesians 6:12 for “struggle” or “wrestle” as identified in some translations implies more than resistance against an enemy. Gudorf suggests that Paul is instead describing a “heavily armored soldier who also happens to be an accomplished wrestler. As one might imagine, such an individual would be particularly formidable in the arena of close-quarter military combat, where only one is left standing. The picture of an individual such as this fits quite well with the extended metaphor in Ephesians 6:10-18 where the consistently prominent theme is to remain standing in the face of attack.”[3]

Paul is clearly indicating the necessity for the believer to be spiritually fit as the battle in which they are engaged is not for the faint at heart or the spiritually weak. Our enemy is indeed formidable and his attacks should not be taken lightly. Paul urges the believer to exercise all aspects of spiritual discipline in order to be in constant battle with the enemy.

With that said, it must be noted that the true source of strength for the believer is not physical weaponry or carnal ability. As Paul saliently declares, the full armor of God is only effective if the believer places their complete trust in God. Paul commands the believer in Ephesians 6:10 to be “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Despite the fact that God has provided the believer with the necessary apparatus by which to withstand the “wiles of the devil”, the Christian must not lose sight that every element of the armor of God is the creation of God, and thus is His provision.

Another vital aspect of the armor of God is the mandate to put on the “full armor of God.” A soldier who goes into battle missing any element of his armor is in peril of being struck down by the enemy in the very area where the armor is either weak or absent. Additionally, the believer must properly don all aspects of the armor of God. As noted by Puritan theologian William Gurnall “the powers of the one and the senses of the other are divinely protected. No part is left exposed…God designs each part of the armor for a particular purpose; therefore, the saint must be properly attired…the saint is called to keep his armor ready for use and shining.”[4]

This imagery, when combined with that of a soldier who is refined in the art of close-combat warfare, provides a complete illustration of the nature by which the believer is to engage the enemy. The elements of the armor of God, when combined with the visualization of a wrestler/soldier outlined by Paul in Ephesians 6:12 clearly identify the dangerous nature of the battle which believers face. More importantly, the armor was “forged on no earthly anvil, and tempered by no human skill.”[5] The believer must be ever vigilant to depend on the strength of the Lord to combat evil, rejecting any methodology which encourages human efforts.

The spiritual battle which Paul describes in Ephesians 6:10-12 is not meant to be fought from afar. Christians are commanded to be ever ready to put on the complete armor of God and to run to the battle. As noted by theologian Darrell Bock, “Ephesians is ultimately about how God has powerfully equipped the church to experience blessing in Christ, by creating a new community that is able to honor God and resist the forces of the devil. No longer does one’s Jewish or Gentile identity dominate. They are part of a new, reconciled community, a reconciliation that involves not only God but also one another.”[6]

As believers who are engaged in constant and fierce combat with the forces of evil in this world, we must daily put on the complete armor of God. Our Commander in Chief (God) has provided us with the tools by which we can effectively engage the enemy. As with all manner of weaponry, they are only effective when used properly.

Author and theologian Kyle Snodgrass suggests that Paul’s words are akin to “speeches from generals motivating their troops for war.”[7] Essentially, Paul is motivating believers to do battle with evil through the power of God. This power should be a “continual and relational empowering that results from living in Christ.”[8] It is this relational aspect of the Christian life that permeates the book of Ephesians and it is the foundation by which believers can have confidence that the battle is won. When the wiles of the devil come our way, a necessary part of sanctification is the posture of spiritual warfare outlined by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20. If we are to mortify sin and to pursue a life of holiness to which God has called His bride, it is absolutely essential for the believer to perpetually don the full armor of God. In the words of the great Puritan preacher John Owen, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”[9]

Ephesians 6:10-20 is a veritable field manual for spiritual warfare which is a necessary element of the process of sanctification in the life of the believer. This battle involves what the Puritans described as doing “holy battle” against sin. Do not shrink from the conflict, but rather run to the battle heeding the cry provided by God in His word to stand firm in the power of His might, fight the good fight of faith, knowing the battle is the Lord’s. The sanctified bride is a battling bride. As noted by Brian Hedges in his excellent book on mortifying sin:

“Remember, while we are absolutely dependent on God’s grace to empower us, his grace makes us active, not passive. Yes, through Christ God has done what we could never do for ourselves. He has redeemed us from the curse of the law, and rescued s from the power of sin and death. But he also equips us with his Word, invites us to prayer, and enables us by his Spirit to actually do what we must do in order to make genuine progress.”[10]

Think about it!

References:

[1] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton: Scripture Press), 2:56.
[2] A. Skevington Wood. “Commentary on Ephesians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 85.
[3] Michael Gudorf, “The Use of πάλη in Ephesians 6:12,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 117 (Summer 1998): 332.
[4] William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armor Volume I (East Peoria: Versa Press), 70-74.
[5] John Eadie, Commentary on Ephesians (Vestavia Hills: Solid Ground Christian Books), 457.
[6] Darrell Bock, A Theology of Paul’s Prison Epistles (Chicago: Moody Press), 319.
[7] Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan),336.
[8] Ibid., 346
[9] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/mort.i.v.html
[10] Brian Hedges, Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin (Adelphi: Cruciform Press), 97.