Second Corinthians

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 2/11/18

Lesson 27: The Believer’s Present Relation to Satan: Spiritual Warfare


(Ephesians 6:10-20)

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Introduction

It is a serious mistake for anyone to think that in the happy hour of our conversion all trouble and strife comes to an end. In reality that hour marks the beginning of a lifelong warfare—not a war for our salvation, but a war involving those in Christian service. The closing portion of Paul’s letter contains his account of this conflict of the Christian with the forces of evil.

A note of tranquility permeates most of Ephesians. Beginning with a doxology of praise to God for the blessings of redemption; it proceeds to speak of the electing grace of God, the wonder of spiritual resurrection in Christ, the blissful indwelling of Christ in his people, and the pure and holy lives they are to live. The epistle closes, however, with a rousing call to arms amid the sounds of battle. For all the joy and for all the peace and happiness of the Christian life, it is nonetheless a life lived out on a spiritual battlefield.

Some commentators equate the Christian experience to life within a camp located in enemy territory. Within the camp the scene is one of loyalty, love, and fellowship. The ramparts, however, cannot be left unwatched for even a moment. The saints must never live and move unarmed.

What the apostle said here is meant for everyone. Like a general leading an army against the enemy, Paul issues commands and gives instructions. He mentions the believer’s strength (v. 10), his foe (v. 12), and his protection (v. 11, 13-17).


The Lesson (Ephesians 6:10-20, KJV)

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

As Paul prepares to leave Ephesus, he thinks of the great struggle which lies before them. Undoubtedly life was much more terrifying for the ancient people than it is for us today. They believed unreservedly in evil spirits, who filled the air and were determined to do men harm. The words which Paul uses―powers, authorities, world-rulers,―are all names for different classes of these evil spirits. To him the whole universe was a battleground. The Christian had not only to contend with the acts of men; he had to contend with the attacks of spiritual forces which were fighting against God. We may not take Paul’s actual language literally; but our experience will tell us that there is an active power of “evil” in the world; just watch the TV news, for there is almost no good news, but plenty of bad. We recognize that we have all felt the force of that evil influence which seeks to make us sin.

So how can the Christian become strong enough to resist these evil influences? This kind of strength is only available from Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul knew well the secret of this Christ-inspired strength, as Philippians 4:13 shows: “I CAN DO ALL THIS THROUGH HIM WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH.” The source of the strength needed is brought out by “IN THE LORD,” the idea being that by virtue of our union with Him the power that is inherently His may be drawn upon by us. In Him we can do all things; apart from Him defeat is inevitable.

What it means to “BE STRONG IN THE LORD” is further explained by the phrase, “AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT.” To be strong in the Lord is to be joined to the strength which belongs to His MIGHT. Observe the two principal words—“POWER” and “MIGHT.” The former which is used in the New Testament only, and only within the framework of supernatural power—whether satanic (Hebrews 2:14{1]) or divine (everywhere else)—denotes POWER as an active force, POWER exercised. The latter word, which is more passive in meaning, speaks of strength inherently possessed, whether exercised or not. This impressive accumulation of terms for STRENGTH, POWER, and MIGHT brings to mind 1:19{2], where Paul describes the exceeding greatness of the power of God available to believing people. Here, the readers are urgently encouraged to lay hold on that POWER in order to meet and vanquish the evil forces that attack them.


[1} “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). The devil is said to have the power of death, not because he can kill and destroy men at his pleasure, but because he was the first to introduce sin, which brought death into the world, and so he was a murderer from the beginning; and he still tempts men to sin, and then accuses them of it, and terrifies and frightens them with death; and by divine permission has inflicted it, and will be the executioner of the second death.
[2} “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Ephesians 1:19). “Of his great might”—Greek, "of the strength of His might."

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

All this time he was chained by the wrist to a Roman soldier. Night and day a soldier was there to ensure that he would not escape. Paul was literally an envoy in chains. Now he was the kind of man who could get along side any one; and beyond doubt he had talked often to the soldiers who were compelled to be so near him. As he writes, the soldier’s armor suggests a picture to him. The Christian too, has his armor; and part by part Paul takes the armor of the Roman soldier and translates it into Christian terms.

The Christian is called to fight against “THE WILES OF THE DEVIL,” which are temptations to sin in every shape and form. For this he needs “THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD”: the complete suite of chain mail, body armor, and weapons which God supplies. Before he describes them, Paul identifies the enemy to be fought (v. 12).

The Christian finds protection in this mortal conflict by making use of “THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD” (vs. 11, 13-17) and the practice of incessant prayer (vs. 18-20).

The expression “WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD,” employs the imagery of the Roman soldier, fully equipped for heavy battle. It is the armor “OF GOD” in the sense that it is armor which God provides. Each piece is furnished by Him. It is called “THE WHOLE ARMOR” to stress the completeness of it. We must see to it that no portion of our person is left exposed and unprotected.

God provides the ARMOR, and it is ready for our use. But it is we who must, on our part, faithfully accent every instrument and implement which God offers. We are therefore urged to “PUT ON” the whole Armor of God in order that we “MAY BE ABLE TO STAND AGAINST THE WILES OF THE DEVIL.” The tense of the verb “PUT ON” denotes urgent and decisive action. When the enemy has already been engaged, it will be too late to arm ourselves. “TO STAND” in this context means not only to stand ready to fight, but to hold ones ground. The “WILES OF THE DEVIL” are his strategy, and the many and subtle ways by which he attacks God’s people. The Lord Jesus has demonstrated that when properly warn the armor God provides will protect the one who wears it.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

“We are not contending [competing] against FLESH AND BLOOD,” our adversaries are more than human; demonic powers are arrayed against us. “PRINCIPALITIES” and “POWERS” represent the beings of the unseen world already referred to by Paul. With them the devil establishes and oversees “the world RULERS of this present DARKNESS”—the mighty angelic beings that hold sway over this material world of darkness, exerting a maligned influence on human affairs. These adversaries are all summed up as “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in HIGH PLACES”—in the invisible world. What are we to make of them? Is it enough to say that Paul, as a first-century man, believes in the reality of the Devil and the demonic, and that enlightened twentieth-century men have no need of any such idea? Certainly we are not necessarily committed to all the details of Paul’s “diabology” [the theory or doctrine of devils: devil lore]. Yet we cannot dismiss all of it as outmoded superstition. Depth psychology in our day has revealed demonic depths in the soul of man, and two World Wars have laid bare the vast and radical range of evil. As a result, Paul’s diagnoses of our predicament commands a new respect from many of our secular thinkers, and many Christian theologians take the devil with new seriousness.

In military strategy the failure to estimate the strength and capabilities of an enemy properly is a tragic mistake. In Christian confrontations it is not only tragic but inexcusable, for we are clearly warned both of the nature of the conflict and of the formidable character of the enemy. “WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD.” We are engaged in a life-and-death struggle, not against a frail human enemy but against the supernatural forces of evil. The word translated as “WE WRESTLE” suggests hand to hand combat and thus magnifies the personal nature of the encounter.

“PRINCIPALITIES,” and “POWERS,” “RULERS,” and “SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS” are terms used here for the hierarchy of invisible powers in rebellion against God (1:21; 3:10). Paul is not to be understood as naming four different classes of demonic beings. Each term simply views the forces arrayed against God and His people in a different manner. “PRINCIPALITIES” refers to their rank and rule. “POWERS” suggests there investment with authority. “THE RULERS OF THE DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD,” points up their control over a world in revolt against its Creator: “IN WHOM THE GOD OF THIS WORLD HATH BLINDED THE MINDS OF THEM WHICH BELIEVE NOT, LEST THE LIGHT OF THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, SHOULD SHINE UNTO THEM."

“SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES,” or “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies,” depicts them as an army of wicked spirits inhabiting, or at least bringing their war to, the heavenly sphere.

The phrase, “IN HIGH PLACES” [or, “in the heavenlies”] (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10) may be interpreted as the scene of the conflict. In that case, the reference is to the heavenly sphere in which life in Christ is lived. In that light, the phrase may mean that the abode of the spiritual forces of wickedness is non-earthly, belonging to the invisible regions of the spirit world.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

In verse 13 “WHEREFORE,” points back to the descriptions of verse 12 and calls attention to the menacing character of the enemy. He is so formidable in power that nothing less than “THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD” will give ample protection. Instead of “put on” Paul here writes “TAKE UNTO YOU”, the more common military expression for arming one’s self. The suggestion is that the divine armor lies at the Believer’s feet ready for use; he only needs to put it on. The language denotes urgency. Arms must be taken up at once in order for the Christian to be ready for any emergency.

The particular end in view is that the Christian “MAY BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND IN THE EVIL DAY, AND HAVING DONE ALL, TO STAND.” The word rendered “TO WITHSTAND” means to resist successfully. The “EVIL DAY” refers to those critical days of special trial or resolute satanic assault known to every child of God.

“HAVING DONE ALL” is a particularly strong expression meaning “having thoroughly done everything.” The reference is not to the preparation for conflict but to the end of the conflict, when the enemy has been thoroughly vanquished. “TO STAND,” speaks of the stance of victory. The thought is that the well-armed believer will be able to hold his ground. After the conflict is over, he does not lie prostrate in defeat but stands in complete possession of the field.


(6:14-17) The next four verses describe the armor God gives the Christian soldier. Six pieces are mentioned: the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield, the helmet, and the sword. We need not press their particular significance too closely. The helmet and the breastplate come from Isaiah 59:17; the shoes recall Isaiah 52:7.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

There is the belt of TRUTH or Faithfulness. It was the belt which held the soldier’s tunic in place and from which the scabbard of his sword was suspended and which gave him freedom of movement. Others may guess and grope; the Christian moves freely and quickly because he knows the truth.

Another essential part of the Roman soldier’s equipment was the “BREASTPLATE,” which, as its name suggests, protected the vital organs in the chest area. Without a breastplate a warrior was vulnerable to every assault of the enemy. Paul says there is the “BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,” that is to say, uprightness of life. When a man is clothed in RIGHTEOUSNESS he is impregnable. Words are no defense against accusations but a good life is. The only way to meet the accusations against Christianity is to show how “good” a Christian can be. This RIGHTEOUSNESS is sometimes understood to be the RIGHTEOUSNESS of justification, that which Paul elsewhere calls “the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God” (Romans 3:21) or “the RIGHTEOUSNESS which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). The words may be used here, however, in a broad general sense of moral goodness, meaning the Believer’s personal RIGHTEOUSNESS. This personal RIGHTEOUSNESS which guards the heart is not possible apart from the reception of God’s justifying RIGHTEOUSNESS.

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

There are the SANDALS. The well-equipped soldier in Paul’s day wore sandals with soles thickly studded with hobnails. Such sandals not only gave protection to the feet but also enabled the soldier to move quickly and surely. In ancient times when warfare was largely a matter of hand-to-hand combat, this quickness of movement was essential. The Christian, Paul explains, must have on his feet “THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.” Most interpreters understand “PREPARATION” in the sense of “readiness” or “preparedness.” The idea is that of a disposition of mind that makes men quick to see their duty an always ready to plunge into the fight. This readiness comes from or is produced by, “THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.” Sandals were the sign of one equipped and ready to move. The sign of a Christian is that he is eager to be on the way to share the gospel with others who have not heard it. But to do so, he must be prepared; the Christian’s readiness to carry the good news of peace [the gospel of Jesus Christ] everywhere is like the readiness of a Roman soldier to do his general’s bidding.

The gospel is designated “THE GOSPEL OF PEACE,” because it has a peace-bringing power which destroys the hostility in men’s hearts and establishes tranquility in its place (Isaiah 52:7). It is this heart-peace produced by the gospel that gives the Christian warrior his readiness for combat. To have a consciousness of peace with God and to live in tranquil communion with Him enables a man to fling himself into the battle with strong determination and calm assurance.

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

There is the SHIELD that Paul calls “THE SHIELD OF FAITH,” which “ABOVE ALL” is to be taken up. Here “FAITH” means total dependence on God, who provides protection for the believer—as a shield protects a soldier―when he confronts Satan’s most vicious attacks. Faith protects us, however, not so much because of any inherent power which it has but because it brings us into touch with God and places Him between the enemy and ourselves. By faith, therefore, we are enabled “TO QUENCH ALL THE FIERY DARTS OF THE WICKED [one],” that is, the devil. Pay special attention to the word “ALL.” In it there is ground for great confidence—not in ourselves, to be sure, but in God and in the strength which reliance upon Him gives. “ABOVE ALL” means simply “in addition to all.” If this reading is followed, the meaning must be that the shield is to be taken up at every turn of the conflict. The word Paul uses is not that for the comparatively small round shield which was carried by cavalrymen; it is that for the great oblong shield which the heavily armed warrior held.

One of the most dangerous weapons in ancient warfare was the FIERY DART. It was a dart tipped with tow and dipped in pitch. The pitch-soaked tow was set on fire and the dart was thrown. They could not only wound but also burn. The great oblong shield was made of two sections of wood, glued together and covered with hide. When the shield was presented to the dart, the dart sank into the wood and the flame was put out and the wearer’s body was protected. In order to ward off “the FLAMING DARTS of the evil one”—that is, the attacks of the Devil—the Christian carries “THE SHIELD OF FAITH.” Faith can deal with the darts of temptation. With Paul, faith is always complete trust in Christ. When we walk close to Christ, we are saved from temptation.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

On his head is the “HELMET OF SALVATION” and in his right hand is “THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT” defined as “THE WORD OF GOD.” Salvation is not something which looks back only. The salvation which is in Christ gives us forgiveness for the sins of the past and strength to conquer sin in the days to come. Since Paul is addressing Christians the reference must be to the consciousness of salvation and the protection which such consciousness gives. The Christian warrior is commanded to “TAKE THE HELMET OF SALVATION.” This word rendered “TAKE,” which is not the same as that used in reference to the shield, ordinarily means “to receive,” “accept,” or “welcome.” In the present passage, however it probably means “grasp.”

There is the SWORD which the Holy Spirit supplies; and that sword is the word of God. The word of God is at the same time our weapon of defense against sin and our weapon of attack against the sins of the world. A man by the name of Ironsides fought with a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other. We can never win God’s battles without God’s book. But we must not take “the word of God” to mean simply Holy Scripture. The “WORD” [literally means “God’s utterance”] is the utterance God gives his servants. Jesus, foreseeing future troubles, had told his disciples, “The Holy Spirit will teach you . . . what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12). This is what Paul means here. In the day of battle the Christian soldier may rely on God for the correct words to fit the occasion.

“God’s utterance,” [The Word of God] is not necessarily to be confined to the Bible. When Paul wrote this passage much of the New Testament had not yet come into being, and the Spirit was still speaking directly to the redeemed community apart from the written revelation (Acts 11:28; 1 Corinthians 14). However, the use of the written word made by our Lord in the wilderness temptation lends strong support to the view that the primary and abiding application of Paul’s phrase must be to the believer, a mighty weapon in the conflict with evil. Christian experience tends to confirm this view.


(vs. 18-20) Two words are used here for the believer’s prayerful approach to God. “PRAYER,” is general enough to include the whole act of worship. “SUPPLICATION,” in its role, is petitionary prayer. A sharp distinction in meaning, however, is not always needed. The use of both words here appears mainly to add intensity to the thought. The words “WITH ALL [i.e., every kind of] PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION (v. 18),” which in the Greek precede “PRAYING ALWAYS,” are to be taken to mean “stand” (v. 14). PRAYER is the means by which the Christian takes his stand and is the spirit or state of mind in which he confronts the enemy and puts him to flight. At every phase of the conflict we must enlist the aid of our all-powerful God. In response to our urgent prayer He comes as a mighty ally to stand by our side.

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Finally, Paul comes to the greatest weapon of all—and that is “PRAYER.” We note six things that he says about PRAYER which describe the manner of prayer and its objects. (a) It must be constant [offered always]. To be in constant prayer requires “PERSEVERANCE.” The term here implies a resolute determination to see something through to its conclusion. God hears our prayers immediately (he knows what we need before we ask). But there is almost always a time lag between our asking and our recognizing His answer. Prayer engages us in the world of spiritual warfare. We may discover, as Daniel did (Daniel 10:1), that our intercession sets off a chain of events that in turn increases spiritual hostility. Rugged stickability may well be required before it becomes clear to us that God heard our prayers the moment we expressed them. The reference is not so much to prayer that is “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), as it is to crisis prayer—prayer in “the evil day.” Our tendency is so often to pray only when we are caught up in the great crisis of life; but it is from daily prayer that the Christian will find daily strength. (b) It must be intense, and in times of dire need we must cry-out to God with special intensity. Limp prayer never got any man anywhere. Prayer demands the concentration of every faculty upon God. (c) It must be unselfish. The Jews had a saying, “Let a man unite himself with the community in his prayers.” I think that often in our prayers we are too much for ourselves and too little for others. We must learn to pray as much for others and with others as for ourselves. (d) It must be vigilant [“watching”]. . . “WITH ALL PERSEVERANCE AND SUPPLICATION.” “WATCHING” is translated from a word which literally means “to keep awake” and in this context conveys the thought of never being off guard. It may appear from these words that the apostle had a flashback to his Lord’s urgent words, “Be on your guard, keep awake” (Mark 13:33) and “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). Christ is building His church on territory that has been occupied by an enemy. Alertness is always essential when living in a war zone. (e) We are to pray “IN THE SPIRIT”—under His influence. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

What, then, does it mean to pray in the Spirit? It implies the help of the Spirit in our weakness (Romans 8:26-27); relying on His power and wisdom, not on our own. Praying in the Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit as we pray. This means submitting our mind, thoughts, will, and desires to be influenced and mastered by God’s word. We thus began “to think God’s thoughts after him,” develop instincts that are aligned to His will, and ask for those things that He has revealed please Him and that He promises to do. (f) It is a lifestyle, the coming together of a person-to-person relationship with God. It is the expression of a life lived out in the presence of God, before the face of God, in which our constant communion with God comes to conscious expression. Prayer, then, is set within a life marked by (i) companionship and (ii) dialogue with the Lord. It is the overflow of how we live (in the presence of God). The wise Christian therefore adopts what we might call the “sanctuary principle”: keeping within the heart a place of devotion to the Lord—from which all else is excluded.

In essence, prayer involves bringing God’s promises back to Him, in the context of all that He has told us about Himself, His character, and His will, and saying, “Father, you are all that you have revealed yourself to be; you will keep all the promises you have made. . .Therefore I come to you to ask for. . .”

“TO PRAY WITH ALL PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION” may simply mean to offer prayers of all kinds—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession—always made in the spirit of a servant approaching his or her Master, a subject coming to the Great King with his or her petitions. Prayer of this order is the expression of a full and a disciplined life of communion with God.

Unselfconsciously Paul had earlier illustrated this in the prayers he expressed for the Ephesians.
For what, or for whom, are we to pray? First, and generally, we pray “FOR ALL SAINTS.” No soldier enters a battle, praying for himself alone, but for all his fellow soldiers also. They form one army, and the success of one is the success of all. The appeal is especially appropriate for our day, when so many believing people, living under governments antagonistic to the gospel, are being viciously assaulted by the enemy. Let us expand our vision and enlarge our hearts to encompass in our prayers these and other cruelly treated Christians.

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

The last two verses of this section (6:19-20) bring us back to Paul’s situation. He asked his readers to pray for him and for his mission, that he may not lack courage, even in jail, to proclaim boldly “THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL,” the open secret of God’s plan to reconcile creation in Christ. Notice that he did not ask for comfort or for peace but that he may yet be allowed to proclaim God’s secret; that His love is for all men. We do well to remember that every Christian leader and every Christian preacher needs his people to uphold his hands in prayer.

20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

The phrase “AMBASSADOR IN BONDS” reminds them that, though a prisoner, he represents Christ the King in the Imperial City―and this in spite of his bonds. He was anxious that in making the gospel known he should speak with the boldness and confidence which became his high commission from the court of heaven.


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