I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)
In the first three chapters of Ephesians the apostle Paul has taught what the identity of the Christian truly is. Your identity is not that you have a career. Your identity is not that you are married or single. Your identity is not that you do or do not have children. Your identity is not how many possessions you have or how expensive your possessions are. You are chosen, predestined for adoption, redeemed, forgiven, children of God. Then in the second part of this letter to the Ephesians Paul teaches how we are live our lives because we have been called to this glorious identity. We are urged to walk in a manner worthy of this glorious calling of our Lord. Paul concludes his description of how we are to walk worthy of the calling by describing the necessity of wearing the armor of God.
Get Your Strength In The Lord (6:10)
The life in Christ with our new identity cannot be lived without a spiritual battle. This is the first takeaway we must consider as we approach Paul’s instructions. We are in a spiritual battle. It is an unavoidable battle when we find our identity in Christ. Paul says that we need to be strengthened by God to be ready for this battle. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” You are not be strong in yourself and rely on the strength of your power. This is important to hear: self-empowerment is of no value. We cannot strengthen ourselves in our own might for this fight. God’s power is the only power sufficient for this battle. God’s strength is the only might that is strong enough and more than sufficient for the battle we are in.
We do not have the strength to win this battle. We need to hear this and believe this. Too often we try to live as a Christian with this new identity without relying on God’s power. The scriptures are clear that apart from Christ we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5). Jesus also said that the Spirit gives life and the flesh is of no help at all (cf. John 6:63). But we try to accomplish this battle with Satan by ourselves. We must accept what God is telling us. We will fail if we rely on our own power. God is not a supplement to our strength; he is our strength in total! How do we rely on the power of God and depend on his strength and not our own? Paul is going to explain how in this final section of his letter to the Ephesians.
The Need For Full Armor (6:11)
Paul says that relying on the power of God means putting on the armor of God. This is how we are strong in the Lord. We have God’s armor that we depend on when we are attacked. Further, we need the full armor of God. We need every piece. We cannot shortchange the armor of God by only having one or two pieces on us. Armor does not have much value if you only have a helmet on but do not have a shield and breastplate. We need to be fully covered by the armor of God so that nothing is exposed in this spiritual battle. Therefore we must recognize we need something. We are unprotected without the armor of God.
This is the only way we will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. God is giving us the armor we need to stand when Satan attacks. Notice that this is God’s focus: “That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (6:11). “That you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (6:13). “Stand therefore” (6:14). Four times God says “stand” or “withstand.” The armor of God is the strength God is giving us. We cannot stand without the armor.
Now I want us to consider what we are standing against. We are standing against the schemes of the devil. The devil is real and he is really attacking us. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed this truth: “I am certain that one of the main causes of the ill state of the Church today is the fact that the devil is being forgotten. All is attributed to us; we have all become so psychological in our attitude and thinking. We are ignorant of this great objective fact, the being, the existence of the devil, the adversary, the accuser, and his ‘fiery darts.'” The devil is real. The devil is not a cartoon. The devil is not cute with horns carrying a pitchfork. The devil is a dangerous spiritual being who is intent on destroying you.
Not only this, but the devil is smart. The devil is tricky and deceitful. Paul says that we need armor because the devil has tactics, schemes, and craftiness against us. The devil is going to blindside you. He is not going to fight in ways that will make it easy for you to defend against him. Stand because the devil is making war with you (cf. Revelation 12:17). The devil is a defeated image who is enraged that he has lost. Though he is defeated, he is continuing to battle ferociously. This is what defeated enemies do. The devil does not want you to stand. The devil wants you to give up. The devil wants you to quit. The devil wants you to quit resisting, to stop fighting, and just roll over to his ways.
Battling Spiritual Forces of Evil (6:12)
Paul is trying to open our eyes to the battle we are in. The devil is coming for you. Therefore we must prepare for this spiritual battle. We are not battling the things we can see, like flesh and blood. That is certainly hard enough. But we are in a spiritual war against rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Open our eyes and see what is going on. We get glimpses of this battle a few times in the scriptures. Perhaps the book of Job reveals that battle clearly before us as Satan is accusing Job and accusing God about the life that Job leads in service to God. The devil is relentless and uses spiritual forces of darkness against us. Do we appreciate who we are up against and what we are up against? We must take our enemy seriously. Evil is not some concept or philosophy but is embodied by these spiritual entities. We are not dealing with what we see. We are dealing with spiritual forces of darkness that are making messes of people’s lives.
So we need this reality check. Notice that Paul called our time on this earth a struggle (NASB, NIV, NRSV, NET), a battle (HCSB), or a wrestling (ESV, NKJV). We think that life is going to be a calm, peaceful journey but there is a war going on for our souls. But even as dark and grim as this picture is of the devil and his forces, please notice that God never tells us to fear him. We are always told to resist him and stand against him. Do not fear because God is ruling over all these things. But we must know our enemy and be ready. The goal is to stand.
Take It Up! (6:13)
So what should we do? Knowing these things, what are we supposed to? Listen to the apostle Paul in verse 13. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God.” Take up the armor! That is what you are supposed to do! Now Paul wants to convince you that you need this armor. Paul wants to make sure that you understand how much you need to be actively getting this armor on your body. So notice why else you need the armor of God in verse 13.
Paul says you need the armor “that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” That sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Earlier in this letter the apostle Paul taught that we need to watch carefully how we walk because the days are evil (5:16). Therefore, I do not believe Paul is saying that there is one evil day to watch out for. There are many evil days that are going to come against you. The devil is attacking you with his spiritual forces of evil. You need to be ready to withstand with the armor of God when things are at their worst. The armor of God is the only way we will be able to resist and withstand the attack.
But this tells us that we need to be prepared before the attack comes. You cannot put the armor on after you have been shot. It is too late then. And we cannot start concerning ourselves with the armor of God after the trial and after the difficulty. We must put this armor on now because the days are evil and we are in a struggle. So we need this armor on so that we are ready for the attack. We need to spend our time each day preparing our armor, readying ourselves for the evil day.
There is a favorite cliche today to, “Let go and let God.” Notice that this is not the answer of the apostle Paul. You are under attack and you need to armor. But notice that Paul has commanded us to do something. In verse 10 he told us that we need to look to the strength of the Lord. In verse 11 we need to put on the whole armor of God. Now in verse 13 Paul instructs us again to take up the whole armor of God. Now verse 13 really drives this idea home to us. Look at the end of verse 13, “And having done all to stand firm.” We are not supposed to be sitting around waiting to get attacked by the devil. We are to be giving our all. This stand requires our all. All of our effort is necessary so that we have the armor properly on our bodies for the day of the attack of the devil.
God tells us something very hopeful in verse 13. With the complete armor of God on you, you will be able to withstand the evil day. Without the armor of God we will not withstand the evil day when that attack comes. Without the armor we are too weak to stand. But with God we can stand. The armor is forged and furnished by God. We do not have to wonder if this armor is going to work. We know the armor works because it is given to us by God. We also know the armor works because this armor is battle tested. Listen to what Isaiah says about this armor:
15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. 18 According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. 19 So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. (Isaiah 59:15–19 ESV)
Christ is pictured as the arm of the Lord. He put this armor on and he was victorious against the enemies and he defeated the devil. The Lord brought the victory and he will bring the victory to us if we will depend completely upon him.
Over the next few weeks we are going to consider what Paul says we need to live a life of victory over the devil. The key to today’s lesson for your this week is to recognize that you cannot stand in this battle by your own power. You must have God’s armor on you. Understand the serious enemy that is fighting against us and do all you can to draw near to the Lord so that you may stand firm on the evil day.