Tuesday, February 15, 2022

2022.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 6:10–18

Read Ephesians 6:10–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call the Ephesians saints in Ephesians 6:10? What does he command them to do? In Whom? And in what? What does he say to put on (Ephesians 6:11)? How much of it? So that they might be able to do what? Against what/whom? What didn’t the apostle and the Ephesians wrestle against (Ephesians 6:12)? Against what did they wrestle? What, again, were they to take up (Ephesians 6:13)? How much of it? That they might be able to do what? When? And then what? And then what? What command does Ephesians 6:14 repeat? With what are they to gird their loins (waist)? What is to be as a breastplate to them? What footwear should they put on (Ephesians 6:15)? How does Ephesians 6:16 begin by telling us the importance of this item? What is it? With it, what will they be able to do, to what, from whom? What is the next piece of equipment to take (Ephesians 6:17a)? What is the helmet? What is next? Whose sword is it? What is the sword? What are believers to do always (Ephesians 6:18)? With all of what two things? In Whom? Being what unto this end with all what? And all what? For all of whom?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and first song all come from Ephesians 6:10–18 so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Soldiers of Christ, Arise.

One of the things that is sometimes missed in the apostle’s teaching about the spiritual war is that we are given marching orders. Our Commander in Chief has identified the location and nature of the battle, and has given His great order: “Stand!”

But where, against whom, against what, and how? The context in which this battle occurs has been established by the preceding sections. In Ephesians 5:8–16, the apostle discussed being light against the darkness by the fruit of the Spirit. And then in Ephesians 5:17–21 he talked about how the great thing that is needed to live wisely in the evil days is to be filled with the Spirit. Now, he brings us back to that thought in Ephesians 6:13’s “evil day.” Before, he had said to “walk” three times (Ephesians 5:1Ephesians 5:8Ephesians 5:15), and now he indicates just how difficult this is by changing the command to “stand” three times (Ephesians 6:11Ephesians 6:13Ephesians 6:14). What has changed? He has told us where the battle is especially taking place: marriages, parent-child relationships, everyday work. For the kingdom of light to advance, ground must not be lost in any of these areas. How often we have heard of those who thought themselves advancing the kingdom but failed to stand in their marriage, parenting, and employment/finances!

So, against whom are we doing battle? Coming out of Ephesians 5:22–6:9, our flesh will say “spouses,” “parents,” “children,” “bosses,” or “employees.” But it is a great mistake to think that flesh and blood is our great opposition. It is the devil himself (Ephesians 6:11) whose very organized army (Ephesians 6:12) is taking aim at us. And they do so not so much in the earthly circumstances, but rather attacking who we are in Christ. The “heavenlies” in verse 12 are the place where we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) where He has been raised and seated (Ephesians 1:20), and we have been raised and seated together with Him (Ephesians 2:6). This is where the manifold wisdom of God is displayed in Christ (Ephesians 3:10).

Our marriages, parent-child relationships, and everyday work are where we slip the most. Where we fall the most. And where maintaining the display of Christ’s resurrection life in us is most at stake. This is the place where the devil has instructed his well-organized, wicked, forces to attack. This is the place where we must summon not all of our strength, so much as all of the Lord’s strength, if we are just to stand!

Finally, how are we to do battle? Some Christians marvel at others whom they think to be “real spiritual warriors” or “in real spiritual warfare.” Dear Christian, that’s you. You are under attack all day, every day. And it is by the Lord’s strength that you are to be strong, just so that you can stand. And keep standing.

Having been briefed on the enemy and given our orders, Ephesians 6:14–16 proceed to describe our equipment. We notice that although it is in the Lord Himself and His powerful might that we are to stand, there is a duty placed upon us to put on this armor. 

We are told to gird with the belt and put on the breastplate. We are told to put on the shoes and take the shield. Yes, it occurs only by God’s grace, only by God’s power. But that does not remove from us either responsibility or activity. Rather, it emphasizes that responsibility because the God in Whom we are told to be strong has told us to do this, and it narrows the central focus of our activity to those particular things that this God has told us to do.

A second thing to notice about our equipment, even before getting to the pieces of the armor themselves, is that these are corporate commands. We are not surprised, since this fits perfectly with what the apostles spent much of chapter four drilling into us about how believers grow up into Christ our Head. But, in our fleshly individualism we are forgetful both of the needs and the needfulness of others. So, it bears pointing out that these are pieces of armor that we put on together, as part of the body of Christ. This corporate aspect is especially noticeable in the shoes and the shield. The shoes of the gospel of peace almost certainly refers us back to the beautiful feet of the one who announces good news of peace in Isaiah 52:7, and in this book we have learned that we all address one another with this glorious truth (Ephesians 4:12–16), especially in that corporate worship where we address one another with the Word in songs by which the Lord fills us with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18–21). If you’re missing corporate worship, you are not the beautiful-footed gospelist of Isaiah 52:7 whom we now see as the sure-footed soldier of Ephesians 6:15.

The shield of faith is also one that must be corporately wielded. Of the Roman shields, this was the large one that was used together with the rest of your unit to make an impregnable enclosure. This is confirmed by the fact of its primary use being against fiery darts. Under a hailstorm of pitch-coated fiery arrows, these shields need to be used together in unison. How many a believer has found it nearly impossible to resist doubt and temptation by himself, and then he has gone into the assembly where we all lift together the shield of faith, and the Lord has guarded and delivered him there! 

And it is precisely that shield of faith in which we cling to the truth of God, His Word as the belt by which all the pieces are held together. And also to the righteousness of Christ, through which no attack can wound us. It is by the exercise of faith that His perfect truth also makes us wiser in the truth and ourselves more faithful and true. It is by the exercise of faith that Christ’s perfect righteousness that has been counted to us begins to be reflected in the righteous way that we live. It is no longer we who live, but Christ Who lives in us. The life that we live, we live by faith in the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself for us!

So, while it is ultimately true that what we are really being told here is “put on Christ,” it is helpful to see that Christ has given us specific actions by which He will graciously make that an experienced reality in our lives. And first and foremost, those actions are the clinging together to His Word and His righteousness, as He has given to us to do in His corporate worship. It is this that will be the means by which we come to live as children of light in our everyday lives. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God!

In considering all of this armor, we must conclude that in the providence of God, the Christian’s mind is immensely important. As we battle a world whose days are evil, the way not to be conformed to it is to be transformed instead by the renewing of our mind (cf. Romans 12:2). Here, the apostle tells us what God employs for guarding our minds: His salvation. Our minds tend to be wrapped up in ourselves, our circumstances, even our enemies—almost anything but our Savior, the state of salvation into which He has brought and is bringing us, and the saving work by which He has done so.  But these are the very things with which our thoughts ought to be obsessed, if our precious minds are to be protected and preserved! This is the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Romans 13:11).

Those who belong to the light and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12, cf. Ephesians 5:6–15) are those who keep the eyes of their mind sharply focused upon the rapidly approaching completion of that salvation which Christ has won (Romans 13:11). The unassailable reality of who Christ is and what He has done for us guards our minds by the unassailable certainty of what He shall soon have finished doing in us and to us. This is part of why the helmet and the sword are so closely connected here. With respect to the battle for our minds, we are like David standing over the giant whom he had just knocked down; we have no sword of our own, and must reach instead for that superior sword that belongs to a far superior Warrior (cf. 1 Samuel 17:45, 1 Samuel 17:50–51; 1 Samuel 21:9). The sword of the Holy Spirit Himself (Ephesians 6:17b)!

What’s interesting in the transition to Ephesians 6:18 is the manner in which this sword is to be wielded—really, the manner in which all of the armor is to be worn. We have seen in Ephesians 6:14-16 that there is a strong emphasis on the necessity of participation in corporate worship and the specific activities that God has commanded in it: hearing the truth of Word read and preached, addressing one another with it in songs of the gospel of peace, taking up together at the Lord’s table the breastplate of Christ’s alien righteousness and the shield of faith as the corporate meal shows forth His death and affirms the covenant in His blood.

But now in Ephesians 6:18, the apostle highlights prayer as the means by which this armor that is taken up in the public worship is applied at all times. “Praying always.” The main place that the Spirit leads us to employ His Word is before the face of God Himself. Everything that the Bible tells us about who God is, and what He has done, we are to be constantly bringing back before Him in prayer, acknowledging everything that the Bible tells us about who we are, what we are like, what God requires of us, and what we need in order to do so. 

All prayer. All supplication. What God tells us about Himself and about ourselves in the word of God must become the substance of our praying, for this praying is to be “in the Spirit” Whose sword has just now been mentioned in Ephesians 6:17. This is to be the constant condition of the Christian, as he tells us to pray “with all perseverance,” which he calls “being watchful” (literally, staying awake). The one who is not “praying always” from the Word of God, having God as his constant companion and God’s Word as his constant conversation, is asleep in battle! 

And the apostle immediately gives us an example of what Word-saturated prayer will be like. It will focus upon what God focuses upon: all of His saints. It will be broad and blanketing in its scope, thinking much upon the whole of Christ’s body. But this broadness will also aim with specificity at those things that Christ Himself has highlighted as necessary. So, guard your mind by being obsessed with Christ’s finished and ongoing work. Accumulate a thorough knowledge of Scripture, that becomes the substance of a constant conversation with God your constant companion. And pray especially for those who have been called to minister that Word to God’s people in all places.

Where and with whom do you spend the most time. Whom will you be tempted to think of as the enemy? But who really are your enemies? What does the enemy want you to do? What will it look like to stand against him? How will you be able to stand against him? How does singing thoughtfully and heartily in public worship help you cling to God’s truth? How does it help you cling to Christ’s righteousness? When we hear, pray, sup, and ‘amen’ together, what are we taking up? With what do your thoughts tend to be consumed? How can they be more consumed with Christ? How do your prayers reflect a care for the church as a whole? How do they reflect a focus on Christ’s plan for His church?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are our Commander and our Champion, but we are prone to fight the wrong battles or to fight in our own strength. This isn’t just foolish, but wicked, and we look to You to forgive us and reform us, which we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH540 “Soldiers of Christ, Arise!”

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