Archive for the ‘Ephesians’ Category

Ephesians 6:19b-23

In Ephesians 6:19b-23 Paul continues telling us how to activate the armor we have been provided to stand firm against the enemy. Prayer is the tool to activate God’s power. Paul asked that we pray “…that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Paul told us that spiritual warfare can be waged on behalf of others, so Paul asks his readers to pray for him. Paul could have asked prayer for many things, but he wanted his readers to pray for this. He probably had in mind his upcoming defense before Caesar.

We could imagine Paul asking for many things, such as relief from his imprisonment or for other comforts. But his heart and mind were fixed on his responsibility as an ambassador of the gospel. We are all ambassadors for Jesus, and we need to seek God’s power to make us effective in our efforts to carry the truth of the gospel to those in our patch. He not only asks to speak boldly, but also for the right words. Paul asked for prayer that he might proclaim the gospel both clearly and with a fearless power. It is easy to neglect one or the other. We too need to do exactly the same to those around us.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.” Tychicus was an associate of Paul and seems to have been often used by Paul as a messenger to carry his words to others. Paul wanted Tychicus to comfort the Ephesians (and everyone else who read the letter) about Paul’s condition during his imprisonment in Rome. “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.” Paul wanted to assure the church that he was doing ok, even in prison.

Paul concluded the letter as he began it, with reference to grace and peace, these two essential cornerstones for the Christian life. “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” Our love for the Lord should be undying. Nothing should get in the way of our love for the Lord. Paul ended by pronouncing a blessing, which was his way of helping the Ephesians to walk in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. That blessing flows to us as well – we need to walk in God’s blessing!

Ephesians 6:18-19a

In Ephesians 6:18-19a Paul now gives us the secret to using the armor of God – that which we have (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace) – and that which we are to take (shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit) – which comes down to prayer. That is the means by which God’s power comes into the battle. “To that end, keep alert with all perseverance.” This translation is not as descriptive as some others which say ‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit’. Paul tells the Ephesian church that the armor is necessary but it is prayer that gives it the power to deal with the enemy.

The idea is all that we should use all kinds of prayer or prayer upon prayer. We should use every kind of prayer we can think of. Group prayer, individual prayer, silent prayer, shouting prayer, walking prayer, kneeling prayer, eloquent prayer, groaning prayer, constant prayer, fervent prayer – just pray. We can say that it is through prayer that spiritual strength and the armor of God go to work. In theory, the prayerless Christian can be strong and wearing all the armor; but never accomplishes anything because he fails to goes into battle through prayer. The battle is not ours, but God’s, and prayer is how we bring God into that fight. Otherwise we walk into it in our own strength and will fail.

Often we just don’t pray because we are simply overconfident in our own abilities. Winston Churchill said to Britain in the early days of the Second World War: “I must drop one word of caution, for next to cowardice and treachery, overconfidence leading to neglect and slothfulness, is the worst of wartime crimes.” Paul goes further with his admonition to pray reminding us that we can battle spiritually not only on our own behalf, but also on the behalf of others. The soldier isn’t only concerned for his or her own safety. He feels an instinct to protect and to battle on behalf of others. We are part of the body and need to do battle together, which means we need to be praying for one another.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me….”.  Paul not only reminds us to pray for each other but also for our leaders in the body. Paul was an amazingly spiritual guy, and yet even he knew that doing battle with the enemy was beyond what any of us can do on our own. So we need to lift one another up, as well as encourage each other to put on the armor of God so we are ready to stand. That means we challenge each other around our intake of God’s Word, our prayer life, the depth of our faith, and all the other facets of wearing the armor of God. It is important that we have brothers and sisters who are fully prepared and equipped, and are seeking God’s power to enable a victory in battle.

Ephesians 6:17

In Ephesians 6:17 Paul continues to equip us with the armor of God. He has told us about the three items we have (vs 14-15):

  1. Belt of truth
  2. Breastplate of righteousness
  3. Shoes shod with the gospel of peace

And began to tell us about the things we must take, beginning with:

  1. Shield of faith

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. And now Paul continues to guide us in two other things we need to take as we put on the armor for battle.

First comes the helmet of salvation. In the ancient world a helmet was usually a leather cap studded with metal for extra strength. Often some kind of plume or decoration was added, perhaps to identify the solider to his regiment. Salvation is pictured as this kind of helmet, protecting an essential part of the body. A soldier would be foolish to go into battle without his helmet.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 speaks of the helmet of salvation in connection to the hope of salvation. The helmet of salvation protects us against discouragement, against the desire to give up, giving us hope not only in knowing that we are saved, but that we will be saved. It is the assurance that God will triumph. Then Paul reveals our only offensive weapon, another that we must take – the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.

Guzik writes “To effectively use the sword of the Spirit, we can’t regard the Bible as a book of magic charms or tie one around our neck the way that garlic is said to drive away vampires. we must regard it as the word of God – which is the word of God. If we are not confident in the inspiration of Scripture, that the sword really came from the Spirit, then we will not use it effectively at all.”

But we must also take the sword of the Spirit in the sense of depending that He helps us to use it. Not only did the Spirit give us the Scriptures, but also He makes them alive to us (or us alive to them), and He equips us with the right thrust of the sword at the right time. A soldier must practice using a sword ahead of the actual battle, and if he is a superior fighter and has a great fighting instinct, at the time of battle he will instantly recall which thrust, which position suits the precise moment.

He will never be able to use the thrust in the fight if he has not first practiced it; but he still needs to make the move at the moment. So effectively using the sword takes practice. The greatest example of this was Jesus combating the temptation of Satan in the wilderness. He didn’t deal with Satan except to quote scripture and use God’s Word as His sword in that confrontation. Our only offense is God’s truth. In order to use it, we must practice with it, which means we have to know it and be in His Word regularly so our sword is sharp and ready for battle. Are you preparing your use of the sword?

Ephesians 6:16

In Ephesians 6:16 Paul continues his discussion around the armor of God we are to put on so we can stand firm. He has just finished telling us about the three items we have:

  1. Belt of truth
  2. Breastplace of righteousness
  3. Shoes shod with the gospel of peace

These three things are part of our faith as a Christ Follower – we “have” them already. Paul told us of armor to have. Some of the armor we must wear all the time and have as a standing foundation. Therefore having comes first. We must be rooted in the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the “combat boots” of the gospel. Yet now Paul will deal with aspects of the armor we are to take at the necessary moments of spiritual warfare and opportunity.

Paul shifts his focus to things we must take in addition to those we already have. These are in addition and require us to actively bring them along. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Faith is represented as a shield, protecting us from the fiery darts of the wicked one, those persistent efforts of demonic foes to weaken us through fear and unbelief.

Guzik explains “The shield Paul describes is not the small round one, but the large, oblong shield that could protect the whole body. In ancient warfare, these fiery darts were launched in great numbers at the beginning of an attack. The idea was not only to injure the enemy, but to shoot at him at all sides with a massive number of arrows, and thus to confuse and panic the enemy.” We need to be prepared for how the enemy will come after us. It is usually not a head on full force attack. Rather it comes in many different ways, all designed to take us off our walk with Christ. Thoughts, feelings, imaginations, fears, and lies – all of these can be hurled at us by Satan as fiery darts. Faith turns them back.

The enemy wants to knock us off our walk. Bruce explains “Even when such a missile was caught by the shield and did not penetrate to the body, says Livy, it caused panic, because it was thrown when well alight and its motion through the air made it blaze most fiercely, so that the soldier was tempted to get rid of his burning shield and expose himself to the enemy’s spear-thrusts. But the shield of faith not only catches the incendiary devices but extinguishes them.” So the first thing we have to take with us is the shield of faith, which we must bring to the fight so we are able to stand firm. The enemy has a goal of taking us out of our relationship so we are more vulnerable to the attack that is coming. The flaming darts are designed to open us up to further attack, and the shield is our protection from that.

Ephesians 6:14b-15

In Ephesians 6:14b-15 Paul continues to tell us how to put on the armor of God. He began the teaching by talking about the belt of truth, and then moves on to the breastplate of righteousness. “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” A breastplate is the piece of armor which provides essential protection for the most vital organs. We can no better battle against spiritual enemies through our own righteousness than a soldier can effectively fight without his breastplate.

This is not our own earned righteousness, not a feeling of righteousness, but a righteousness received by faith in Jesus. It is His righteousness given to us as part of the armor to stand firm against the enemy. Lloyd-Jones reminds us to “Thank God for experiences, but do not rely on them. You do not put on the ‘breastplate of experiences’, you put on the breastplate of ‘righteousness.’ ”

Guzik explains “We are sometimes tempted to say to the devil, “Look at all I’ve done for the Lord.” But that is shaky ground, though sometimes it feels good. It is shaky because feelings and experiences change quickly. God’s righteousness isn’t. The breastplate of righteousness is your best defense against the sense of spiritual depression and gloom that comes against us.” Righteousness is not about anything I have done or will do – it is all about God’s gift of grace through Christ.

Paul goes on to the next part of the armor that we have – the protective shoes represented by the gospel of peace. No one can fight effectively or even go about his business without this equipment. The gospel provides the footing for everything we do. However powerful the rest of your body is, if you are wounded in your feet you are easy prey for the enemy.

Wood writes “Josephus described them as ‘shoes thickly studded with sharp nails’… so as to ensure a good grip. The military successes both of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar were due in large measure to their armies’ being well shod and thus able to undertake long marches at incredible speed over rough terrain.”

The idea of readiness refers to preparation. In order to be successful in battle, we need to be mobile, flexible and ready with the truth. The Gospel is truth. We need to have a stance of readiness and live constantly in that state. We never know when the enemy will choose to attack, so being filled with God’s truth helps us remain ready so we can stand firm and prepared for whatever may come. So in putting on the armor, we have the belt of truth, we have the breastplate of righteousness, and we have the shoes for our feet – the gospel of peace. Next we’ll see what armor we are to take!

Ephesians 6:13-14a

In Ephesians 613-14a Paul continues to prepare Christ Followers for the enemy. Note that he doesn’t begin by telling us to attack. He begins by telling us to prepare for battle. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Paul details the specific items related to the armor of God. In this verse, he simply states what the main purpose of spiritual warfare and the armor of God is. Without the strength of God and the protection of spiritual armor, it is impossible to stand against the attacks of spiritual enemies. We cannot do battle on our own and hope to have any hope of winning. This is God’s fight.

God has given His people a call, a mission, a course to fulfill. Satan will do his best to stop it. When he attacks and intimidates, we are to stand. Not retreat, not attack, but stand. We do the Lord’s work and stand against every hint of spiritual opposition. Guzik explains “God gives the Christian a glorious standing to maintain by faith and spiritual warfare:

  • We stand in grace (Romans 5:2).
  • We stand in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1).
  • We stand in courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13).
  • We stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).
  • We stand in Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1).
  • We stand in Christian unity (Philippians 1:27).
  • We stand in the Lord (Philippians 4:1).
  • We should stand perfect and complete in the will of God (Colossians 4:12).         

Again, we should note that our direction is to stand. All in all, there is a lot indicated by that one word, stand.

  • It means that we are going to be attacked.
  • It means that we must not be frightened.
  • It means that we must not droop or slouch; nor be uncertain or half-hearted in the fight (no self-pity is allowed).
  • It means that we are at our position and alert.
  • It means that we do not give even a thought to retreat.”

We can only stand when we are equipped with the armor God has given us in Jesus Christ.

Paul restates the command to stand, but goes on to tell us how. Every aspect of this symbolic armor answers to a specific dynamic within the Christian life that enables us to stand against spiritual attack. He begins by telling us what parts of the armor we are to HAVE. “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Paul was in the custody of Roman soldiers as he wrote this letter. The order in which the pieces of armor are described is the order in which the soldier would normally put them on.

Paul begins by telling us to fasten on the belt of truth which symbolically is represented as a belt which both protects our abdomen and gathers up our garments so that we can fight effectively. In reality, the belt is not part of the armor, but before the armor can be put on, the garments underneath must be gathered together. In Paul’s time, when a man sat down and was relaxed, he took off his belt. Putting on the belt prepared for action, it freed one for movement, and it put a soldier in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth puts on the Biblical beliefs of a Christ Follower as a whole, which in other passages is called faith. This is part of the armor to have, which is a foundation to live upon all the time, our understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith found in God’s Word. We’ll look at more of the armor in the next section.

Ephesians 6:10

In Ephesians 6:10 Paul transitions to talk about the reality of life – that we are facing a very real enemy who wants to destroy us as believers. Satan (and his legion) have one mission – to kill, steal and destroy. Paul tells us to be ready. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” But most importantly, he tells us that the battle is not our own. This comes at the end of the letter – a letter in which Paul has carefully established our place in Jesus, and then the basics of the Christian walk. This is his last section dealing with that walk. And he is preparing us for battle.

Guzik writes “For Paul to write finally here means that he speaks in light of all he has previously said.

  • In light of all that God has done for you.
  • In light of the glorious standing you have as a child of God.
  • In light of His great plan of the ages that God has made you part of.
  • In light of the plan for Christian maturity and growth He gives to you.
  • In light of the conduct God calls every believer to live.
  • In light of the filling of the Spirit and our walk in the Spirit.
  • In light of all this, there is a battle to fight in the Christian life.”

The detailed teaching of spiritual warfare in this passage presents two essential components:

  1. First, you must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
  2. Then, you must put on the whole armor of God.

The two components are essential, and much of the teaching on Christian combat neglects the first. If you take a weak man who can barely stand, and put the best armor on him he will still be an ineffective soldier. He will be easily beaten. So equipping for Christian combat must begin with the principle, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. That is the mindset and preparation that gets us ready for battle. Only then should we put on the armor.

Paul also tells us as warriors to ‘be strong….in the strength (power) of His might.

  • Might is inherent power or force. A muscular man’s big muscles display his might, even if he doesn’t use them. It is the reserve of strength. The Lord has unlimited might.
  • Power is the exercise of might. When the muscular man uses his might to bend an iron bar, he uses his power. It means that the reserve of strength is actually in operation.

Guzik explains “God has vast reservoirs of might that can be realized as power in our Christian life. But His might does not work in me as I sit passively. His might works in me as I rely on it, and step out to do the work. I can rely on it and do no work. I can do work without relying on it. But both of these fall short. I must rely on His might and then do the work.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones listed many ways in which he believes Christians waste their strength. It was as if they had received some of the available might of God, but it simply leaked away like water in a bucket that is full of holes. These are some of the things Lloyd-Jones thought sapped the strength of the Christian:

  • Committing to too many spiritual works or things
  • Too much conversation
  • Arguments, debates, wrangling
  • Laziness
  • Too much time in the wrong company
  • Too much foolish talk and joking
  • Love of money and career
  • A desire for respectability and image
  • An unequal yoking with an unbeliever
  • Ungodly entertainment
  • A wrong attitude toward or doubting the Word of God

We have to walk on a knife-edge in these matters; you must not become extreme on one side or the other. But you have to be watchful. And, of course, you can always tell by examining yourself whether your strength is increasing or declining.” (Lloyd-Jones)

Ephesians 6:5-9

In Ephesians 6:5-9 Paul shifts gears to focus on ‘bondservants’ which was definitely relevant when he wrote this letter to the Ephesians. “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ….” Moule explains “The Gospel found slavery in the world; and in many regions, particularly the Roman and the Greek, it was a very bad form of slavery. The Gospel began at once to undermine it, with its mighty principles of the equality of all souls in the mystery and dignity of manhood, and of the equal work of redeeming love wrought for all souls by the supreme Master. But its plan was – not to batter, but to undermine… So while the Gospel in one respect left slavery alone, it doomed it in another.”

Today the principles here apply to us as workers and leaders/managers. The words “as you would Christ” should change our entire perspective as workers. It reminds us that our work can and should be done as if we were working for Jesus – because we are! We are not to work with eyeservice (working only when the boss is looking) or as people-pleasers (those who only care about pleasing man), but with good will (a good attitude, not complaining) doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. “….not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man….” 

We need to live and work to please an audience of ONE, God Himself, and not only for man. Spurgeon wrote “Grace makes us the servants of God while still we are the servants of men: it enables us to do the business of heaven while we are attending to the business of earth: it sanctifies the common duties of life by showing us how to perform them in the light of heaven.” Our work needs to be done for the Lord, not just for man. And there is a reward. “….knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” Paul relates a final reason for working hard for the Lord. God will return to us in the measure that we have worked hard for others; He will not allow our hard work to go without reward.

Paul then gives a word to the masters (or bosses in todays terminology). Employees are to work hard and honestly for their bosses, but bosses are to do the same on behalf of those who work for them. “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” Moule explains “So the Gospel leaves its message of absolutely equal obligation, in Jesus Christ, upon the slave and upon the slave owner. The principle will do its work. There is no word of Revolution.” Employers are to give up threatening and other forms of harsh treatment knowing that they are employees of their Master in heaven.

Ephesians 6:1-4

In Ephesians 6:1-4 Paul now shifts his guidance from marriage to parenting. There are a lot of similarities in that Paul continues to remind us that God does have a plan for how a family should operate. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The command is simple. Children are to obey their parents. This not only means that children have the responsibility to obey, but parents have the responsibility to teach their children obedience – one of the most important jobs for a parent. They have inherited the inclination to sin from Adam, but obedience has to be taught so that kids can grow up knowing how to obey God even if they don’t understand everything or they don’t want to.

Paul gives us two reasons for a child to obey the parent.

  1. First, they are to obey in the Lord. This means that their obedience is part of their Christian obedience, in a similar way to the wife’s command to submit to her husband as to the Lord.
  2. The second reason is because it is simply right for a child to obey their parent according to God’s plan for the family.

He goes on to quote one of the Ten Commandments related to this topic: “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

What it means to honor our father and mother may change as we grow into adulthood, but the principle always endures. The adult child does not owe the parent obedience forever, but they do owe the parent honor. Foulkes explains how important it is: “When the bonds of family life break up, when respect for parents fails, the community becomes decadent and will not live long.” Paul reinforced the idea of the importance of honoring your parents with a reference to Deuteronomy 5:16, where God promised to bless the obedient child. God will bless those who live a life that honors their parents.

Paul then specifically addresses fathers and how they should do their job in the family regarding children. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Parents certainly have the opportunity to provoke their children to wrath, through an unkind, overly-critical attitude that torments the child instead of training them. Christian parents should never be like this. Lloyd-Jones writes “When you are disciplining a child, you should have first controlled yourself… What right have you to say to your child that he needs discipline when you obviously need it yourself?”

What fathers (parents) should do is train up their children. This is a primary responsibility for fathers. They must not neglect their call to teach and be a spiritual example for their children. It is not a responsibility that should be left to mom or the church Sunday School. Paul tells us that training should include discipline and instruction. It has to begin with corrective discipline (encouragement and correction) and then be followed by instruction (teaching) so that children understand and learn the truth of God’s Word. This is one of the most important roles for fathers to fulfill in their home.

Ephesians 5:31-33

In Ephesians 5:31-33 Paul wraps up his teaching to the Ephesian church (and us) on the topic of marriage. Paul quotes what God wrote way back in the Garden at the creation of marriage in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Relevant to marriage today, it shows that just as the first man and the first woman were one – she was taken from him, and then brought back to him – so it could be said of every married man today that he is joined to his wife. God does the joining. Husbands can resent it, they can resist it, they can ignore it, but it doesn’t change the fact. In marriage we become ONE.

Guzik explains Paul’s teaching to wives as he did to husbands. “Paul gave three reasons for a Christian wife’s submission to her husband. In addressing the Christian husbands, Paul also gave three reasons to love their wife:

i. First, they should love their wife this way because this is what love is. Paul indicates this in Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives.

ii. Second, they should love their wife this way because the relationship between husband and wife has a pattern: the relationship of Jesus and His church. Paul indicates this in Ephesians 5:25-29: Just as Christ also loved the church… So husbands ought to love their own wives… just as the Lord does the church.

iii. The third reason is found in Ephesians 5:28-32. The Christian husband must love his wife this way because you are one with her, just as Jesus is one with the church.”

There is a fundamental principle for promoting oneness in marriage: there must be a leaving (of former associations) and a cleaving (joining together as one). Often we think of the leaving as being from our parents, but it can be much more than that. We must get rid of anything that will prevent us from becoming one with our wife. Anything, and everything, that might get in the way. And while we often wrongly think that this passage in Genesis is about only a husband and wife, it also speaks about the relationship between Christ and the church. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Paul really taught on two things at once. He teaches about marriage, but he also teaches about God’s pattern for marriage – the relationship between Jesus and His people. We need to get rid of things that prevent us from truly being one with Jesus!

Paul continues anre reminds us of the basics of marriage. “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Everyone is included in Paul’s teaching around marriage. There are no passes or excuses. If Paul’s message in this great passage could be boiled down to two principles which must govern our thinking and our actions as married people, those two are:

  • Husbands: Understand that you and your wife are one, are a unity which means love
  • Wives: Understand that your unity has a head – your husband which means submission

Guzik points out that we often focus on the wrong things related to God’s plan for marriage:

  • “Wives are quick to embrace and understand the husband’s principle (love your wife), and they want that to be the governing principle of the marriage.
  • Husbands are quick to embrace and understand the wife’s principle (submit to your husband), and they want that to be the governing principle of the marriage.
  • But we must let our principle govern us. When you have a husband thinking, “I’m one with my wife, and I must think and act that way,” and a wife thinking, “My husband is the head of our oneness, and I need to respect and defer to him as the head,” then you will have a healthy, Biblical marriage.”
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