Ephesians 6:10-12 Part 2 - Spiritual Warfare
Our text is Ephesians 6:10-12 which says,
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Last week’s sermon...
was an introduction into the topic of spiritual warfare
and it was an introduction to the end of this remarkable letter.
We focused in on the word ‘Finally’.
Paul is going to begin to wrap up this letter.
Paul is also saying, that in view of all that has been shared since this letter began, it is imperative that Christians be ready to engage in a spiritual battle.
The foundation had been laid, the exterior walls had been put up and the roof of the structure has been put on. This great doctrinal letter has now built an imposing structure. And now Paul wants us to go see what has been built for the very first time. We are surprised to see that it is a great fortress.
This shelter, this garrison, this citadel has been built for far more than simply for our personal comfort. It is for our safety and for our help during the spiritual warfare that every Christian will encounter. Having built this fortress every believer can win this spiritual battle by the strength of God and by wearing His armor. They will be able to stand despite the size and strength of the enemy. The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s people and against God’s church. (Matthew 16:18)
John Calvin said, “The devils have such power over us that we could not tell how to withstand them, unless God were both our shield and our rampart (fortress), protecting us from all assaults, yes, and fighting for us when we can do nothing at all.”
In Ephesians Paul has given to every believer a bountiful grace package. Therefore, it is inevitable that the devil and all of his armies will soon be coming against us. If we have grown in the grace of God then we should not be surprised at any conflict, battle, assault, campaign or war that is being waged against us? We need not fear when such a day comes because Paul is telling us how we can stand strong during such a day.
Have we mistakenly assumed that the more we grow in grace the less we will have to battle.
Have we mistakenly believed that the more grace we experience the fewer conflicts we will encounter.
Have we mistakenly believed that as we grow in grace we will be tested less.
Paul knows that believers will have their faith tested. Samuel Rutherford said, “Grace withers without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer; to teach us to handle our weapons.”
God intends for believers to be engaged in this battle.
Therefore, Paul now is teaching every believer about the spiritual warfare that each of us faces.
We Are To Be Strong In The LORD
Paul begins by saying, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” There are three different words in the Greek that are used to describe strength in this verse.
First, we are to ‘be strong in the Lord’. There is a process to getting stronger. A believer is to be getting stronger and stronger in the Lord. If this occurs, the believer will not grow tired, distressed, drained or fatigued. The Lord will renew their strength and they will not grow weary.
Isaiah 30:28-31 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
How do we grow strong? It is growing in the very things that Paul has already prayed for in this letter. This is how Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:15-23,
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
When Paul says, “Be strong in the Lord”, he is encapsulating everything that he prayed in the beginning of this letter. And we can not minimize the importance of the words ‘...in the Lord’.
Every believer has faith in the Lord Jesus and has a love for the saints.
Every believer is to grow in wisdom, revelation and in the knowledge of Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit.
Every believer is to have the eyes of their heart focused upon the knowledge of the hope that they have in Christ.
As this happens, they begin to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power towards those who believe.
A believer in battle continually looks to Christ and in Him they see the power and might of God that has exalted Christ and seated Him above all rule, authority, power, dominion, and above every other name.
And now Christ is the Head of the church and He fills all things in the church.
Secondly, the believer is to ‘be strong in the Lord and in the strength’ of God. The believer that is strong will not faint in the day of adversity. Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Our strength is weak; but the believer who is strong in the Lord is full of strength. We cannot stand for long in our own strength; but we can stand in His strength and might.
Such a believer is able to battle even if the battle is long and arduous. They are like the soldiers of Israel in Joshua 10 who fought a long battle when God extended the length of the day so that the enemy would be completely routed. Can you imagine the soldiers being able to endure such a long battle without the Lord’s strength? If we are tired after a full shift at work, imagine what it would be like to fight in a hand to hand conflict for twenty-four hours straight.
Thirdly, Paul uses the term ‘might’. A believer who becomes stronger in the Lord will grow in strength; and a believer who matures in strength will become mighty in the Lord.
They will stand strong in the day of battle.
Their faith will not falter, their trust does not wain, their hope will not despair.
We see where a Christian gets this sort of might from in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11. It says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
Each of us in this room can be challenged and also encouraged by these things. On the one hand, we are challenged to ask ourselves,
“What is giving me strength?”
“How is my strength holding up under this trial?”
“Am I standing in the day of adversity?”
“Do I faint when trouble comes?”
“Am I trusting in myself, someone else, some other thing for strength; rather than the Lord?”
On the other hand, we should be encouraged that there is a process that each of us goes through as we become strong in the Lord.
You may not be that strong today but it should not stay that way.
You may have fainted in the last battle that you were in but you don’t have to faint in the next one.
You are to become strong, grow in strength and become mighty in the Lord.
Recently, I talked to someone who was going through a trial. I listened to their story and I marveled at the fact that they possessed so much peace and faith in the midst of it all. Finally, I told them that I was surprised at their disposition and strength. And then they told me something that captured my attention. They said, “The first time I went through this it was not so pretty. That time I really struggled to have faith and to be at peace. I have learned a lot since then!”
When Paul and Barnabas went out on their missionary journey they took Mark with them but he did not last long. Soon he returned home and Paul was more than a little frustrated with Mark about that. He was so upset with Mark that Paul and Barnabas parted ways on the next missionary journey when Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along. However, Peter began to disciple him and over time Mark became a valued and trusted person to Paul and the other apostles. We read in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” Perhaps Paul began to see over time that every Christian needs to grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Mark was no exception.
Paul learned how to grow in these things in his own life. He says in Philippians 4: 11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Growing strong in the Lord is not always an easy process. In 2 Corinthians 12. Paul describes a time when he was receiving great revelations. As a result of this, God gave to Paul a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him.
Paul then describes this by saying, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ then, ‘I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’”
We should be encouraged as we remember that God is stronger than the greatest foe. He is greater than our greatest enemy. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31-37)
The Enemy That We Are Facing
Ephesians 6:11-12 states, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
It is hard to imagine that Paul could be any more clear about the enemy that we are facing. Our foes are: the devil, rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil. They are strong, powerful, calculating and scheming.
When Israel was coming into the promised land they faced strong fortified cities and large coalitions of armies. The sight of these armies must have been terrifying at times. Not only were they vastly outnumbered, but they also had superior equipment of war. One such encounter is recorded in Joshua 11:4-5. This is the description of the armies that gathered against Israel, “And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.”
In a similar way, Paul is wanting us to be aware of the enemy we are facing.
Why would Paul want us to see this enemy?
There may be several things that Paul seeks to accomplish.
First, Paul seeks to sober us up and to evoke godly fear into our hearts. This is exactly what happened to Joshua. He saw the enemy encamped at the river and in that moment he experienced fear. Moments like this makes us realize that if victory is to be won, then the battle must be the LORD’s.
Secondly, we have the opportunity to turn to God and to trust in Him. In Joshua 11:6 we read, “And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them…I will give over all of them to Israel.’ Joshua listened to God and trusted in His Word and they were victorious.
Thirdly, Paul desires that believers will act appropriately. There are four proper responses: put on the armor of God, stand firm, stay alert and to pray.
Paul wants them to see the enemy that is arrayed against them because he wants them to put on the whole armor of God so that they can stand against Satan in the evil day.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson says, “Early in the Christian life we might think that to stand in this spiritual warfare is a relatively insignificant achievement. But the more we read the New Testament, and the longer we experience the pressure of spiritual warfare, the more clearly we will see that to remain standing – after all the struggle of the battle – is the result of a work of supernatural grace in us.”
Notice that Paul speaks of putting on the armor and standing strong at the beginning and at the end of our text this morning.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
As we begin to prepare our hearts for communion I would like for us to consider Psalm 68. This is a psalm about our God who shall arise and scatter all of His enemies. (v.1)
Psalm 68 is a psalm of praise to God who gives them His power and strength in the battle.
It is also a psalm with Messianic promises (v.18). Jesus has come to earth and defeated our great enemy – Satan and his army. (Colossians 2:6-15) The war has been won but the battle continues to rage. Yet, we are given His power and strength to battle to the very end. Psalm 68:34-35 says, “Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. Awesome is God from His sanctuary; the God of Israel – he is the one who gives power and strength to His people. Blessed be God.”
It is only fitting that as we celebrate communion today that we should celebrate it with a genuine and sincere heart of Thanksgiving just as the psalmist did with this psalm.
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belongs deliverance from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)
It is also a time to remember what God has accomplished through Christ on the cross. He has defeated and disarmed our enemies. And it is a time to remember that we have been given the Holy Spirit who gives to us the power and strength to fight the good fight of faith.
Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever; Amen.”
God is to receive glory throughout all generations. The psalmist gave glory to God and now we have the opportunity to glorify Him for being a God of salvation and for giving us strength and might.