Ephesians 6:10-12 Spiritual Warfare
My dad was in the Army and he was stationed in Germany. To be honest, my dad never spoke much about his time in the army. When he did it was with great gratitude because the training he received there enabled him to do what he enjoyed doing for the rest of his life.
There was one story that he told me that I would like to share with you. He told me about a time when he and a friend got off duty and they were walking on base with their shirts un-tucked and they both had cigarettes hanging from their mouths.
They were so busy talking as they walked down the street that they did not realize that the general’s limo had passed by them. Whenever this happens the soldiers were to stand and salute the limo even if the general was not in the vehicle. Because they did not see it pass by them they did not stand at attention and salute.
It was only when they heard the screeching of tires behind them as the limo came to abrupt stop that they realized what had happened. They stood there at attention as the door was opened for the general and he got out. The general walked strait to them and began to scold them for the way that they were dressed and for not being aware of what was going on around them. After a thorough scolding the general said, “The next place you should go is to get a JAG lawyer for your court marshal.
Now, we may not think that their actions deserved a court marshal; but that is exactly what happened to my dad. He had to get a JAG lawyer and he eventually was found guilty and sentenced to serving extra duties.
As we come to our text today, the apostle Paul is acting as the general who is responsible for the training of the soldiers. He comes to us this morning and gives us all a strong command that we are to be always dressed for battle and that we are always to be looking to our Lord so that we can receive grace and strength so that we can stand in the evil day.
Our text this morning is found in Ephesians 6:10-12. It 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.
Some questions came to mind as I began to look at this text. I asked,
“Why is Paul addressing Spiritual Warfare? Would I have ended the book of Ephesians in this way?”
“Is the news of this warfare and of our powerful enemy going to overshadow everything that has been spoken of previously?”
“Does this section of scripture correlate with everything else that Paul has said in this letter or does it stand alone?”
The opening word of our text, ‘Finally’, lets us know that Paul is now beginning to wrap up this letter but he wants to make one more point. Paul wants to end by discussing the spiritual warfare that every Christian is engaged in. The last impression that he wants to leave upon our us concerns the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in continually.
Some have said that Paul has been concentrating upon the ‘walk’ of the Christian and not the ‘warfare’ that a Christian is to engage in up until this point. However, we have already seen that our ‘walk’ either helps us in this battle against Satan or it intensifies our vulnerability to attacks from the evil one – Satan.
For example, we saw this in Ephesians 4:25-27 which says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
There is no doubt that Paul’s words in this text can be quite alarming. He speaks of a spiritual enemy that is ordered, structured, who possesses authority, who is a cosmic threat and who is unseen. Paul reminds these believers that they are not in a battle against flesh and blood, but they are in a hand to hand battle against these spiritual foes in heavenly places. In our text, Paul lists all of these enemies, as if to parade them before our minds to sober us up. He mentions: Satan, rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil.
“How are you going to respond to our text today?”
Will your heart be overcome with fear? Will your heart be paralyzed with panic?
Will you ignore Paul’s words and deny that such a battle is being raged?
Will you scoff at such things and call Paul foolish? And if so, beware because you will also not heed Paul’s warning in Ephesians 4:27 to give no opportunity to the devil.
Will you attempt to engage in this spiritual battle in the strength of the flesh and not through a genuine relationship with the Lord? (Acts 19:11-20)
Will you continue to fight against flesh and blood; rather than engaging the proper enemy?
Or will you head Paul’s words and respond appropriately with all diligence?
Let’s begin this morning by attempting to answer two questions,
“Why has Paul chosen to talk about as spiritual warfare as he concludes this letter?”
“Is this spiritual warfare connected in some way with the rest of this letter or does it stand alone?”
I am going to argue that there is a flow to all of what Paul has been teaching and that this discussion concerning spiritual warfare is not detached from what has proceeded. Rather, this teaching is applicable to us at all times and seasons. In other words, when Paul says, ‘Finally’, he is saying that everything that has been said up until this point has brought us to this final instruction concerning spiritual warfare.
First, let me begin to answer these questions from the immediate context. Over the last several weeks we have looked practically at how we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We read in Ephesians 5:18-21, “...be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
To ensure that we really had to apply what Paul had just said, he then went on to describe three practical areas where we are to be submissive in our relationships with one another.
In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul spoke of how wives were to submit to their husbands; and husbands were to love their wives.
In Ephesians 6:1-4 Paul spoke of how children were to obey their parents; and parents are to bring them up in the instruction and discipline of the Lord.
In Ephesians 6:5-9 Paul spoke of how slaves are to submit to their masters; and masters are to be gracious to their slaves.
Let me ask you a question, ‘Were there certain parts of those texts that you struggled with hearing and obeying?’
Wives, did you struggle with Paul asking you to submit to your husbands because your husband is not perfect? In fact, he can be unreasonable, he has made mistakes, and in some ways he has not been responsible and that scares you? Husbands, did you want to argue with Paul about loving your wife because she has some traits that rub you the wrong way and she is not always the easiest person to love?
Parents, did you want to argue with Paul about how to parent because he obviously does not understand your children and how exhausting and exacerbating they can be? Children, did you want to ignore Paul when he told you to obey your parents because you know that your parents don’t always make sense and their demands can seem unreasonable?
Finally, was it hard for us to hear that slaves were to obey their masters? Especially when we know that masters are not always kind; but rather, they can be threatening? Was it hard for those in authority to be told to be kind and patient with them when it is easier for us to be demanding, uncaring, and unsympathetic to them?
If you found yourself arguing with Paul, or with God’s Word over the last few weeks, you need to hear what Paul says today. You need to hear Paul tell us that our fight is not with flesh and blood. It is not with our spouse, our kids, our parents, or our employee or employer relationships; but it is a spiritual fight.
It is as though Paul sensed the concerns and complaints of the people that he is writing too; and so he answers these things by addressing the spiritual warfare that we are fighting as Christians. We cannot fight this battle with the arm of the flesh; but only by the strength of the Spirit of God working in us and by wearing the appropriate armor.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson writes concerning this spiritual warfare the following, “Far from being ethereal and mystical the regular contest of the battle is in the ordinary routines of daily life...Wherever grace brings advance and victory, attacks will come. It is in the ordinary progress of sanctification that the Devil seeks to defeat us; it is in daily routines that we need to make sure he gains no foothold. Mundane life, not just mountaintop experience, is the sphere in which Satan appears. We need to be conscience of his strategies.”
Secondly, let us try to answer, “Why is Paul speaking about spiritual warfare and does it connect with the rest of the letter?” by looking at the broader context of Ephesians.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul spoke so much about grace of God that has been given to believers. Let me remind you of just a few of them:
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (1:3)
We have been predestined for adoption as sons through Christ (1:5)
We have been redeemed and forgiven according to the riches of His grace (1:7)
We have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance (1:13)
We have been brought from death to life (2:1-5)
We have been raised up with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places (2:6)
We have been created for good works (2:10)
We have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ and have been given peace with God (2:13-18)
We are fellow citizens, saints, and members of the household of God (2:19)
By grace we are being filled with all the fullness of God (3:19)
Samuel Rutherford said, “I find it most true that the greatest temptations outside of hell is to live without temptations; if water stands it rots; faith is better for the sharp winter storm in its face and grace withers without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer; to teach us to handle our weapons.”
If Samuel Rutherford’s words are true, it explains a great deal as to why Paul is now talking about spiritual warfare at the end of this letter to the Ephesians. Paul has written so much about the grace of God and how this grace has been given to every believer. If we have been given grace, and are to grow in it, then should we not expect that we will face troubles, battles and conflict?
The early church was given great grace to walk in by God. Acts 4:33 says, “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
And yet, this grace was not fully unleashed in their hearts, their minds and to the surrounding nations until trouble came upon them. We see this in Acts 8:1 which says, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria...”
If it is true that grace will wither without adversity, then Paul knows that these believers should expect to face adversity and that they will have to spar with the devil because of the great grace that they have received. Therefore, Paul sees the urgency of reminding these Christians that there will be spiritual battles to be fought.
Paul is writing to these Ephesians Christians and commanding them to be aware of this spiritual battle that is being waged and reminding them that they are to always be wearing the proper armor so that they will be able to stand against the devil and his schemes.
Where is the encouragement for the Christian in knowing that the path that they will take to heaven will be full of many battles, many fights, and great conflicts?
Has God been gracious to you? Over the last year, since we have begun this study in Ephesians, has your heart grown in grace? Have you come to understand the grace that God has given to you in a more profound way?
Paul expected that the church of Ephesus would have received so much grace from this letter that one thing would be expected – great conflicts would arise!
If we have grown in the grace of God as we have gone through the book of Ephesians, then we should not be surprised at any fiery trial that has come upon us? Instead, we should rejoice in the fact that grace is being established in our hearts and Christ will be glorified through this trial as we proceed in His strength and as we wear the armor that He has given us.
Perhaps, we mistakenly assume that the more we grow in grace the less we will have to battle.
We mistakenly believe that the more grace we experience the fewer conflicts we will have.
We mistakenly believe that as we grow in grace we will be tested less.
The apostle Peter says, however, in 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”