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1 Be Strong in the Lord: Ephesians 6:10-17 Ben Reaoch, THREE RIVERS GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH INTRODUCTION This week and next week will be the last two sermons in this series on Ephesians. On Sunday, December 24th we'll focus on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ as we celebrate His birth. Then in the month of January, as I've mentioned, we are going spend the month thinking about, praying about, and preaching and communicating the vision of our church, and how we sense God leading us into the future. January will be a month of vision-casting, and I've been praying about this a lot, and I hope you're praying for Tom and Cam and me and for the direction of our church. We are very aware of our inadequacies and of our dependence on God in all of this, and we all need to go before the Lord in prayer regularly to express our need for Him and ask Him to bless us. I don't know about you, but I have a craving, a yearning, a hunger, a longing to see God and to see His power. And therefore, I don't want to waste any time with my own silly ideas. I want a clear direction from God. And I believe He's beginning to give us that, and I'm trusting Him to continue to reveal His plan for us in His timing. So this is a time for prayer, and for waiting and watching. In June we began our journey through this amazing letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, and in the first 3 chapters of this letter we learned many deep and profound truths about God and sin and salvation and the church. The first half of this letter is Paul rejoicing in how awesome God is, and the awesome things God has done. The second half of the letter is application of that truth. At the beginning of chapter 4 Paul shifts from expounding all these wonderful truths to telling us how we ought to live. He moves from truth about God to how Christians should live. He moves from the basis for the Christian life to the conduct of the Christian life. He moves exposition to exhortation, from the indicative to the imperative. The first half is filled with indicative statements of fact, statements about reality. And then the second half is filled with imperatives, commands. This is how you should live. In chapters 4-5, part of the application section of the letter, Paul uses the metaphor of walking as he gives us God's commands of how we should live our lives. In 4:1 he writes, I "urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." In 4:17, "you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds." In 5:2, "walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." In 5:8, "walk as children of light." And then in 5:15, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise." And that introduces the command to be filled with the Spirit, which then leads to the household code of 5:22 ­ 6:9, giving instructions to husbands and wives, children and fathers, and slaves and masters (or employees and employers). And that brings us to our passage this morning beginning in 6:10. This is a significant transition in the letter, because Paul has finished the household code, and he's turning to the conclusion of his letter, but he has one more very important subject to discuss. And that is spiritual warfare. You see that he begins verse 10 with the word "finally." He's turning now to his last point. Another significant shift in this passage is that he no longer uses the language of walking, as he did in chapters 4-5. Instead, he uses the verb, "to stand." In verse 11, "that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." In verse 13, "that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having

2 done all, to stand firm." And then verse 14, "Stand therefore." This passage is about battle. It's about standing firm. It's about resisting the enemy. I want to ask two simple questions as we look at these verses. First of all, who is the enemy? And secondly, how do we fight this enemy? I. Who is the enemy? The passage begins with two commands. First, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." And then, "Put on the whole armor of God." Then he tells us the purpose for these things, "that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." We have to be strong in the Lord and we have to put on the whole armor of God, so that we'll be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Who is the enemy? The devil is the enemy that Paul is specifically talking about in these verses. In chapter 2:2-3 Paul described our condition as sinners before conversion, and he said "you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience ­ among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind." Those three slave-masters that used to hold us in complete bondage continue to be the enemies we wrestle against in our Christian lives. The world, the devil, and the flesh. In chapter 6 Paul now focuses on one of those three enemies, the devil. Not that our resistance to the world is unimportant or that our struggle against the flesh is unimportant. But Paul chooses here to address the battle we face against the evil one, the devil, Satan. In verse 12 he writes, "For," which means he's giving us a reason or an explanation for what he just said. He's going to explain the nature of this battle and the significance of this battle. He compares it to wrestling. The word could refer to the sport of wrestling, or it could refer the close hand-to-hand combat of war. And that seems to be the focus here, where Paul is using the analogy of armor and warfare. The point is that the struggle we're in is intensely personal. We don't have an enemy who is way out there somewhere, and we lob missiles in his direction. The enemy is attacking each of us personally and individually, and he is using his schemes to try to defeat us. He is looking for our weaknesses, and wanting to attack when we're not prepared. It's a personal, hand-to-hand combat. But it's not against flesh and blood. It's a spiritual battle. It's a battle against evil spiritual beings, demons, Satan's forces. As chapter 2 described him, Satan is "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." The devil, and his minions (the demons) have an enormous influence for evil. Indeed, they hold in their sway all unbelievers. That's what 2:2 is saying, "the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." All who are living as rebels against God, are under the influence of the devil. This is not to say that all unbelievers are demon-possessed, but they are under the realm of the evil one. Unbelievers are living under the influence of the devil. Their lives, in various ways, are promoting evil rather than good, they are promoting lies rather than the truth, and they are leading toward destruction rather than life. Who is our enemy? The devil and his demons. Now we also need to realize the significance of who our enemy is NOT. Paul says we do NOT wrestle against flesh and blood. In other words, our ultimate enemy is not a physical, material foe. There are

3 plenty of things in this world that we could point to and say, "That's wrong, that's evil, that's wicked." And that may be very true, but Paul is telling us to look past the physical out workings of evil, and understand that the real enemy is the spiritual forces of evil that lie behind those things. So, for instance, the politicians and activist groups that promote abortion are not our ultimate enemy. And we should not wage our war against the evil of abortion by killing or harming or threatening those in the abortion industry. Rather, we should recognize the great spiritual evil that lies behind abortion, and we should pray, and we should proclaim the Gospel, and we should contend for the sanctity of life. And in all of those things remembering that this is not a battle against flesh and blood, it is not a political battle, it is not an ideological battle, it is not simply a pro-life / pro-choice battle. It is a battle against the devil and his forces of evil in the heavenly places. The same could be said concerning the battle against drugs or pornography or prostitution or human trafficking or suicide bombers or false religions or false teaching. Our tendency is to focus on the flesh and blood, to focus on the human beings who are promoting certain evils. But Paul tells us that those human beings are living under the influence of a much greater evil, and it is that evil in the spiritual realm that is our greater enemy. II. How do we fight this enemy? So now that we know who the enemy is, how do we fight this enemy? First of all, notice that it is all by God's power! Do you see how this is emphasized in verse 10? "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." Isn't that wonderful! He is our strength. He is our might. By God's grace, He has shown us that we cannot fight sin in our own power. And we cannot fight the devil or his demons in our own power. We're weak and frail, and we don't have a chance against the Devil, that is, we don't have a chance in our own strength. But in His strength. That's a different story. And that's why we need to be strong in Him and in the strength of His might. And we need to put on God's armor. Verse 11 commands us to "put on the whole armor of God," and verse 14 commands us to "take up the whole armor of God." If we're going to stand firm against this evil enemy, we need to defend ourselves and wage war with God's armor. We need to dress ourselves in the spiritual armor that God has provided for us. And Paul lists these for us in verses 14-17, and he likens the spiritual armor to the actual, physical armor that a Roman soldier would use. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes which are the readiness of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. A. Belt of Truth For the soldier, the belt was a critical part of his armor, because the belt held everything together. The belt pulled the tunic together so there wasn't any loose-hanging clothing, and it made the soldier ready for hand-to-hand combat. For Christians in spiritual battle, truth is an essential part of our armor. We must be ready and equipped with the truth. We need to know the truth. Satan will attack us with lies, and we need to be ready with the truth. In the Garden of Eden, Satan attacked Eve with a blatant lie. He wanted to cause her to doubt God's goodness, and he said, "Did God actually say, `You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Gen 3:1). Of course, God had provided Adam and Eve with an overabundance of trees to eat from, but Satan planted that deceitful seed of doubt in

4 Eve's mind. And that seed produced the fruit of rebellion and disobedience. We must protect ourselves from the lies of the devil. In Ephesians 4:25-27, Paul writes, "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." The devil will certainly seek to make advances against us with falsehood. He will seek to use falsehood to make us angry with one another and destroy our unity. He will use falsehood to entice us into all kinds of sin. But if we are ready with God's truth, we will be able, in God's strength, to defend ourselves from those attacks. B. Breastplate of Righteousness Secondly, we need the protection of the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate was something the soldier wore to protect his torso in the hand-to-hand fighting and also to protect him from arrows. For the Christian, this vital piece of armor that protects us from the evil one is righteousness. Some have interpreted this to be the righteousness of Christ that is imputed (or credited) to the believer. When a person becomes a Christian, the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed (or credited) to that person so that God views him or her as righteous. We are united to Christ in such a way that His righteousness is our righteousness. And that is our only hope of being accepted by God. And it's possible to understand the breastplate of righteousness as the imputed righteousness of Christ, because Paul certainly speaks of righteousness in this way in his other writings. But righteousness is also used to refer to the right living that is a result of being in Christ. We are declared righteous in Christ, but then we also begin the process of becoming righteous, very slowly and painfully, and never completely in this life. But our lives must grow in holiness, and they will if we are true believers. John Calvin refers to the breastplate of righteousness as "a devout and holy life." When we are growing in holiness and becoming more like Christ, that right living will be a strong piece of armor against the attacks of the devil. If we are lax in our pursuit of holiness, if we aren't careful about what we let influence us, if we're not disciplined in Bible reading and prayer and fellowship with other believers, we leave ourselves vulnerable to Satan's schemes. But the breastplate of a righteous life will defend us in many important ways. C. Shoes which are the Readiness of the Gospel Thirdly Paul mentions the necessity of good footwear. In this context of spiritual warfare, and the commands to stand firm, Paul uses the image of the cleat-like sandals that Roman soldiers wore. They had several layers of leather, making the sole about ¾ in. thick, and they were studded with hollow-headed hobnails. These were not jogging shoes. They were cleats, designed to dig in and stand firm against the onslaught of the enemy. What's ironic in this image is that we find strength to fight the enemy in the gospel of peace. This phrase refers to the Good News that we have peace with God. We are no longer enemies of God, we are his friends. We have peace with the Almighty God. And that is a profound truth that gives us readiness to dig our heels in against the powers of evil. Simply knowing whose side we're on. We're on God's side of this battle, and you know what, He's going to win! I read the end of the story! God wins. And if we have peace with God, then we win, too!

5 D. Shield of Faith Fourthly, the shield of faith. The shield that the Roman soldier carried was big enough to protect his whole body. It was made of wood and was covered in hide, and the soldiers could immerse the shield in water before battle so that it would extinguish flaming-arrows. Paul likens this shield to faith, which can shield us from the flaming darts of the evil one. This is similar to what I said about the belt of truth, because Satan will try to deceive us with lies. He will fire arrows at us in the hope that the torch will set us aflame with pride or lust or selfishness or gossip or whatever particular sin we may struggle with. He knows that those tendencies are deeply-rooted within us, and if he can just pierce through that armor, he can do a lot of damage. Our faith in God's goodness and our knowledge of the truth that He is far better and far more satisfying than the momentary pleasures of lust, or the hollow enjoyment of pride, or the petty satisfaction of gossip. Our shield of faith will turn those flaming darts into ashes that will disappear in the wind. E. Helmet of Salvation Fifthly, the helmet of salvation, which is similar to the readiness of the gospel of peace. We know that we have peace with God. We know that we are saved. And that is a massive truth that gives us strength and protection in the midst of fierce battle. That assurance protects us from the doubts and discouragement that Satan attacks us with. F. Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God Finally, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. This is the one offensive piece of armor. The others are all designed for defense and protection. But the sword can be used both defensively and offensively. The Word of God, the Bible, is the weapon we can wield against the devil and his forces. And that's why we have "fighter verses" in the worship folder each week. We need to have an arsenal of God's Word stored up in our minds so that we have a ready defense and attack against the evil one who is constantly scheming against us. This week's verse is a wonderful example of how to use Scripture to fight the evil one. 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." Satan comes with a flaming dart, seeking to set us ablaze with a particular sin. And we preach this verse to ourselves. God can deliver me. In God's strength, I CAN resist. There IS a way out! God is faithful. Don't despair. And thus we extinguish the flaming arrow, and we attack the evil one with the truth of God's Word. CLOSING In closing I just want us to notice again how we rely completely on God's strength and might in this battle. As verse 10 said, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." We are totally dependent on Him. It's His armor that we wear. It's His truth. It's His righteousness that is worked out in our lives. It's His Good News of peace that has brought us into fellowship with Him. He has given us faith. He has saved us. And He has given us His Word, the sword of the Spirit. So in this fierce and personal battle against spiritual evil, we do not fight in our own strength. We do not depend on any power that comes from ourselves. But we cast ourselves completely on God, and we take up the armor that He gives us. And when we fight this way, God gets all the glory. God get's all the glory when we fight in His strength. It makes it evident

6 that we don't have the strength to win the battle, but He does. So let's take up His armor, and let's fight this battle knowing that we are on the winning side. Satan will not stand in the end. He will be defeated once and for all by our great Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

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