Ephesians

Ephesians 6: 14-20 – Spiritual defence

SPIRITUAL DEFENCE!

Ephesians 6:14 – 20. (v21 – 24 – concluding remarks)

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

In verses 10 – 13 we saw that the Christian is involved in a struggle – usually with physical and/or practical implications – but ultimately the struggle is not against human forces but against spiritual ones. […not against flesh and blood .. v12]. God’s enemy is Satan and his demons and simply because we cannot see them physically does not mean that they do not exist. There is spiritual conflict going on around us – the devil is doing his utmost to disrupt and undermine the kingdom of God — and whoever is on God’s side will be a target.

 

Now as we said last time, many in the Western World, with our anti-supernatarulistic attitude, like to think that belief in devils and demons is a lot of hocus-pocus. Firstly, there is an rapid increase of interest in the occult and witchcraft in the UK – more witches than clergy. Secondly, simply because a person or group of people do not believe something does not mean that it does not exist.

 

ILLUS.: 500 years ago people believed the world was flat. Does that mean that the world was ever flat??

 

The Bible always assumes the existence of the devil and demons — and Jesus certainly spoke of the devil and demons as real spiritual being and not figments of people imaginations.

 

So then if Satan is trying to undermine our faith and cause us to give-up on following Christ how are we to defend ourselves from this attack? This is exactly what Paul is talking about in v. 13 – 18.

 

The point that Paul is emphasising in this section is that the Christian must stand firm – here he uses military language – in other places we are told not to be tossed about by every new teaching that comes along. In Psalm 1 the description is of a tree with deep roots. It is easy to be stable when everything around us is calm and peaceful and we are free from trouble BUT Paul here is urging us to stand firm when in the midst of conflict.

 

How does your faith in Christ stand up under pressure? When things are difficulty – do you begin to doubt God’s goodness and trustworthiness and love – do you question his sovereignty – do you doubt that he knows what he is doing??

Instead of turning to God do you begin to turn away from him? Turn your back? I am not talking about a fleeting doubt or questioning BUT a deliberate turning away from God!! THAT is exactly what Satan wants — that is what happened in the Garden of Eden – Adam and Eve doubted God!!

 

So then how do we stand?? When Paul wrote this letter he was in prison in Rome, probably chained to a Roman soldier – he would have had a constant reminder of the soldier’s equipment and uses this as an illustration of the Christians spiritual equipment – Roman soldiers were seen in everyday live throughout the Roman Empire so his readers would immediately be able to picture what he was talking about.

 

He uses the word ‘panoplia’ referring to the full armour of a heavy-armed soldier – the point being that Paul is emphasising the completeness of God’s armour – armour that is designed and furnished by God.

 

He focuses on 6 pieces of the soldiers equipment – the belt, breastplate, boots, shield, helmet and sword.

 

  1. The Belt of Truth.

 

The belt was a leather and was more part of the under garments than the armour, however it was an essential piece of equipment. The tunic was a long garment, square, with holes cut in for the head and arms. It hung loosely over the body and it is easy to see how such a garment could be a hindrance in the heat of battle which was usually hand-to-hand combat.

 

It was not only soldier who do this – everyone wore long flowing robes and if you needed to run of do manual work the robes had to be tuck out of the way in order for them to have freedom of movement.

 

Peter uses the term figuratively 1 Peter 1:13

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action [gird up the loins of your mind]; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

 

The NIV translation is right – ‘ .. prepare .. action ..’   NOW spiritually speaking the thing that prepares us is TRUTH.

 

Two possibilities:

1] objective doctrinal truth – the content of God’s truth is essential for every believer – we have already seen this in Ephesians 4:14

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (NIV)

 

One of the factor that is always present in an unstable Christian is that s/he is not sure of what s/he believes. Satan will do all he can to undermine the truth of God – not always by opposing it but by sowing doubt in our minds and trying to destabilise us. It is vitally important that Christians study and know the truth.

 

2] subjective practical truth – it is never enough to only know God’s truth academically – we need to have an attitude of truthfulness. David , the psalmist –

Psalm 51:6 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. (NIV)

 

The Christian needs to be honest and truthful at all costs. When we slid into hypocrisy and scheming, when we are underhand and deceptive then we are playing the devil’s game – and that is exactly what he wants us to do – he knows and we should know that we will never beat him at his own game.

 

Being truthful is not always easy – “Honesty is that best policy!” – Well it depends what you mean by best. Sometimes it is not the best or most advantageous to yourself to be honest – if you are totally honest you may not get the job; you might not be shown up in a good light – sometimes you will suffer for being truthful. So honesty might not be the best policy in terms of self interest but it is the right policy before God and that is what counts in the final analysis!

 

  1. THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

 

The breastplates that the Roman soldiers wore were either made of metal or leather with slices of animal hooves or horns sewn in. The purpose of course was to protect the torso – not just the front but going around the back to protect all the vital organs.

 

Paul describes the Christian breastplate as righteousness. He is not talking about self righteousness – the kind that thinks that by legalistic behaviour can earn us Brownie points with God. Far from being a protective covering, self-righteousness gives Satan a ready made weapon to smother and stifle our spiritual life and service to God.

Isaiah [64:6] describes our righteousness as filthy rags and not as protective armour.

 

Righteousness in Paul’s letter usually means ‘justification’ – by which he means that we can be right before God – accepted and forgiven by him – not because we have gained enough merit points BUT on the basis that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save sinner from God’s punishment. It on that basis and that basis alone that we can be justified before God. Thus Paul can Write in Romans 8:1

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (NIV)

 

This is the assurance that Christians are righteous – in a right with God – This is the protection against Satan’s attacks and accusations. So when you are tempted to think “I God can’t accept me , I am not good enough!” On the one hand you are right you are not good enough, no-one is – but on the other hand Jesus Christ died to save sinners and he accepts us as we are when we come to him and he never turns away any sincere person. And when he has accepted us there is nothing Satan can do to change that – this is our protective breastplate of righteousness.

 

However, as with truth, it is not simply objective righteousness, but also practical. From our position of justified righteousness before God there needs to be an outworking of that in practical living – in character and conduct.

 

MacArthur puts it this way “To put on the breastplate of righteousness is to live in daily, moment-by-moment obedience to our heavenly Father. This part of God’s armour is holy living, for which God supplies the standard and the power but for which we must supply the willingness. God Himself puts on our imputed righteousness -[that is the righteousness he gives us] – but we must put on our practical righteousness.”

 

  1. THE BOOTS OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.

 

Paul has in mind the half-boots worn by the Roman Legionnaires – heavy studded leather soles and supports around the ankle. They were designed to protect the feet, not to hinder mobility and to stop the foot from slipping.

 

Ephesians 6:15 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness [preparation or firmness] that comes from the gospel of peace. (NIV)

 

As with the previous two point there can be a double meaning in this verse and it is unnecessary to choose between the two – we can accept both as valid and maybe that is how Paul mean us to read it.

 

1] We can take it to mean the steadfastness and certainty that the gospel gives to those who accept it. Just as hiking boot give you firmness on your feet when you walk the countryside.

 

There is a steadiness and an assurance for those you know that they are at peace with God. This has already been dealt with in 2v14ff where Paul explains that Christ is our peace and that knowing him bring peace between us and God. No matter how fierce the spiritual battle may be or how aggressive Satan’s attack there can be peace of heart and mind because we are at peace with God.

 

Do you know that peace? That in spite of adverse circumstances and pressure you can say in your heart “I am at peace with God!” That kind of confidence in God give a firmness and a steadiness to life that no insurance policy can ever offer.

 

2] Preparedness – a readiness to carry the gospel of peace wherever we go.

ILLUS.: When I was in the army – if we were on standby for action we had to sleep with our boots on so that the instant we were called we were ready.

 

There is no doubt that as Christians we should always be ready to bear witness to Christ as the one who gives peace.

When Paul write to the Romans in Romans 10:15 [quoting Isa.52:7]…, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (NIV)

 

The task of bringing the message of peace with God to the World has been given to the Church and we must be ready to do that wherever and whenever we are able otherwise we cannot claim to have our feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace.

 

When we relax – take our boots off and put our feet up Satan is delighted. What the devil fears most is the advance of the gospel when people turn away from him and turn toward God.

 

  1. THE SHIELD OF FAITH.

 

Ephesians 6:16 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (NIV)

 

The shield mentioned here was 41 foot long and 21 foot wide – used for individual protection and if standing shoulder to shoulder could form a barrier to enemy missiles.

 

The faith to which Paul refers is the basic trust that accepts God’s gift of salvation and the daily faith that trust God for each day – for his provision and his help.

 

Every person alive has faith – you have faith in those chairs – in the roof that it won’t fall on you – you have faith in the Bank that the will be able to give you your money when you want it. Christian faith is far greater than this kind of faith NOT because Christians are better people of strong in their belief but because of the object of their faith -viz. God Himself.

 

You faith is only as strong as the object in which you place it. If you place your faith in an Insurance company that goes bust then your faith was ill-founded.

 

ILLUS.: John Paton that great missionary to the South Sea Islands was translating the Bible and cold not find a word for ‘faith’ when one day a man ran into his hut flopped down in a chair and exclaimed “It is good to rest my whole weight on this chair” “That’s it” said Paton “ I’ll translate faith as ‘resting one’s whole weight on God”.

 

Resting your faith on God is the most sensible and well-founded thing that we can ever do.

 

Such well-founded faith is the thing that protects us from Satan’s stinging-fiery darts. Satan’s fiery darts are always aimed at our trust and confidence and faith in God.

 

When Satan tempted Jesus after his 40 day fast in the desert he tried to get him to distrust –          God’s provision – turn these stones into bread.

– God’s protection – throw yourself off the Temple tower

– God’s plan – I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth when God                                     had planned to give all to His Son.

 

The only way to withstand Satan’s fiery missiles is to TRUST God, taking the shield of Faith. Rest all your weigh on HIM>

 

  1. THE HELMET OF SALVATION.

 

The purpose of the helmet is obvious – it is to protect the head.

 

In ourselves and in our own strength there is nothing we can do to withstand Satan’s attack – our only defence, our only protection is God’s saving power. This salvation is a gift.

Ephesians 2:8 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — (NIV) This is God’s gift in the here and now!

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (NIV)

 

While we are the recipients of God’s salvation that does not imply that we are to be passive – we are not spectators. We are part of the action. runners – soldiers – doers of good deeds etc…

 

It is not only the present gift that keeps us going but also the future hope of salvation as mentioned in 1 Thess…. hope of salvation as a helmet.. .

 

It is knowing that the struggle is only temporary, only for this life [which is but a blink of the eye in terms of eternity] and then at the end is the prize, the glorious fulfillment of our salvation when we will be in heaven with Christ forever.

 

ILLUS.: when I was younger – a runner – 100m, 200, 400m – 400m was the killer – a struggle of mind and body in the home straight – but it was the finishing tape that kept me going. The prize was to break the tape.

 

In the midst of the struggles of life and the difficulties that we often face – the temptation to just ‘go with the flo’ – why bother with all the Christian stuff – wouldn’t it be easier to just life and let live –   LOOK UP! look at the end – the hope – live in the light of eternity!!

 

  1. THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT = THE WORD OF GOD.

 

Notice that it is referred to as the sword of the Spirit – it is not a physical weapon designed by human minds or manufactured by human hands.

 

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

 

We are involved in a Spiritual struggle and without the Spirit of God we are powerless.

 

The sword of the Spirit is not the physical book of the Bible with which we beat people over the head – it is only as the Word of God internalised in our hearts and minds that it becomes an effective weapon – it must become part of you – it most mould your thinking and direct your life if it is going to be any protection at all.

 

ILLUS.: In the army we were given rifles – modern day sword – we were told – “While you are in the army this is your wife!” It went everywhere with you – even to bed and to the toilet!!

 

The enemy will often attack when you least expect it and so you can never drop your guard – always be alert!!

 

Jesus used the Word of God to defend himself against Satan attack! It is also an offence weapon – it pricks people’s hearts and consciences and causes them to repent and turn to God.

 

It is not without importance that Paul say the Sword of the Spirit = the Word of God – because the word and the Spirit always work together. When the Word of God is proclaimed the Spirit of God is at work in the hearts and minds of the hearers.

 

ILLUS.: Last week I told you that we had to shout slogans in the army – one such was ‘Know your weapon’

 

How well do you know yours??!

 

This is the armour that God provides for us – it is his armour – and he provides it for our protection and our use in his service – TRUTH – RIGHTEOUSNESS – PEACE – FAITH – SALVATION – THE WORD OF GOD.

 

  1. PRAYER.

 

Pray is not another weapon – but is should be something that pervades our whole life.

 

By praying we are expressing that we are dependent upon God for everything – all the time.

 

“ ..in the Spirit ..” – tell us that we need to be prompted and guided by the Spirit These are the two most power weapons at our disposal – “the sword of the Spirit“ [The word of God] and “Prayer in the Spirit”

 

ALL occasions – God wants us to come to Him in pray for everything – in good times and in bad times – when we feel like and when we don’t – there is nothing that we can’t talk to God about.

 

ALL types of praying [prayer and supplication] – many and varied forms of prayer – short, long, private, public, walking, sitting, standing, kneeling, ….

 

ALL the time – does not mean that you spend your life on your knees BUT that we consciously live our lives in God’s presence – living in fellowship with God – that our relationship with God influences every aspect of our lives.

 

ALL the saints – Paul has just been describing the Spiritual conflict that all Christians are in – we are all in it and therefore we all need to pray for each other.

 

“.. Be alert and keep on praying ..” [v.18]

Reminds us of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane – “Watch and pray” – During his ministry Jesus warned us his disciples to be alert both in view of his unexpected return and the onset of temptation.

“Be alert” – because the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and because Jesus may return at any time BUT esp. because we have a tendency to sleep when we should be praying – {remember the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane – Jesus was in his hour of greatest need – he needed his disciples to pray for him but they were sleeping}

 

“Without prayer we are too feeble and too flabby to stand against the forces of evil” [Stott]

 

Paul knew the value of pray and that is why he asks the Ephesian Christians to pray for him     Ephesians 6:19-20

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (NIV)

 

This is not a selfish prayer – notice he does not ask to be released from prison – his first priority is the good news of the gospel.

 

CONCLUSION.

Ephesians 6:23-24

23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (NIV)

4 key words – the two that stand out in the letter are ‘peace’ and ‘grace’ – peace with God and with one another.

Grace – we are able to know peace with God because he is gracious and loving and forgiving.

 

In view of all that God has done for us and given us “in Christ” may we stand firm for him seeking, with the help of the Spirit, to apply the lesson we have learn from this letter of Ephesians.

Grace to all [of you] who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

 

 

 

 

“PUT ON THE ARMOUR OF GOD!”

Ephesians 6:14 – 20.

 

  1. The Belt of Truth.

      ³ doctrinal truth

       ³ practical truth

 

  1. The Breastplate of Righteousness.

      ³ righteous by justification

       ³ righteous in practice

 

  1. The Boots of the Gospel of Peace.

       ³ assured peace with God

       ³ readiness to promote God’s peace

 

  1. The Shield of Faith.

       ³ “.. rest all your weight on God ..”

 

  1. The Helmet of Salvation.

       ³ present experience

       ³ future hope

 

  1. The Sword of the Spirit = The Word of God.

       ³ for defence

       ³ for attack

 

PRAYER (in the Spirit)      ³ on ALL occasions

                                                ³ ALL types of praying

                                                ³ ALL the time

                                                ³ for ALL saints

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