This is the first in a series of four posts on Ephesians 6:10-20, the passage that the Life group that I’m a member of is about to study. In the passage Paul portrays the Christian life as warfare against Satan using resources supplied to us by the Lord. In this post I’ll consider the first four verses, in which Paul describes Satan and his forces and encourages us to put on the armour of God to stand against them. The post consists of two parts: a short exposition of the passage and the questions on it that the Life group will discuss.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 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. (ESV)
Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13
Paul opens Ephesians 6:10-20 with “Finally” to show that these are his final thoughts before he ends his letter to the church at Ephesus. The letter contains two parts, chapters 1-3 about how we are redeemed by God and chapters 4-6 about how we as the redeemed should live. The passage can be considered the conclusion to the second part of the letter or, with 6:21-23, to the whole letter.
“Be strong in the Lord” is literally “Be empowered [or strengthened] in the Lord.” “Be empowered” being passive indicates that the power comes from outside rather than from within us. “In the Lord” identifies from whom the power comes, the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of verse 10, “and in the strength of his might,” explains how we are to be empowered by him.
“Put on the whole armor of God” tells how we can be empowered in the Lord, by putting on armour belonging to and provided by God. Paul describes the armour in Ephesians 6:14-17, which I’ll consider in my next two posts. His description of it may have been influenced by his being in prison guarded by Roman soldiers when he wrote Ephesians.
“That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” tells why we should put on the armour of God, so that we can withstand Satan’s wily strategies against us. Without the armour of God, we would surely yield to them, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Clothed in it, we can resist them, as Jesus did in the wilderness and as we are encouraged to do in James 4:7, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” reminds us that our struggle is not against mere human foes but, as Paul goes on to explain, against evil spirit powers. He may have used the word “wrestle” because of the popularity of wrestling in games hosted by Ephesus. It also suggests the face-to-face nature of the struggle.
“But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” identifies the evil spirit powers. Leaders among the angels who followed Satan in rebelling against God at some time before he appeared in the Garden of Eden (perhaps pointed to in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28), they were defeated by Christ on the cross (Colossians 2:15) but are still able to incite evil.
“Against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” further describes the evil spirit powers already named or refers to the vast host of lower-ranking followers of Satan and identifies their locality. Although they dwell in the heavenly places, they war against us here directly (as in demon possession) or indirectly through various agencies and events.
Thus Paul again encourages us to “take up the whole armor of God” that we may “stand firm.” Biblical scholars disagree on what “the evil day” refers to; some think that it refers both to the whole present age and to the final outbreak of evil before the Lord’s return. “Having done all” suggests that if we have done all that we can do by putting on the armour of God we shall be able to stand against Satan and his forces.
In the words of John of the Golden Mouth (Chrysostom): “Let us then put ourselves in array and wound [the devil], having for our mighty confederate the Lord Jesus Christ, who can both render us impregnable to his snare, and worthy of the good things to come; which God grant that we may all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, together with the Holy Ghost, be unto the Father, glory, might, and honor, now and ever, and throughout all ages. Amen.”
Questions on Ephesians 6:10-13
1. What do you think of the idea that there are spiritual forces in the universe that are working against God?
2. According to Ephesians 1:20-21, where is Jesus Christ and what power does he have?
3. What do you think that Paul means by “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”?
4. Who does Paul say in verse 12 that we are at war with?
5. What does Paul tell us in verses 11 and 13 to do to participate in the war against them?
6. What have you learned about spiritual warfare in this passage?
In the Life group we’ll consider question 1 at the beginning of our study of the passage.
In my next two posts I’ll consider Ephesians 6:14-17, in which Paul describes the armour of God.