Do you like watching action movies? I definitely love it, especially those ancient warfare fighting with sword and shield, no matter it is historical or fantasy. I used to watch heaps of action films before I was married my wife, until the day I have decided to watch less action films for the sake of my other half as a husband and father. But I used watch war films. There were many classics like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Gladiator, Centurion, 300, Troy, Brave Heart, just to name of few, but deep down in each of these films depicting warfare, there is something always in common: They are all deal with human struggles and physical conflicts. Warfare draws blood. People can get hurt easily without protection. And there is always a sense that the protagonists in the film have to be well equipped with their weapons and equipments before the battles. Imagine that, if Frodo Baggins in Fellowship of the Ring did not wear the Mithril chainmail, the fellowship would be finished early before the end of the film.
The protagonists also have to stick together and be interdependent with each other in battles, and they have one goal to overcome the swamp of enemies. And you know what? Every Christian has to fight a good fight before we die. However, instead of fighting some physical war that draws blood, we are fighting an invisible, spiritual warfare. It is a war that you cannot win with physical weapons. It is because our enemy is supernatural. We are all enlisted to fight this war as God’s people, against Satan and his minions.
1) Put on the full armour of God for spiritual warfare
When we talk about spiritual warfare, first we need to draw strength for the war. Our sinful body, our human nature is weak against temptations, if we need to fight a good fight, we need to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. God is our strength and the ultimate source of our power to stand the fight. To fight a war, we need to understand who is our enemy.
Paul wrote in verse 12, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.“(Ephesians 6:12-13)
In the Christian life we battle against rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm, that is, the power evil forces of fallen angels headed by the devil, who is vicious fighter. To withstand their attacks, we must depend on God’s strength and use every piece of his armour. Paul is not only giving this counsel to the church, the body of Christ, but to all individuals within the church. The whole body of Christ needs to be armed. You are recruited to fight this battle. As you do battle against the “mighty powers in this dark world,” fight in the strength of the church, whose power comes from the Holy Spirit.
“The day of evil” mentioned in the passage is not only one day, but anytime during this era in history until Jesus Christ returns. All days are evil in their potential and become evil in reality when Satan or his minions decide to use that day to attack you.
And what are the pieces of God’s armour? We are not facing a spiritual army, therefore our weapons must be spiritual. We need supernatural power to defeat Satan, and God has provided this by giving us his Holy Spirit within us and his armour surrounding us. Let’s look at each pieces of this armour of God.
First, the belt of truth. A Roman soldier wears a large leather belt which held weapons and kept his outer garments in place. To put on the belt of truth means accepting the truth of the Bible and choosing to follow it with integrity. This truth could carry two meaning: It may be a specific reference to the gospel that is the true message, like Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, “the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven, and about which have already heard in the true message of the gospel”(Colossians 1:5) or to the equivalent concepts of genuineness, faithfulness, reliability, and integrity within the body of Christ.
Secondly, the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate is a metal armour in the shape of a human torso or scale armour common to the Roman uniform. It protects the vital organs of the upper half of the human body. To put on the breastplate means choosing not to harbour and nurture known sin. It is striving to be like Christ and live according to his ways of righteousness. This is one of the qualities of the divine warrior.
Isaiah described, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.”(Isaiah 59:17)
When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, it protects our body from harms of Satan’s attacks and accusation of our former sins. This righteousness can mean the justification of the sinner, as Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed onto us through his sacrifice on the Cross. It can also mean our moral quality of godliness. As we live like Jesus in his ways, our deeds will be righteous.
Thirdly, the feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. The heavy-soled hobnailed military sandal-boots called ‘Caligae’ is known for being issued to the Roman soldiers to be ready for the footing in battle. To put on these sandal-boots means believing the promises of God in the gospel, and our faith in these promises yields peace in the Christian’s life. We need to be ready to bear the Good News of peace.
As prophet Isaiah says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.”(Isaiah 52:7)
Fourthly, the shield of faith. The Roman ‘Scutum’ curved shield is used to deflect blows from the sword, arrow, or spear of the enemy. It covers and protect the soldier’s whole body. To take up this shield means we need to reject temptations to doubt, sin or quit, telling yourself the truth and choosing on the basis of the truth to do the right thing. The flaming arrows that the enemy shot would strike the shield and burn out without penetrating it. Our faith is like an impregnable shield and it will extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. This faith is complete confidence in and reliance upon God to give the victory.
Fifthly, the helmet of salvation. Roman soldiers wore metal protective headgear to protect their brain, that is, their minds. Our mindset can rest our hope in the future of salvation, and protect us from worry in this world. We can live in this world according to the value system of the next because our mindset is protected and set upon the Day of Redemption, and our future is secured by God’s salvation ready for us. Salvation is a gift of God, and there is no doubt that God’s saving power is our defence against the enemy of our soul.
Out of all items in the armour of God, they are all for defensive protection, but the last piece is an offensive weapon, that is, the sword of the Spirit. Normally a Roman soldier sheathed his sword to his belt, and the sword is used both for offensive and defensive purposes. When we take the sword of the Spirit, which is defined for us as the Word of God, it means we use the Scripture specifically in life’s situations to fend off attacks of the enemy and put him to flight. Jesus’ weapon against the devil during his forty days of temptations is the word of God. And to wield this sword we need to equip the Word of God in our hearts, prepared to defend ourselves in difficult circumstances in life.
As it is written, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”(Hebrew 4:12)
2) Stand firm in prayer
For all the pieces of armour fully equipped, the soldier is ready to fight in physical warfare. Without all the pieces of armour, the soldier can be vulnerable at some points. In the same way, Christian needs each piece of the spiritual equipment for his daily struggle against the devil in spiritual warfare – to stand firm. To fight a war, the soldier does not fight alone, he fights with his fellow soldiers, and he continues to communicate with his military commander to know what to do next as a team. The same with our spiritual warfare. We need to communicate with our Great Commander, our God in prayer. He is the one who leads the war, not us fighting it individually. And our clear communication to the military leader is crucial in spiritual warfare against the devil.
As Paul wrote in verse 18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, 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.”(Ephesians 6:18-20)
Apostle Paul asked for prayer for himself in his own ministry. At the time of this writing, Paul was a prisoner. He sought courage from prayer to proclaim the gospel even to those in his prison. Like Paul, when we equip ourselves with the armour of God, it is not a mechanical preparation, but willingly to submit our dependence on God of prayer. We can only stand firm against the enemy through the agency of prayer. And praying is done in the Holy Spirit. We need to realise that the Spirit of God is our helper and intercessor. This approach to God relies not on our own piety, but on the help with God in his Spirit offers to us. Paul asks us to be alert like a soldier in battle and always keep on praying. We need to be watchful and persevere when we pray. We must not be caught off guard. We are also to persevere intercession on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the fight. We not fighting alone. We need to pray and support for each other in God’s army. We need to concern for all who are fighting along side by side with us, as Paul said, “be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
He asked for prayer that “whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me.”God is the giver of the special utterance, so that whenever we share the gospel or answering questions from others, let every words from our mouths be words that are given by God.
Paul also requests boldness to make known the mystery of the gospel. A clear presentation of the gospel is what saves lives. We fight a good fight in spiritual warfare to save those who are lost. Even Apostle Paul is in chains, he was thrown into prison for the gospel, but because of the gospel, he envisions further opportunities to serve as the representative of Christ. God can use us in any circumstance to do his will. This is what we should all pray for, to further advance God’s kingdom in our spiritual battles. Even as we pray for a change in our circumstances, we should also pray that God will accomplish his plan through us right where we are. Knowing God’s eternal purpose for us will help us through the difficult times.
In summary, what is prayer about? Prayer has to be Spirit-directed, continual on all occasions, varied with all kinds of prayers and requests, persistent, and intercessory for all the Christians in the world.
A renowned pastor and writer, John Piper wrote in his book “Desiring God”,
“Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.
But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realise that significant times of prayer should be part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonder flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the pothole. If you don’t plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch TV! The natural unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest decline of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.”
So, let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you. Don’t let the busy days sidetrack you. We all need a make time each day turning to prayer – for the glory of God and for the fullness of our joy.
3) Encouragement for the Saints
In verse 21, Paul mentioned that he is sending Tychicus, a dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord as the messenger from his prison in Rome to Ephesus to tell them everything, so that he may encourage the saints. Then finally he uttered a benediction to the Ephesians church, “23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, 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.”(Ephesians 6:23-24)
Grace is the word in Paul’s conclusion in this letter. The Letter to the Ephesians centres on divine grace and love, and on love in the church. It concludes with the hope that God’s unearned love will be experienced by everyone who gives love to Jesus forever. That is the situation that Paul wants to create in all of God’s churches, a climate where peace, love, and grace dominate all relationships, where God is sovereign, and where Christ is loved. Such a climate is the arena for victorious spiritual battles and for successful family living. This book gives us the guideline on how to love, how to be graceful, and how to have peace with each other. Let us all practice it at home and in the church, so that the peace of Christ and love be felt everywhere within this congregation.
Let us pray for these gifts to be given to us from our Lord and Saviour.