Week Commencing 17th June 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 6:10-24

Week 12: PUT ON

DAY 1: Read Ephesians 6:10-12

As we come to the end of this magnificent letter, we have learned God’s great plan to unite everything under Christ and begun to see how that plan is already being put into action. God chose us to be holy and blameless, adopted us as his own, rescued us by the death and resurrection of his Son and sealed us by his Holy Spirit. By his grace, he made us alive in Christ, even when we were dead in sin. Furthermore, he has already brought Jew and Gentile together under Christ, destroying the dividing wall of hostility between them, through Jesus’ death. Paul reminded us that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, and by that means is transforming us into Jesus’ likeness. He calls us to live a life worthy of all that he has done for us, living radically transformed lives in terms of our sexual ethics, our gentleness, patience and forgiveness, our marriages, our parenting and our work places. What amazing insight and wonderful challenges have been put before us. Yet, as he finishes, there is a sobering reality with which we must be confronted: namely that there are certain principalities and powers working against God’s plan, who will do their utmost to destroy us.

Paul wants us to understand the nature of the contest and the opposition we face. The forces arrayed against us are powerful, they are wicked, and they are cunning. If we hope to overcome them, we need to bear in mind that they have no moral principles, and no code of honour. They are utterly unscrupulous, and ruthless and in the pursuit of their malicious designs. Satan not only uses persecution and temptation to sin as his tactics, but also seduction into compromise and deception into error.

How can we expect to stand against the assaults of such enemies? It is impossible. We are far too weak, and he is too ingenuous. Only the power of God can defend us from the might, the evil and the craft of the devil. True, the principalities and powers are strong, but the power of God is stronger. It is his power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead and enthroned him in the heavenly places and which has also raised us from the death of sin and enthroned us with Christ. Those powers have been defeated at the cross and are now under Christ’s feet and ours. The invisible world in which they attack us, is the very world in which Christ reigns over them. So, we are to be strong in the Lord and put on his armour, which Paul goes on to explain. We are weak, but the Lord is strong!!

DAY 2: Read Ephesians 6:13-15

The divine armour is given to us so that we may be able to stand our ground against the evil one. Wobbly Christians who have no firm foothold in Christ are easy prey for the devil. And Christians who shake like reeds and rushes cannot resist the wind when the principalities and powers begin to blow. Paul wants to see Christians so strong and stable that they remain firm even against the devil’s schemes and in the ‘day of evil’ – that is, a time of special pressure. This equipment is forged and furnished by God, yet, we have to put on the armour, take up the weapons and go to war with the powers of evil. This was God’s armour in the Old Testament – see Isaiah 59:17 – but now, given to us!

Paul details the six main pieces of a soldier’s equipment – the belt, the breastplate, the boots, the shield, the helmet and the sword and uses them as pictures of the truth, righteousness, good news of peace, faith, salvation and word of God which equip us in our fight against the powers.

The Christian’s belt is ‘truth’. It is only the truth of the Gospel – the truth which is Jesus – which can dispel the devil’s lies and set us free. We must know the truth, so we can discern the deception.

The second item of the Christian’s equipment is the breastplate of righteousness. We need to know that we have been justified by grace and clothed with Jesus’ righteousness so that we can stand against the evil one who constantly slams our conscience and attacks our confidence.

The Christian’s boots are the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (v15). There will come a certain firmness or steadfastness for those who believe the gospel. If we have received the good news, and are enjoying peace with God, we have the firmest possible foothold from which to fight evil. In addition, there will be a readiness to speak of the Good News which in itself, will be a defence against the evil one’s temptations to keep quiet! How’s your armour going so far?

DAY 3: Read Ephesians 6:16-17

Our fourth piece of equipment is the shield of faith (v16). The word Paul uses, denotes a long oblong shield, especially designed to put out the dangerous incendiary missiles then in use, specially arrows dipped in pitch which were then lit and fired. What are the darts of the evil one? False guilt, thoughts of doubt and disobedience, rebellion, lust, malice or fear. The shield of faith lays hold of the promises of God in times of doubt and depression, and the power of God in terms of temptation.

The helmet was made of a tough metal like bronze or iron. We need to be clear on the salvation we have already received (forgiveness, rescue, adoption) and the full salvation at the end time which is yet to come. We should have no doubt that God’s saving power is our only defence against the enemy of our souls. Charles Hodge wrote: “that which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved.”

The sixth and last weapon to be specified is the sword. This is the only weapon which can be used for attack as well as defence. This sword is identified as the word of God – for us, Scripture – God’s written word. It is still his sword today, for he uses it to cut through people’s defences, to prick their consciences and to stab them spiritually awake. Yet he also puts his sword into our hands, so that we may use it both in resisting temptation and in evangelism. God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword. We must never be ashamed of it!

We must take this every piece of this armour up, put it on and use it confidently against the powers of evil!

DAY 4 Read Ephesians 6:18-24

Paul adds prayer, not because he thinks of prayer as another weapon, but because it is to pervade all our spiritual warfare. It is an expression of our dependence on God. Prayer ‘in the spirit’ is prayer prompted and guided by God’s Holy Spirit. Along with the sword of the Spirit, we can see that Scripture and prayer are two chief weapons which the Spirit puts into our hands.

Note the fourfold use of the word ‘all’. We are to pray at all times (regularly and constantly), with all kinds of prayer and requests (for it takes many and varied forms), always praying (for it takes perseverance) for all the Lord’s people (for all need it). Many Christians pray sometimes, with some prayers and some degree of perseverance for some of God’s people. But to replace ‘some’ with ‘all’ in each of these expressions would be to introduce a new dimension of prayer.

Paul also requested prayer for himself. He was wise enough to know of his own need of strength if he was to stand against the enemy, and he was humble enough to ask his friends to pray with and for him. He prays that God will give him right words and boldness when he speaks – clarity and courage. Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. You need to pray this for all who preach in our church. Content needs to be abundantly clear and arise from God’s word alone and presentation needs to be bold and penetrating.

Paul has reached the end of his letter. Tychicus will bring the letter to Ephesus and no doubt convey any personal greetings. Paul is confident he will be an encouragement to them. Vv22-23 form a familiar ‘sign-off’ of peace, love and grace.

As you look back over this letter, what will you take away? How have you been challenged? What new things have you learned? Stop and give thanks and pray about them today.

References: The message of Ephesians, John Stott