Ephesians 6:10–24 the Whole Armor of God.
Key Notes: Strength. Stand your ground. Protect the gut, the heart, the head and the feet. Defend with Scripture and orders from the Commander. The armor can fail: a documented case. Pornography is devastating the Church.
Paul was a prisoner in Rome, but far from defeated, he was encouraging the Ephesian Christians to be warriors, occupying the territory recently won in their city. In this lesson, we will try to understand how the God’s armament works, and how it may fail. We will study a case in which a Christian business-man lost a major spiritual battle against the wiles of the devil. Can we avoid the error he committed?
Why would Paul emphasize warfare for the Ephesians? People in Ephesus practiced magic and had contact with demons; they resisted the Gospel, worshiped Artemis and practiced sacred prostitution. Christians were in spiritual warfare. Acts gives us the details.
6:10 “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
Twice before in Ephesians Paul has exhorted them to strength.
“…that you may know ...the working of His great might” in the Resurrection. ( 1:18–19)
“…that He might grant you to be strengthened with might…have the power to comprehend the love of Christ.” (3:16 )
As before, Paul uses multiple words for emphasis:
“strong” (Gr. dynamis)--potential power
“strength” (Gr. kratos)--controlled power
“might “(Gr. ischuos)--physical power.
6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God….” Knowledge of God’s might, and strength to comprehend Christ’s love are crucial, but require a third component. The Christian has to make use of the means of defense against the adversary as well.
Paul has talked about putting on and putting off in other places (Eph.4:24; Col.3:8–10), but this is the first time that he has taught us about specific garments and their uses.
6:12 They must defend against the wiles of the devil,
The principalities, powers and world rulers of this darkness,
Spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies,
The fiery darts of the evil one.
No mere human being can contend with the multiple dimensions of demonic power. Satan is aggressive (“as a roaring lion...seeking whom he may devour” IPet.5:8–9) and methodical (wiles is Gr.”methodia”). He uses pleasures to kill people physically, emotionally and spiritually--guns, drugs, love of money and power, lewd media and illicit sexual activities.
6 :13–14 The command is to stand — and he says it three times. Survival is the first order of business in a combat where your spiritual collapse is Satan’s victory.
The first article of the armor is a belt around the waist. A heavy belt is often used by weight-lifters and wrestlers. It supports the lower abdomen. You know the queasy feeling when you are not sure you should think this or do this? Are you right? Truth gives you guts. Truth helps you stand.
The breast-plate (Gr. "thorax") covers the heart. The heart was the seat of the emotions, thinking, memory and will in ancient thought; the brain was considered peripheral. The Greeks have a point. Our actions are based more on what we love than on what we know.
Our police officers wear a plastic vest strong enough to deflect a bullet, and light enough to wear all day on duty. The Roman soldier wore one of bronze, for combat only. To protect the heart with purity and uprightness coming from God is crucial. For our part, we must be careful to deflect lustful, greedy and hateful images and thoughts which can contaminate heart and mind for ever.
But we have to keep up with what’s going on in society? Shouldn’t we be informed? Otherwise how can we be helpful? Don’t we have to know what the devil-worshipers are saying on the Internet?
Beware. “I am a part of all I have seen and read.”
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov.4:23, KJV)
6:15 “…having your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.” (KJV) Being prepared to share the Gospel is defensive as well as aggressive. Stand up for the Gospel. It will keep your feet on firm ground.
6:16 The shield of faith (Gr. “thyreon”) was a portable wall of wood covered with leather that could absorb darts tipped with burning tar. It was a “coverall”, with the eyes peering over the top. "The Faith" is an inclusive word for our doctrine and covers most of the controversial issues of life. Scripture is our comprehensive rule of faith and practice.
6:17 The helmet of salvation covers the head. The head is symbolic of our leadership functions. The direction of our life is determined by our eyes, that either face God and seek His direction, or face away and rest our destiny in our own decisions. The head carries out the impulses of the heart, or challenges them.
6:17 “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. "
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb.4:12)
The short sword of the Roman soldier was not the killing weapon that a bow, saber or spear would be, but was intended to parry and defend in hand-to-hand combat. It was a potent personal weapon.
6:18 “Pray at all times in the Spirit….” Our communication with the Lord is a vital part of the spiritual battle. The squadron leaders in the army are in contact with their commanders by cell phone. They are ready to receive direction and encouragement, or move on, at a moment’s notice.
6:19 “…and for me also….” Paul is the officer in charge of this operation, also the spokesman and the ambassador. We must remember to pray for our leaders as well as ourselves.
6:21 He is sending a scout, Tychicus, with information and encouragement.
To apply this lesson, we look to a true story. Ravi Zacharias records a letter he received with a story of spiritual failure which will aid our understanding.
A middle-aged Christian business-man and his wife bought a computer. One day he was surprised by a flash exposure to raw pornography. He was shocked and vowed to find out where such stuff came from. The more he searched, the more he was intrigued. He began to look forward to “private viewing” especially when he had had a hard day, or any reason to be angry. One Sunday morning he found himself in sexual fantasizing during the morning worship service. He was shocked and tried to break the habit, but could not.
One day he left his son off at his job as a pilot trainer and had a vague premonition that he might never see him again. On his way home from work, looking forward to another “viewing session”, God spoke to him plainly: “Mark, please, I don’t want you to do that.” He was angry and defiant. Twice again he heard God’s command, each time louder and more firmly. Finally, in a rage, he defied God to kill his son. His son died that day in an airplane accident. He was 23, newly married, a godly and much loved young man. Instantly the father was purged, the Holy Spirit surged back into him and the habit was broken. But two years later he was still stricken and full of remorse when he wrote the letter to Ravi.
(From “Jesus among other Gods.” R. Zacharias. W.Publishing, 2000, p.103–105)
The message is that Satanic attack is real and deadly, but that God’s power is even greater. The question is how this man’s tragedy could have been avoided. There are casualties in every battle, conspicuous losses to pornography in the pastorate and on the mission field.
The fiery dart eluded his inadequate shield of faith and his too-small breast-plate of righteousness and hit his heart. The heart is “deceitful above all things” and he was hit in a very tender place, his sex drive. The first shot hurt him, but out of curiosity he made himself available for another hit, and this time the burn felt good and the next one even better. Then his executive functions failed and he directed his eyes away from God. Soon he was bare-footed, his helmet gone, his belt loose and his sword thrown down, hit with darts at regular intervals. He fell prostrate at the shrine of Venus, the pagan goddess of love. He became defiant, challenging God. God stepped in with a powerful and extremely painful rescue.
Everyone is vulnerable to pornography, but middle aged men are especially vulnerable when they realize that their sexual prowess is diminishing. The “wiles of the devil” is not poetic language.
How can we avoid such a spiritual defeat? The armor is perfect; we are not. Our hearts, heads, arms and feet are weak. The first instruction is to make sure we are fully armed with God’s resources. The second is to be forewarned of dangers and have strategies ready and companions for support. One well-known Bible teacher has his contingencies in order before he goes to meet new challenges, like a lonely hotel-stay in another city. Another obvious instruction is be in constant contact with the Commander.
But in the last analysis, the battle is the Lord’s. He must protect the front line, rescue the fallen and heal the wounded. The marvel is that He does, advising us in the battle and disciplining us when we fail.
Post-script. A carefully designed poll of the class after this lesson showed that of 35 people (in a class of 50) who filled it out, two-thirds of the men and a quarter of the women had had or were having a problem with pornography. In one case it was an addiction ("4+"). When the results were announced, there was a thick silence that was not broken for that hour. It persisted in the following week when the lesson was reviewed; no one was willing to speak except for a couple of women and the next lesson had to be held over. A prayer for repentance and forgiveness did not lift the cloud.
This is a secret sin that is ravaging the church, including the pastors.
The warning against pornography:
1. Jesus said that to lust [after any person than your legal spouse] is to commit adultery. Matt.5:28.
2. Blind yourself to these images if necessary--to avoid Hell. Matt.5:29 Don’t die in your sin.
3. Venus, the goddess of love, is a pagan goddess and her cult is world-wide, and has been since ancient times. Prehistoric Venus figurines go back 10,000–30,000 years. Preoccupation with sex is paying homage to her, and those preoccupied do not wish to think about God or give Him honor.
4. Pornography is poor preparation for marriage, as one young man of my acquaintance found. His new bride was disgusted with his perverse demands and divorce followed. Young men find themselves impotent when faced with a normal female.
5. Pornography is the portrayal of the work that whores do for money. It is not the comfort a loving couple offer each other at the end of a busy day.
6. Pornography relishes power to the other person’s disadvantage and tends to cruelty, sadism. The ultimate cruelty is child pornography. A child is helpless in front of an adult full of lust, intending to perform painful perverse acts on an innocent. Jesus said anyone who leads a little child into sin deserves to be executed. Mk.9:42