Ephesians Study, Part 48: Spiritual Warfare --
"Put on the Full Armor of God"

Review:

Two weeks ago, Paul told us that as Christians, we should live like Christians, walk in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians, which includes a fiduciary obligation to our boss and our employer.  In the same vein, he told us that as Christian bosses, we owe that same obligation to our employees.  In either case, we owe loyalty, sincere loyalty.  As he said, not just a false fašade of loyalty.

At that point in chapter 6 of Ephesians, Paul changes direction.  Or does he?  For two plus chapters, he has been telling us how Christians should live their lives, how to behave -- how we should live our married life and how we should live our work life.  As we went through that, several of you kept saying, "yes but".  I kept saying that Paul did not give us options.  Either we do it God's way or we don't, it is our choice.  I suspect that as Paul was writing this, he sensed the "yes-buts".  So now he is going to tell us how to conquer the "yes-buts".  We cannot do it alone.  The other team is too strong.

Today: Spiritual Warfare:

You and I are currently engaged in a bitter warfare.  Do you realize that?  The question is, are you equipped?  Are you prepared?  Or are you a sitting duck?

As we review our present predicament in this country, the problems in America are not really financial or economic.  We again have deficit spending, which if it were in our business life, we would call a cash flow problem.  Business people understand that a problem with cash flow is not the real problem; it is a symptom of an underlying problem, bad business practice.

The root problem of America is that we are in moral freefall.  We are losing the battle in spiritual warfare.  And that's what I want to discuss this morning.  We have the media, spinning the truth.  We have courts, without justice.  We have anger replacing patriotism.  We have schools structured to dumb-down our students.  We have replaced our traditional heritage with multiculturalism, revisionism and relative value-ism.  Our government is now the purveyor of immorality.  And are we surprised?

Governments have always loved crises.  It is not unusual for leaders to create external crises to consolidate power.  Governments love crises because they are excuses for increasing budgets and usurping additional power.  Because of a crisis, a government can get by with the subjugation of its citizens.  In this country years ago, the leaders discovered that a social crisis can serve the same purpose as a military crisis.

There is one insight that may plug a missing link, that you may not have realized.  The insight is that immorality creates social crisis.  So, is it any surprise that governments have enormous incentives to promote immorality that will then create a crisis, which gives them an excuse to increase their budgets, extend their power and so on?

Some scholars have come to the conclusion that the age we currently live-in should be designated "the age of deceit."  Schools teach evolution, not as a theory, but as a fact.  Schools, if it is even mentioned, teach that Biblical creationism is a myth.  So children are taught that their very existence is the result a cosmic accident.  Then we wonder why they have no sense of destiny, or high self-esteem.  Our scientific establishments continue to promote this falsehood.  There is abundant evidence, scientific evidence, that the theory of evolution, as taught by our schools, does not meet the tests of science.

Our government continues to disseminate whatever information is needed to promote its program of a socialist agenda.  And it seems to us, sometimes, that our investigative institutions go to great lengths to cover up what the government is doing, because in general, the media agrees with the desired end, rather than to promote the cause of truth and justice.  So the average citizen sees and senses more anger than patriotism.  There is more tendency to protest than to productively change.  Do you wonder how this could be?

The Battle is real:

From Biblical insight, who is the god of this world?  Satan.  What is his primary weapon?  Deception.  So why are we surprised?  So we are engaged in warfare, and a very violent warfare for our families, ourselves, our community and our country.  And it is a spiritual warfare.  So how do you deal with it?

That is precisely what Paul focuses on in Ephesians Chapter 6 starting with verse 10.

This is a very simple sentence.  But let's look at it very carefully.  First he says be strong.  That verb is in the present tense, the passive voice, and the imperative mood.  The present tense tells us that what Paul is really saying is be continually strong.  It is not a once and for all thing, it is a continuing thing.  The passive voice means that you are the subject, you received the action, you received the strength.  The imperative mood shows us that this is a command.  To rephrase this sentence in our vernacular: "Allow yourself to continually be made strong by the Lord through the strength of His might.  The term His might, is the power that overcomes resistance.  It is the same term used in Christ's miracles.  It is the power of God's inherent strength.  It is the infinite power of God.

So what does this really mean?  How do we go about doing what Paul tells us to do?  Verse 11 continues the thought and, in fact, tells us what to do and how to do it.

The form of the Greek imperative translated as "put on" indicates that we, as believers, are responsible for putting on God's armor, not our own armor.  And it indicates that we are responsible for putting on the full armor, not just part of it.  Paul is going to mention this twice, here and again in verse 13.  So we are instructed to put on all of the armor, the full armor.  When you go into battle, in a literal military battle, you don't just pick your favorite piece of armor, put it on and run into battle.  You want every piece of armor that you have, the whole armor, the full armor.

If you also pay attention to what Paul says, there is a sense of urgency to this.  You must put on your full armor, so that you will be able to stand firm against the devil.  How can you stand without God's armor?  It is amazing how many of us, if we even have the perspective of spiritual warfare, don't take the next step.  We don't recognize that the only way to survive a spiritual battle with the devil is to have God's full armor on and in place.  If we're going to survive that battle, we have to have all the tools that God has provided for us, and Paul is going to enumerate those for us shortly.  And they have to be suited up and ready.  Cocked and aimed.  In our own strength, we are no match for Satan.  This is not an intellectual battle.  But even if it were, I don't care how smart you are, without God's armor, you lose.  Satan is smarter than you are, don't kid yourself.  You can go through a long list of possibilities of the kind of battle, strategy, strength, physiological and so on, but if you study them, you will realize that Satan out-classes you, no matter the nature of the battle.  The only way to win is with God's protection, which comes from his full armor.  The purpose of putting on God's armor is in fact, to be able to stand against his schemes and strategies.  We must be completely armed.  We're going to go through a list of armament shortly, but you have to understand that you have to have all of it on.

You are on enemy turf.  We are playing on his field.  In this chapter we're going to discover that Paul provides us a detailed description of spiritual armor.  And because of the idioms that he uses, many commentators presume that he is drawing these idioms from a Roman soldier the he is chained to.  We do know that in acts 28 Paul was in fact chained to a soldier.  Although there is some debate as to whether he was chained while under house arrest when he was writing Ephesians, nevertheless, he was very familiar with the armor worn by a Roman soldier.

Paul's Captive Audience:

It is interesting that most people presume that those chains were to keep Paul from escaping.  But if you know anything about Paul, his perspective would be that those chains were to keep the soldier from escaping.  Can you imagine being chained to Paul for an entire shift?  I am reminded of Woody Allen's story.  Woody Allen defined hell as being stuck in an elevator with an insurance salesman.  I can imagine that for the Roman soldiers the idea of being chained to this fanatic must have been an excruciating experience.  From Philippians 4:21-22 we can draw the inference that many of these soldiers were saved.  By being chained to Paul, they discovered just who this Jesus was.  As a result, they received Jesus into their lives and were saved as a byproduct of being chained to Paul.

The Greek word translated household is probably referring to the Praetorian guard, who would have been the ones assigned to guard Paul.

The "Armor" figure in the Old Testament:

Even though most commentators draw their idioms from the armor that the Roman guards would have worn, (and I will too, because we would otherwise not be familiar with the pieces of armor that Paul might have had in mind) I want to point out to you that these same idioms are used in the Old Testament.  If you look at Isaiah 59:17, which was written hundreds of years before Paul wrote letter to the Ephesians...

If you go to the trouble to chase down these idioms of the pieces of armor, you will find that they are throughout the Old Testament.  The point is that the Holy Spirit is consistent in the way he uses these idioms, regardless of who the writer may be.  In the case of Paul's writing, because soldiers were present, they seem to take an even deeper meaning here in Ephesians.  But remember that in our Bible, we have 66 books penned by 40 different guys over thousands of years, and yet we have consistency, we have an integrated message.  Every number, every detail, every idiom is there by design.  And the origin of that message is outside of time and space.  Only God could be the source for this integrated message.

Back to Ephesians:

In verse 12 we have our strategic intelligence report.  We are in a battle.  The first thing you need to know is what does the enemy consist of.  What are you up against?  Paul tells us who the enemy is.

If you are a student of the New Testament, you know that rulers and powers, more specifically the Greek words from which rulers and powers have been translated, referred to ranks of angels.  They are not just theological abstractions.  If you would take the time to study this you would find that the angels have different ranks, they have an organizational structure.  If you're willing to, you can chase that down on your own.  In this case of course we are talking about what you might call a spiritual mafia.  Here we are talking about the ultimate organized crime.

So spiritual warfare is not just a matter of contending with godless philosophers.  We're not talking about debating crafty gurus.  Where not talking about public debate against cults who deny that Christ exists.  We are talking about spiritual warfare against a very highly organized and competent army.  We are talking about companies and battalions of fallen angels.  When you stop to look at the reality of this, this is scary stuff.  Most churches are very comfortable talking about Jesus and God's grace.  It easy to talk about Jesus as the ethical example.  It is easy to talk about Jesus, the teacher.  But it's very uncomfortable if you start talking about evil spirits or fallen angels.  It sounds sort of medieval.  It sounds sort of spooky.  It is not a popular topic.

Second Corinthians 10:3-4 is one place you can look at some of these questions.  Paul says:

The real issue that you and I have to grapple with is that you and I tend to think that this physical world that we live in is reality.  But if you study the Scripture you will realize that the physical world is the result of unseen spiritual warfare.  Some of you will remember the analogy that we talked about when we studied Genesis about the fact that we think this podium is solid when in really, if you know anything about particle physics, you know that less than one part in one million of the atom is solid, so the truth is that this podium, although to us it seems solid, is almost entirely void space.  When I hit it with my knuckles it feels solid but that in reality is a result of atomic forces rather than a result of it truly being solid.  And that is the truth to a factor of about one million to one, one million times as much void space as there is solid matter.  Even science, from particle physics, now agrees that we live in a world of at least ten dimensions, but we can only comprehend four.  So God's created reality is far more comprehensive than what we can perceive.

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Next week:

...I am going to give you some Biblical evidence of the true reality compared to what we perceive as reality.  Then we will start to study the full set of armor that God has for us to use in this battle.