Ephesians Study, Part 52: Spiritual Warfare --
The Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit

Review:

Paul has told us, in the previous verses, that our ability to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians is beyond our human ability.  He told us that the enemy is spiritual and not physical and that our only hope is to suit up with the full armor that God has provided for us, all of it.

So we need a shield of faith; one that does not have holes of doubt.  We saw that it requires constant maintenance, and the help of our fellow Christians to keep it solid.

Today: The Helmet of Salvation:

Today we learn about the last piece armor that God has hanging on the wall for us to put on, that is required for victory.  Paul says:

The Roman helmet, of course, provided protection for the head.  Having your head protected gives you a sense of safety.  As a believer each of us who is in this battle must know that the outcome of the battle is certain.  His assurance of that is a critical blessing.  One of the critical keys to your success in your battle with Satan is your certainty of ultimate victory.  You need to know the end of the story.  You must know that you have been sealed and your eternal security is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.  If you have a problem with that, and you won't resolve that until you have really examined the issue, there are all kinds of theological debates in this area, but there are also good resources to help you find the answer.  One of those resources is a book by Chuck Missler called "The Sovereignty of Man."  We all know that God is sovereign.  God is God, and he can do whatever he wants.  But man is sovereign too; there is great value in studying the sovereignty of man.

You need to resolve these questions yourself.  Don't trust on anybody else. There are questions like predestination or free will.  Theological libraries are full of writings on that question.  That leads to doctrinal principles of Calvinism and Armenianism.  A deep enough study will lead you to a conclusion that both principles are correct in what they assert and both are correct in what they deny.  But there is an easy answer to the apparent conflict, if you understand it.  It is not an insoluble dilemma.  It is only insoluble if you insist on solving at within the domain of time, but God is not restricted by the domain of time.  Once you recognize that God is outside of time, the contradictions evaporate.  Every one of us either has questions in this area, or will have.

One proof of this whole question is that Adam fell, but God arranged a safety net for man, a Redemption.  God has gone to incredible lengths so that you and I might share eternity with Him.  But let me tell you the punch line that should blow us away.  God does not get what he wants out of the deal.  You say, "How could that be?".  God has told us that He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.

That is His desire.  But will all come to repentance?  No.  But precious to Him are those who do.

But our issue here is: don't let that remain unresolved and create doubt and be a weakness in your Shield of Faith.  Paul says in First Timothy 1:12:

Notice that it is the faithfulness of Jesus that is the issue.  It is not up to us, it is up to Jesus.  Thank you God.  Remember Romans 8:28. That is where you need a tab in your Bible to check every day and make sure it is still there.  What are the three most important words in that verse?   They are the first three: "And we know".

Not suspect, not hope, not just believe:  "And we know that all things work together for good."  Unless you know, you are vulnerable.

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that that is the full-time job of Jesus.  Right now, this morning, he is praying for you.  Not a bad prayer partner, huh?  Carol is probably the best prayer partner that I can imagine, except this one.

The Sword of the Spirit:

We could talk about faith for several more lessons and continue to learn about this shield of faith, but for now we'll stop.  Paul goes on:

This idiom, the sword of the Spirit, is one that we're all very familiar with.  This idiom has been so widely used that in some congregations the pastor would say, get out your sword.  Some people call their Bible cover, their sheath.  There are a number of places in the Bible where the word of God is referred to as the sword.

It is interesting that as we put on all of this armor; the breastplate, the belt, the shield and so on, what is the last named that the soldier picks up?   It's the sword, right?  Let's talk about the Roman sword.  Prior to the Roman period, the typical sword was long and sharpened on only one edge.  It had to be used with a cocked arm and a chopping motion, typically.  The Roman army made an innovation.  They adopted what is called a machira.  It was only 24 inches long, which was very short compared to previous swords, and it was sharpened on both edges.  That was a revolutionary change in the weapons being used.  In contrast to having to fight with a raised chopping motion, which left you vulnerable when you raise your arms, the Roman soldier could duck and stab his opponent while his opponent was raising to strike him.  He could thrust or cut from any position because of the design of the sword.  It was a very close-quarters weapon.  This was in great contrast to Alexander the Great's style, which included spears and long swords.

The machira was a powerful weapon, only if the user had been specially trained in close combat.  If you were just handed this weapon and not trained with it, it was not obvious how to win the battle with it.  The Roman soldiers were trained in the unique use of this particular weapon.  It took a lot of practice to know how to use it.  But used right, it guaranteed victory.

You may recall that when Jesus was tempted in the desert, he used his sword three times in those victories.  Remember the weapon he used every time?  He used quotations from the Scripture.  I don't know if you realize it or not but Satan is great at quoting Scripture, often improperly, out of context.  But when Jesus used his sword he quoted it properly and in context.  One of the weaknesses in many pulpits is that Scripture is quoted to make a point, but often incorrect points or out of context.

Paul brings up another aspect.  One of the most important aspects of a military engagement is proper ground support.  We might call that artillery.  Let's talk about your heavy artillery, in this spiritual warfare.  That is verse 18.

Remember that Thessalonians tells us to pray without ceasing. What does it actually say in the Greek?  It's says pray without ceasing.  It is very simple and straightforward.  Paul says that we should pray all the time for all of our fellow Christians.  This is the heavy artillery that supports the individual in close contact battle.  You can pray and have an effect on a spiritual battle going on outside of your individual domain.  With any supporting fire, coordination is essential.  We need to be supported by prayer warriors.  Do you remember how often Jesus was praying?  If he needed prayer, I think it's a pretty good bet that you and I do.  Jesus only had three years to establish the church, and he spent a lot of those three years praying.  That should tell us something about how we should lead our lives.  Is it important?  I would say so.

Notice that Paul says we should be praying for all saints.  The word all appears four times in this verse.

This is Paul asking for prayer that he might be more bold.  That is Mister Chutzpah himself.  Give me a break.  Paul is about to go on trial before Caesar.  This letter was written in Rome.  The Romans considered the Christians to be a sect of the Jews.  The Jews considered the Christians heretics.  So in his trial he needed to make it clear that the Christians were something new, not just a sect of the Jews.  He needed to explain the Church, the mystery of the gospel.  This was the very reason that he was incarcerated anyway.  Remember that in Chapters 2 and 3 of Ephesians, we dealt with this great mystery.  Paul continues. So Paul tells us that we need all of the pieces of armor.  These instructions from Paul are major.  This is not incidental teaching.  This is crucial stuff.  This is a command, if we are to live our lives as God wants us to.  All of this armor is critical to our spiritual success.  Our ability to bear fruit is dependent upon our having all of the armor in place, maintained and ready to fight.  At this point Paul concludes the letter. Tychicus was apparently the individual delivering this letter around to the various churches.  Paul considered him a beloved brother and a faithful minister.  In Colossians 4:7, Paul called him by these same names.  He is mentioned in Acts 7 and several other places.  Then Paul wraps up the letter. Notice that Paul concludes the letter with Grace.  You may remember that he also started the letter with Grace. So Grace serves as the bookends for Ephesians.  Although Paul ends this letter with reference to those who love Jesus in purity, with incorruptible love, remember that in Acts he visits with the elders from Ephesus and warns them that there are wolves among them.  Also remember that before the end of the first century, John writes seven letters, in Revelation, and that the first of the seven letters is to the Church at Ephesus.  That is in Chapter 2 of Revelation.  You may remember that in that letter he says they had lost their first love.  In reading that letter it is obvious that they had lost the fervency of their love.  It appears that they were too busy worrying about doctrine and had forgotten about their love for Jesus.  Those seven letters in Revelation were the report cards back to the churches, and in virtually every case it was clear that they were surprised at the grades on the report card.

Epilogue:

So ends our study of the book of Ephesians.  Remember that the first three chapters were doctrine.  Many biblical scholars consider these three chapters as the highest ground in the New Testament, and probably of the whole Bible.  The last three chapters are on how to apply that doctrine in our lives, summarized by the admonition that we should lead our lives in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians.

Any time that you are sitting around and don't know where to go in the Bible, it's probably a good idea just to open up Ephesians.  You can read it through in a matter of minutes, but there is enough there to study for a year, or more.  We just did.

We're in spiritual warfare.  Are you prepared to take it seriously?

Next week:

...we will start a new study, to be discussed.