Ephesians 6 v 10
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We are now entering the closing few verses of the letter of Paul to the Ephesians that are all about WAR. We hear so much of war these days – every day it seems there are fresh reports of warfare somewhere in the world and it is hard to recall a time when there was worldwide peace. Has there ever been worldwide peace? Perhaps the last time was that short period between the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall into sin. A war began then that still rages – and everyone is involved whether they like it or not, whether they are conscious of it or not!
As soon as a person becomes a Christian and the walk along the narrow way begins, there are three enemies poised and waiting to strike at a moments notice. While in unbelief, and when we were on the broad road we knew nothing of this warfare – the enemies did not mind – after all we were travelling in the same direction – towards destruction. They blinded us to their enmity.
However as soon as we defected and turned to the Lord God for salvation then we knew that things were different and that we were under attack.
The Bible calls the three enemies the WORLD, the FLESH and the DEVIL.
They are described in the first 3 verses of chapter 2 –
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this WORLD, according to the PRINCE OF THE POWER OF THE AIR, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our FLESH, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
The WORLD is that opposing force that rebels against God the creator and His laws. The world is the power that caters for the description of worldliness in John’s first letter chapter 2 –
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Warren Wiersbe sums up the world like this – “It is society apart from God.” A godless, hedonist, self-centred society much as we see today in our country. We are a very worldly society now – we have known periods of God’s blessing in the past when people knew what godliness was, but there is precious little godliness left.
The FLESH is what we all have in us – it describes the basic human nature that we have inherited from Adam. If we are Christians we refer to this as the OLD nature simply because in Christ we have a NEW nature given by God the Holy Spirit. But just because it is old doesn’t mean that it is inactive! The flesh is just as much opposed to God as the world is and like the world it can do nothing spiritual to please God.
The DEVIL is Satan, that fallen angel who himself opposed God at the beginning and now is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He has the majority of the world in his grip – he is the god of this world and the accuser of Christians – he is doing this day and night before God’s throne – in Revelation 12 he is described as a dragon who is at war with the church, called there “the woman who brought forth the child.” He is a tempter who comes as an angel of light seeking to deceive people – Jesus called him a “Liar and a murderer.”
These three enemies must be fought. Paul has spent a good deal of time in this letter speaking about how to cope with the world and the flesh. In chapters 1 – 3 he shows how the grace of God has changed us and given us a new inner spiritual dimension. The Mystery of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has been revealed to us enabling us to realise His dwelling in our souls. In Paul’s prayer in Chapter 3 the apostle prayed for his readers like this
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
2 of the words in 3 v 16 are in this morning’s text – KRATEIS – strengthened and DUNAMIS – power. We shall see their significance later.
Then in the fourth chapter we were told that we are now joined within the unity of the body of Christ, the church, that in turn directs us to the very practical aspects of Christian living. For example in Chapter 4 v 17
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
This passage tells us how to cope with the world. Then at the beginning of Chapter 5 there are instructions about how to deal with the flesh.
These teachings have been wonderful! We are in a new position as Christians – Paul prays that we might be filled with all the fulness of God, and apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge! We could easily sit back and marvel that God has been so good to us that there is nothing further to be concerned about.
Paul says, that if you think like this then you would be wrong. He is about to inform us that we live in a world in which there is a mighty power working directly against us and that we are engaged in a terrible conflict with the devil and all of his forces.
Before we proceed let us continue to rejoice in the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus, as we considered over the past 2 weeks. When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross at Calvary He overcame the world, the flesh and the devil. He overcame the world according to John 16 v 33
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
AND Galatians 6 v 14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
He overcame the flesh according to Galatians 2 v 20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
AND Romans 6 v 4 – 6
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
He overcame the devil according to Ephesians 1 v 19 – 23
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
How marvellous it is that the Lord Jesus Christ had such a mighty victory at the cross on our behalf! What a victory it was! How glorious is our conquering saviour!
It seems a long time ago that we were looking at Ephesians 1. There is a connection between 6 v 10 and 1 v 19 – 20
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
God by HIS STRENGTH caused the Lord Jesus Christ to rise from the dead and by HIS STRENGTH cause His elect to be made alive, quickened, from their death in their trespasses and sins – Chapter 2 v 1. Paul’s argument is this – since you have seen the awesome might of God in the demonstration of His power in the resurrection of Jesus, and your regeneration as a believer – then – you must find your source of power only in the same strength of His might – verse 10 of chapter 6! God has demonstrated His mighty power – now we are to ask for that strength and appropriate it.
But someone may argue that if the Lord Jesus has gained the victory why can’t I be victorious in my own life? All I seem to experience is problems, trials and a sense of defeat and rarely do I know what victory is about! Perhaps the answer to this is that we often spend our time fighting FOR victory. We struggle and fall; we strive but fail – because we are fighting in our own strength for our own victory.
My friend that is not what the Lord wants us to do!
He wants us to fight – yes – but to fight FROM victory – the victory that He has already obtained! We are on the side that has won! By His Holy Spirit the Lord Jesus enables us, by faith, to APPROPRIATE the victory that He has already won, for ourselves. This is the principle behind Paul’s words in the closing passage in Ephesians 6 – starting with
“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”
Before we look at what this exhortation means to us and how it is applied, there are 2 things to mention.
1. The word “finally” literally means “for the rest.” Paul uses it frequently at the end of his letters to introduce practical things, although it doesn’t always mean that he is about to finish. Often it marks a transition in the subject material such as in Philippians 3 v 1
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
This verse is halfway through the letter and Paul does not begin to close until Chapter 4.
Finally here is like the threshold of a door to the next room of the house that Paul has built – doctrine and practice have followed logically – but now the apostle is as it were pulling everything together. He is applying the final touch to the vital instructions that we need in order to live the Christian life. Chapters 1 v 1 to 6 v 9 are not enough if we want the whole picture – this is still essential teaching.
2. MY BRETHREN. There is a danger here that our sisters could feel very left out as they read this. Is Paul suggesting that only male Christians are to read from now on? Are they the only ones to wear the armour and weald the sword and hold up the shield? Must the sisters be defenceless or are they in some way exempted from the battle against the world the flesh and the devil?
Well simple logic tells us that none of this is true – but that Paul continues to speak to all the believers of both genders. Indeed the use of the word BRETHREN in the New Testament DOES sometimes refer only to men – but there are many occasions when it can mean men and women together. Peter addressing the people of Jerusalem used the phrase “men and brethren” – ANDRES and ADELPHOI – brothers and sisters could easily fit here, and in other portions of scripture.
We are ALL in the battle – we are all soldiers – the fight from Christ’s victory is for all of us who love the Lord Jesus, men, women, boys and girls. These instructions are for all of us who believe this morning and it is vital that we know what equipment is available in Christian Warfare.
Now let us get down to thinking about these profound words in the rest of the verse.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
We all need to have an honest half hour this morning! We are going to have to be open with the Lord as we meditate on His word because this verse faces us with some simple but important truths about us –
1. We need strength to live as Christians.
2. We have no strength of our own.
3. The Lord Jesus Christ has the strength that we need in order to live for Him.
Let us look at each of these in turn.
1. We need strength to live as Christians.
When we think of the Apostle Paul whose dramatic conversion experience never fails to thrill us when we read about it, we get the impression that he threw himself into his Christian life with a fervency and earnestness that leaves us breathless. It seems that the same energy that drove him to persecute God’s people also drove him to prosecute God’s Gospel and gather in God’s elect. The writer of Acts, Dr Luke, describes the new believer, Saul of Tarsus like this in Acts 9 v 22
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
The word that Luke used to describe Saul’s increase in strength as a Christian is ENDUNAMO-OH and you will not be surprised to discover that it is the very same word, in a passive form, that Paul uses to tell the Christians at Ephesus and the other churches – and us – to BE STRONG. Another way of saying it is “be empowered.” We hear a lot about empowerment today in modern social and political circles. It is a reaction to the domination of the few in an industrial society who held all the money and virtually treated their employees as slaves with no rights and no powers. Money for some is power. Position for others is power.
But these are not the aspects of strength that the Christian needs. What strength do we need?
1. We need strength to overcome sin.
Already we have identified our three enemies.
Sin is powerful. Sin is exceeding sinful and we are easily overcome by it. There are some sins that we have learnt with God’s help, to meet and to master. There are others that have as yet, in our Christian lives, never been a problem to some of us. Each believer has his or her own set of sins and weaknesses. We need to be empowered against them. But how can we be empowered? Some people think that we can use the power of the law against them and they construct a code of ethics and morals that list the antidotes to sinful things. If you replace sin with its opposite virtue that will be enough. Sadly this is the method of many of the world religions that have constructed elaborate systems that must be adhered to if the believer is to achieve rightness with God. What is not reckoned with is the power of the enemy. All the ethical systems in the world have no power to offer. And Christianity itself is not merely a list of rules. It is far more – it is a religion of power – Christ’s mighty power!
2. We need strength to glorify God.
We glorify God by being transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are called to do this – but we have no strength to do it – we need strength to pray – but more often than not we are weak in this area – no strength. Glorifying the Lord God is to believe in Him with all of our hearts – to trust His perfect word. Abraham was an example of this – Romans 4:20
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
3. We need strength to work for God.
Strength is needed for witness, testimony and being His people in the community. But when we consider the hostility of those outside our church and our homes – when we consider the movements for change in society demanding more and more freedom to exclude God – then working for the Lord can fill us with fear and anxiety. What strength we need in this area!
4. We need strength to face death.
No matter how much courage we have or how brave we have learnt to be, there is an ultimate fear in us all of death. Since death is inevitable for every creature then we need strength of some kind to face it. People have ways of coping – imagining that there is always the possibility that during their lifetime the discovery of the ages will be made – the cure of death. Some ignore it and hope just to go to sleep and not wake up.
But we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and who take God at His word know that
it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement.
Death has to be endured – and we need strength to prepare for it.
Altogether when we think of these human characteristics of weakness we have to conclude that we are so feeble on our own – which is our next point -
2. We have no strength of our own.
This must be said – because it is true! On our own, in the face of such stiff opposition, we are utterly unable to resist and put up any kind of fight against our enemies.
Does this offend you, Christian friend?
Well consider this – If we really had it in us to be strong why do we need to be exhorted to be strong in the Lord? Why do I need to be empowered – that is, to be strong in someone else’s power? Why do I need to be strengthened if I already have what it takes?
And of course the answer is obvious – I have no strength to speak of, myself. The scriptures remind us of this so many times. 1 Corinthians 10:12
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Many Christians think that they are safe and lead charmed lives. But this verse issues that stark warning – beware – we are weak – beware – we need strength.
The apostle Paul honestly records the truth about himself – in Romans 7 v 18
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
If he could not find it within himself to be strong, then what hope is there for lesser mortals like we are?
Well there is glorious hope and encouragement for us too -
3. The Lord Jesus Christ has the strength that we need in order to live for Him.
Be strong IN THE LORD! Be strong in the power of his might for he is the only one with absolute power and might. Men may have weapons of mass destruction, capable of destroying the world or parts of it – but when it comes to living a life that honours God – then most people are utterly feeble and incapable.
Paul says, “be empowered with Christ’s power.” Do not plumb the depths of your own soul looking for natural power – there is none that will be any use to you in the spiritual warfare! Be strong in the Lord – He is the One who has the power – you need His power!
Be strengthened with His might – simply because your own resources are useless. Only HE can succeed in the battle with the enemies! He is, after all, the STRENGTH OF ISRAEL. 1 Samuel 15 v 29
And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
This is a wonderful expression – “the Strength of Israel”. It refers to God himself and describes His character – He is strong! He is almighty! He has absolute strength. What is more He cannot lie – how unlike us – our lies betray our weakness. Our change of mind betrays our lack of strength. He is the victor and this again refers to our glorious Lord and Saviour, risen from the dead.
Jesus said to his disciples, and it applies to us – John 15 v 5
for without me ye can do nothing.
My brothers and sisters – I have to warn you this morning that we are in for a soul challenging time as we engage with the scripture material of these next few verses. It is because we are beginning to tread on Satan’s ground taking the battle to him – and every time we become serious about spiritual warfare, the devil makes it known that he is not best pleased.
But let us not be intimidated by this in any way! Solomon tells us in Proverbs 24 v 10
If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.
Instead we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ – Hebrews 12:3
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Solomon had another word for us – Proverbs 21 v 31
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
Even though there are military metaphors involved in Christian Warfare, it is not a physical war – it is spiritual – and our safety is only in the power of God’s might.
We could become apprehensive – let us resist that feeling. This text in Ephesians 6 v 10 may be a challenge but it is also a COMFORT to us. How?
Two passages from Isaiah will show how we can be comforted this morning – God’s word, the word of the creator and risen Lord Jesus Christ comforts each of us as we rally each other in the battle!
Isaiah 40 v 28 – 31 calls us to have confidence in the strength of the Lord God –
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Finally the whole of Isaiah 12 –
1 And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. 3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. 5 Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
What comfort there is to know the strength that we need is in God – therefore it is only in Him that we can know any victory – for great is the holy one of Israel in the midst of thee.
May we all know His strength in these days.