WALK STRONG – DEFEND AGAINST THE ENEMY WITH THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD
Stephen Fowl: As a way of completing his epistle, Paul in this final substantive section shifts from admonitions about walking in a manner worthy of the gospel to a discussion of the strength, power, and defenses needed to stand and resist the spiritual forces arrayed against the church. . .
The dominant image in 6:10–20 is standing firm against an array of diabolical enemies. Defense and resistance are the primary images here. Since a Christ-focused, Spirit-inspired wisdom is essential to walking in a manner worthy of the Ephesians’ calling in 4:1 – 6:9, then 6:10–20 requires courage and steadfastness. Without question, Paul is quite willing to offer judgments about the corruption and decadence of the cultures in which the Ephesians find themselves. He can even speak of them as if they are under the influence of corrupting spiritual powers. In 6:10–20, however, Paul is quite adamant that believers in Ephesus are engaged in a battle against spiritual foes. . .
It is very easy to read this discussion of the armor of God and then to assume that this is a set of instructions to individual believers to take up the armor of God. That is not really the way the text reads. Rather, the command to take up the armor of God is a summons to the community as a whole. Taking up the armor of God is a communal practice integrally tied to the unity of the church and the church’s witness to the powers. In this respect, 6:10–20 continues the emphasis on the common life of the church that began in 4:1.
Clinton Arnold: The aim of walking worthily of God is actually a profound struggle that goes beyond simply putting forth more effort or overcoming human obstacles. There are extremely powerful spiritual beings that strategize and carry out plans to derail the best intentions of Christians to live out God’s call in their lives. This theme of powerful supernatural opposition to the people of God can be traced throughout the letter. These are the powers who held humanity in bondage before the redemptive work of Christ (2:2) and now threaten to find an inroad and set up a base of operations in the lives of people who have come to know Christ (4:27). . .
Living a life pleasing to the Lord and engaging in the mission of the church is not easy because there are powerful supernatural beings that strategize and attack. Because of this, God makes available his power and divine resources to believers so they can resist the assaults of these hostile spirits and advance God’s kingdom into the world. Believers are called to appropriate these gifts, cultivate their corresponding virtues, and above all, pray in the Spirit as an expression of their dependence on the Lord to receive God’s enabling power.
Frank Thielman: Here Paul subtly sums up what the readers of the letter must do in order to fulfill their role in God’s plan to unite all things in Christ. They must stand against the devil and his forces on the ground that God has won for them in Christ. To do this they must live in the truth of the gospel, the righteousness that it inculcates, the preparation to battle evil that it brings, and the faith with which they first have believed it. They must constantly receive both salvation and the Spirit’s application of the gospel to their lives. In addition, they must constantly and devotedly pray for themselves, for other Christians, and especially for Paul in his difficult circumstances.
Grant Osborne: This passage concludes the section of the letter on right Christian living (4:1 – 6:20). At the same time it concludes the entire letter, for both the doctrinal and the practical wrap up in this section on spiritual warfare and the need to learn how to use every weapon in God’s repertoire. The emphasis on the battle against the cosmic powers is found throughout the letter (1:21; 2:2; 3:10; 4:27, compare 4:13). Satan in frustrated rage (Rev 12:12) has gone to war against God’s people and wants to destroy them spiritually. He and his fallen angels use temptation and evil thoughts to sidetrack the saints in an effort to gain more and more control over their lives. The sources of these temptations are found in the vice lists of this book (4:17-19, 25-30, 31; 5:3-7, 11-12), and through them the evil powers keep believers bogged down with the world and spiritually defeated.
Believers need spiritual strength, which comes to them both vertically from the Lord and horizontally from fellow members of the body of Christ. The overcoming of the dividing wall (2:14) and the unity of the people of God in Christ’s new creation (v. 15) cannot take place until the demonic forces are defeated, and that can happen only “in the Lord.” The devil’s strategies cannot be overcome without divine help. The pieces of the believer’s armor come from God’s own armor in Isaiah 59:17. God’s people must employ every facet of the strength God gives in defeating their great enemy – Satan and his minions.
Andrew Lincoln: The pericope of 6:10–20 falls into three subsections:
- vv 10–13 which stress the necessity of putting on God’s full armor in order to be strong and to stand in the battle against the spiritual powers;
- vv 14–17 which detail the pieces of the armor that must be put on;
- vv 18–20 which emphasize in addition the need for constant prayer and watchfulness, the prayer including intercession for all believers but especially for the imprisoned apostle’s bold proclamation of the mystery.
Klyne Snodgrass: Structure:
Three imperatives—“be strong,” “put on the full armor of God,” and “stand” (vv. 10–11, 14)—dominate the text; the rest is explanatory. Verse 10 functions as a heading for the whole passage. Verse 11 explains that we are strong in the Lord when we put on the armor he provides. Verse 12 shows why strength is needed, and the command to put on God’s armor is then repeated (v. 13) and explained (vv. 14–20).
I. (:10-13) SPIRITUAL WARFARE REQUIRES GOD’S STRENGTH AND GOD’S ARMOR
A. (:10) Be Strong in God’s Strength
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.”
Harold Hoehner: He begins this section with the articular adjective τὸ λοιπόν/τοῦ λοιποῦ, “finally,” to indicate that these are his final thoughts before he ends the epistle.
Stephen Fowl: Paul begins by urging the Ephesians to be strengthened in the Lord. The use of the passive voice here reminds the Ephesians that although this strength is necessary in order to withstand the forces of evil, it is not something the Ephesians can really do for themselves. One way of understanding this notion of being strengthened in the Lord is in the light of John 15. There Jesus teaches his followers that abiding in him, “the vine,” is the only way to maintain the possibility of bearing fruit in an otherwise hostile environment. Abiding in the Lord is the way in which believers may come to be strengthened by the Lord. The issue here does not seem to be one of preferring weakness to strength or even of misperceiving the true nature of strength and weakness, as in 1 Corinthians. Rather, the issue seems to focus on where one finds strength. The struggle is to seek strength in God rather than in other apparent sources of power and security (see Isa 40:12–31). On the one hand, this would seem to be a fairly straightforward task. On the other hand, the story of the people of God in the OT is one of constantly seeking power and protection from things, people, and nations that are not God.
Bryan Chapell: Paul’s specific wording indicates that God does not want us merely to supplement our strength with his, but so to invigorate the new life that he has regenerated in us that he is our strength.
B. (:11a) Be Protected in God’s Armor
“Put on the full armor of God“
Clinton Arnold: Knowing the truth of who we are in union with Christ, cultivating the virtues of this new identity, and using the resources available through this new relationship are at the heart of what it means to put on the armor of God.
Harold Hoehner: It is quite possible that Paul’s vivid description of the armor may stem from the fact that, while writing this letter, he was in prison being guarded by Roman soldiers (cf. Acts 28:16, 20).
C. (:11b-12) Understand the Enemy / Don’t Underestimate the Enemy
- The Enemy is Deceitfully Tricky — The Crafty Devil
“that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
Clinton Arnold: The idea in Ephesians is that the devil (ὁ διάβολος; see comment on 4:27) is an intelligent being that carefully strategizes plans against the church, God’s plan of redemption, and individual believers. What Paul does not say in this passage is how these schemes, which he will later refer to as “flaming arrows” (6:16), are discerned and felt. Given the broader context of Paul’s thought, it would seem prudent to see an expansive variety of ways that the devil hatches his attacks. This could come through people who teach things contrary to the “one faith” (4:5), through temptation, difficult physical trials, or overt manifestations, or through any of a limitless array of intelligently designed plots.
Grant Osborne: The key to victory in ancient warfare was to remain standing through all of the battle situations one faced. Those who fell would die, for they would be helpless against the swords being brandished against them from every direction.
- The Enemy is Extremely Powerful — much stronger than flesh and blood
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness”
Clinton Arnold: This expression also highlights the fact that the readers should not consider their fight as one against Roman rule or any of the local civic rulers who might oppose them or cause them harm. Paul is here unmasking the ultimate source of many of the evils they experience—the influences behind the Roman Imperium.
- The Enemy is Shockingly Wicked
“against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Frank Thielman: In this spiritual dimension, Christ has already won the victory over the rebellious and demonic powers (1:20–22a), but the victory has not yet been fully implemented. Demonic powers are still active in the world, influencing the “Course” it takes and working within human beings who continue to rebel against the Creator (2:2–3). It is necessary, then, for believers to put on God’s full armor, to take their stand on the ground that Christ has won, and to resist the final, ultimately futile attacks of the devil.
D. (:13) Resist and Stand Firm
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the
evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Clinton Arnold: Since believers continue to live in the present evil age and face the powerful, strategic, and varied attacks of hostile spirits at key intervals throughout their lives, they need to depend completely on the power of God. Successful resistance means drawing on the resources God provides.
II. (:14-17) PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD AND STAND FIRM
6 Different Pieces of the Armor of God:
A. (:14a) The Belt = Truth
“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth“
David Holwick: “Gird the loins”
1) Means hike up outer shirt.
a) Loose-fitting, all the way to ankles.
b) Run or fight in it, trip up.
c) Girding it into belt prepared soldier for action.
2) Bible characters said to gird up loins.
a) Israelites did so as they escaped Egypt. Exodus 12:11
b) Elijah when he outran King Ahab’s chariot. 1 Kings 18:46
c) Christians should gird up mind. 1 Peter 1:13
Clinton Arnold: The “truth” (ἀλήθεια) that Paul speaks of here can be interpreted in two ways: in the objective sense of the truth of the gospel or the elements of “the faith” (4:5), that is, the doctrinal truth of the common confession of the early church; or in the subjective sense of practicing honesty and living with moral integrity. Paul has used “truth” in both ways earlier in the letter, and most likely both senses of the term are intended here.
B. (:14b) The Breastplate = Righteousness
“and having put on the breastplate of righteousness“
Wood: The ‘breastplate‘ (thorax) covered the body from the neck to the thighs. Polybius tells us that it was known as a heart-protector. Usually it was made of bronze but the more affluent officers wore a coat of chain mail. The front piece was strictly the breastplate, but a back piece was commonly worn as well. In Isaiah 59:17 we are told that Yahweh himself put on righteousness like a breastplate. In this context dikaiosyne (‘righteousness‘) stands for uprightness and integrity of character. But this moral rectitude and reputation for fair dealing results directly from the appropriation of Christ’s righteousness…
Clinton Arnold: Righteousness is the breastplate for believers (the genitive τῆς δικαιοσύνης should be taken as a genitive of apposition, “the breastplate, which is righteousness”). Putting on righteousness means, in part, that we gain a full knowledge and appreciation of this new identity in Christ, especially as it pertains to Christ as our righteousness (see 1 Cor 1:30; Phil 3:9). One of the strategies of the accuser or slanderer (the meaning of διάβολος, often translated “devil”) is to call into question our status before God as righteous. Paul sought to counteract this through his continual reassurance that all who are in Christ are “saints” (see, e.g., Eph 1:1, 4, 15, 18).
R. C. Sproul: The breastplate in a Roman soldier’s armor was the heavy section that fitted over his torso. Its chief purpose was to protect the vital organs of the body from being pierced by an arrow or a sword or other weapons. Paul says that Christians need to protect their vital areas with righteousness. Remember the classic story of the great hero, Achilles, who seemed to be invincible. The legend is that his mother, when he was a baby, dipped him into some kind of magical potion that coated his entire body with an invincible shield. But when she dipped him into this substance, she held him by the tip of his heel, so that one portion of his body was not covered with the magic solution. It was there that, in the course of a great battle in the Trojan War, Achilles was struck in the heel by an arrow and was slain. He had one uncovered point on his body where he was vulnerable. When believers are living in unconfessed sin, they are vulnerable to the assaults of Satan.
C. (:15) The Boots = Peace
“and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace“
Homer Kent: The feet are what carry the soldier to the battle. Feet properly shod enable the soldier to march long distances and to fight without slipping or stumbling on rough terrain. Spiritually, the Christian is to be shod with the ‘preparation of the gospel of peace.’ He achieves a confident readiness for the conflict through the peace of God provided in the gospel. A recognition that the good news of salvation has provided peace with God and thus all that we need for spiritual victory furnishes us with calmness for the conflict.
William Hendriksen: “Am I prepared to fight?: is the next question. In other words, Have I shod my feet with “readiness derived from the gospel of peace”? The meaning of this expression has been much debated. Nevertheless, the following facts must be admitted:
- In order to promote facility of motion over all kinds of roads Roman soldiers were in the habit of putting on ‘shoes thickly studded with sharp nails’ (Josephus, Jewish Wars VI. i. 8). Thus, one important reason for Julius Caesar’s success as a general was the fact that his men wore military shoes that made it possible for them to cover long distances in such short periods that again and again the enemies were caught off guard, having deceived themselves into thinking that they still had plenty of time to prepare an adequate defense… Accordingly, proper footwear spells readiness.
- A person who experiences within his own heart the peace of God that passes all understanding , the very peace which the gospel proclaims, has been delivered of a great burden. The conviction of being reconciled with God through the blood of Christ gives him the courage and the zeal to fight the good fight. If the gospel, accepted by faith, had not given him this peace, how could he be prepared to engage in this battle?
- The fact that this readiness is actually derived from the gospel whose message or content is peace is clear from such passages as 2:15, 17; cf. Rom. 5:1.
R. C. Sproul: In the ancient world it was customary, in some places, that if the messenger brought bad news, he was punished with death. If it was bad news, then, he would be burdened by the news that he was carrying, and fearful of what treatment he might expect. As each city posted lookouts to watch the approaching runners, it became almost a science whereby the lookout could determine whether the messenger was bringing good news or bad news, just by his feet. If the messenger was bringing good news of victory, his feet would be flying and he would be kicking up a lot of dust. There would be an exuberance and an enthusiasm in his gait, as he approached the walls of the city. Hence the phrase, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
Paul is saying that there is nothing more beautiful to see than a messenger who is bringing good news, and that is what the word ‘gospel’ means. It is the good news of the peace that we have with God, having been reconciled to the Father by the work of Jesus. The gospel becomes that which protects our feet, covers our feet and makes us mobile in the battle against cosmic evil.
Frank Thielman: The expression probably means, then, that the gospel, whose content is peace, is the source of the metaphorical soldier’s “readiness” (ἑτοιμασία). At the center of the gospel stands the death of Christ on the cross, the peace that this death brings between rebellious humanity and its Creator, and the peace that it brings to the various competing factions within humanity itself (2:11–22). The message of this multifaceted reconciliation is the subject of the church’s proclamation to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10). Fully embracing the gospel of peace in faith (cf. 1:13), then, is necessary preparation for doing battle with the forces of evil, which stand against the believer and against God’s plan to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Christ (cf. 1:10).
D. (:16) The Shield = Faith
“in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one“
David Holwick: This shield is not a little round one, but the large one which measured four feet by two feet, big enough to protect the whole body.
Polybius: The Roman panoply consists firstly of a shield (scutum), the convex surface of which measures two and a half feet in width and four feet in length, the thickness at the rim being a palm’s breadth. It is made of two planks glued together, the outer surface being then covered first with canvas and then with calf-skin. Its upper and lower rims are strengthened by an iron edging which protects it from descending blows and from injury when rested on the ground. It also has an iron boss (umbo) fixed to it which turns aside the most formidable blows of stones, pikes, and heavy missiles in general. (Hist. 6.23.2–5)
Grant Osborne: It is our dynamic faith that enables us to clothe ourselves with and effectively use God’s full armor as we struggle in an evil world to remain faithful to him. Faith turns our hearts and minds from relying on self to full surrender and continuous reliance on him.
Harold Hoehner: The genitive is most likely a genitive of apposition, that is, the shield consists of faith. Although some would consider this objective faith, it is more likely the subjective faith of believers. This is more consistent with the defensive parts of the armor previously mentioned. The possession of the shield of resolute faith helps believers stand firmly and resist the devil (cf. 1 Pet 5:8–9) and his schemes.
E. (:17a) The Helmet = Salvation
“And take the helmet of salvation“
R. C. Sproul: The helmet protected the head, where it was so easy to deliver a fatal blow. Although Satan cannot kill the soul, he can wound the mind. Those who are in a state of salvation have their minds covered by the salvation (past, present and future) that has been wrought for them in Christ.
Frank Thielman: He urges his readers, then, to receive salvation not because they do not already have it, but because, although they have it, they need to appropriate it constantly in faith.
Grant Osborne: The emphasis on salvation is not so much about final salvation as it is about the present experience of salvation, helping the readers to understand the divine power and deliverance they have already received in Christ.
Harold Hoehner: With his head protected, the soldier feels safe in the midst of battle. Likewise, believers’ posssession of salvation gives them confidence of safeness during the assaults of the devil.
F. (:17b) The Sword = The Word of God (the only Offensive Weapon)
“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God“
Klyne Snodgrass: The gospel empowered by the Spirit is the means by which the well-armed Christian is protected and empowered for life. That includes sharing the good news, but is much more comprehensive. . .
Whether prayer is a seventh piece of equipment is debated. Grammar suggests it is not, or else being alert, which is a parallel to praying, would have to be considered a piece of the equipment as well. But the question is irrelevant, for whether it is a piece of the equipment or the demeanor with which the equipment is worn, neither prayer nor being alert is optional for believers. By definition, to be Christ’s soldier is to pray and keep alert.
Harold Hoehner: This is not preaching the gospel but speaking God’s word against his foes. It should be noted that God’s word is not to be recited as a magical formula. On the contrary, it is speaking the words of God in Christ’s name empowered by God’s Spirit. The spoken word of God is the “instrument” of the Spirit. Again, it must be remembered that although this is the only offensive weapon listed among the pieces of the armor, in the present context it is not used to make advances but rather to enable the believer to stand firmly in the midst of satanic warfare. The devil and his forces must not be allowed to gain new territory in Christ’s kingdom or to rob believers of their spiritual blessings in Christ. With this piece, the description of the armor comes to an end.
The entire armor is absolutely necessary in the spiritual warfare against the devil and his angels. As in other parts of this book, the exhortation is directed to both the individual and the corporate body. This is in keeping with the dominant theme of the book, unity of believing Jews and Gentiles in one body. Thus the church, the body of believers, is in this warfare together. As the Roman soldier did not fight alone, so must believers as a body, united under their commander-in-chief, stand against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.