Scripture Readings: 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43; Ps. 34:15-22; Eph.6:10-20; John 6:56-69 Sermon by Lance McKinnon from Ephesians 6:10-18
Take Your Stand
Ever feel up against more than you can handle? You might feel that way when reading what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 concerning formidable “powers of the dark” and “spiritual forces of evil.”
Though it’s a bit of a mystery, we realize that evil is all too real. Thankfully, Jesus tells us of a deeper gospel reality—through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has defeated all evil forces, the devil included. So we need not fear, though we should do what Paul exhorts in the second half of Ephesians chapter 6. Let’s begin in v. 10.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Eph. 6:10)
Here Paul is wrapping up his letter. Prior to this he has presented the gospel and addressed our calling to live into that reality. He refers in v. 10 to the Lord’s mighty power, which is on display in the resurrection of Jesus. It’s in this power that we can do what he exhorts in v. 11:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Eph. 6:11)
Here Paul uses the metaphor of putting on armor to speak of receiving and living into the reality of Jesus and his victory over the devil. In other words, Jesus himself is the full armor of God. Paul is exhorting us to understand who Jesus is and what we already have been given in his resurrected life. Paul is telling us to arm ourselves by participating in Jesus’ resurrection life. The devil doesn’t have any weapons that can fight against that. All he has are schemes—lies and deceptions—to try to keep us from doing so.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of his dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12)
Paul is clear that our fight in this life of faith is not against “flesh and blood” but against spiritual forces of evil. It’s good to keep this in mind when we face relational conflicts. In Jesus, all men and women are brothers and sisters. Therefore, our struggles are not against one another. The devil would love to deceive us into taking shots at each other as enemies rather than living in the reality of our reconciliation in Christ. Because the devil is out of ammunition, friendly fire is his best strategy.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph. 6:13)
Jesus faced the day of evil on the cross. After the dust had settled, we found him still standing in the resurrection. That’s the reality that we cling to in the spiritual assaults we encounter every day. In the end, Jesus’ victory is our victory.
Then in Ephesians 6:14-18, Paul addresses putting on Christ by describing the various pieces of armor commonly worn by Roman soldiers. This imagery was close at hand for Paul—he likely wrote this letter while imprisoned, with Roman soldiers a common sight.
Paul first mentions the soldier’s belt as a metaphor for truth (Eph. 6:14a). Jesus is the truth and everything is held up in him.
Paul then uses the breastplate that guarded a soldier’s heart and vitals to picture “righteousness” (Eph. 6:14b). When we see Jesus as our righteousness, the devil can’t inflict mortal wounds of guilt.
The sandals worn by the soldiers was chosen to represent the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). Maybe Paul had in mind walking forward in the finished work of reconciliation in Jesus. Jesus is the gospel and he gives us his peace.
The shield of faith is our trust in the Lord (Eph. 6:16). This trust will quench thel doubts the devil raises in our experiences of sorrow and pain. Jesus, on the cross, experienced plenty of sorrow and pain. But he did not waver in his trust of his Father. Jesus expressed the human feeling of forsakenness, but he also expressed a continuing trust in his Father (“into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
The helmet of salvation protects our mind (Eph. 6:17a). Being saved means we needed saving. This is an affront to our pride. Salvation brings to bear our need for repentance. We must change the way we think about God, ourselves and others. Jesus is our salvation who transforms our way of thinking.
The sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17b) is the only offensive weapon mentioned in Paul’s metaphorical list. That sword is the word of God. This can be a reference to Holy Scripture and we’ve seen Jesus wield it against the devil. But deeper still, this metaphor can mean Jesus who is the Word of God that all Scripture points to. As we take our stand in Jesus we never move on the attack unless it is where he is leading. When we lead the charge instead of following the Spirit, we may be turning our backs on the real battle.
Paul concludes his list of the elements in our spiritual armor by stating the need we have to pray for one another in taking our stand (Eph. 6:18). Roman soldiers had to help each other put on their armor, as it was too difficult to do alone. Praying for one another is linking arms together in the communion Jesus has brought us by the Spirit. As we do so, we take our stand together, proclaiming the “mystery of the gospel” that victoriously moves forward despite all obstacles.