Break the Ice (5 min)
- Do a demonstration of how not being protected can be damaging.
- Materials: 2 oranges, a large glass bowl, and water
- Instructions: Fill the bowl (large enough that both oranges can be submerged) completely with water. Place both oranges in the bowl (with skin). Pick one orange and remove some peeling as they list the armor parts. When one is listed, then remove skin peel and place back into water bowl. As you continue to remove parts of the skin, point out that the orange is slowly sinking. When the orange is peeled completely, it should be totally submerged.
Bring the Word (40 min)
Do you know of anyone currently trying to make it through a struggle whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, or all three?
Ephesians 6: 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. (NLT)
Prayer for the conversation to come. (Leader)
Part 2 Topic: The Father’s desire for the unity of His new people. Ephesians 4 through 6:24
Read Eph. 6:10-6:24
The struggle for Christlike unity, Eph. 6:10-24
- The spiritual battle
- God’s armor
- Prayer’s power
The Christian life is a spiritual struggle. Problems, suffering, and persecution are not abnormal, but normal, for Christians in a fallen world (Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:6-9; 2:11; 4:12-17; 5:10).
As the filling is related to daily Christlikeness (Col. 3:16) so too, is the spiritual battle. People are priority with God. The battleground is interpersonal relationships on a daily basis. Only people are eternal. Although these verses speak of God’s power, the Christian must allow the Spirit to work in their lives. Covenant involves two parties, two choices.
We must be careful of two extremes: (1) Satan causes everything and (2) there is no personal evil. I assume because of OT monotheism that Satan is a created being and a controlled being (1 Kgs. 22:19-23; Job 1-2; Zech. 3:1-5). He is neither omnipresent, nor omniscient. Satan has been mentioned earlier in the letter in Eph. 2:2 and 4:14, 27. He is only one of three enemies that Christians face daily-the world, Satan (and his), and the flesh (Eph. 2:2-3; James 4).
God provides our spiritual armor and weapons, but believers must (1) recognize the daily spiritual battle and (2) arm themselves, by faith, of God’s resources and then (3) stand (Eph. 6:11,13,14). Spiritual maturity is not automatic, nor is it based on longevity, IQ (i.e., intelligence), or giftedness.
“be strong in the Lord” The theology is clear: believers must continue to allow the Spirit to strengthen them for the ongoing spiritual struggle (Eph. 3:20; 1 Cor. 16:13). This paradox between God’s power flowing through believers and believers actively involved in living for Christ is the tension found throughout the Bible. Basically, it is the tension of a covenant relationship (Phil. 2:12-13). God always takes the initiative, always sets the agenda, but He has also chosen that humans must respond (initially and continually). Sometimes the Bible emphasizes mankind’s response (Ezek. 18:31, “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit”) and sometimes God’s provision (Ezek. 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”). Both are true.
Four Greek terms (dunamis = power; energeia = energy; kratos = strength and ischus = might) are used in Eph. 1:10 to describe God’s power in Christ. Here, three of these same words are used.
“in the strength of His might” YHWH was often described in the OT as a warrior wearing armor (Isa. 42:13; 49:24-25; 52:10 and especially 59:16-17). It is His armor, not ours. Our victory is in Him (Phil. 2:13), but we must cooperate (Phil. 2:12).
6:11 “put on the full armor of God” This conveys a sense of urgency (Eph. 6:13). This is a decisive act of the believer’s will. God has provided our needed spiritual equipment, but we must recognize the need and arm ourselves of God’s provision and apply it to our daily lives (1 Thess. 5:8). Justification (Romans 4; 6) does not provide a deliverance from spiritual struggle and temptation (Romans 7). The presence of the “new man” does not imply the total removal of the “old man.” Often the battle is intensified. If Satan cannot keep us from being saved, he will attempt to keep us spiritually defeated and silenced.
“that you may be able to stand firm” This refers to the daily struggle, not one decisive “battle” or temptation (this is like Jesus’ temptation in Luke 4:13, where Satan departs until a more opportune time). The term “stand” is a military term for holding one’s position. It is repeated in Eph. 6:13 and 14. It is the key purpose of the believer’s armor.
NASB” against the schemes of the devil”
NKJV, NRSV “against the wiles of the devil”
TEV “against the devil’s evil tricks”
NJB “the devil’s tactics”
Christians are attacked by an angelic tempter, Satan (Eph. 2:2; 4:14,27; 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Pet. 5:8-9). Satan uses many schemes (methodia).
2. personal sin
3. false teachers
These are just some things that the recipients of this letter faced. However, believers cannot attribute all sin and problems to angelic temptation or attack. Fallen mankind, even redeemed fallen mankind, faces (1) a continuing sin nature; (2) a fallen world system; and (3) an angelic and demonic attack (Eph. 2:2-3; James. 4:1, 4, 7). The battle starts in the mind but moves quickly to sinful acts.
Notice the numbers of times “against” appears in this context (once in v.11 and four times in Eph. 6:12).
NASB, NRSV “our struggle is not”
NKJV “we do not wrestle”
TEV “we are not fighting against”
NJB “we have to struggle”
This implies an ongoing struggle, not a one-time temptation. This was either a military or athletic metaphor. It literally refers to hand-to-hand combat. The Christian life is tough. The Christian life is a supernatural gift lived out by repentance and faith, as is salvation.
“against flesh and blood” The word order is literally “blood and flesh.” Notice the abnormal sequence of these terms. It is found only here and in Heb. 2:14. The reason is uncertain, but it may be related to the Gnostic false teachers’ depreciation of the physical (Jesus’ humanity). Believers must remember the spiritual problem is sin, evil, and Satan, not competition from other human beings.
“against the rulers; against the powers” These terms can be used of human authorities as in Rom. 13:1-7, but here the context demands angelic levels (aeons) of authority (Rom. 8:38-39; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 1:16; 2:10,15; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:22). This was part of the Gnostic false teachers’ worldview. These angelic levels (aeons) may be
1. evil, that is, fallen angels under Satan’s control, the demonic
2. the angelic authorities called the stoichea who are not necessarily evil (Gal. 4:3,9; Col. 2:8)
NASB “against the world-forces of this darkness”
NKJV “against the rulers of the darkness of this age”
NRSV “against the cosmic powers of this present darkness”
TEV “against the cosmic powers of this dark age”
NJB “the spiritual army of evil in the heavens”
This is the Greek term kosmocrator. This term is used in the Greek Classics and the writings of the Jewish rabbis to describe someone bent on world control. This seems to speak of Satan (John 12:31; 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2) and the demonic (1 Cor. 2:6, 8 15:24; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 2:15).
“against the spirit-forces of wickedness” This phrase was used in Paul’s day by astrologers who believed there were angels or gods behind the heavenly bodies (Rom. 8:39) that affected human life (zodiac). This all began with Babylonian astrology. It is still alive and well (horoscopes).
NRSV “in the heavenly places”
TEV “in the heavenly world”
NJB “in the heavens”
This “in the heavenly places” is used only in Ephesians (Eph. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). From the context of all its usages (esp. 3:10 and 6:12), it must mean the spiritual realm in which believers live here and now, not heaven by and by.
6:13 “you must take up the full armor of God” It is another military term. It is possibly an allusion to YHWH as warrior from Isa. 59:17. The armor is mentioned in the order in which it would have been put on by a soldier (remember Paul wrote this from prison chained to two Roman soldiers).
Notice the full armor is God’s armor. He provides, but believers must recognize the battle and implement God’s sufficient provision.
“you may be able to resist” There is a spiritual battle before and after conversion. Some believers do not know there is an ongoing, spiritual battle; they do not take up God’s armor and they do not resist. The terminology is like James 4:7 and 1 Pet. 5:9. Christians can lose or damage their peace, assurance, and gifted ministry through (1) ignorance; (2) neglect; and/or (3) sin (1 Cor. 9:27; 15:2; Gal. 2:2; 3:4; Phil. 2:16; 1 Tim. 1:19). This does not refer to heaven or hell, but effective kingdom service.
“in the evil day” This is an OT idiom which could refer to (1) a day of temptation; (2) the whole evil age in which we live; or (3) a day of adversity (Ps. 49:5).
“having done everything” This term had the connotation of one having done everything that was required. Paul uses this term more than eighteen times in his letters. In the spiritual realm (1) preparation; (2) consistency; and (3) knowledge are crucial.
“stand firm” Believers are commanded and encouraged to resist, overcome, and stand against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 4:14). This is done by means of
1. the believers’ knowledge of the gospel (the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, Eph. 6:17)
2. the believer’s position in Christ
3. the believers’ yielding to the indwelling Spirit
4. the believers’ implementation of the armor provided by God
5. the believer’s decisive choices and actions
6. prayer (Eph. 6:18)
“having girded” (Eph. 6:14). This is a quote from Isa.11:5 where it was used of the Messiah.
“having put on” (Eph. 6:14). This is a quote from Isa. 59:17, where it is used of God as a warrior on behalf of sinful Israel (Eph. 59:12).
“having shod” (Eph. 6:15). This is a quote from Isa. 52:7, where the Lord comes to His people as a King bringing good news (Eph. 61:1).
“taking up” (Eph. 6:16, Eph. 6:13). This is implied in Isa. 59:17. God’s provisions must be implemented in daily life.
“truth” This may be translated in the OT sense of “truthfulness” or “trustworthiness.”
“the breastplate” This is one of the pieces of armor listed in Isa. 59:17, as is the helmet of Eph. 6:17.
“of righteousness” This refers to Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). However, like the tension related to strengthening in Eph. 6:10, it is both Christ’s imputed righteousness (positional justification and sanctification) and His followers’ progressive Christlikeness (progressive sanctification) that brings victory in the daily spiritual struggle.
6:15 “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” This either refers to (1) readiness (Isa. 52:7) or (2) a sure foundation. Believers must be prepared for the spiritual struggle that will surely come.
6:16 “in addition” The KJV translates this as “above all,” but it means in addition to the above mentioned military battle armor.
“the shield” This term is related to the Greek word for “door.” It refers to the large 4′ x 2′ full-body shield. It was made of wood with leather coverings surrounded by metal. It was soaked in water before battle to extinguish the fire-tipped arrows. It was a symbol of full protection.
“flaming missiles” This refers to arrows dipped in pitch and lighted. They represent spiritual attacks.
“the evil one” There is an ambiguity as to whether it refers to evil in general or Satan. This same ambiguity can be seen in Matt. 5:37; 6:13; 13:38; John 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:13-14. In Matt. 13:19; 1 John 5:18-19 it obviously refers to Satan
6:17 “take the helmet of salvation” It is symbolic of believers’ knowledge of the gospel and their hope in Christ (1 Thess. 5:8).
“the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Paul specifically defines the believers’ offensive weapons (i.e., Bible knowledge and prayer, Eph. 6:18). This was an allusion to an OT metaphor for God speaking to His people (Isa. 49:2; Hosea 6:5). God’s revelation (both the living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written word, the Bible) is described in these same terms in Heb. 4:12. Although a different Greek term for “word” (rhēma versus logos) is used in Hebrews, the term for “sword” is the same (the small tongue-shaped Roman weapon).
6:18 “with all prayer and petition, pray at all times” Notice the number of times the inclusive term “all” is used in Eph. 6:18. Prayer is another powerful weapon in the spiritual battle which is the Christian’s daily life in this fallen age. Paul requested prayer for himself in Eph. 6:19 (Col. 4:3-4; 1 Thess. 5:17). He did not ask for personal issues but for clarity and boldness in gospel proclamation (Col. 4:3-4). It is interesting to note that Paul does not discuss the spiritual battle in Colossians but he does emphasize the need for prayer (Col. 4:2).
“in the Spirit” The term “spirit” can be understood in different ways. It may refer to
1. the Spirit praying for believers (Rom. 8:26-27)
2. Christians praying in spiritual power (Jude 1:20)
3. parallel to John 4:23 “in spirit and truth”
4. “spirit” as distinct from “mind” (1 Cor. 14:14-15)
Effective, fervent prayer is impossible without the Spirit’s involvement!
Notice the aspects of spirit-led prayer:
1. at all times
2. in the Spirit
3. be alert with perseverance
4. pray for all the saints
“for all the saints”
6:19 “pray on my behalf” Paul asked for prayer, not for himself personally, but for the power to present the gospel clearly as he spoke during his trials before the Roman authorities (Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1):
1. “that utterance may be given me” (Eph. 6:19)
2. “to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19 “freedom of speech,” Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16; 10:19,35).
3. “I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:20; Col. 4:4).
“with boldness” See Special Topic: Boldness (Parrhēsia) at Col. 2:15.
“mystery of the gospel” Paul uses this term in several different ways describing God’s redemptive plan. Here it refers to the believing Jews and Gentiles being one body in Christ. This concept is clearly spelled out in Eph. 2:11-3:13. The term appears in Eph. 1:9; 3:3,4,9; 5:32.
6:20 “I am an ambassador in chains” Paul understood his apostleship to the Gentiles as both a stewardship (1 Cor. 4:1; 9:17; Titus 1:7) and an ambassadorship (2 Cor. 5:20). He was in prison to preach the gospel to the Roman authorities in Rome, as he had to the authorities in Judea (Acts 9:15).
6:21 “Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” He is mentioned in Acts 20:4; Col. 4:7; Titus 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:12. He was the bearer of the letter. Also, he probably carried the letters of Colossians and Philemon to Asia Minor and was accompanied by Onesimus. He also possibly may have carried the letter of Ephesians to all the churches of Asia Minor. He also may have functioned as Paul’s scribe, like Tertius of Rom. 16:22.
6:22 Paul wanted the churches to know of his circumstances so that they could pray for him and not worry about him. He felt he was in God’s plan for his life and ministry (Acts 9:15).
6:23-24 These same themes opened the letter! Paul usually penned the closing thoughts himself to authenticate his letters.
NASB “with a love incorruptible”
NKJV “in sincerity”
NRSV “an undying love”
TEV “with undying love”
NJB “eternal life”
This term usually means “incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:25; 15:52; 1 Tim. 1:17). It had the connotation of something unchanging and eternal. This was an encouragement considering the confusion and conflict caused by the false teachers and the personal spiritual battle.
1. Is there a personal force of evil in our world?
2. What is our responsibility in spiritual struggle?
3. Why does Paul use warfare as a description of the Christian life?
4. What does Paul ask for himself?
Bring it Home (5 min)
Have someone close in prayer.