Ephesians 6:10-20


The five previous texts from Ephesians in this series have been discussing the life of the Christian. In 4:1-7; 11-16 we were told to maintain the unity of the Church. In 4:17-24 we were admonished to put on the new man and to put off the old man. Then in 4:30-5:2 we were warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit. In 5:15-20 Paul tells us to use every opportunity to serve the Lord. And, finally, in 5:21-31, husbands and wives were shown their mutual obligations.

The passage concerning the duties of children, parents, servants and masters was passed over.

That brings us to the present text which tells us to fight the good fight of faith.

Stoeckhardt: The imagery of a battle is a favorite figure with the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Romans 6:13,23; 1 Thessalonians 5:8, and compare Isaiah 59:16-19; Wisdom of Solomon 5:17-24.

Just as Romans 7 confronts us with the stark reality of our sinfulness and as Romans 5 tells us the truth about God's wonderful salvation of sinner, so Ephesians 6:10-20 warns us about the reality of our dreadful enemies but also informs us about what God gives us to combat Satan and all the evil forces. The Christian is anything but an idle, easy-going person. He is aware of the grim battle with Satan. He is equipped for the battle and is assured of victory before the battle begins. Look at Romans 8:37.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

"Finally" introduces the final admonition.

Kretzmann: This closing admonition of the letter has rightly been called the Lord's great call to arms.

The Majority text reads "my brothers" at this point and thus KJV and NKJV translate. The other versions do not read these words here.

Bengel: He addresses them thus in this passage of the epistle alone. Nowhere do soldiers call each other 'brethren' more than in battle.

We consider "be strong" middle voice,  "strengthen yourselves."  How? "In communion with the Lord and in communion with the power of His might." On these two nouns look at Ephesians 1:19.

As Luther sang: "With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, etc."  The Lutheran Hymnal 262. The power of the Lord's might comes to us only through the means of grace. The preacher must preach the Gospel. The hearer must listen to it.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

The first part of this verse is a restatement of verse 10 and the second part gives us the reason. Note that the preposition "against" occurs six times in verses 11-12, all with reference to the battle with Satan's forces.

"Full armor," the metaphor is that of the Greek hoplite, the heavy-armed soldier who puts on his full armor. This consisted of shield, sword, lance, helmet, greaves and breastplate.

Kretzmann: A Christian must be encased in the armor of God from his head to his feet.

The first "against" denotes purpose. The second means "to stand against." 

The final four words mean: "The tricky methods of the devil." We are reminded of Luther's words: "Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; On earth is not his equal."  The Lutheran Hymnal 262.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We are now given the reason why the ability to stand is so necessary.

"Struggle" come from a wrestling match. It was a fight characterized by trickery, cunningness and strategy. It is still so today.

"Our struggle." It is "our" match, but first we are told what it is not. "Flesh and blood" denote that which is human. Our match is not with mere humans. It may look like it but the real enemy lurks behind the human opponents.

Paul is not giving us different ranks of Satanic forces. He gives us a number of nouns which describe the formidable nature of our real enemies. They stand in apposition to each other.  "Rulers, authorities, cosmic tyrants." 

"Darkness" means "of this darkness which opposes Jesus, the Light." 

Finally, they are described as "spiritual, wicked, transcendental beings." 

"Against," meaning "face to face" occurs four times.

Stoeckhardt: These demons are spirit, spirits only, without flesh and blood, conscious beings, endowed with reason and will, but spirits of wickedness, whose entire thought, effort and seeking is pure wickedness, whose sole purpose is to destroy the works of God. And because they are spirits, they are members of a supernatural, super sensible, transcendental world.

They are actively evil. Think of what Satan did to our first parents, King Saul, Solomon, Judas, Peter and countless others who began so well but who were trapped so miserably. Never say: "It won't happen to me." We are reminded of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 10:12.

Ephesians 6:13 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.

"There." Because Satan is so powerful and we are so weak. Christians have a sinful flesh. This constantly tempts them to think that they can stand in their own strength. They cannot. And so they must be reminded again and again as in verses 11 and 13 to take up the "whole armor of God." 

This is followed by a purpose clause. As in verse 11, here we have a form of "to stand." Note that in verses 11, 13 and 14 we have "to stand, to withstand, to stand, stand." How does a hoplite fight? He stands. He withstands. That takes constant effort.

Next we have "on the day, the evil one." Satan and his forces were described with  "evil power" in verse 12. Here Paul speaks of the evil day. In what sense is a day evil? It denotes an occasion when Satan strikes with fury in his attempt to overcome us with evil. The "evil day"  differs from Christian to Christian. Some have more, some less. For some the attack is more severe than for others.

Think of Satan's attacks on Job. He used the weather, his wife, diseases, his friends, to make his life very miserable. Some people suffer from physical ills. Some from mental ills. Some from emotional problems. Some suffer innocently because of terrible diseases and calamities.

The question is not whether these things will come. The question is "Am I prepared to withstand the evil day?" The text stresses  "having made all necessary preparation." 

And then we should not forget that at all times the Christian must fight his own sinful flesh, 4:22, though that is not stressed in our text. But, even when there might be relief from "the evil day" the Christian is never without a struggle with sin and evil.

Ephesians 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

Bengel: Paul gives to the Christian soldier the means of protection, defense, and attack. The protections are three: the breastplate, the girdle, and the shoes; the defenses are two: the shield and the helmet; the weapons are also two: the sword and the spear.
Lenski: These literal items are seven: truth, righteousness, Gospel of peace, the faith, salvation, the Word of God, prayer.

Here the description of the Christian's armor begins. Stoeckhardt points out that here in verse 14 "stand" has a different means than at the end of verse 13. There it meant that the Christian must fight in such a way that he is still standing when the battle is over. But here it means that he must stand up against the enemy. On this verse compare Isaiah 11:5 and 59:17.

Two items of armor are mentioned; the girdle for the protection of the hips. This is the girdle of truth. Secondly, we have the breastplate which protected the chest, the vital organs. It represents righteousness.

Lenski and Stoeckhardt differ on their understanding of these two gifts. Lenski considers "truth" the Truth of God's Word. Stoeckhardt says it is moral integrity. Lenski considers "righteousness" the imputed righteousness of the Gospel. Stoeckhardt says it is the righteousness of life. In fact Lenski thinks that truth, the Gospel of peace and the Word of God in this text are all one and the same thing.

Ephesians 6:15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Here we have the third item in the Christian's armor. The ancient hoplite needed the right shoes so that he could fight on rough ground and so that he could move quickly. RSV translates: "and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace." 

Both Stoeckhardt and Kretzmann see the words of Isaiah 52:7 alluded to here.

The Gospel contains the peace of God. The Christian must be quick and ready to disseminate the peace of God in Christ. This is quite paradoxical. A soldier disseminates peace! This is a battle for the Lord against the devil. The Gospel is a very important weapon, in fact, the only one.

By the way, in this passage Stoeckhardt and Kretzmann follow Luther who says that in this passage Paul is urging the Christian to strive for blameless living, a life which before all men is recognized as blameless. Stoeckhardt invokes Ephesians 2:20 which tells us that God has prepared good works that we should walk in them and Philippians 2:13 where we are told that God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Ephesians 6:16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

"In addition to all this" is also translated as "at all times, above all, in addition to everything else." 

"Shield" was a large shield which reached from eye level to the knees.

Kretzmann: The parts of the panoply mentioned till now are those of the protective armor . . . But God's armor includes also weapons of defense and offense. . . Saving faith in Christ as the Savior of the world renders the believer secure against all the fiery darts of the devil.
Stoeckhardt: By this faith we present Christ and His blood, through which our sins were atoned for, against the assaults of the devil.

But Lenski considers "faith" here as "the truth that is believed and proclaimed." He compares Luther's words: "One little Word can fell him." And he compares this passage with the temptation of Jesus in which Jesus used the Word of God in his battle with Satan.

Here we agree with Kretzmann and Stoeckhardt. The Christian is in dire need of saving faith to quench the fiery darts of Satan. Paul is going beyond the point of comparison when he says that faith quenches Satan's fiery darts. A hoplite's shield did not extinguish fiery arrows. It kept them from harming the hoplite. But saving faith does more to counter Satan's arrows than a hoplite's shield did in battle. We think here of passage such as 1 Peter 5:9 and James 4:7.

A Christian armed with faith, can overcome Satan. The fiery darts here represent the doubts, lusts, temptations, fears, etc. which Satan uses against us. Sooner or later every Christian understands what is meant by these words of Paul. Fiery arrows are destructive, a frightening prospect. With Christian faith we can quench them.

Ephesians 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

For variety's sake Paul switches from the participles to an imperative. All we have to do is to take it. It is ready for us.

The helmet is very important. Think of how important a helmet is for motorcycle riding in our day. Many die because they do not wear a helmet. Likewise the helmet was very important for the hoplite. Injuries to the head can be fatal.

Kretzmann: The Christian has received from God the helmet of salvation, the certainty of final deliverance.
Luther: The helmet of salvation is the hope and expectation of another life, the life in heaven above, for the sake of which we believe in Christ and suffer all things, and without which we could not endure all the blows with which Christians are attacked by those who seek their very body and life.

Now comes the sword, the only offensive weapon in the list. The Holy Spirit owns and gives this sword to us. What is it? The Word of God. Paul is thinking of a variety of uses of the Word: preached, read, sung, spoken, meditated. The Christian meditates in the Word of God day and night. Where you have the Word, there you have God. Where you have God, there you have life and victory.

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

In this verse Paul uses forms of the word "all" four times. Here he returns to the use of the participle, two of them. "General prayer" and "particular supplication." 

All commentators, except Lenski, regard "spirit" as the Holy Spirit.

On every occasion the Christian is to use every kind of general and particular prayer, doing so in the Holy Spirit. And for this he must be alert with all kinds of perseverance and particular supplication for all Christians, not just some.

This verse makes us feel very small. How cold, infrequent and weak are not our prayers! There are occasions when we pray more than at other times. But, surely, this verse shows us our many sins of omission. Kretzmann notes Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8.

Stoeckhardt: Prayer also is a part of the armor of the Christian; the imagery of the battle fades for the time being.
Lenski: Prayer must be listed here, because it brings our divine ally to our side in the battle on the wicked day.

Ephesians 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

In verse 18 Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for all saints. Here he asks for a particular prayer, for himself, and yet not for himself only.

In Acts 9:15 God told Ananias that Paul would preach to the Gentiles and to kings. In Matthew 10:19 God promised that his messengers would be given just the right words when they would be brought before the authorities. That's what Paul is praying for here.

God alone can give what is here asked for.

Paul wants just the right word on just the right occasion. Here Paul asked for courage to make the mystery of the Gospel known. Earlier in this epistle Paul had said that the Gospel was a mystery in the sense that it would break down the wall of hatred between Jew and Gentile. That was unheard of. It would be breath-taking to tell the royal court what God has done for Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Here it becomes clear that Paul's request was not merely a personal one. It was for the sake of the Gospel. For this Gospel Paul was an ambassador in chains, a paradox. He is God's ambassador, God's messenger. But Rome considered him a prisoner. Usually ambassadors live in splendor and are treated royally. Not this ambassador. But it is all for the Lord and His Gospel.

"In proclaiming it, in speaking of it, as I ought to speak," means that he wants to do it exactly to the Lord's will. Not only the substance but also the manner of speaking is very important.


(Adapted from Exegetical Notes Epistle Texts, Series B, Sundays after Pentecost,
by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 60-63)

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