Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69
Friends, today Paul brings his letter to conclusion after he extensively talked about the plan of God when he adopted believers through Christ Jesus. Also, he talked about unity of the church and the reciprocal relationship between a husband and wife, children and parents and slaves and masters as something exemplified by Jesus. Paul's exposition was for Ephesians and every Christian to grasp how wide, how high, and how deep is the love of God toward them. Paul prays that Ephesians gained such wisdom so that they are filled with the fullness of God and in return they could come to the knowledge that surpasses all understanding of this world (Ephesians 3:18-19).
In conclusion, Paul instructs the believers to, finally, sink into God's armor. He needed Ephesians clothed, and be clothed by God's might as they continue living their lives. He understands that when believers live in the presence of God, they will have strength and are able to make a stand against "μεθοδείας" the deceit of the devil that falsely accuses them. The Greek 'methedias' refers to a process where someone employs methods, craftiness, and schemes to deceive, or falsely accuse the other. This means, Christians must stand watchful and beware of the deceitful methods of the devil.
Paul used basic objects and customs familiar to Ephesians. Elsewhere, he highlighted the idea of Christian struggle using theatrical practice where giants wrestled with animals or compete in a sport. He pictures a Christian running a race as in the Olympic race. The Greco-Roman world is known for dangerous sports. During Paul's time, the sportsmen were highly celebrated and revered. Their sweat would be collected in small bottles and sold to the fans. Paul also brings to mind the custom of a Roman Soldier. Everyone was familiar with the Roman soldiers as the could be seen everywhere. When Paul wrote Ephesians and Colossians, he was chained in the Roman prison. So many people believed that Paul might have been looking at a Roman guard with his full armor when he described the spiritual armor for Christians.
It is Paul's routine to interpret objects and add spiritual meaning to them. He had walked in their streets and was able to observe their various objects. In Corinth Paul saw an altar of an unknown god among the gods of Athens and declared that their unknown god, is Christ whom he was preaching (Acts 17:22-23).
Now Paul urged believers to sink-in and clothe themselves with the armor of God. He knew that wrestlers, guards, soldiers, and sportsmen, needed to equip themselves with the materials best for action and protection. The armor is used to protect, defend, and attack the challenger. The scripture encourages Christians to put on the armor and be clothed with it at all times, because we are WRESTLING with unseen forces. We are fighting against the competing forces of heaven and of this world.
Christian believers struggling against the forces of wickedness and the ideas that dare to darken our hearts. We wrestle to [ Πάλη]—sway away deceptions of Satan that use our weakness to create idols of our own. Israelites were tempted to create their own god, even if they were led by Yahweh in the desert. Satan doesn't sleep on tempting the people of God.
As Billy Graham said, "Our idols are not statues of gold and marble; our idols come from the things we love the most." For our struggle is not with objects that have physical appearances. Neither with humans, nor with animals, rather with spiritual forces. We can defeat evil by faith and by the strength that God is giving us but not on our own (Zechariah 4:6).
"The cosmic purpose of God involves the believer with the spiritual hierarchy of the unseen world organized under the power of Satan" (George E. Harper). Therefore, arming Christians for spiritual war is the best means to stay fit. The schemes and wiles of the devil as NRSV translates, are the strategies designed by the devil on how to destroy the Christian faith. It is the tactics to fool and trap a Christian believer.
Originally, Paul was referring to Greek and Roman mythological gods and their theories of unseen power and creations of heaven. There were multiple classifications of demon and cosmic gods in that Roman world. Due to these beliefs, first century Christians were squeezed from every side between the Greek and Romans gods, philosophers, and Judaism.
Paul was aware of many methods Satan utilizes to hinder the work of the gospel and Christian growth. He once said to the Thessalonians how he wanted to visit them, but Satan has blocked his way (1 Thessalonians 2:18). He understands that Satan can breakdown the most intimate relationships even by employing an idea that seems are for spiritual purposes (1 Corinthians 7:5). He believes that the devil could even take the form of an angel and lead believers away from the truth of God (2 Corinthians 11:3,14)."
Stand firm, therefore, that you can foil all the secrets and the whole enterprise of the devil from succeeding among yourselves. Stand firm against the cunning manner of the system of this world. Be strong in the faith and understand secrets and plans behind the acts of many around you. In this world, there are many gods, as Paul says, and we are wrestling against them as we live our lives as Christians. If any Christian does not believe in the force of darkness, we can assume that person is wired with the deceit because scripture has proven the existence of forces of this world.
You can ask why someone would plot the killing of his fellow human. Or what is behind placing a bomb that would slay many innocent people? Why people die by suicide? Why would friends lure their best buddies to alcohol and substance abuse? There are substances in the form of "bath salts," some called "K-2," and "spice." Why are such systems and business in place? They form deceptions and aim to destroy human lives. Friends know that the power of darkness has been put in place in different forms and methods to numb minds, to destroy and lead people from leading a normal life or from faith.
Paul said, "Stand therefor." This means we are not called on to attack, rather Christians are called to stay alert and pay attention, to foil every deceit and scheme of the devil when it hits hard—" in the days of crisis." We do not know when it hits, when he deploys the attack, but we are reminded to be watchful yet sink in God's armor.
We remain watchful, and as KJV translates, "having your loins girt about with truth." First thing that braces and gives a warrior a good grip of weapons is the belt. The Belt is part of the armor that holds together everything. Spiritually, is knowing the truth of God. Jesus said, knowing the truth will set free a believing Christian (John 8:32). Truth is hard but when believers come to the full knowledge of God, they will disregard self-doubt and be honest in their Christian living. This will foil the deceit of the devil that falsifies everything about God and Christ.
"Cover your chest with the breastplate of Righteousness." Your upper body is the center of your living. It's where your heart, your lung, your liver and your kidneys are stationed. This encourages a believer to use the large portion of the armor and cover the most vulnerable place of your body with righteousness of Jesus Christ. Stay protected while continuing in journey of sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot be righteous in our own doing, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6). But "Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor"(Proverbs 21:2); "For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever" (Psalm 112:6). Jesus encourages his followers to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given " (Matthew 6:33). Christ Jesus our source of "righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Righteousness is Tsedeq in Hebrew and means the right thing of God; the holiness that God has bestowed on his followers through the blood of Christ. It’s the conformity toward the demands of believers. This calls on us to open ourselves to God as we are made right with the Lord. To be right with God is to submit to God's whole authority.
Put on Shoes for the Gospel of peace and be ready to proclaim the gospel of love and peace toward harmony. We are called to imitate Christ in his calling. "The possession of the good news of the gospel involves the obligation to share it. That which is divinely given must be humanly passed on. Jesus Christ needs us to be the hands and feet and lips which will bring his gospel to those who have never heard it." --William Barclay. Isaiah saw this a long time ago and said, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation" (Isaiah 52:7).
Remember to shield yourself with faith to "quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Shield yourselves from the dividing languages, media schemes, and false theories as we try to bring back our unity and our dignity. Hold tight to your shield to dispel invisible deceits of the devil that come from all directions.
Take the helmet of salvation to protect our heads from flying objects. Be knowledgeable about your redemption. You are rescued from destruction to a new life with God. Nothing can be added to secure our salvation, but only Christ's salvific work which we receive by faith alone. We need caution to protect from doubts and sinning as we are reminded of the salvation of God. Keep your mind free from evil thoughts and set your mind on the cross (Colossians 3:1)
Last, but not the least, hold on to the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Now you have the weapon, and your armor is complete. Jesus defeated the devil and halt the cunning persuasion of the devil by quoting the Bible saying, "it is written" (Matthew 4). This does not mean that you must read scripture from cover to cover or know the Bible entirely. However, scripture instructs us to be knowledgeable of the best tool to fight against the false schemes of the devil during your time of crisis. “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
No wonder the book of Ephesians is the most theological among the epistles of Paul. The knowledge of God and the necessity of the outfit is described in a fashionable way. How can we resist this Brand name. World's renowned designers cannot design this armor in its detailed manner. We are all required to obtain it because lacking to have one, a Christian person is naked, walking barefoot, no belt, bare-headed and empty chest and helpless when attacked.
Scripture urges us to always pray in the Spirit in every form of prayer and supplications. It is as if Paul is saying to you and myself today, that polish your armor with all kinds of prayers in all seasons. Pray when you persevere, when you are discouraged and when things and everyone around you seems to have gone away. Above all, remember everyone in your prayers, because your intercession helps strengthen your brothers and sisters in their struggle.
Let us draw near to Jesus the source of our lives because without him we are lost and powerless (John 6:56-69). Amen!