As Paul draws to the end of his letter, he turns to the topic of spiritual warfare. At first glance this may seem disconnected from what has gone before, but it is not. As we seek to live out the gospel he has shared and truly be the church, united in Christ, then there will be spiritual opposition. This is why thought the letter Paul’s teaching has been punctuated with prayers for the Ephesian believers to have knowledge of Christ and his power at work in us.
After calling us to be strong in the Lord, Paul quickly makes clear who the enemy is that we are facing. Too often Christians cannot act as though people are enemies, but the war is not one against flesh and blood. Rather it is spiritual forces of evil. Of course, sometimes those forces may work through people, as they work through institutions, nations and whatever else they can. Yet it is the dark powers who are the true enemy.
The way we fight the battle is through the gospel. God has already equipped us with what we need. There is still an active role for us, as instructions like ‘put on’ and ‘take up’ make clear. We are to avail ourselves of what God has given to us for the fight. In particular, there are six pieces of equipment listed here.
- Belt of Truth – The devil is the Father of lies. We stand strong by being firm in the truth of God’s word, and it is important to know the word well and be able to apply it into our lives.
- Breastplate of Righteousness – There is no condemnation for believers because we have been given the righteousness of Christ. This armour protects us from the accusations thrown at us by the devil. Our sin is dealt with.
- Shoes of the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace – This protects us from apathy and mission-drift. One of the strategies of the devil is to neutralise Christians through distraction and busyness, and so we should be always ready to share the gospel which has been entrusted to us.
- Shield of Faith – The shield of faith protects us from doubt. Trusting in the character and promises of God gives us confidence and hope whatever our circumstances might be.
- Helmet of Salvation – Linked in to some of the other pieces of armour is the helmet of salvation. The devil would love to undermine our salvation and cause us to question what God has done for us. Keeping in mind the grace we have received through the cross protects us from these attacks.
- The Sword of the Spirit – It has been frequently observed that this is the only offensive weapon listed. As we are filled with the Spirit and living in his power, particularly through sharing the word of God and praying, we will not only see ourselves protected in the spiritual battle but will also push back the kingdom of the enemy.
Having outlined the battle in general terms, Paul then makes some specific applications for the battle in his day, asking for prayer for all the saints and particularly for himself to be bold in sharing the gospel even while in prison. If even Paul needed prayer for this boldness to witness, then surely we need this too!
Some Key Points:
- There is a battle that Christians fight against the spiritual powers of evil.
- God has equipped us with all that we need to the battle – though we need to take up and put on this armour.
- A key part of the battle is supporting all the saints in prayer, and particularly praying for bold gospel witness.
- Put on the Armour – The instruction given in the passage is to put on the armour of God. Challenge the congregation to think about which pieces of the armour they most need to put on for the battle they face.
- Pray For the Saints – As Paul craved the prayers of the Ephesian Christians, you could pray for believers all over the world (especially those in persecuted contexts) for protection, power and boldness.
- Prayer Ministry – There will be some in the congregation for whom the battle is particularly intense. You could offer prayer ministry for them.