|Observing the Text!
Ephesians Divided By Two!
Ephesians, like Paul’s other letters, is broken into two parts: theology and practice. The first three chapters (Ephesians 1-3) demonstrate that the Father’s plan for his new humanity people was adoption. The last three chapters (Ephesians 4-6) tell us how to live out our adopted life. It is in this last section that we find the passage that we are considering in this study.
|Interpreting the Text!
The word finally in this passage could be translated for the remaining time. Paul is saying that the whole of the interim between the first coming of Jesus to upgrade the kingdom and the second coming of Jesus to consummate the kingdom will be characterized by conflict. Thus, for the remaining time, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6.10). This is a picture of the tools that God provides to enable his followers.
This phrase could be translated: Continue to be naturally strengthened by the Spirit because of the resurrection power of Jesus.
Put On…So That
Put on means to cover with clothing. It is a favorite phrase of Paul (Rom. 13.12-14; 1 Cor. 15.53-54; 2 Cor. 5.3; Gal. 3.27; Eph. 4.24, 6.11-14; Col. 3.10-12; 1 Thess. 5.8). So that (for the purpose) you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6.11b). The word schemes (NIV) could be translated strategies. The enemy is tactically shrewd and ingeniously deceptive. His plan for your life is destruction.
For our struggle…
Flesh and blood means human. We do not fight against humans but the forces behind them which drive humans to do dastardly deeds. Paul gives a full description of the enemies with whom we will be in continual conflict. They are powerful, wicked, and cunning. We fight:
- against principalities: high-ranking spiritual beings blocking heaven from earth
- against powers: a different expression for the same thing as principalities
- against the rulers of the darkness of this world: a metaphor for the devil
- against spiritual wickedness in high places: This possibly refers to the most depraved abominations, including such things as extreme sexual perversions, occultism, and Satan worship, which come from the current sphere where Satan temporarily rules.
Wobbly Jesus followers who have no firm foothold are easy prey for the devil.
These words are different from put on. They mean to take up a thing in order to use it. Paul provides a detailed look at the weapons available for the community of faith and for believers in this ongoing conflict. There are six main pieces: belt, breastplate, boots, shield, helmet, and sword. Each picture is a weapon given by the Spirit in an ad hoc fashion: truth, righteousness, good news of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God. In the First (Old) Testament, two of these items are used to picture God as a warrior who was fighting to vindicate his people.Wobbly Jesus followers who have no firm foothold are easy prey for the devil. Click To Tweet
He put on righteousness as his breastplate
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak (Isa. 59.17).
God is pictured in the First Testament as having the very pieces of armament that God gives to his people. Paul is saying that if this armament was good enough for God, it is good enough for his people. These pieces of armament are all that a community of faith and a believer needs. The community or the individual doesn’t have to go running after every present, Christian fad to fight the enemy. We already have all that we need.
The Army of God
Paul used this metaphor in Ephesians when he alluded to the six pieces of equipment which the Roman soldier used, which are analogous to the weapons the community of faith and each Jesus follower has at his or her disposal (Eph. 6.10-17). The church is the army of God through whom God brings his rule into this present evil age. Here is our equipment. Suit up!
Here’s a thought to ponder: the army of God is a metaphor and there are plenty of other metaphors for the community of faith. As an example, the bride of Christ. We should know which metaphor we are working with when we are doing his bidding. When a community of faith or an individual follower of Jesus shows up at a wedding, it might be wise to not show up all dressed as a soldier.
|The Belt of Truth: 6.14
Background. The Roman soldier used his belt to tuck his tunic up so it would not become flowing attire in the midst of a battle and impede him from fighting his enemy. In addition, the Roman soldier’s belt was used to hold the warrior’s weapons: the large and small swords.
Application. Paul described the belt as being like truth. Truth is truthfulness and honesty as opposed to phoniness, deceitfulness, and hypocrisy. It As used here, it should not be thought of as a proposition, i.e., this is the truth and that is not. To participate in these latter activities is to play the devil’s game. You should know that you cannot beat him at his own game.
|The Breastplate Of Righteousness: 6.14
Background. When the Roman soldier wore this piece of armament, it covered his front and back. The breastplate covered his vital organs.
Application. Paul likens the breastplate to righteousness. In Ephesians 4.2 and 5.9, Paul used the word righteousness to clearly mean right character and conduct. Believers are most vulnerable to Satan when they destroy their character and compromise their conduct. In short, when a believer sins. If we continue to sin, it is like having a chink in our armament that allows the enemy a pathway into our lives. Think about it: Sin puts a chink in God’s armament. If we replace old sinful patterns with right character and conduct, the enemy cannot get to us as easily.
|The Boots: 6.15
We build a narrative that we believe is reality and then bask in it. Click To Tweet
Background. The Roman soldier had special boots. They were made of leather with studded soles and allowed the toes to be free. They were tied to the soldier at his ankles and shins with ornamental straps. Wearing these boots equipped the soldier for long marches and provided him a solid, firm stance.
Application. Application. The gospel of peace, which is rest in the midst of turmoil, is given to the community of faith and each Jesus follower and helps Jesus followers to stand on a firm foundation. Remember that one of the deceptions of the enemy is fear. Most of what we fear does not happen. We build a narrative that we believe is reality and then bask in it. We use mega energy to worry about it. Fear is: False Expectations Appearing Real.
|The Shield Of Faith: 6.16
Background. The shield that Paul referred to was the larger of two shields that were used by the Roman soldier. It measured 4½ feet high by 2½ feet wide. It was like a small wall built of two layers of wood, glued together, and covered with leather. The shield could be planted in the ground and the Roman soldier could squat behind it. One of the weapons used in wartime was darts that had been dipped into pitch, lit, and fired at the opponent. The Roman shield would catch the dart and extinguish it.
Application. For the believer, Paul likens the shield to faith to the believer’s ability to believe that God will protect him from ultimate harm. As Satan throws his fiery darts: unsought thoughts, desires to disobey, rebellion, fear, lust, hate, anger, sarcasm, etc., we can hide behind our shield of faith, knowing that God will protect us.
|The Helmet Of Salvation: 6.17
Background. The Roman helmet was made of a tough metal like bronze or iron. It had a hinged visor for frontal protection. Nothing short of an ax could penetrate the helmet.
Application. Paul likened the helmet to the believer’s salvation. It seems that salvation means the means of deliverance based on the four other times this word appears in the New Testament (Luke 2.30, 3.6; Acts 28.28; Titus 2.11). To be saved is to accept the deliverer and the deliverance, knowing that nothing the enemy can throw at you can penetrate.
|The Sword Of The Spirit: 6.17
Background. The sword for the Roman could be an offensive and defensive weapon. In this passage the word sword is machaira (makh-ahee-rah). This was the smaller of the two Roman swords. It was a twelve-to-fourteen inch knife-like instrument whose blade could cut in any direction and whose tip was pinpoint sharp. It was used for close personal combat. The soldier would use the larger sword to disable his opponent. Then he would use the smaller instrument to penetrate the chinks in his opponent’s armor and plunging it in.
Application.Paul likened this sword to the word of God. Word in this passage is rhema. It is used seventy times in the New Testament. Five of these times it is used in the phrase word of God. On all five occasions, it should be translated a word of God, although it is translated the word of God in most translations.
- In Luke 3.2, the word of God appears to be a message from God which John preached.
- In Luke 4.4, the word of God is that which is provided to give humankind life.
- In Hebrews 6.5, the phrase suggests that the believer tastes the word of God.
- In Hebrews 11.3, the word of God is an utterance by which God summoned into existence that which had not existed before (Gen. 1.3).
In light of the above, it seems best to take Ephesians 4.2 to also mean a word of God, i.e., a specific statement given by the Spirit to assist the believer in defending against the enemy as well as assaulting the enemy during a battle. This may be a spoken word of Scripture or an impression from God. It really does not mean the Bible as we have it.
|Living into the Text!
It is always important to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- How are you arming yourself with the truth of God’s Word? How are those in the battle with you treating you?
- What ways are you choosing right character and conduct in your day-to-day life?
- What do you think about the sword of the Spirit being a spoken word or impression rather than the Bible as we have it?
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.