Spiritual Soldiers Standing Strong: Ephesians 6:11–17

Ephesians 6:11–17 gives us the necessary commands and picturesque language to prepare us for spiritual battle. What follows below is a brief summary of four themes from this passage.

First, stand ready and firm in battle. We ready ourselves with God’s armor in order “to stand” (Ephesians 6:11), “to withstand” (Ephesians 6:13), and “to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

Second, God empowers us for battle. We are “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” when we “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10–11). As we do so, we are “able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11), “able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13), and “can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). (The Greek word dunamai is translated “able” or “can” in the verses just cited.)

Third, God equips us for battle. Paul itemizes the whole armor of God into six pieces of protection, teaching us how to ready ourselves and to engage in spiritual battle. (1) We fasten the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:13). As a belt holds extra fabric close to ready for movement, so also we ready ourselves for battle by knowing the truth. (2) We put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14). As the breastplate protects the heart and vital organs, so also our practical righteousness shields us from further temptation. (3) We ready ourselves with the shoes of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). As the right footgear allows a soldier to stand firm, so also we find our peace in the gospel when the enemy attacks. (4) We take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). As a shield protects its bearer from the enemy’s arrows and spears, so also our faith fends away the enemy’s many blows. (5) We take up the helmet of our salvation (Ephesians 6:17). As a helmet protects the head from enemy’s sword, so also we ready our minds with the truths of salvation lest we reject them and fall away. (6) We take up the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). As a sword blocks the blows of the enemy and wounds the enemy in return, so also the Word of God is our sure defense and may even pierce an enemy’s soul to bring him captive to Christ.

Fourth, our struggle is against Satan, demons, and evil. Our struggle is not “not…against flesh and blood” but various demonic powers (Ephesians 6:12). Our day of battle is evil as a whole (Ephesians 6:13). Our fiercest opponent is Satan himself (Ephesians 6:11, 16).

Other Scriptures brace us for battle as well. “Wage the good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18). Use your “weapons of…warfare” enabled with “divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). “Share in suffering as a good solider of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:11).

From all the passages above, be a spiritual soldier who stands strong in the battle while fighting for Jesus Christ. May God strengthen us for the struggle!

“The Wonder and Walk of Being in Christ”: An Overview of Ephesians

Background and Setting for Ephesians

Paul first visited Ephesus towards the end of his second missionary journey, leaving Priscilla and Aquila behind (Acts 18:18–19; AD 51). They likely evangelized in Ephesus, and Apollos made some disciples as well (cf. Acts 18:24–19:7). Paul returned (AD 54) to find this core of believers (Acts 19:1–7), evangelized further (Acts 19:8–10), and saw the hand of God at work (Acts 19:11–20; cf. 19:10, 20). Unbelievers there greatly opposed the gospel (Acts 19:21–41; 20:19), and Paul left shortly thereafter (Acts 20:1). Paul had lived Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). He bid a final farewell to the Ephesian elders at Miletus during later travels (Acts 20:17–38).

Paul wrote Ephesians during his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30–31; AD 61). He would later wrote 1 and 2 Timothy (AD 64 and 66), both obviously to Timothy who was in Ephesus at the time (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:18; 4:12). The apostle John later addressed Ephesus and six other churches (Revelation 2:1–7).

Tychicus, likely an Ephesian (cf. Acts 20:4), carried Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21–22) along with two letters written at the same time, Colossians (Colossians 4:7–8) and Philemon (cf. Colossians 4:9 with Philemon 10). The ministry of Tychicus was similar to that of Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 4:12) and Titus (cf. Titus 3:12).

In writing to the Ephesians, Paul likely heard from Tychicus how the Ephesians were doing and of their angst for him in prison (cf. Ephesians 1:15; 3:1, 13; 6:21–22). Having known them for 6 or 7 years at this point, and having been with them for about half of that time, Paul wrote to encourage them in a very doctrinal and practical way—his suffering was for their glory and the promotion of the gospel (Ephesians 3:13, 6:19–20).

Overview of Ephesians

If I could boil Ephesians into a few words to say to us today, as simple as they may be, it would be this: You are in Christ—know what this means, and walk like Him.

What follows is an elaboration of this summary. I try to briefly capture the major thoughts of each passage in Ephesians, spoken to us today.

We wish all the faithful in Christ grace and peace (Ephesians 1:1–2) and especially bless the Father for all the salvation blessings that He gives to us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14). Knowing these blessings, we should pray for one another to better understand the hope, riches, and power that are to us through Christ (Ephesians 1:15–23). Whereas we were once dead in sins, God made us alive in Christ in order to know His saving grace both now and forever (Ephesians 2:1–10). As Gentiles, our new life resulted in peace with God and becoming joint-citizens with all who are in the household of God (Ephesians 2:11–21). This amazing display of God’s wisdom to the heavens is the basis whereby we pray for one another to be spiritually strengthened in order to understand more fully the love of Christ to us (Ephesians 3:1–21). Being united in salvation, we must walk together in spiritual unity, serve according to God’s grace to each of us, and thereby bring all to maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:1–16). We therefore walk not as we were without Christ but with love, being like Him in every way (Ephesians 4:17–5:2). We walk not in darkness but wisely, as children of light who are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:3–21). This Spirit-filled walk extends to how we relate as husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22–33), children and fathers (Ephesians 6:1–4), and servants and masters (Ephesians 6:5–9). We stay strong in the Lord by wearing His armor (Ephesians 6:10–20), encourage one another, and wish each other peace, love, faith, and grace (Ephesians 6:21–24).

“The Mandates and Mystery of Marriage” – Ephesians 5:22–33

Understanding Ephesians 5:22–33 is essential for every marriage. Paul commands wives and husbands how to relate to one another in marriage and explains how and why they must do so. What follows below is a brief summary of this passage.

Wives: Your mission is submission (Ephesians 5:22–24).

Wives are commanded to “submit to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22). Technically, Ephesians 5:22 does not have a verb but assumes the verb “submit” used in Ephesians 5:21. Submitting in Ephesians 5:21 is an example of how to obey the command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18. A wife’s submission is only properly possible when she is filled with the Spirit, and the same could be said for the husband’s love for his wife in Ephesians 5:25–31. The grammar and makeup of the verb “submit” in Ephesians 5:21 means something like “to choose to put yourself under someone else.” In context, the wife chooses to put herself under the authority of her loving husband just as she submits to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). The reason to do is because he is the head of the family, which is pictured in how Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Just as the church submits to Christ, so also it should be in every way for the wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:24).

Husbands: You must love like Christ above (Ephesians 5:25–31).

Husbands are commanded to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved and died for the church (Ephesians 5:25). This act of love by Christ was to make His church holy, and husbands should likewise love their wives in such a way as to protect and keep them from sin (Ephesians 5:26–27). Husbands should also love their wives in the same way that they love their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28). No husband neglects his body but feeds and takes care of it, a picture of how Christ spiritually feeds and cares for His body the church (Ephesians 5:29–30). A quotation from Genesis 2:24 clarifies that this love and care are only truly possible when a husband and wife have completely left their immediate families to create a new family together, depending upon one another for what had previously been provided to them (Ephesians 5:31).

Your inspiration is revelation: marriage pictures the revealed mystery of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

The mystery revealed here is that the relationship of the husband and wife pictures the relationship of Christ and His church, the body of Christ. We better understand Christ and His church when husbands love and wives submit.

Summing up what God expects—husbands, love, and wives, respect (Ephesians 5:33).

Again, husbands must love their wives. Wives should respect their husbands. The change from “submit” to “respect” captures the same idea, and similar terms are used by Peter when he commands wives to “be subject to your own husbands” with “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1–2).