Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 10

We finished our study of Ephesians this week with a discussion on the Armor of God and the importance of recognizing that God’s own helmet (His salvation) and sword (His word) have been offered to us. We can surely stand against the enemy with the strength of His might!

Thanks again to Charles Talbert, a great scholar and the author of my frequently-referenced commentary on Ephesians. And many thanks to those who studied along with us on-line. Please join us again!

May we love our Lord Jesus with a love that has unending existence, a love incorruptible!

Ephesians 6:10-24

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A.      The Whole Armor of God

1.       Why do we need it?

a.        Spiritual warfare

  • “In the present, the spiritual powers continue their assault on humans, attempting to create divisions and lawlessness…There is warfare between the heavenly powers and believers. Believers need to know how to resist.” (Talbert, p 158)

b.       Spiritual strength

  • The armor of God provides the tools we need to achieve the goals described in Ephesians: unity of the church, unity with other believers, unity in the household, unity within ourselves

2.       What is it?

a.        Empowerment

  • Strength to enter into battle, resolve to remain in battle, perseverance to withstand the fight — We have access to the “strength of His might”!
  • In the ancient world, putting on another person’s clothes signaled the empowerment of that person (cf 2 Kgs 2:13-15; Judges 6:34; 2 Chr 24:20; Job 29:14-17)

b.       Equipment

  • Concrete tools: belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, sword, prayer
  • Not just a conceptual idea – concrete commands to “put on” (6:11), “stand” (6:14), and “receive” or “take” (6:17)
  • God’s own helmet (His salvation) and sword (His word) have been offered to us!

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

The Two Ways form: Part II (5:1-21)

“Household Code” (5:22-6:9)

Wives and husbands (5:22-33)

Children and parents (6:1-4)

Slaves and masters (6:5-9)

The Whole Armor of God (6:10-20)

Final Greetings (6:21-24)

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[10] Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Final exhortation: Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

• Note the passive tense (“be strong”). The strength comes from outside of us – it comes from the Lord.

[11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

How can we be strong in the Lord?

• Put on the whole armor of God
• Individual parts of the armor can function independently, but God intends for the whole armor to be used together. An area not protected by the armor is vulnerable.

Why do we need to be strong in the Lord?

• So that we can stand against the schemes of the devil (4:27)

What does this look like?

• Wresting with the cosmic powers of evil that rule the world (2:2) – a spiritual battle – not against other human beings!!

Wrestling was a common custom in the ancient Greek world and would have been very familiar to the Ephesian readers.

• Evil powers are very real (cf, 1 Cor 7:5; 2 Cor 2:11,4:4,11:3). They exist around us on the earth and God permits them to exist in the heavenly places (for the time being).

[14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

What are we to do?

• STAND (repeated in vv 11, 13, 14) and hold your ground against the enemy!

But only after you…

• Fasten on the belt of truth (cf, Isa 11:5; Ps 91:4-5)
• Put on the breastplate of righteousness (cf, Isa 59:17a; 1 Thess 5:8a)
• Put on the shoes…the readiness given by the gospel of peace (cf, Isa 52:7)
• Take up the shield of faith (cf, Eph 3:12; 1 John 5:4)
• Take the helmet of salvation (cf, Isa 59:17a; 1 Thess 5:8b) and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (cf, Isa 11:4, 49:2; the temptation stories in Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)
• Pray at all times in the Spirit (cf, Rom 8:26-27; Jude v 20; Luke 22:40,46)

“In sum, in this letter the Christian life is depicted neither as a steady progress toward heaven, nor as a sweeping missionary endeavor, nor as a struggle against internal psychological impulses, but rather as warfare against supernatural forces arrayed against believers. In this warfare the powers are defeated by Christ’s exaltation (1:20-22), by Christians’ moral walk in the world that does not leave an opening for the enemy (4:26-27), and by Christians’ donning God’s armor that enables them to stand against the enemy (6:10-17).” (Talbert, p 166)

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

• We should not only pray for ourselves to have strength to stand against the enemy, but we should also pray for all other believers.
• “Paul” also requests prayer for himself, that he will speak with boldness (in Greek “en parrēsia” meaning freedom of speech) instead of fear when preaching the Gospel.

Other references to Paul in “chains”: Col 4:18; 2 Tim 1:16, 2:9

[21] So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. [22] I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. [23] peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [24] Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Acknowledgement of Tychicus as “beloved brother and faithful minister,” the messenger and deliverer of the letter, and someone who can encourage the Ephesians.

Other references to Tychicus:

• Acts 20:4 as “Asian”
• Colossians 4:7 as the bearer of that letter
• 2 Tim 4:12 as being sent to Ephesus

Typical final greetings for a Pauline letter:

• Peace (2 Cor 13:11; 1 Thess 5:13b, 23 2 Thess 3:16)
• Love (cf, 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Cor 16:24)
• Grace (cf, 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 13:13 Gal 6:18)

…with love “incorruptible” in Greek “en aphtharsia” meaning sincerity, genuineness, unending existence (Strong’s Greek dictionary).

C.      The Major Issues

1.       God’s Armor and the “Modern Church”: Is the battle with spiritual powers or human powers?

a.        Different viewpoints (Talbert, pp 168-169)

  • Berkhof (1962): Paul was using terms from apocalyptic Judaism, but regarded the powers as structures of earthly existence.
  • Cullmann (1957): Paul is referring to the dual powers of spiritual and human authorities.
  • Caird (1976): Paul was referring to spiritual beings that operated in and through the structure of this world.
  • Bultmann (1951): The powers refer to the conflicts and struggles that characterize our human existence.
  • Wilder (1964): The language points to the structural elements of unregenerate society; the fake authorities of culture, which are the objects of Christian social action.
  • Whiteley (1957): The powers refer to “the demonic,” or aspects of creation acting chaotically and destructively that seem to have gotten out of control and threaten the lives of humans.
  • Lincoln (1995): The author of Ephesians believed the powers to be supernatural forces, but these are best thought of now in terms of ideologies and societal structures.
  • Arnold (1992): “If the realm of spirits and angels is a dominant part of the biblical world view, it should thus be a dominant part of a Christian world view in our age.”

b.       Consensus

“The text refers to evil spiritual powers that are hostile to humans. They impinge on human life, controlling those outside the Christian fold and warring against those within the fold…The basic fault line is between those who believe in personal spiritual evil and those who do not.” (Talbert, p 169)

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