Kaleo San Diego Church
The Gospel at War
“ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  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.  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.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Through the great book of Ephesians, God has let us peer into His cosmic plans. He’s taken us from before the beginning of Creation all the way through His intentions for new creation. He’s shown us how He’s accomplishing all of this through His Son, Jesus, and how He’s working through His children to join in this great restoration project. God is putting all things under the Lordship of Christ as His presence fills all (1:10; 2:22-23).
Then, after giving us this sprawling panorama, Paul forms our identity and shows us what it looks like to be new creatures in Christ. He spends chapter 4 calling us to live in unity and purity. In chapters 5-6, Paul calls us to work out the gospel in our marriages, parenting and work. As we hear the beauty of high calling to which we’ve been called, we’re stunned at what the Christian life can and should look like.
However, as we’ve tried to put into practice these incredible truths, it feels as if everything is fighting against us to be faithful to God’s intentions for our lives. We make moves to bring our actions into step with God’s calling and it’s as if all hell breaks loose against us. Why is it that when we take steps forward it feels like we’re walking into a blender? In this section, Paul pulls back the curtain to show us.
The truth is, we are at war and we have a very real enemy that opposes all that God is doing in and through us. He is filled with a venomous hate for the Christ and is actively plotting and scheming now with his demons to attempt to thwart any progress of Christ being formed in us.
Why is there racial conflict and war? Why are marriages and families being ravaged? Why is there death and destruction all around us? Because this enemy has been at work deceiving, coercing, manipulating and trying to divide what God is bringing together in Himself.
This is why the first thing Paul says in this passage is to “be strong in the Lord…”
A Call for Strength
Verse 10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
We have to prepare ourselves for what we’re about to hear. We have to be ready, like good soldiers, to hear the call from our general.
The word “finally” means, “henceforward” or “from here on out.” It is a summary word to point us forward as we take in all the truth of Ephesians and engage in the raging battle. It’s as if we’ve finished boot camp and we’re finally given instruction as to where the battle field is, what our enemy’s strategy is and what we’re going to do to overcome this enemy.
A Call to Arms
Verses 11-13: “ Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  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.”
God reveals to us who this enemy is. We’re not fighting against a person or a people. We’re not fighting against a government or a political system. We are fighting against spiritual forces and powers that are real and present.
As God made all things, spiritual and physical, He created an entire host of beings called Angels. Angels are beautiful creatures that are made as messengers and servants of God. One of these Angels had the amazing privilege of directing the entire Angelic race into worship and praise of their glorious God. However, this particular Angel began to be filled with jealousy and pride and desired to take some of that glory for himself. He wanted to be praised, he wanted to be worshipped and he wanted to be glorified. In fact, his heart became so deceived with pride that he wanted to establish a throne and be equal with God.
Since God will not let sin dwell in His presence, God cast him out. To show how potent Satan’s schemes were, he was able to convince 1/3 of the angels to follow him and join in his rebellion and plans to overthrow the rule of God.
Since that day these powerful Angelic forces, which we know as demons, have labored tirelessly to fight against God’s purposes and plans for creation.
These demons are cunning and seductive and possess a depth of intelligence that man does not. They are filled with knowledge, but not wisdom. We know this because they chose to oppose God instead of lovingly follow Him. They believe there is One God, but they will never repent and turn to Him.
Daily these spiritual forces are doing all they can to kill, steal and destroy what is good. And if they can’t take our souls, they will try and disable us so that we live ineffective, unproductive and frustrated lives that produce no fruit for the Kingdom of God.
God then calls us to take up the divine armor God has made. This armor is given to us as a gift so that we would not be unarmed and unprotected. In all of this, God wants us to stand firm against the devil’s attacks.
Our Father doesn’t want us to be shaky and unable to stand firm. Here are the weapons of war that He has fashioned for us:
Belt of Truth
Verse 14a: “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…”
The first line of defense in our armor is the belt of truth. This belt was more of an undergarment that gathered together the tunic and held his sword in place. It was essential since without it he would have been unable to march or run while keeping his sword intact. It gave the solider a sense of security.
Our belt is the truth. This truth holds everything together. Without which we would be unable to fight against the lies of the enemy. Because this enemy is a skilled deceiver, we need truth to keep us from believing his whispers.
Speaking of Satan, Jesus says this in John 8:44:
“…He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
This enemy is a murderer; he has nothing to do with the truth and is the father of all lies. Our native language is English, Satan’s is lies.
Behind every suicide, behind every murder, behind every broken marriage and home, behind all molestation, behind our emotional brokenness, behind all addiction, is first a lie. We do what we believe and our actions always follow our beliefs.
This is why in contrast to the father of lies we desperately need Christ. In Him there is no deceit and instead of murdering, He willingly gives His life so that many will live. He speaks out of His character as the foundation of all truth.
Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the father except through Me” (John 14:6). John tells us that Jesus came “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We need this truth especially during dark days.
Satan loves darkness and lurks in it. Jesus is full of light and calls us to live in the light. Satan loves confusion. Jesus loves clarity. In fact, the light of truth causes Satan to flee from us. This is why it is an effective defense and allows us to stand and not be moved as we are assaulted with lies from the enemy.
A lie is something that is not true, but if you believe that lie it is given power and will affect everything you do. Think of what happened in the Garden. Satan plants the seed of a lie that God is holding out on them and doesn’t want them to be like him and know good and evil. That lie, though in and of itself is powerless, is believed and takes root and eventually produces the fruit of a lie, which is sinful disobedience.
This is Satan’s favorite strategy. He simply needs to plant the suggestion that God is not for us and when we begin to believe the lie, the power of it grows until it chokes out truth we once held. This is why we need to continually believe the truth and constantly secure ourselves with it or we will be a punching bag for the enemy.
Paul then gives us the next piece of armor we must put on daily.
Breastplate of Righteousness
Verse 14b: “…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…”
This breastplate was put on to cover his most vital organ, his heart. When you’re in battle, the smallest knife could take down the largest solider if his heart was pierced.
For the Christian, our breastplate is righteousness. Satan is constantly attacking our standing with God and is regularly accusing us of being unrighteous. He’s right, but only partially. It is true that we are, in our own nature, unrighteous and enemies of God. We deserve to be rejected just as Satan was because we (like Satan) have desired to rule ourselves and in doing so have declared war against God.
However, through faith, we have come to trust that Jesus took our rebellion and unrighteousness upon Himself and was killed to pay the penalty our sins deserved. Jesus not only took our sins on Himself, but He gives us His righteousness so that our Father now treats us as if we’ve lived the righteous life of Christ.
This great exchange is a profound mystery and is our great comfort. It gives us courage so that our hearts can rest in our new identity.
This is why we need the breastplate of righteousness that is made by God and given by grace. We need to daily put on this righteous breastplate by reminding our hearts who we are in Christ or we’ll be swallowed up in despair and hopelessness.
Next is Gospel boots!
Verse 15: “…and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”
The shoes of a solider were absolutely essential. An army would march for miles into battle over rocky ground and would often fight in soft soil or sand. The protection of their feet helped them to ready themselves for battle. They needed to be alert and prepared at any moment.
These shoes were thick and studded at the bottom and kept the solider from losing his footing. In the heat of combat, if you lost your footing while fighting hand to hand, it would often mean your life.
Our shoes are the gospel of peace. We need to strap on our gospel boots daily so that we can stand firm and not give way to the enemy’s attempts to get us off balance.
However, this is not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of our fellow soldiers. We are called to be ready to bring this gospel of peace to our brothers and sisters when we see their feet slide.
This gospel is feared and hated by Satan and demons because it frees people from the tyranny of sin. It is a powerful force to rescue those who are sliding into destruction.
We are to have a great urgency and readiness to spread the Gospel of peace amongst our neighborhoods and city. In doing so, the kingdom of darkness is pushed back as one heart after another is freed from sin and trusts in Christ. Our city needs Christians who have strapped on their gospel boots and are ready to share it with others. In being ready for others we are readying ourselves for battle.
Shield of Faith
Verse 16: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…”
An indispensable addition to armor is the shield. In this day shields were made of wood. One of the smartest strategies an archer employed was to dip his arrow in oil, light it on fire and fire it straight into a wall of shields. The shield would go up like kindling and the soldier would have to drop it and in doing so would be exposed to the next volley of arrows.
The Roman soldiers grew tired of being duraflames, so they came up with an ingenious defense. They would wrap the shield in leather, and dip the leather in a wet sap and then wrap it again and wet the outside. When the arrows would strike the shield, they would either be put out by the moisture or the solider could clear his shield before any damage was done.
These shields were about 3 1/2 to 4 feet high and about 2 1/2 feet wide. Paul is thinking of this shield when he calls this piece of defensive armor the shield of faith.
So what are the fiery darts that our enemy shoots at us? One of Satan’s names is diabolos which means slanderer or accuser.
It isn’t just random lies that Satan spews, they are specific. He wants to shame and guilt us for every wrong we’ve done and get us to believe that there is no way our Father could possibly love us since we continue to sin today.
“You’re not loved. You’re not cared for. You are worthless. You aren’t needed. You are not maturing. You are not becoming like Christ. You are not doing enough. You are not moral enough. You are a failure.” Can you feel it? Every time you sin you feel as if you’re not a child of the Father. Every time you disobey you hear yourself say, “Obviously if I were a Christian I would do that. Maybe I’m not really saved.” Those are lies from Satan himself. These are his fiery darts. He is shooting fire so that you’ll lay down your shield and run away.
This enemy slanders us to others and to our own thoughts. He accuses us of things that have already been paid for by the shed blood of Jesus. These attacks will not cease for one moment until Christ returns.
How in the world do we defend ourselves against this ongoing assault? Paul tells us to take up the shield of faith to extinguish the fiery arrows. What will put them out quicker than anything? Trusting faith in the living Christ.
When we are accused, tempted, lied to and opposed is the most critical time to trust the character and accomplishments of our Savior. What is so glorious about this shield is that it shows us we can withstand under any circumstance.
Our trust in Christ is not dependent upon our circumstances. The arrows may be many, the fire might be hot, but we can stand against all of it if we trust the God who made us, redeemed us, forgave us and loves us all the way to the end.
Satan hates that we trust in God. He wants nothing more than to crush our faith by shooting arrow after arrow until we start to believe that God isn’t for us. As soon as that happens, we have dropped our shield and are exposed.
What is so amazing is that Jesus steps in front of all these flaming arrows and allows Himself to be shot through so that the thrusts of our enemy won’t take our lives, but instead take His. He becomes our great shield and He is the great object of our faith. We can stand because we trust Him. We are loved because we look at His sacrifice. We are forgiven because of His shed blood. We are adopted because He gave His life. We are protected because He cares for His sheep.
The single greatest argument against the fiery accusation is the person and work of Christ. In Him all the fire of slander is extinguished.
Helmet of Salvation
Verse 17a: “…and take the helmet of salvation…”
The helmet of a solider was incredibly important. Just as your heart needs covering, so does your head. You can lose a finger and recover. You can lose your arm and recover. I have yet to meet a man that lost his head and recovered. You need your head!
You never hear a drill instructor tell the privates, “Ok, when you get into battle, lift up your head and take off your helmet.” No, you learn very quickly in war to keep your head down and your helmet on. In other words, protect your head.
For the Christian, our thought life has to be covered in the reality of our salvation. The surest way to keep your conscience clear and your thoughts straight is to remember you are already saved. Your salvation isn’t something you get from working hard, it is something accomplished for you.
Daily we’re to put on the helmet of salvation so that as our thoughts are attacked and confusion tempts us, we can cover our thoughts by rehearsing and preaching the gospel to ourselves.
We are loved and accepted. We are adored and approved. We are promised a future where things will be the way they should. Salvation is our helmet.
If you don’t love Jesus, you’re walking around in the middle of a war with a helmet off and you are going to be confused and defeated. Why do you keep taking shots to the head and feel weak? Because you need your helmet on. This is a contact faith. We have an enemy that is swinging haymakers at us constantly. We have to protect ourselves by loving Christ and resting in His finished work.
Satan is real. Hell is real. This war is real. If you are walking around without a helmet you are in a dangerous place.
What an amazing truth that Christ restores our sanity. He transforms our thoughts and minds so that we no longer have to be unprotected. This doesn’t mean that you won’t still take shots; it simply means they don’t have to knock you out or take your head.
This is the defensive armor for us to stand up to the schemes and attacks of Satan. But lastly, Paul gives us our offensive weapon.
Sword of the Spirit
Verse 17b: “…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”
Without a sword a solider could only defend. A sword was given so that the solider could defend himself and attack his enemy.
Our sword is the word of God. It is the sharpest and surest weapon we have. The book of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
It is living and active and powerful. It is sharp and pierces through the confusion and lies of the enemy. It helps us to discern our thoughts and motivations of our heart. It is alive because The Word, Jesus, is alive.
We live in a day, much like the day of the Fall, when we’re told God’s word can not be trusted. People with initials next to their name tell us they can be trusted but not the One who made us.
If we are engaged in a war without a sword we will wear down and eventually retreat or be destroyed. This is why we need to be a people whose sword is ready.
In the Garden, Satan tries to twist God’s word and our first parents believe. This same enemy shows up after Christ is at His weakest, and tries to use the word of God to tempt Jesus in the same way. Instead, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy and Satan eventually flees.
It’s been the same since. If Satan is confronted with God’s word, he will flee. He hates the truth and wants nothing to do with it.
The time for sharpening your sword is not in dark days. We need to be regularly feeding ourselves with the word of God so that we can not only defend but defeat Satan by God’s chosen weapon.
In doing so, we are able to stand in the strength of His might and not give way.
Keeping Alert through Prayer
Verse 18: “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…”
Boldness through Prayer
Verses 19-20: “… and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
“ 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.  I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.  Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”
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