Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6:10-20

        10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. 11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12 We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. 13 Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. 14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. 16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

18 Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. 19 As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan[a] of the gospel known. 20 I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say.


  1. For the past five weeks we have been working with the Epistle of the Ephesians. For me, it has been a rewarding experience as I have had to intensely probe into the text to come to grasp with the message that Paul is giving to us about what it means to be a Christian. His letter is deep and specific about the Christian life.
  2. When we began studying the Epistle of Ephesians, we discovered that we were chosen by God even before God created the world.
    1. And at the same time, the plan for our life with Christ was set into motion.
  3. God’s plan included the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit’s presence gives us the ability to work to say no to sin’s temptation. 
  4. Also, God’s indwelling in us is the sign of our being a part of the family of God, which is evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit which we read from Galatians.
  5. We read of Paul praying for the church, that each member would be strengthened through God’s Spirit in us,
    1. that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith;
    1. that each of us would be rooted and grounded in love,
  6. In Chapter 4 we came to the daily living portion that tells us how to respond to God’s magnificent love which He has bestowed upon us. 
  7. And now we are at the end of the Letter to the Ephesians which connects us to its beginning.
    1. In the first chapter we were reminded about the “immeasurable greatness of God’s power which raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand of God.
    1. Despite the triumph of Christ in the present age, it is still necessary that we stay alert, even vigilant. The battle continues with “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 3:10).
  8. For this reason, Paul writes in today’s scripture of our need to put on the “whole armor of God.”
    1. The battle for a Christian is against the forces of evil.
  9. I must confess that I am both drawn to and repelled by Paul’s militaristic metaphor of the Christian life.
    1. We do live in a violent world—children are abused, the innocent are bombed, teenagers commit suicide, random shootings fill the evening news reports.
  10. A part of us wants to ask for a different way of envisioning the Christian life—one that is more peaceful, more serene, more compassionate.
    1. Yet I also know that much is at stake and that evil is present in our world, and indeed in my own life.
  11. Paul writes about spiritual resistance, an act of faith that can take both passive and active forms.
  12. The “armor of God” consists of the resources that are at our disposal in the battle against evil.
    1. These resources are identified as truth, peace, and faith. How can these resources help us as Christians?
  13. Everyone who has ever tried to live the Christian life would admit that it is a struggle. Our vision is so limited that we only see the physical things with which we wrestle. We focus on ourselves, our circumstances, and others.
  14. In the later portions of Ephesians, chapter 6, the apostle Paul attempts to redirect our sights.
    1. He tells us our struggle is not really with flesh and blood, those things upon which we most often focus.
    1. Our real conflict in life is spiritual and with spiritual forces!
  15. This is one of those passages we must read with the eyes of faith. We cannot see with our physical eyes the things about which Paul speaks. More important, Paul discusses how we may have victory in this conflict, which we accept we are in by faith.
  16. We know Paul’s exhortation as spiritual armor. Paul gives spiritual meaning to the armor of a Roman soldier.
    1. By putting on the armor of God we, too, will be equipped to fight and win in the spiritual struggle in which we find ourselves.
    1. Paul describes six pieces of our spiritual armor.
  17. We Wear the Belt of Truth
    1. The first part of our spiritual armor is truth.
    1. Two ideas are significant about truth.
      1. First, Christians should know and believe the truth about who God is and what God has done. This relates to cognitive facts about what the Bible says about God and his mighty acts. Human notions of God will not do.
      1. Second, we must be truthful people. Telling the truth to ourselves and others, in love, is essential in the spiritual battle in which we are engaged.
  18. We Wear the Breastplate of Righteousness
    1. Another aspect of our spiritual armor is right living.
    1. Many a believer has been sidelined due to corrupt behavior.
    1. The visual image is the piece of armor that protects the chest and heart. In order to protect this large area of the body a large sheet of metal was fashioned to guard it.
    1. The protection for our spiritual lives is personal holiness.
  19. Our Feet Are Shod with the Gospel of Peace
    1. This third item of equipment calls us to evangelism and missions.
    1. Every believer is to be actively involved in sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
    1. When we fail to spread the word about Christ, we are unprepared for spiritual conflict.
    1. Along with personal evangelism we can be part of mission efforts away from our homes. New worship services, church construction, and short-term mission volunteers are specific ways we take the gospel of peace to those around us and the world.
  20. We Wear the Shield of Faith
    1. A defense device that allowed the bearer to fend off arrows and spears was the shield. Likewise, Christians can extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy by clinging to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    1. Defining faith is often easier than explaining how to live by faith.
    1. A life of faith is characterized by dependence on the Lord.
    1. Perhaps another way of looking at the life of faith is to think in terms of pleasing the Lord.
    1. We can ask ourselves: Does what I am doing bring pleasure to the Lord? Faith is a vital part of our spiritual armor.
  21. We Wear the Helmet of Salvation
    1. Even in ancient days helmets were used to protect the head from injury.
    1. Perhaps no part of the body is as susceptible to a mortal wound as is the head.
    1. We safeguard our heads by wearing helmets when we ride bicycles and play sports.
  22. In the spiritual realm the head represents salvation.
    1. The assurance of our salvation becomes a security from doubts and dismay. Discouragement, which is one of our very real opponents, is thwarted by confidence that the Lord has saved us.
    1. From John Wesley, salvation by grace through faith stands as a pillar of strength in the midst of our spiritual conflict.
  23. We Carry the Sword of the Spirit
    1. The final piece of our spiritual armor is the sword of the Spirit.
    1. Of course, the analogy refers to the Word of God. As believers we should hear, read, study, apply, memorize, and meditate on the Bible.
  24. It’s interesting that Scripture is the only part of the equipment that is for offense in this spiritual conflict. While God’s Word is not to be a weapon for us to use in order to beat others over the head, it should serve to help us move forward in the Christian life.
    1. Apart from the Word we have no clear guidance and would be left only with our feelings. God’s Word enables us to press the fight toward our spiritual enemies who are not flesh and blood.
  25. Paul concludes this section of scripture with a clear admonition to prayer.
    1. As we take up the full armor of God and couple it with prayer, we can conquer the spiritual forces that wage war against us.
  26. In a recent article in The Christian Century, the editor had a very compelling and insightful perspective about cancer, and it ties into the message today from Ephesians.[i]
  27. So often we use the same military terms that Paul has used in Ephesians — fight—battle—enemy—victory or defeat. We know these terms well.
  28. Ann and I are living with them now. We go to the oncology section of Hopkins each week and we see many of the people who are in the battle.
    1. One’s body is the battlefield where the cancer cells – the bad guys are attacked by the infusion drug – the good guys.
    1. There are two possible outcomes – victory (remission) or defeat (death).
  29. Somehow death comes as the personal failure to the people who didn’t fight valiantly enough. The warrior language falsifies the true nature of cancer— making the cancer appear or bow to the patients who demonstrate a personal resolve to “beat this!”
    1. Maybe we have felt that we are supposed to live forever, and cancer showed up to change our plans.
  30. A different alternative to viewing cancer as a fight or as a battle would be to understand it as a struggle – as if we were in the process of running a marathon or climbing a high mountain.
    1. Cancer is life changing. We cannot deny it.
  31. Remember the story in Genesis about Jacob – when he wrestled either with God or some darker side of his own past. — there was no clear winner in Jacob’s struggle, and he came out of the struggle a marked man with a new identity. He came face-to face with God and emerged with a new identity.
  32. The editor concludes that “I’m not convinced that anyone loses to cancer. But I have noticed all kinds of people who beat cancer by the way they live – with faith and spirit more powerful than even the worst tumor.”
  33. This is the full armor of God.
  34. Thanks be to God.  
[1] Paraphrased from Ministry Matters 2011

[1] The Christian Century August 28, 2019

[i] The Christian Century August 28, 2019