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September 2, 2018 The Church~We’re in This Together “Strong in The Lord” Ephesians 6:10~24
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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ;

We’ve reached the end of our sermon series on Ephesians. At the beginning I encouraged you to read this Epistle as part of our going thru it; if you did, you were better able to see how the whole thing fits together, while here we were taking a section-at-a-time over 8 weeks, looking at some of the details. It really IS a Pastor’s letter to a congregation. And yet, its much more than that. It is the writing of the HSp to the whole Christian Church in every generation; it is the actual & authoritative Word-from-God’s-mouth, to be read, believed, & obeyed for your faith, and your faithful life. As Jesus declared: This Word IS Truth.

In this final section, we hear Paul’s encouragement to arm ourselves for battle; most Christians have heard about this ‘ARMOR OF GOD.’ Since we know our own personal temptations, our faith-instinct knows that we need this arming & equipment from God for our life. At least there are times when we face a battle & we wish =at that moment= that we were better armed!

We live in a world of battles; hostilities between /people & ideologies; /between countries & ethnic groups; /where Muslims think Allah tells them to be violent against Americans & freedom, against Christians & any who are not Muslim; /a world where our Christian values battle against immoralities, and against the ignorance & resistance to God.
The newest war is between political groups. So, ‘identity’ groups treat each other like ‘mortal enemies’, and imagine that they have to win at all cost, even by violence; which means their politics has become their ‘religion’ & false god. They’ve made an idol out of ‘fairness’ or ‘social justice’ with such hatred that they crave to see the opposite side /bleed, /sued, /or lose their job, /or be thrown out of restaurants. We live in a world of conflict.
What a blessing it would be if we could all just ‘get along.’ If kindness, peace, stability & civil disagreement would be the norm, and we could devote our energies & money toward /world hunger, /finding cures for cancer, /& a solution for ‘invasive species’ in our lakes, … and problems like that. And yet, since Paul writes about our same common human problems 2,000 years ago, we know that this problem of /choosing sides, /having enemies, /opposing bad guys, /war & disease & dangerously false spiritual teachings are going to be with us forever == and by ‘forever’ I mean until our world reaches its appointed end & judgment day under the will of our Holy Creator.
The Lord knows we need some heavenly tools & armor to live as His faithful people. And so, it makes sense that the Spirit -thru Paul- wraps up this Epistle informing us how to be armed for this living struggle … “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” v.12; because the spiritual realm is the source of all conflict in this world.
Paul knew that one of the keys to being victorious in any struggle is ‘knowing the enemy.’ But there’s more to this than just being aware of the devil & his temptation. You’ve heard the famous quote of Capt.Oliver Perry from 1813: “We have met the enemy and he is ours.” But I’ve often heard it misquoted for a spiritual purpose: “We have met the enemy, and he is US.”
Preparation for our faith-battle begins by facing our closest & worst enemy = ourselves. Satan is terrible, but his only weapon is temptation. Our own sinful natures are often too willing to go along with his suggestions, and the temptations that come from “this present darkness,..and.. the spiritual forces of evil.” Instead of resisting and fleeing from the tempter, we foolishly invite him to come in, to sit down, stay a while in our life. And he’s more than happy to.
Even when we know we shouldn’t yield, we know that opposing darkness & evil is hard work & unpopular; its far easier to just give-in & go-along. Paul’s opening words to us here remind us that to stand firm we need help; we can’t do it on our own. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. …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.” {v.10,13}

So, the HSp has Paul use a picture of his day, and it revolves around what was worn by the Roman soldier. Because all human soldiers have all the same vital body parts, so their battle equipment still makes sense in our day; and so this picture still makes sense for us as a Christian warrior ready for battle. Let’s take a brief look at the armor pieces.

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We begin with “having fastened on the belt of truth.” v.14 The Greek can also sound like: ‘having your loins girded with truth.’ For that culture & climate, people of that day wore long, flowing garments, and girding their loins was a matter of pulling the cloth up between the legs and tying it firmly with a belt or a rope. You couldn’t have flowing cloth around your legs or feet when you were doing strenuous activity.
The Roman soldier typically had a shorter tunic; but still had a belt that was very important. The belt attached to his breastplate of armor to keep it firmly in place, and the belt held the sheath in which he carried his sword.
Paul calls this a ‘belt of truth.’ Whether in girding or fastening, this means ‘Let truth get you ready for action.’ In politics & in the news today we can see the confusion & turmoil when no one knows the truth; *who’s telling the truth? Isn’t it vital for us to stand firm in THIS: the devil is the father of lies, and God cannot lie. Truth lets you see things as they ARE, and not as the devil, the world, & our sinful natures distort them. God’s Word is Truth.
The two truths the Christian needs to hold everything together are #1= the truth of the CROSS, & #2 = the truth of baptismal grace. You are a child of God thru faith in Jesus Christ the Savior; by his cross & your baptism. Let Satan come with his temptations and his accusations ~ they are empty; let circumstances produce a severe test for you ~ there is nothing new under the sun. Without these 2 truths, the battle is lost before the fight begins.
The truth is: you are a child of God; He will never forsake you, and His Word will keep you on the way of life. Paul summed that up in chpt.2, {v 8-10}: “For by grace you have been saved thru faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” That’s your belt to hold everything together.
Next, the soldier’s breastplate of armor covered his chest & upper abdomen, and protected his vital organs from the thrust of a sword or spear. St. Paul said that righteousness is that kind of breastplate. The first & chief righteousness is ours as God’s gift of grace thru Jesus’ atonement for our sins. By grace, every Christian has the saving righteousness of Christ. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve also referred to the second kind of righteousness == which is our Christian walk in the way of Christ. It is the righteousness of a holy life, walking with our Lord Jesus &His Holy Bible teachings. That righteousness protects us from falling into sin & evil.
*Remember that slogan in the war against drug abuse: “Just say NO.” It was criticized for being simplistic; yet, that idea if found all over the Bible, and it’s where ALL our battles begin. God has given us His own Word of righteousness written down; and when we live by His Word, we will BE righteous.
Jesus has the words-of-life = the Truth; righteous people practice what is good, right & true in life. It begins when we are willing to ‘just say NO’ to wrongdoing. This righteousness protects our lives from a lot of injury, guilt, shame, and the harm of sin.
Footwear is important for all soldiers. Some historians say that Rome’s concern for supplying their legionnaires with sturdy sandals was a major reason for them being so successful in battle. We often refer to our soldiers as ‘foot soldiers’, and we our measure our ability to win a war with the phrase ‘boots on the ground.’ So v.15 says you need, “shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. ”
*What do we stand most firm on? We have peace with God by the promise of the gospel. We live, move & have our being in that promise of Christ. Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the big problem with playing around with the Scriptures, and picking things out & saying ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘that doesn’t mean anything for us today.’ That casts doubt on the other parts of the Word, and pretty soon we will doubt the gospel of our salvation. How important it is that we begin each day, and each struggle, with having put on the readiness given by the gospel of our peace in Christ. Our own firm peace will also help those around us to stand firm when they have battles with the spiritual forces of evil.

Next Paul points to “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” v.16 This shield is ‘trust’ in Jesus as Savior & Helper; when you trust Him, many evil darts bounce off you. Let Satan suggest that God has forgotten us ~ but God can’t. People fear & say they don’t know if God can forgive this or that sin. For the one who repents & is turned to the Lord, there is no sin that is greater than that awful cross-price paid for all sin.
When conscience or Satan attacks us to say ‘God doesn’t love you,’ we only need to keep in mind one thing: Good Friday and Jesus’ words, ‘It is finished.’ In Rom.8, Paul says: ‘God is for me; who can be against me?
v.17 says, “and take the helmet of salvation.” A helmet guards the head of the soldier, dulling & diverting blows that will harm or kill. This is what the assurance of salvation does for us. Some men in Scotland wanted some eggs from a bird’s nest on the side of a cliff. They tried to persuade a boy to climb down, secured by a rope.
They offered the boy money, but he would not go. They assured him that they would hold the rope, so he would be safe. He refused. Finally he said, “I’ll go if my father holds the rope.” “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all; how will He not also give us all things?” This is our helmet of salvation: our HF holds our rope.

Finally, Paul says we are to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” v.17 It’s a 2-edged sword; it can cut, and it can heal. It reveals our inner secrets to show us our sinful condition, and that the wages of sin is death. But it reveals so that the disease of sin will be cut out, so that our spiritual health will return to us. This sword is the ultimate weapon against all forms of sin, evil, error, & lies. It is written & preserved so that we will pick it up & use it. There is no stronger weapon than to know & declare what God Himself says.
God’s Word guarantees victory.
That is the armor of God. One reason that Paul writes to the Ephesians is that they are a small group of believers way out there somewhere on their own, surrounded by many dangers, toils & snares. They were like a small patrol group far away from the safety of the larger platoon & battalion. How dangerous it is for a small band of soldiers to get separated & lost & isolated in enemy territory. Paul sends out this communique assuring them of their connection to their mighty army, and how to avoid capture.

‘Put on your equipment,’ he says, and be “praying at all times in the Spirit,… and …making supplication for all the saints.” This is like keeping in touch with headquarters; keeping open the lines of communication with our heavenly Father is a key factor in being strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. James wrote, “You do not have because you do not ask” (4:2). And Jesus said, ‘pray’, “so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” (John 15:16). *Wouldn’t it be foolish of us then =and deadly= to neglect the heavenly resources that are available to us thru communication with headquarters?

Like any letter we might write, Paul ends with some personal concerns for himself.
He wants the Ephesians to pray for him that he will continue to be proclaiming this saving gospel for the good of many people, even tho he might continue to face persecution & jail time. He closes with these 4 verses:
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.

And so we come to the end of our sermon series. I hope I’ve been able to present this Epistle in a way that’s been helpful to you. I’ve been reminded what an awesome piece of work this short letter is; that it has every main Bible doctrine and teaching, with correction & encouragement = in just 6 chapters.
Again, I recommend that you set aside 20 minutes to read thru the whole letter, and be reminded that Pastor Paul was being used by the HSp to write this to you. If we all do that, and if we hear & live by this Word, we will be a more faithful people and a better congregation in the kingdom of God and for the spread of the gospel in Christ.
Amen

EPHESIANS 6:10–24
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.
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. (Ephesians 6:10–24)