Power, Protection, Prayer, 6. 10-24
John Heading, Aberystwyth
Paul had considered the Christian's warfare before, its nature not being after the flesh, and its weapons not being carnal, 2 Cor. 10. 1-5. This therefore eliminates the validity of the so-called Christian warfare of the past, and the warfare waged by various religious fanatics of today. All believers are involved in the true warfare, so as to combat the dangers described by Paul from Ephesians 4. 14 onwards. And although the devices of Satan with which to weaken local assemblies are varied, yet all members of assemblies are involved and not just the leaders. "Be strong" is our responsibility, whereas "the power of his might" describes the provision made for us by the Lord.
"The whole armour of God" recalls Romans 13. 12, where we must "put on the armour of light" since the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Moreover, "the armour of righteousness" is one of the many means whereby the servant of God is approved, 2 Cor. 6. 7. In Ephesians, "the armour of God" protects the saints' appreciation of their high calling from outward attack. The devil has his wiles and tactics: he may appear as "an angel of light", 2 Cor. 11. 14, or as "a roaring lion", 1 Pet. 5. 8. Since it was not possible to deflect the Lord during the temptations, he now attacks His people instead. He attempts to make acts of darkness appear as light: thus he claimed to Eve, "Ye shall not surely die", Gen. 3. 4; he caused men to say that evil was good, that darkness was light, and that the wicked were righteous, Isa. 5. 20-23. He would use men, such as false elders, for the object of introducing his "devices" and his snares, 2 Cor. 2. 11; 1 Tim. 3. 7; 2 Tim. 2. 26.
Satan has his confederates, "principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness". In particular, Paul states, "not against flesh and blood", namely, the actual bodies of men as in natural warfare; (note this expression elsewhere in Matt. 16. 17; 1 Cor. 15. 50; Heb. 2. 14). Rather, the warfare is against the spiritual realm of darkness - usually found concentrated in the minds, motives and deeds of men. The list is similar to the list in Ephesians 1. 21, the Lord being highly elevated above both bad and good aspects of these spiritual beings. This spiritual wickedness is "in high places", namely, "in the heavenlies". As in 1. 3, this is the spiritual realm, not referring to the third heaven of God's abode, but to the position where spiritual realities can be appreciated.
Paul then describes "the whole armour of God". In verse 11, the armour is mentioned and then the evil, while in verses 12-13, the evil is mentioned and then the armour. To "withstand" is the process of battle-in the evil day. To "stand" is the result of the battle-after the evil day. For the evil day is the day of temptation, when the armour of God is most needed. There are five pieces of defensive armour in verses 14-17, and one piece of offensive armour in verse 17. Not one piece must allow a chink whereby Satan can gain an advantage, for this recalls the chink in Goliath's armour that enabled David to slay him, 1 Sam. 17. 49. David's weapons were not a "sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's", v. 47.
"Loins girt about with truth" recalls Isaiah 11.5, the millennial dress of the Lord being "righteousness the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins". We have the Lord as the truth with us, John 14. 6, the Word as the truth, 17. 17, and we walk in the truth, 3 John 4. He encompasses our very being, so we are not alone in the battle.
"The breastplate of righteousness" recalls other verses, as "the breastplate of faith and love", 1 Thess. 5.8, and "righteousness as a breastplate" referring to the Lord in salvation and judgment, Isa. 59. 17. For the saints, here is protection given by God, but there must be no gap allowed in weakness, for such a gap caused Ahab's death-between "the joints and the breastplate", 1 Kings 22. 34 marg.
The Christian pathway is protected by having the "feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace". By this means, we are spiritually occupied with the gospel of peace, recalling that Christ is our peace even when we are occupied with this spiritual battle. The feet and the gospel are linked, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace", Rom. 10. 15; Isa. 52. 7. "The shield of faith" implies a complete trust in the Word of God. The Lord Jesus is divine, yet He used this shield in His time of temptation, "It is written", Matt. 4. 4. If faith is weak, a believer may be exposed to Satan's attacks that may succeed for a season, but faith is the victory that overcomes. "O thou of little faith" was how the Lord informed Peter that he temporarily had no shield of faith, Matt. 14. 31.
The "helmet of salvation" denotes protection for the head, the thoughts and the mind. For example, "God . . . shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus . . . think on these things", Phil. 4. 7-8. Clearly the metaphor is taken from Isaiah 59. 17, and is elsewhere amplified to "an helmet, the hope of salvation", 1 Thess. 5. 8.
Finally, "the sword of the Spirit" is an offensive weapon. This is not "the word of God" as applied to the Scriptures as a whole. Rather, these are the words actually spoken by God, as in Matthew 4. 4 and John 6. 63: "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God", and "the words that I speak unto you". Of course, we must study the Word of God as a whole, so as to ascertain the direct words spoken by God; then we know when and how to use it. The Lord Jesus also has a sword proceeding out of His mouth, in relation to the churches, Rev. 1. 16; 2. 16, and in relation to the nations, 19. 15.
Prayer and Conclusion,6. 18-24. The use of the word "praying", without a break from verse 17, suggests that this is an important part of the believer's armour-no longer expressed in metaphorical language. Note the repetition of "all" in verse 18:
"Always" (strictly, in every season). Paul set the example: "always in every prayer of mine", Phil 1. 4; "praying always for you", Col. 1. 3. As a prisoner, he engaged in testimony, teaching, writing, meditation and prayer. He had time for all these exercises.
"Allprayer". Each prayer was needful in his armour; none was redundant. We suggest that "prayer" essentially involves rehearsing the circumstances of life to God, while "supplication" presents the actual requests. See Acts 4. 24-30, where verses 24-28 form the prayer, and verses 29-30 the supplications. Prayer must be "in the Spirit", as must worship, John 4. 24. Such prayer would express thoughts and requests in keeping with the divine will. Moreover, "watching" in prayer conveys an exercise to avoid temptation even during the time of prayer, for the three apostles could not watch with the Lord for one hour; He had said, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation", Matt. 26. 41.
"Allperseverance" suggests that usually prayer must not be so speedy as to enable the one in prayer to revert quickly to his other occupations, but that there should be a concentrated mind.
"Allsaints": the assemblies formed during Paul's journeys, and others besides, were never absent from his praying; he maintained knowledge of, and interest in them throughout his life. The universal nature of his exercises recalls "the care of all the churches", 2 Cor. 11. 28.
"And for me", v. 19, shows that Paul himself was not to be absent from their prayers. How often he asked for prayer on his behalf, both as free and as in bonds. Thus he asked the Romans that they should strive together in their prayers for him, that he might be delivered from unbelievers in Judaea, and that his service (a financial gift from the churches) might be accepted, Rom. 15. 30-32. He asked the Colossians to pray that God would open "a door of utterance", Col. 4. 2-4. To the Thessalonians, he wrote, "Brethren, pray for us", 1 Thess. 5. 25, that the word might go forth and be glorified, with Paul "delivered from unreasonable and wicked men", 2 Thess. 3. 1-2. He also valued the prayers of Philemon, Philem. 22.
In Ephesians 6. 19, the "utterance" suggests God-given opportunity; to open the mouth boldly suggests the method of service, while "the mystery of the gospel" suggests the contents. Thus in Acts 4. 29, they prayed for boldness to speak "thy word". Such desires should always be exercised today, even in platform preaching, since this may tend to be rather automatic and pre-arranged unless a spiritual attitude is adopted. The "mystery of the gospel" does not here refer to the eternal counsels of God in Christ and the church, as in the earlier portion of the Epistle; rather it refers to the message spoken to the unsaved, which is unknown to them until they accept and believe it.
Paul presents himself as "an ambassador in bonds". In 2 Corinthians 5. 20, he was an ambassador at liberty, though "in prisons more frequent", 11. 23. God would beseech the world through His servants sent forth from the heavenly court. Paul's doctrine was acceptable neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles; hence was he an ambassador in bonds. Even then, he would speak boldly according to opportunities presented. Thus the three major prophets were all sent forth from the heavenly court of the divine presence, Isa. 6.9; Jer. 1. 4-10; Ezek. 2. 3.
Verse 21 presents the justification for a detailed prayerful interest in the labours of God's servants-note the words "my affairs", "how I do", "make known to you all things", "our affairs"; see also "all my state", Col. 4. 7. Tychicus, originating from Asia, accompanied Paul from Corinth to Asia, Acts 20. 4. With Onesimus, he took the various Epistles to their destinations, Col. 4. 7-9. He is described as a "beloved brother", a "faithful minister" (servant, deacon), and a "fellowservant" (bondman). Only such a man could convey news as the truth, so unlike modern newspaper reporters who engage in exaggeration and sensationalism. Paul would send him to Ephesus, as he had often sent messengers elsewhere, such as Timothy to Corinth, 1 Cor. 4. 17, a brother with Titus to Corinth, 2 Cor. 12. 18; Timothy to Thessalonica, 1 Thess. 3. 1-6; Epaphroditus to Philippi, Phil. 2. 28. In the present case, Tychicus not only took news, but he had to comfort the Ephesians; perhaps he had to explain the deeper and finer points of the doctrine in the Epistle.
In Ephesians 1. 2, it was grace and peace to start with; here at the end it is peace and love. Certainly not the peace and love that the world has to offer. The Lord's peace is not as the world gives, John 14. 27, while His love is far removed from the love that the world has for its own, 15. 19. That which comes from above-and the full title of deity is used, "God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"-is known only by faith. The source is divine, and the recognition of peace and love is spiritual. And grace comes from the same source, occurring at the beginning and ending of Paul's Epistles, Rom. 16. 24; 1 Cor. 16. 23; 2 Cor. 13. 14; Gal. 6. 18; Phil. 4. 23; Col. 4. 18, and so on. This was no vain repetitive formality, but the apostle meant what he wrote. And this expression of grace was very narrowly directed-not to the Jews, Pharisees, priests, Gentile unbelievers and religionists, and so on, but only to those who "love our Lord Jesus Christ". The whole of the Epistle is therefore very divisive, showing the sharp distinction that God makes between His people and the unsaved in the world.