The Power of His Might [An Introduction To The Christian Armament]
Ephesians 6:10 marks a division in the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. In 5:18 Paul exhorted Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He then explained that such filling requires speaking to one another, giving thanks, and submitting in the fear of Christ or the fear of God.
Paul then took them through three domestic relationships to illustrate that he was not writing of an egalitarian submission, but a submission in light of the order that God himself placed in the creation. Those institutions were marriage, family, and calling. Each goes back to creation and each has been affected by Adam's fall.
At Eph. 6:10 Paul marked a new division in his epistle with a present middle imperative. This imperative, "be enabled," is parallel to the imperative of 5:18 "be filled." All that has gone between 5:18 and 6:9 is explication of the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit. What follows, to verse 20, is an explication of the command, "be enabled by the agency of the Lord."
- Finally -- this is the last division of the epistle. VV. 21-24 constitue a final greeting or farewell, but this is the last substantive section.
- Become enabled -- here Paul used a verb that is quite similar to the word for power... "So be strong, or enabled." Without the prefix, the word means simply "be able."
- In the Lord -- With a passive imperative we would expect a phrase giving means or agency and that is functionally what we have here: εν plus instrumental such that a meaningful translation might be by the agency of the Lord.
- And in the power of His might -- Here is a second prepositional phrase indicating means or instrumentality (agency). The word translated power might also be translated as sovereignty or dominion. It is cognate to the word from which we get our words democracy or aristocracy etc.
- Putting it all together: "become enabled or empowered by means of the sovereign might of the Lord."
- We should take careful note of three things before proceeding with the remainder of the passage in future sermons, so as to keep them in right perspective.
- First what the enabling is,
- Second the source of the enabling or empowering,
- Third the importance and necessity of such enabling.
I. What This Enabling Is
- The short answer is that it is God sharing his power with us and working through us in such a way that the power of his dominion or soverignty is given to us over spiritual wickedness.
It is the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 1:8
- Here the risen Christ tells the eleven that they shall receive power (δυναμις) after the Holy Ghost comes upon the church at Pentecost (see also Luke 24:49). Timidity became boldness when the Holy Ghost came upon them and they received "tongues" of fire (Acts 2:1-13). Thus,
- John 7:38-39
- John relates, "this spake He of the Holy Spirit..." Life wells up, as it were, within the believer and flows forth from him. When God would conceive Jesus within the womb of Mary, he does so by the power of the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35 the Holy Spirit = the power of the Highest). Even Christ was "anointed with the Holy Ghose and with power (Acts 10:38).
- The power of the Holy Ghost is a continuing necessity for the believer, if he is to abound in hope (Rom. 15:13).
- Joy, peace, love, and hope all come by the power of the Holy Spirit. The signs of the apostles were also by the power of the Spirit of God (Romans 15:19). Apostolic preaching (and true preaching today) is a demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4). Not just preaching, but hearing as well, must be by the power of the Holy Ghost (1 Thess. 1:5).
- We reject the neo-Pentecostalist idea of "subsequent grace," yet it is a grace that must be renewed continually by God. See below under source of the enabling.
There is power in the graces of the Christian warfare.
This is the context. Paul, in subsequent verses, deals with the panoply (whole armor) of God. We must put on the full suit of armor, i.e. make use of every instrument of grace: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, salvation, faith, the Word, etc.These are the enablements of the Christian life, but there is also a necessity of learning to make full use of the armor.
- Truth. God's truth,
- preserves us (Psa. 40:11),
- cuts off our enemies (Psa 54:5),
- purges our iniquities (Prov. 16:6),
- characterizes the church (Zech. 8:3; 1 Tim. 3:15),
- and the church's worship (John 4:24),
- frees us from the bondage of sin (John 8:32),
- sanctifies us (John 17:17),
- evidences true ministers and ministries (2 Cor. 6:7),
- begets us in newness of life (Jas. 1:18),
- So, then, a major part of the enabling or empowering is the truth; knowing it and living it.
- There is a righteousness of Christ that is imputed to believers (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 3:22; 4:6). We must not discount this righteousness, for it is the source of considerable power.
- But the righteousness of this passage is not only the righteousness of Christ (Isa. 59:17), but also the righteousness that is evidenced by our obedience (Job 29:14; Rom. 6:13; etc.).
- Peace or The gospel of peace
- Christ is himself the prince of peace (sar shalom) in Isa 9:6.
- Additionally, the reference to the publisher of peace in Isa 52:7 is likely Christ.
- While this has a primarily reference to gospel ministers, Rom. 10:15 refers also to the beauty of the feet that are shod with the gospel of peace. The "peace of Jerusalem" is characteristic of the gospel church (Nah. 1:15).
- Once again, this appears to be a reference to Isa 59:17, and as such, primarily to Christ. This is the war-helmet of a soldier and not the bonnet or turban or mitre of a priest.
- The salvation presented here is that of the warrior-king delivering his people from their enemies.
- As we become men-o'-war, like Christ, one of the things we do is follow Him on white horses, as it were, conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:2 cf. 19:11-21).
- Word of God Sometimes likened to,
- milk or meat (i.e. food)
- a hammer
- here likened to a sword, not a knife or dagger. So Christ in Rev. 19:11
- In Isa 11:4 the reference is obviously to Christ
- In Isa 49:2, both to Israel in immediate sense and Christ properly
- In Heb. 4:12 it is called a "two-edged sword" (broadsword). The Word of God cuts with the power of a sword, but with the precision of a scalpel.
II. The Source Of Our Enabling or Empowerment
Paul says it is by the agency of the Lord and the sovereignty of his power.
- Sovereignty of His power in salvation
- This may seem to 'go without saying,' but it is impossible to fight the Christian warfare unless you are first a Christian! God must regenerate and give you a new nature (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17).
- This means that our service to Him and our warfare against His enemies arise from a heart of thankfulness (gratitude) to Him. If we could claim some measure of credit for our own salvation, then not only would we not seek empowering from God, we would not even believe we stand in need of it.
- Sovereignty of His power in service
- In the parables of the talents, did you notice that even the capital with which the stewards worked was not their own? The talents came from their master.
- But additionally, notice the distribution of capital. The master gave 5, 2, and 1. It was a sovereign choice by the master as to which servant would receive five talents, which two, and which only one (Matt. 25:15 ff.).
- In the same way, the laborers who were called from the labor pool (Matt. 20:1-16). Those who labored all day labored for a penny; those who labored half a day labored for a penny; and those who labored but an hour labored for a penny.
- Finally the goodman said, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" (Matt.20:15).
- So, in Ephesians 4:7 and 1 Cor. 12:4, 11, grace is given to each of us according to Christ's measure or the Holy Spirit's measure.
- He does not give talents and gifts to each man according to what the man wants or even thinks he needs, but He distributes according to the needs of the corps -- the body. He distributes His gifts for service sovereignly.
- Sovereignty of His power in sanctification
We properly think of justification as an act of God's free grace, but sanctification is also the work of God's free grace.
- Christ prayed to the Father in John 17:17, "Sanctify them by thy truth."
- Just as justification is not us declaring ourselves not guilty, so sanctification is not us washing ourselves (1 Cor. 6:11).