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Ephesians 6:10-20 Sermon

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The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the
breastplate of righteousness in place,
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.\
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Final Greetings
21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.
23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. 1
Who is in the spiritual battle?
Why important?
Who is our enemy?
How to prepare ourselves?
What do to prepare ourselves?
When are we in the battle?
How to be victorious?
1 The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

6:11. The way we are strong in the Lord is to put on the full armor of God. When we have this armor on, we are able to stand against the wiles and schemes of the devil. Satan is a deceiver and a destroyer (Rev. 12:9). He deceives in order to destroy. Putting on the armor, of course, is a metaphor for following certain instructions from Scripture.

Only he has the mighty power sufficient to win spiritual battles against the demonic enemy.

6:12. The reason this spiritual armor is needed is that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. The picture of warfare here implies that we do not face a physical army. We face a spiritual army. Therefore our weapons must be spiritual. Against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms seems to suggest a hierarchy of evil spirit-beings who do the bidding of Satan in opposing the will of God on earth.

The day of evil is anytime during this era in history until Jesus returns. All days are evil in their potential and become evil in reality when Satan or his demons decide to use that day to attack you.

The clear implication here is that, if the Christian has all his armor on, he has the ability to stand firm against Satan. At times the spiritual warfare in which we find ourselves may be frightening. However, the only thing we have to fear, if our armor is in place, is fear itself. “The one who is in you [Jesus], is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9). Scripture is utterly consistent. If we have our armor in place, if we are firm in our faith, we may resist the devil. If we do, he will flee from us.

6:14. After instructions to put on the full armor of God and the promise of the power of God in victory over the devil, Paul specifically describes the various pieces of armor. The belt of truth pictures the large leather belt the Roman soldier wore. It held other weapons and kept his outer garments in place. To put on the belt of truth can be understood as accepting the truth of the Bible and choosing to follow it with integrity.

The breastplate of righteousness pictures the metal armor in the shape of a human torso common to the Roman uniform. To put on the breastplate can be understood as choosing not to harbor and nurture known sin. It is striving to be like Christ and live according to his ways of righteousness.

6:15. Feet fitted with the readiness pictures the hobnailed shoes which kept the soldiers footing sure in battle. To put on these shoes could be understood as believing the promises of God in the gospel and counting on them to be true for you. Faith in these promises yields peace in the Christian’s life.

6:16. The shield of faith pictures the small, round shield the Roman soldier used to deflect blows from the sword, arrow, or spear of the enemy. To take up this shield can be understood as rejecting temptations to doubt, sin or quit, telling yourself the truth and choosing on the basis of the truth to do the right thing.

6:17. The helmet of salvation pictures the Roman soldier’s metal protective headgear. It does not refer to our salvation in Christ. First Thessalonians speaks of the helmet of the “hope of salvation,” which is probably a parallel idea. That being the case, taking the helmet of salvation could be understood as resting our hope in the future and living in this world according to the value system of the next.

The sword of the Spirit pictures the soldier’s weapon sheathed to his belt and used both for offensive and defensive purposes. Taking the sword of the Spirit—defined for us as the Word of God—can be understood as using Scripture specifically in life’s situations to fend off attacks of the enemy and put him to flight. We see the example of Jesus using the Scripture this way in Matthew 4:1–11.

6:18. Finally, while preparing for and doing battle, we are to be on the alert and always keep on praying. We petition God for our own needs in the battle, and we pray for the spiritual victory of other saints.

6:19–20. Paul finishes by asking for prayer for himself in his own ministry, acknowledging the fact that he was a prisoner at the time of this writing. He sought courage from prayer to proclaim the gospel even to those in his prison.

God wants us to be strong in HIS mighty power
Put on full armor of God- Why?
Struggle not against flesh and blood
But rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms
Therefore, pt on full armor of God
able to stand our ground
Stand firm
Belt of truth
breastplate of righteousness
your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace
The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
6:14b. Before a Roman soldier put on his armor, he put a belt around his waist. This held his garments together and served as a place on which to hang his armor. The belt of truth refers not to the facts of the gospel but to subjective truth, a believer’s integrity and faithfulness. As a soldier’s belt or sash gave ease and freedom of movement, so truth gives freedom with self, others, and God.
6:14c. The breastplate of righteousness refers not to justification, obtained at conversion (; ), but to the sanctifying righteousness of Christ () practiced in a believer’s life. As a soldier’s breastplate protected his chest from an enemy’s attacks, so sanctifying, righteous living (; ) guards a believer’s heart against the assaults of the devil (cf. ; ).
6:15. This verse does not speak of the spreading of the gospel, for Christians are pictured in vv. 10–16 as standing, not advancing. Instead this refers to a believer’s stability or surefootedness from the gospel which gives him peace so he can stand in the battle.
6:16. The shield in a Roman soldier’s attire, made of wood, was about 2 1/2’ wide and 4’ long. It was overlaid with linen and leather, to absorb fiery arrows. Thus it also protected the other pieces of the armor; hence Paul used the phrase, in addition to all this. Of faith is a genitive of content; the shield consists of faith. The idea, then, is that a Christian’s resolute faith in the Lord can stop and extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one aimed at him. (Cf. “evil one” [Satan] in ; .)1
1 Hoehner, H. W. (1985). Ephesians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 643–644). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
16. Above all—rather, “Over all”; so as to cover all that has been put on before. Three integuments are specified, the breastplate, girdle, and shoes; two defenses, the helmet and shield; and two offensive weapons, the sword and the spear (prayer1
1 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 357). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

6:10. Paul introduces his final subject by urging the Ephesian believers to be strong in the Lord. When it comes to spiritual warfare, we cannot be sufficiently strong by ourselves. If we are going to have adequate strength for the spiritual battles of life, it must be the Lord’s strength. Only he has the mighty power sufficient to win spiritual battles against the demonic enemy.

6:11. The way we are strong in the Lord is to put on the full armor of God. When we have this armor on, we are able to stand against the wiles and schemes of the devil. Satan is a deceiver and a destroyer (Rev. 12:9). He deceives in order to destroy. Putting on the armor, of course, is a metaphor for following certain instructions from Scripture.

6:12. The reason this spiritual armor is needed is that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. The picture of warfare here implies that we do not face a physical army. We face a spiritual army. Therefore our weapons must be spiritual. Against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms seems to suggest a hierarchy of evil spirit-beings who do the bidding of Satan in opposing the will of God on earth.

6:13. When we have obeyed all the instructions implicit in the full armor of God, we can resist Satan’s attempts to deceive and destroy us. The day of evil is anytime during this era in history until Jesus returns. All days are evil in their potential and become evil in reality when Satan or his demons decide to use that day to attack you.

The clear implication here is that, if the Christian has all his armor on, he has the ability to stand firm against Satan. At times the spiritual warfare in which we find ourselves may be frightening. However, the only thing we have to fear, if our armor is in place, is fear itself. “The one who is in you [Jesus], is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9). Scripture is utterly consistent. If we have our armor in place, if we are firm in our faith, we may resist the devil. If we do, he will flee from us.

6:14. After instructions to put on the full armor of God and the promise of the power of God in victory over the devil, Paul specifically describes the various pieces of armor. The belt of truth pictures the large leather belt the Roman soldier wore. It held other weapons and kept his outer garments in place. To put on the belt of truth can be understood as accepting the truth of the Bible and choosing to follow it with integrity.

The breastplate of righteousness pictures the metal armor in the shape of a human torso common to the Roman uniform. To put on the breastplate can be understood as choosing not to harbor and nurture known sin. It is striving to be like Christ and live according to his ways of righteousness.

6:15. Feet fitted with the readiness pictures the hobnailed shoes which kept the soldiers footing sure in battle. To put on these shoes could be understood as believing the promises of God in the gospel and counting on them to be true for you. Faith in these promises yields peace in the Christian’s life.

6:16. The shield of faith pictures the small, round shield the Roman soldier used to deflect blows from the sword, arrow, or spear of the enemy. To take up this shield can be understood as rejecting temptations to doubt, sin or quit, telling yourself the truth and choosing on the basis of the truth to do the right thing.

6:17. The helmet of salvation pictures the Roman soldier’s metal protective headgear. It does not refer to our salvation in Christ. First Thessalonians speaks of the helmet of the “hope of salvation,” which is probably a parallel idea. That being the case, taking the helmet of salvation could be understood as resting our hope in the future and living in this world according to the value system of the next.

The sword of the Spirit pictures the soldier’s weapon sheathed to his belt and used both for offensive and defensive purposes. Taking the sword of the Spirit—defined for us as the Word of God—can be understood as using Scripture specifically in life’s situations to fend off attacks of the enemy and put him to flight. We see the example of Jesus using the Scripture this way in Matthew 4:1–11.

6:18. Finally, while preparing for and doing battle, we are to be on the alert and always keep on praying. We petition God for our own needs in the battle, and we pray for the spiritual victory of other saints.

6:19–20. Paul finishes by asking for prayer for himself in his own ministry, acknowledging the fact that he was a prisoner at the time of this writing. He sought courage from prayer to proclaim the gospel even to those in his prison.

Armor translates a Greek word found also in verse 13 and Luke 11:22, and nowhere else in the New Testament; it means the equipment and weapons worn and carried by a soldier as he went into battle. See a similar statement in Romans 13:12, and see the use of “weapon” in Romans 6:13; 2 Corinthians 10:4.

“The whole armor of God” (RSV) means the armor he provides; so NEB “all the armour which God provides” TEV all the armor that God gives you. But some commentators (Beare, Barth) point out that “the breastplate of righteousness” (verse 14) and “the helmet of salvation” (verse 17) are, in Isaiah 59:17, worn by God himself as he fights his enemies, and so they prefer to understand “the armor of God” here as the armor that God himself wears. But this figure may prove difficult for the average reader with no knowledge of the Old Testament background of Yahweh as a warrior; “supplied (or, given) by God” seems preferable (so Abbott).

In some languages the closest equivalent of armor is “that which one wears for protection,” and this may be appropriate in verse 11, for example, “put on all that God gives you for protection.” Or else, “put on everything that God gives you for you to fight against evil”

Stand up against: that is, successfully resist, withstand, oppose. The English expression stand up against suggests not only defensive but also offensive action. But in many languages there is no single expression which covers both areas of meaning. Therefore one must normally choose between “to withstand” in the sense of “to protect oneself against” and “to oppose” in the sense of “to fight back against.” The context would seem to point primarily to defensive action.

For Devil see verse 4:27, and the word translated evil tricks is used also in 4:14; here as there, instead of tricks, something like “schemes” or “plans” would be better; JB appropriately uses a military term here, “the devil’s tactics”

Ephesians 6:12

We: so all modern editions of the Greek New Testament; some very good Greek manuscripts (including (p46) and Vaticanus) and some ancient versions (including Old Latin, Syriac) have “you”

Fighting translates a Greek noun which occurs only here in the New Testament; it means properly “wrestling,” a hand-to-hand fight (see Barth). But in the context, with the picture of a soldier armed for combat, it is inappropriate to use the specific word for “wrestling,” and a more general term is called for: “to struggle, fight, battle against”

Human beings translates the phrase “blood and flesh” (as in Heb 2:14); the usual order is “flesh and blood” (see 1 Cor 15:50; Gal 1:16). The phrase against human beings may be best rendered as “against other people”

The rest of the verse in Greek is “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the evil spiritual beings in the heavenly world” (see a comparable list in verse 2:2). TEV has changed the order of the various titles so that their evil and otherworldly nature will be apparent at once.

The wicked spiritual forces: these, as the others, were thought of as angels or lesser gods, evil beings who are opposed to God and his will for mankind. In many languages “spirits that do evil things” will be the best way to represent the meaning.

For the heavenly world see verse 1:3, and verse 1:20; as well as verse 2:6; and verse 3:10.

For rulers, authorities see the same two nouns in 3:10 (also Col 2:15).

In a number of languages the closest equivalent of wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world is “wicked demons in the sky.” Then the three classifications the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers may be rendered as “who rule and have authority and are strong”

Cosmic powers translates a word used only here in the New Testament; RSV, TNT “world rulers” Barth “overlords.” A number of savior gods of other religions had the name “the world ruler” in most instances this “world ruler” god was identified with the sun (see Beare; Barth, pages 802–803).

Translators should not use a word for cosmic powers which would indicate an earthly ruler. They might say “gods or spirits that rule in this world” but if “gods” is a problem, they could say “spiritual forces that people worship” or “spiritual forces that rule over people”

Of this dark age translates the Greek “of this darkness” *This may be rendered as “of this dark time in which we live” or “in these days in which we live, which are like night”

Ephesians 6:13

The verb translated put on is not the same as the one used in verse 11; here it is a Greek verb meaning “take up” (also in verse 16), that is, to get the weapons and put them on for combat; so TEV, NAB, NIV have “put on” others have “take” or “take up” Phps “wear”

Put on God’s armor now may be rendered as “now you should put on the protection which God has provided you” or “… put on what God has provided you to protect yourself”

Here the evil day is the day of combat with the spiritual forces; it is not the last day, the final battle between the forces of God and the forces of evil, but the day, any day, when the Christian has to go into combat against the forces of evil. Beare thinks the word may reflect the language of astrology, which would claim to tell a person when that person’s “evil day” would be.

In a number of languages one cannot speak of the evil day, for the day itself is not evil but only the events which take place on such a day are destructive and bad. Therefore the evil day may be rendered as “the day of bad events” or “the day when evil strikes”

Resist … hold your ground: these two verbs in English translate two infinitives in Greek, “withstand … stand” (see RSV). In verse 11 the latter is used in the sense of “resist, withstand” here, however, it carries the idea of “stand firm, stand ready” (for another assault from the enemy). You will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks may sometimes be best rendered as “you will not retreat when the enemy attacks” or “you will not give way …”

After fighting to the end translates the aorist participial phrase “having done all.” The Greek verb means “to accomplish, do, achieve.” There are various translations: NEB “to complete every task” NAB “do all that your duty requires” (so Robinson, Abbott); TNT “when you can do no more” Brc “you will be able to see things through to the end.” Barth translates “carry out everything” and says the Greek means to prepare for battle (also Murray). A&G cite examples of the verb which allow for the meaning “overpower, subdue, conquer” (so Mft); Gdsp has “when it is all over”

After fighting to the end may be rendered as “after you have fought as long as the enemy attacks” or “as long as the enemy attacks you, you will still keep on fighting”

You will still hold your ground may be expressed as “you will not at all retreat” or “the enemy cannot make you go back” or “… yield”

In this context it would seem that the writer is talking about a constant series of battles with the enemy, not the final, eschatological, once and for all battle; in this view, the participial phrase would mean that after fighting each battle to the end the Christian warrior will still be on his feet, ready for the next battle.

Ephesians 6:14–15

In verses 14–17 the writer mentions the various different items in the Christian’s armor. Again he exhorts his readers So stand ready; compare NEB “Stand firm, I say”

Truth translates the Greek alētheia, and righteousness the Greek dikaiosunē, and these are the meanings that the two words normally have in the Greek New Testament. But in this passage there seems to be an allusion to (or dependence on) Isaiah 11:5, which describes the rule of the future Davidic king: “Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins” (RSV), which the Septuagint translates by the same two nouns used here, dikaiosunē and alētheia. The two lines in Hebrew are parallel, and it would seem that no great difference in meaning is intended between the Hebrew “righteousness” and “faithfulness” the two are synonymous. So it may be that here the Greek alētheia reflects the meaning of the Hebrew noun “faithfulness, loyalty,” that is, the Christian soldier’s faithful devotion to the cause for which he is fighting, his loyalty to his commanding officer.

But some commentators, pointing to the use of the two nouns in 5:9, take the word here to mean truth or truthfulness as a Christian virtue (Murray “sincerity”). GeCL translates “the truth of God”

A belt tight around your waist: the loose clothes had to be held tight with a belt (or girdle) to permit rapid movement; see the same metaphorical figure of “girding the loins” (RSV) in Luke 12:35; 1 Peter 1:13.

The phrase with truth as a belt tight around your waist may be translated as “your faithfulness to God will be like a belt tied around your waist” or “the truth about God will be like a belt fastened around your waist” or “the true message about God will be …”

Righteousness may be regarded as “integrity, character.” Abbott defines it as uprightness of character. In Isaiah 59:17 it is said of Yahweh, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate” (RSV); there Yahweh’s righteousness is his faithfulness to his covenant promises.

In a number of languages one cannot speak of righteousness as an abstract quality. Rather, one must employ some type of personal reference, for example, “your doing what is right” or “your being a just person” or “your being an upright person.” It may be possible to translate with righteousness as your breastplate as “your always doing what is right is like a protection for your chest”

The breastplate was made of tough leather or metal, and it covered the soldier’s breast and sometimes the back, to protect him from the enemy’s attack. (It should be noticed that in 1 Thes 5:8 Paul defines the breastplate as “faith and love”)

The writer speaks of the readiness to announce the Good News of peace as the shoes the Christian warrior is to wear. The Greek noun “preparation, readiness” occurs only here in the New Testament. It is difficult to know for sure in what sense the word is used here. The following are possible meanings:

(1) Abbott takes it to mean “readiness of mind,” the attitude that is required of a soldier as he advances into battle; so this would be equivalent to courage or determination or readiness to fight. The Good News of peace, in Abbott’s view, is what equips the Christian soldier with this attitude, this readiness of mind (also Gdsp “the readiness the good news of peace brings” see also Ellicott).

(2) RSV translates “(having shod your feet) with the equipment of the gospel of peace,” which is not very clear.

(3) Others take the Greek word to mean firmness, stability, sure footing. So Barth “steadfast because the gospel of peace is strapped under your feet” NEB “to give you firm footing” Mft “stability”

(4) Others, like TEV, take the phrase to mean “the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace”: Westcott, Robinson (who regards Isa 52:7 as a source of the figure), Beare; TNT, NIV, JB, and others.

It is impossible to be dogmatic; the translator will choose the interpretation that seems best to fit the context, and it would seem that either (3) or (4) would be the best choice.

In verse 15 it may be better to preserve the parallelism with the two preceding statements about protection and armor by translating “the fact that you are ready to announce the Good News of peace is like your shoes” or “… like the shoes that a soldier wears”

Readiness to announce the Good News may also be expressed as “the fact that you always want to tell others about the Good News”

In general one may best translate the Good News of peace as “the Good News about the peace that God provides” or “… causes” or “… makes possible.” Here peace is practically synonymous with “salvation” or “reconciliation” (see verse 23 below). It is the restoration of spiritual health or wholeness that the Good News proclaims and effects.

In some instances it may be better to use similes (or comparisons): “Take truth as if it were the belt you put on, righteousness as if it were the breastplate that protects you, and your readiness to announce the Good News of peace will be like the shoes you wear”

Ephesians 6:16

At all times translates the Greek prepositional phrase “in all”: Beare says that RSV “above all” (so KJV) is correct; he prefers Gdsp “besides all these” (so Barth, NIV“in addition to all” NEB “with all these”). But “always, in all circumstances, at all times” seems preferable; the meaning “in addition to all” is more suitable as a translation of the Greek phrase “upon all” (as in Luke 3:20), which is the reading here of Textus Receptus (so KJV“above all”), and “in addition to all” would be more appropriate if this item were the final one in the soldier’s equipment described by the writer.

Carry translates the same verb used in verse 13, there translated put on. In a number of languages there are various terms which could be translated “carry,” but these specify quite different ways of carrying, for example, carrying on the head, carrying on the back, carrying on the shoulder, carrying in the arms like a baby, carrying with two arms, or carrying with just one arm. It is important to choose a term which will indicate clearly that the shield was carried by one arm (normally the left arm) and that it was held in front of one. It may also be necessary to restructure the figurative expression carry faith as a shield to read “carry a shield which is faith” or “carry a shield called faith”

Here faith is the confidence, the trust, the commitment which a Christian has toward God and Christ; it protects him from the enemy’s fiery missiles. Depending on the way in which one translates faith, it may be necessary to restructure the first part of verse 16, for example, “your always trusting God will be like a shield that you carry”

The word translated shield occurs only here in the New Testament. There were shields of various sizes; in this context most commentators take it to be the large shield which, according to the ancient historian Polybius, gave protection to the whole body. It was made of two layers of wood, covered with canvas, and with a leather covering on the outside; this, when soaked with water before the battle, would effectively serve to extinguish the incendiary missiles of the enemy (Barth). The soldier carried it in his left hand (and the sword in his right hand).

Burning arrows: at the end of these arrows (or “darts,”RSV) an inflammable material such as tow would be placed and then dipped in pitch and set on fire.

The statement with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows may be expressed as “this shield will make it possible for you to extinguish the burning arrows” or “to put out the fire on the burning arrows”

The Evil One is Satan, the Devil, the ruler of the forces of evil. In a number of languages the reference to the Evil One may be obscure, especially if no superlative form is used. Since the Devil is regarded as the one who is the most evil, it may be better to use “the most Evil One” instead of merely “the Evil One” the latter might refer only to one single individual who might have attacked the believer. In some languages, however, it may be far better to use an expression such as “Satan” or “Devil,” since even the phrase “the most Evil One” could be seriously ambiguous. But the expression chosen should not suggest that this is a human being; so it may be necessary in some languages to say “that evil spirit” or “that most evil spirit”

Ephesians 6:17

In this verse the writer says accept (or, receive), which is particularly appropriate for salvation“as a gift from God” (Barth). Salvation here is to be understood as a present fact (in 1 Thes 5:8 Paul speaks of “our hope of salvation” as the helmet); Beare says, “the divine protection which safeguards the wearer*.” The helmet of the ancient soldier could be of heavy leather or metal and was designed to protect the head from the enemy’s sword slashes.

The statement accept salvation as a helmet may be made somewhat clearer if one translates “receive God’s saving you, for it will be like a helmet” or “… something to protect your head.” In some languages, however, “to receive God’s saving you” must be rendered as “let God save you.” Or else, “Accept the salvation that God gives; it will protect you like a helmet”

The rest of the verse in Greek is “and (receive) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is the only offensive weapon mentioned, although there were others used by soldiers at that time, especially the javelin.

Some take “the sword of the Spirit” to mean the sword that the Spirit uses (or owns); so Beare: “the sword which the Spirit Himself wields.” Others take it to mean the sword provided by the Spirit (Abbott, Barth; TEV the sword which the Spirit gives you; also NEB and others). Unlike the other genitive phrases (“the breastplate of righteousness,” “the shield of faith,” “the helmet of salvation”), in this genitive phrase, “the Spirit” is not in apposition to “the sword,” that is, the Spirit is not the sword; it is “the word of God which is the sword” (see Heb 4:12 for similar language).

The statement accept … the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you may be restructured» as “receive from the Holy Spirit the word of God, which will be like a sword”

Here the word of God is to be understood as God’s message given the believer to be proclaimed; this is the offensive weapon which will defeat the enemy. It is not clear why NEB has here “the words that come from God,” unless it is to avoid the misinterpretation that the Bible (“the word of God”) is the sword.

Here the word of God is “the message that comes from God” or “the messages that are given by God.” A simile may be used, “The message (or, word) of God will be like a sword which the Spirit gives you”

Ephesians 6:18

This verse, which follows without a break from verse 17, is composed of two participial clauses. The Greek is as follows: “through every prayer and petition praying on every occasion in (the) spirit, and for this keeping alert with all persistence and petition for all the saints.” Though the syntax is jumbled, the meaning is clear enough: the readers are told to pray constantly. The writer uses the verb “to pray,” the noun “prayer,” and the synonymous noun “petition” twice. To emphasize constancy and continuity, he uses the prepositional phrase “through every” at the very beginning of the verse; “on every occasion” “keeping alert” (a Greek verb which means “unable to sleep” it is used elsewhere in the New Testament in Matt 12:33; Luke 21:36; Heb 13:17), and “with all persistence”

The same kind of vocabulary (though not as extensive) is used in narrative in Acts 1:14; 6:4; the two nouns “prayer and petition” are used together by Paul in Philippians 4:6 (see also 1 Tim 2:1; 5:5). The noun, translated “persistence” occurs only here in the New Testament; but the related verb “be persistent” is used in this same kind of context by Paul in Romans 12:12 and also in Colossians 4:2.

Do all this in prayer may be restructured as “pray as you do all this.” The focus is primarily upon prayer, not upon the doing.

Asking for God’s help may be restructured as “ask God to help you” or “as you pray, ask God to help you”

A literal translation of Pray on every occasion might imply “Pray whenever you are asked to.” But it is usually better to translate “Whatever you are doing, pray” or “For whatever you are engaged in, pray”

The prayer is to be made “in the Spirit” (RSV), which TEV represents by as the Spirit leads; TNT, NEB “in the power of the Spirit.” It may be difficult to translate literally as the Spirit leads, for there is no direct “leading,” at least not in the physical sense. Therefore it may be better to translate “as the Spirit prompts you to pray” or “as the Spirit suggests to you that you should pray.” On the other hand, if one follows the interpretation “in the power of the Spirit,” it may be more satisfactory to translate “with the Spirit helping you” or “with the Spirit giving you the strength to pray as you should”

It is not easy to know precisely what is meant by keep alert; it does not seem probable that it is meant literally (as JB “staying awake” translates). The writer seems to have left behind the metaphor of the warrior and is now speaking directly of the need for believers to pray constantly. So they are never to lose interest or get tired.

It seems quite certain that one would not want to translate keep alert as “keep awake.” In this context it might be appropriate to translate “remain sensitive to the prompting of God’s Spirit” or “keep on listening to God’s Spirit.” But it is probably more satisfactory to translate “do not give up,” so that in reality keep alert is simply the positive way of rendering the negative expression never give up. Therefore sometimes the two can be combined in an emphatic expression “under no circumstance at all should you ever give up”

TEV asking for God’s help translates the noun “petition” never give up translates the phrase “with all persistence” For this reason represents the Greek expression “For this,” which could perhaps be better translated by “For this purpose” (NEB, Barth “To this end” NIV“With this in mind”).

Pray always should not be interpreted to mean being continually and constantly in prayer. The final admonition in verse 18 may be rendered as “whenever you pray, pray for all of God’s people”

Beare’s comment on this verse is worth quoting: “the unsleeping alertness is to be shown especially in persevering intercession on behalf of all his comrades in the fight. We are not engaged in single combat with the powers of evil, but are members of an army; and we must be concerned with the welfare of all who fight alongside us”

Ephesians 6:19

This verse continues from verse 18 as part of the sentence which begins with verse 17. It is parallel to Colossians 4:3, where Paul asks for his readers’ prayers for the same purpose. The verse in Greek begins “and for me,” which may be understood more precisely “and especially for me” (so Abbott, Barth).

In a number of languages it is rather difficult to render pray also for me. In fact, it may be necessary to expand considerably such a statement on the basis of what is clearly implied by the text, for example, “also pray to God that he will help me.” In some languages the only way in which one may indicate the person who is benefited by a particular event is to use an expression involving “to help”

God will give me a message translates a passive construction in Greek, “a message may be given me,” which is a common way in the New Testament to refer an action to God without using his name. However, in many instances it is difficult, if not impossible, to speak of “giving a person a message.” The more normal form is to say “tell me what to say,” and in this context one might very well translate God will give me a message as “God will show me what I should say” or “God will instruct me as to what I should say”

When I am ready to speak translates “in the opening of my mouth” compare NEB “that I may be granted the right words when I open my mouth.” It would probably be wrong to place too much emphasis upon “being ready,” and therefore it may very well be appropriate to translate when I am ready to speak as “when I speak” or “when I begin to speak”

Speak boldly translates “in boldness” (see the noun “boldness” in verse 3:12). In a number of languages speak boldly is appropriately translated as “speak regardless of who may be listening” or “speak without caring who listens” or “speak regardless of what might happen”

The purpose of the writer’s speaking is to make known the gospel’s secret.* The word secret (mustērion) occurs elsewhere in Ephesians in 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32. Here “the secret of the gospel” is the truth that is revealed in the proclamation of the gospel; Westcott defines it as “the revelation contained in the gospel.” In Ephesians the secret now revealed is that Gentiles and Jews alike and together are one new people, one body, in their life in union with Christ.

Make known the gospel’s secret may be rendered as “make people know about what hasn’t been known before about the Good News”

Ephesians 6:20

This verse is similar to Colossians 4:3d–4.

For the sake of this gospel translates the phrase “on behalf of which” the antecedent of the relative pronoun may be “the gospel” or “the secret” (so Abbott), or the phrase can mean simply “For this reason” (so Barth).

In most languages it is relatively easy to speak of someone who has benefited by an event, but it is not always easy to use a simple phrase to explain a benefit which might accrue to the gospel. Some persons have attempted to use the phrase “in order to help the gospel,” but this may seem both strange and obscure. Perhaps the most satisfactory equivalent in some languages is simply “in order to tell others about the gospel” or “in order that more people may know about the gospel”

I am an ambassador translates a Greek verb used only here In some cases it may be necessary to specify the person or institution that one represents as an ambassador. Therefore the clause I am an ambassador may require amplification, for example, “I am an ambassador of Jesus Christ” or “I am a spokesman for Jesus Christ”

In prison: the writer refers to himself as a prisoner in 3:1; 4:1.

Pray: in a number of languages there is no specific term for pray, and therefore it may always be necessary to use a phrase such as “speak to God” or “ask God” or even “urge God”

I may be bold in speaking translates a Greek verb which is related to the noun “boldness” in verse 19; this verb, “be a bold speaker,” is often used of Paul in the narrative in (Acts see 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 19:8; 26:26).

4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

The Message of Ephesians 3. The Armour of God (Verses 13–20)

Paul details the six main pieces of a soldier’s equipment—the belt, the breastplate, the boots, the shield, the helmet and the sword, and uses them as pictures of the truth, righteousness, good news of peace, faith, salvation and word of God which equip us in our fight against the powers. Paul was very familiar with Roman soldiers. He met many in his travels, and as he dictated Ephesians he was chained to one by the wrist. He refers to his chain in verse 20. And although it would be unlikely that such

The Message of Ephesians 3. The Armour of God (Verses 13–20)

The first piece of equipment which Paul mentions is the girdle of truth: having girded your loins with truth (verse 14). Usually made of leather, the soldier’s belt belonged rather to his underwear than his armour. Yet it was essential. It gathered his tunic together and also held his sword. It ensured that he was unimpeded when marching. As he buckled it on, it gave him a sense of hidden strength and confidence. Belts and braces still do. To ‘tighten one’s belt’ can mean not only to accept a time of austerity during a food shortage but also to prepare oneself for action

The Message of Ephesians 3. The Armour of God (Verses 13–20)

The second item of the Christian’s equipment is the breastplate of righteousness (verse 14). Some expositors have maintained that in God’s armour, although there is a breastplate, no protection is provided for the back. They then go on to argue that we must face our enemy with courage and not run away from him, exposing our unguarded back. John Bunyan made this point in Pilgrim’s Progress. When Christian reached the Valley of Humiliation, ‘he espied a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him’, whose name was Apollyon. ‘Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground. But he considered again that he had no armour for his back, and therefore thought, that to turn the back to him might give him greater advantage with ease to pierce him with his darts. Therefore he resolved to venture, and stand his ground.’ It is a good point of spiritual counsel, but remains a doubtful example of biblical exegesis, for the soldier’s breastplate often covered his back as well as his front, and was his major piece of armour protecting all his most vital organs.

In a previous letter Paul has written of ‘the breastplate of faith and love’, but here as in Isaiah 59:17 the breastplate consists of ‘righteousness’. Now ‘righteousness’ (dikaiosynē) in Paul’s letters more often than not means ‘justification’, that is, God’s gracious initiative in putting sinners right with himself through Christ. Is this then the Christian’s breastplate? Certainly no spiritual protection is greater than a righteous relationship with God. To have been justified by his grace through simple faith in Christ crucified, to be clothed with a righteousness which is not one’s own but Christ’s, to stand before God not condemned but accepted—this is an essential defence against an accusing conscience and against the slanderous attacks of the evil one, whose Hebrew name (‘Satan’) means ‘adversary’ and whose Greek title (diabolos, ‘devil’) means ‘slanderer’. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.’ This is the Christian assurance of ‘righteousness’, that is, of a right relationship with God through Christ; it is a strong breastplate to protect us against Satanic accusations.

The Message of Ephesians 3. The Armour of God (Verses 13–20)

The gospel boots come next in the list. According to Markus Barth, there is agreement among the commentators that Paul ‘has in mind the caliga (“half-boot”) of the Roman legionary which was made of leather, left the toes free, had heavy studded soles, and was tied to the ankles and shins with more or less ornamental straps’. These ‘equipped him for long marches and for a solid stance … While they did not impede his mobility, they prevented his foot from sliding.’

Now the Christian soldier’s boots are the equipment of the gospel of peace (verse 15). ‘Equipment’ translates hetoimasia, which means ‘readiness’, ‘preparation’ or ‘firmness’. The uncertainty is whether the genitive which follows is subjective or objective. If the former, the reference is to a certain firmness or steadfastness which the gospel gives to those who believe it, like the firmness which strong boots give to those who wear them. NEB takes it this way and translates: ‘Let the shoes on your feet be the gospel of peace, to give you a firm footing.’ And certainly if we have received the good news, and are enjoying the peace with God and with one another which it brings, we have the firmest possible foothold from which to fight evil.

But the genitive may be objective, in which case the Christian soldier’s shoes are his ‘readiness to announce the Good News of peace’ (GNB). There can be no doubt that we should always be ready to bear witness to Jesus Christ as God’s peacemaker (2:14–15) and also—as Paul writes in a parallel passage in Colossians—to give gracious though ‘salty’ answers to the questions which ‘outsiders’ put to us. Such tip-toe readiness has a very stabilizing influence on our own lives, as well as introducing others to the liberating gospel. For myself I veer slightly towards this explanation, partly because of the Colossians parallel and partly because of the faint echoes of 2:17 (‘He came and preached peace’) and of Isaiah 52:7 (‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace’). As Johannes Blauw has written, ‘Missionary work is like a pair of sandals that have been given to the Church in order that it shall set out on the road and keep on going to make known the mystery of the gospel.’

In either case the devil fears and hates the gospel, because it is God’s power to rescue people from his tyranny, both us who have received it and those with whom we share it. So we need to keep our gospel boots strapped on.

Our fourth piece of equipment is the shield of faith (verse 16) which we are to take up not so much ‘above all’ (AV), as if it were the most important of all weapons, but rather besides all these, as an indispensable addition. The word Paul uses denotes not the small round shield which left most of the body unprotected, but the long oblong one, measuring 1.2 metres by 0.75, which covered the whole person. Its Latin name was scutum. It ‘consisted … of two layers of wood glued together and covered first with linen and then with hide: it was bound with iron above and below.’ It was specially designed to put out the dangerous incendiary missiles then in use, specially arrows dipped in pitch which were then lit and fired.

What, then, are all the flaming darts of the evil one, and with what shield can Christians protect themselves? The devil’s darts no doubt include his mischievous accusations which inflame our conscience with what (if we are sheltering in Christ) can only be called false guilt. Other darts are unsought thoughts of doubt and disobedience, rebellion, lust, malice or fear. But there is a shield with which we can quench or extinguish all such fire-tipped darts. It is the shield of faith. God himself ‘is a shield to those who take refuge in him’, and it is by faith that we flee to him for refuge. For faith lays hold of the promises of God in times of doubt and depression, and faith lays hold of the power of God in times of temptation. Apollyon taunted Christian with the threat, ‘Here will I spill thy soul.’ ‘And with that,’ Bunyan continues, ‘he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which be caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.’8

The Roman soldier’s helmet, which is the next piece of armour on the list, was usually made of a tough metal like bronze or iron. ‘An inside lining of felt or sponge made the weight bearable. Nothing short of an axe or hammer could pierce a heavy helmet, and in some cases a hinged vizor added frontal protection.’ Helmets were decorative as well as protective, and some had magnificent plumes or crests.

According to an earlier statement of Paul’s, the Christian soldier’s helmet is ‘the hope of salvation’, that is, our assurance of future and final salvation. Here in Ephesians it is just the helmet of salvation (verse 17) which we are to take and wear. But whether our head piece is that measure of salvation which we have already received (forgiveness, deliverance from Satan’s bondage, and adoption into God’s family) or the confident expectation of full salvation on the last day (including resurrection glory and Christ-likeness in heaven), there is no doubt that God’s saving power is our only defence against the enemy of our souls. Charles Hodge wrote: ‘that which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved’ and, we might add, that he knows his salvation will be perfected in the end.

The sixth and last weapon to be specified is the sword (verse 17). Of all the six pieces of armour or weaponry listed, the sword is the only one which can clearly be used for attack as well as defence. Moreover, the kind of attack envisaged will involve a close personal encounter, for the word used is machaira, the short sword. It is the sword of the Spirit, which is then immediately identified as the word of God, although in the Revelation it is seen issuing from the mouth of Christ. This may well include the words of defence and testimony which Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would put into his followers’ lips when they were dragged before magistrates.4 But the expression ‘the word of God’ has a much broader reference than that, namely to Scripture, God’s written word, whose origin is repeatedly attributed to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Still today it is his sword, for he still uses it to cut through people’s defences, to prick their consciences and to stab them spiritually awake. Yet he also puts his sword into our hands, so that we may use it both in resisting temptation (as Jesus did, quoting Scripture to counter the devil in the Judean wilderness) and in evangelism. Every Christian evangelist, whether a preacher or a personal witness, knows that God’s word has cutting power, being ‘sharper than any two-edged sword’. We must never therefore be ashamed to use it, or to acknowledge our confidence that the Bible is the sword of the Spirit. As E. K. Simpson wrote, this phrase sets forth ‘the trenchant power of Scripture … But a mutilated Bible is what Moody dubbed it, “a broken sword” ’.

Here, then, are the six pieces which together make up the whole armour of God: the girdle of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel boots and the faith shield, salvation’s helmet and the Spirit’s sword. They constitute God’s armour, as we have seen, for he supplies it. Yet it is our responsibility to take it up, to put it on and to use it confidently against the powers of evil. Moreover, we must be sure to avail ourselves of every item of equipment provided and not omit any. ‘Our enemies are on every side, and so must our armour be, on the right hand and on the left.

Finally, Paul adds prayer (verses 18–20), not (probably) because he thinks of prayer as another though unnamed weapon, but because it is to pervade all our spiritual warfare. Equipping ourselves with God’s armour is not a mechanical operation; it is itself an expression of our dependence on God, in other words of prayer. Moreover, it is prayer in the Spirit, prompted and guided by him, just as God’s word is ‘the sword of the Spirit’ which he himself employs. Thus Scripture and prayer belong together as the two chief weapons which the Spirit puts into our hands.

Prevailing Christian prayer is wonderfully comprehensive. It has four universals, indicated by the fourfold use of the word ‘all’. We are to pray at all times (both regularly and constantly), with all prayer and supplication (for it takes many and varied forms), with all perseverance (because we need like good soldiers to keep alert, and neither give up nor fall asleep), making supplication for all the saints (since the unity of God’s new society, which has been the preoccupation of this whole letter, must be reflected in our prayers). Most Christians pray sometimes, with some prayers and some degree of perseverance, for some of God’s people. But to replace ‘some’ by ‘all’ in each of these expressions would be to introduce us to a new dimension of prayer. It was when Christian ‘perceived the mouth of hell … hard by the wayside’ in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and saw flame and smoke and heard hideous noises, that ‘he was forced to put up his sword, and betake himself to another weapon, called All-prayer: so he cried in my hearing, “O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.” ’

Perhaps most important is the command to stay awake and therefore alert (verse 18). It goes back to the teaching of Jesus himself. He emphasized the need for watchfulness in view of the unexpectedness both of his return and of the onset of temptation.1 He seems to have kept repeating the same warning: ‘I say to you, Watch!’ The apostles echoed and extended his admonition. ‘Be watchful!’ was their general summons to Christian vigilance, partly because the devil is always on the prowl like a hungry lion, and false teachers like fierce wolves,3 and partly lest the Lord’s return should take us unawares, but especially because of our tendency to sleep when we should be praying.5 ‘Watch and pray’, Jesus urged. It was failure to obey this order which led the apostles into their disastrous disloyalty; similar failure leads to similar disloyalty today. It is by prayer that we wait on the Lord and renew our strength. Without prayer we are much too feeble and flabby to stand against the might of the forces of evil.

Pray also for me, Paul begged (verse 19). He was wise enough to know his own need of strength if he was to stand against the enemy, and humble enough to ask his friends to pray with him and for him. The strength he needed was not just for his personal confrontation with the devil, however, but for his evangelistic ministry by which he sought to rescue people from the devil’s dominion. This had been a part of his original commission when the risen Lord Jesus had told him to turn people ‘from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God’. Hence the spiritual conflict of which he was aware. Moreover he had not left the battlefield now that he was under house arrest and unable to continue his missionary expeditions. No, there were those soldiers to whom one by one, each for a shift of several hours on end, he was chained, and there were his constant visitors. He could still witness to them, and he did so. There must have been other individuals beside the fugitive slave Onesimus whom he led to faith in Christ. Luke tells of Jewish leaders who came to him at his lodging ‘in great numbers’, and who heard him expound ‘from morning till evening’ about the kingdom and about Jesus. ‘Some were convinced,’ Luke added. Thus Paul’s evangelistic labours went on. For ‘two whole years’ he ‘welcomed all who came to him’, he proclaimed ‘the kingdom of God and … the Lord Jesus Christ’, and he did it ‘quite openly and unhindered’.8

It is those last words which we need specially to notice. For ‘quite openly’ translates the Greek phrase ‘with all parrēsia’. The word originally denoted the democratic freedom of speech enjoyed by Greek citizens. It then came to mean ‘outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech, that conceals nothing and passes over nothing’, together with ‘courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank’ (AG). And this is precisely what Paul asks the Ephesians to pray that he may be given. Freedom is what he longs for—not freedom from confinement, but freedom to preach the gospel. So he uses the word parrēsia twice (first as a noun, then as a verb) in the expressions opening my mouth boldly (verse 19) in preaching the gospel, and that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (verse 20). The good news he announces he still calls the mystery, because it has become known only by revelation, and centres on the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ; and the two major qualities he wants to characterize his preaching of it are ‘utterance’ (verse 19) and ‘boldness’ (verses 19–20).

The first of these two words seems to refer to the clarity of his communication, and the second to his courage. He is anxious to obscure nothing by muddled speech and to hide nothing by cowardly compromise. Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation. Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear. Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing. Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth looking at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night time: plenty to see, but no light by which to enjoy it. What is needed in the pulpits of the world today is a combination of clarity and courage, or of ‘utterance’ and ‘boldness’. Paul asked the Ephesians to pray that these might be given to him, for he recognized them as gifts of God. We should join them in prayer for the pastors and preachers of the contemporary church.

It was for the gospel that he had become an ambassador in chains (verse 20). Earlier in the letter he has designated himself both ‘a prisoner … on behalf of you Gentiles’ and ‘a prisoner for the Lord’ (3:1; 4:1). Thus he gives the gospel, the Lord and the Gentiles as three reasons for his imprisonment. Yet these three are one. For the good news he preached was of the Gentiles’ inclusion in the new society, and it had been entrusted to him by the Lord. So by communicating it in its fullness he was being simultaneously faithful to the gospel itself, to the Lord who had revealed it to him and to the Gentiles who received its blessings. His faithfulness to these three had cost him his freedom. So he was a prisoner for all three. Perhaps now he was sometimes tempted to compromise in order to secure his release. For ‘imprisonment brings its own special temptation to bow to the fear of man’. But if so, he was given grace to resist. ‘Paul thinks of himself as the ambassador of Jesus Christ, duly accredited to represent his Lord at the imperial court of Rome’.1 How could he be ashamed of his King or afraid to speak in his name? On the contrary, he was proud to be Christ’s ambassador, even if he was experiencing the anomaly of being an ‘ambassador in chains’. It is possible even that he deliberately plays on this paradox. Markus Barth writes: ‘The term “chain” (alusis) signifies among other things the (golden) adornment(s) worn around the neck and wrists by rich ladies or high ranking men. On festive occasions ambassadors wear such chains in order to reveal the riches, power and dignity of the government they represent. Because Paul serves Christ crucified, he considers the painful iron prison chains as most appropriate insignia for the representation of his Lord.’ What concerns Paul most, however, is not that his wrist may be unchained, but that his mouth may be opened in testimony; not that he may be set free, but that the gospel may be spread freely and without hindrance. It is for this, then, that he prays and asks the Ephesians to pray too. Against such prayer the principalities and powers are helpless.

13. Conclusion

But some commentators, pointing to the use of the two nouns in 5:9, take the word here to mean truth or truthfulness as a Christian virtue (Murray “sincerity”). GeCL translates “the truth of God”

A belt tight around your waist: the loose clothes had to be held tight with a belt (or girdle) to permit rapid movement; see the same metaphorical figure of “girding the loins” (RSV) in Luke 12:35; 1 Peter 1:13.

The phrase with truth as a belt tight around your waist may be translated as “your faithfulness to God will be like a belt tied around your waist” or “the truth about God will be like a belt fastened around your waist” or “the true message about God will be …”

Righteousness may be regarded as “integrity, character.” Abbott defines it as uprightness of character. In Isaiah 59:17 it is said of Yahweh, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate” (RSV); there Yahweh’s righteousness is his faithfulness to his covenant promises.

In a number of languages one cannot speak of righteousness as an abstract quality. Rather, one must employ some type of personal reference, for example, “your doing what is right” or “your being a just person” or “your being an upright person.” It may be possible to translate with righteousness as your breastplate as “your always doing what is right is like a protection for your chest”

The breastplate was made of tough leather or metal, and it covered the soldier’s breast and sometimes the back, to protect him from the enemy’s attack. (It should be noticed that in 1 Thes 5:8 Paul defines the breastplate as “faith and love”)

The writer speaks of the readiness to announce the Good News of peace as the shoes the Christian warrior is to wear. The Greek noun “preparation, readiness” occurs only here in the New Testament. It is difficult to know for sure in what sense the word is used here. The following are possible meanings:

(1) Abbott takes it to mean “readiness of mind,” the attitude that is required of a soldier as he advances into battle; so this would be equivalent to courage or determination or readiness to fight. The Good News of peace, in Abbott’s view, is what equips the Christian soldier with this attitude, this readiness of mind (also Gdsp “the readiness the good news of peace brings” see also Ellicott).

(2) RSV translates “(having shod your feet) with the equipment of the gospel of peace,” which is not very clear.

(3) Others take the Greek word to mean firmness, stability, sure footing. So Barth “steadfast because the gospel of peace is strapped under your feet” NEB “to give you firm footing” Mft “stability”

(4) Others, like TEV, take the phrase to mean “the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace”: Westcott, Robinson (who regards Isa 52:7 as a source of the figure), Beare; TNT, NIV, JB, and others.

It is impossible to be dogmatic; the translator will choose the interpretation that seems best to fit the context, and it would seem that either (3) or (4) would be the best choice.

In verse 15 it may be better to preserve the parallelism with the two preceding statements about protection and armor by translating “the fact that you are ready to announce the Good News of peace is like your shoes” or “… like the shoes that a soldier wears”

Readiness to announce the Good News may also be expressed as “the fact that you always want to tell others about the Good News”

In general one may best translate the Good News of peace as “the Good News about the peace that God provides” or “… causes” or “… makes possible.” Here peace is practically synonymous with “salvation” or “reconciliation” (see verse 23 below). It is the restoration of spiritual health or wholeness that the Good News proclaims and effects.

In some instances it may be better to use similes (or comparisons): “Take truth as if it were the belt you put on, righteousness as if it were the breastplate that protects you, and your readiness to announce the Good News of peace will be like the shoes you wear”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary a. The Mandate: To Receive (6:17)

a. The mandate: to receive (6:17).

6:17. The outline is divided here because the Greek word take is an imperative, rather than another participle. This parallels the imperative “stand” in verse 14. The helmet and sword are the last two pieces a soldier takes up. A helmet, being hot and uncomfortable, would be put on by a soldier only when he faced impending danger. Having one’s head guarded by a helmet gives a sense of safety, so the helmet of salvation refers either to present safety from the devil’s attacks or to a future deliverance, “the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thes. 5:8).

Finally, a Roman soldier would take in hand his sword, his only offensive weapon. Of the Spirit refers to the source or origin of the sword; hence it is “the sword given by the Spirit.” “The sword of the Spirit” is specified as the Word of God. “Word” (rhēma; cf. Eph. 5:26; Rom. 10:8, 17; 1 Peter 1:25) refers to the preached Word or an utterance of God occasioned by the Holy Spirit in the heart. Believers need this “sword” to combat the enemy’s assault, much as Christ did three times when tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1–11).

b. The method: to care (6:18–20).

6:18. The manner in which a soldier takes up these last two pieces of armor is suggested by two Greek participles: “praying” and “being alert.” When the enemy attacks—and on all occasions—Christians are to pray continually in the Spirit (i.e., in the power and sphere of the Spirit; cf. Jude 20). With all kinds of prayers and requests suggests the thoroughness and intensity of their praying. And like reliable soldiers, they are to be keeping alert, literally, “in all persistence” (en pasē proskarterēsei; the noun is used only here in the NT). Their requests are to be for all the saints because of Satan’s spiritual warfare against Christ and the church. In the Greek “all” occurs four times in this verse; three are translated in the NIV and the fourth is rendered as always (lit., “in all times” or “every time”).

6:19–20. Paul asked his readers not only to pray in general for all saints but also specifically to pray for him that he might make known the mystery of the gospel. Here Paul probably did not refer to witnessing or preaching the gospel of Christ. Instead he may have referred to his need to be bold (twice he said fearlessly) and clear regarding the “mystery of the gospel” when he would be on trial before Caesar in Rome (when and if the Jewish accusers would make charges against him). The Romans looked on the Christians as a sect of the Jews, and the Jews considered them as a heretical group. In his trial Paul needed to make clear that Christians are neither a Jewish sect nor a heretical group but a new entity, the church, the body of Christ, composed of Jewish and Gentile believers. This recalls Paul’s lengthy discussion of this “mystery of the gospel” in 2:11–3:11. For this reason Paul was an ambassador in chains (cf. Acts 28:16, 20; Eph. 3:1; 4:1; Phil. 1:7, 13–14, 16; Col. 4:3, 18; Phile. 1, 9–10, 13).

Divine Armor

Although Paul does not follow a formal rhetorical outline in Ephesians, 6:10–20 functions as a peroratio, a rousing conclusion. Philosophers sometimes described their conflict with wicked ideas as wrestling in an athletic contest or a war; they also used lists of virtues, the general idea of which Paul incorporates here. Aspects of Paul’s conclusion resemble the exhortations that generals gave to their armies before battle.

The Old Testament has many pictures of Israel as God’s warriors, and God himself appears as a warrior in full armor, dealing out his justice (Is 59:17; cf. Wisdom of Solomon 5:17–20). But although Paul borrows his language from the Old Testament, the image Paul’s words in this paragraph would have evoked for most of his readers is that of a Roman soldier ready to do battle. Most adults who heard his letter read would have seen Roman soldiers and could relate this image to their spiritual warfare against the demonic powers at work in the world; God who fought for them had supplied them his armor.

Paul omits some pieces of the Roman soldier’s armor in his description; for instance, since he mentions only one offensive weapon, he uses the sword but omits the lance (the pilum). Paul probably has no particular purpose in correlating specific strengths of the Christian with specific armor body parts (cf. 1 Thess 5:8); rather, he wants his readers to know that they need all of them to be victorious.

6:10–11. In the day of battle, Roman soldiers were to stand their ground, not retreat. As long as they stood together on a flat, open field and did not break ranks, their legions were considered virtually invincible.

6:12. Some people in the Old Testament learned that the nature of their battle was spiritual (cf. Gen 32:22–32; Dan 10:10–21), although in both Daniel and Paul the battle was fought by prayerfully submitting to God and doing his will, not by directly addressing the hostile powers (Dan 10:12–13, 21). Some pagan deities were called “world rulers,” and terms for high ranks of good and evil angels were becoming popular in this period; “spiritual beings of wickedness” is idiomatic Greek for “evil spirits,” a Jewish and New Testament term.

6:13. The “evil day” could refer generically to any time of judgment or testing (e.g., Amos 6:3), but some scholars think it applies specifically to the period of intense tribulation Jewish people expected prior to the end of the age (cf. Dan 12:1), which Paul elsewhere may have regarded as present (cf. Rom 8:22–23). For “stand” see comment on 6:10–11.

6:14. The “belt” or “girdle” may refer to the leather apron beneath the armor or to the metal belt protecting the lower abdomen. The “breastplate” normally consisted of leather overlaid with metal, and it protected the chest in battle; like the helmet (6:17), it was used only in battle, not for normal wear. Roman soldiers were to face forward in battle, side by side, so the armor needed to protect only their front. In view of Isaiah 59:17 (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 5:18), this “breastplate of righteousness” is truly “God’s armor” (6:13).

6:15. Soldiers needed to wear sandals or boots (technically the Roman caliga, a half boot) so they could advance toward the enemy undistracted about what they might step on; this gear was essential to their “preparation” for battle. Paul takes the image especially from the herald of Isaiah 52:7 who announces good news: sharing the message of Christ advances God’s army against the enemy’s position.

6:16. Roman soldiers were equipped with large rectangular wooden shields, four feet high, the fronts of which were made of leather. Before battles in which flaming arrows might be fired, the leather would be wetted to quench any fiery darts launched against them. After Roman legionaries closed ranks, the front row holding shields forward and those behind them holding shields above them, they were virtually invulnerable to any attack from flaming arrows.

Because the Greek and Roman god of passion (called Eros and Cupid, respectively) was said to strike with flaming arrows, some of Paul’s readers may have thought specifically of the temptation of lust in this verse, although Paul probably intended the image to cover more than that danger (cf. Ps 11:2; 57:4; 58:3–7; 64:3; perhaps 120:1–4; Prov 25:18).

6:17. The bronze helmet, equipped with cheek pieces, was necessary to protect the head; though essential garb for battle, it was normally not worn outside battle. For the phrase “helmet of salvation” see Isaiah 59:17; cf. comment on Ephesians 6:14. The sword (gladius, 20–24 inches long) was a weapon used when close battle was joined with the enemy and the heavy pikes that frontline soldiers carried were no longer practical. Thus Paul implies that the battle is to be joined especially by engaging those who do not know God’s word (the gospel) with its message, after one is spiritually prepared in the other ways listed here. Paul’s ministry was thus particularly strategic, because it included close-range battle advancing into enemy ranks (vv. 19–20).

6:18–19. If prayer for one another (v. 18) continues the figurative image of warfare in the preceding context, it might relate to how the soldiers had to stand together in their battle formation, covering one another by moving as a solid unit. A Roman soldier by himself was vulnerable, but as a unified army a Roman legion was virtually invincible. “Watching” or “being alert” may also be military language (suggested by Jesus; cf. Mk 14:38). Prayer in the Spirit probably implies inspired prayer (cf. 1 Cor 14).

6:20. Ambassadors were to be received with all the respect due the ones who sent them; as heralds, they were to be immune from hostility even if they represented an enemy kingdom. Paul, an “ambassador” of the greatest king and the greatest kingdom (6:20) is instead chained in Rome for his mission of peace (6:15). In Greek literature, a true philosopher was characterized by his “boldness,” or frank speech.

Like 3:1–13, this section adds pathos, or feeling; although its most important function is to solicit prayer, it also sets an example for the church.

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Ephesians The Armor Needed for the Spiritual Battle (6:13–17)

Since the writer refers to pieces of armor used by soldiers of that day, it would be natural to interpret the passage mainly on the basis of the military significance of each piece. While that would be instructive, the more important point of reference is the Old Testament book of Isaiah. There the various pieces are part of the armor of God himself, actually aspects of his own character.

But with righteousness he will judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Righteousness will be his belt

and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Is 11:4–5)

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is 59:17)

How beautiful on the mountains

are the feet of those who bring good news,

who proclaim peace,

who bring good tidings,

who proclaim salvation,

who say to Zion,

“Your God reigns!” (Is 52:7)

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Ephesians The Armor Needed for the Spiritual Battle (6:13–17)

faithfulness.

The breastplate covered the major organs much as a bullet-proof vest does today. The moral quality of righteousness that characterized God in the Isaiah passages, that justice which is prized so highly in the prophets (for example, “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8), is essential for the one who must stand against evil.

It is interesting that although one might expect soldier’s boots to be at the end of the list of equipment, that part of the equipment comes in the middle of Paul’s list. This may be because of its importance for fulfilling the command to stand. With your feet fitted probably referred to caligae (from which the nickname of Emperor Caligula came), tough but light sandals (in the sense that the toes were open) that went partly up the leg, with soles studded with nails for a secure grip on the ground. Soldiers could wear them in hand-to-hand combat, rather than the heavy boots used in long marches. The purpose could be twofold: to maintain a solid footing, as commanded, and to be ready for action.

In Isaiah 52:7, and in Romans 10:15 where Isaiah is quoted, the emphasis is on the feet of the persons who announce peace. Lincoln (1990:448) observes that Ephesians follows Isaiah in referring to the feet being shod rather than to the actual footgear used. The emphasis is on readiness for action,* which is consistent with the warfare theme, but the key term that is common to Isaiah, Romans and Ephesians is gospel, or good news. Once again, therefore, Paul calls his hearers to an outlook that goes beyond the individual soldier’s protection to encompass his mission.

Shield of faith is a marvelous and much-quoted image. Unlike some pieces of armor, which are fastened in place to guard only certain parts of the body, a shield can be deployed and maneuvered to fend off all missiles, wherever they are coming from and toward whatever part of the body they are headed. The shield pictured here, unlike the small round shield sometimes used, was large (four feet high by two and one-half feet wide) and shaped like a door. In fact its name, thyreos, came from the word for door, thyra. Marching side by side holding up these large shields, soldiers could advance on an enemy well protected. Used that way, the shield could be an important part of an offensive thrust, even though it was a defensive piece.

The Old Testament describes God as our shield: “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart” (Ps 7:10). The faith that saves (Eph 2:8) now becomes an implement of spiritual protection. The shield was often covered with leather and could be presoaked in water to extinguish missiles dipped in tar and set on fire. Without that preparation, a shield made of wood could be set on fire and become a threat to the soldier. We need the shield of faith to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. The devil (v. 11) is now called the evil one, as he is in the Lord’s Prayer—a reminder of the sinister power against whom we need full protection.

If the faith that brings salvation protects us, so does salvation itself. Isaiah 59:17, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:8, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet,” mention both the breastplate (righteousness or love) and the helmet of salvation. It is difficult to know just how these relate in the mind of the biblical writers, but one thing is completely clear: the various pieces of armor are interrelated and cannot be analyzed or deployed individually. At the same time there is a subtle shift from the qualities of inherent character implied by the preceding pieces of armor to salvation and the word of God, which are objective gifts to be received.

Salvation is a basic theme throughout Scripture. The word connotes a range of ways in which God rescues, delivers or redeems those who trust in him. The mind is essential for life and coordination; the head is vulnerable to lethal or incapacitating blows. Thus the soldier needs a helmet signifying the saving power of God.

It is often noted that the sword is the only offensive piece of equipment listed here. While that is true, its offensive characteristic is that it represents the word of God, which has already been implied in verse 15 by the gospel of peace. The fact that Paul uses the word for the short rather than the long sword suggests hand-to-hand combat.

Whether or not Paul has in mind the idea of the Messiah slaying the wicked “with the breath of his lips” in Isaiah 11:4 (which immediately precedes the words of v. 5, “Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash …”), the point in this passage is that it is the sword of the Spirit, not uniquely that of the Messiah. (Compare 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:13, 15.) The use of the sword seems to be connected with the preaching of the gospel. That connection appears in the double reference to the Spirit in verses 18–19, which introduces the ministry of prayer, which is then connected with Paul’s preaching of the gospel. The connection is further strengthened by the use of the term “ambassador” to describe Paul’s gospel ministry.

The Importance of Prayer (6:18–20) Words for prayer, in one form or another, occur four times in verse 18 and once in verse 20. The success of “the gospel of peace” and of the spiritual battle requires prayer, but in truth it is needed on all occasions. The Greek word for “all” or “every” also appears four times in verse 18. We should not only pray on all occasions, but with all kinds of prayers and requests, and there should be prayer with “all” perseverance for all the saints.

The alertness mentioned in verse 18 could allude to the need for being on guard in the spiritual battle just described, as well as to keeping watch in prayer. This is a duty the disciples neglected in Gethsemane: “Then [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter” (Mt 26:40). First Thessalonians 5:4–11 connects alertness with self-control and spiritual warfare, and 1 Peter 5:8–9 connects it with resistance to Satan.

If Paul knew the importance of praying continually (1 Thess 5:17), how much more can we see accomplished by praying incessantly during all our waking hours! Paul knew people across only a few of the world’s time zones; many of us today know, or know of, people for whom we can pray in almost every time zone around the world. Christians in, say, New York can pray Saturday evening for church services, Sunday schools and other special activities concurrently underway on Sunday in Japan. We can receive urgent prayer requests by phone, fax or e-mail and immediately begin intercession.

This powerful call to prayer is not surprising at this point in the letter. Paul has energized his writing of Ephesians with strong elements of prayer. He had barely completed his opening blessing (which itself is a kind of prayer, praising God) when he was motivated to express his prayer for the Ephesians (1:15–23). Then, after passionately explaining the “mystery” entrusted to him, he concluded chapter 3 with another prayer (3:14–21). In chapter 5 one aspect of the Spirit-filled life is thanksgiving.

The question may be asked whether to pray in the Spirit is a particular kind of prayer, or ordinary prayer (if there is such a thing) done more intensely. Also, considering the other references to the Spirit in Ephesians, does this relate to the filling of the Spirit in 5:18? Paul is so conscious of the Holy Spirit that it is hard to conceive of him not associating prayer with the Spirit. Just as we could not obey the command to be filled with the Spirit without the active work of the Spirit, so we could not have a full prayer life without reliance on the Spirit. Paul has already written in Romans 8:26–27 that when we do not know what to pray for, it is the Spirit who makes the needed intercession.

When he was addressing a situation where some had become extreme in their use of “tongues,” Paul offered his own experience that he did pray in tongues but that when he did so his mind was “unfruitful.” Therefore he prayed with his (or “the”) spirit, but he also prayed with his (or “the”) mind (1 Cor 14:14–15). The context in 1 Corinthians has to do with public meetings and therefore presumably with public rather than private prayer.

In Ephesians he urges prayer in (not “with” as seems to be the meaning in 1 Corinthians) the Spirit, and in this case he clearly means the Holy Spirit. It is doubtful whether he is referring to praying in tongues here. More likely he is referring to an abiding spiritual relationship with God, perhaps as described in Jesus’ “upper room discourse” (Jn 14–16); both the Holy Spirit and prayer are prominent in that teaching.

The NIV has with all kinds of prayers and requests, adding the word kinds to all. Given the fact that there are various words for prayer in Scripture and that prayer includes confession, worship, petition and intercession, among other expressions, it is appropriate to understand all as implying variety. The first noun, prayers, is comprehensive, while requests is more narrow and referring to petitions. This second word, deēsis, recurs before the phrase for all the saints; the NIV, however, uses the previous term, proseuchē (though in verbal form), since our English phrase “pray for” connotes offering petitions.

In verse 19* Paul asks prayer for himself. He wanted to let every occasion of speaking be an opportunity not only for witnessing but also for preaching and teaching about the mystery of the gospel. This shows again his sense of responsibility to the revelation of the mystery he described in chapter 3.

He was concerned to speak boldly (NIV fearlessly) and uses that terminology both in verse 19 and in verse 20. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul urged Timothy not to be timid. Here he wants the same deliverance from timidity for himself. This concern was seen in the apostles after they were told not to speak in the name of Jesus. When the apostles prayed, they did not ask for protection, but for boldness, which God gave them through the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:29–31). In Ephesians 6:20, after the words that I may declare it fearlessly, Paul adds the brief telltale clause as I should, using the Greek word denoting necessity, dei. This recalls his earlier determination to preach the gospel without charge and without boasting, “for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16).

By praying for Paul, the Ephesian Christians could participate with him in that obligation, together asking their great God to give his servant evangelism and missions, even to the point of boldness as an ambassador in chains.* The role of an ambassador in modern international relations is to represent her or his government. So it was when the Roman emperor was represented by the person he designated. The same was true of an apostle, who represented the Lord. Normally an ambassador has diplomatic immunity, and an embassy is a place of refuge. In Paul’s case he is exposed to the indignity of chains.

One naturally thinks of the great apostle as always ready to speak well. Paul was, however, very conscious of his need of the Spirit’s help (1 Cor 2:1, 4–5). He was also concerned to speak boldly, without fear (Eph 6:19–20). By praying for Paul, other Christians could participate with him in evangelism and missions. The same principle is true today.

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