“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”
Paul is coming to the end of his letter. He starts this section with the word ‘finally’. He is going to wrap up everything he is already written with a warning that the church is in a battle and how we are to fight it. But with this ‘finally’, we need to remember everything that came before it. We need to remember all that God has done for us. We need to remember our standing as a child of God. We need to remember his plan for growth for us and the conduct he expects from every believer. And we need to be filled with the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. There is a battle to be fought!
First, Paul writes that we must be strengthened in the Lord and by his vast strength. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” We are not fighting this battle on our own. We are relying on God and his strength. That is the first step.
Next, we put on the full armor of God. In Isaiah 59:17, he writes, “He put on righteousness as body armor, and a helmet of salvation on his head…” Isaiah is writing about God. Now, here in this letter, Paul says we are about to put on the armor! Paul wrote about armor in two other earlier letters. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (13:12). And in his letter to Thessalonica he wrote, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled and put on the armor of faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Here in his letter to Ephesus several years later, he fully develops this concept of armor.
Why do we need to put on the armor? It is so we can stand against the schemes of the devil. Paul uses the word stand three times in this section on the armor, two times in the verses we are covering today. We do not retreat. We do not back down.
It is important that we understand the enemy we are fighting. Paul is using the language of a battle, and when we go into battle, we must understand who we are fighting. Paul first says we are standing against the schemes of the devil. Jesus described the devil as the ruler of this world (John 12:31). Jesus also described him this way. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Notice that Paul uses the word ‘schemes’. Satan is not going to be obvious when he comes to battle. He is the father of lies, so his goal is to get us to fall for lies. Today, we have so many, especially in the church, falling for his lies. But we should not be surprised. Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be according to their works.” Satan’s first lie was to Eve the garden, telling her that she would be like God. We have been falling for that same lie ever since!
Paul goes on to warn us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual force forces in the heavens” (vs. 12). Stott writes in his commentary, “Paul is wanting to emphasize the reality of our engagement with the powers of evil, and the grim necessity of hand-to-hand combat.” We need to be aware that these hostilities are going to continue until Jesus returns.
There are many people in the church and in our world today who have been convinced that the devil does not exist. This is one of the ways he is infiltrated the church. If he does not exist, then we do not have to look out for him. He has convinced us that we can trust our feelings and that we should follow our hearts. We should be able to love whomever we want. The Bible is just a history book, it should not be a moral guide. Those rules are outdated! But we are warned in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” And Paul himself, earlier in this letter, warns them to “to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires…” (4:22).
While it is important to understand the enemy, it is more important to understand that the power of God is stronger. This is the battle, but the war has already been won. We are reminded earlier of this power. In the first chapter, Paul reminds us of “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens— far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (1:19-20). Hallelujah! Christ is far above those rulers and authorities. He has authority, power, and dominion over them. God’s power rose Christ from the dead. Jesus defeated death on the cross. Positionally, we are seated with him (see 2:6). Nothing can take us from him. Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No wonder Paul could rejoice in his suffering! He knew that whatever happened to him on earth was nothing compared to the glory that was coming. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
The last part of this section has Paul reminding us again to take on the full armor of God so that we may resist in the evil day. When is that evil day? We have been in those days since the fall. Paul finishes with, “and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” David Guzik, in his commentary, gives several verses that have the word ‘stand’. I am going to end with that.
“We stand in grace (Romans 5:2).
We stand in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1).
We stand in courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13).
We stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24).
We stand in Christian liberty (Galatians 5:1).
We stand in Christian unity (Philippians 1:27).
We stand in the Lord (Philippians 4:1).
We should stand perfect and complete in the will of God (Colossians 4: 12).”
Grace be with you!