Summary: An examination of "the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6) and the way God gives us faith, protects us from evil, and strengthens us to live by faith
Be Strong in the Lord
The television series “Band of Brothers” follows the experiences of a company of paratroopers as they participate in the invasion of Europe. In one scene Lt. Richard Winters is leading his men into the heart of the Battle of the Bulge. Another Lt. is pulling back from the front line, and he gives Winters a dismal report. “Looks like you’re going to be surrounded.” Winters replied briefly and confidently. “We’re paratroopers. We’re supposed to be surrounded.”
So many people today complain about the most minor inconveniences: The traffic is bad. There’s too much homework. My life is boring. I need more money. Yet they have no idea what is really happening around them. The Bible tells us that we are surrounded by a powerful army of spiritual enemies. Our ignorance of this reality plays right into their hands. Like the officer in WWII, God wants us to wake up, pay attention, and be strong in the Lord for this struggle.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians beautifully presents the truth of God’s rescue mission for this messed up world through Jesus. He then explains the new life that believers in Jesus have – a life that is not controlled by lusts, selfishness, and bad choices. But he concludes the letter with an appeal to persevere even against many opposing spiritual enemies.
I. Know Your Enemy
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Here Paul explains the realities of evil in this world. How different this is from popular ideas about evil. There is a comical view of evil – the character who wears a red suit and carries a pitch fork. Then there is the Hollywood view of evil as we see in the Star Wars movies: Darth Veder, Darth Maul, and (for the serious Star Wars fans…) Darth Sidious. You can picture these figures dressed in black with haunting faces and piercing eyes. But is that a realistic picture of evil?
It is not. Evil is more likely to be found in comedians, actors, singers, politicians, or even pastors. St. Paul said, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11.14). Evil is found wherever we are led away from God.
Paul also speaks about the “schemes of the devil.” The Greek word is “methodia” or the “methods” of the devil. What are these? Probably the most important is that of deception. The word “devil” means “deceiver.” He is so adept at this that he is not at all afraid to use the Bible. In fact that is one of his favorite schemes. In the Garden of Eden he tempted Adam and Eve beginning with God’s word and causing them to doubt it and finally to disobey it. In the wilderness he tried to tempt Jesus by quoting Scripture.
Today he is successful in some cases by getting people to doubt in his existence at all. There are a number of people who do not believe that evil exits. They only see bad genes, poor education, and corrupt governments. They believe that all these ills can eventually be fixed. This is the image of the world portrayed by the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. He wants us to imagine a world in which there is no religion, no heaven, no hell – only the things we see in front of us from day to day.
Another scheme is to create a twisted view of God. USA Today ran an article last week on a very comprehensive religion survey conducted by Baylor University. This survey showed that 96% of Americans believe in some view of God. But of this group 40% , or almost half, believe in a God who does not intervene in the daily affairs of people. We are left on our own to do as we please as long as we don’t hurt others. This is a god of license. This is a god who lets us be our own god and a law unto ourselves.
Probably the most dangerous view of God is that of the god of laws. In August I listened to two audio presentations about marriage and family. In both cases the pastors spoke for 45 minutes to an hour. They both said over and over that the key to a happy marriage and home is “commitment.” That sounds good. It sounds Biblical. But let me assure you that commitment is not the key to marriage or to any good thing on earth – not at least our commitment. The key is God’s commitment. Marriages need more than commitment – they need the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. This is what a sinful husband and a sinful wife need most so that they can begin to show committed love to one other. But that vital truth was totally overlooked by these pastors. Moses came to bring the Law, but Jesus came to bring grace and truth (John 1.17). We need the God of Law and Gospel to survive the host of evil that surrounds us.