Summary: Ephesians 6:10-16 charges us to engage in the direct warfare with Satan and his apostate angels, protected by the whole armour of God, and carrying the battle forward with constant prayer for all the Saints.
SJE Tools for the Apprentices of Christ sermon series Ephesians 6:10-18
Pray. Good morning – we have a slightly reduced community today, and I’m all on my own up here, as our men are on retreat . As we gather as the Body of Christ, we do so in union with them, as we’re unified in the mystical breaking of the bread. We lift them up in prayer, that this weekend will be a holy and transforming one for each of them (and for those of us who have stayed back).
When I was looking at the text from Ephesians we are dealing with today, it was before our synod of last weekend. This past week as I put these words together, it struck me repeatedly what an excellent text this armour of God discourse provides for us today. This text is excellent because it both focuses us on the reality of a life of faith, following the risen Lord in a dark world, and on how we are to properly respond to warfare. I find for myself, that since synod I have been turning more and more into prayer, that I may stand fast against the assaults of the evil one, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. Our theme today is workplace protection, not talking workers compensation issues, but rather what we might call personal protective equipment – PPE – for we Christians living in our workplace, that is the world.
Why is it we need protection from the world? The reason is that this part of the creation, while redeemed and won through Christ’s ultimate defeat of evil on the cross, is still under the rule of the prince of this world, that is the devil. If we read earlier in Ephesians, we hear Paul’s caution about the way of this world:
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Children of wrath, sons of disobedience, dead in sin and trespass, those who follow the way of this world, those who follow the prince of power of the air – this is what we once were, before we gained the new life, the new personhood, real humanity in Christ Jesus. Now these are harsh words, and we all have friends or work associates who are either not followers of Christ, or lukewarm followers of Christ, and Paul is not telling us to start to calling them children of wrath (although that might be a cool name for a reality TV show). Rather Paul is highlighting for us the difference that is working in us after falling under God’s mercy, once we passed out of being children of wrath, that is, those who lived like the rest of mankind, following only the desires of the body and the mind.
We get a bit caught up in this language because we Canadians are so gosh-darn polite and don’t like labels or statements that might be hurtful to others. Yet here Paul is being clear – there are two realities at work in the world. Both are under the complete Lordship of Christ, and yet the way of the world leads only to the death of sin. This is one of the reasons why the way of Christ is offensive to the world.
This call comes through clearly in the Scriptures, that tell us we are to be set apart from the world, even while we are immersed in the world. In James 1:27 we hear this about true religion, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” True religion before God requires that we keep ourselves unstained, unpolluted or untarnished by the world. This is where our need for PPE – workplace protection – comes in. Just as a worker on a construction site needs steel toes and a steel shank to protect against nails or dropping heavy objects on his feet, we followers of Christ need some way of protecting ourselves against the pollution of the world.
First, maybe a word on the approach in this passage, which is one that is charged with military imagery. We are talking here about armour, shields swords helmets and warfare…and not the nice kind (that’s a joke) but rather close quarters combat, where we are literally grappling with an opponent. Paul uses these soldiering images because, quite simply, we are engaged in warfare constantly and continuously by virtue of our faith. That warfare is not like we see on the news, with the surgical strikes, drone attacks and the like of this broken world, but rather it is a spiritual war which engages all of us, everywhere and always. Why are we engaged in this whether we ask for it or not? Just take a listen to the baptismal vows either taken by us or by our god parents and parents on our behalf: