THE SUPREME MYSTERY – THE BODY OF CHRIST
ACT III: The Supreme Mystery In Action
7. The Victorious Body (Eph. 6:10-24)
IMAGINE: Imagine for a moment that you are in First Century Rome. You are an uncommon Jewish citizen, born in Syria and raised to be a great teacher and preserver of the law. You are a man of power, position, prestige and a future of unlimited potential. But one day, everything changed. On the road and in the midst of a campaign to squash a religious rebellion and cement your political future, you have a powerful and blinding encounter with the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ!
From that moment your life has been radically transformed and all of your faculties and energies refocused on proclaiming “Christ and Him crucified.” You are used of God to see thousands upon thousands of souls saved and transformed, and plant many churches. You have accomplished eternal achievements beyond your wildest imagination. But now, you also find yourself bedraggled and hungry in a Roman prison and chained like a common criminal. You have found yourself in the midst of a battle the likes of which you could not have possibly imagined. Only, the mighty Roman Empire is the least of your enemies and worries. No, what most troubles you, what most keeps you awake at night and twists your insides is the thought of all those new brothers and sisters unwittingly (and often unknowingly) targeted and assaulted by great cosmic forces they can not even see nor accurately recognize.
Spending days on end imprisoned within the same surroundings and left with little power beyond your prayers and letters, you are suddenly inspired by these very same surroundings that imprison you. In fact, by the very guard and soldier who restricts you and the full display of his power – his military armor and weaponry. And so, inspired by the Holy Spirit, you write to your comrades under attack . . .
A.)STRONG IN THE LORD (vv. 10-12)
“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.” (v. 10)
The phrase “be strengthened by the Lord” appears in the original writings in what is called the passive reflective. This means that it is something which is received rather than done and that the action is “reflected” back upon the subject. In other words, we are to “be strong in the Lord” in the sense that we receive the Lord’s power that in Him we may strengthen ourselves.
A common rallying cry throughout the Bible (1 Sam. 30:60; Zech. 10:12; Hosh. 1:7; 1 Cor. 16:13).
This idea of living “by His vast strength” has been throughout. It is by this same power that Christ was raised from the dead, seated in power and authority over ALL that is, and from which flows spiritual wisdom (Eph. 1:19-20). It is also the power with which Paul earlier prayed his dear readers would be filled and strengthened from within by the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 3:16).
2. Armor & Tactics
“Put on the whole armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the devil. (v. 11)
Paul uses the image of his guards to illustrate our spiritual defenses.
Especially note that the emphasis is on the “tactics” of the devil rather than power, physical attack, etc.
Satan’s methods are most often dependent more on various forms of subtlety, distortion and defeat than obvious brute power or frontal confrontation. This is especially true in his attacks upon Christians – which leads so many confused souls to call good evil and evil good.
3. Identifying Your Enemies
For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (12)
First, our “battle” is not against the natural but the supernatural; not against what we see, but what we can’t see; and not against earthly but astral foes. Our real and most important battles are not with Hollywood, the media, Washington D.C., cultists and false religions – but with the demonic forces working through them (usually unknown to their objects of deceit and manipulation).
Second, our “battle” is not simply metaphorical or as part of a strife-filled group or speaking of a distant battle. No, it is deeply personal, individual and directly in our face. Paul’s term he uses for “battle” was often used to refer to the sport of “wrestling” and refers to tight, intense hand-to-hand combat – locked together in battle to the end.
Third, our “wrestling” is a battle that we absolutely can NOT win or even survive according to our own flesh or human, natural power! It can only be won through a supernatural power even greater than that borne against us.
B.) SPIRITUAL ARMOR (vv. 13-17)
“This is why you must 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.” (v. 13)
“The full armor of God” refers to a complete assemblage of personal armor for both defense and offense.
Yet, these “disarmed” powers DO still constitute a threat. How? Why? Because so many stand in false pride and refuse the Lord’s “armor.” To the extent that we neglect His power and resources, we stand exposed and vulnerable. BUT, to the extent to which we fully equip ourselves, united through faith to the all-powerful and victorious Christ, we will withstand the attack and defeat our enemies!
1. Belt of Truth “Stand therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,” (v. 14a)
The soldier’s belt is what held everything in its proper place. It also had strips of leather, which hung down from it to protect the soldier’s most vulnerable area!
Truth (as defined and revealed by God) is as integral to the Christian. Just as we are from all sides assaulted by “the father of lies,” so our best defense and attack is wrapped together in Truth (Jn. 8:32).
It is not just knowing, but living the Truth.
2. Breastplate of Righteousness “righteousness, like armor on your chest” (v. 14b)
The Roman breastplate was generally made of hard leather and/or metal and wrapped around the soldier’s torso to cover both the front and back. The breastplate protected the soldier’s vital organs – especially the heart.
This is what righteousness does for us. And it is not something which we can put on ourselves, but rather that God must dress us with.
It is not just a theological state, but something that inevitably produces righteous character and living.
3. Sandals of the Gospel “and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace;” (v. 15)
The Roman soldier wore war boots, or caliga. These boots were especially made with nail-studded soles to serve for marching under any conditions and to provide necessary traction in battle.
Similarly, the Christian is always to be prepared and ready to march forth and stand firm upon the truth and power of “the gospel of peace” - the “good news of great joy” and “message of reconciliation” in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Prepared to live and preach the gospel of Christ.
Prepared to stand firm on the Word of Christ against the lies and distortions of the enemy.
4. Shield of Faith “In every situation, take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to
extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (v. 16)
A Roman soldier’s shield was typically 2 ½ feet wide and 4 feet long. It effectively covered most of his front – and all of it if crouched in a defensive posture. The shields were also typically very thick and covered with a treated leather covering that would not burn, and even extinguish the flaming arrows of an enemy.
The “flaming arrows of the evil one” are indeed the “tactics of the devil” already mentioned.
Our unyielding, uncompromising faith in Jesus can and will extinguish any devious dart of the devil. It is only when we hesitate or refuse to trust in God and lean instead on ourselves or others that we get burnt and shot through the heart.
5. Helmet of Salvation “Take the helmet of salvation” (v.17a)
The Roman soldier’s helmet not only served to protect his head, but it was also intricately and grandly designed so as to make the soldier look taller and more impressive.
Similarly, our already attained (by the grace of God alone) salvation is the protection of the believer and symbol of inevitable victory. Thus it is also our hope!
6. Sword of the Spirit “and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word;” (v.17b)
The only part of the “full armor” that is designed primarily for attack.
The believer’s sword is the very breath and word of God and it is a sword that is able to smite all the nations of the earth (Isa. 11:4; Rev. 19:15).
In the context of the believer’s spiritual battle, it is used to repel the demonic hordes and its artillery of lies, deception, distortion and evil (Hebrews 4:12).
To be armed with the Sword of the Spirit is to intimately know and internalize God’s Word.
C.) PRAYER POWER (vv. 18-20)
“With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (v. 18)
Illustration: Consider that marines know their safety depends on the person on their right and the person on their left. They are bonded together in battle. Shouldn’t the Church be the same way?
“Take the story of Jason Dunham whose parents recently received their son’s posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award.
Dunham, a Marine Corporal, was leading his squad in Iraq when they were ambushed by insurgents. During the hand-to-hand combat, Dunham leapt to place his helmet over a live grenade. Dunham’s bravery saved his friends – and cost his life.
Why did he do it? To save the men serving under him. It was true heroic altruism. Would you or I be prepared to show what Jesus called no greater love? Would we lay down our lives for our Christian brothers? . . .
The story of human history is a great cosmic battle between good and evil, a greater struggle than any war in human history. We’re engaged in it, and we’re on God’s side. What if we Christians had the same sense of loyalty, commitment, and responsibility for our heritage as Marines?”1
For this, we must pray for and encourage one another constantly!
“Pray also for me (Paul), that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.” (vv. 19-20)
CONCLUDING QUESTIONS TO PONDER
In medieval times, the night before a squire was to be knighted, he would spend the entire night in a spiritual vigil. During this vigil, he would prostrate himself before God in prayer and fasting with his armor laid out before him for blessing. Only then, would he rise in the morning to put on his armor, accept his knighting, and prepare for battle.
1.If you had to compare YOUR spiritual armor to this list, where are you strong? Weak?
2.What do YOU need to do to prepare for battle? What is at stake if you don’t?
3.What evidence do you see of the battle in YOUR life? Your church? Community? Nation? World?
4.What would it mean for you “to stand” in these particular battlefields?
LET US NOW BOLDLY MARCH FORTH INTO BATTLE, WITH THE SPIRIT AND CONFIDENCE OF THE YOUNG DAVID WHO – WHEN PREPARING TO FIGHT GOLIATH – PROCLAIMED:
“ALL THOSE GATHERED HERE WILL KNOW THAT IT IS NOT BY
SWORD OR SPEAR THAT THE LORD SAVES; FOR THE BATTLE
IS THE LORD’S, AND HE WILL GIVE ALL OF YOU INTO OUR
HANDS.” 2 Samuel 17:47
BENEDICTION: Ephesians 6:23-24