Summary: 57th in a series from Ephesians. When we become a follower of Jesus, we enlist in a spiritual war so we need to be prepared for the battle.
When we began our journey through the Book of Ephesians about a year and a half ago, I described Paul’s letter as our basic training manual. I also observed that since we are in a spiritual battle, we all need to be prepared for that battle by going though the spiritual basic training that is required by that manual. In fact, the title for our entire series has been “Basic Training”. And now, as we enter our final leg of that journey, Paul brings that concept clearly into focus. Let’s read our passage out loud together:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)
The attacks on our country on September 11, 2001 were a wake up call for our country. As the 9/11 Commission and others observed after the fact, one of the main reasons that we were attacked is that, as a country, we didn’t even recognize that these Islamic extremists were at war with us. And since we didn’t realize that we were in a war, we hadn’t made adequate preparations to prevent such an attack.
Unfortunately, especially in this country, our Christianity has become so comfortable that I’m afraid that many of us have either failed to recognize that we’re in a war, or we’ve long forgotten that over the years. Somehow, when we get in our air-conditioned cars to drive to an air-conditioned building where we enter in and sing joyful songs of praise, listen to a 30 minute message, sing another couple of songs, throw a few dollars in the offering plate to pay others to do ministry on our behalf, and then get together to eat, that just doesn’t feel like being at war.
As Paul nears the end of his letter, he wants to summarize everything he has written thus far for his readers and draw the letter to a close. So he introduces this last section with the word “finally”. That Greek phrase is used here by Paul to call attention to one last matter that is the key to applying everything that Paul has written up to this point.
In essence, here is what Paul is communicating to his readers. He has given them a very clear picture of what God has done in their lives and how they are to live their lives in light of what God has done for them. But what Paul wants to remind his readers, and us, is that just because we know the truth about the resurrection and the power it makes available in our lives, we still can’t take things for granted. Just because we understand the principles about how to conduct our lives doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be able to apply them effectively. The power is there and the principles are there, but there is also one more thing we need to be aware of. The enemy is there also, and he will do everything he can to thwart God’s will in your life.
In other words, whether we recognize it or not, we are in a war. And therefore we need to make sure that we are prepared for the battles that we are going to face each day. The moment that we committed our lives to Jesus Christ, we enlisted as soldiers in that war. So we had better be prepared to fight those battles by making sure that we complete our spiritual basic training.
One of the most important aspects of this war is that God doesn’t expect us to fight it alone. He has brought us all together in one body, the church, so that we can stand shoulder to shoulder and encourage and help each other as we fight. That is the overriding principle we’ve seen all throughout this letter. I think one of the mistakes that many people have made over the years is that they approach this section on spiritual warfare as merely an individual battle. But I would suggest to you that Paul had a much more corporate approach in mind. The United States would never send just one soldier to fight a war. For instance, right now in Iraq, we have around 150,000 soldiers fighting that war. God never sends just one of His children to fight a spiritual war, either. He joins us together with the rest of His body, the church, in order to fight that war.