Summary: Our battle is not an earthly one, but a spiritual one
The Real Battle (Eph 6:10-20)
Steve Simala Grant, November 24/25, 2001
Bridge from Mike’s Testimony into message. (Matt’s sermon also?).
Today brings us to the end of our study of Ephesians, just in time for the season of Advent which begins next Sunday, and which Pastor Sue will be speaking at. It has been quite a journey, for me at least. There have been passages that I have struggled to understand and to know how to apply, and there have been other passages that are so blunt and direct that I’ve wanted to duck! Two themes stand out for me from the past 5 months – first that God is awesome/powerful/exalted/worthy, and second that God has by His grace welcomed us into His family as His own, precious children, and thus we need to live like His children.
The passage we are going to study today incorporates those two themes and presents us with some climactic truths. Many scholars regard 6:10-20 as the climax – the high point – the place which Paul has directed his whole letter towards. Like any good writer, he saves his most pertinent point for the very end.
Read Eph. 6:10-20.
1. The call to be strong (vs. 10)
All through the letter, Paul’s desire has been to see us, his readers, mature in our faith – come to a deeper understanding and experience of God. And he articulates this here for us, in verse 10. He calls us to be strong. But note carefully where our strength is – it is “in the Lord and in his mighty power.” This is a key truth, especially as we launch into the most in-depth passage on spiritual warfare in the Bible. The strength is not in ourselves. On our own we are not strong, we are weak. On our own we will not be able to resist, to overcome, to live in victory. We are called to find our strength only in the Lord, not in ourselves.
How do we do that? This is a difficult concept for us: we value being in control, being able to handle things on our own, we see asking for help as a sign of weakness and we know weakness is scorned, ridiculed, and viewed as worthless. Our strength is in the Lord, not in ourselves. How do we live that? I believe it begins by recognizing the nature of the battle, which is the next main point. (I’ll come back to vs. 11 later on).
2. The real battle (vs. 12)
This is the key verse in the passage, setting the stage for the rest of the discussion. The words are familiar to many of us, yet the truth of them is one we too often forget.
The point is simple: we are in a spiritual battle. Our struggle is a spiritual one. It is not with each other, it is not with other people, our struggle is with the devil and with his forces of evil. (screwtape #7 p. 39?). Paul is going to equip us for this battle in just a moment, but for now I want to pause and explore this concept a little further.
We are predominantly people who believe that which is tangible – which we can see, touch, taste, hear, smell. We rely on our physical senses to prove what is real and what is not. We have a culturally conditioned skepticism towards anything that doesn’t fit into our essentially scientific worldview – we hear of faith healings and scoff, of miracles and doubt, of evil spiritual attacks and dis-believe. We even doubt some of the moments of faith we experience – must have been something I ate, perhaps I am just particularly emotional today, maybe it was just a coincidence.
And yet the very fact that we are here today tells me the opposite – that we are a people of faith. Faith by its very nature is un-provable, un-verifiable by scientific analysis. Now don’t hear me as being anti-science, rather I am merely saying that it is by faith that we come to know about the reality beyond the physical. About the spiritual reality that is all around us and is part of us. Science teaches us about the physical world, faith about the spiritual.
It is here, in the spiritual, that the battle is fought. That is the message of vs. 12. We see evidence of this battle in tangible ways, of course. We see it every time a child dies for lack of food. Every time someone has an idea or a dream get crushed and become depressed. Every time a bomb drops on innocent civilians, killing them. Every time we come to worship and leave without being effected by the Holy Spirit, or every time we start to pray but get quickly distracted by something requiring immediate attention, or every time we find things to complain about rather than things to rejoice in. Yet despite these tangible evidences, it is still difficult for us to live daily in this knowledge that the battle is a spiritual one.