Tim Riordan, pastor
SonRise Baptist Church, Newnan
Never before has the church had a front-row seat to Bible prophecy like we do today. As we tune in to the nightly news, we are watching pieces to the prophetic puzzle being moved into place. According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, we can expect a climate of spiritual warfare to intensify until He returns. We must ask ourselves if we are ready to stand firm
God directed Paul to challenge the church to gear up for spiritual conflict. Because Ephesians is one of the Prison Epistles, Paul may have even been led to these thoughts while being chained to a soldier. He calls Christians to respond in three ways to the spiritual conflict that looms upon our horizon
Paul began this section with the word finally. It is like he builds to an emphatic conclusion that offers essential teaching to the victorious Christian. He issues several commands to the church that will lead to spiritual triumph, but the first command sets the tone for the entire section.
When Paul wrote be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might, God led him to use an interesting form of the imperative. The actual command that Paul used is passive. As a passive verb, it declares that we are recipients of action.
It could be translated, “be continually strengthened in the Lord.” We may falsely understand this command to say there is something we can do to make ourselves strong to face the challenges of the evil day, but because it is passive, we realize our role is to yield to the power of Christ in us. We will only find strength in the Lord and in His mighty power. As we take steps to follow the additional teaching of this passage, we must remind ourselves that it begins with total submission to Jesus Christ.
Within four verses, we are admonished to stand firm three different times. This is a high priority because not standing firm is a possibility for every believer. If we take lightly the spiritual conflict or step onto the battlefield unprepared, we could easily fall in this mounting conflict.
The imagery of the command to stand firm provides a picture of an army being attacked and the commanding officer giving the order not to lose ground. Satan will attack, and the church must be immovable.
Dress for Battle
The second imperative is to put on the full armor of God. Every piece is critical to our spiritual victory. For example, even though we have put on salvation, we must also put on the belt of truth. Second Timothy 4:3-4 warns that some will be deceived in the last as they turn away from the truth to have their ears tickled. If we only pick up the shield of faith without the word of God, we will find ourselves ill-prepared to discern God’s leadership to overcome evil. Every piece of the spiritual armor is essential. We should study this passage carefully in order to wear our armor properly in every circumstance.
You will readily see how important the Scripture is to each of these six pieces of armor. And, you may find it interesting to note how each piece of armor can point to specific Bible prophecies regarding the last days. For example, since there will be great deception in the last days leading up to Christ’s return, we should put on the belt of truth. Because the Antichrist is called the man of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:3), we should put on the breastplate of righteousness. Regardless of the timing of Christ’s return, we should prepare for the days to come.
Consider the imperative of verse seventeen: take. This word does not carry with it the idea of grabbing something but rather receiving something. Paul is commanding us to receive salvation and the word of God.
When I first considered receiving the word of God, I envisioned a leather-bound copy of the Bible. The term that is translated word, however, refers more to the spoken word instead of the written word. Receiving the sword of the Spirit includes being tuned in to what God is saying and how God is leading.
Pray without Ceasing
Paul concludes this section with a call to prayer. He admonishes believers to pray at all times. Prayer is such an important part of spiritual warfare, and an essential practice to putting on the spiritual armor. Through prayer we apply truth to every situation and accept the righteousness of Christ in all circumstances.
It is by prayer that we prepare to share the gospel of peace and defend ourselves against Satan’s flaming arrows In prayer, we receive our salvation and remind ourselves daily that we belong to Christ. Through prayer, we tune in to the voice of God.
It is important for us to remember that just because Paul concludes this presentation with a call to prayer, prayer is not the final thing we do. It is simply what we do. Prayer is not an event, but a life. It is not an exercise, but an experience with God that we call a relationship. Prayer is not a portion of our day, but rather, it is our day as we walk with God minute-by-minute, day-by-day.
While spiritual conflict will grow intense in the days to come, spiritual victory is readily available. Because God told us to put on the armor, we are reminded of the seriousness of our opposition, the importance of our preparation, and the power of our Leader in Battle. As we put to practice these principles God has revealed to us, we will find that having done everything, we will indeed stand firm.