The Epistle to the Ephesians is a very practical and encouraging book. But in its last chapter, from which this morning’s Epistle Lesson has been drawn, the Apostle Paul reveals to us something very sobering – and of utmost importance! A final word of advice before closing his great epistle!
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might… For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Those who believe in the theory of evolution, and subscribe to the “molecules-to-man” explanation for human life (as it has been called) rail against such ideas! Faithless theologians and critics doubt such ideas. They say the Apostle was only reciting the many superstitions of his day! Even many so-called Christians doubt them as well!
But Jesus Christ, Who was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, did not doubt them! Not in the least! His Apostles did not doubt them! Not in the least!
His Evangelists – writers of the Gospel accounts – did not doubt them! On the contrary they document in vivid detail how evil spirits “came out of the woodwork,” as they say, when the Son of Man appeared on earth to perform His holy work of restoration. They were everywhere! And the Gospel writers did not redact (that is, edit out) the truth!
Robert Louis Stevenson, famed Scottish author who wrote such enduring works as Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – did not doubt the reality of such evil in this world! On one occasion he wrote, and I quote, “You know the Caledonian Railway Station in Edinburgh? One cold, east windy morning, I met Satan there.” We may not know what struggle Stevenson faced, but we certainly recognize his experience! We have all felt the cold chill of evil that would seek us to sin and destroy our relationship with others... to say nothing of our relationship with our Heavenly Father!
Martin Luther, the Continental Reformer, did not doubt the reality of wicked forces and evil spirits in this world. It was while he was kept at Wartburg Castle under the protection of Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, the famous incident with the inkwell took place.
Luther had just begun his translation of the Bible into German. Satan saw the handwriting on the wall and was furious. His demons gave Luther no rest day or night. At last Luther took his inkwell and threw it at the devil! The mark can still be seen on the wall today (500-years later). Many of you who have traveled to Europe have probably even seen it.
So there is no reason in the world why you or I should doubt the truth that God tells us here through the dear and aged Apostle. Such truth is given to us for our safety and our well-being, our joy and happiness!
And there is no reason in the world why you and I should not follow His holy command to put on the whole spiritual armor of God, intended to keep us safe in an incredibly fierce spiritual struggle! Seven items are set before us – and we are wise if we use them all.
First, there is the belt of truth. For the Roman soldier, it was wide and incredibly durable! It covered the waist and had flaps hanging from it which formed a skirt of armor over the pelvic area. Others may wonder and guess, but as Christians we may move confidently and freely – protected by God’s inspired and inerrant revealed truth!
Second, the breastplate of righteousness – consisted of hinged bronze pieces covering the upper torso, front and back. This protected the very vital organs – heart and lungs – and the great blood vessels (the aorta and vena cava). The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ protects us. And our own godly living keeps us out of harm’s way.
Third, the sandals – made of very heavy, tough leather. Often they were embedded with bronze nail heads to keep them from wearing and cracking. Roman soldiers could easily move 25-miles over difficult terrain in a forced march and be ready to engage the enemy upon arrival! We, too, must be ready to move over obstacles to do good to others and to share the truth of the Gospel with our neighbors and friends.
Fourth, the shield of faith. The Roman shield, large enough to cover the whole body, was made of wood covered with hide and bound with iron at the top and the bottom. When dipped in water before a battle, it could extinguish arrows which had been daubed in pitch and set ablaze. When temptations come at us, it is faith in Christ – and following His Holy Word – that protect us!
Fifth, the helmet of salvation. The bronze helmet had flaps which came down over the ears and nape of the neck – protecting the brain and other special organs, including the eyes. God’s free gift of salvation removes from us worry and trepidation and allows us to concentrate fully on the works of faith and labors of love He gives us to perform.
Sixth, the sword. The Roman 22” short sword was one of the most famous weapons of all time! It was produced of iron hammered in a bed of carbon which produced “crude steel” – able to cut through much of the armor of an enemy. The Word of God can certainly defend us. But it can also pierce to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit in others, and convince them of their need for Christ. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
And last, prayer – the greatest weapon of all – direct appeal to Almighty God for His intervention and assistance. Prayer changes things – not just things outside us, but also inside us as well! It has been said that seven days without prayer makes one w e a k! So pray without ceasing!
This Ephesians text is crucial for all Christians – and especially for you and me in the battle-scarred days in which we live in America, as we seek to reestablish the Lordship of Christ and advance His Church and Kingdom! Are you wearing this armor? And are you protected by it? This is too important for us to ignore.
When the French artist, Auguste Rodin (Rodan), was a struggling sculptor – he often became terribly discouraged. He would frequently have a “vision” of a lovely carving he felt he must bring into being – but he could not chisel it into existence! It was at such times that he would set down his tools and shake off the marble dust from his clothes and travel to the Louvre.
There he would spend time amongst the statues fashioned centuries before by his predecessors. He would carefully drink of their simplicity and beauty – and ponder their “perfection.” And then, he would return to his studio refreshed and encouraged with renewed understanding and inspiration!
And so it is with us – as it relates to the whole armor of God! Let us envision the Roman soldier in his battle gear. Let us recall the Biblical description of the spiritual armor which God has given us.
And it is a great privilege to picture the saints of old wearing/using it to subdue evil!
Let us also put on the whole armor of God that you and I may be able to stand against the onslaught of the devil in our day.
It was the Roman historian, Tacitus – probably their greatest historian – who recorded that it was not uncommon after a battle to find two Roman soldiers – dead – but only after they had stood back to back, and taken down fifty of the enemy before they succumbed!
Wickedness and evil are very real! Palpable! And I do not want to sound melodramatic, but the path through life is not “easy” (not a “bed of roses”) for the Christian soldier. And the spiritual battle of our day will certainly not lessen, but only intensify! Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might!
This is the word of the Lord. And may it be honored and practiced in our lives. World without end. Amen.