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Sermon #77 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: A Call to War
Text: Ephesians 6:10-20
Subject: The Believer’s Warfare
Date: Tuesday Evening — August 22, 2017
Readings: Allen Kibby and Merle Hart
I once heard Bro. Rolfe Barnard tell the story of a young man back in 1940. He received a registered letter from the Government of the United States informing him that he was to appear on Monday afternoon at one o’clock at an address on Park Avenue in New York City, New York. The only thing he knew of on Park Avenue was the world famous, luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which occupies the block between 49th and 50th Streets in Midtown Manhattan. Needless to say, he was curious and excited to think that he had been selected by the United States Government to some event at the famous hotel. His excitement caused him to forget that the United States had just passed the Selective Service Act — the Draft. When he got to the address he was given, he found a small room right beside the famous hotel and realized that he was about to be drafted into the army, as the nation prepared for war.
That is a pretty good picture of what commonly happens when sinners first come to Christ. They have been told all their lives that faith in Christ is the end of all trouble, the cure for all care, and the beginning of a life filled with nothing but happiness, joy, peace, and tranquility. But, as soon as a sinner enters in by the Door, as soon as he goes in by the Gate called Strait, he discovers that he has entered into a war, a war from which there is no release, as long as we live in this world.
When I call you to come to Christ, when I call upon you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, when I call you to faith in Christ, I’m calling you to enlist under the banner of the Son of God. And that is a call to war. That is the title of my message. My text, Ephesians 6:10-20, is A CALL TO WAR.
Militant and Triumphant
The old writers used to talk about to “the church triumphant” when referring to God’s saints in Heaven, and “the church militant” when referring to God’s saints still in this world.
Š The church triumphant is made up of those saints, those members of Christ’s church, whose victory is won, whose battle is over, who are at rest with Christ.
Š The church militant is made up of all God’s saints on earth, men and women who are always at war, at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The church of God is not a social club. It is not just a religious society. The church of Christ is an army, an army at war. Everyone who is truly a part of the church has enlisted as a soldier in the ranks of King Jesus. So long as you and I are in this world, we will be involved in a holy warfare, if we follow Christ. There is no truce with Satan. There is no peace with sin. There is no treaty with the ungodly. The saints in heaven, seated at the side of the King, they are the church triumphant. But, we who are yet upon the earth are the church militant, always at war. Ephesians 6:10-20 is a call to war. Let’s read the text together.
(Ephesians 6:10-20) “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (11) Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) 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. (13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: (18) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (19) And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, (20) For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Always at War
Our Savior said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). And his church, the church of God, was born in persecution, martyrdom, suffering, imprisonment, bloodshed, and death.
Š It was so all through his life upon this earth. And he ended his earthly life by execution, put to death by the hands of his enemies.
Š It was so in the lives of the apostles. All of them died as martyrs, except one.
Š It was so in the story of the early Christian church. Throughout the first century the church endured unspeakable persecution.
Nothing has changed. That persecution has continued. It is true that today the open physical persecution of the church is limited to certain areas of the world. But it is none the less cruel and relentless in its ever-growing hatred of Christ and his church. Though, in this part of the world, we are now free from physical persecution, we are not free from our warfare. As a Spartan was born for war, so a believer is born into conflict. His destiny is to be assailed; and it is his duty is to attack. Every child of God in this world is to be like David, who is described as running to meet Goliath.
Š We have a King to serve. — The King of kings.
Š We have a cause to defend. — We are set for the defense of the gospel.
Š We have a Captain over us. — The Captain of our Salvation. Him we must follow.
Š We have a kingdom to establish. — The Kingdom of Heaven.
Š We have an enemy to overthrow. — The Prince of the Power of the Air.
Š We have a banner to raise. — The Banner of the Cross.
Š And we are assured that victory shall be ours. — “The gates of hell shall not prevail against” the army of God!
“Rouse, then, soldiers, rally round the banner!
Ready, steady — Pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout aloud Hosanna!
Christ is Captain of the mighty throng!”
Paul is bringing his letter to a close. He has spoken of the great purpose of God in Christ, of the glory of his high calling, and the life that follows the call of God. The standards have been set. The standards for personal life, life in the church, life in the home, and life in the world have been plainly set forth. Here, he reminds us that such a life cannot be lived without a constant spiritual battle. The intensity of this battle becomes more and more evident in our experience of grace. Therefore, Paul concludes this epistle with this note of urgency, giving a call to war. Why is such a call as this so urgent? The answer is that the church has enemies that are hell-bent on its destruction. Those enemies must be steadfastly resisted, and positively opposed by all who name the name of Christ.
Proposition: It is the responsibility of every believer to behave as the soldier of Jesus Christ, opposing the world, the flesh, and the devil, opposing Balaam, Baal, Babylon, and antichrist, and furthering the kingdom of Christ in the strength of God by the gospel.
Divisions: In this final word of exhortation, the believer is portrayed as a soldier in an army of which Christ is the Head and Captain. I will give four points, which will help you to follow the Apostles exhortation in these verses.
1. Our Sobering Admonition (vv. 10-11).
2. Our Spiritual Adversary (v. 12).
3. Our Sufficient Armor (vv. 13-17).
4. Our Steadfast Attitude (vv. 18-20).
Our Sobering Admonition
1st — We must give heed to our sobering admonition. — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (vv. 10-11).
“Finally” — Paul here urges us to begin in the Lord and end in the Lord. He says, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Robert Hawker wrote, “He that begins in the Lord's strength, will be sure to find strength all the way in his warfare. And, there never was an instance of a child of God being finally defeated, that did so. The armies in heaven overcame by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11). And the Church upon earth is said to be more than Conquerors, through him that loveth them. (Romans 8:37).”
The paramount necessity for a soldier is that he be stout-hearted and well-armed. Therefore, Paul gives us this admonition to be courageous for Christ’s cause.
As the soldiers of Christ, believers must be strong and courageous. Christianity is no child’s play. It is high time that we stand as men for the cause of our King. Let a man be ever so well armed outwardly as possible, and it will do him little good if he has a coward’s heart. — Every soldier must have strength of heart.
Š He must have strength to serve in whatever capacity may be required of him.
Š He must have strength to face his enemies in battle.
Š He must have strength to suffer.
Š This is strength given only by God the Holy Ghost. — Christ is our Strength! — “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Paul is not talking about physical strength, mental strength, or even moral strength. He is talking about spiritual, God-given strength of heart and soul. We must “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
We have no strength in ourselves. “Our natural courage,” Matthew Henry wrote, “is perfect cowardice, and our natural strength is perfect weakness; but all our sufficiency is of God.” We must be constantly supplied with God’s almighty power. Apart from him we can do nothing. But with him we can testify, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). — “Our sufficiency is of God!” — We have every reason to be courageous in the cause of Christ. The ground of our courage is not our strength, but the all-sufficient power of the omnipotent God!
But courage is not enough. — We must also be well armed. — “Put on the whole armour of God.’ This is called the armor of God, because he both prepares it and bestows it.
Š It is a whole, complete, and perfect armor. There is nothing wanting.
Š It is the armor of God’s giving. Yet, it is our responsibility to put it on. Here, God the Holy Ghost calls us to act in faith, to believe God, to trust Christ, and trusting Christ, he calls for us to make an all-out assault upon the very gates of hell!
There is good reason for this admonition. — “That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The arch enemy of Christ and his people is Satan. Having been cast out of heaven, he is filled with fury and envy, because he “hath but a little season.”
Š His malice is directed against Christ and his people.
Š His purpose is to dethrone the Son of God and to destroy his kingdom.
Š He walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
As we shall see, he has a powerful and well-organized army. It is this prince of darkness whom we must oppose.
Satan employs the strategy of deception in his rage against the souls of men.
Š He mixes error with truth to make it appear plausible (Genesis 3:4, 5, 22).
Š He will often quote Scripture in defense of his temptations (Matthew 4:6).
Š He appears as an angel of light and transforms his ministers into the apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14).
Š He performs supernatural miracles in the name of God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, 9).
Š He persuades people that he does not really exists.
Š He resides in places where he is not expected to be (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4).
Š He promises people that good can be accomplished by wrong doing (Luke 4:6-7).
We must be aware of Satan’s devices, lest he get an advantage of us. He does more harm in sheepskin than by roaring as a lion. Let us then put on the armor of God to stand against his strategy of deceit.
Even now, let me assure you that as we stand our ground in the strength of Christ, clothed in his armor, Satan shall soon be bruised under our feet (Romans 16:20).
Our Spiritual Adversary
2nd — Now mark our spiritual adversary. If a man would wage a wise and successful warfare, he must know his enemy. Therefore, Paul writes, “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” (v. 12).
The combat for which we are to be prepared is not against ordinary human enemies.
Š We are not fighting against frail men. We are fighting the prince of darkness.
Š Our warfare is not with democrats or republicans. It is with religion.
Š Our warfare is not with brothels. It is with Babylon.
Š Our warfare is not with the communists. It is with self-righteousness.
Š Our warfare is not with the state. It is with self!
This warfare is a spiritual conflict between the Prince of Life and the prince of darkness. Our warfare is with the spiritual forces of evil, under allegiance to Satan himself.
Š Our enemies are numerous.
Š They are powerful.
Š They are wicked and malicious.
Š The combat we are in, though it is spiritual, it is real — hand to hand, face to face, and foot to foot.
Our Sufficient Armor
3rd — Next, the Apostle tells us about our sufficient armor. — “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (vv. 13-17).
Here Paul repeats his exhortation to assume the whole armor of God, and calls for us to set ourselves in battle-array against the prince of darkness.
Š It is the responsibility of the church to enter and overcome the domain of Satan. — “Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel.”
Š The gates of hell cannot stand against the attack of the kingdom of God by the gospel.
Š Let us take the armor of God; and we shall be victorious, even in this evil day.
Š We do not know when the day of severe trial will come, so let us be always ready.
Š Having done all, let us stand. — (“Here I stand!” Martin Luther)
(Psalm 41:2). “The LORD will preserve him (me), and keep him (me) alive; and he (I) shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him (me) unto the will of his (my) enemies.”
(Psalm 49:5). “Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?”
We must stand armed. Here is the Christian in complete armor. This is the armor of God, the armor of light, the armor of righteousness. It has been well observed that in this list there is no armor for the back. If we turn our back upon the enemy we are exposed to danger. Let us then resolve, by God’s grace, not to give an inch, never to turn our backs to the enemy, but ever advance.
Illustration: Jim Bowie’s Mother — “I’ll bet there were no wounds on his back.”
Paul uses the illustration of the Roman legionaries, the most well-equipped soldiers imaginable in his day. And he shows a clear reference to the Old Testament prophecies as well. — “And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins” (Psalm 11:5). — “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hath hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me” (Isaiah 49:2). — “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak” (Isaiah 59:17). Each of these is a prophecy of the work of our great Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now Paul would have us to follow him, into war and onward to victory. Stand therefore, and this is the way we must stand.
1. Our Girdle
Truth must be the girdle of our loins. The loins are the seat of all bodily strength. Every soldier must have his belt, or military girdle; without this, he might be mortally wounded.
Š Gospel Truth
Š Inward Truth
Paul here shows us that it is truth, sincerity, guilelessness which gives the believer strength.
Š God desires truth, that is sincerity, in the inward parts. This was Paul’s testimony, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have had our conversation in the world” (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Š Some understand this to be the doctrinal truth of the gospel. It holds us strong and protects us as a girdle does the loins. The gospel of Christ restrains from evil, as a girdle holds in the body.
2. Our Breastplate
Righteousness must be our breastplate. The breastplate secures the vital organs of the body. It shelters the heart. This is the righteousness of Christ. It repels the accusations of Satan, and secures us from wrath and condemnation.
3. Our Boots
Our feet must be secured with the gospel of peace. The shoes of the Roman soldier were boots of brass to protect his legs and feet from the traps of his enemies. The preparation of the gospel implies the firm and solid knowledge of the gospel. This is the ground upon which the soldier of Christ must stand. This is the gospel of peace.
Š It declares the peace that is made by the blood of Christ.
Š It brings peace between God and man.
Š It makes men peaceable.
Š It gives peace to distressed minds.
Let us stand firmly upon the truth of the gospel, and the deceptive snares of Satan shall do us no harm.
4. Our Shield
We must take the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. The shield is that protection which the solder has to repel the spears and arrows of his enemies. And faith must be our shield. Satan, that wicked one, assails us with the fiery darts of temptations and the threatenings the law. But faith is our shield on every side.
Š It is the evidence of things hope for.
Š It is faith that lays hold of the benefits and blessings of redemption.
Perhaps it is best to interpret this of Christ, the object of faith. He is a Shield round about us.
5. Our Helmet
No soldier would go to war without protection for his head. Let us therefore take the helmet of salvation. A helmet holds the head erect and protects it. That is what God’s salvation does for us. Paul calls it the hope of salvation in another place. Satan would tempt us to despair, but a good hope gives us courage, confidence, and joy.
6. Our Sword
If we would invade and conquer the kingdom of darkness, we must carry with us the sword of the Spirit. The Word of God is compared to a sword, because it has two edges, the law and the gospel. The law slays. The gospel gives life. This Book is the sword of the Spirit. He is the author of it. And he alone can make it powerful.
Our Steadfast Attitude
4th — In verses 18-20 we see what our steadfast attitude must be, as we wage war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. — “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (vv. 18-20).
Since our warfare is not carnal, but spiritual, we must be watchful in prayer.
Š Pray constantly.
Š Pray in the Spirit.
Š Ask for specific things.
Š Pray with perseverance.
Pray for all the saints. We are all soldiers in the same army. We are all members of the same body.
Pray for those you depend upon to minister to your soul’s needs by the Word of God.
Š Pray that God will give us doors of utterance.
Š Pray that he will give us boldness.
Š Pray that the gospel may be effectual.
“Rouse, then, soldiers, rally round the banner!
Ready, steady — Pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout aloud Hosanna!
Christ is Captain of the mighty throng!”