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Sermon #79 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: “Be Strong in the Lord”
Text: Ephesians 6:10-12
Subject: The Believer’s Union with Christ
Date: Tuesday Evening — September 19, 2017
Readings: Lindsay Campbell and Allen Kibby
You will find my text in Ephesians 6, verse 10. — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Here the apostle gives a stirring and powerful call to war.
First, Paul arouses our hearts to courage, looking to Christ for strength. — “Be strong in the Lord.” He would rally our hearts with fortitude beneath the banner of our great Captain, lest we should be put to flight by some sudden alarm or fear of danger.
It is as if Paul were saying, “Trembling souls, fainting hearts, though your enemies are strong, numerous, well appointed, and skillful, do not allow them to shake your courage.” — “Be strong in the Lord.” It is true, we are weak and few, but the Lord God is our strength. The weight of the battle lies on his shoulders, not upon our skill or strength. Pithy old John Trapp, commenting on this admonition, wrote, “Get God’s arm, wherewith to wield his armor, and then you may do anything.”
Then, Paul comforts our hearts by assuring us that the ground of our courage is the almighty power of Christ, our mighty Captain. Paul is writing to you and me, God’s saints in this world, who are always in the heat of battle. He urges us to begin in the Lord that we may end in the Lord. There never has been a child of God who was conquered and defeated by the powers of darkness, and never can be! — “The armies in heaven,” Robert Hawker reminds us, “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).”
It is important for us to realize the relation of this challenge to the rest of this epistle. Paul’s word “finally” does not imply that he just happened to think of one more word of instruction, which he would add to the rest. No.
This is the apostle’s final word regarding all that he has written in these six chapters of Inspiration. This is the conclusion that he draws from all that has been said up to this point. He had carefully described the blessed and eternal truths of the gospel God has revealed in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Š Divine Election!
Š Sovereign Predestination!
Š Covenant Grace!
Š Eternal Salvation!
Š Effectual Redemption!
Š Forgiveness of Sin by the Blood of the Cross!
Š Christ’s Suretyship!
Š Holy Spirit Regeneration!
Š God’s Gift and Operation of Faith!
Š The Sealing and Sure Preservation of God’s Elect!
Š Christ’s Dominion as Lord and King!
Then he made specific application of all these gospel revelations to our lives as the saints of God in this world.
Š Honor God in your day by day life. Give no “occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:13).
Š Honor God in his house, as the church and temple of God. — In Doctrine! — In Order! — In Ordinances! — In Attitude!
Š Honor God in all things relating to one another. — Forgiving! — Forbearing! — Overlooking! — Loving!
Š Honor God in your home!
Š Honor God in your business!
Š Be followers of God, imitators of Christ, walking in the Spirit! — “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
In this Epistle God the Holy Ghost has given each of us instruction concerning how to fill our station in life. There is a word for pastors and sheep, a word for husbands and wives, a word for parents and children, and there is a word for servants and masters.
Like a wise general, Paul has arranged his soldiers and drawn them in ranks, appointing to each one his duty. Now he prepares us for battle. Paul was an experienced soldier. He knew what snares and traps there are to overcome. He knew what enemies have to be faced. He knew that the Christian’s life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and Satan. He knew that we would be tempted to give up the fight in the face of our formidable enemies. How weary conflict makes men who love peace! It wears you down. It works on you mind, takes its toll on your body, and weighs heavily upon your heart. Therefore, Paul concludes his Epistle with this solemn and stirring challenge: — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
Count the Cost
Let all who would make a profession of faith in Christ, set down first and count the cost. You must take up your cross and follow Christ into war. Christ is Captain of a mighty army. Children of God, we are soldiers enlisted beneath the banner of the cross. The fight is severe. The battle is long. The cause is noble. And the victory is sure. Let us, therefore, “be strong in the Lord.”
Remember Paul’s circumstances at the time this letter was written. He was now a prisoner in Rome. But how does this great man spend his time in prison? We do not find that he wrote one invective against those wicked men whose malice had placed him in bonds. Neither did he spend his time giving political advice. He said not a word about governmental conspiracies or secret societies. This man did not even spend his time devising ways to obtain his freedom. This faithful man was concerned only for Christ’s glory, his gospel, and his people. The great care of his heart was for the churches of Christ. He knew that soon he must die. Therefore, like a faithful steward, he labored to set the house of God in order before his departure. We read of no dispatches to court to procure his freedom. But he wrote many letters to the churches to help them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. — Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are all Prison Epistles, letters written by Paul when he was a prisoner at Rome.
Paul was no sooner cast into prison than he began to preach. Even in prison he attacked the gates of hell and poor sinners were brought out of the bondage of Satan’s prison. How good it was for Onesimus that Paul was sent to jail. When God sent Paul to Rome it was on an errand of mercy for Onesimus and many others. It looked as though Satan has won the day. Paul was in prison at last. But there he does his greatest work to destroy the kingdom of darkness. He had left the Ephesian elders at Miletus, never to see their faces again. But, before his departure to glory, he takes time to leave one last word with them, by which he would strengthen their hands to carry on this holy war. — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
Proposition: It is necessary for the saints of God to be strong and resolute in the faith of the gospel, and in faithfulness to Christ, relying entirely upon the strength of the Lord.
Divisions: We will look at this text in three ways.
1. The Exhortation to Strength.
2. The Exhibition of Strength.
3. The Excitement to Strength.
1st — I want us to look at the text as it is an exhortation to strength. Here is the inspired exhortation to strength. — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
It is true that the saints of God are to be humble, self-denying, submissive, and patient. But we are not to be effeminate, timid, or cowardly. Believers are to show firmness of mind, resolution, courage, strength, and fortitude in all things. — “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Believers, above all men, must be men. — “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, and be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Charles Buck gives an excellent definition of the strength the apostle here calls for. — “Christian fortitude may be defined as that state of mind which arises from truth and confidence in God; enables us to stand collected and undisturbed in the time of difficulty and danger; and is an equal distance from rashness on the one hand, and pusillanimity (cowardliness) on the other.”
The strength Paul is talking about arises from faith in Christ. — “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6).
Š Those who live by faith must be strong and courageous concerning those things which are obviously the will of God.
Š Let the child of God be convinced of the will of God, and he will be strong in submitting to it, strong in obeying it, and strong in performing it.
If you and I would obey our God, we must be strong, courageous, resolute, determined, and unshaken. I am not talking about strength we can muster. I’m talking about strength that only God can give. It is his strength. And it is to be had only by faith in Christ, faith that he alone gives and sustains. Yet, it is our responsibility to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” We must never rely upon the resources of nature, but upon the power of his might, the vigor of life derived from his omnipotence and grace.
Š Strong for service!
Š Strong for suffering!
Š Strong for fighting!
“Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not” (Isaiah 35:3-4). — “Be strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 1:6-7).
Š When our duty is set before us, we must undertake it in the strength of his grace with courage and determination for the honor of God, depending upon him who is our Strength.
Š If God has called us to a work, he will carry us through it.
Š But we must be strong, courageous, lest we be turned aside from God’s revealed will. We must face opposition, even danger, with confident courage and strength. We must meet every difficulty “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
“It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully, than to command an army of men, to be a Christian than a captain.” — William Gurnall
Above all men, you and I who are God’s must be strong, courageous, resolute, determined, and unshaken in the face of adversity. Let me give you some reasons for this great necessity.
1. Our responsibilities are such that it requires great boldness of faith and confidence in Christ to perform them.
Š The believer must wage a constant and irreconcilable war against the lusts of his own heart.
Š The believer must walk in a manner that is singularly opposed to this world. In this present evil world, we must live soberly, righteously, and godly, adorning the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. — Like Lot in Sodom! — Like Daniel in Babylon!
Š The child of God must persevere in his course to heaven, despite every difficulty, unto the end of his life.
2. Certainly, when we consider our own weakness, we must recognize that it takes great strength and courage to walk before God. The difficulties and dangers that lie in our way are more than we could bear in ourselves.
Š There are many things to discourage us: — Our Trials — Our Temptations — Our Afflictions.
Š There are many things to alarm us. We have seen many better than ourselves fall and turn from Zion’s way.
3. More than that, our enemies are many, and they are strong.
Š The wicked of this world mock, deride, and abuse us.
Š Our own flesh is opposed to us.
Š Satan constantly roars against us.
Truly, the righteous must be as bold as lions. We have great need of courage and strength. Let us take this exhortation to heart: — “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” Be courageous to do the will of God.
Š Fortify your heart with the love of God.
Š Establish your heart with the promises of the gospel.
Š Strengthen your heart with the very power of God.
For the glory and honor of God, let us take courage and be strong.
2nd — Now let’s consider the exhibition of strength. We are told to be strong, that is to be strong and exhibit strength. We must be strong in the Lord ourselves. And we must exhibit strength for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ. But how and when are we to exhibit this God-given strength and courage? Here are a few of the things that require great strength, courage, resolution, confidence, dogged determination, on our part.
It takes great strength of heart for a believer to bear all his afflictions with patience and firmness of heart. — “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10).
Š When God sends us the severe trials by his providence, we must be firm in faith, knowing that he can do no wrong. — Job! — Abraham! — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
Š When we are required to suffer at the hands of men for Christ’s sake, we must gladly bear our reproach.
(1 Peter 2:19-25) “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. (20) For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. (21) For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (24) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (25) For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
Great strength is required for God’s saints to maintain the spiritual warfare in which we are constantly engaged.
Š Those who preach the gospel must be men of indominable strength, courage, and boldness. They must declare the truth of God whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.
Š The saints of God are at war in this world; and we must face our enemies (“Principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places” — Ungodly, hell-inspired religion and doctrine) with unbending strength.
The last enemy that we must face, death, is made to bow before the God-given strength of faith in Christ.
Š We face death with confidence, because Christ has abolished its power.
Š We face death with courage, because it is for us the door of hope.
Š Death brings us into greater discoveries of the love of Christ and the glory of God.
Š Death will be only once. For us it will be the birthday of an eternal world of bliss.
Š God’s saints are calm and bold, confident and strong in the hour of death, because of the promise of resurrection glory. Hear what God says about his people and their enemies in the hour of death…
(Exodus 15:16) “Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.”
3rd — In the last place, let me show you that there are many things that may serve as excitements to strength for God’s elect. Having exhorted us to a be strong, to be resolute, determined, and courageous in our warfare, the apostle is careful to show us that our only hope of strength is in the Lord. — “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
Be strong, because God has promised you his own almighty strength. It is true, we have no strength of our own. But the Lord God is our strength. — “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee by the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). One of the names of our God is “the Strength of Israel” (1 Samuel 15:29).
Š We have no strength of our own to pray; but God will strengthen us by his Spirit (Romans 8:26).
Š We have no strength in our trials; but our God gives us the strength of his presence to overcome them (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 13:5-6).
Š We who preach the gospel have no strength to serve God aright; but our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 2:16-17; 3:4-5).
Š We are commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; but we have no strength of our own. — “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
Š It is true, we must persevere in the faith; but we are too weak, therefore we are kept by the power of God through faith (John 10:28-30, 17:11).
How does God strengthen us?
Š He strengthens us by his power.
Š He strengthens us by his grace.
Š He strengthens us by his Spirit.
Š He strengthens us by his presence.
Š He strengthens us by his Word.
Š He strengthens us by his people.
Let us rejoice to say of Christ our God — “Thou art my Strength and my Salvation.”
Š Christ is our Strength for righteousness.
Š Christ is our Strength for redemption.
Š Christ is our Strength for peace.
Š Christ is our Strength for sanctification.
Š Christ is our Strength for protection.
Š Christ is our Strength for preservation.
Š Christ is our Strength for obedience.
Š Christ is our Strength in judgment.
(Psalm 66:8-9) “O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard: (9) Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.”
It is Christ who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. And to him alone we must look for strength.
Oh, may God be pleased to make us strong in our day, as he did those great heroes of faith in the days of old! Oh, my God, make me, this weak, sinful man “strong in the Lord and in the power of your might” for Christ’s sake!
Š Like Enoch to walk with God.
Š Like Noah to obey God.
Š Like Abraham to follow God.
Š Like Moses to lead God’s people.
Š Like Joshua to serve God.
Š Like Elijah to defend God’s honor.
Š Like David to fight God’s enemies.
Š Like Daniel to dare to have a purpose true and dare to make it known.
Š Like Peter to preach the gospel.
Š Like Paul to count nothing dear but the honor and will of God (Acts 20:24).
Š Like Latimer, Ridley, and Bradford to be strong in the love of Christ unto the end.
Š Like Christ himself to serve God at any cost. — Strong to do his will. — Strong to seek his honor. — Strong to serve his kingdom (Isaiah 50:5-7).
One last thing that surely must excite us to courage is this: — We are sure of victory! O children of God, rejoice! We are more than conquerors through him that loved us and gave himself for us.
Š Christ made an end of sin.
Š Christ overcame the world.
Š Christ has conquered Satan.
Š And …
(Romans 16:20) “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
“Let Zion’s soldiers muster, round
The cross, to meet the foe;
The trumpet gives a certain sound,
Go on, to conquer go!
The trumpet says the Lord is nigh,
Your strength in Him is found;
He reigns victorious on high,
This is the certain sound.
The trumpet says the victory’s won,
For all the chosen race,
Go on to glory and renown,
And shout victorious grace!”
— Joseph Irons
(Romans 16:20) “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”