Armour of God: Stand firm, Eph 6:10-13

1.  Introduction (205)

This morning we are starting a new sermon series in the book of Ephesians, specifically looking at part of chapter 6 where Paul describe the “Armour of God”.  Paul calls all Christians to put on all six pieces of the armour so that we can stand firm.  The offer that God makes and the promise that we can stand firm should resonate with us as Christians.  For who of us does not feel acutely the power of temptation, the allure of sin, the flood of evil influence in their life every day?

Read Ephesians 6:10-20.  This sermon will be an introductory one, and we will spend a good few weeks learning from what Paul wrote as he was carried along by the Spirit.  As we stat this passage answers three questions: (1) Who do we fight against? (2) How do they operate? (3) How should then fight?

1.  Who do we fight against?

In the passage Paul identifies the devil as our opponent (11).  He also notes that we do NOT battle against flesh and blood but against rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  He does not mean that evil is not present in and through human beings (not against flesh and blood) – often it does come to us through humans: everything from war to sexism, from murder to an unkind word.  But he is telling us that there is an unseen spiritual world: a good God and his angels and an evil devil and his fallen angels (called demons).

Where do Satan and the demons come from?    Peter writes in his second letter that, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment (2Peter 2:4).  Demons are evil angels who sinned against God and who now continually work evil in the world[1].  Satan is the chief among the demons.  We first meet his In Genesis 3 when he tempts Adam and Eve.  Creation was very good at the end of day 6.  So sometime between Genesis 1 and 3 Satan fell with the rest of the angels who followed him.

It is possible that Isaiah 14:12-15 describes how he was overtaken by pride and sought to make himself “like the Most High”.  This means that God created to types of beings who had free will – humans and angels.  When these angels sinned they were ejected from heaven and became a force who oppose God and try to destroy his good work on earth.  However, demons are limited in power and knowledge and are ultimately under the control of God.

A.   A closed natural system

Those of us who have been influenced by a western cultural mindset battle with a Biblical understanding of evil.  We have been schooled in an explanation of reality that says everything has a natural (not supernatural reason or explanation): science, psychology (heads and hearts of individual mankind), sociology (structures of society), reason can explain evil.  As a result, our fight is against big business, poor policing, a weak justice department, corruption in government, pharmaceutical companies, political theories (apartheid), capitalism or communism

But a closed natural system simply doesn’t explain the perverse, out-of-control, pervasive nature of the evil we see around us.  The idea is that the ‘primitive’ people of Africa and Asia need to explain evil with the idea of supernatural forces of darkness.  In the middle of the 20th century one of the most advanced nations on earth systematically murdered upward of 6 million Jews in cold blood and killed millions of others fighting the Second World War.  All the world’s best science, psychology and sociology can’t explain the depth of that depravity.

I am not at all against psychology, sociology or science.  There are many natural factors that aggravate and exacerbate the innate self-centeredness, self-absorption, self-delusion and radical insecurity in humans.  But it is not sufficient to understand the severity and penetration of evil in this world.  We are in over our head.  A natural explanation is not sufficient.

2.  How do they operate?

The word for devil in verse 11 means ‘false accuser’ or ‘slanderer’; and he has schemes which ‘methods’ or ‘strategies’ of deceit, craft, trickery.  This aligns with what Jesus said of the Devil in John 8, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Paul will go on to say:

  • “that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2Corinthians 2:11 )
  • But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2Corinthians 11:3)
  • And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2Corinthians 11:14)

I want to look at two strategies that Satan uses:

B.   The devil: all or nothing

Martin Luther once compared the Christian to a drunk man trying to ride a horse. It’s a comically apt comparison. This man scrambles up one side of the horse, and promptly falls off the opposite side. So then he climbs up from that side, and falls right off the other. Luther meant to say that as Christians, we are prone to extremes. When we are not veering too far in one direction, we are swerving too far in the other.[2]

If you look at the passage Paul doesn’t want up to overestimate or underestimate the power of Satan and his demons.  We should not underestimate: The word that Paul uses for struggle is wrestle = hand to hand, on the ground combat.  That is a desperate struggle for life (vs sword or bow and arrow = war).  And then look at the words that Paul uses to describe the formidable nature of our foe: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms!

Nor should we overestimate: Paul encourages us to “be strong on the Lord”.  He is going to explain to that God has given us armour so that we can stand despite the strength of the enemy.

C.S. Lewis helps us here:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased with both errors, and hail the materialist and the magician with the same delight. (Screwtape letters, p. 3)

Both overestimation and underestimation are fatal: everything is the devil, nothing is the devil.  Many Christians see a devil behind every door knob, they want to pray a demon or a spirit out of every person or situation where they see sin.  Take a bad temper or anger or depression as an example: what about your upbringing, what about the possibility of a chemical imbalance or unforgiveness?  Or, as Hansie Cronje infamously said, “the devil made me do it”.

On the other hand (and this is more the temptation of the westernised mind) we dismiss the possibility of the devil and his evil entirely.  We ignore his schemes and strive to live righteously in our strength alone.   Satan is happy with either excess: nothing is from the devil or everything is from the devil

3.  Strong in the Lord

The enemy we face is formidable; we are weak; God alone is our strength.  We do not have to stand up to Satan and try to beat Him.  We will never be able to do that!  He is more powerful than us!  But rather we can be ‘strong in the Lord and in His might power’.  A better way to translate that verse would be ‘be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might’.

If you think of a body-builder: ‘Might’ is his inherent muscular power – he has might because of all his big muscles, potential.  ‘Strength’ is his might in operation.  Might is potential, strength is manifestation!  The point: the mighty power of God is available to us.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at offered to us.  How, how are the offered to us – verse 11 – the armour of God.  The armour is the divine means through which God works in our lives to show himself strong.

How is the might of his strength shown?

  1. The Armour: there are six pieces and all are spiritual: truth, righteousness, readiness of the gospel, faith, salvation, word of God
  2. Cross: Christ disarmed, triumphing over Satan at the cross. What looked like victory is defeat.  Where is you victory oh sin, where is you sting death?
  3. Revelation: Ben asked about Satan’s power. Satan is utterly and easily crushed by God in the end.

Questions

 

  1. What do we learn about Satan and his fall from Isaiah 14:12-15 and 2Peter 2:4
  2. To what extent have you been influenced by the “westernised” mind set of a closed natural system (i.e. all can be explained by science, psychology, sociology, and reason)?
  3. S. Lewis wrote:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased with both errors, and hail the materialist and the magician with the same delight. (Screwtape letters, p. 3)

Do you agree or disagree?

  1. What does the phrase ‘be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might’ mean and how does it help you in your Christian life?
  2. In what areas of your life do you need the help of God to “stand”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: an introduction to Biblical Doctrine

[2] https://www.challies.com/articles/how-to-know-how-satan-is-tempting-you/