We’ve arrived at the end of Ephesians. Paul has described in chapters 1-3 what God has done for us (by grace we have been saved through faith) and, in response, what our walk with God should look like in chapters 4-6 (be imitators of Christ who saved us). Paul has used the term “walk” throughout Ephesians to describe our behavior towards our God:
Do not walk as you once walked according to the world (2:1-2)
Walk in the good works that Christ Jesus created for us (2:10)
Walk in a manner worthy of our calling (4:1)
Do not walk as unbelievers do in the futility of their minds (4:17)
Walk in sacrificial love (5:2)
Walk as children of light (5:8)
Walk in wisdom (5:15)
But now Paul tells us to stand. Stand against the schemes of the devil. Stand clothed in the full armor of God.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
At the end of Ephesians, Paul gives us the command to be strong. But we need not be strong only in our own human strength. No, Christ died for us on the cross, winning the battle for us. We simply need to be strong in Him and in His strength. Our own strength is far too weak to stand up to the devil alone. Many have tried. I know I’ve tried when I was a new believer full of pride and energy. But this is how the devil separates the sheep from their shepherd. We may think we can go it alone but when we do we leave behind our greatest power, that of our Lord.
11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Paul doesn’t just command us to be strong. He also provides the “how”…the armor of God, which we already have available to us. This was bequeathed to us at our salvation. We simply need to “put it on” as Paul commands. Putting on this armor is akin to clothing ourselves in armor. We should be wearing this armor all the time to keep ourselves protected from the devil’s schemes.
Notice here in verse 11 Paul tells us to stand firm. This is the first of three times he will repeat this word. Paul tells us that clothed in the full armor of God (yes, full not partial) we will be able to stand unmoved, enduring the devil’s schemes with courage. This word “schemes” gives us a clue as to how the devil will attack us. Many times we think of the devil attacking us head on, but “schemes” implies a more subtle and deceitful set of tactics. You see, the devil knows that he cannot stand against the full armor of God because as we clothe ourselves in this armor we are essentially wearing the might of our Lord. Knowing this, the devil will use subterfuge, deceit, trickery, and cunning when he attacks. It may be so subtle that we don’t even know we’re in his trap until it’s sprung. This is why we always need to be clothed in God’s spiritual armor…not just some of the armor but all of it, lest we leave something unprotected.
Now it’s interesting that Paul uses the word “schemes” in verse 11 because in verse 12 he says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Now this word “struggle” is sometimes translated as “wrestle” and I have a fond affinity for this word as I wrestled in high school, which led to other, well, shall we say wrestling-esque sports. Having spent some time on the mat, I can say with experiential knowledge that scheming and wrestling go hand-in-hand. As an example, say I’m wrestling an opponent and want to shoot in and take their legs out from under them. Well, I’m certainly not going to telegraph my intentions to do so. Rather, I’m going to snap their head down or drag an arm, anything to get them thinking about something other than their legs. Then when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll make my move.
This is how the devil operates. We’re in a sort of spiritual wrestling match with deception and trickery of all sorts designed to get our eyes off of what matters (Christ and His word) and onto something else, anything else. And who are we wresting:
All of which the devil can orchestrate against us.
13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
For this very reason that I just stated above, we need to clothe ourselves with the full armor of God. This allows us to resist the devil and his schemes. This allows us to stand firm. Again Paul uses the word “stand” as he did in verse 11. The full armor of God allows us to not only resist evil but to also stand firmly planted unable to be moved by evil.
14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Again Paul says to stand firm. This time the verb “stand” is in the imperative (a command for us). But how do we stand firm against evil. Well, the following participle verbs define how we are to do this:
Having put on…
A believer already has the armor of God. Here, Paul is showing us through these participle verbs that even though at the time of salvation we have these implements. It is our responsibility to put on the armor of God each and every day.
Note that Paul changes the verb in verse 17 to “take”, which is a primary verb (and not a participle). I have honestly struggled with this change of verb type. It’s not overtly obvious why he does this and most commentaries I’ve consulted just give this change in verb usage a passing treatment that leaves me wanting more.
Like any good soldier we are to learn how to effectively use God’s armor. This is especially important with the sword (the word of God). The sword is the only part of the full armor described here that can be used as both an offensive and a defensive weapon. We wield God’s word to both defend our faith to others as well as to tear down strongholds of the devil. Maybe this is why Paul choose to change the verb type here (i.e., “take”) when speaking of the helmet and sword. We must actively “take up” the word of God, meaning that we are to study and use the word of God in the same way a soldier would train how to use their sword in combat…practicing with their sword until they could wield it effectively. Likewise, we cannot wield the sword of the Spirit effectively against evil unless we study it deeply and practice using it.
It is of great importance that we understand that the devil can use this sword against us. Yes, the devil can use God’s word against us…sometimes with great affect. He has studied the word of God and can use various techniques such as taking verses out of context or casting doubt (e.g., remember in the garden when the devil said, “Did God really say…” to Eve). And of course we can’t forget when the devil tempted Christ in the wilderness for the third time in Luke 4:9–13:
9And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 12And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Here, the devil quotes scripture as “for it is written…”. So take great care in understanding that the word of God can be used against us by the devil. We only use the word of God effectively when we know how to use it both defensively and offensively.
One last thing to think about with the armor of God is that clothing yourself in God’s armor is essentially clothing yourself in Jesus. This idea is brought out in Romans 13:11–14:
11Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
Put on the armor of light; put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is our defense and His word, wielded correctly, is how we defeat evil and protect ourselves.
18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
These verses speak of the perseverance of prayer. This seems like an abrupt change from the armor of God to prayer to God; however, these two things go hand-in-hand. The verb “pray” in verse 18 is yet another participle that ties back to “standing firm” in verse 14. So here Paul is giving us yet another tool in our arsenal with which to stand firm. That is fervent prayer. Also critical for this prayer to be effective is to be praying at all times “in the Spirit”. We should always pray in submission to the Spirit’s will knowing that the Spirit’s will is also God’s will. As long as our prayers are in-line with God’s will, He will hear our supplications.
In verses 19-20 Paul asks for prayer on his behalf according to the prayer he defines in verse 18. Notice that he doesn’t ask for prayer for release from prison or for personal needs; rather, he asks that he is able to boldly continue his mission to preach the gospel to the lost. Jesus has given Paul a duty to act as His ambassador on earth. So, whether Paul is free or in chains, he must continue his duty to not only preach but to preach boldly. Boldness in preaching was very important to Paul as he mentions it twice, once in verse 19 and again in verse 20.
21But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
This is the closing of the letter to the Ephesians. More appropriately, it is the closing of the letter to all churches. Paul is sending out Tychicus as a messenger to not only tell of Paul’s circumstances but also to comfort the church body. This is a great segue into the next book series, Philippians. In Philippians we will see God, through Paul, masterfully evoke joy in the church body, not in spite of sufferings (both Paul’s and the churches’) but through sufferings.
Paul ends Ephesians with a blessing of peace, love, and grace to all believers in the church. While love is the greatest of all these, I believe Paul wanted to emphasize peace and grace since the point of Ephesians was to teach us how to walk in unity in the Lord. Both our peace and grace are necessary to this end. Nevertheless, love is above all these. Without love our peace and grace are impotent.