On September 30, 1938, Chamberlain [that’s Neville not Wilt] returned from Munich having granted Hitler virtually all his demands including the right to annex the Sudetenland, a large chunk of Czechoslovakia. As he walked on the tarmac he waved the agreement in the air and proclaimed “peace with honour,” and spoke of “peace in our time.” Six months later, the aggressive Hitler had taken the whole of Czechoslovakia and was threatening Poland and the most costly war in human history was about to begin.
One cannot deny conflict. It is in our own souls, our families, in our society and in our world. One cannot deny spiritual conflict either, the war in the heavenlies. Is not this the great perversion of the social gospel, liberation theology and liberal Christianity in general – all religions really say the same thing, so there is no conflict, and if we could just realize this we would have peace in the world. This sounds like one of the wily methods of the devil, spinning a gray web of confusion out of the black and white threads of truth and error.
There is great conflict. Above and beyond the culture wars and gender wars are the Spirit Wars. In this ultimate struggle for mastery, the pagan Goddess Sophia seeks to usurp the place of God the Creator and Redeemer. This is not colorful hyperbole. The conflict is real, the protagonists irreconcilable. She is the very opposite of the God of the Bible. She represents monism as God represents theism. Her all-encompassing, encircling womb gives expression to the pagan notion of the divinity of all things, while her name, Sophia, vaunts the human claim to wisdom. With exquisite subtlety she seduces the modern mind by claiming to be tolerant and non-dogmatic. In fact she is neither for behind the velvet glove is an iron fist; behind the neo-pagan rejection of doctrine is a firm commitment to a non-negotiable dogmatic belief in the unity of all things to which humanity and the planet are ineluctably headed; and behind the tolerance is a global system of unimaginable totalitarian possibilities which cannot tolerate the discordant voice of biblical theism.
Utopian thinking and the pagan spiritual experience on which it is based, obliterates the truth that there is a cosmic conflict, that there is a deep antithesis between the Law of God and the ways of fallen man. The new eschatology sees history moving to its appointed evolutionary rendezvous with human liberation and “redemption” Aided by a leap in consciousness, history will evolve from its present immaturity into a new world order of peace and love. In such a utopia, preaching the Christian gospel of God’s love and human sin will surely one day be prohibited speech.
1. THE PANORAMA of the War: The Heavenly Perspective
“For the rest” – typical concluding remark [having developed all the previous doctrine, now, a concluding finale Paul describes the Christian life struggle]
What we need is a panoramic perspective on the true nature of the conflict.
Elijah sees the hosts of heaven far outnumbering the earthly enemy cp Christ seated at the right hand of God far above all principalities
BIG PICTURE CHRISTIAN LIVING
Lynn and Terry of an Evangelical church in Mississippi had been missionaries for sixteen years but their marriage was in a mess. Lynn was depressed as she considered divorce, even suicide. Then one day as she read Ephesians 2:6 the Lord enabled her to see from the perspective of being seated with Christ in the heavenlies. “All my problems from that vista looked so silly and puny, I burst out laughing, and from that day the problems left me.”
“rulers” – see 1:21 where Christ is seated, in the heavenlies, a the right hand of God, who created all things [3:9] above all rulers and authorities and powers and lordships and every name that can be named – above all conceivable rivals –
the status of these rulers is similar to “the God of this world” – John 12:31, 14:30 and 16:11) cp Matt 4:8 where all the kingdoms of this world are subject to Satan ct God who is “the Lord of Heaven and earth];
– it is to these powers and authorities that the mystery of the plan/wisdom of God is made known/published through/by the Church which is also seated in these highest heavens in Christ (2:6) cp Job and Rev 12:7 – Michael waging war in heaven
1:3 – “blessed by God who has blessed us with all spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm” – so Eph begins with heavenly blessings, shows Christ in the heavenlies, teaches that we are in the heavenlies, and finishes with the church wrestling in the heavenly sphere.
Especially in the “evil day” do we need the big picture. When social supports are pulled away, and the church can no longer automatically assume that the civil government will endorse its agenda, Christians need a bigger picture than the one of Christian West/North America that has sustained us in the past. Many in Israel believed the same thing. It could never happen here in fortress Zion, but the word came to Ezekiel: “Son of Man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it…even if…Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness” [Ezek 14:12-14]. God gives Ezek a vision of the Temple. At the entrance to the altar is erected a detestable idol; in one of the inner rooms, the seventy elders are surrounded by pictures of detestable animals and crawling things, praying to idols; at the North gate a woman is worshipping Tammuz; and before the altar twenty five men (priests) with their backs to the altar, facing East, worshipping the Sun.
The war is out in the open. Hear this recent call to battle by Jewish feminist Naomi Goldenberg:
The feminist movement in Western culture is engaged in the slow execution of Christ and Jahweh…the gods who have stolen our identity. We women are going to bring an end to God.”
Witchcraft is on the rise, American Indian animism is promoted by Disney for our children, sexual perversion is promoted by government agencies, – the NEA is promoting the homosexual life-style in the classroom under the guise of “equal opportunity.” The guidelines propose the elimination of the term “marriage’ in favor of “permanent relationship” and “partner” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” and the use of homosexual adults as resources in the classroom. Traditional male/female roles are being undermined everywhere, in the schools, on the playing fields and in the churches, and a new Eastern spirituality has invaded large sections of the mainline denominations. This is an evil day, and it will get worse.
So Christ is in the heavens, believers are seated with Christ in the heavens, the principalities are in the heavens, the struggle is a heavenly struggle, and the public demonstration of God’s wisdom takes place in the heavens.
Is not this Paul’s whole intention in writing Ephesians, to bring Christians into this heavenly perspective, he who was admitted to the third heaven, to the very council of God, like the prophets of old. You need to listen to what Paul is saying to you.
2. The POWERS Involved in the War
Many people ask me if I believe in the existence of a conspiracy to bring down Christian America. Some point to the Foreign Relations Committee and the Trilateral Commission, the secretive societies like the Masons: one could add the incredible possibilities of networking with the advent of on-line communications, the growing consolidation of the means of communication in the hands of so few so committed, like Michael Eisner and Ted Turner to a pagan, anti-Christian agenda – who ever expected that Big Brother might have the smiling face of the adorable Mickey Mouse – but really, the global revival of paganism at the end of our so sophisticated twentieth century goes far beyond the possibilities of any human coalition. The Bible’s answer is much more satisfying – we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies, against the Devil and all his multi-faceted hordes.
A year ago my wife had our homeschoolers learn by heart the epistle to the Ephesians. I do not know how much has stuck but Rebecca was impressed by the number of times Paul used the words power and might- for there is another super-power, the all-conquering power of God.
There are finally only two powers – the perversions of paganism and the truth of God, Christ and Belial, theism and monism: as Kuyper said in 1898 in the Stone lectures at Princeton:
Do not forget that the fundamental contrast has always been, is still and always will be until the end: Christianity and Paganism, the idols and the living God.
The antithesis needs to be heard in our pluralistic world
3. The PLACE of the War
One can feel very insignificant in the light of these massive powers – and lulled to sleep by the seemingly routine character of life = dodo – metro – boulot – metro – dodo. This is part of the fundamental human frustration for we all want to be superstars, as big as Michael Jordan – and oddly such a desire is not really far off the mark – for the place of the great cosmic war is here, and involves us mere flesh and blood human beings. So if being a Michael Jordan is not on, try being an eschatological Job. Job, the righteous man, is the earthly locus where the truth of God and the lie of the devil is tested. Finding life in outer-space will not change the cosmic significance of human life on planet earth. Present evolutionary theory that looks to the discovery of higher life forms or of our own sudden evolution to planetary unity in the very spiritual age of Aquarius, seeks to deflect attention from the crucial and decisive character of our present ethical and spiritual decisions – hic et nunc. Right now counts for ever.
4. The PRESENT PURSUIT of the War
The cosmic significance of our lives is real because the present pursuit of the war, where the real conflict is taking place, is our human struggle with the devil and his wiles, and the warding off of his fiery darts. The bombings in Bosnia and the massacres in Ruanda are loud explosions of a much quieter war that is carried on in whispers every moment of every day, as the Devil plies his honed-down art of temptation on flesh and blood human beings – he tempts us with gross sin and subtle fears, with pride and with unfaithfulness, with suggestions of our own autonomy from the God who made us – as he did so cleverly with Eve.
I preached once in the Champagne area of South West France. The Second world War was fought at various levels, and one was the war for cognac.
They were able to resist even though the enemy occupied their very home.
The present pursuit of the War is as close to home as it gets
BUT TEMPTATION IS NOT A SIN – it is where the real spiritual battle is joined. Paul was tempted to not speak out, and so he asks the Ephesians to pray that he might speak out as he should; Jesus was tempted in all points like we are without sinning. Being tempted is not sinning. Giving in to temptation is: resisting the temptation is a victory in battle that will one day win the whole ball of wax. This is not just theory. Think about your own life now. Think about the temptations you are now facing. They are, like physical pain highlighting sickness, flashing lights pointing up where the battle front is for you. How will you deal with the situation?
When Jesus came out of the wilderness weak and worn from forty days without food, though no one knew it, he had just won the greatest battle of all time against the temptation of the Devil. And the stones that almost got changed into bread would have shouted out if they could, and the trees clapped their hands as this great champion came into Galilee, and because of that victory over temptation, was able to declare: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near: Repent and believe the Gospel.”
5. The PANOPLY of the War
In Greek, the word hopla means “pieces of armor,” whereas panoplia is the full suit. The Christian has full protection. No piece is missing – you are fully protected
Full armor. Put on, says Paul, the full armor of God. – it is the armor of God, not our inherent abilities to ward off the devil and be a successful disciple
– in the sphere of the bowling alley, they provide the shoes and the balls; at Putt Putt, they provide the golf balls and putters – unless you are like me; in the sphere of the heavenly struggle, God provides the materiel. Would you allow your son to play on a football team that did not provide helmets? Only the full equipment will do. The spiritual equipment God provides is both adequate for defence and for offence:
i) Loins protected: When our son was only about six, his soccer coach insisted that six and seven years olds wear athletic supporters! Paul wants Christians to be protected in that vulnerable area of the loins, (osphus – waist, reproductive organs, as in Acts 2:30, Heb 7:5). Especially do we need this protection in our sex-obsessed end of twentieth century image-dominated culture. The sixties turned away from biblical sexuality and proclaimed a new age of sexual freedom. No one ever imagined how dearly we would pay – rampant divorce, the holocaust of abortion and an epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases, including the killer AIDS – and with all this counter evidence such libertinism is being promoted even more as the only way forward. This is the lie. Flesh and blood needs to be protected by the truth. The truth is what the Lord gives through Paul – that incomparable description of marriage in Ephesians 5 as the very bulwark of strength of both the church and society.
ii) Breastplate of righteousness: The heart as the center of our emotions needs the protection of a standard of righteousness. In a culture whose standards are determined by the afternoon and late-night talk shows, and marches forward under the devise – “If it moves, fondle it,” or, “If it feels good, just do it,” our hearts need the protection of God’s righteous standards. Do we teach them to our children, or do we let the media moguls of Hollywood do it?
B. OFFENCE – we should not think of the Christian faith as merely defensive – we will make it through somehow/heads down/slog on. When Jesus came into Galilee he came proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom, and he came in the power of the king.
i) Shoes: These boots are made for walking, sang proto-feminist Nancy Sinatra. Shoes mean movement, and these shoes are to bring to bear the truth of the Gospel. But being so shod means we have the will to do it, the will to move out onto the attack;- v.15 – Italian tanks – these boots are made for walking – not footware for failure – they have Nike on them -gospel sneakers for a speedy offense.
ii) Shield of faith: the answer to the fiery darts of temptation is to repel them with faith, the belief that what God says is true and the determination to act on it.
– Faith is that whole-hearted acceptance of God’s standards as the only shield and stay for our flesh and blood existence;
– faith is the centerpiece which guards our hearts from fear – our hearts are the center of our emotions – when passions, fears, imaginations enflame us identify them as the fiery darts of the devil – guard your heart defensively, by not allowing the fantasy world of satanic scare-tactics take over your being, and positively, the shield has an offensive side, faith.
– the Devil can do nothing against faith – it is the nuclear power of the Christian life.
iii) Helmet of salvation: We need to protect our thinking, but again, the best defence is a good offence. Storing up the truth, meditating on the truth sharpens our intelligence, and will inform our actions.
iv) The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God: How do you use this powerful weapon? If you want to win in golf, you must study the great champions – hence the success of golf magazines – how they manipulate their irons is priceless information. You want to know how to fight this battle, how to use this sharp sword? Look at the great champion Jesus, how he deftly employed the sword of the Spirit in the wilderness against the Devil. At every temptation, Jesus cited Scripture. The Devil misquoted Scripture, Jesus confounded him by quoting it accurately. Imagine the Son of God, with all his innate wisdom, who three times says to the Devil: “It is written.” Luke finishes his account with incredible words: “And the Devil left him.” That old liar slunk away, his tail between his legs, defeated, beaten, overpowered by a holy life in dependence on the word of God. He would come back, but with a serious limp. The truth of Scripture will not come back void – it will prevail!
v) Prayer: To sustain this offence we need prayer. We use the Spirit’s word, but we also pray in the Spirit – A Bridge Too Far – we can get out ahead of ourselves, like the disciples of old, and hear the rebuke of Jesus: This comes only through prayer and fasting.
Prayer is the supply-line of spiritual food and munitions to keep the campaign going – I do not need other Christians: I do not need to go to Church: I can worship God in nature – we avoid the means of grace/the supply line
at all times with all kinds of prayers for all the saints –
all kinds of prayers: individual prayers, family prayers, prayers as a couple, corporate prayers
at all times: at home, at work, at church
all the saints: our wives/husbands, children, friends, church-members and leaders, unsaved friends and workmates
– so our spiritual life is unlimited, total and all-inclusive. Nothing in our lives falls outside the scope of this kind of prayer: nothing is outside the spiritual battle – doing business deals, raising children, going to college, teaching classes, buying stocks, eating, drinking, loving, working out – all these situations are both the theatre of the war, the place where the wiles of the devil are hurled, and the place where those darts are turned back on the devil and our hearts are set on flame for Christ and his saints
– We as a body of believers must come to a very healthy understanding of the spiritual warfare raging around us, the attacks of the devil both external but also internal, and we must pray for one another, and realize that we are in this together.
vi) Bold Speech: – “Combat readiness” is in the news these days. There is one prayer that is singled out for special attention – the precise prayer for the proclamatory mission of the Church in its teaching elders but in all of us generally as we are called to speak: the unleashing of the word of the Gospel so that the mystery might be made known, and that boldness might be granted in all circumstances, even ones like being in jail, chained to a Roman soldier – what a captive audience! the prayer for the truth to be heard in the world, the prayer for evangelism with boldness.
We pray for bold speech to use the sword of the Spirit. This was Paul’s request. He did not ask for release from prison, for a boat on a lake. He asked for boldness to speak. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has studied homosexuality for seven years and decided recently it could not make its mind. Students are now being intimidated to not speak up for their faith. Hate speech is a new category that could curtail Christian witness. Stanley Oakes, Director of Faculty Ministries for Campus Crusade said recently: “I see…a willful, hostile, orchestrated attempt to eradicate Xhristianity from the university…Example: a new code of student conduct adopted by 125 universities which defines as hate speech calling homosexuality wrong or Hinduism a false religion.”
The Devil wants us confused and muzzled: Jesus frees our mouths and says to the deaf man’s ears: “Be opened.” Jesus comes to free us from sin but also to free our speech. No doubt the early disciples were ready to forego many civic liberties, and doubtless they would have given up on forming a Palestinian Christian militia, but one thing they would not do was to close their mouths. Because in this world of post-modern relativism where the pagan agenda states with absolute certainty that there is no absolute truth, and subtly makes tolerance, not truth, the ultimate standard, our world needs to see the sword of the Lord and hear the truth of the word of God. Are you using your mouth? Are you speaking boldly?
[1. The PANORAMA of the War]
[2. The POWERS Involved in the War]
[3. The PLACE of the War]
[4. The PRESENT PURSUIT of the War]
[5. The PANOPLY of the War]
6. The PURPOSE of the War
Though chained to a Roman soldier – the true meaning of the phrase “a captive audience” – Paul spoke boldly so that a door for the Gospel might be opened, even the door of the heart of this hardened soldier. In Philippians he says that the whole praetorian guard had heard the gospel, and mentions those who had become believers even in Caesar’s household. Who are the people to whom you are chained? Have they heard the Gospel? This is frontline combat. Sleeping on duty is not permitted.
Awake you who sleep
And arise from the dead
And Christ will give you light
We need the light of the heavenly panoramic perspective in our struggle against evil for what is at stake is not only slavation of souls but the public demonstration of the wisdom of God (3:10): Christ already made a public show of the principalities via this demonstration on the cross of the foolishness of God, but for the divine plan to be complete, this foolish wisdom must be demonstrated though the church – this is the plan of the ages (v.11) –
– Ephesians begins with a magnificent statement concerning God’s electing grace [1:3-6]; it ends with a passionate call for courageous evangelistic speaking in a hostile pagan world – in order that the wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the principalities and powers and that many under their sway might be brought out of darkness into his wonderful light. Paul writes all this so that we might be able to withstand or resist in the evil day.
GOD’S TRIUMPHANT WARRIOR
In this great struggle we cannot win on our own. See how our text begins: For the rest, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, put on God’s armour i.e., Christ’s armour We wear someone else’s armor, the whole armor of God, armor the Son of God has already worn by which he has already won the decisive battle
God’s armor = divine warrior in OT – see Is 49:17
He shall take to him his jealousy for complete armour…he shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and true judgment instead of a helmet. He shall take holiness for an invincible sheild. His severe wrath shall he sharpen for a sword.
In this OT prophecy of the Divine Warrior is a picture of Christ who fights the battle before us and is now gone up into heaven as the great victor. So we engage in the war in loyalty to our Savior, at whose feet one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father, joining in the cosmic chorus of praise that God’s people sing, a song written by Paul in Romans 11:33-36, taking up elements from the confession of that great cosmic warrior, Job, who came to recognize the wisdom of God:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God
How unsearchable his judgments
and his paths beyond tracing out
Who has known the mind of the Lord
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things
To him be the glory forever! Amen.