The Grace of God Prepares Us to Fight: Ephesians 6:10-24

We’ve come to the end of our time in Ephesians. I hope you’ve come to understand more of how God’s grace changes everything in our lives. Now, as we leave and move forward, we’ll see how God’s grace enables us and prepares us to fight the good fight of faith.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”–Eph. 6:10-12

If we’re going to fight, it’s important to know what and who we’re fighting. The fight of the Christian is not against other people. We do not seek to lay hands on non-Christians in order to save them. That’s not how the gospel works.

No, our fight is against anything that keeps us from glorifying God in this life, against anything that would keep us from being holy and obeying God. Paul says we make war against the devil and his schemes, against sin and evil that pervades our lives and this world.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”–Eph. 6:13-18

As a redeemed sinner, I often wonder why I struggle so much with the sin that remains. I often find myself asking, “What the heck is wrong with me?” We all struggle with besetting sins, and are all called to move forward in our pursuit of holiness. But praise God we are not alone. We cannot forget all of the gifts God has given us. Let’s look at those:

Belt of truth: A belt keeps you from being embarrassed. It keeps your clothes where they need to stay. As silly as that analogy may be, think about how truth is like a belt. Ever heard someone spout off something they thought was true, I mean, really thought was true, only to be told they were 100% wrong? It’s embarrassing, right? When you don’t know the truth, it leads to embarrassment. But in Christ, we know the truth. We have God’s Word. We don’t have to be embarrassed by lack of knowledge.

Breastplate of righteousness: We are righteous in Christ, and only because of what He’s done. But we are called to live out that righteousness and put off sin. When we live righteous lives, it stands as a critical piece of armor, protecting us from accusations of sin and immorality. There is much gain in godliness, while there is no gain in sin. Choose obedience.

Shoes outfitted with the gospel: Everywhere you go, share the gospel. The Great Commission says “Go make disciples.” Scholars have long understood that “go” in the original Greek means “as you go,” that is, whether we are on a “mission trip” or at the office, we are ready to share the hope of Jesus with everyone and anyone around us.

Shield of faith: Faith protects us from the “flaming darts” of Satan. He would accuse us of sin, but we have faith in the blood of Jesus. He would make us question God’s goodness, but we have seen and trust that the Lord is good. He would make us anxious, but we must trust that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Helmet of salvation: Ever heard the expression “he/she’s got his/her head on straight?” We typically say that of someone who understands his or her responsibilities and is living a responsible, good life. When we know we are saved, when we’ve experienced the grace of God, we are able to move forward confidently in our lives, with our heads on straight, because we know we have Jesus forever, and nothing can take that away. The “helmet” of salvation allows us to think rightly about God, life and even death. Nothing can truly hurt us, not eternally, if we are in Christ.

Sword of the Spirit/Word of God: This is the only offensive weapon listed here. The Word of God is not to be hidden, but rather used to fight sin and point people to Jesus. Spurgeon once said of the idea of “defending” the Bible: “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion? Unchain it and it will defend itself!” The Bible is a tool meant to be used to help us fight sin and advance God’s kingdom by rightly understanding what it says.

Prayer: Prayer is not usually listed with the rest of these, but if we aren’t praying, the rest is pointless. Prayer connects us with God, who reminds us of all we have in Him. Prayer keeps us in connection with God.

“To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”–Eph. 6:18-24

Lastly, we must pray for and encourage one another. There is no such thing as “lone ranger Christianity.” You are either connected to a church as a Christian, looking for a church, or you are dying spiritually.

Paul was in prison, and he coveted prayers, not for his release, but for his faithfulness. What a testimony! How often do we pray for the safety or release of persecuted brothers and sisters, instead of their faithfulness? While praying for those things may not be bad, we must remember that God is sovereign, and His purposes in persecution are not just for safety, but for His glory. We should pray for the faithfulness of those being persecuted.

We must encourage one another so that we all can grow to love Jesus with “love incorruptible.”

Lord, may we love you and love each other. May we use the weapons and tools that you give us. May we grow to be more and more like you, and may we keep fighting the good fight of faith until we see you face to face.

God bless,

Neal E.

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The Grace of God Equips the Church: Ephesians 4:7-16

Two weeks ago, we examined how we are united as a church through Christ. Because of Jesus, the church has been called to follow the same Lord through the same Spirit, and we are called to love each other and act as Christ acts toward us. We are united in core beliefs, values and doctrine, and strive for a common goal: the glory of God by spreading the gospel so others may come to know Him through Christ.

However, the church is not uniform. We do not all look the same. We do not look the same physically, of course, but in this next section of chapter 4, Paul makes it clear we do not all look the same spiritually, in a sense, either.

All believers are forgiven, beloved, children of God. All believers have the Holy Spirit, and all believers are called to obey the Great Commission and edify the church. But we do not all have the same gifts to achieve that goal.

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”–Ephesians 4:7-10

Paul breaks from his talk about being “one” in Christ, to say, “But grace was given…according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Paul says: While we are one in Christ, we each have been given a gift of grace in different measure from Christ. This cannot be saving grace, because no Christian is more justified before God than any other Christian. However, each Christian has a different “gift” from God. In other biblical passages, these “gifts” are shown to be spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12:3-8).

Jesus gives His people spiritual gifts to glorify God, share the gospel and edify the church. He has power to do this because He won victory over this world, sin, death and Satan. Paul explains this in verses 8-10. Paul quotes Psalm 68:18, where the king “receives gifts” from the people, even the rebellious, after he wins victory. Paul uses this in reference to Christ, who brings the kingdom of God to Earth and wins victory over the false kingdoms of sin and Satan. Jesus, in His incarnation (“descended into the lower regions, the earth”), in His ministry, in His death, in His resurrection, and in His ascension, won victory over all things.

Because of His victory over sin and death on the cross and in the resurrection, when He ascended into heaven, Christ was able to equip His people with gifts of His kingdom, so they could continue to advance it here. These gifts include evangelism, preaching, teaching, prophecy, etc.

What a statement about spiritual gifts! They are far more than resume builders and things to commit to “when we have time.” They are blood-bought gifts from the King! And He is honored when we treat them as such and use them.

How do we learn to use our gifts and grow in Christlikeness? Paul discusses leaders, given by God, in the next few passage:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..”–4:11-13

Here, Paul zeroes in on leaders in the church. He says these leaders “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Teachers teach Christians how to share the gospel, as shepherds teach others to use their generosity, or zeal, in evangelism and in caring for the sick and poor. Prophets bring timely words from God, consistent with His Word, that challenge His church to be all she is called to be. Though the office of apostle is no longer active, the idea of a leader, a pastor, still remains. This person is one who serves the church by leading the church on mission, preaches God’s Word, conducts the ministries of the church, etc.

Leaders also play a pivotal role in discipleship: The body of Christ is built up when leaders are leading others to more and more Christlikeness. The measure of how far we’ve come is Jesus. Our goal is to be like Jesus in our ministry and in our personal lives and churches.

Therefore, leaders are servants. They are not about themselves, but about others. This follows the pattern of Jesus, who “came to serve, not be served.” Leaders should exemplify Christlikeness in their holiness and ministry.

“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”–4:13-16

Serving God and growing into Christlikeness is serious business. If we do not pursue Jesus, we will slowly but surely walk away from Jesus. Leaders are needed who will devote their lives to helping others grow into mature Christians.

Would you leave an infant on a park bench? Of course not! That infant would die if you didn’t do something. That’s why parents raise their children, because the work isn’t done when a baby is born.

The same principle applies to discipleship: new Christians, immature Christians, will leave Jesus if someone doesn’t invest in their lives and help them grow into Christlikeness. As John Piper has said, sanctification is a community project.

We do this by speaking the truth to each other in love. We speak the truth, but we do so, not from pride or unrighteous anger, but out of genuine love for someone, with a heart motivated by the gospel and concern for both God’s glory and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

When this happens, when the church is serving Christ faithfully and helping others grow in Him, the entire church benefits. The entire church grows in love for God and others.

God has equipped the church. He has equipped leaders with grace to equip saints, who have been equipped by His grace with spiritual gifts, all to advance the gospel, to teach God’s Word, to make disciples, and to build His kingdom here on Earth. The question for us is whether or not we are going to use what He’s given us.

Lord, may we use the grace you give us to serve you. May we never take for granted the gifts you’ve given us, and may we use them to build your kingdom by making disciples and growing in Christlikeness.

God bless,

Neal E.