September 5, 2021
Pastor John Hering
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can stand against the schemes of the Devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to take a stand on the evil day and, after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness fastened in place, 15 and with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace tied to your feet like sandals. 16 At all times hold up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. 17 Also take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 At every opportunity, pray in the Spirit with every kind of prayer and petition. Stay alert for the same reason, always persevering in your intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray for me also, that when I open my mouth a message will be given to me that boldly reveals the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may speak about it boldly, as it is necessary for me to speak.
When they led him into his room, he didn’t realize how long he would be there. At first being isolated to the room was claustrophobic, but those ideas were soon replaced by the wounds being inflicted into his skin. At first the chain just chafed and he kept forgetting that his ankle was bound to the pole in the middle of the room—especially when he would try to roll over at night and it scraped the skin around his ankle bone. Or he would be lost in thoughts, deep in prayer or concentrating in writing a letter, get up for a drink of water and the chain would get snagged on the corner of the table! Ouch! Eventually, he got used to it. He got used to sleeping on his back with his chained leg dangling over the edge of the bed. When he got up from the table to get a drink, he would throw the chain over the top of the table as automatically as blinking his eyelids. Besides, after two years of house arrest the skin around his ankle got tougher and so did the Apostle Paul. You might think the opposite would happen to someone who wasn’t free to stroll down the sidewalks of Rome for a breath of fresh air and a cup of espresso. He wasn’t a young man anymore. His bones cracked. His back ached. He had to squint to read the papyri sent to him. The scars on this body told stories of abuse, torture and even being stoned by those who opposed his teaching. Yet he marched on as a seasoned soldier would. How could he do it?
How can anyone do it? How can Christian march on facing tough opposition to Christian beliefs? Are we just supposed to get used to being ridiculed, threatened and stepped on? Today Paul gives us the answer in his inspired letter to the Church in Ephesus and to us. He says,
Be Strong In The Lord!
Pointing Out There’s An Enemy
Armies have fought battles in various ways over the course of history. Perhaps one of the trickiest fighters are those who use guerrilla warfare. They use the element of surprise to attack and weaken the enemy. Think of the Vietnam War when in the jungles the U.S. Soldiers often never saw the enemy attacking them. The enemy used trip wires, buried land mines, and hidden explosives to do the damage. They also used a tunnel system to aid the guerrilla fighters to move from place to place undetected. Some of the tunnels were so concealed that the American camps were build right over the top of the tunnels. What a difference it would have made if the American soldiers could say, “There’s the enemy!”
So what type of fighter do you think Satan is? He doesn’t post signs in your life that says, “Watch out! I’m camped right over here.” He doesn’t wave red flags or flash bright lights to warn of his attacks. Satan is tricky and sneaky. He is brilliant at attacking where our defensive fences are the lowest. Satan was using guerrilla warfare against the church in Ephesus. The Book of Acts records division in the congregation. Satan knew these Christians had come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Some grew up in Judaism, some followed local deities, and some had no religious background at all. But, now they were all members of the same spiritual family. Satan attacked and Paul wrote God’s Word to them to stop bickering and arguing and, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” They all had the same Savior and the same goal—to honor God and love their neighbor until they all were in heaven together. They were not enemies, but victims of the enemy so he encouraged them, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power……. stand against the schemes of the Devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We can use the example of Korah to outline Paul’s encouragement.
Our struggle is against the rulers.
Korah was itching to be the ruler over Israel during the days of Moses (Numbers 16). Moses had led the people to the edge of the Promised Land and after the hearing the report of the spies the people refused to enter. God then told them they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. That’s when Korah shouted, “Moses is not an effective leader! I’m going to take over!” along with 250 followers. Korah was a Levite called by God to serve his people, but he was a ruler of Satan in disguise. Satan used guerrilla warfare on his heart to get him to want to rule where God had not called him. Korah and his followers ended up being swallowed up by the earth as God chose Moses to be his ruler. Satan will try the same tactic on you and me. You know, I’ve worked long and hard hours to earn my money and I want to be in charge of my schedule, my life, my destiny! I want to do what I want to do!” Warning! Don’t ignore what Paul points out about our enemy! Rather “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” and not my own desire to rule my life!
Our struggle is against authorities.
We all know what happens when a person abuses his authority. People get hurt. But, that’s what the enemy Satan wants you to do. He wants you to forget God’s authority as revealed in his Word and set up yourself up as the authority. You say, “I would never do that!” But, Satan tempts us to think God doesn’t really care if we live an alternative life-style, listen to entertaining yet deceiving teachers, or making up our own rules about living together without being married because, “paying two rents it too much.” Then Satan has convinced you to follow his authority. Warning! Don’t ignore what Paul points out about our enemy! Rather “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” and not my own desire to be my own authority!
Our struggle is against the world rulers of this darkness.
According to statistics 70% of crimes are committed in darkness. Why do you suppose this is? Criminals don’t want to get caught! So, what do you suppose Satan wants you to think? “Oh, those naughty people who try to hide their crimes in the cover of darkness.” Then Satan attacks by making us think we’re so innocent of rulers of darkness. Really? So, you’ve never cheated while no one was watching? You always were honest in doing your work? You sit on your phone watching stuff you think no one will know about? Warning! Don’t ignore what Paul points out about our enemy! Rather “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” and not my own evil desire to sin under the cover of darkness!
Our struggle is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Now the battlefield broadens into the heavens! Satan has the guts to even fight against the good angels. He’ll do anything to try and suck us into a fascination with the occult, or horoscopes, good luck charms or even Satanic worship. Warning! Don’t ignore what Paul points out about our enemy! Rather “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” and not my own evil desire to sin under the cover of darkness!
St Paul warned the Ephesians and us to be aware of Satan’s tactics so that we can be Strong In The Lord pointing out there’s a real enemy! Don’t fall for the temptation to live in Satan’s dream world but recognize there is opposition to our stand on God’s Word. We all know that we are living in a broken world of sin. We may not end up living under house arrest with chains on our ankles, but we all are going to have bad days. Soldiers die in wars. People lose everything in hurricanes and fires. Disease attacks us or the ones we love. There is a real enemy out there, but we do not live without hope!
There Is An Armory
When you’re having one of the bad days then we all need to remember Ephesians 6: “11 Put on the full armor of God… so that you will be able to take a stand on the evil day and, after you have done everything, to stand.” Remember, St Paul is writing this letter to the Ephesians from Rome while under house arrest. Can you see him sitting at his table with quill-pen in hand as he shifts the weight in his chair, the chain on his ankle rattles, and out of the corner of his eye he sees the Roman soldier assigned to guard him that day—all fitted out for duty! Then he is inspired by the Holy Spirit to remember, “God’s people are also fitted as soldiers of the Savior!” Yes, not only do we need to be keenly aware with whom we are dealing. We also need to know how to defend ourselves. And if necessary, we need to go on the attack! Yes, we need to know what it means to be “Strong in the Lord!” Yes, there’s an enemy, but here is our armory!
Stand, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.
You can picture that Roman soldier, can’t you? His belt is holding his tunic in place and a place to keep his weapons (think of a police officer’s duty utility belt). A weak or faulty belt would be disastrous! So, it is with the belt of truth! In our day it is vital to have the truth firmly around us. For when we mix in error we’ll be in danger of having God’s truth slip down our hips and roll away. We want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! With God’s truth surrounding us we’ll have the weapons in easy reach in order to be Strong in the Lord!
Stand firm ….. with the breastplate of righteousness fastened in place.
You can picture the Roman soldier with his shiny metal plate over his chest. We need this defensive weapon against Satan’s attacks. When we have lied, cheated, shoplifted, abused drugs, spread false rumors, lusted after someone and realize, “Oh, no! That’s wrong!” Then Satan accuses us before God as deserving eternal wrath (indeed a half-truth!). But, we have Jesus’ righteousness that protects. We pour out our sinful confession and cling to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We stand, protected by Jesus’ righteousness, Strong in the Lord!
Stand firm ….. with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace tied to your feet like sandals.
You can see that Roman soldier, can’t you? He’s balanced, one foot in front of the other balanced and ready to stand his ground. He has a level of peace with his feet firmly planted knowing that if someone suddenly swings a sword at him, he can duck like in dodgeball. He’s not wearing roller skates or snowshoes. He is ready to carry out his duty. Likewise we are balanced and ready for Satan’s temptations because we have the gospel of peace. Satan can swing his sword of temptation at us and we can duck under the good news that Jesus has already paid the price for all our sins and God has declared us to be his own dear children. We are at peace through Jesus. It also means we are balanced in order to take the steps to help others, help them carry their burdens, comfort for the hurting and sharing Jesus’ forgiveness with those weighted down with guilt. Lace up those sandals of peace and Be Strong In the Lord!
Stand firm …. At all times hold up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
You can see that Roman soldier, can’t you? That shining shield isn’t just to display the emblems of his legion. Whether sword, or stones or arrows he can maneuver it for protection. Likewise our shield of faith in the Lord Jesus is not just something that looks pretty. Satan will not stop firing his flaming arrows causing situations to doubt God’s love, to think God is not in control, or to consider that we have committed such an outrageous sin that God won’t forgive us. The Holy Spirit has created your faith in God’s Word to fend off those sizzling lies of Satan and drown them in the waters of your baptism and protect your heart with the spiritual nourishment from the Lord’s Supper. Take up that shield of faith to Be Strong In the Lord!
Also take the helmet of salvation.
You can see that Roman soldier, can’t you? One blow to the head and he’s a goner! The helmet protects his brain. He uses his brain to evaluate the situation, make choices about which weapon is needed, and then to move into action! Look how Jesus has protected your brain with his helmet of salvation! You know how dangerous our world is. You know without Jesus’ work of living for us, dying for us and rising again for us we would be goners! But, Jesus gave us his Word so we can wrap our thoughts in his love, forgiveness and peace. We can make godly and wise decisions that bring glory to God. Jesus’ helmet of salvation also protects our thoughts from fear, hopelessness and emotions so that we can stand protected and Be Strong In The Lord!
And [take] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
You can see that Roman soldier, can’t you? See that sword? He has been trained in using that sword to protect himself and to go after those who would threaten his life. The word of God is your spiritual sword to slice and dice Satan and send him running. This sword has both law and gospel. The law cuts into the heart to expose sin and the gospel cuts us free from the curse of sin. Keep your sword of the Spirit sharp by reading your Bible, coming to Bible Class and Worship so that you’ll Be Strong In the Lord!
That’s quite an armory given to us by God’s grace. But, having all that armory do you really think your ready for battle? Or maybe you feel like David did when King Saul put his heavy armor on him and all he did was feel weighed down. Yes, we’re thankful for all the armory God has graciously given to us, but God isn’t done. There’s one more weapon for you. “18 At every opportunity, pray in the Spirit with every kind of prayer and petition. Stay alert for the same reason, always persevering in your intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray for me also, that when I open my mouth a message will be given to me that boldly reveals the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may speak about it boldly, as it is necessary for me to speak.” God gives us prayer! His encouragement is to “pray in the Spirit.” Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “I know that prayer works.” Does it work because they are praying, or because they are praying in the Spirit? To pray in the Spirit means that our prayers are lined up to God’s will. And we know our prayers are lined up to God’s will when we pray according to God’s Word. Paul gave several examples of praying according to God’s Word: Praying for others (the saints), praying for him to boldly share the gospel with others. Our prayers have power not because they are our prayers, but because they recall God’s promises. God commands us to praise and worship him, to confess our sins and our faith, to give thanks and to offer prayers on behalf of others. When our prayers are lined up with God’s promises, they are powerful indeed! So pray in the Spirit and Be Strong In the Lord!
Paul was under house arrest for proclaiming the Good News about Jesus. But, Paul had all he needed to be Strong in the Lord. He looked weak to others, but he was actually strong because of his trust in the Lord. Do you see? We can be weak physically and emotionally, but we are strong in the Lord because we have Jesus. That’s how Paul could endure house arrest with chains and guarded by a soldier. Paul confessed, “10 That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For whenever I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor 12:10). This sounds crazy because we know there is an enemy. But, for us, it sounds comforting because we know there is armory! Yes, Be Strong In the Lord because you have Jesus! Amen!