Thoughts on Ephesians 6:10-20

Ephesians 6:10‑20  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
It might seem strange at first sight that, in an epistle in which we get the greatest unfolding of the privileges we have as saints, at the same time, conflict is most brought out where we have specially the relationship of Father and of the Bride—there specially, in conflict, saints are called upon to take the whole armor of God, in order to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. It may seem strange at first sight here to talk of armor, but just where it is needed is such a place; and we never get into conflict till we realize privilege. Mark, it is not conflict of flesh and spirit, but warfare in heavenly places against spiritual wickedness; not the same as in Galatians, the flesh lusting against the Spirit. Here we are in the new creation, Christ having ascended on high as head of it, having led captivity captive, and having taken us so thoroughly out of Satan's hands that He can make us vessels of His glory in this world; and that very thing brings us into conflict. If we have hold of this place, which is ours in Christ Jesus, we must reckon on having special conflict. We cannot cross the Jordan without finding the Canaanite and Perizzite in the land. The wilderness tests the heart, but it is not Canaan. There it is not wilderness exercises, it is wrestling not against flesh and blood but spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. The subject we had lately was our being dead with Christ and risen with Him, brought into the heavenlies in Him, a most valuable and precious truth to get very distinctly hold of. It is the place of every Christian, but not realized by many. To many one has to speak of the blood on the door-post rather than of the Red Sea (i.e., the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ having entirely delivered them out of Egypt).
The whole question of sin was settled by the cross. As man was driven out of the first paradise because sin was completed, he is brought into the second because righteousness was completed and the whole question of sin settled by Christ, now sitting at the right hand of God in glory. Not a thing between God and the saints as to sin, but we have them passing through exercises of heart, all in them tested and tried in the wilderness. Then is the Jordan: they pass through death and rise again, and get into the land of Canaan and eat the old corn. “Blessed with all spiritual blessings,” &c., a place that is ours in spirit now and shall be realized hereafter. It is the character of the Epistle all through, true as to our title. But first we find Canaanites in the land. We are sure of our place in Him, but His enemies are not yet all put under His feet, and the very fact of our being there in Him is to put us in conflict with these spiritual enemies. When people speak of Jordan as death and Canaan as heaven, they forget that fighting characterizes Canaan. As soon as Joshua comes into the land, a man meets him as captain of the Lord's host with a drawn sword. A redeemed people are the Lord's host, and so completely the Lord's servants that He uses them to execute His judgments against His enemies. How could they fight the Lord's battles with the flesh? If He uses a people, He must have them dead as to the flesh. Paul does not simply reckon himself dead, but when it was a question of service, it was always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, &c. He kept all that was of Paul completely down, so that to him to live was Christ, and nothing of Paul appeared. We are delivered to death, that the life, &c. What has a dead and risen man to do with the world? As soon as Jordan is crossed (not only dead and risen, but circumcised, putting off the body of death, mortifying the flesh), then is the old corn of the land, the reproach of Egypt being rolled away. We never get circumcision in the wilderness. What have we to do with this world as dead and risen with Christ? True we have to run across the wilderness to glory, but as one with Christ in heaven, we are the witness and testimony of what a heavenly Christ is in the world that rejects Him. And in maintaining this place, will Satan (do you think) let you alone? Infidelity, superstition, and worldliness, these are things by which Satan is seeking to get souls into his power. His wiles are things that puzzle (the cities walled up)—great forms of piety, without the power, us seen in this day. Then we get these instructions for putting on the whole armor of God, in order to be able to fight against spiritual wickedness. We are not to get through in our own strength, and we have to find out what this armor is which we have to be clothed with.
The loins girt with truth is the first thing. Subjection to the word points out our soul's state, and therefore it comes first. There can be no divine activity till the loins are girt about, a common figure in eastern countries, where the long garments are girded up, not to impede; so we get the soul into order through the power of the truth applied, and everything—the thoughts, and intents, and purposes of the heart tested by it. The Lord said, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” (John 17) We have in that word all the thoughts of God, that can judge and bless man, and Christ is the center of all. He was the light in the world. He brought out all the darkness in it, and applied the truth to it all. He brought out all that is divine and heavenly in a man, in contrast with all in men. People think the world is a fine place; but Satan is the prince of it—they do not believe it; but he proved himself to be so, by bringing all against Christ up to the cross, and be will head up the world against God soon. Death had not been executed up to the cross. The truth, Christ Himself, came into the world, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. When the truth is effectually applied, we get the loins girded, the whole condition, as it were, tucked up and not trailing, ready for the activity of service. I have to meet Satan, and carry on the Lord's battles, in conflict against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places; my heart is first to be tested, and to be brought into a heavenly world. Christ brought it there, and He says, Is heaven in your heart? I get the revelation of all in me that is against Christ, and all that is heavenly in Christ; my condition is the effect of truth. He was it, I get it from Him. I do not want armor walking with God—I want arming against Satan.
Next, the breast-plate of righteousness, not righteousness with God, but taking up armor against Satan, my condition of soul, and heart being right. My feet walk through the world, shod with the preparation, &c. It is the practical effect of the condition of my heart, and what a blessed condition! not selfishness, saying, “I must maintain my rights.” It is when a soul is at peace with God, he will be meek and lowly, like Christ; he goes out then in the Spirit of peace, and carries through the world the character and spirit of Christ. “Peace that passeth all understanding” keeps his heart and mind—how a man full of peace subdues all around him! Christ practically had perfect restful peace; He carried it with Him in all He passed through; in Him we have the fruits of righteousness sown in peace.
First, then, we have the loins girt—the truth of God applied, to bring the soul into a right condition; secondly, practical righteousness (breast-plate); thirdly, the feet shod with the gospel of peace. Now, we have to take up the shield of faith. I need not be thinking of self, though it is quite right to judge myself. I am to have practical faith in God. We are not called upon to confess sin but sins, confessing the sinfulness of my nature, but it is never to be made an excuse for sinning. If I sin, it is that I have failed in keeping my eye on God, and so have failed in keeping sins down, and in keeping the enemy closely shut up. The shield of faith is having the eye on God, with perfect confidence that He can keep us walking in the light, as He is in it. Satan may do what he pleases, shoot his arrows from his lurking place; but they cannot break through the shield of faith. The victory has been attained over him by Christ as man. He not only put away sin, but through death destroyed him who has the power of death. We arc exhorted to “resist the devil,” &c. Flesh does not resist him, and if he is resisted, he knows he has met Christ in us and runs away. It is not the question of the power of Satan, but of faith, looking to Christ. The fiery darts of Satan never get through the shield of confidence in God; my weakness is just what His strength is made perfect in. What so weak as death? Christ crucified through weakness. What so contemptible to man as the cross? But it is the wisdom and the power of God.
When we own ourselves weak, then we have power from God to overcome Satan. He is a most subtle enemy, he knows how to deal with man, and is much cleverer than the wisest of men; therefore when you see learned and clever men give way to folly, you must remember that Satan is behind it all; they are using his strength and he is laughing at them. If the shield of faith is down, the fiery darts will get in.
How blessed to know we have Christ to go through everything with, and having Him all the evil in the world cannot overcome us. It is not “Because I go to the Father, you shall overcome the world; but I have overcome it.” Still we have to be overcomers in a world where Satan, as the power of evil, was never more actively employed than at present. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Having full confidence in God we can hold up the head, because we have for an helmet salvation. First, godliness of walk; second, peace of mind; third, confidence in God and salvation covering him. The believer now can be active. He takes the sword of the Spirit, and fights, shielded from all the attacks of Satan. Now, there can be activity in using the sword of the word.
But we do not always judge ourselves; we do not always look to see whether we are walking in a practical sense of being all for God, so that God can be all for us, when in conflict. The first great thing, if we are to be active for the Lord, is being right with the Lord. Look at Paul, always self-judging, keeping under his body; always completely for the Lord, and the Lord completely for him: ever in the secret of the Lord's presence. He got the power of God for service—the strength of God made perfect in his weakness. He was not hindered, or distracted by circumstances, whatever came; he never drew back; he had the secret of the Lord, and could go out in service, according to what His presence and glory required. Herein do I exercise myself, to have a conscience void, &c.
“Praying always,” &c. We now get the word of God and prayer. Mary sat at the feet of the Lord, and heard His word. Then, in Luke, the disciples say to Him, “Lord, teach us how to pray;” again, “Men ought to pray always and not to faint.” The apostles appointed deacons to serve tables, that they might give themselves continually to prayer. When the Lord was in an agony of prayer, Peter was sleeping instead of watching, and so went out and denied his Lord, whilst the Lord witnessed a good confession; and when the soldiers came to take Him, He had calm power. If you want to know what prayer is, see the Lord agonizing in prayer in Gethsemane: that is prayer—no hurry or bustle, but the soul perfectly calm with God. Has God given us to be associated with His own interests? Does not my heart yearn for the conversion of sinners? Do I not yearn to see a saint representing Christ more perfectly? I must go to God about it in earnest prayer and supplication, watching with all perseverance for the answer. The same word that is used for the praying of the Lord in Gethsemane is used by Paul here—agonizing in prayer for saints. We get this earnestness in supplication from being in the interests of God, and knowing that His interests have to be carried on in earnest supplication and prayer, watching thereunto. I have to get with God in prayer, if preaching the gospel. Prayer is the expression of entire dependence on His power; not simply asking God about things, but agonizing for the answer. People think that the Apostle Paul is beyond, sailing over the head of, all others; but what is his language? “I was with you in weakness and many tears” Faith goes with God's affairs to God, so interested with Him about them, that we make them our own. God takes the people delivered by His Son out of the hands of Satan for His own servants, saying, I want Christ to be glorified on the earth, and you are to do it. We may be poor feeble things, but we have the same interests as Christ, and His strength is made perfect in our utter weakness. What a blessed place to be in! Being made the Lord's host, to battle against His enemies and Satan. Those in the forefront of the battle need more the whole armor, because more exposed to the fiery darts, and more in the way of the enemy's snares and dangers; those who lag behind are not in the same danger. But more strength will be given to meet and overcome everything, if there is perfect dependence on and faith in God, as in John, “This is the victory that over! cometh the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:44For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4).) But no place where one needs to be more unceasing in prayer and watchfulness as in the forefront of the battle.
In bearing witness for Christ, we first have the helmet of salvation from Christ. How little we know how to watch unto prayer! Is all that you and I pass through in the day turned into prayer, and supplication in the Spirit, watching thereunto for all saints? Do you find you are continuous in prayer? Do you find your heart going up in earnest agonizing supplications for the saints? Nothing I find so difficult, and nothing so tests my heart, as to the right way to think of others, as asking, Is my soul so interested in others that I can have continuous and earnest supplication going up for them? To do so, the soul must be right with God. I must think of myself else, and that stops intercession for others. It is an amazing thing to walk with God in the light, so as to be able to take up His interests; provided with this armor, which we have to keep on, to stand against Satan. Satan has no strength against those who are faithful to Christ. It is not leaning on human wisdom. Satan is much cleverer than all the learned men down here. You will always find it is where redemption is not fully rested in that Satan plays all his tricks. If the finished work of Christ were really known, and full and complete redemption rested in, all superstition and ritualism would have no ground to stand on; the foundation of it all is, that something has to be done by man to make the soul right with God. If Christ has settled the whole question for me, I do not want any of their means to settle it. The Puseyites can speak beautifully of the incarnation; but they cannot bear to hear of the finished work, or of your place with God being once and forever settled by redemption. The sophistries of rationalism and infidelity cannot tell on a soul that knows Christ, and has Him dwelling in the heart.
Oh! beloved friends, may the Lord keep us in more entire dependence and unbroken communion with God, ever walking in the presence of God, in the light, till that blessed day, so soon coming, when Christ will rise up and take us to Himself!