The War – Sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20 for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

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Ephesians 6:10-20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole Ephesians 6_10-18 - Armor of God Full of Eyesarmor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christian, the Bible does not call you a ballerina. You aren’t called to dance and twirl gracefully. The Bible does not say that you are a construction worker using tools and machines to build a temple. And the Bible does not identify you as a nobleman and ruling in a castle.

Instead, Scripture says that you, Christian, are a soldier. But you are not fighting against people. Politicians, mobs, or anyone who disagrees with you is not your enemy. You are fighting the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The war is a spiritual war. The battle is an unseen battle, and we wouldn’t know about it unless the Scriptures told us. Thankfully, God has told us that the attacks on us, our families, our church come from our enemy, the devil. And even better, God has told us how we, as His soldiers, are to engage in the fight.

So, Paul is going to answer several questions in this text. If we are soldiers, where is the battle? What is our role? What is our protection? And what weapons are we given for battle, and how do we use them?

Ephesians 6_11–12 Armor of GodWhere is the battle? It’s not in the Middle East. It’s not in Washington D.C. It’s not in the media. It’s not even in the schools and universities. The devil brings the battle to the church. The devil attacks here, this congregation, and he attacks you.

Jesus has come. By His death and resurrection, Christ has delivered you from sin, death, and the devil. He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to His kingdom (Col. 1:13). And Jesus places you in His church so that you are continually reminded of His work, deliverance, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And the devil hates this. So, Satan comes and attacks our congregation. He attacks me as your pastor. The devil loves to whisper in my ear, “Everything you are doing is all in vain. Things aren’t going well at Christ the King. There are fewer people here now than there were last year. You don’t have the resources you used to have. The people don’t seem to care about the Scriptures.”

And the devil loves to attack you. But he doesn’t come straight on. Instead, he comes like a thief in the night. He attacks you by trying to weaken your love for the Scriptures. He tries to get you to focus on yourself which takes your focus off of Christ. The devil tries to lull you to sleep so you forget that because of Jesus you can stand before God with a clean conscience now and on the day of judgment. The devil brings the battle to you. This means that you are not called to be a soldier marching off to war. No, the battle comes to you.

What is our role? Stand. Did you hear how often this text told you to stand? Four times in three verses you are told to stand. Verse 11, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Verse 13, “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.” Verse 14, “Stand therefore.”

You are not told to attack (neither are you told to retreat). Stand. This is your duty. This means that you are a particular type of soldier. You are a sentry. You are a soldier who is commanded to keep guard, and you guard holy ground.

When Paul was writing this letter, one of the most important jobs a solder could have in the Roman Empire was sentry duty. All around the border of the empire were placed sentries who would be on guard through the night listening for an attacking army. This duty was so important that a sentry could be immediately executed for one of two failures in his duty.

The first offense he could be executed for was leaving the post either by retreating or attacking. If a sentry saw the enemy approaching and left his post to attack by himself, he would be killed (though, he’d probably die in the attack). The sentry wasn’t there to fight; he was there to call in reinforcements, battalions who were stationed behind the border at various intervals. The sentry would call in these troops so they could defeat the invading army.

And the second offense he could be executed for is if he fell asleep. If the sentry fell asleep while on duty, he’d lose his head. The sentry had to always be ready to call in the troops to defend the border.

Open Prayer HandsSo you, Christian, are to be praying at all times (v. 18), and keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever sleep at night. And it doesn’t mean that you will be executed if you fall asleep during the sermon. Instead, you are to be spiritually aware and ready. Be watchful in your prayers.

So, here is the picture. You, believer, are a soldier who has been stationed at the border guarding the holy kingdom of Christ’s Church. You have a particular post. God has placed you in particular places where no one else has been placed and no one else has charge over. When you see the devil attacking, you don’t leave your post and fight. Instead, you pray and call in the reinforcements. When the devil attacks your spouse or kids, pray and call in the reinforcements. When you see the devil attacking your pastor and this congregation, pray. When you hear the enemy advancing on your friends and coworkers, pray. Those are the places God has called you to watch over, and He hasn’t called anyone else to that post. Do your duty. Stand. Watch. Pray. So that the devil may not find a way in. Your job is to stand, guard, watch, and pray. This is dangerous work, so…

What is our protection? God’s armor. You are not protected by your own might. You aren’t safe with your own ninja skills. Instead, you are clothed with the armor of Christ. God’s truth and Christ’s righteousness are your protection. The Gospel guards and makes your feet swift. The shield of faith in Christ protects you. And the helmet of salvation protects your head and mind. It doesn’t matter which direction the devil shoots his arrows at you, you are covered in God’s armor. The devil takes aim at you with a barrage his flaming darts trying to condemn you and attack your faith, “You said this. You did that. You fell into temptation here. You sinned against your neighbor.” But the armor of God stops every one of them leaving you unharmed.

The armor of God protects you. But there is one more thing you are given, the sword of the spirit, which brings us to the last question.

What weapons are you given for battle? Verse 17, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. How are you to use this sword? Verse 18, pray. Praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. Use God’s Word to pray.

Jesus Crushes the Serpent's HeadThe promises given to you in God’s Word are the very things you are to pray. When the fighting comes near you and you have to fight toe to toe with the devil, use God’s Word. It is what Jesus used when He was tempted by the devil. And when you pray, you are calling in the reinforcements, you are calling in Christ Himself. The Champion who defeated the devil. It looked like the devil won when Jesus was in the grave. But Jesus stood up. He vanquished Satan and crushed the serpent’s head. And you, dear Christian, you stand with Him. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.