Sermon: Ephesians 6:10 – 13: Be Strong In The Lord

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 59

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. ‘And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the LORD. ‘And as for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says the LORD: ‘My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,’ says the LORD, ‘from this time forth and forevermore.’” (Isaiah 59, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

“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 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. 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. 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.” (Ephesians 6:10–20, ESV)


[Please excuse any and all typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church, but without the benefit of proofreading.] 


In Ephesians 6:10-20 we find the last major section of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. You will notice that there is also a final greeting found in 6:21-24, which we will eventually consider. But 6:10-20 is the last major section in the body of Paul’s letter, and it is a grand finale. 

Here the Apostle, by way of conclusion, exhorts the church to be strong in the Lord, to prepare themselves for battle, to take up their spiritual armor, and, having done all of this, to stand firm against the Evil One in the evil day. It is a rousing conclusion to his letter. Based upon all that Paul has previously taught, he concludes with a call to arms — a call to the church to put up vigorous spiritual fight. 

This portion of Paul’s letter is perhaps the most well known and beloved portion, and for good reason. It is here that he lists for the Christian the pieces of spiritual armor that are ours in Christ Jesus. In Christ we have a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, and shoes for our feet, the readiness of the gospel of peace. Faith is our shield, salvation is our helmet, and the word of God is our sword. And so in Christ we are well equip for life in this world, which is here described as a battle. It is no wonder that Christians throughout the ages have loved this text, for it is deeply encouraging to know that God has provided for our every need in Christ Jesus so that we can indeed stand firm in the evil day. 

It would be possible, I suppose, to consider all of verses 10-20 in one sermon. These verses do belong together. But I have decided to consider this passage in three parts so that we might carefully glean from the riches that are here. And though it is true that versos 10-20 belong together, this text does also divide neatly into three parts. In verses 10-13 we find the initial command to be strong in the Lord and to dress for battle, knowing that we have an enemy in the heavenly realm who is fierce. In verses 14-17 the command to stand firm is repeated and there is again a call to spiritual arms, but here the Christian’s spiritual armor is detailed. In Christ we have been provided with full armor — a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, a helmet and a sword. And finally in verses 18-20 there is a call to prayer. Prayer is so crucial to the Christian life — it is so integral to the process of dressing for battle, and to our standing firm — that it is given special attention. We are to gird ourselves for battle and we are to stand firm, verse 18, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18, ESV). In other words, the Christian is to dress for battle and stand firm through prayer. There is so much here to consider that it is best to take this section in three parts, I think. And so let us consider only verses 10-13 today.


Be Strong In The Lord

In verse 10 we find a command: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”, the Apostle says. 

The word “finally” does indicate that Paul is bringing his letter to a conclusion, but it also communicates that this is what Paul wants his readers to devote themselves to in response to all that he has said — Finally… devote yourselves to this, is the idea. Baugh, in his commentary on Ephesians, suggests that we use the word “henceforth” to bring the meaning of this Greek word across. “Henceforth, grow strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”, is the translation that he provides (Baugh, 538). “Finally”, that is to say, from now on and in light of all that I have said, “grow strong in the Lord.”

Notice that this is a command. “Be strong in the Lord”, the text says. We might also use the English word “grow” to bring across the progressive aspect of the Greek present tense. “Grow strong in the Lord” is the command. A Christian who is complacent, who is leaning back in his spiritual chair with his spiritual feet up, if you will, is disobeying this commend. The Christian is always to be pursuing more maturity and strength in Christ. Complacency in the Christian life is deadly. Apathy is dangerous, for we are not at home — instead we are sojourners and exiles in this world. We are not living in peacetime — instead we are at war, as we will see. And so I ask you, is there anything more dangerous than for a man to live as if there is peace all around when in reality there is a war raging outside, a fierce enemy at the gates? That man — a man who has grown complacent in war time — is in grave danger. 

As Paul brings his letter to a conclusion he wishes to leave his readers with something, and that is the command to grow strong. Do not grow weak, brothers and sisters. Do not plateau in Christ or grow complacent. But instead. grow strong in him. This is your responsibility. It is something that you must choose to do — and we must do it until the Lord calls us home. 

I’m reminded of what Paul revealed to us back in 3:14 of his epistle. There he reveled the content of his prayers to us, saying, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14–19, ESV). We know that Paul prayed for the Ephesians — and for all who are in Christ — that they would be strengthened in the inner being. We know that he believed that if they were to be strengthened, it would be because God, by his grace, had granted it. We know that if they were to be strengthened it would be the work of the Spirit. And we know that this strength would come about only as the Ephesians grew in love and faith and in their comprehension of the love of Christ for them. 

There in 3:14-19 Paul revealed that he prayed for these things, for Paul knew that God does work through the prayers of his people. But here in 6:10 he commands that Christians do these things. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”, he says. I do hope that we, like the Apostle, are faithful in prayer. But I also hope that we, like the Apostle, are men and women of action and obedience when we rise from prayer. Grow strong in the Lord, is the command.

That little phrase, “in the Lord”, is very important, for the Lord is the source of all true strength. Paul does not merely say, “be strong”, but “be strong in the Lord”. And to make the point more clear he adds these words, “and in the strength of his might.” We are not strong in ourselves. Any strength that we do have is from God. This is true even for those who do not believe in God, though they think otherwise. In pride, sinful men and women imagine themselves to be strong, when in reality they are very frail and weak. In fact, we humans are not only frail and weak, we are noting apart from God. God is our Creator. We would not exist apart from him. And he is our sustainer. We would not continue to exist were it not for his preservation of us. He is the self-existent one. He is the one who has life in himself. But we are not these things. We owe our existence to God. And every breath we breath is a gift from him. And yet so many live as if they themselves are strong, — in fact the are weak. As the prophet Isaiah says, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:6–8, ESV).

The Christian knows this. The Christian understands that our existence is owed to God — he is our Creator and Sustainer. We confess that our life is in his hands, every breath is a gift, that he provides our daily bread, and that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV). 

Though we know this — though we would all certainly confess this to be true — we sometimes forget to live as if it were so. Sometimes we forget to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Sometimes we grow complacent. And sometimes we slip back into those old habits of looking for strength when in ourselves. Brothers and sisters, we must send our roots deep down into God to draw our strength from him. We must abide in Christ, the living vine, if we hope to have life in ourselves and to bear much fruit. 

Be strong, but do not forget that where your strength is found. The source of all strength is God in Christ. He is infinitely powerful. His strength is inexhaustible. And this is why the Psalmest has said, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’ (Psalm 73:26, ESV). And this is why the Apostle has said in a tother place, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, ESV).

“Grow strong” is the command. Do not be content with faith that is weak. “Be strong”. But be sure to draw your strength, not from within, but from the Lord and the strength of his might.  


Put On The Whole Armor Of God

One question that you might have is, how do we do this? It is one thing to say, grow strong in the Lord — draw your strength from him — but how? How do we do this? 

The scriptures use a variety of terms and analogies to teach us what it means to grow strong in Christ. I’m thinking of that famous passage in John 15 (which I have already alluded to) where Christ exhorts his disciples to “abide” in him. Just as a branch cannot live apart from the vine, neither can we live — much less, bear fruit — apart from him. And how do we abide in Christ? By abiding in his word and by keeping his commandments. I’m reminded also of that parable that Jesus taught comparing the house built upon the sand and the house build upon the rock. The while both had the appearance of strength at the beginning, only one was truly strong, for only one of those houses had a strong foundation. And how do we build our lives upon a strong foundation? Christ says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24, ESV). Again, to be strong in Christ is to hear his words, to believe and obey them.

Here in Ephesians Paul uses the analogy of armor to teach us how we are to grow strong in the Lord. “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 against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10–11, ESV).

Here we find another command. The first was “grow strong”, the second clarifies how we are to grow strong: “Put on the whole armor of God”, the Apostle says.

The items of this armor will be detailed for us in the next passage which we will consider in detail next Sunday. For now it will suffice to say that these pieces of spiritual armor — the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet and sword — all have reference to Christ and his word in Paul’s analogy. The belt is the belt of truth. The breastplate is the breastplate of righteousnessChrist’s righteousness inputed to us and received by faith. The shoes are the preparedness of the gospel. The shield is the shield of faith. The helmet is the helmet of salvation. And the sword is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. So when Paul commands us to put on the armor of God he is commanding us to daily gird ourselves with Christ and his word. We are to clothe ourselves with the truth of Christ, his righteousness, his gospel, our faith in him, and the salvation that is ours through him. The Christian is to take up the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God, so that he might fight with it. This is how we are to grow strong — by daily dressing ourselves for spiritual battle, which means that we are to take Christ and his word and apply it to our mind and heart, our waist and feet — indeed, to our whole being — so that we might be able to stand firm in him.

As I have said, we will consider the pieces of our spiritual armor more carefully on the next Lord’s Day. For now, let us make three general observations about the command of verse 11. 

One, Paul describes the armor that he commands us to put on as the armor “of God.” This does not mean that it is the armor that God wears, but that this is the armor that he provides. This is the spiritual armor that Christ wore in his earthly ministry. And this is the armor that God gives to his people — those who are united to Christ by faith. In Christ we have, not only the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and an eternal inheritance, but all that we need to live victoriously in this world. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” (2 Peter 1:3, ESV). “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32, ESV). On of the things that God has provides is armor.

Two, the Apostle commands the Christian —each and every Christian — to put on the whole armor of God. The English words, “whole armor” translate one Greek work, “πανοπλία”. One Greek lexicon defines πανοπλία as “a complete set of instruments used in defensive or offensive warfare (usually, however, with emphasis upon defensive armament, including helmet, shield, breastplate)—‘weapons and armor’” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, 56). The Lord’s army is well supplied. The armor that we have been given is a complete set. 

Three, the Apostle commands Christian to put on this complete set of armor. God has provided it for you in Christ, but here Paul is commanding you to put it on. You must daily gird yourself for battle. 

As I have already said, one of the principle ways that the Christian puts this spiritual armor on is through prayer. This is what Paul will eventually say. After elaborating on our spiritual armor he says, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18, ESV). Daily and continual prayer is one of the principle ways that the Christian puts on this armor which God has supplied. As soldiers of the Lord we are to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9–13, ESV). And when we speak to God in prayer we must also allow him to speak to us through his word. It is by receiving God’s word, believing and obeying it, and by speaking to God in prayer, that we do in fact put on this complete armor which God has supplied.

So are you girding yourself for battle, Christian? Are you daily, even momentarily, putting on the belt, the breastplate and shoes which God have given you? Are taking up the shield, applying the helmet and taking up the sword? Are you dressing for battle? Or have you grown complacent? 


That You May Be Able To Stand Against The Schemes Of The Devil

Finally, we come to the reason for this armor. Why do we need it? So that we might be able to stand against the schemes of our fierce enemy, the Devil. 

If you do not believe that we have an enemy — if you are not convinced that there is a battle that rages in the spiritual realm — then you will not put on the armor of God. But if you understand that there is a war that rages between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, then you will prepare for battle. 

At the end of verse 11 Paul states the purpose for putting on the armor of God: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV).

The devil is our spiritual adversary. He does not work alone, but through the angels who fell with him at the beginning of time and through the world that remains under his power. 

Paul refers to the “schemes” of the devil. The devil is crafty and deceptive. He does not always attack head on, but often from behind or the side. He attacks in ways that we might not expect, and seeks to capitalize on our weakness. The Christian must remember that our enemy is cunning and deceptive. We must be ever on the lookout, therefore. 

And Paul’s desire is to see us “stand”. There is of course a sense in which the church of Christ is to advance the kingdom of God in this world. This she is to do through the proclamation of the gospel, the planting of churches and discipleship of believers. Jesus promised that his church would advance in this world until he returns when he spoke to Peter saying, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV). The kingdom of God will advance in this world. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. But here in this passage Paul is calling us to take a stand against the onslaughts of the evil one. Here the Christian is to recognize that they will always be under attack. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV). And again, in verse 13 he says, “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” (Ephesians 6:13, ESV). The armor that God has provided is well suited for such a task. Armor for the body, a shield to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil and to deflect his blows, and sword to fight back with, so that we might withstand him in the evil day. 

And in verse 12 the Apostle more precisely identifies our enemy when he says, “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” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV). We do not only have the devil and his schemes to contend with, but also the demons — those angels who fell with him at the beginning of time. 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth is the physical world that we obverse with our physical eyes. But the heavens that God created in the beginning are invisible to us. God’s glory is uniquely manifest in the heavenly realm. The angels exist in this heavenly, that is to say, spiritual and invisible realm. And there are fallen angels too — spiritual beings who oppose God and his people. Our fight is with them, ultimately.

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood”, the Apostle says. If we did, then physical armor would do. But the battle is not physical, it is spiritual. And so we must gird ourselves for spiritual battle with God’s spiritual armor. This spiritual battle does manifest itself in the physical realm, of course. The evil one is prince of this world. But the battle is heavenly and spiritual before it is physical, and we must never forget this. 

The church is prone to forget this. We tend to believe what we see with our natural eyes. But what we see with our eyes are the effects of a spiritual battle that rages in the heavenly realm. We must not forget about that battle — the invisible one that rages behind the visible. We must see that battle with eyes of faith. If we forget about that battle, then we will find ourselves fighting the wrong fight, and with the wrong weapons. 

Think upon this, friends. God’s spiritual armor is needed because “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” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV). 


Concluding Prayer

Lord, give us eyes to see.

Help us to know for sure that there is a battle that rages all about us in the spiritual realm.

May be wake each day being mindful our enemy who is crafty and fierce. 

And may we have the wisdom to dress for battle, lest we be overrun.

Make us strong, O Lord, so that we might indeed stand firm in these evil days, for our good and your glory.



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