“In conclusion, brothers, draw your strength from the power the Lord provides. Put on the complete armor of God that you can successfully resist the schemes and tactics of the devil. We are not contending against physical opponents but against the evil rulers of the darkness surrounding us and demonic agents in the spiritual realm. You must wear the complete armor of God in order to stand firmly in the day when evil comes, and having fought to the end, remain on your feet. Stand your ground and tighten the belt of truth firmly around your waist and wear the breastplate of righteousness. Your feet should be shod as a prepared messenger with the Gospel of peace. Cover yourself with the shield of faith, for with it you will extinguish every flaming missile the enemy shoots at you. Take the helmet salvation provides and the sword the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.” (paraphrased)
Paul does not want the Ephesians to underestimate the spiritual forces arrayed against them. No one should assume their conversion means the cessation of conflict, for victorious Christian living means engaging in spiritual warfare against a hellish army. This conflict is neither abstract nor imaginary. Diverse and numerous satanic legions oppose all who belong to Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is depicted as a battlefield, not an amusement park. To compromise or remain neutral is not possible. Jesus commands His followers to deny themselves, determinately pick up their crosses and follow Him (Mt. 16:24). Believers must be empowered by God for this battle, for they cannot adequately strengthen themselves. We have no defense against the enemy other than the protection God provides.
To “be strong” (endunamoo) is to be continuously endued and clothed with Christ’s inherent strength. The phrase “in the Lord” pinpoints its source. “The power (kratos) of His might (ischuos) is a phrase that describes His perpetually available energy. Jesus reminds His disciples that, apart from Him, they will accomplish nothing (Jn. 15:5). Paul points out we “can do all things through Christ who gives us strength” (Phil. 4:13).
As a Roman citizen, Paul lived, suffered, and died in an empire built by military superiority. Like most of the high-profile prisoners of his day, he was probably chained to a soldier during his imprisonment. As a result, Paul frequently uses warrior terminology in his letters:
<>Timothy is referred to as “a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3).
<> Archippus and Epaphroditus are called “fellow soldiers” (Philemon 2 & Phil. 2:25).
<> Paul tells the Corinthians “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (II Cor. 10:4).
The Captain of our salvation provides His soldiers with everything necessary to win (Heb. 2:10). Jesus warns us no king wages war without first calculating his resources (Lk. 14:31). We cannot forge our own weapons; they must be issued from headquarters. The order to “put on” (endusasthe) this protective clothing is an urgent mandate. The “whole armor” (panoplian) is a metaphor for complete protection during a sustained conflict. Paul encourages the Roman Believers to “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12) and tells the Corinthians to put on the “armor of righteousness” (II Cor. 6:7). Such illustrations are borrowed from Isaiah who reminds his people that God Himself “wears the helmet of salvation and wears righteousness as a breastplate” (Isa. 59:17).
The reason for wearing God’s armor is succinctly stated: the devil (diabolou) is cunning and deceptive. Diabolou means “slanderer” and it is from this term the English word “diabolical” is derived. “Wiles” (methodia) refers to satanic methods, strategy, tactics, and schemes. The term is often used regarding an animal which stalks his game and pounces unexpectedly.
The ministry of Jesus commences with a satanic attack (Lk. 4:2) and continues through envious religious bigots (Mt. 27:18). Paul refers to the “numerous adversaries” who oppose him while in Ephesus (I Cor. 16:9), but assures the Corinthians that Believers are “not ignorant of his schemes” (II Cor. 2:11).
The word “struggle” (pale) is often used in reference to hand-to-hand combat. But our fight is not against visible human foes, but against invisible demonic foes. Jesus warns His disciples that His kingdom is not of this world, otherwise His servants would need to contend physically (Jn. 18:36). Our own strength is insufficient for this battle
(II Cor. 12:9).
Each of the supernatural powers Believers contend with is preceded by the word “against” (pros). It occurs five times in this verse to emphasize the resistance we face. The first use of pros specifies what we are not fighting; the other four tell us what we are fighting:
1. We are not struggling with “flesh and blood” (haima kai sarka).
2. We are fighting “principalities” (archas). Paul assures us “no evil angelic principalities…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
3. We are in a contest with certain “authorities” (exousias), which include power-hungry, autocratic dictators on earth. Such men are tools of Satan to wreak havoc upon nations and stunt the growth of the Church. For example, although the antichrist is not Satan Himself, he serves as his representative.
4. We are attempting to defeat “world rulers of darkness” (kosmokratoras tou skotous). Those who love Jesus have been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13).
5. We are contending against celestial “spiritual wickedness” (pneumatika ponerias). Ponerias is “depravity” and it is from this term “pornography” is derived.
This verse verifies the existence of a secret evil hierarchy and proves satanic activity is highly organized and mobilized. The categories listed are impossible to accurately define, but Paul’s purpose is not to provide the details of a demonic chain of command. His intent is to illustrate the enemy’s determination to infiltrate and corrupt our world.
Because most of the difficulties Christians face originate in the satanic realm, demonic activity demands vigilance. The very name “Satan” (Satanas) means “a hostile opponent.” Throughout the Bible, he is seen sowing doubt, pride, immorality, and slander. He is the master of deception, disobedience, delusion, and disharmony. Jesus tells us he is a murderer (Jn. 8:44). He is pictured as a sinister and stealthy serpent (Gen. 3:1) and a dragon (Rev. 12:3). He is the cunning “god of this world who blinds the eyes of sinners” (II Cor. 4:4). Paul warns Timothy of the prevailing “doctrines of demons”
(I Tim. 4:1). From the devil’s shadowy kingdom, he promotes paganism, atheism, superstition, immorality, and crime.
Satan is invisible but is not invincible. In the end times, he leads the entire world astray (Rev. 12:9), but his authority is limited and temporary (20:2-3). Although he is “like a roaring lion,” God is holding his leash (I Pet. 5:8).
The assurance Christ has overcome Satan does not diminish the menace his children face every day. Because of the powerful forces opposing us, nothing less than the “full armor” (panoplian) will suffice. God provides it, but each Believer must decide to “put it on” (enduo). Enduo carries the concept of permanence, for it must be worn continuously. To “take it” (analambano) means to put it on for deliberate use. The devil knows the weak spots in each suit of spiritual armor. He is aware of each Christian’s “Achilles’ heel” and it is the unguarded areas of one’s personal life he is most likely to attack. We are not to run from conflicts: there is little protection for one’s backside. In order to fight the darkness we must “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).
“Withstand” (anthistemi) means to resist, contradict, and oppose the enemy. The “evil day” refers to any time satanic opposition is the most severe.
Paul does not describe a soldier marching, but standing his ground while engaging in personal combat. The operative word in verses 11, 13 and 14 is “stand” (stenai), picturing one who holds his position during a battle. Stenai carries the concept of a victor who emerges unvanquished after a fierce contest. We are told resist Satan rather than attack him (Jas. 4:7). Every piece of the divine equipment listed is indispensible, but we are assured there will be a final end to this conflict (Rev. 20:10).
The Belt of Truth
Although the wide leather belt worn by Roman soldiers is not actually a piece of armor, it is absolutely essential for victory. Roman soldiers wore a loose outer garment which must be secured in combat. Peter uses this same metaphor when he writes, “gird up the loins of your minds” (I Pet. 1:13). In another military analogy, Paul warns Timothy “to not become entangled with mundane daily cares so that he can please the One who has chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim. 2:4).
Without a firm trust in God’s truth (aletheia), Christians could be led astray by “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Jesus brands Satan as “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44), but Gospel truth is our security. To be “girded by truth” is to live a life of personal sincerity and doctrinal integrity.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
A breastplate can be compared to a bullet-proof vest which protects the vital organs. No Roman soldier entered battle without one. It was often constructed of a combination of metal and leather which conformed to the contours of the torso.
Upon conversion, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to an individual, though unearned and undeserved (II Cor. 5:21). Enemies cannot penetrate the “armor of righteousness” (6:7). It should be noted that the righteousness (dikaiosune) Paul refers to has nothing to do with personal merit. Isaiah describes self-righteousness as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). The body must be forged into an “instrument of righteousness” to be used for God’s glory, rather than our own (Rom. 6:13).
The Gospel Shoes
The next piece of equipment is combat-ready footwear. A soldier’s feet need protection from sharp rocks and thorns in order to fight effectively. Such shoes were bound with thongs around the ankle and over the instep. These strong hobnailed sandals firmly gripped the ground to ensure surefootedness in battle.
“Feet shod with the preparation (hetoimasia) of the Gospel of peace” allegorize Christian activity, for hetoimasia means to be firmly established and ready for what lies ahead. Believers must always be prepared to advance.
The Shield of Faith
A shield is necessary to ward off the opponent’s blows in combat. Rectangular in shape, it was constructed of wood covered with bronze. It curved outward and was oiled to deflect darts and arrows. The typical Roman shield (thureon) was secured to the soldier’s arm by two leather straps.
“Fiery darts” may be a metaphor for the temptations of “the wicked one” (poneros). In primitive warfare, tips of enemy arrows were sometimes dipped in tar and lit before being launched. These flaming missiles were sent to penetrate, decimate, and incapacitate.
Satan tries to defeat God’s people with a constant barrage of envy, greed, lust, anger, and numerous other sins. Only faith in Jesus can neutralize demonic darts. Our faith is indispensable, for it gives us the victory over the world (I Jn. 5:4).
The Helmet of Salvation
The Roman helmet (perikephalaian) was made of forged metal to protect the skull. Every attack of Satan is ultimately upon the mind. Each temptation must pass through the brain, the center of intelligence, before a sin can be committed. God wants his laws “written in our minds” as a protection against evil thoughts (Heb. 10:16). When Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he urges them to “wear the hope of salvation as a helmet” (I Th. 5:8). Without the steadfast assurance of reaching heaven, God’s soldiers would be demoralized. The will and mental faculties must be clearly focused, ready to obey every order God gives.
The Sword of the Spirit
The sword (machairan) is the only offensive weapon in Paul’s list. It was carried in a sheath affixed to the belt for quick accessibility. It was a machairan Peter uses to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in the garden. Jesus orders Peter to sheath his sword, an apt illustration that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal”
(Mt. 26:51-52 & II Cor. 10:4).
The Word of God is the only arm necessary for effective spiritual warfare. The Greek language here indicates the Word is provided by the Spirit. It is He who correctly interprets Scripture and brings it to our remembrance (Jn. 14:26). Timothy is encouraged by Paul to study and handle the Word of God accurately (II Tim. 2:15). He assures him “all Scripture is inspired by God” (3:16) and that knowing the Word will make him “fully equipped” for Christian service (v. 17).
Our “sword” must be kept ready at all times, for Jesus names Satan as the one who attempts to “steal the Word from the hearts of men” (Lk. 8:12). The Writer to the Hebrews states that the Word is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12).
Jesus’ victorious answer to every temptation of Satan was a passage of Scripture (Mt. 4:4-10). Like a sword in the hand of a soldier, the Word is effective only when wielded correctly. In Revelation, John sees Jesus as the One who destroys His enemies “by the sword of His mouth” (Rev. 19:15). It is the Lord Jesus Christ who publically disarms all principalities and powers (Col. 2:15).
The lyrics of the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ Arise”, written by John Wesley in the 1749, are based on Ephesians 6:10-17:
“Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armor on;
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
Stand, then, in His great might, with all His strength endued;
But take to arm you for the fight the panoply (armor) of God.
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may overcome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.
From strength to strength go on, wrestle and fight and pray;
Tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well-fought day.
Still let the Spirit cry, in all His soldiers “Come!”
Till Christ the Lord who reigns on high shall take the conquerors home.”
This passage in Ephesians proves we face formidable foes literally hell-bent on our destruction. But while the devil deals in discouragement and pessimism, the Spirit of God provides encouragement and optimism. Our Commander in Chief has never lost a battle and has vanquished the devil and his cohorts. We are “more than conquerors” through Christ who loves us (Rom. 8:37).
Points to Ponder
1. Why did David refuse to wear Saul’s armor (I Sam. 17:39)?
2. What is the origin of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (II Cor. 12:7)?
3. To what is the Lord compared in Psalm 18:30?
4. Who attempts to hinder Paul from visiting the Thessalonians (I Th. 2:18)?
5. When a Believer resists a satanic attack, what must the devil do (Jas. 4:7)?