Ephesians 6:10-24

Ephesians 6:10-24
The conflict addressed in the last part of Ephesians 6 is discussed popularly among Christians, but its strict interpretation is not often understood. The true meaning of this conflict is vastly important, and helpful in our Christian lives. What is the conflict in Ephesians 6? It is the warfare we experience when walking in the practical enjoyment of Ephesian truth, and sharing it with others! The believer’s heavenly portion in Christ and the truth of the Mystery are the highest Christian truths. Satan is strongly opposed to anyone enjoying them, or spreading the knowledge of them to others. To be clear, the conflict is not to obtain our spiritual blessings, because we already have them by virtue of being “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). But Satan would like to rob us of the enjoyment of them. To help with understanding Ephesians 6, we do well to distinguish three “soul conflicts” in the New Testament:
Reference  Combatants
Solution to the conflict Applies to:
Rom. 7:7-25 The old nature & the new nature  Believe the Gospel and be sealed A quickened soul that is not sealed
Gal. 5:16-25 The flesh & the Spirit  Give the Spirit its proper place  A Christian that is in a bad state
Eph. 6:10-20 A Christian & the Devil  Put on the whole armor of God  A Christian that is in a good state
The Gal. 5 conflict is something that Christians do experience, but we could not technically say it is a “normal” Christian conflict, because we would not experience it if we always walked “in the Spirit”. The remedy for the Gal. 5 conflict is to walk in the Spirit. But the Eph. 6 conflict is a normal Christian conflict, because believers will encounter it when they are going on well for the Lord. The remedy it to put on the whole armor of God. If I am walking in the flesh, Satan won’t waste his time and energy fighting against me directly as in Eph. 6. If I’m walking in the flesh, I’m burning up from the inside out; i.e. I am self-defeating. But when I have gotten deliverance from sin, and I am seeking to walk in the enjoyment of my heavenly portion, then Satan attacks. Christ has won a great victory at Calvary, and by enjoying and spreading the Mystery, the news of that victory reaches far and wide. Satan cannot have that, and so he appears to stop up our path.
The Journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan is a helpful illustration of New Testament doctrine concerning the individual standing and salvation of the believer. A critical step in this journey was crossing the Jordan, a picture of our death and resurrection with Christ. After the Jordan was Canaan, Israel’s promised possession… a picture of our portion seated in heavenly places in Christ. The first thing Joshua saw after Gilgal was the Angel of the Lord with a drawn sword. Like Joshua and the children of Israel, we also should be prepared that there will be warfare in Canaan. Fighting will characterize possession of the land. In Ephesians the warfare is not with the flesh, but with spiritual wickedness in high places. The Canaanite and the Perizzite are still in the land. There is conflict because it is the place of Christian privilege. The Angel told Joshua to take his shoe off, “for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” We must have an understanding of the value that God places on these heavenly things. We are not to toss them about as if they were merely concepts. For example, we read in ch.1 that the Church is the complement or fulfillment of Christ. The very one who will fill the universe with His glory has chosen to be incomplete without us! There are glories of Christ that could not be displayed without the Church! This is holy ground, and needs to be treated as such.

The Conflict we will Face (6:10-20)

Understand that it is a spiritual battle. To be clear, the conflict that we are engaged in as Christians is not a physical fight. Paul tells us that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, etc.” (2 Cor. 10:4). The inheritance is spiritual, the fight is spiritual, and so the armor is spiritual as well.

Things We Need to do before We Can “Stand” in Battle (vv.10-13)

¶ 10 For the rest, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the might of his strength. v.10 Find your Strength in the Lord. We are told to be strong, not in ourselves, but “in the Lord” (see Josh. 5:14-15). As the redeemed people of the Lord, we are there to fight His battles. We do not stand alone, but with Him as our Captain. Also, the ground we stand on, the foundation of our inheritance, is holy ground. It is based on none other than the person and work of Christ. There is infidelity of various kinds in the spiritual world; skepticism and superstition, rationalism and ritualism. We will not get through in our own strength, we need “to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”.
11 Put on the panoply of God, that ye may be able to stand against the artifices of the devil: v.11 Put on the Armor of God. We need the whole armor; and the armor must be “of God”; human armor will not stand up to the attacks of Satan. The Devil is skillfully trying to resist our progress. His power has been broken in the death of Christ, but we now face his strategies. He is trying to get those who have been delivered back under his power. A good example of this is how the Gibeonites outwitted Joshua and the men of Israel (Joshua 9).
12 because our struggle is (1) not against blood and flesh, but (2) against principalities, (3) against authorities, (4) against the universal lords of this darkness, (5) against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies. v.12 Know your Enemy. It tells us in v.11 that we stand against “the devil”. Furthermore, Satan uses other beings under him in this war because he is not omnipresent. The book of Daniel reveals that there is was a battle being the scenes. The same is true today. Satan is seeking to rob God if His glory in the church (Eph. 3:21). We find in this verse that Satan has a hierarchy in his kingdom, and not all demons are equal. For example, we know that Satan out-ranks Michael (Jude 9), as the highest angel officially . Here we have the various sub-layers in that evil hierarchy, all arrayed against the believer. (1) Our warfare is “not against blood and flesh”; i.e. not against men, such as in physical combat. However, Satan may use men to push and present evil teachings to us (e.g. Arius of Antioch). (2) Our warfare is against “principalities”. These are demonic beings that have dominion over specific regions on the earth. See the princes in Daniel 10; “prince of Persia”, “prince of Greece”, “Michael your prince”. (3) Our warfare is against “authorities”. These are demonic beings with great power, even over other demons. (4) Our warfare is against “the universal lords of this darkness”; i.e. Satan’s warlords. These are universal authorities, perhaps Satan’s right hand demons. (5) Finally, our warfare is against “spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies”; i.e. spiritual sin itself. The dark and elusive energy that militates against God, against His Word, and against His people. It is sin in the broadest context; not “sin in the flesh” or “sin in the world” but the principle itself.
13 For this reason take to you the panoply of God, that (1) ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, (2) having accomplished all things, to stand. v.13 Understand your Objective. Taking and applying the whole armor of God will result in victory. The goal is to stand. we will have conflict in two ways. First, “to withstand in the evil day” (passive). By virtue of our being in the heavenlies positionally, Satan’s efforts are to deny us our inheritance. What is the “evil day”? In one generic sense, it is the last 2000 years… the whole period of time since the cross. But in another sense, the “evil day” is a specific attack that will come on us at one point or another in our lives. Second, “having done all, to stand” (active). When we have enjoyed a portion of our inheritance, the enemy tries to drive us out. We need to possess the ground God has given to us, and stand in it against the influence of Satan to give it up.

The Armor of God: Preparation for the Battle (vv.14-18)

See full article on the Armor of God.
14a Stand therefore, having girt about your loins with truth, v.14a The Girdle of Truth.

The loins were traditionally considered to be the seat of a person's strength. In modern terminology, we might refer to it as our "core". We will be strong in battle if we are wearing the girdle of truth. The loins also represent the inner affections and movements of the heart (Psalm 51:6). In Biblical times, men wore long robes that needed to be girded for physical activity, or they would prevent movement. The girdle also securely fastens the garment to one's body. An example is the young man who had a "linen cloth cast about his naked body" (Mark 14:51). His garment easily came off in public and he was naked. To be girded with the girdle of truth means having the power of truth applied to everything that takes place in our affections. We could summarize it briefly as follows: the girdle of truth is the constant application of the truth of God to one's self. It is the first piece of the armor because if we get this wrong, we get everything wrong. It comes first in the same way the Parable of the Sower comes first in Matt. 13. When we read the Word, do we let its power affect us? Do we let it judge us? This is not knowing doctrine, but truth practically applied. God’s Word needs to have its full application in our lives. Much of what God tells us in His Word are unseen truths, but they need to be applied or we are not properly girded. If we are not properly girded, our garments will be dragging in the mire of this world, our thoughts will be wandering. But when we put on the girdle of truth, then our heart is in the right place, ready for service. An example of this is Achan, who did not have on the girdle of truth, and therefore his affections went out after the accursed thing.

14b and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, v.14b The Breastplate of Righteousness.

The breastplate of righteousness is practical righteousness with God. Are we right with God on the inside? Having the breastplate on will do two things: (1) ensure we have a good conscience, and (2) ensure that the ministry is not blamed. Unless a man has a good conscience, he will be a coward, and afraid of being detected. If we are inconsistent Satan will be sure to bring it up, and we will be ineffective soldiers. Imagine a preacher (we don’t have to imagine) who preaches about separation from the world, but is not walking in practical righteousness. The world will say “He is no better than us” and immediately Satan has a victory, and the ministry is nullified. An upright walk before God will ward off the attacks of Satan to “blame the ministry” (see 2 Cor. 6:3).

15 and shod your feet with the preparation of the glad tidings of peace: v.15 The Shoes of Peace.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we carry the spirit and character of Christ through this world, which knows nothing of peace. The shoes of peace are the spirit of Christ in our life seen by others as we walk through the world. Also, it is hard to be vigilant when your feet are not protected. Neglecting the shoes of peace will make us more likely to be swayed by every wind of doctrine. There is a clear allusion to Isa. 52:7, which says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.” Clearly, that scripture refers to the messengers of the Gospel of the kingdom who go out with news that the King has returned! So precious to the hiding remnant will those tidings be that the very feet of the runners will be to them a beautiful sight. In the same way, the daily walk of believers should be characterized by a remarkable steadiness that will be seen by others in this world. It is the stabilizing influence of the Gospel. The emphasis in this verse is on the word "peace" not on the word "gospel".

A notable progression. As with every list in scripture, the order is significant. The first three pieces of the armor have to do with the state of the heart being right first: (1) loins girt with truth, (2) righteousness for a breastplate, and (3) feet shod with peace. These are put on in the dressing room. There is a moral progression with these three. Truth practically applied results in practical righteousness in the life. Righteousness in the life results in peacefulness in the pathway! The last three pieces of armor come with a slight change, which is why it says "besides all these". The soldier moves from the dressing room to the armory, which is the last stop before the battlefield. These pieces are more external; in fact the entire list goes from the most inward (girdle, then breastplate) to the more outward (shoes), and then the extremities (shield, helmet, sword). We do well to have the under-pieces properly secured before we arm ourselves with the external ones. If there is a failure in this fight, it will most often be traced to under-preparedness in the first three pieces, which may have resulted in a chink in the external ones.
16 besides all these, having taken the shield of faith with which ye will be able to quench all the inflamed darts of the wicked one. v.16 The Shield of Faith.

Once the heart is right, then we are told about the shield of faith, by which we can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. The shield of faith is an attitude of complete confidence in God. It is the first line of defense. Read Psalm 91:1-5. God is greater than Satan in both power and wisdom. Satan may launch his darts, but they cannot penetrate the shield of faith. The "darts" may involve doubts and accusations which Satan uses to assault the believer. We need to remember that all the power of Satan is broken. Christ has gone through death to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”. This is why we are not told to overcome the devil – because Christ already has – but instead we are to “resist” him, and he will flee from us. When resisted, Satan meets Christ in us and runs away. If we fight Satan with human determination, we will give in to his demands. We do not need to stand in the power of our own might, but simply look to Christ who said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Faith says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Note that the shield extinguishes Satan’s darts. At the moment of attack, we may not be able to exercise the sword of the Spirit, but the shield of faith immediately takes away the urgent threat to our person.

17 Have also the helmet of salvation, v.17a The Helmet of Salvation.

The helmet of salvation is the enjoyment of our full salvation; the intelligence of what has already been done for us. We know Christ has defeated Satan, therefore we know the outcome of the battle. We need to constantly go back to the foundation, the finished work of Christ. Our salvation includes the future salvation of the believer, which is the Lord’s Coming for His saints. We get that in 1 Thessalonians 5:8; "and for an helmet, the hope of salvation", where we notice that the word "hope" is used. A helmet covers the soldier's head, which is a critical area to keep protected. The head of course represents our mind and our thoughts. One of the most dangerous weapons known to man is the idea. Consider how the Germans used the ideas of Vladimir Lenin to bring down the Russian Empire, and take Russia out of World War I. The impact of those ideas, planted in the minds of the Russian working class, were far more effective than any amount of military force. In a similar way, Satan would like to deter us through spiritual and philosophical ideas that run contrary to the Word of God. How careful we need to be with our thoughts! Keeping the work of Christ and our full salvation before us will be like a helmet for our mind, to block out those influences that are designed by our enemy to derail us from the pathway.

17b and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word [‘rhema’]; v.17b The Sword of the Spirit.

Now we can fight, having put on and taken the preceding five pieces of armor, being sheltered and shielded. We dare not fight until we are sheltered and shielded. We now take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God always to be exercised in a spirit of dependence. It is the first and only offensive weapon. The Word of God is "powerful" and "sharp" (Heb. 4:12). The Word alone can reach the heart and conscience. How wonderful that the believer can "hold forth the word of life" (Phil 2:16), not presenting our own thoughts and opinions, but what God has said.

Word or words? Since the word is ‘rhema’ not ‘logos’, a better rendering would be, “the sayings of God”; see note on the Word and Words of God. This would suggest that the “sword” is the word for the occasion. We get an example of this when our Lord met and overcame Satan by presenting a scripture suited to the moment, and gave the principle “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word [‘rhema’] of God” (Luke 4:4). But if we do not have the “logos abiding in us” (1 John 2:14) we will not have a rhema for the time. We need to be well-acquainted with the written logos, and then we will have a specific word when the time comes.
18 praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication, and watching unto this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; v.18 Praying Always.

No matter how active a soldier is, it will do no good if he hasn’t been communicating with the Commander and Chief. Remember the Captain of the Lord’s Host? The battle is His, and can only be won “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”. We need complete dependence… the whole package: (1) the Word of God and (2) prayer. Prayer is mentioned in connection with the whole armor, but especially the Sword of the Spirit. These two things are found running together through Scripture: the Word of God and prayer. Much of the battle is fought out beforehand in God's presence by prayer. Prayer is not exactly a piece of the armor, but the spirit or attitude in which we are to stand in battle.

There are four all’s in this verse that we need to take note of:
  1. All seasons. Prayer should be done at all times; when things are going well, and when there are challenges.
  2. All prayer and supplication. Prayer is generally connected with requests made for daily needs, while supplications are more earnest. To supplicate is to earnestly beg the Lord for something. It is an expression of dependence and confidence.
  3. All perseverance. We are to pray tenaciously. The expression “watching thereunto” has the thought of expecting the prayer to be answered (1 Kings 18:43, James 5:17).
  4. All saints. Our prayers should not be limited to those who we know or are in fellowship with. We need to pray for the whole body of Christ.
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian's armour bright;
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.1
Ten Aspects of Prayer. There are many types of prayer mentioned in scripture. We need to understand the differences between these various aspects. Some types are laudatory, which means they are responsive prayers, driven by the overflow of one’s heart. Others are driven more by our needs or the needs of others. The ten aspects are: (1) repentance, (2) worship, (3) praise, (4) thanksgiving, (5) fellowship or communion, (6) confession, (7) groanings, (8) requests, (9) supplications, and (10) intercessions. Read more…

An Example of the Conflict (vv.19-20)

19 and for me in order that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the glad tidings, v.19 Paul solicited the Ephesians’ prayers for very unselfish reasons. His desire was that Christ’s interests would be furthered in the earth. He wanted them to pray for him, and specifically that he would have greater effectiveness in his ministry. The first thing that every servant of the Lord in a public role feels the need for is utterance… even the great apostle. The second thing that is needed is boldness. A lack of boldness results in inaction. The “mystery of the glad tidings” is the mystery in a general way, looked at as the portion of those who receive the gospel; the mystery that the gospel leads us to. It is all the blessings that are brought in by receiving the gospel. Read more…
20 for which I am an ambassador bound with a chain, that I may be bold in it as I ought to speak. v.20 It was the truth of the mystery that Paul suffered for “in bonds”, because the mystery is the truth that, in Christ, Gentiles are on equal ground with the Jews. The Jews resented this teaching, and persecuted Paul, resulting in his being sent to Rome in chains. But also, Satan hates the truth of the mystery, because it means that Christ, who went back to heaven, is still practically displayed on earth! The truth had affected Paul so much that he viewed himself as “an ambassador bound with a chain”. He was a citizen of heaven, but in bonds on earth for the truth of the mystery. This verse tells us that Ephesians is a prison epistle. See 2 Cor. 5 for more on the subject of Christian ambassadorship. His prayer was for boldness in the gospel. The truth is worthy of bold proclamation; “as I ought to speak”. He asked for boldness in the situation that he was in, rather than for exemption from the difficult circumstances.

Closing Remarks (6:21-24)

Tychicus to be Sent (vv.21-22)

¶ 21 But in order that *ye* also may know what concerns me, how I am getting on, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make all things known to you; v.21 Paul was counting on the love of the Ephesians, that they would really want to know how he was doing in prison. The apostle Paul was not a private person, nothing in his life was hidden. Everything he was doing was for the Lord, and Tychicus would make that known. This is similar to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. His life was an open book before the world (2 Cor. 4:2) and before the saints (2 Cor. 5:11). It was a nice commendation for Tychicus, “a beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord”. He is also spoken of in Col. 4:7 and given the same commendation. But to the Colossians, Tychicus was also sent to see their state (it was poor). This was not gossip… Tychicus seems to have had the gift of a pastor. He got to know Paul very well, and the state of local assemblies. It is healthy for individuals in an assembly to know the state of others, and to have a care to know.
22 whom I have sent to you for this very thing, that ye may know of our affairs and that he may encourage your hearts. v.22 As a result of Tychicus transparently communicating his knowledge of Paul’s affairs – even of his imprisonment – the hearts of the Ephesians would be encouraged (v.22). Could the same be said if the saints were made aware of our state?

Benediction (vv.23-24)

¶ 23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. v.23 If we are to profit from this epistle we will need two things from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. First, we need “peace”; settled peace from God about Paul’s circumstances, the destiny of the Church, and the purpose of God. Second, we need “love with faith”; a sense of God the Father’s love, and the love of Christ which passes knowledge. A sense of this love is only made possible “with faith”.
24 Grace with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption. v.24 The final words of Paul to the Ephesians were that he prayed for grace, or enabling power, to those who “love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption”, that is, with a pure heart. Love for the Lord is the root of all service and devotion to Him. God is gracious to all, but He will give His grace to those who love His Son with a pure heart.
  1. Cowper, William. Exhortation To Prayer. Cowper’s Poems, Sheldon & Company, New York