Sunday: Battle Speech

Study Paul’s ringing conclusion to his letter, Ephesians 6:10-20. What does Paul’s battle cry mean to us today, as combatants in the great controversy?

Paul concludes Ephesians with a call to battle, urging believers to take their stand in the church’s war against evil (Ephesians 6:10-20). He begins with an overarching exhortation to “be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10), which he repeats as a call to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11).

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He supports this call by specifying a purpose (to be able to stand against the devil’s schemes, Ephesians 6:11), and by offering a rationale: the battle is against powerful, spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). In a detailed way, Paul then reissues the call to arms. Believers are to “take up the whole armor of God” in order to stand firm in battle (Ephesians 6:13, ESV), donning belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword (Ephesians 6:14-17). Paul invites believers, now fully armed and ready to enter the fray, to do what soldiers on the ancient battlefield might do — and that is, pray (Ephesians 6:18-20).

By echoing battle exhortations or eve-of-battle speeches in the Old Testament, Paul speaks of the church’s mission in terms of military conflict and weapons. Paul signals this in his first, overarching command: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10, NKJV).

Battle exhortations in the Old Testament (see, for instance, Deuteronomy 20:2-4Judges 7:15-182 Chronicles 20:13-202 Chronicles 32:6-8Nehemiah 4:14Nehemiah 4:19-20) underline the idea that Israel’s success in battle does not depend on the superiority of its own weapons or an army that outnumbers its foes. Rather, victory results from depending on the presence and power of God. The key to success was not confidence in themselves but firm trust in God’s power and His provision for their success. Paul makes bold use of these themes to exhort believers to be: (1) active in pursuing the church’s mission; (2) attentive to the unseen dimensions that impact their lives and witness; (3) cognizant of the divine provision for their success; and (4) always alert to the importance of unity and collaboration among believers.

What should Paul’s warning that we fight not against flesh and blood but against supernatural enemies teach us about where our only hope of victory is?

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