The apostle having delivered the preceding precepts respecting relative duties now adds a general exhortation to the believing Ephesians to be hearty and zealous in the performance of all their duties, which he enforces by the discovery of another deep article of the mystery of God; namely, that evil angels are leagued together against men, and are continually occupied in tempting them to sin. Finally, that is to say “as to what remains” my brethren. This is the only place in this epistle where he uses this compellation. Soldiers frequently use it to each other in the field. Be strong in the Lord since every relation in life brings along with it corresponding duties and requires vigor and resolution in the discharge of them, whatever therefore the circumstance or situation may be which you are in, see that you do not rely on your own strength, but apply to the Lord, for his strength, and arm yourselves with the power of his might. (Benson)
Here, the Apostle Paul exhorts that the Christian must “put on” (note 1 Thessalonians 5:8) the full armor that is God’s. He supplies it for the believer (reference Isaiah 11:5; 59:17).
Be strong and put on! Both commands are obvious and evident examples of the balanced teaching of scripture. Some Christians are so self-confident that they think they can manage by themselves without the Lord’s strength and armor. Others are so self-distrustful that they imagine they have nothing to contribute to their victory in spiritual warfare. Both are mistaken. Paul expresses the proper combination of divine enabling and human cooperation.
The purpose of accepting the equipment that God provides for waging spiritual warfare is essentially to withstand all of Satan’s attacks. What the apostle said here doubtless applies to all of Satan’s aims and attacks. These offensives come to us from a very intelligent and experienced strategist, and they are frequently deceptive (see Ephesians 4:14).
Know this my friend, Satan has consistently aimed his personal attacks at getting people to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey the revealed will of God (reference Genesis 3; Matthew 4). The world system seeks to get people to believe that they do not need God but can get along very well without Him (1 John 2). The flesh tempts us to think that we can find satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment on the physical, material level of life alone (Romans 7). (Note: See J. Dwight Pentecost, “Your Adversary the Devil,” and C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters,” for further insight into the devil’s strategies.]
John Stott believed that a thorough knowledge of the enemy and a healthy respect for his prowess are a necessary preliminary to victory in war. Similarly, commented the English Anglican cleric, “if we underestimate our spiritual enemy, we shall see no need for God’s armor, we shall go out to the battle unarmed, with no weapons but our own puny strength, and we shall be quickly and ignominiously defeated.”
If we want to obey God and resist the devil, we are in for a struggle. It is not easy to become a mature Christian nor is it automatic. It takes diligent, sustained effort (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). This is part of our human responsibility in progressive sanctification.
This struggle does not take place on the physical level primarily, though saying no to certain temptations may involve certain physical behavior. It is essentially warfare on the spiritual level with an enemy that we cannot see. This enemy is Satan and his hosts as well as the philosophies and feelings he promotes that people implement. (Coffman)
Some commentators believe that Paul described four different orders of angelic beings here. Probably the four terms used of our spiritual enemies in this verse do not identify four separate kinds of adversaries as much as they point out four characteristics of all of them. “Rulers” stresses their authority and “powers” or “authorities” their strength. “World forces of this darkness” or “powers of this dark world” point to their wide influence in the world, and forces “of wickedness” or “spiritual forces of evil” relate to their evil character. They operate in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10). It would seem evident that presently Satan and his hosts have access to God in the sense that they can communicate with Him but not in the sense that they can coexist in fellowship with Him (reference Job chapters 1 and 2).
“Wherefore” (verse 13) — That is to say, in view of the supernatural powers you and I will encounter. Surely a divine armor, the whole armor, we can use and is necessary for a supernatural battle. Of the whole armor that Paul mentions, six pieces — four fixed in contact upon the body, namely the girdle or belt, breastplate, sandals, and helmet; and two in the hands, the shield and the sword. All are protective but the last. And the apostle mentions them in the order in which the warrior would be apt to put them on for battle. First, as preliminary to all easy action, he binds his loose tunic in the girdle, then puts the breastplate or coat of mail upon his chest. Then taking his shield in his left hand, with his right hand he first puts on his helmet, and then, taking his sword, is ready for the battle.
“In the evil day” — Wherever or whenever the evil day comes, and whether it consists of adversity, temptation, or onslaughts of infidel advocates. Having done all of duty, whether of arming or fighting. To stand firmly and perpendicularly; in contrast with falling, running, or being captured. But, in fact, in this battle the only failure is cowardice or apostasy; he who truly fights is never conquered. He is sure, after the rush of battle has past, to stand. Just so in our national ballad, after the night of cannonade is over, and the morning dawns “that flag is still there.” (Wheldon)
Prayer and alertness (two participles in the Greek text) describe how we should “receive” present salvation and use the word appropriate to our trial. We should be in constant prayer in preparation for our spiritual battles and as we engage our enemy (reference Mark 14:34-38; Colossians 4:2). The Spirit prays for us (Romans 8:26) and enables us to pray, as He enables us to do everything else. “Prayer” refers to our communication with God generally and “petition” to our supplications specifically. Thus, in addition to praying for our own needs we should also keep alert to the needs of other fellow soldiers, namely, all the saints. We must not fail them but pray for them persistently. The great need for prayer that exists is obvious in Paul’s use of the word “all” four times in this verse (reference 1 Timothy 2:1).
Dr. Wayne M. Williams and his wife of 40 years, Lita, reside in Athens.