Protecting Oneself With the Full Armor of God
[Ephesians chapter 6]
Today we will be finishing up the book of Ephesians by studying chapter six, the final chapter in this particular letter from the apostle Paul. When we left off last week, Paul wrote of the loving relationship between husband and wife, detailing what a Christian marriage looks like when it is a Godly marriage, and compared it to the relationship between Christ and mankind. Each is a personalized 1-on-1 relationship, one with Jesus Christ and the other with the respective spouses. We have a duty, not just as Christians but as human beings to treat each other as well as we can in order to emulate Christ, who died for us and who has achieved eternal life for all who believe. We are to be obeying the commands of Christ, one of which was to, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, or to care for one another as we would care for ourselves. As we open today’s study, we find Paul taking up where he left off, and we will do the same beginning at verse 1.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of the heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6, verses 1-9, NIV)
Honoring our parents is something that is usually taught to us in childhood (excluding a few spoiled brats I’ve seen in the grocery store), and it’s good advice even for those who were abused as kids like I was. While respect is earned and in a way subjective or relative, honor is a commandment, and there is a considerable difference between the two because of this. Even if we are estranged from our parents for whatever reason, we should honor their memory anyway because we wouldn’t be here without them. If you grew up without a parent, or if anyone aged out of the foster care system like I once did, just remember that you are never alone because we all have a daddy who is God our Father who lives in heaven, and who watches over us every day whether we realize it or not. Ditto for those who had bad childhoods for one reason or another. Your heavenly Father loves you and is right there with you each and every day. Best of all, he’s not interested in your past, but only your future.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” People love to quote the Old Testament with regard to raising children, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. But, with the first quote above we see a new covenant law that clarifies the old. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” most definitely does not give cause for abuse. Let’s not be overbearing parents either, driving and coaching our kids to ever greater “achievement” for all the wrong reasons, which happens too frequently. For a way of parenting as Christ would have us do, “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” If any parent is not sure how to go about doing this, the answers you are seeking are right there in your Bibles. So for more enlightenment and coaching by the Lord, read your Bibles more often.
In the part where the apostle Paul wrote about slaves and masters, that can be directly applied to employer-employee relationships in the 21st century. Although we were taught in school as kids that slavery in America ended over 150 years ago, the ugly reality is that it’s still here, only in a different form. Slavery isn’t the exclusive scourge of people of color like it used to be, either. Today as I write this there are more economic slaves throughout the world than ever before in human history. Although the idea of slave ownership has become antiquated and criminalized, economic slavery is at epidemic proportions. Who is a slave these days, you ask? It is domestic assistants who are often smuggled into the US to work in the private homes of top 1%’ers for well below the minimum wage, if they get paid at all. It is the Chinese assembly worker who works double shifts 6 or 7 days a week for the equivalent of about $2.00 a day USD. It is child laborers in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, China and India, among other places around the globe, many of whom make even less than that! And, it is defined among American workers who haven’t gotten a real pay raise since the 1970’s, and whose paychecks are not sufficient for purchasing any more than bare-bones essentials, oftentimes because they find themselves forced into low-paying service jobs that leave them poverty-stricken. That, dear readers, is a social injustice of the highest magnitude, and I stand against social injustice 24/7 because that is what God has called me to do! Human equality is Scriptural (see Acts 2: 42-47, Acts 4: 32-37 and 2 Cor. 8: 13-15), not merely political. Everybody has the right to a living wage. I see no exceptions whatsoever. Having said all that, let’s move on and finish this final lesson from Ephesians.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the buckle of truth around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6, verses 10-24, NIV)
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Don’t try to go through your daily living all by yourself. Life wasn’t intended to be that way. Instead of being superman or wonder woman all the time – which nobody can really do anyway – rely on the Lord and use his indwelling of the Holy Spirit for your strength. Things become so much easier that way. Our struggle as Christian believers is not against any earthly powers (Christians enduring persecution overseas being one important exception), it’s against spiritual powers of evil who hate goodness and despise all those who practice it. Paul’s well-known example of “putting on the armor of God” is obviously written from a 1st century AD standpoint. To bring this up to date, I think I’ll make a little change in the vernacular. All right? So let every Christisn put on the Kevlar of God, load our shotguns of righteousness, having the magazines of truth on our belts, the Bazooka of faith with which to blast away at Satan’s strongholds, and let’s holster the sidearm of the Spirit so we can shoot down all the lies we hear directed at ourselves and others. Now there is some real armament I can relate to! But isn’t this too militant, some may ask, for Christianity? On the contrary! The battlefield starts and ends in our minds and hearts. Lucifer and his armies of demons are pulling out all the stops in an effort to try one more time to stop us all in our tracks. That’s why we should be doing just the same to Satan and the forces of evil.
“Be alert and always keep on praying”. Be alert because we are most definitely living in the Last Days that has been prophesied about for at least the last 3,000 years. That means Christ could return at any time, and very soon. “Watch and pray”, Jesus said, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”. Pray every chance you get. Contrary to what some believe, our prayers do not have to be formal affairs. Oftentimes when I pray, I do so in a conversational style as if Christ and I were driving down the road somewhere or on the subway together. Prayers can even be a single sentence. And let’s be sure and pray for others before ourselves, putting them first as God would have us do. As you can see, Paul’s remaining comments have to do with church business of the day, but his closing comment, “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, is one I leave you with as well. Next week we’ll begin the book of Galatians. Until then, live for Jesus Christ and no one else.