The book of Ephesians is a book about the church. It naturally divides into two halves, the first addressing the doctrinal nature of the church and the second addressing the practical nature of the church. In this book, we see that Paul employs several images connecting with the church. He will use the imagery of a body (1:21-22), a temple (2:21-22), a bride (5:23), and an army (6:10-18). The focus of our study will surround the church and the imagery of it as God's army.
Like any army, it does not merely exist; instead, men are enlisted and made to be soldiers. Such is the case with God's army. With God's army, a transformation took place, one which we read of in Ephesians 2:1-10. The church, His army, comprises those who have been made alive. They were formerly dead in their trespasses and sins and are now alive together in Christ. Christians have been enlisted and made to be soldiers of the cross. As Christ serves as the general of His army, He passes down some general remarks to His troops by way of the inspired pen of Paul. Paul writes to us in Ephesians 6:10-18, reminding us of three significant things. We are reminded first of the encouragement (10), second of the enemy (11-12), and third of the equipment (13-18).
First, let us consider the encouragement. Paul writes this section as a conclusion to all he has laid forth prior in the book. Things such as the scheme of redemption, God's gift of life, our duty to walk worthily, and our work of imitation. These things can be daunting, especially the calls to personal responsibility. The call of Christlikeness is not something light or easy - instead, it is difficult and demanding. How, then, can I fulfill my commitment? What is it, within myself, that makes me able to fulfill my role? Well, the answer is simple, nothing of just ourselves gives us the capability. Thus the encouragement, "be strong," not in self, but "in the Lord and in the strength of His might." What does this mean, to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might? It means to place yourself under Him. It requires me to go under His protective wings. Notice these passages from Psalm ninety-one:
Psalm 91:1-2: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
Psalm 91:4-5: "He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,"
The Psalmist emphasizes two things: depending on God and protection by God. How can I fulfill my responsibility? Placing my trust and confidence in God and His might rather than my own.
Second, let us consider the enemy. Paul reminds us of the enemy. We often become confused about who the enemy is. We tear at one another without considering who our battle and contention is really with. It is not a battle against the church. It is a battle against the opposition of the church. The chief opposition is Satan. Satan is the deceiver of the whole world (Rev 12:9) and the accuser of our brethren (Rev 12:10). He has beset himself against the children of God (Rev 12:17). Our fight is with him! He commands an army, typified in the phases found in verse twelve. Some good brethren differ in the interpretation of verse 12. Some say these are literal, cosmic forces that though they do not understand them believe them to be real. Other brethren might hold these things as hyperbole, referring to false teachers and other like figures. Nonetheless, here's what we can know. While we strive against these things presently and until the coming of the Lord, our fight is best directed, in primary focus, to their command, Satan himself. We are the army of God; no army strives to fight against itself, nor should the church.
Third, let us consider the equipment. Paul, encouraging us to confide in the Lord and His might and reminding us of the true enemy, directs us to a call to rationality. You want to stand, you have someone who wants to see you fall, so in order to stand, put on the whole armor of God. This armor provides us the capability of withstanding our enemy's tactics and threats. This armor is constructed of six pieces. Each of these pieces, I believe, correlates to scripture. Jesus' prayer to God in John 17:17 was that God "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." I believe this armor is the answer to that request. Consider the belt of truth; perhaps this indicates that we are to be girded up with the truth, having it around us constantly. The breastplate of righteousness, I believe, relates to storing the Word up in your heart, as the Psalmist indicates in Psalm 119:11. Shoes, these are already correlated to the gospel for us; perhaps it shares in imagery with the shoes of a horse, designed for stability and endurance. The shield of faith, the device which keeps us from the piercing darts of Satan, much like the Word keeps us pure, or unharmed, as prescribed in Psalm 119:9. The helmet of salvation protects our heads, or in figure, our minds - the battle which we fight is a fight of the mind (2 Cor 10:3-6), and by surrounding the mind with the Word we become "fully furnished unto every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). The final piece of the armor, the sword of the spirit, is both an offensive and defensive weapon - the weapon of choice for our Commander against the devil himself (Matt 4:4-10). These are not the only pieces of equipment that we have; not only do we have tactical equipment, but we also have communication equipment - prayer and supplication. Here we make our requests known to God, "send help!", "provide strength", "give me wisdom." Our available gear far surpasses the threat of our foe.
Our Commander has expressly given us the command to be fit for service and properly furnished us with the desperately needed equipment. Without the aid of the Savior, we would be helpless and hopeless; however, by His might and blessing, we are transformed and made ready for battle.