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Foreword:  This is the last installment on the series  from Modern Reformation, Nov./Dec. Vol. 5 No. 6 1996 issue. To see the complete list and full articles, go to ‘Categories’ from the sidebar and choose the section on The Life of A Justified Sinner. – EmmausTrekker

 

By Dr. Michael S. Horton

Everyone knows St. Augustine , that fourth-century giant, as the doctor of grace. To a large extent, the Reformation was simply a recovery of and improvement on Augustine’s system. Few quills have graced the subject of guilt and grace like the Bishop of Hippo’s. And yet, Augustine’s own conversion was not so much due to the guilt of his sins, as to their power. You see, Augustine had been a member of a heretical sect known for its immorality. The immediate point of contact for him was the indomitable tyranny of sin. Theologians have distinguished three aspects of sin: its guilt, its power, and its presence. The moment we place our confidence in Christ’s saving work, we are instantly justified, liberated from the condemnation which the guilt of our sins deserves. Further, because of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, we are not only given the faith to believe, resulting in our justification; we are also given the gift of repentance, resulting in a life of sanctification or growth in Christian maturity. And yet, we know the struggle of Romans 7 all too well. Though we are justified and are being sanctified, we are engaged in a war and will know no peace until we are finally delivered from the presence of sin altogether in the New Jerusalem.

Know The Enemy
The unholy trinity most often identified in Scripture is well-known to most of us: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

First, the world. Now, be careful with this one, because it is not the world per se that’s the problem, but the world as it has come to be shaped by the warped hands and minds of sinful human beings. As God created it, the world was a good place–“very good,” God said. The Creator placed Adam in the garden as the worldly custodian, to insure that all creation served and praised its glorious Maker. But we know the story: Adam and Eve failed God in this task and the entire creation was placed under a curse to bondage and decay. The second law of thermodynamics was one physical aspect of this curse. And yet, God did not leave it this way. In the very day on which God pronounced judgment, He also promised redemption (Gen. 3:15). From Eden , history unfolds in successive stages of redemptive acts pointing to the ultimate act of redemption in Christ’s self-sacrifice.

But we very often forget that the world itself was included in this promise of redemption. It wasn’t just for Christians that the “new creation” or the “new age” dawned. In Romans chapter eight, St. Paul informs us, “The whole creation is on tiptoe” waiting to see our redemption. “The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited–yet it has been given hope.” That’s right, even creation itself has been given the promise of redemption. “And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” ( Rom. 8:20-21, Phillips).

Therefore, the world has now become the theater of war. Just as Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait made that state the theater of conflict, so too Satan has invaded this world through the disobedience of our first parents. The world is our enemy, therefore, not in the sense that we are hostile to its culture, its music, its science, its art, its civic and social life–for we were created to participate in these activities. Rather, it is the world as dominated by alien forces hostile to the reign of Christ which presents some of our most urgent challenges.

This is why the Apostle warned, “Do not be conformed to this world’s pattern of thinking, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2). Hence, we “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Every method, belief, outlook, agenda, must become a POW of Jesus Christ. Our beliefs and attitudes must pass His inspection. Some years ago, the National Council of Churches, often railed against by evangelicals as liberal, made the remark that, “The world sets the church’s agenda.” But today, it is often evangelicals themselves who are taking in uncritically the popular trends and fashionable thoughts which make it difficult sometimes to discern where Christianity ends and pop culture begins.

If the conflict with the world is a war without, the conflict with the flesh is the war within. St. Paul makes it the subject of his seventh chapter of Romans. “We know,” he says, “that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” At this point, Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles, does not experience the “victorious Christian life” so many Christians are promised these days. He feels like a POW in the battle with sin. One minute, in Romans six, we find him fighting and overthrowing attacking forces in hand-to-hand combat. The next, in Romans seven, he is a prisoner. This is the nature of the Christian life. This is the course of sanctification. What many Christians today regard as a “carnal Christian” is really either an unbeliever or, like the rest of us–a struggling saint. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!” (vv. 21-24).

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not, as is often suggested, that the former lives a “victorious life,” or that he “lives above all known sin.” Rather, it is that the Christian is at war within, while the non-Christian is not even aware of any conflict. The Christian houses two hostile forces. He is at once “justified and sinful,” pro-God and anti-God. And this war with oneself will never be resolved until we reach the Promised Land. As Alexander Whyte, the Presbyterian pastor of the previous century informed his congregation, “You will never leave Romans seven while I am your minister!”

The third enemy, archenemy, in this war, is the devil himself. Unlike the mystery religions surrounding the Jewish and early Christian cultures, biblical faith located evil in personal beings rather than impersonal forces. A revived collection of mystery religions, the New Age movement seeks to discover and manage these evil forces, but Christians know where evil comes from. It is the result of personal, active, willful rebellion by creatures brought into being as good creations by a good God.

In Revelation twelve, we read about a “war in heaven.” After our Lord ascends, war breaks out and Michael defeats Satan. The dragon is therefore expelled from heaven and is no longer given access to the court where his prosecution against Christians can be heard. And yet, “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Thus, the theater of war moves from heaven to earth itself. Here, Satan prowls like a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He deceives unbelievers with false teaching; he entices Christians with false promises, and though he knows his time is short, his hatred for Christ and His redeemed hosts drives him to assault. Though he cannot win the war, he is happy to win battles, making common cause with the world and the flesh.

Know The Weapons
“Put on the full armor of God,” Paul’s command in Ephesians chapter six, is well-known to many of us. First up is the “belt of truth.” Before anything else, we have to know what we believe and why we believe it if we are to withstand the world, the flesh, and the devil. Another metaphor might be that of roots reaching deep into the soil of Scripture. We must read Scripture not only for devotional purposes, but to understand in a profounder way the meaning of our faith. We ought to read great Christian classics instead of light and fluffy popular books. There is a war for our mind and truth is the place to start. As a belt, it holds our pants up in battle.

Second, the “breastplate of righteousness” is listed. According to the Cambridge Biblical Commentary, “Most likely, this refers not to the believer’s moral character, but describes God’s rescue operation in Christ, bringing the assurance that the Christian is right with God.” In other words, our protection in battle is the confidence that we are justified–that is, already declared righteous. Whenever Satan comes to tempt us, we hold up the cross. Whenever the flesh threatens to bring us back under the dominion of Adam, we remind ourselves of our union with the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Whenever the world tells us about self-esteem or self-confidence, or takes a short-cut around dealing with the real problem of guilt, we respond with this doctrine of justification.

Third, there are the “ready feet.” Once armed with truth and the knowledge of our justification in Christ, we are now ready to zealously act. This is of great importance. St. Paul refers in Romans to his legalistic friends as those who “have tremendous zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” This zealous ignorance was especially disastrous, he says, because what they failed to understand was essential to the gospel: “For not knowing about the righteousness of God which is by faith, they set out to establish their own righteousness.” Zeal must be led and directed by the truth and justification which have already been discussed. That being said, many of us are so content with the belt and the breastplate that we forget our shoes. Zeal without knowledge is misguided energy, but knowledge without zeal is a profound waste of good news.

Fourth, we have the “helmet of salvation.” What is important to note in all of this is that every weapon with which we have been provided is outside of us. In other words, whether it’s truth, or salvation, the weapons with which we fight the world, the flesh, and the devil are not inner resources. So much of the emphasis I see these days on “spiritual warfare” calls believers into themselves through spiritual exercises like “spiritual breathing” or other forms of subjective, mystical navel-gazing. But this is just what Satan’s strategy has been. In every pagan folk culture, mysticism dominates. Techniques are provided for dealing with the forces within. Sin becomes a matter not of personal rebellion as much as demonic conflict (such as Jimmy Swaggart’s insistence that he was fine now after Oral Roberts cast the demons off of the evangelist’s back), and the war becomes a “good force” vs. “bad force” nonsense. This is folk religion rather than Christian warfare and it certainly has nothing to do with Ephesians six.

One should also notice that the helmet of salvation is given at the beginning of the war, not the end. Salvation is never a carrot God dangles in front of us to keep us going, but is a declaration already made at the beginning of it all. What commander would send his forces into battle without a helmet, merely promising them one as a reward for their success? God gives us the “helmet of salvation” right from the start, not if we win, but so that we will win.

Know The Captain
Each of these weapons mentioned in Ephesians six is first listed in the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah 11. Of the Messiah it is promised, “Truth will be the sash around His waste.” “Righteousness will be His armor . . . His own arm worked salvation. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, He put on garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak.” Further, He is even the shield and the helmet: “He is my shield behind whom I take refuge” (Ps. 144:1-2); “He will wear the helmet of salvation upon His head” (Is. 59:17). And He is the sword, known to John’s Gospel as “the Word of God.”

In all of our battles with the enemy, we reach for nothing that Christ has not already won for us. Even when we win a personal battle, it is because Christ has already fought and successfully won over His trials and temptations. In Christ, the war is already won, so the battles are real but the outcome is already known.

I hear someone saying, “Wait a second, even when you guys do talk about sanctification and the pursuit of godliness, you end up talking more about justification and ‘alien righteousness’ than practical steps of holiness.” That’s correct, and any method that does not do that is not Pauline, evangelical, or Reformational in any sense. Let me give an example of how genuinely practical this approach is even for godliness. In Shakespeare’s “MacBeth,” the witches’ prophecy that “no man born of a woman will conquer you” inspires MacBeth to fight even the dreaded MacDuff. In the heat of battle, MacBeth taunts his enemy with the prophecy and confidently wields his sword because of it. But then MacDuff informs the usurper that he was not, technically speaking, born of a woman, having been torn from his mother in her death. Just as soon as the news reaches MacBeth’s ears, the strength leaves him and he is immediately taken in battle.

Many Christians live defeated lives, not because they are failing to follow certain steps or are not living up to the “victorious Christian life” (whatever that is), but because they do not have the confidence that no one, not even Satan, can “lay any charge to God’s elect” (Rom. 8:32). In the heat of battle, the strength we have to keep on going is knowing that our Commander has already determined the outcome of the war by His victory. His ascension into heaven and the devil’s expulsion from the same guarantees that our skirmishes, serious as they certainly are, will nonetheless not bring us ultimate defeat. Knowing that already makes all the difference.

Conclusion
Having said all of that, I wonder if we really want to be rid of our sins. In Romans six, Paul cheers us on: “Do not let sin reign, therefore, in your mortal body.” In Romans seven, he is more sober, reflecting on his own personal struggle to “practice what he preached” in the previous chapter. In the eighth chapter, he goes on to encourage us that even though we lose battles here and there, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1).

As believers, we live between those three poles–energetic zeal, struggle/failure, gospel. But I wonder if we take the first two poles as seriously as we really ought. Knowing that our salvation is sealed in the courts of eternity, do we eventually ignore the challenges of Romans six because of the failures of seven and the unconditional “no condemnation” in eight? I guess what I’m saying is: What do we have to lose? If we’re afraid of losing a battle, of being disappointed with a failure out on the field, we need only remember that our success or failure on the battlefield does not determine the outcome of the war. We can fight with confidence.

John Owen once said of Christ, “When He comes to war, he finds no quiet landing place. He can set His foot on no ground but that which He must fight for.” We will not grow without a fight, without sharing in His sufferings. Unlike justification, our sanctification is a lifelong struggle–so much for “let go and let God.” Small victories are prized; battles lost are soon forgotten, extracting lessons for the next. None of our enemies–the world, the flesh, or the devil, will simply move aside and put up a white flag. And yet, in our fighting we fail to hide our unrestrained anticipation prefigured in the arrival of Israel in the Promised Land: “Then the land had rest from war.”


Dr. Michael Horton is the chairman of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and is associate professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California . Dr. Horton is a graduate of Biola University (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary in California (M.A.R.) and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford (Ph.D.). Some of the books he has written or edited include Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, Beyond Culture Wars, Power Religion, In the Face of God, and We Believe.

 

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It has been a while since I last posted part 5 of our Panoply Series.  To review each section of the series, please go to the sidebar under Categories and choose Panoply Series to take you to the full list.  With thanksgiving to God, we proceed now with part 6 by reading Ephesians 6:13:

Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Therefore, Take Up the Whole Armor of God

Panoply of God

 

 

Because of the spiritual schemes of the devil (v. 11) and the variety of spiritual enemies (v.12), there is no other recourse but to take the armor up. Paul’s use of the word “therefore”, which means ‘because of, exhorts us to no further action but to do that.  Furthermore, let us consider the following reasons:

 

  • We are not supposed to leave the armor, as a warrior, at any time, for the enemy is always looking for an opportune time or a time of spiritual vulnerability (weakness) on our part.
  • Remember that it is a gift of God; He made the armor, He made it available to us and we are to use it.
  • As this is a parenthetical sentence together with verse 11, we now know that this is the only means to defeat the enemy of our soul.

That You May Be Able To Withstand In the Evil Day

Let’s take the phrase ‘you may be able’ which when read in the Greek forms only one verb dunethe. This is another form of the Greek word dunamis which we have studied earlier.  It means power, particularly the power that only God can supply to us, and this He did through His Son (see verse 10). Paul described this power in Ephesians 1:19-21 –

and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power an dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one to come.”

If you have already noticed, the power is so great and is made available to us so that we can withstand – fight against – the enemy who is the source of all spiritual wickedness in the evil day. You might ask, “When is the evil day?” Firstly, there will surely be evil days – days in which the devil and his army of spiritual wickedness will do every cunning and wicked device to entice the people of God into confusion, spiritual weakness, and disillusionment, and if possible, deceive the elect into trusting someone or something else apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.

These evil days can be short, long, or repetitive, and can be done by the evil one through the unbelieving world and sometimes, through confused Christians and ourselves when we are not careful in our handling of God’s written Scripture.

For sure, through the armor of God, we are able to withstand the enemy any day!

And Having Done All to Stand

The Greek reads kai hapanta katergazomenoi stenai. What is particularly interesting here is the word katergazomenoi which is a combination of two other Greek words. Let’s consider the following observations:

  • It gives us a picture of a synergistic work. The word synergy means two parties working together, in this case, God has given us the power through His Son, and we are to avail of this power through our use of the armor.
  • The word tells us to “work it out” – not produce something, but rather bring out what is already available to you.  To understand this, may I take you to another verse in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in chapter 2 verses 12-13 (see below).  Surely Paul is not telling the Philippians to work for their salvation – to obey God’s various laws and commands to be saved – certainly not! For salvation is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus who is the message of God for our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:16-17).  The phrase to “work out” (katergazomai) is controlled by the phrase “for it is God who works in you”.  That is, God has already done something for us, we just need to bring it out as evidence in our life.  In fact, the fullness of grace is further understood as it is even God who gave us the power to bring the reality of His salvation in our daily lives that submit to Jesus Christ. Having this in mind, we are exhorted in our verse today to bring out that same power of God in Christ by availing the armor which God has already given us and display the reality of it in our thinking and actions.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”- Philippians 2:12-13

  • Next, the word menoi (literally means “remain”) tells us to consistently and persistently use the armor.  Therefore, the phrase “having done all” is a picture of a soldier to is at all times alert and ready to fight with his armor on. Also, he has the resolve to win at all cost against his enemy. His goal is victory. He is an overcomer.

I am reminded of a section of John’s first letter to the church he pastors where a false teaching about Jesus Christ has entered the church through unbelievers who were at one time in the church. The purpose of this false teaching is to confuse the believers and entice them to a differnt teaching than what they have received from the Lord through John.  But John dispelled this by refreshing them with the truth – in a sense, he used the armor to not only protect himself, but also has reminded others to do the same.  In this way, they were able to resist and reject the heresy and overcome it.  That was their goal – to remain in the truth concerning Jesus Christ.  Remember, that the primary goal of the enemy is to entice us to doubt God.  In the garden his modus operandi is summed up in one question, “Did God really say…?”

But the true sheep of the Lord listens to Him as the Holy Spirit reminds the each believer of the truth. Now, I would like to end this section of our panoply series with what John told the believers, and essentially to us as well:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that does confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit if the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God, and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” – 1 John 4:2-4

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God loves his saints as the purchase of his Son’s blood… He that was willing to expend his Son’s blood to gain them, will not deny his power to keep them.

 

William Gurnall  –  (1617-1679)

William was born at King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was educated at the free grammar school of his native town, and in 1631 was nominated to the Lynn scholarship in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1635 and MA in 1639. He was made rector of Lavenham in Suffolk in 1644; and before he received that appointment he seems to have officiated, perhaps as curate, at Sudbury.

At the Restoration he signed the declaration required by the Act of Uniformity 1662, and on this account he was the subject of a libellous attack, published in 1665, entitled Covenant-Renouncers Desperate Apostates.

Gurnall is known by his Christian in Complete Armour, published in three volumes, dated 1655, 1658 and 1662. It consists of sermons or lectures delivered by the author in the course of his regular ministry, in a consecutive course on Ephesians 6: 10-20. The fact that a sixth edition was published in the year the author died, 1679, is enough to show that its merits were early recognized. It is described as a magazine whence the Christian is furnished with spiritual arms for the battle, helped on with his armor, and taught the use of his weapon; together with the happy issue of the whole war. It is thus considered a classic on spiritual warfare. The work is more practical than theological; and its quaint fancy, graphic and pointed style, and its fervent religious tone render it still popular with some readers.

Richard Baxter and John Flavel both thought most highly of the book. Toplady used to make copious extracts from it in his common-place book. John Newton, the converted slave trader, said that if he was confined to one book beside the Bible, he dared say Gurnall’s Christian Armour would be his choice. Cecil spent many of the last days of his life in reading it, and repeatedly expressed his admiration of it. Charles Haddon Spurgeon commented that Gurnall’s work is “peerless and priceless; every line full of wisdom. The book has been preached over scores of times and is, in our judgment, the best thought-breeder in all our library.”

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For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers, against the spiritual forces in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

In part 4 of our series, we are commanded to put the whole armor of God to protect us against the different methods by which the devil would attempt to lure and deceive us, cause  trouble, and try to make us ineffective in our walk and testimony to our faith. In this section, the Scriptures unmask the enemy through the hierarchy of spiritual forces that seeks to defeat the people of the Lord.

“For we do not wrestle…”

Paul employs the analogy of Greek games, particularly wrestling.  In Ephesus, wrestling matches are regularly held in honor of their supreme idol, Artemis (or Diana). Perhaps Paul has witnessed many of these competitions during his three-year stay in Ephesus.  Try to imagine a wrestling match, and perhaps write down at least a few sentences to describe it.  Most of the time, we proceed to the main details like grabbing the opponent at different parts of his body, or the lifting, banging, suppressing, locking the opponent down to immobilize him so that he will be unable to compete any further, or perhaps throw the other out of the perimeter of the space provided for the match. However, the word wrestling in Greek is palo and not the word ekballo (which means to throw).  Palo is to ‘sway’ or ‘vibrate’ and it is hard to immediately visualize how this word will fit in a wrestling match.

wrestlingBut if one carefully watches the match, he will first of all see that the competitors do not immediately grab their opponent, but rather they spent some moments to move left and right in a circular fashion. In this way, each one can size up his enemy and look for vulnerable areas to grab.  This is, I believe, is the stance we need to take.  We do not recklessly charge but we study the enemy.  You see, the use of the phrase ‘schemes of the enemy” fits well into this explanation of wrestle.  Being informed of Satan’s ways puts us in a place of advantage.  Peter admonishes us to be clear headed and alert (1 Peter 5:8) so that we may not be caught unaware when the enemy makes his move, whatever his move. We get our information through the continual reading of the Scriptures  in a prayerful manner, not haphazardly as some would do thereby missing what God is indeed saying.  A systematic reading is also necessary in order prevent us from being selective.  As Paul did not withhold the entire counsel of God to the Ephesians (Acts 20:18-32), so must we not withhold it among ourselves.

“not….against flesh and blood…”

Although the enemy will use the world system, unregenerated people and even at times our own unsupressed as we choose to depend on ourselves rather on the Lord who promised us to show His faithfulness and a way out when we are tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13), the true enemy is still not human – not flesh and blood.  So our battles necessitate the armor that comes from God to keep us firmly standing.

The verse continues to inform us about the enemies we have.  Here we are given a view of the opposing army.  Just as we take our command from Jesus our King, the commander-in chief if I may use the term, so does  a hierarchy of spiritual cohorts take their command from our enemy – Satan. We infer from the list of enemies provided to us.  In our part 4, we encountered the Greek word pros explaining to us a face-to-face encounter with the following:

  1. against rulers (Greek archas from where we get the English word arch-enemy)
  2. against authorities (Greek exousias which means those given authority to perform evil works)
  3. against cosmic powers (Greek kosmo kratos which implies those given a wider sphere of evil work in this sin-corrupted world system. The word kosmo although it implies a variety of meanings like the world, and the space above the earth, but in the sense of Paul’s theme of two groups of people – the children of righteousness in contrast to the children of disobedience – we can infer the issue of the lack or absence of godly morality can be the intended meaning, thus we can say that this third group of spiritual enemies are those that work freely in its use of the current world corrupted by sin.)
  4. against spiritual forces in the heavenly places (Greek pneumatikas tes ponerias. The idea of their supernatural origin and their wicked nature is definitely implied). 

I realize that there are many available writings, commentaries and some spurious explanations of who are these different forces. We must, however, hold on to the main point – the enemies are not human but are of a nature different from ours.  They are unseen, pernicious (wicked), and they do their work here on earth using various means directed against every believer of Jesus Christ, and ultimately against the Lord.  You see, the battle of good and evil has witnessed at the beginning of the Bible, in the garden of Eden when the serpent coersed our first human parents to doubt and blaspheme God.  The enemy seeks to convince us to doubt God and His Word.  So it is no surpise to know even today and until the last day, the enemy of our soul will seek to defy the very God who created him.

Regardless of whether they have ranks or not, the fact is they are our enemies and we engaged them face-no fearto-face without fear.  Although they will continue to do everything opposite the desires of God, the Bible also tells us the following truth that will help strengthen and encourage us in our fight against them and their evil ways:

  • The Lord Jesus is their Creator (Colossians 1:16). All things were created by Him.  All things in heaven and earth.  Nothing was made without Him (John 1:3).  There is no escaping the conclusion that all these spiritual enemies were created by Him. The created entities are limited in everything including their powers. Therefore it is a comfort to know that although we are to wrestle against them, the One who created all things is infinitely more powerful to protect us and preserve us to the end. Dualism, the teaching that says God and the devil are equally powerful is a heresy and a scheme of the enemy.
  • Jesus  has dominion over them (Ephesians 1:20-23). Our Lord is exalted above all creation and has  purposed that His Church be the beneficiary of all spiritual blessings. None of our enemies really has any freedom to do anything they want. Only the Lord Jesus who has dominion over them can permit them to do so. R. C. Sproul encourages Christians to understand that because God is in His very nature righteous, then even His permitting of the enemies activities is a righteous act of God.  That is not to say that evil is good but God allowing it will still, in the end, result for His glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Consider Job 1:6-12 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.
  • Jesus defeated our enemies through His cross and resurrection (see John 12:27-32 and 1 Corinthians 15).

Finally, we hold on God’s revealed truth concerning the end of our enemy and the continuing grace we have in Christ:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” – Romans 16:20

In our next post on this series, we will be identifying each piece of the armor of God and how each armor is a reflection of the glorious Gospel of God concerning His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

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It has been a while since the last post on our Panoply series taking us about 4 weekends to piece out the details of truths contained in Ephesians 6:11 –

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the enemy.”

 “Put on the whole armor of God…”

The panoply is a gracious blessing of God for all the believers.  In contrast the false gods of  Ephesus and any false god for that matter tends to make demands with empty promises, lies even, propagated through the false religions of this fallen world. Through the revelation of the Spirit of God, Paul writes about this armor that is indeed a part of the heavenly blessings we have in Christ preached to us through the Gospel (Ephesians 1:3, 3:7-12).

  • The Greek endusasthe (put on) gives us a picture of slipping into a piece of clothing like a tunic.  As the armor of a roman soldier is in view here, the Greek verb illustrates someone slipping into that ready-made armor with its individual pieces put together.  That is to indicate the God has fully provided for our defense. There is no searching for missing pieces but having the entire set all ready for our use.
  • And He commands us “put on” – not an option but a  command in view of a necessity, so that the victory that God has displayed through the resurrection and exaltation of Christ Jesus  also secures for  us the grace and privilege to walk in the experiential aspect of such a victory (see Ephesians 1:19-23; 5:8).
  • Ten panoplian the whole armor – not one, not two, neither only three parts of it but the entire armor. Missing one will provide the enemy a place of vulnerability in our defense and as Peter wrote that the enemy is like a lion that prowls looking for weaknesses (1 Peter 5:8 – this will be further developed in part 5 of this series).
  • A defense provided by God and cannot be conceived by human wisdom or philosophy, nor something that is conjured by man from occultic practices.  It is a God-given means of defending ourselves against the enemy of our souls.  No carnal means can defeat the enemy for any means of spiritual warfare invented by man is stained by sin.  Only the perfect grace of God through the Son by means of this panoply can overcome the enemy (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

“…that you may be able to stand against…”

The Greek for ‘stand’ is stenai from the root word histemi which describes a continuing/persevering endurance, established on the faith (gospel) on which we truly stand.

  • We are to remain in that spiritual position in Christ; not that we can extricate ourselves out of it, but rather,  to persistently live according to the outworking of that grace of God for us. This is the good work that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), akin to the things that accompany our salvation as the writer to the Hebrews assures the believers  (Hebrews 6:9).
  • There is no fear even when the days are evil (Ephesians 5:14).  Fear is a mark of lack of assurance. Worshippers of false gods display fear of any retribution, being unsure of whether they have pleased their godss or not.  Confidence, on the other hand, girds the believer’s heart.  They are confident of God’s protective grace based on His immutable decrees in blessing the people whom He loved and predestinated in His Son, being sealed with the Holy Spirit, which forms the marvelous prologue of this epistle (Ephesians 1:3-14).
  • Our encounter with the enemy is characterized in two ways when the Greek word pros was translated into our English word ‘against’.  Firstly, we are to be against the enemy, not in fellowship with him.  The metaphor of light (righteousness) and darkness (unrighteousness) are spelled out in this epistle and we – who are children of the Light – are to expose darkness (Ephesians 5:11-13). Secondly, we are to fight our enemy; pros connotes a face-to-face  warfare and not retreat like a coward. The armor is sufficient and powerful through God.

“…the schemes of the enemy.”

Referring again to the Greek, the word scheme is methodias where we get the English word ‘method’. Being in the plural form, we glean from the epistle the devil’s tactics (yes, he is also an expert in crafting deceitful devices).  The Greek for crafty is an unusual word and I believe is used once and only here in  Ephesians 4:14 – it is kubeia, where we get the word ‘cube’.  This figuratively describes that the enemy’s means are not ill-conceived (alluded from the perfect geometry of a cube) and at the same time, truly deceitful. Someone astutely observed that like a die (cube used in gambling), the enemy will do everything to cheat us, just as he seduced and deceived our first human parents, and succeeded.  But thanks be to God, the second Adam – Jesus our Lord – has gained victory over every crafty temptation of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; see my related posts, click here and here).

We now briefly unwrap the devil’s schemes:

  • False doctrines (Ephesians 4:14) – – these are teachings that runs contrary to God’s work and doctrines handed down to us from the apostles through current elders in the church who were called to disciple the saints until they reach the unity of the faith and mature in their knowledge of the Son of God (v.13). These false doctrines were crafted to cause confusion and disunity, disobedience and unfruitfulness, when these insidious doctrines are welcomed in the church. The young believers  are particularly vulnerable to these seductive doctrines.
  • Disobedience (Ephesians 5:6) – sin resulting from empty words (false doctrines).  These do not produce the evidential righteousness that only the gospel can do.  Therefore, people who conform to these false doctrines will produce the fruit of sin. As R. C. Sproul notes in his book Chosen by God, orthodoxy (right doctrine) produces orthopraxy (right living). The opposite is equally true. The apostle Peter writes that those predestined by God in His Son are translated from darkness into His marvelous light – a life adorned with godliness. The devil’s scheme involves seducing men to toy with his false teachings, and then be trapped into it, sometimes without realizing it till the harm has been done. Discernment can adequately be exercised whenever there is a proper grounding of the believer upon the enscripturated truth. Hence the church (assembly of believers) is where God purposed His truth to be taught faithfully.
  • Influence of unbelievers (Ephesians 5:7, 11-17) resulting to stagnation and ineffectiveness – the Word of God forbids fellowship between Christians and the evil world. We are not to partake in evil works but to expose them. A life adorned by truth and godliness will be in stark contrast to the evil deeds of unbelievers and we are instructed to resists their ways.  Psalm 1 is an example where the Word distinguishes between the way of the wicked and the one who delights in the Lord.

This whole armor that God provided us embodies the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our defensive and offensive weapon against Satan and the methods that he employ in his rebellion against the Almighty God. As believers of Jesus Christ we will constantly be at war, but this is a battle assured of victory by Him who died and rose again on the third day.

armorEphesians 6:13 forms a parenthetical statement with verse 11. Simply put, the means of standing firm against our spiritual enemies (verse 12) is by appropriating this armor on ourselves. As I mentioned above, the armor itself embodies the Gospel and in our future studies, we will see how the Gospel is indeed brought out in each of the armor’s pieces. Therefore my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us keep the armor on all the time!

May God keep us all standing firm in the faith and in His protective care through Christ.

 

To view all parts of the Panoply Series, click here.

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Today’s reading is Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=Ephesians+6%3A10-20 )

A quick overview of this section reminds us of the following things: (1) that the Christian is involve in a warfare, (2) that the warfare is spiritual wherein the controlling powers of darkness are unseen influencing the unbelieving world, (3) that the current inhabitants of this world are categorized in two groups only: those who are living in darkness and those who are living in the light of God.

  • Ephesians 2:1-3 gives us a preview of the life before conversion to Christ. We are influenced by the prince (ruler) of darkness resulting to a life of continual disobedience to God, carrying out every lust of the body and mind.
  • In contrast (Ephesians 5:6-16), the new life that God created in the person who is in Christ is described as walking in the light of God (v.8) displaying fruit in keeping with goodness, righteousness and truth (v.9), always discerning what is pleasing to the Lord (v.10), and do not have any part in the unfruitful work of darkness (v.11).

The link between light and life can be established in Psalm 36 and read verse 9, “For in You is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

  • Whenever God brings His truth to a person, only then will he realize his sin and his desperate need for God and His truth continually. You see, in Psalm 36:1-4, man apart from God is sinful in his heart, not fearful of God, and truly blind to the fact that he is a sinner who is wicked enough to think that evil itself is right (not rejecting evil, v.4).
  • Until God becomes the source of life, and shines His truth in our heart can we realize darkness resides within the very core of our being.  Paul writes in Romans 7:7 – if it were not for the Law, he would have not known that he is covetous!

And this God given life can only be received through Jesus Christ who said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). 

  • This declaration was prefaced by the narrative about the adulterous woman who was exposed by the Pharisees. She deserves to be stoned as required by the Law of Moses. But Jesus confronted all her accusers and exposed their sinful hearts because their original intention was to test Him, to find something to charge against Him (they were breaking the Law -“do not put the Lord your God to the test”!) They did not know that they are as sinful as the adulterous woman – they all deserve punishment.  Only when Jesus exposed them all (his silence to the charge against the woman proves that she is indeed guilty) did they begin to realize their condition – so it seems. His graciousness was revealed to all as well – – first, exposing the sin of the Pharisees was an act of grace (remember Romans 7:7 ?), and His forgiveness granted to the adulterer is also an act of His grace. You see, the light of God’s truth in Christ has its 2 effects: condemns the unrepentant (Pharisees) and draws the sinner unto repentance (the woman in a manner of contrast to the Pharisees).

Lastly, Ephesians 4:17 -20 tells us that the person living in the light of God’s truth progressively increases in his abandon of the old life as he learns on the forgiveness he receives in Jesus Christ. And more importantly, this new life is not man-made but a creative work of God (v.24) exhibiting true righteousness and holiness.

So you see my beloved brothers, there are two kinds of people in the world – those in the light and those in darkness; two kinds of rulers – God over the children of the light, Satan over the children of darkness, and two kinds of fruit – righteousness and truth for God’s people while disobedience and lust for the unregenerated. Two opposing kingdoms who will always be at war until all the enemies of Jesus Christ will be finally defeated in the Day of His return.  We are in a warfare against darkness and we need the full armor of God to protect us as the days become more evil.

Next: Part 2 – Last But Not The Least                https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/panoply-series-part-2-last-but-not-the-least/

Previous: Panoply Series – Introduction (link below) https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/panoply-series/

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One of Ephesus’ most famous structure of antiquity today is the Temple of Artemis (what remains of it) which is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  From the account in the book of Acts (ch. 18:24 – 19:41; 20:17-36), the place was marked with the worship of the goddess Artemis, demonic possession, occult and the trade on paraphernalia on these matters. In fact these evil practice  were so engrained into the lives of the people that they would fiercely resist the entry of other teachings that would threaten to change their beliefs.  And I am referring to their opposition to the Gospel preached by the apostle Paul.  However, the word of the Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8 is that the Gospel will spread to the ends of the earth, and and will radically transform the lives of those whom God will save; these indeed are certainties as worked out by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

Knowing this brief background helps us understand why there was a need to teach on the full armor of God (panoplian tou Theos) in Ephesians 6:10-20 pericope. A short series entitled “PANOPLY” begins today. An outline herebelow will assist us in the course of our study:

  • Be strong in the Lord
  • Spiritual enemies
  • Inclusio of verses 11 and 13 – to stand
  • Full Armor of God
  • Prayer

It is interesting to note that the religious climate during Paul’s sojourn in Ephesus is really quite similar today:  the deification of man, deceptive signs and wonders, and man’s unquenchable thirst for the occult. Television alone is filled with programs that showcase these. Therefore, the teachings contained in the epistle to the Ephesians are all the more relevant to present day Christians who need to face these spiritual enemies daily, in the hopes that God will sharpen their discernment.

May God’s Spirit enlighten us and ground us in the Gospel of His only begotten Son, for the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.

Next:  Panoply Series – Part 1 – Two Kingdoms at War (link below): https://emmaustrekker.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/panoply-series-part-1/

 

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