War stories make good movies: brave victories won against overwhelming odds, good soldiers willing to die for country. That was true in ancient Rome. Paul knew soldiers. He wrote Ephesians chained to Roman soldiers. So, he thought of a soldier’s situation as he considered Christian spiritual warfare. Paul gave four requirements if Christians are to take a stand and win for God.
Winning for God Requires Applying Your Faith (vv. 6:10-11a)
We first must have faith in our Lord’s strength (v. 10). The opening command to be strong stresses that we continually must be strengthened in the Lord. He makes available to us His strength, His manifested power. That manifested power comes from His might, His inherent omnipotent power. God does not exempt us from spiritual warfare, but makes Himself responsible to give the strength for it.
Next, we must have faith in our Lord’s provision (v. 6:11a). We have available to us the full armor. We, however, are required to put it on.
Think of one of our nation’s soldiers on the battle field. The government has provided him with his clothing, boots, weapons and body armor. It’s all available for him. Now imagine him arising for duty and deciding he was not going to wear any of it. Instead, he will go to battle wearing a T-shirt and running shorts. That will not happen. He only will go to battle after he has prepared properly. Spiritually, we must do likewise.
Winning for God Requires Facing Your Enemy (vv. 6:11b-13)
Paul presents two principles for facing the enemy. To begin, we must take our stand successfully (v. 6:11b). We need that armor to resist actively (v. 6:13). The words “put on the full armor of God” stress permanence. We are not like a soldier who removes his armor when off duty. Christians are never off duty for God. With armor on, we can stand for God when the day of evil comes.
We next see the enemy identified (v. 6:12). Our spiritual struggle is not with human foes, but is with the devil’s demonic allies. They are of high spiritual rank, rule this world system and surround us.
Winning for God Requires Using Your Armor (vv. 6:14-17)
We use the God-given spiritual armor to face spiritual enemies. Paul begins with the belt of truth (v. 6:14). The Roman soldier’s belt protected his midsection and provided the place where his sword was held. The Christian’s vulnerable midsection is protected by truthfulness. Next comes the breastplate of righteousness (v. 6:14). The breastplate protected the soldier’s front and back. Our righteous life is our breastplate. The third item is fastened on the feet (v. 6:15). For a Roman, shod feet signified refusal to submit to defeat. For the Christian, this refers to the preparedness of mind that knowing the gospel gives us.
Other pieces of armor were then taken up. The shield of faith (v. 6:16) deflects all the flaming missiles Satan hurls at us and renders them harmless. The devil’s attacks to discourage us, cause despair and doubt all fail. Next, we take up the helmet of salvation (v. 6:17). This is the absolute assurance we are God’s children. Whenever Satan gets us to doubt our salvation, he gains advantage in the battle. Finally, we take up the sword of the Spirit (v. 6:17), our one offensive weapon. Our weapon is God’s Word. With the armor complete, Paul turns to the final requirement.
Winning for God Requires Trusting Your Commander (vv. 6:18-20)
Just as an army soldier depends on his commanding officer, so must we depend on God. We must pray on all occasions of battle in the power of God’s Spirit. We pray with all kinds of prayers and requests that are needed. We are to pray not only for ourselves, but for all the saints, because we are one in the Lord.
Paul needed prayer so he would gain spiritual victories through proclaiming the gospel. Each of us must join with him in the united desire to “declare it fearlessly, as I should.” The battle is the Lord’s, but we are His soldiers in that battle.