The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
November 25, 2012
1) Ephesians 6:16-24 (Tom Edwards)
by Tom Edwards
After having exhorted the brethren to gird themselves with truth, to
put on the breastplate of righteousness, and to shod their feet with
the preparation of the gospel of peace, Paul next urges them, by
saying, "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with
which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the
evil one" (Eph. 6:16).
According to William Barclay, the need for the "shield of faith" can
be seen in view of the fact that "One of the most dangerous weapons
in ancient warfare was the fiery dart. It was a dart tipped with tow
dipped in pitch. The pitch-soaked tow was set alight, and the
dart was thrown. But the great oblong shield was the very
weapon to quench it."
David Lipscomb points out that this shield was "four feet long and
two and one-half feet wide. It was held on the left arm and
could be used to protect the entire body." The soldiers could
also join these shields together to form a wall of protection.
In a figurative sense, the shield of faith, as the Pulpit Commentary
expresses, is that "confidence which defends the understanding from
error, the heart from weakness or despair, the will from revolt
against Divine command. It is, in a word, 'the victory that
overcometh the world' (1 John 5:4,5)."
In Psalm 18:2, David looked to the Lord as being his shield and
uttered this psalm to God in the day that the Lord delivered him
from all his enemies, including Saul. By faith, we can also
look to the Lord for His protection and support -- and, like the
apostles, desire to have our faith increased (Luke 17:5). For
faith can be anywhere from "little" (Matt. 6:30) to "great" (Matt.
8:10), and God has given us the means, within His word, whereby we
can improve our faith, as these following verses show: "So faith
comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom.
10:17). "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His
grace, which is able to build you up..." (Acts 20:32). Note in
this last passage that Paul is saying this to the elders of the
church in Ephesus, who were already well-knowledged in the
Scriptures and able to teach others; but, still, they needed to
continue in God's word for more edification. For Jesus is the
perfect example of whom we should all strive to be more like.
And on a scale of one to a trillion (with Jesus, in his perfection
and greatness, being represented by the trillion), where would we
place ourselves on that scale? So we should never cease in our
striving to develop more of the wonderful qualilties of Jesus in our
Abraham was one whose faith had grown stronger: "In hope against
hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations
according to that which had been spoken, 'SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS
BE.' Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own
body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old,
and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise
of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith,
giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had
promised, He was able also to perform" (Rom. 4:18-21). Not
only had Sarah been way past the age of child-bearing, she had also
been barren throughout all her younger years. But when God
says something is going to happen, it's going to happen.
Abraham believed that the Lord would give him a son by his wife
Sarah, and God did!
Paul then includes a couple other parts of this "full armor" in
Ephesians 6:17, where he states, "And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Having the assurance of eternal life helps us to fight victoriously
in our battle against sin. Being sure of one's salvation can
give one great confidence, a positive outlook, and the zeal to
endure the most pressing trials, which is just what one needs when
facing -- or in -- spiritual battles. The confidence in our
salvation is not on the basis of personal feelings. Rather, it
is based on the concrete declaration of God's word. Consider,
for instance, 1 John 5:13: "These things I have written to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you
have eternal life."
The Roman soldier's helmet was to protect him from the crushing blow
of the enemy's sword, ax, or other deadly weapon. Knowing that
he had this protection must have given him extra confidence; and,
therefore, we find Paul instructing the brethren to put on "as a
helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thess. 5:8). The importance
of this kind of hope can also be seen in Romans 8:24,25: "For in
hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who
hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not
see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Consider also these
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our
instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of
the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our
hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of
believers" (1 Tim. 4:10).
"In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the
promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an
oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible
for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong
encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This
hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and
steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has
entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:17-20).
Because of this helmet of salvation (or hope of salvation) even many
Christians, during the time of the early church, were not deterred
from their faithfulness to Christ even when under persecution and
the threat of death. For they knew that death is not a
finality; and by their commitment to Christ, death would be like a
door, through which they could enter Paradise and then into heaven
itself! "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, 'Write,
"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!" 'Yes,'
says the Spirit, 'so that they may rest from their labors, for their
deeds follow with them'" (Rev. 14:13).
It seems virtually impossible for the true child of God, who keeps
drinking from the Scriptures, to imbibe anything but a spirit of
hope; of good cheer; of joy; of confidence; and of a good, positive
Among all this spiritual armor for protection is also one for
striking back. It is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the
word of God" (Eph. 6:17). This is what Jesus used on our worst
enemy of all -- Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). We need to do likewise.
The Hebrew writer also depicts the Scriptures as a sword: "For the
word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged
sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of
both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and
intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
Usually we think of swords as destroying; but the sword of the
Spirit can also be used in a life-saving way. For example, in
the process of destroying doubt and unbelief, the sword of the
Spirit can also produce faith and lead to salvation, as implied in
Acts 2:37: "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the
heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren,
what shall we do?'" Three thousand, in hearing the
gospel message, came to believe in the Lord and were convicted of
their sins. They, therefore, were also motivated to find out
how they could be made right with God and be saved. Peter had
already pointed out the need to believe in Christ (v. 36); and now,
in response to their question, Peter commanded them to "Repent and
be baptized...so that your sins may be forgiven" (v. 38). The
sword of the Spirit, the word of God, prevailed. It dispelled
unbelief, brought faith, conviction, and led to life in Christ to
those who responded to the message.
Many people would have us believe today that we should never rebuke
or teach against error; that we should not "judge" other people by
exposing the wrongs they teach and practice; that we should allow
others to twist the gospel anyway they would like, without warning
anyone of these wrongs and dangers. But is this what God's
word says? Not in Ephesians 5:11. For here it instructs
the Christian to, "Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of
darkness, but instead even expose them." Nor not in Titus 1:9,
where Paul shows one of the qualifications for the elder to be that
he is "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with
the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound
doctrine and to refute those who contradict." In this passage,
it is one of the qualifications for an elder, but it is also what
every Christian should be able to do, as well. Though Timothy
was a young man, he was not only to set forth the right example "in
speech, conduct, love, faith and purity" (1 Tim. 4:12), but he was
also to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2
We should never take the armor of God lightly in our pursuit of
eternal life; but, rather, realize how essential it all is in
helping us to fight the good fight and triumphantly attain to the
goal of heaven itself.
Paul then exhorts the brethren toward another important duty in
Ephesians 6:18-20: "With all prayer and petition pray at all times
in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all
perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf,
that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to
make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am
an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly,
as I ought to speak."
To "pray at all times" reminds us of Paul's instruction to the
Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17) and the
Lord's parable in Luke 18 that shows that we should pray "at all
times...and not to lose heart" (v. 1). For according to Romans
12:12, prayer is something that we are to be "devoted" to; and that
is exactly what saints were doing "continually" in the early church
(Acts 2:42). Paul also shows that we are to pray for not
merely fellow Christians, but also for all people everywhere (1 Tim.
2:1,2). But here in Ephesians 6:18, he specifies "all the
saints" as those whom we need to be praying for.
In writing about this prayer, Paul shows that it is to be "in the
Spirit." Not only must we be in the right spirit, as we can
see elsewhere, such as in 1 Peter 4:7, where Peter states, "The end
of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober
spirit for the purpose of prayer"; but also our prayers need to be
according to God's Spirit, meaning that they are in harmony with the
will of the Lord (cf. 1 Jn. 5:14).
Through prayer, we are also to "be on the alert" (Eph. 6:18), which
is rendered as "watching" in some other versions. On the night
of His betrayal, the Lord instructed His apostles to "Keep watching
and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is
willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
We need to continue to watch and pray in our time as well. As
one of our songs tells us, "Watch and pray, for the Lord is coming,
coming in the clouds some day; wash your robes in the cleansing
fountain, watch, oh, watch and pray." The chorus then repeats
the exhortation to "watch and pray" and shows a reason why: "For we
know not the hour when the Lord shall come; Watch and pray, watch
and pray, and be ready to enter the soul's bright home."
Paul also solicits prayer for himself -- that he would make known
with boldness the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:19). We might
need to remind ourselves where Paul was when he requested
this. He was under house arrest and always accompanied with a
guard. Yet, Paul's request isn't that the brethren pray for
his release, but that they pray he will boldly make known God's
message while he is there. That tells us much about what kind
of person Paul was. He was more concerned with doing God's
will than with his own personal welfare and liberties. As
James Burton Coffman writes, "Paul did not pray for the easement of
his burden, but for the grace to proclaim the word of God boldly in
spite of it."
So though his circumstances were far from ideal, the apostle Paul
continued to serve the Lord in the ways which he could. Here,
in Ephesians 6:20, Paul refers to himself as "an ambassador in
chains." So not merely an "authorized messenger or
representative," but also one who served in that capacity while in
chains. For he was chained to the guard who would have his
watch over him. Paul had also referred to himself and the
other apostles as being "ambassadors for Christ" in 2 Corinthians
5:18-20. E.M. Zerr points out that "The term is never used in
reference to any person but the apostles in the New Testament.
Hence there are no ambassadors of Christ living on earth today, for
the apostles are still in authority (Matthew 28:20)."
So when Paul speaks of being "an ambassador in chains," those chains
were literal that bound him to his guard (cf. Acts 28:16,20).
This was during Paul's first Roman imprisonment, but he also states
during his second Roman imprisonment, in writing to Timothy, "The
Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed
me and was not ashamed of my chains" (2 Tim. 1:16). Even
though this imprisonment was worse than the first, yet Paul could
rejoice in the fact that "the word of God is not imprisoned" (2 Tim.
Paul then writes in Ephesians 6:21,22, "But that you also may know
about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved
brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything
known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so
that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts."
Many Bible versions refer to Tychicus not as "A beloved
brother"; but, rather, as "THE beloved brother" (emphases
mine), which indicates that he was well known. He was from
Asia (Acts 20:4), in which Ephesus was the capital; and he was
willing to make the long journey from Rome to Ephesus, as a
messenger of Paul, in order to inform the brethren there about him
(cf. 2 Tim. 4:2). It is likely that it was Tychicus who
delivered the Ephesian letter. According to Colossians 4:7-9,
it also appears that it was Tychicus who delivered the Colossian
letter. For Paul had sent him there, along with Onesimus.
(Onesimus, of course, had been Philemon's run-away slave who had
been from Colossae. And it has been shown that, there,
Tychicus probably pleaded the cause of Onesimus, which would make
his acceptance safer than if Onesimus had gone alone.) Perhaps
Tychicus was like Barnabas who had spoken on Paul's behalf, when at
first the Christians wouldn't accept him in Jerusalem. We also
note that Tychicus is referred to as having been a "beloved brother
and faithful minister in the Lord." According to Acts 20:3,4,
he had accompanied Paul in part of his third missionary journey. He
is also mentioned in Titus 3:12, where Paul refers to either
Tychicus or Artemas as whom he would send to Titus; and then Titus
was to "make every effort" to come to Paul at Nicopolis, where Paul
would be spending the winter.
Paul then closes this epistle by saying, "Peace be to the brethren,
and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus
Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ
with incorruptible love" (Eph. 6:23,24). Concerning this, J.W.
Shepherd writes, "Such peace guarding the thoughts and heart of each
Christian, nothing contrary thereto will arise among them.
There can be no clashing of interests, no selfish competitions, no
strife as to who shall be the greatest. The awe of God's
presence with his people, the remembrance of the dear price at which
the church was purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), the sense
of Christ's lordship (1 Cor. 15:25), and the sacredness of the
brotherhood (1 Cor. 3:16,17), should check all turbulence and
rivalry and teach us to seek the things that make for peace (1 Pet.
So let us put on that complete armor of God that we may overcome any
attack of the evil one, and be a people given to prayer and living a
life that will serve to build up the brethren in Christ and bring
the lost to Him. For is not all of this part of how we
are to "love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible"?
And that is the last declaration that Paul makes out of all his New
Testament epistles, the last words that we hear prior to his
death. He lived and died in service to God. The Lord
used him for much good, and we who are Christians are still
benefiting from that good today as we give our attention and conform
our lives to God's instructions, which have been given through the
apostle Paul. For it is from God that all divine Scripture
comes (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Acts 1:16; Acts 28:25; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
May we, therefore, continue to follow the precepts of God's
holy word. For they lead to a wonderful destination, and they
help us to make it there!
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
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