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)


Ephesians 6:16-24
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 own lives.

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 following passages:

"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 outlook.  

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 Tim. 4:2).

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. 2:9).  

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. 3:11)."  

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. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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