Preaching Series on Ephesians (4 of 4)

[This is Week 4 of a 4-week preaching series on Ephesians.]

Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.

August 6, 2017

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Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

[This is Week 4 of a 4-week preaching series on Ephesians.]

Week 4 (Aug. 6, 2017)

Preaching text: Ephesians 6:10-20; accompanying text: Matthew 10:28-31

In his commentary on Ephesians, Andrew Lincoln speaks approvingly of “popular expositions, which summarize the message of the letter in terms of three verbs, ‘sit,’ ‘walk,’ and ‘stand’” (Word Biblical Commentary [Dallas: Word Books, 1990] vol. 42, p. 460). Believers have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (1:20; 2:6). We are therefore to walk in a way that is worthy of the gospel (4:1), and we receive that we need to stand against the wiles of the devil (6:11, 13).

The last reading in our series gives voice to our sense that many of the problems our neighborhood, our world, and we ourselves face are beyond our capacity just to roll up our sleeves and muscle our way to a solution. Throughout Paul’s letters, sin is a power rather than a type of human action, and Ephesians continues this idea: “Our battle is not against enemies of blood and flesh…” (6:12). Christian life, individually or collectively, means persevering in the still-contested arena of human life, standing when we would prefer to fold, or fight, or flee.

Old Testament prophets used the same armor metaphor to speak of how God would defend against injustice and evil (see, for example, Isaiah 59:15-17). In Ephesians, God’s own armor is available to believers; we have God’s own protection as we stand against the “powers of this present darkness” (6:12). The armor pieces are all defensive, with the exception of the side arm “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:17).

Finally, the imprisoned apostle asks for prayer that he, an “ambassador in chains,” may speak freely. The mixed metaphor paints precisely the picture we have of Paul at the end of Acts. There he is under arrest, yet he is also “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30). As we follow Christ, the prayer for free and bold speech, whatever the circumstances, is ours as well.