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Paul the Apostle’s Letter to the Ephesians Essay

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2021

Historical-cultural context

The given writing was primarily influenced by Roman and Greek soldiers as an illustrating manifestation of God’s soldier and warrior. In ancient times, during a battle, a warrior’s body was vulnerable in many places to inflicting fatal or serious wounds either with an arrow, or with a sword, or with a battle-ax. Military operations on the battlefield or hand-to-hand combat required maximum security, which would not hinder freedom and speed of movement. For about two thousand years from Abraham to Paul, two types of armor were widely used in the biblical world: a helmet and a shield. In the Greco-Roman period, armor became widespread, although scaly-type armor began to be used by the middle of the second millennium BC. Some armies used plates for legs or greaves (Stott 141). The literary context is that in the Old Testament, in stories about the history of Israel, people can see many references to armor, as well as related images. Most often, the armor served as a metaphor for God’s protection of the righteous. Helmets, along with shields and armor, were the usual weapons of warriors during the reign of Israel. The author’s flow starts in a highly calm manner, but it becomes more commanding and stricter in order to call to action.

Call to Be Strong (6:10)

Paul calls on believers to be strengthened by the Lord and by the power of His power, and it is talked about a force that overcomes all resistance – that which Christ performed miracles. That is, believers can be strengthened both by the Lord Himself and by the means and resources at His disposal. Paul is nearing the end of his letter, and he makes an exciting appeal to the whole family of God as soldiers of Christ. Every child of God will soon learn that the life of a Christian is an ongoing battle. Satanic hordes in every possible way try to hinder the work of Christ, destroy it, knock down His soldiers (Ehorn 350). The more a believer brings fruit to the Lord, the more violent the attacks of the enemy; the devil does not spend bullets on those who only call themselves Christian. Therefore, the first commandment in preparation is to constantly be strengthened by the Lord and the limitless resources of His power. The best soldiers of God are those who are aware of their weakness and inefficiency and rely only on Him in everything. People’s fault places itself under the protection of the power of His strength.

Call to Put on the Whole Armor of God (6:11-12)

Purpose: Stand Against Devil (6:11)

The form of the Greek imperative mood, in which the verb “clothe yourself” stands, indicates that the responsibility for carrying out this action lies with believers who should put on God’s armor as soon as possible. A detailed description of this “full armor” could have been the result of the apostle observing the Roman soldier who was guarding him while awaiting trial. The second commandment emphasizes the need for divine weapons. The believer must put on the whole armor of God in order to be able to resist the wiles of the devil (Snodgrass 301). Being fully armed is very important: after all, losing something from the armor, believers become vulnerable. From wounds and defeat, believers can save only the full equipment provided at their disposal by God. The devil has many tricks: discouragement and depression, disappointment, confusion, moral decline, and doctrinal errors. He knows where people’s weak spot is and directs the blow exactly there. If he cannot incapacitate people with one method, he will certainly use another.

Reason: Spiritual Forces of Evil (6:12)

The purpose of endowing Christians with the full armor of God is to be able to become against the wiles of the devil. They are not called to attack Satan or provoke him to attack, but only to “stand” on the defense of that “territory” that was conquered by Christ and His Church. Without God’s weapons, believers will be defeated by so-called devilish wiles, the effectiveness of which has been affecting for millennia. The struggle waged by God and His supporters is not of a physical nature, and it is not directed against flesh and blood; it is a spiritual war against satanic forces. Although it is not possible to establish exactly which Satanic forces are in question, the first two categories of authorities and authorities have already been mentioned (Bruce 11). Here, Paul adds to them the world equalizers of the darkness of this world and the spirits of evil, whose activity proceeds in the realm of heaven. Heaven is mentioned in the New Testament only five times and only in Ephesians. Satan is now in heaven and will be overthrown from there at some point in the Great Tribulation, but now he is trying to take away from the believers the spiritual blessings that God has given them.

Call to Take the Whole Armor of God (6:13)

This verse is interpreted in different ways, but it will be more useful to understand it as a summary of what has already been said, namely, that having prepared properly having accepted the whole armor of God, the believer gains the ability to resist in defense. This point of view is more consistent with the context – after all, following this verse, Paul describes in detail the “weapons” that he should put on. Note that the word related to standing in verse also speaks in favor of the opposition of the defenders. When Paul wrote this, his gaze probably stopped more than once on the guard of the Roman soldier in full combat clothing (Knights 478). The apostle, as always, saw a spiritual lesson in everyday life and included it in his admonition: believers are surrounded by strong enemies from all sides, therefore they must accept the whole armor of God in order to resist the enemy in the midst of the struggle and resist when the smoke of battle is dispelled (Stott 87). The expression “evil day” refers, perhaps, to those moments when the enemy collapses, like a river. It seems that the attacks of Satan are like waves, now overwhelming us, then retreating. Even after the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness, the devil departed from Him until time.

Call to Stand in the Whole Armor of God (6:14-17)

Belt of Truth (6:14a)

The apostle calls the belt of truth the first of weapons. Of course, believers must adhere to the truth, but it is equally important to allow the truth to hold them, finding application in their daily lives. By experiencing all the truth, believers gain strength and protection in battle. Ephesians makes clear that the conflict with Satan is spiritual so that no tangible weapon can be used effectively against him and his minions. There is no specific list of tactical steps that will be applied by Satan. Nevertheless, this text is quite clear in that if believers follow all the instructions, they can resist and gain victory, regardless of the strategy of Satan.

The imperative form of the verb becomes speaks of the urgency of this action. Further in the Greek text, four communions follow, expressing the purpose or means of such a “standing”: transmitted as belted, clothed, shoes, and take. Before putting on the armor, the Roman warrior was surrounded by a special belt, which, in addition to its usual function as a part of clothing, performed another: a weapon was attached to it. By “truth” in the expression of your loins, you mean not the Gospel but that personal adherence of the believer to the truth, which is expressed in such qualities as honesty and fidelity (Knights 477). As the soldier’s belt left freedom for the warrior in his movements, so the “truth” provides the believer with freedom in his relations with himself, with other people, and with God. The first element of the ammunition is the truth. This is understandable, as Satan is called the “father of lies.” Lies are high on the list of things regarded by God as an abomination. Thus, believers are called to put on the truth for their own sanctification and salvation, as well as for the benefit of those to whom their testimony is addressed.

Breastplate of Righteousness (6:14b)

The second is the armor of righteousness, and every believer is clothed in God’s righteousness, but in everyday life, he must also be an image of purity, integrity, and honesty. A man dressed in practical righteousness is invulnerable. No words will protect you from accusations, but a highly moral way of life (Bruce 34). If people’s conscience is not burdened with any wrongdoing against God and people, then the arrows of Satan have no target. David donned the armor of righteousness in the Psalm, and the Lord Jesus never removed it.

Also, the verse says to clothe in the armor of righteousness. The armor protected the warrior’s vital organs from blows that would have been fatal without it. This righteousness is not good deeds done by man. Rather, it is the righteousness of Christ, imputed by God and received by faith. It protects believers’ hearts from the accusations of Satan and protects their inner nature from his attacks. Having put on the armor of righteousness – this is not the righteousness that a believer receives at the time of his justification when turning to God, but the sanctifying righteousness of Christ, manifested in his life, means. Just as armor and armor protected the warrior’s chest from enemy arrows, the righteous life of a Christian in the process of his consecration protects his heart from the wiles of the devil.

Gospel of Peace (6:15)

The verse speaks of preparing the feet for spiritual conflict. Sometimes in battles, the enemy laid out dangerous obstacles in the path of the advancing soldiers. The idea of ​​using the message of the world as shoes suggests that believers need to be careful when they step into Satan’s territory with the message of grace so important for turning souls to Christ. Satan prepares many obstacles in the way of believers to stop the spread of the gospel (Snodgrass 56). This verse does not speak of the preaching of the gospel because the verses do not talk about the advancement of Christians further, but it was said that they need to resist. Rather, it implies the willingness of the believer in the sense of perseverance or the ability to firmly stand on his or her feet in battle due to the fact that evangelism infuses the world in the heart.

Shield of Faith (6:16)

The shield is a portable and mobile device for repelling the blows of enemy weapons inflicted by the hand, as well as arrows and spears. Being behind the shield, a person is protected from the attack of the enemy. The deadliest arrow stops, the most powerful blow is reflected, and the warrior behind the shield has the opportunity to move forward or quickly repel attempts to inflict a mortal wound. Shields were made of wood, twigs, or metal and covered with a thick layer of leather. They were usually of two types: small shields of various shapes to protect against a sword, spear, and battle-ax and large shields from ground to chin in height to protect the warrior during the siege of the city (Ehorn 350). In the Old Testament, squires are mentioned – faithful servants who wore and installed shields for kings or prominent warriors, covering them, for example, during archery at the enemy.

The shield was such a necessary part of the warrior’s equipment that the “shield and spear” or “shield and sword” symbolized a warrior trained and ready for battle, and the image of a naked shield meant preparation for battle. The image of the shield is often used in the Old Testament as a symbol of God’s protection from enemies. The shield of faith referred to in verse renders ineffective the doubts inspired by Satan about the faithfulness of God and His Word. A believer’s faith, by which Christ is the boss and finisher, is like a golden shield – valuable, reliable, and lasting. The shield of a Roman warrior was made of wood and was three-quarters meters wide and a little more than a meter long. The shield was covered with linen and leather so that the burning arrows that fell into it were extinguished (Knights 477). In this way, the shield also protected other parts of the armor from sunbathing – this is why Paul writes: And most of all, that is, first of all. Faith is a spiritual shield. The unshakable faith of a Christian in the Lord can, therefore, become an obstacle to the red-hot arrows of the evil one and extinguish them.

Helmet of Salvation (6:17a)

The helmet of salvation in verse is a protection for the head, reliably guarding a critical part of the body. It can be said that a believer’s way of thinking needs protection. The head is the throne of reason, which, hoping for eternal life, will not accept the false doctrine and will not succumb to devilish temptations. An unsaved person has no hope to withstand the blows of false beliefs since he or she does not have a helmet of salvation, and his or her mind is not able to distinguish spiritual truth from spiritual deception. In the Greek text, the apostle used the sacrament to this place, and here at the Ephesians, he resorts to the verb in the imperative mood – so there is a parallel with the verse. The helmet was hot and uncomfortable to wear, so the warrior wore it only in the face of an immediate threat. He or she gave a sense of security to the one who, putting it on, protected their head (Knights 478). Thus, the image of the helmet of salvation can symbolize both a sense of protection from the evil forces that are attacking at present and an anticipation of future final liberation.

Sword of the Spirit (6:17b)

The verse says to pray in the Spirit, except for putting on the whole armor of God. People cannot neglect prayer, as it is the means by which they receive spiritual power from God. Without prayer, without reliance on God, believers’ efforts in the spiritual struggle are empty and useless. The whole armor of God — truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer — are weapons given to believers by God through which they can gain spiritual victories by overcoming the attacks and temptations of Satan.

Finally, the Roman warrior took the sword in his hand, and this was the only weapon of attack. The word spiritual here indicates the source of the origin of this sword, that is, that it is given by the Holy Spirit; the apostle clarifies what he means by the word of God. The Word is a preached Word or something spoken by God or some truths proclaimed by Him and conveyed to the human heart by the Holy Spirit (Bruce 41). Believers need such a sword to repel the attacks of the enemy, as Jesus Christ did three times, being himself tempted by the devil.

Call to Prayer (6:18-20)

Prayer for Saints (6:18)

It is praying and trying, that is, empathizing, that a Christian warrior should take a helmet and a sword – these are two objects that complete the armor. When the enemy attacks and – at all times – Christians should pray in the spirit. The words All prayer and petition mean persistence and, at the same time, fervent prayer. Like reliable warriors, believers must always be on guard, literally not weaken in the effort. They must pray for all the saints because Satan does not stop his spiritual war against Christ and the Church. In the Greek text, the pronoun all in different variants is repeated in this place four times.

Prayer for Paul (6:19-20)

The application of the given interpretation is mostly based on the fact that the overall philosophical framework allows people to exercise valuable qualities of personality. The concepts of the whole armor are tools to encourage a person to be more resilient and persistent with their goals and strives. Paul asks his readers to pray not only in general for all the saints but specifically about himself so that he can boldly proclaim the secret of the gospel. Here the apostle probably had in mind not so much the practice of his usual testimony or the preaching of the gospel of Christ, but some specific need for himself – to be bold and frank, speaking of the secret of the gospel, when he appeared before Caesar in Rome if the Jews would have raised him false accusations (Ehorn 350). The fact is that the Romans regarded Christians as one of the Jewish sects, while the Jews considered them heretics. At the trial, Paul needed to clearly show that Christians are neither a Jewish sect nor a group of heretics, but a completely new formation, the Church, the body of Christ, consisting of believers of both Jewish and pagan origin. This reminds believers of Paul’s lengthy explanation of the mysteries of the gospel.

Works Cited

Bruce, Frederick. The Epistle to the Ephesians. Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961.

Ehorn, Seth M. “Book Review: Accessible Commentary on Ephesians: Lynn H. Cohick, Ephesians: A New Covenant Commentary.” The Expository Times, vol. 125, no. 7, 2014, pp. 350-350.

Knights, Chris. “26th August: 16th Sunday after Pentecost: Ephesians 6.10–20.” The Expository Times, vol. 129, no. 10, 2018, pp. 477-478.

Snodgrass, Klyne. The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. Zondervan Academic, 1996.

Stott, John. God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians. Intervarsity Pr., 1980.

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