The Christian life is often defined by different postures: sitting, walking, and standing. In fact, one of the internal structural outlines of Ephesians is based on these postures. Paul tells us that we’re seated with Christ in heavenly places (2:6), that we are to walk worthy of our calling-not as Gentiles, in love, in the light, and in wisdom (4:1, 17, 5:2, 8, 15), and that we are to stand against the wiles of the devil (6:11). It’s this third posture that I’m going to focus on in a series of posts about the armor of God. But before we get to the pieces of armor, we need to focus on the context of the war.
Out of all that Paul has written to the Ephesians he has yet one more thing remaining, “Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (6:10). The verb “be strong” is an imperative, it’s a command. To be Christians we need to be strong. That’s kind of hard for us to understand. Our sinful nature is pampered by the culture we live in, a culture that has grown increasingly comfortable; and with great comfort often comes great weakness. A person who seldom exercises his muscles will experience progressive atrophy. So too when we fail to discipline our lives according to grace, we degenerate, we waste away. Ever notice your convictions weakening, your resolve lessening as you yield again and again to temptation? That’s spiritual atrophy. But the default position of Christians is anything but complacency. Paul says we must be strong–strong in conviction, strong in resolve, strong against sin, strong against the world, strong against the devil, and strong in faith.
This command would be altogether useless if we were left to our own strength, but we’re not. Paul doesn’t say, “Be strong on your own,” but, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” Even this is one of those spiritual blessings wherein we have been blessed in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). Many agree that power here indicates the attribute of God, what we call his omnipotence. That is, he is altogether powerful–he is El Shaddai. In Job 26, Job reflects on that power when he considers all that God has done: how he helps and saves, how the dead tremble, Sheol is naked before him, he sets the boundaries for waters, covers the face of the moon, sets the boundary between light and darkness, stills the sea, etc, etc. And then in verse 14 he says, “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” That’s his power, but his might is his ability to do. It’s one thing to be powerful, it’s another thing to exercise that power. Simply, God is able to do. The wonderful thing is, God’s power and his might are supremely displayed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, in his becoming man, in his dying on the cross, in his rising in victory, in his exaltation to the right hand of power, and in the saving of his people.
This, the Apostle says, is how we are to be strong. It must be “in him,” but it’s in him who is altogether powerful and able to do all things. As Paul prepares us for the battle, he reminds us that our union with Christ is the only way we can take up this defensive posture of standing. Like Isaiah wrote, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (59:19), but apart from him, we will be slain. Oh to know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). What a powerful encouragement for the war!