Dr. John Bechtle
10 Finally, keep becoming strengthened [in/by] the Lord and [in/by] the power of his strength.
Literally, “for the remaining.” The exact phrase occurs in Gal 6:17, and similar phrases occur in 10 other verses.
Like the writer of Ecclesiastes (12:1), Paul comes to his big point: “Now hear the conclusion of the whole matter,” (Rosscup)
This is a transition between sizable sections, the crossover to a concluding section. It’s quite a shift, from domestic relationships (husband/wife, father/child, master/slave) to the battlefield.
It is a climax to the book:
Chapters 1-3 Our wealth – the position we enjoy
Chapters 4-6a Our walk – the daily grind
Chapter 6b Our warfare – the moments when we find ourselves in a fight.
Outline: (Lloyd-Jones 16)
Verses 10-13 are a general exhortation to stand.
Verses 14-20 are detailed instructions on how to stand.
Keep becoming strengthened
Form: Imperative (a command); Present (continued action); Middle or passive (middle = strengthen yourselves / passive = be strengthened, become strong]
Phil 4:13 – Ican do all things thru Christ who strengthens me.
1 Tim 1:12 – I thank Christ who strengthened me, putting me into the ministry.
2 Tim 4:17 – At my first defense, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.
Acts 9:22 – But Paul was being strengthened and was confounding the Jews.
Rom 4:20 – Abraham did not waver regarding the promise but was strengthened in faith
2 Tim 2:1 – Be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
This emphasizes invigorating someone by giving them ability (Rosscup)
Having strength from the Lord comes before putting on the armor.
We have the power that caused the Resurrection, Satan’s biggest defeat (Eph 1:19-21). The battle is not ours, but the Lord’s (1 Sam 17:47; 2 Chron 20:15) (MacArthur).
This is the central or opening command of the section. Do whatever it takes to be sure that the power for combat is being put into you.
The word means to have ability put into you.
The present tense means that we need a constant flow of that empowering. Cf. Phil 4:13, where Christ continually strengthens me, and 2 Timothy 2:1, where Timothy is to be continually strengthened by God’s grace available in Christ.
The source of strength? “The Lord” (Christ) and “His strength” (grace).
In the Lord
The Greek word en can mean “in” or “by” MacArthur says it parallels other passages in Ephesians where it means “in” Christ. When we are in Christ, we are strong. If you pick the other translation, it means that the Lord and His strength are the things that make us stron. Regardless of the translation, the idea is that we don’t have strength of our own. It comes from the Lord.
And in/by the power of his strength
The second source of strength: not only His presence but His power.
The first word (kratos – strength to do a task or rule a realm).
The second word (ischuos – related to echo (“have”), thus power that is possessed. Strength as in physical strength.
Chapter 1 talks about God’s great power; now we see that His power is available for us.
Why this combination of terms?
Perhaps Christ has the dominion (right to rule) because of His sheer physical power.
We can defeat Satan because of our link to the One who is more powerful than Satan, the one with the right to rule.
This may include a reference to “taking back ground” (4:16). Does my sin give Satan a legal exception to this dominion of God?
11 Put on the armor of God, in order that you may be able to stand against the stratagems of the Devil.
Although the command to be strong (v. 10) comes first, as a general command or a precondition for using the armor, this command to put on the armor is virtually repeated in verse 13. The double command is the main point of the passage.
Verses 11-13 tell why we need to put it on, because of coming battles.
Verses 14-18 tell what to put on.
Relationship between verses 10 and 11
Verse 11 shows how to obey verse 10; putting on the armor is the way to be strong. It takes more than will-power. “One cannot be strong by dint of sheer determination or by an awful straining to infuse himself with God’s power.” (Rossbup)
Lloyd-Jones says power comes before putting on armor because:
- Strategy comes before tactics. You must have an overall grasp of the whole picture before you go to particular sectors.
General: having strength from the Lord
Specific: the armor
- Positive comes before negative. Verse 10 is positive, being willed with strength (offensive). Verse 11 is negative, waiting for something to happen to you (defensive).
- We can’t use the armor if we don’t have the strength. Clothe a weakling in it, and he’ll use all his strength trying to manipulate the armor. No energy left for the enemy.
I think Lloyd-Jones’ third point is the best. You have to have power to use the armor. The purpose is to have the power or ability to stand against Satan. Words with dunamis in the base are found in both verses.
The average soldier’s weaponry weighed 100 pounds. You had to be strong! (Renner 86)
The main point is not to know about the armor, but to wear it.
Aorist – a decisive act. You don’t spend weeks gradually getting on your armor. You either have it on or you don’t.
MacArthur says it means “to put on once and for all. . . . The armor isn’t like a game uniform you put on at game time; you put the armor on once and leave it on the rest of your life.”
This is a good point, because you are vulnerable if you don’t have the armor on. But the aorist tense doesn’t prove it.
Imperative – definitely a command.
Middle voice – the most common voice for this verb. It makes sense, because we usually put our own clothes on. Rosscup says it stresses that you put it on.
This is figurative language, so we will have to figure out how you “put on” this kind of spiritual armor.
Other things that we “put on”:
Rom 3:12 – Put aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Rom 3:14 – Put on the Lord Jesus Christ
Luke 24:49 – clothed with power (dunamis) from on high (cf. Holy Spirit at Pentecost)
Col 3:12 – Put on a heart of compassion
Col 3:10 – Lay aside the old self and put on the new self
Eph 4:24 – Put on the new self
1 Thess 5:8 – Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation
1 Cor 15:53-54 – The old body puts on immortality at the resurrection
2 Cor 5:3 – Put on a new body
Much of this seems to mean that you take on a new set of character qualities or attributes, but sometimes it means a new source of power.
The fact that we have to put on the armor lets you know that we do have to fight.
The full armor of a heavily-armed soldier. Used only here, verse 13, and Luke 11:22.
Luke 11:22 – Used of casting out demons: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he [Christ] attacks him [Satan] and overpowers him, he [Christ\ takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder.”
Comes from pas (all) and hopla (weapon – cf. Rom 6:13). “Full armor is not from two words, but most translators feel that it is implied by the two parts of the word pan-oplian.
We put on the whole armor because we aren’t smart enough to know which pieces we will use today.
Is it the armor God wars (as in Isaiah)? Or the armor which comes to us from God? Probably the latter.
Lloyd-Jones: It is the armor provided by God. Only a Christian can use it. It consists in an understanding and application of the gospel.
“The enemy can defeat your mind, your reason, your arguments, your common sense, your psychology, your will-pwer, everything – and he does so. The only way to obtain reali victory is to make use of this ‘whole armour of God,’ which is specially designed to protect us. It does protext us, and nothing else, finally, will protect us” .
in order that you may be able
a combination of words that means “in order that you may be able.” This is why you need to be strong and put on the armor.
The purpose of putting on armor is to make you able to stand against Satan. So far, we have seen that the ability comes from the Lord and His power (verse 10) and from putting on the armor (verse 11).
Aorist – it doesn’t emphasize a continued action, like a protracted battle or campaign. It sounds more like a skirmish, where you stand firm at the moment when Satan attacks. Compare “evil day” in verse 13.
This general concept becomes more specific in verse 13, which is a commentary on verse 11.
Implications [Lloyd-Jones 155]:
- Expect warfare as inevitable, and avoid self-pity. Satan is active.
- Don’t be afraid of Satan. Fear = defeat. Know God’s strength in you.
- Don’t be hesitant or half-hearted about the fight. Stand as a Christian yourself, not staggering, slouching, or having to be held up by others.
- Never consider possible retreat.
- Take up your position and be alert at it.
- Realize the privilege of being in such a fight; stand proudly.
It obviously doesn’t mean to just stand around; you are to stay standing in the face of an attack. Standing is the goal (used four times – 6:11, 13, 13, 14).
Against the stratagems of the devil
“against” – pros = “facing” – Don’t run away from Satan’s schemes; step right into them, ready for the fray. Step into your fears.
Greek methodias – malicious schemes. It is used only here and in 4:14 – “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness with regard to the scheming of deceit.”
Lloyd-Jones: Satan has a very elaborate strategy:
Subtlety – usedmost in attacking man’s mind
Blinds their minds to the gospel
Causes bitterness and hatred toward God and the gospel
Overwhelms with fear
Instigates false teachings
Attacks with evil thoughts
Depression and discouragement
Lusts and passions
Christians are the special objects of Satan’s wrath.
The more Christian you are, the more you can expect attack.
Parallels on “stratagems” (not same word, but related concepts)
Gen 3:1 – the subtle serpent
2 Cor 11:3 – the serpent beguiled Eve through subtlety – parallel to first century people whose minds are corrupted from the simplicity of Christ.
2 Cor 2:9-11 – we are not ignorant of his devices
1 Tim 3:7 – have a good reputation with outsiders to avoid the snare of the devil
2 Tim 2:26 – release from the snare of the devil
John 8:44 – Satan is a liar and the father of lies
Matthew 24:24 – he almost deceives the elect
Eph 4:14 – false teachers
2 Thess 2:8-10 – Antichrist, with cunning craftiness and deceivableness
1 Thess 4:1-2 – seducing spirits and doctrines of demons
Satan transforms himself, or masquerades, as an angel of light. He switches tactics:
Roaring lion – intimidating attack
Angel of light – an authority on truth, quoting Scriptures
Hides so we deny his existence.
6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].
Here is the reason why we have to put on God’s armor. It’s because our opponents are spiritual beings, not physical foes.
“struggle” (pale) occurs only here in the New Testament
It refers not just to athletic competitions, but a life-and-death struggle. Wrestlers would try to get a stranglehold on an opponent’s neck. If you pushed his head to the ground, he died. If you only touched his shoulder to the ground, he lived to fight again (MacArthur 36).
It shows up in the “Palaestra,” the house of three combat sports.
- Boxers – extremely violent, had to wear helmets. Most died in the ring. They wore gloves ribbed with steel (sometimes serrated) and spiked with nails. They often had deformed faces. It was common to hit with the thumb extended to knock the eye out of the socket. There were basically no rules and no rounds; they fought till one died or surrendered.
- Wrestlers – also fought to the death. Favorite tactics: grab around the waist from behind, throw him up in the air, and break his backbone. Choking and strangling were standard. You could break fingers, fracture ribs, gouge the face, or knock the eyes out.
- Pankratists – literally, “all and exhibited power.” A combination of the first two, to prove that you’re the toughest of all. Basically no rules. More died than surrendered (Renner 143).
The point: We are in a violent struggle against an enemy who doesn’t follow any rules of fair play!
The word may not refer directly to Palaestra sports, but to hand-to-hand combat of similar intensity.
Our combat is against “Satanic opposition, against those who march under the black banner of the Prince of darkness” (Rosscup).
Root meaning is “facing” – used six times in a row to describe our opponent in face-to-face combat, close-in fighting.
“Principalities” – rulers of high rank, the top brass. The emphasis is on their high status or preeminence (Rosscup, MacArthur).
“Powers” – also of high rank, those who have received delegated authority. The emphasis is on their power (Rosscup, MacArthur).
The world forces of this darkness
Demons who have infiltrated the world’s political structures.
“Darkness” = Hell, the dominion of Satan (Col 1:13; Matt 8:12).
The emphasis is on their planning (Rosscup), with the “suggestion of an organized strategy, a chain of command, and a network set up to carry out the campaign of darkness.”
The spirits of wickedness
“Wickedness” is a genitive of description, i.e., “wicked spirits.” The emphasis is on their perniciousness (Rosscup).
In the heavenlies
The term is used for both good and evil. It’s probably best to see it as a term for “the spiritual world, the invisible world.”
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
because of this
Because of what?
- Because our strength is in the Lord
- Because we have all the available armor
- Because the enemy is strong and powerful
That’s why we need to grab the armor!
It comes from the word analambanō.
Acts 1:11 – Christ is taken up into clouds at the ascension
Acts 7:43 – Israel took along idols in the wilderness
Acts 20:43-44 – They took Paul on board
It is an aorist imperative – a simple command. Pick up your armor at the supply depot now, so you can put it on before the enemy attacks.
That you may be able
The purpose for taking up the armor is to give you the power or ability to succeed in the battle.
Comes from a word meaning to set oneself against, oppose, resist, withstand, stand one’s ground.
James 4:7 – Resist the devil and he will flee
1 Peter 5:8-9 – The devil comes like a roaring lion, whom resist steadfast in faith
Gal 2:11 – Paul opposed Peter at Antioch
Luke 21:15 – I will give you wisdom that your enemies cannot withstand
Romans 13:2 – Resisting government authority
MacArthur: “We don’t chase the devil. The Bible doesn’t instruct us to find the devil and send him to the pit. It tells us to stand when demons approach us.”
In the evil day
The word order emphasizes “evil.”
When is the “evil day”?
It could be every day that we are attacked.
It could be an especially hard day.
MacArthur: “Today is the evil day. Tomorrow will be the evil day. Every day has been the evil day since Satan usurped the throne of the world. And it will continue to be the evil day until he is cast into the bottomless pit.”
Having done everything
Aorist participle – what happens before you take your stand
- Having made all preparations, you can stand to fight. “Prepare” is not a common meaning – compare 2 Cor 5:5.
- Having worked out, or found out by experience that the armor really works, you can stand. Compare Phil 2:12.
- Having accomplished a difficult task, you can stand as victor in the end.
- Having subdued or conquered, you can stand.
The general idea: Get your whole armor, so that on the day of battle you can (1) hold your ground against attack and (2) still be standing at the end of the day.
14 Stand there, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.
The grouping of the armor (Lloyd-Jones):
- The pieces actually attached to the body (girdle, breastplate, sandals)
- Those not attached (shield, helmet, sword).
The reason why we need the armor is because of the enemy described in verses 10-13.
This goes back to the “stand” in verse 11. There Paul said, “Put on the armor so you can stand.” Here he says, “Once you have put on the armor, stand!”
Having girded your loins
Middle voice – you do it to yourself.
Aorist participle – do it before you take a stand.
Wore a tunic (large, square piece of material with holes for head and arms) that hung low and loose over the body (MacArthur).
Military belt made of leather. It could be studded with nails, ornamented with gold/silver/gems, and embroidered with figures (Rosscup).
Strap – ran from the belt up over the shoulder and connected to the belt again in back. It was used to hang the sword on. Also used as a place to hang emblems of previous victories (MacArthur).
Girding up: pull the four corners of the tunic through the belt.
Use of belt: (a) ornamental; (b) held armor in place; (c) provided freedom of movement (Rosscup).
William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
Eadie, Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians
Nicol, “Armor,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
What truth are we talking about here?
The options are either objective (the truth you believe) or subjective (the truthfulness you display).
View 1 (Renner) – Objective: the written word of God
Later in the passage, it mentions rhema, a fresh, supernaturally revealed word from God, often in the form of a Bible verse that really sticks out. The “truth” here must refer to the logos, the basic written Word of God.
How do you gird your loins with it? Through regular personal Bible study.
View 2 (Lloyd-Jones) – Objective: the central doctrines of Christianity. The sword of the Spirit later is the Word of God, but the girdle here is also the Word of God viewed differently. The rhema of the sword is the use of particular Bible verses for the occasion, as Jesus quoted Scripture to Satan.
This cannot be mere sincerity and truthfulness, because we are not truthful enough to withstand the evil one, and because the armor is something God provides for us. The truth is the whole truth of the Bible about the doctrine of salvation, the basic teachings of Scripture.
How do you gird your loins? Accept and believe the basic creeds of Christianity.
View 3 (Rosscup) – Subjective: sincerity, openness, candor
Why? Because objective truth won’t help us battle unless it becomes personal, something that works in our experience. That, by definition, is subjective.
Wuest: “The mind that will practice no deceits and attempt no disguises in our intercourse with God, is indeed vital to Christian safety and essential to the due operation of all the other qualities of character (Ephesians and Colossians in the Greek New Testament 143).
It is, however, based on our reception of objective truth (John 17;17).
How do you gird your loins? By choosing to be open, honest and transparent before God and others.
View 4 (MacArthur) – Subjective: commitment
“Truth” can refer to the content, the truth which we are to believe. But Paul uses this idea a few verses later with the sword. Here he emphasizes the attitude of truthfulness, an absence of hypocrisy.
The greatest synonym for truthfulness is commitment.
How do you gird your loins? Be committed to win and commit your life to God.
View 1 is charismatic and rests on uncommon meanings of logos and rhema.
View 4 – I don’t see the connection with commitment.
View 3 – Important but seems based on our performance. This may be OK if God compensates for our lacks. Honesty is important because it keeps our relation wit God clear and He can help keep us clean.
View 2 – Probably my favorite: A subjective commitment to the objective truth of the gospel.
And having put on the breastplate of righteousness
The Roman soldier:
There were different kinds of breastplates:
- Heavy linen hanging down very low, covered with thin slices from the hooves or horns of an animal or made from metal pieces (MacArthur).
- More familiar – a molded metal chest piece – actually a front piece for the chest and a back piece fastened together with a clasp (Rosscup), with solid brass rings on top of the shoulders (Renner).
It was worn by the heavy-armed infantry. The front and back had hinges on the right side and buckles on the left (Rosscup).
The front could be made of leather, bronze, brass, iron, or more precious metals. Often very elaborate and beautiful. When pieces rubbed together, especially the small, fish-shaped brass pieces, they would polish each other. It would shine, reflecting the sun.
It covered from the base of the neck to the upper thighs.
It was the heaviest piece of armor – over 40 pounds. Some were said to be 75 pounds. Goliath’s was about 125! (Renner).
What is the righteousness we are to put on?
MacArthur says the breastplate was to protect the heart and bowels. Also, for the Jew, the heart symbolizes the mind.
BUT in Proverbs, at least, the heart can mean the whole inner person, not just the mind. And the other pieces or armor don’t match according to this scheme. Thoughts and feelings are major fields of combat, but I don’t think the breastplate refers specifically to them.
Option 1 – Self righteousness – obviously inadequate.
Option 2 – Imputed righteousness (Renner, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur
You can’t be protected by righteousness of your own life; you’re simply not righteous enough. Your breastplate is made of the righteousness God gave you at salvation.
Imputed righteousness = justification by faith, described in Phil 3:7-9.
Note: In 1 Thess 5:8, it’s the breastplate of faith and love, so the imagery can vary.
Option 3 – Practical or imparted righteousness (MacArthur)
This is actually the normal outcome of imputed righteousness. All Christians have imputed righteousness, but they sometimes lose battles with Satan. You need to develop practical holiness (Phil 3:14)
How do we put on this righteousness?
- Accept Christ
- Believe that you are a child of God, so that you have this righteousness. Rely on it by faith as a counter to Satan’s attacks.
Lloyd-Jones: “The only hope is to say, ‘Well, I do not understand, but there are certain things I am sure of whatever happens.’”
- Realize the need to be on guard against worldliness.
- Commit yourself to live a righteous life.
- Confess when you blow it.
15 and having shod the feet in the preparation of the gospel of peace
Having shod the feet
Comes from “to bind under” your feet. Usually used for putting on sandals as in Mark 6:9 and Acts 12:8.
Aorist participle – you do this before te main verb. Put it on before battle so you can stand firm when the attack comes.
The Roman soldier’s footware:
Actually, Paul doesn’t use a noun to tell us what goes on the feet; he assumes you know what Roman soldiers normally wear.
It was a sandal or semi-boot, not a full boot.
It had a thick leather sole.
It was held on by multiple pieces of durable leather that went over the instep and around the ankle. It was secured firmly so it would give solid footing.
The sole was studded with hobnails – little pieces of metal to grip the ground.
Renner says the spikes were 1-3 inches long, making them a dangerous offensive weapon if you stepped on the enemy.
Reasons for such shoes:
- Firm footing to prevent a slip that could be fatal in battle.
- Mobility for lengthy, high-speed forced marches.
- Protection – some armies placed sharpened sticks in the ground to pierce an enemy’s foot.
Roman soldiers also wore greaves – a sheet of tooled metal specifically shaped to fit around the calf. This protected against broken legs. Its tube-like shape made it look as if the soldier were wearing brass boots.
The gospel of peace
- Ready to preach the good news of peace to others (Chrysostom, Conybeare, Jowett). The best defense is a good offense.
This view is based on the “beautiful feet of them that preach the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15, quoting Isaiah 52:7).
BUT this is in a context where an individual believer is battling satanic attack. Evangelism doesn’t seem to fit the context.
- Being prepared with the good news that we have peace with God. Because of Christ’s work, God is at peace with us. He is on our side.
Because we know that we have the objective peace with God, i.e., justification, we also have the subjective peace of God.
Rosscup, citing Eadie: It “creates blessed serenity of heart and confers upon the mind a peculiar and continuous preparedness of action and movement so that there is nothing to disconnect or perplex it or divide it and retard its energies.”
- Be firm – stand resolutely for truth.
- Be watchful – don’t let Satan take you by surprise.
- Be mobile – ready for God’s command, even a long forced march. Be adaptable.
How do you put them on? (Lloyd-Jones)
Be sure you’re saved.
Bring your anxieties to God (Phil 4:6).
Be at peace with others.
16 In all things having taken up the shield of faith, by which you will be able to quench all the burning darts of the evil one.
In all things
“in addition to all” (Rosscup, Lloyd-Jones). The KJV “above all” gives the impression that it means “above everything else in importance.” But that’s unlikely. It’s a general introduction to the next three pieces of armor.
Renner says it means “out in front of all” or “covering all” as a reference to the position of the shield out in front of the other pieces of armor.
Having taken up
Aorist participle – shows that you take up the shield of faith before the main verb “stand” (v. 14).
Starting with this verb, the verbs selected show that there is a difference between the first three pieces of armor and the last three. The first three are things you would wear all through the period of combat: shoes, breastplate, and belt. They are things you fix to the body with special fastenings. When you got to the point of actual combat, you would put on your helmet and pick up your sword and shield (MacArthur). You don’t have a shield in your hand when you’re resting, only when you’re actually in battle.
MacArthur: “If you have a commitment to the cause of Christ because your belt is on, absolute holiness in your life because your breastplate is on, and confidence in God’s power because you’ve shod your feet with the gospel of peace, that would seem to be sufficient – and it is. But the remaining pieces provide a double protection that is useful when the battle gets furious.”
How do you take up the shield of faith?
Apply what we believe quickly to repel what Satan tries to do to us, as an answer to his assaults on our thoughts. Faith doesn’t focus on itself, so the answer isn’t trying to pump up a stronger faith. True faith always focuses on its object, the character of God. When an assault comes, answer it with a statement from Scripture about the character of God, the trut of God, the work of Christ, that refutes Satan’s lie. Choose to believe the truth and depend on it (Lloyd-Jones)
Satan’s temptations are lies. Faith believes God instead. And if you believe God, you obey Him (MacArthur).
This word was used in Homer for a large stone placed against a cave door or opening, according to A. T. Robertson. It was originally a large, oblong door (Rosscup).
The word eventually became used for the large, oblong shield used by the heavy infantry. Polybius says it was four feet by two and one half feet in size, furnishing excellent protection (Rosscup, Lloyd-Jones). MacArthur says 4 ½ by 2 ½ feet.
The shield rested on a small clip on the belt when it was not in use (Renner).
The shield was usually composed of multiple layers of thick animal hide, tightly woven together. Usually it was six layers of specially tanned leather (Renner). MacArthur and Lloyd-Jones say it was a thick plank of wood, covered on the outside with metal or leather; the metal would deflect arrows, while the leather was treated with oil to extinguish fiery pitch on arrows. People in those days tended to be short, so this would protect their whole body.
Roman solders had to take good care of their shields. Every morning when they woke up, they took a small vial of oil and saturated a cloth with it. Then they would rub the oil into the leather of the shield to keep it pliable. If they didn’t oil it, the shield could become hard, stiff, and brittle; it could harden, crack under pressure, and fall to pieces. Not a good thing in battle! (Renner)
Application: faith requires frequent anointings of the Spirit.
Another shield called the astis (Renner says aspis) was smaller and circular, much inferior to the thureon (Rosscup). Like a giant Frisbee, curled at the edges, strapped to the left forearm (MacArthur). It was very light so that the soldier could use it to parry blows from a short sword like the machairos (MacArthur). It was primarily for decorative use in public ceremonies and parades. It was decorated with etchings and engravings, and the middle often depicted an artist’s conception of a previous victory. But it was too small to be effective in combat.
What does faith refer to?
It is the day by day experience of faith which protects us from Satan’s attacks. Our faith in God is a large, powerful shield (Rosscup). Renner agrees that it is our confidence in God and His Word.
It is the ability to apply quickly what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us (Lloyd-Jones).
This faith is based on the objective facts explained in chapters 1-3, but you have to apply it subjectively.
By which you will be able to quench
This is the instrument by which the believer can halt Satan’s missiles. No other will do. It is to protect you against the things that may be hurled against you as a preliminary assault before the foe comes with his sword to do hand-to-hand combat.
All the burning darts
“All reminds us that this shield is big enough to stop anything Satan can throw. Faith is adequate to cover any need that you will face.
“Dart” comes from the verb ballō, which means “to throw.” This is the only use I the NT.
The Romans used missiles like hammers that had inflammable substances pressed into the point or head, then ignited. The troops would toss them at the enemy, hoping to set fire to their clothing or their camp (Rosscup).
MacArthur says they would put cotton material on the tip of their arrows, then soak it in pitch, which would burn slowly but was very hot. When the arrow hit, the pitch would splatter and start little fires. Lloyd-Jones describes it as impregnating some material in a flammable substance, then winding it tightly around the arrow or dart.
Thucydides used the same phrase to describe “arrows equipped to carry fire.” Three kinds of arrow were used at that time: (1) regular arrows; (2) arrows dipped in tar, set on fire, and shot through the air; and (3) arrows made of cane filled with combustible fluids that burst into flame on impact. Paul refers to the third kind of arrow. You couldn’t tell the difference until it hit and ignited. Defenders sometimes ignored them until the fires were out of control. These arrows were reserved for use in attacking an encampment or fortified place (Renner).
Troops would throw these darts at the enemy In great profusion from all directions in order to cause confusion. Then the soldiers would advance for the main assault. It was something preliminary artillery barrages in WWI or bombing in WWII(Lloyd-Jones).
What do the fiery missiles represent? Temptations. Evil, blasphemous thoughts, distractions – things which we think come from within ourselves, but they’re really from Satan. These tend to come in bursts – heavy attack after an interval of peace. The darts can also be imaginations or trials of various kinds.
“fiery” is the perfect passive participle of puroō, “set on fire, burn.” It shows that the missiles have already been ignited before they land on you.
Of the evil one
The missiles belong to the Evil One (Rosscup). Or it could show that he is the source.
It’s probably not evil in the abstract, and certainly not evil people. Most likely “the evil one,” the Devil. We are fighting persons, not abstract ideas.
6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The etymology of the word pictures something “around the head.”
Early Roman helmets were made of leather. But by Paul’s time, they were either a combination of leather with bronze or gold, or made completely of metal (Rosscup). It was equipped with pieces of metal to protect the cheeks and jaws. It was very heavy, and the inside was lined with sponge to soften the pressure of its weight on the head (Renner).
The helmet had a crest or plume made of horse hair or of black and scarlet feathers. It could stand up to 18 inches high (Rosscup). If the helmet was to be used in a public ceremony or parade, it might have an extra long plume that hung down the back (Renner).
The helmet was usually decorated with all kinds of engravings. Some had scenes of the country, with various kinds of animals. Some made the soldier look as if he had the head of an elephant, a horse, or some other animal. Others had engravings of fruit (Renner).
It had three functions:
- Prestige – the ornamental crest made him look good
- Psychology – it made him look like a giant, taller than he really was, and terrified the enemy.
- Protection – the metal covered the head (Rosscup). It was especially needed for protection from the battle-axe (Renner). Its primary function was to ward off blows from a broadsword, the
The spiritual application is primarily drawing attention to the head, the mind, the thinking of the Christian. This time it is not so much the acceptance of particular doctrines, but our attitude toward the whole Christian faith. It refers to the temptation to become discouraged and give up the entire Christian faith (Lloyd-Jones).
This refers to the assurance of salvation, based on the fact of salvation (Rosscup). Hodge says it is our awareness of the fact that we are saved, that we are Christians, the present enjoyment of our salvation.
Salvation in the objective sense – the fact of being saved – protects your mind from Satan’s lies (Renner).
It doesn’t mean getting saved. You’re not even in the army unless you’re a believer. It does mean that you are sure of salvation (eternal security), even when Satan says you’re lost. The hope – certainty – of getting past the past tense of salvation and the present tense to reach the future tense in the presence of Jesus (MacArthur).
Lloyd-Jones: The key is in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, where Paul talks about the helmet being the hope of salvation. Paul is talking about the future tense of salvation, our hope of final victory over sin, of our place in glory, and of our eternal security.
And the sword
The sword is different from the other pieces of armor:
- All the others provide protection for the body.
- It keeps back the enemy himself, not just one tactic.
- It is an offensive weapon. We can resist the devil in such a way that we cause him to flee (James 4:7).
History of the sword:
Ancient swords were made of bronze until iron became popular. The earliest Greeks had very short swords, but Iphicrates (an innovator in armor design about 400 B.C.) doubled its length, so that an iron sword discovered in a tomb in Athens was about two feet, five inches long, including the handle. Both the Greeks and the Romans wore the sword on the left side, so they could reach across their body to grab it out of the sheath easily (Rosscup).
Types of swords used by Greeks – Liddell & Scott 1190, 1918, 457, 449 (Rosscup):
- Ksiphos – a dagger
- Phasgan – a barber’s knife and scissors
- Excheiridion – hand knife, dagger
- Rhomphaia – a large, broad sword (Rev 1:6; 19:15)
- Drepanon – a sickle-shaped sword used for farming as well as fighting.
Other types of swords used by Roman soldiers (Renner):
- Gladius – an extremely heavy, broad-shouldered sword with a very long blade. The most aesthetically beautiful sword, but so heavy that it was cumbersome and awkward to use. It was referred to as a two-handed sword because it took two hands to swing it. It was only sharp on one side. After suffering a defeat at the hands of Carthage, the Romans abandoned this sword and switched to ones like those Carthage used.
- A second one that was shorter and narrower, about seventeen inches long and 2 ½ inches wide. This rapidly gained popularity because it was so much easier to use.
- A third sword was shorter than the second, and actually looked more like a dagger. It was carried in a small hidden scabbard beneath a soldier’s outer coat, and was used to inflict a mortal wound to the heart.
- The fourth sword was a long, very slender sword, primarily used by the cavalry. It was also used in a sport that was similar to modern-day fencing. It was not suitable for infantry combat.
The Roman military sword:
The machaira (Rom 13:4; Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12) was about the same size as the Greek egcheiridion, their common military sword. It had a blade about two feet long (19 inches – Renner), and several inches wide (Henry P. Judson, Caesar’s Army, p. 33)(Rosscup). The machaira was about nineteen inches long, and sharpened on both sides of the blade [MacArthur says 6-18 inches]. The tip of the sword turned upward, making it a sharp, deadly point. A soldier wouldthrust it into his enemy’s body, then hold it with both hands and give it a twist, to rip the foe’s entrails from his body (Renner).
How it was used:
Along with the spear, it was the main offensive weapon.
Flagius Vegetius Renatus, The Military Institutions of the Romans, p. 20:
The Roman soldiers were taught “not to cut, but to thrust with theirs swords. For the Romans not only made a jest of those who fought with the edge of that weapon, but always found them an easy conquest. A stroke with the edges though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are defended by the bones and armor. On the contrary, a stab, although it penetrates but two inchers, is generally fatal. Besides in the attitude of striking, it is impossible to avoid exposing the right arm and side, but on the other hand, the body is covered while a thrust is given, and the adversary receives the point before he sees the sword. This was the method of fighting principally used by the Romans.” (cited by Rosscup)..
Peter used a machaira to cut off the servant’s ear in the garden. You could tell he didn’t know how to use it! It was also the sword used to kill James, brother of John, in Acts 12:2; the sword used by the soldiers in the garden (Matthew 26:47); and the sword used to kil heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:37. Obviously it could describe non-Roman swords, particularly in the Hebrews passage.
Of the Spirit
- The New English Bible translates, “For sword, take that which the Spirit gives you – the words that come from God.” This opens the door to mysticism, and is not supported by any other version.
- Some would translate it “the sword which is the Spirit,” but that doesn’t make any sense, because the next phrase identifies it as the word of God, not the Spirit. And there’s no other place where the Spirit is called the word of God.
- It is “the spiritual sword” in the sense that we use spiritual, not physical weapons. MacArthur says a form of “spirit” is used as an adjective in Ephesians 1:3 and 5:19, so it would be OK to treat this as an adjective. However, I think it’s unlikely.
- It is “the sword given by the Holy Spirit.” This keeps closer to the usual meaning of the word. Embedded in this meaning are the ideas that the Spirit inspired the Bible, and He enables us to understand it, interpret it, and use it properly..
Which is the word of God
“Word” (rhema) means the gospel or word of God (Rosscup). He says it is very arbitrary to say that rhema simply means the spoken word of God, while logos is the written word. In Hebrews 4:12, logos has virtually the same meaning that rhema has here; how can you distinguish them that much?
Rhema means something that is spoken clearly, spoken in unmistakable terms, spoken vividly, spoken in undeniable language. It refers to “a specific word which the Holy Spirit quickens in our heart and mind at a specific time and for a special purpose.” It is normally taken from the Bible (Renner).
Rhema means “a specific statement,” rather than a broad or general reference like logos. Paul isn’t talking about basic Scriptural knowledge; he’s talking about a specific statement of God that answers this particular temptation (MacArthur).
It refers to our detailed knowledge of the Word, our knowledge of particular Scriptures, and our ability to select and to use the appropriate word or passage at any given point. Compare Jesus’ temptation.
How to you take up the sword?
Study the Bible to find verses directed specifically at the temptations you face. Then whenever you are attacked by temptation, call back those verses to memory. Let them direct you to resist Satan.
18 with all prayer and petition praying at every time in the Spirit, and for this purpose watching with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints
Renner says that Roman soldiers always carried a lance as well, and that it must be in this text, or we don’t have the whole armor. He believes the prayers of verse 18 match up to the lance, even though the word isn’t actually used. There were a lot of different kinds of lances, and Paul mentions lots of different kinds of prayer: the prayer of faith, of agreement, of intercession, of supplication, of petition, of thanksgiving, united prayer, etc.
The Greeks during the time of Homer (1000 BC) used lances made of ash wood, about 6-7 feet long, with a solid iron lance head. The head could take many shapes, resembling a leaf, a bulrush, a sharp barb, or simply a jagged point.
Short lances were used for gouging and thrusting through the body of an enemy from close range. Long ones were hurled at the enemy from a distance; then the soldier would run to kill the wounded foe.
At the time of Xenophon, armies carried short lances, long lances, narrow lances, wide lances, pointed lances, dull lances, jagged lances, multiple-blade lances. The average soldier carried five short lances and one long one.
The Macedonians had the longest lances of all – 21-24 feet long, the length of a telephone pole! The cavalry used shorter lances.
The Romans used a lance called a pilum, primarily used for throwing at an enemy from a distance. These were most often used when an opposing force tried to attack a Roman camp or fortified position. The Romans would hurl this very heavy lance at them before they got close enough to be dangerous. A pilum was about 6 feet long, with a 3-foot long iron lance head and a 3-foot long iron shaft at the bottom.
Vegetius, the Roman military historian, mentions another lance about 5 ½ feet long with a three-pointed lance head that was 9-12 inches long. A later version was reduced to 3 ½ feet long, with a 5-inch lance head. Sometimes they would load it with iron to make a greater impact (Renner)
It is also possible that Paul is not referring to a lance, but to prayer as the way to receive the strength to use the armor properly.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20. Baker Books, 1998.
MacArthur, John. How to Meet the Enemy. Victor Books, 1992.
Renner, Rick. Dressed to Kill: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare and Armor. Harrison House Publishers, 2013.
Rosscup, James. Unpublished lecture notes on Ephesians, Talbot Seminary, 1971.