The instruction to be strong in the Lord and to be in the power of His might is a directive which requires complete dependency upon the Lord. It is an instruction which is linked to that which Paul had previously urged believers at Ephesus to understand and do. It is an instruction which is much needed by all who would ever hear the things which Paul writes in this epistle because Satan attacks all who would make God’s love known. Paul charges the Ephesians (and believers in all places) to put on the whole armor of God such that they and we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
In physical combat, armor is a necessity. Some of the enemy’s projectiles, whether they be stones, arrows, spears, slashing blades, or bullets or shrapnel, will be on target. If the physical armor is appropriate, it will completely negate the intent of the enemy. Escaping harm is dependent upon choosing the right armor.
Spiritual combat is no different. If the choice of armor is poor, great harm shall result. We are told in verse 11 to put on the whole armor of God. Proper preparation for spiritual combat requires defenses manufactured by the Lord God. Partial protection is not going to do the job. The whole armor of God is necessary because we are called to battle against the wiles of the devil, that old serpent who would give us cause to question God (see Gen. 3:1).
In verse 12, Paul fully identifies the enemy. It consists of principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness which is not of an earthly realm. The enemy is not Satan alone. It is the entire entity which is joined with Satan in rebellion against God. Again, the whole armor of God is necessary.
Paul repeats the command to put on the whole armor of God in verse 13. The armor of God, the armor which negates every weapon in the arsenal of evil, is described in verses 14 to 17. The individual pieces of armor are (1) truth, (2) righteousness, (3) the gospel of peace, (4) faith, (5) salvation, and (6) the word of God. The first piece of armor is truth. Knowing the truth makes one free from sin (Jn. 8:32). One cannot fight effectively if one is impeded by his clothing. Being girded with truth frees believers from sin’s restricting power.
The second piece is righteousness. Righteousness is of God. The righteousness of men is for naught. Jesus stated that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was insufficient to enter the kingdom of heaven. The breastplate preserves life by repelling deadly blows to the heart. God, and God alone, is the Creator and preserver of life.
The feet of believers needs to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Preparation is translated from the Greek word hetoimasia, meaning preparation or readiness. Knowing the good news that the Son has made His soul an offering for our sins and is risen from the dead (Isa. 53:10) prepares us against any and all surprises. Jesus has won (past tense) the victory. Surprise attacks of the devil and his minions shall falter and fail.
The fourth piece of armor is the shield of faith. What a glorious shield it is! It is a shield which cannot be purchased. It is a free gift from God (Eph. 2:8). It cannot fail. It is one hundred percent effective. It quenches every kind of fiery dart which the wicked is able to manufacture.
The helmet protects the head, the home to the human mind. The certainty of salvation completely repels every volley of doubt which the enemies of God may launch.
The last piece of armor is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. The word of God is an offensive weapon. It is the weapon which Jesus employed in the wilderness to defeat the temptations of Satan (Matt. 4:1-11).
To be effective, armor must be used in the prescribed manner. Prayer (v. 18) is the first line in the user’s manual of instruction. Each piece of armor is to be donned with prayer. Believers are to contact the Divine Manufacturer. Our prayers are to be offered up with supplication in the Spirit. Our prayers are to draw upon the Holy Spirit for energy, for enablement, and for direction. Praying in the Spirit requires an admission of our inadequacies and our total dependency upon God.
In verse 19, Paul confesses his prayer that his words might make the mystery (the hidden things) of the gospel known. It is by and through the power of the Spirit that the apostle speaks boldly and as directed.
Let us, likewise, don the whole armor of God in Spirit-led prayer and supplication.