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ON THE OFFENSIVE – Ephesians 6:18-20

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 13, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; September 13, 2017 from Ephesians 6:18-20

Theme: Paul describes the offensive weaponry of the believer as that of prayer and proclamation.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

We have been studying together from Paul’s words in Ephesians 6 on spiritual warfare. We have affirmed that this is a key part of our call to ‘walk in a manner worthy of our calling’ in Christ (Ephesians 4:1). And as we have learned, the key intent of this passage is that—as followers of Jesus—we be enabled to “stand” when under the attack of the enemy; and that an essential provision from God in being able to do this is the spiritual ‘armor’ of the believer.

In verses 10-13, we learned why this armor is necessary. It’s because we do not war against flesh and blood in our battle for the faith, but rather against powerful spiritual forces of wickedness. And in verses 14-17, we learned about the armor that we are ‘therefore’ to put on: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the boots of the preparation of the gospel of peace—all of which are pieces that we are to wear at all times. And over these—in the moment of attack—we are to take up the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). A failure to do this helps explain why some professing Christians fall by the wayside in evil times. But if we faithfully do as we’re told in this passage, we will be able “having done all, to stand”.

But it’s not just all about “standing”—as if nothing more was to happen. We stand in battle in order to fight. We “war”. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ … (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

And so, in verses 18-20, Paul describes the offensive weapons by which we successfully war in spiritual realms for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. All of us must fight. And in order to fight victoriously—while faithfully wearing the armor—all of us must make use the powerful spiritual weapons God has provided for us.

Paul goes on to describe two main weapons …

I. PRAYER (v. 18).

First, we are to be praying at all times. In the context of wearing the armor, Paul writes, “praying always …” The meaning of this is that we be praying “on all occasions” or “in all opportunities” or “at all seasons”. Just as the Bible commands the pastor to “Preach the word … in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2), so the believer is to be ready to “pray without ceasing” (2 Thessalonians 5:17). There is never a time not to turn to God in prayer!

Not only this, but secondly we are to be praying in all ways. Paul sums up those ways in two categories. The first is “with all prayer”; and here, he uses the word for prayer that means—in a general sense—reverent worship and praise toward God. The second is with “supplication”; and here, the idea is that of specific requests and entreaties. Both are necessary, and really in that order; because we must first come to God with reverent worship of who He is, and then we must get specific about what we want from Him. Adding “thanksgiving” to this is how Paul teaches us to resist anxiety and to experience the peace of God (see Philippians 4:6-7).

We also must be praying in the Holy Spirit. We’re to offer prayers and supplications “in the Spirit”. A relationship of submission to the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18) is what makes our prayers an effective weapon. It is this that makes the weapons of our warfare ‘mighty through God’. To have our prayers empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must be living in a way that is consistent with a true walk in the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-26).

Along with this, we must be praying with alertness. So that we will be praying with prayer and supplication in a way that is consistent with what the Holy Spirit is doing, we must be “being watchful to this end”. Jesus taught His apostles to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Because prayer is an offensive weapon in our warfare, we must keep as vigilant in our use of it as any soldier would be in the use of his weapons in any combat situation.

Paul also urges us to be praying with perseverance. We’re to be watchful in our prayers “with all perseverance”—to truly be ‘praying without ceasing. Our Lord taught the parable of the ‘persistent widow’ in order to teach “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8). How often does the enemy count on our becoming impatient and give up in using this powerful weapon—all because we don’t always see immediate results? How often do we fail to gain victory because we were not persistent in our prayers until God’s perfect time?

And finally, note that we are to be praying for all the saints. Our prayers are not simply for ourselves; because we are not in battle all by ourselves. None of us constitutes a ‘one-man army’. We are together in this warfare by design; and if my brother or sister fails in battle because I was not praying for them, then it affects me. Note here that the type of shield we are to take up in taking up the shield of faith is the large kind that locks together with others to form an impenetrable wall (v. 16). How often does the enemy gain victory because we were not praying persistently for one another?

II. PROCLAIMATION (vv. 19-20).

Paul’s call to pray for one another leads him to ask prayer for himself especially; “and for me” (v. 19). His prayer is for his ability to proclaim the gospel; this is our second great offensive weapon. When it comes to the gospel, he affirms that we are to be proclaiming in words; asking “that utterance may be given to me”. We put spiritual thoughts to spiritual words in proclaiming the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:13) through “the foolishness of the message preached” (1:21). We mustn’t just assume people will ‘pick it up’ somehow. We must tell them clearly in words; for “how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

We must also be proclaiming with boldness. The word that Paul uses is one that means ‘freedom of speech’; “that I may open my mouth boldly” (v. 19). The message of the gospel is not easily accepted, and so it is not easily proclaimed. It takes courage to use this great weapon.

What’s more, we must be proclaiming with integrity to the whole gospel. Paul asks prayer that he may be given boldness “to make known the mystery of the gospel” (v. 19). Paul spoke of this mystery already in this letter (see Ephesians 3:3, 4, 8); and Paul’s request for prayer that the mystery of the gospel be made ‘known’ suggest that it is only an effective weapon if it is proclaimed in the whole—with nothing left out or adjusted. We must not be found to be “peddling” the word (2 Corinthians 2:17)—that is, adjusting it in order to make it more marketable and acceptable to the tastes of this world.

We must be proclaiming even in times of suffering this gospel. Note that Paul does not ask to be relieved of suffering for the gospel; but rather that he may proclaim it even as “an ambassador in chains” (v. 20). He found that the things he suffered resulted in an advance—rather than a hindrance—to the spread of the gospel (see Philippians 1:12).

And finally, we must be proclaiming with appropriate endurance; just as Paul asked for prayer that he might “speak boldly, as I ought to speak”. When faced with great opposition in Corinth, the Lord encouraged him; and he remained a year and six months–in spite of the opposition—“teaching the word” (Acts 18:11).

* * * * * * * * * *

If a soldier is fully protected by armor in the midst of the attacks of the enemy, so that he or she ends up standing in the battlefield when the attack is over, that’s a great thing. But if he or she does nothing more than ‘stand’, then what was the point of going to the battlefield in the first place? The soldier is made to stand in order to fight and gain territory unto victory.

Likewise, the spiritual armor is given to us in order to help us stand against the attacks of our powerful spiritual enemy. But God does not just send us out to stand; but rather to fight and gain victory. And to do so, He has provided us with these powerful spiritual weapons of offense—the prayer of faith, and the proclamation of the gospel. By this weapons of warfare—mighty through God—may it be that we gain victory in our Savior’s cause!

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