Reading through the Bible together
In Ephesians Paul has portrayed the church as the body of Christ (1:22-23; 4:11-16), as God’s temple (2:19-22), and as the bride/wife of Christ (5:21-33). In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul portrays the church as God’s army and offers a vigorous call to arms. It is a passage that offers much benefit and risks misunderstanding.
We could misunderstand Paul’s words as a call to take up military weapons against our enemies or to be combative in our relationships with others. But Paul has been emphasizing unity, edifying speech and tenderheartedness (see esp. 4:25-5:2). And he describes God’s good news as “the gospel of peace” (v. 15). Through this vivid military metaphor the church is not exhorted to wage war in the traditional sense. Rather, we are to wage peace in the spiritual battle against evil. Paul steps onto the battlefield of the great controversy and calls us to enlist in God’s army.
We should do so with a realistic assessment of the enemy in view since it will never do to underestimate the forces arrayed against us. We don’t confront just human enemies but “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12), led by a wily general, the devil (v. 11). However, we need not be daunted by our enemies. God is present with us in the battle (v. 10) and has supplied us with the finest of weaponry, His own armor, the “armor of God” (v. 11; cf. Isa 59:15b-17). He has placed at our disposal truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Spirit (vv. 13-17). With God going before us and equipped from head-to-toe in the armor He has supplied, we cannot fail. Victory is assured.
May God bless you as you enlist in His army and wage peace in His name!
Walla Walla University