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Strong in the Lord

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6.10-13.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul has described the all-sufficiency of Jesus, and now, in his letter to the Ephesians from which this morning’s reading is taken, he has carried that thought forward and described how God’s plan is “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1.10). However, that bringing together of everything in Christ will not go unopposed. There are cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil that will quite literally do their damndest to prevent it. Which is why Paul has to write this “finally” section at the close of his letter.

But it is an exultant, confident “finally”. It is not a knees-knocking, teeth-chattering, “Oooh, the monsters are coming to get me”, sheets-over-the-head “finally”. It is yet another reminder of the all-sufficient, all-conquering, all-fulfilling Christ. “Be strong in the Lord” … or, better, “Be made powerful in the Lord”. The Greek is endynamousthe, the passive tense of the verb “to empower”. But the “dynamite” word is still not enough for Paul. “Be made powerful in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Here are the words kratos and ischus that Paul has used earlier in his letter when he told the Ephesians that he wanted them to know “the working of the might (ischus) of the strength (kratos) of him that he worked in Christ raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1.19-20, literal translation). I am, in other words, to be made powerful in God’s resurrection power. Kratos is strength which is absolutely equal to the end to be gained or the dominance to be achieved. Ischus is the hidden might which one possesses whether one knows one has it or not.

And all this power, might and strength of God is given concrete expression in the armour (hopla) of God. Isaiah saw God “put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head” (Isaiah 59.17) and now Paul sees Jesus in that same armour, the whole armour (panoplia) of God which is worn by Christ the Warrior who has already done battle with the devil and won the decisive victory over him at Calvary. As I centre my life in Christ, put on Christ, I put on his armour and find myself strong in his strength, mighty in his might, powerful in his power.

And why is Paul urging me to avail myself of Christ’s armour and strength in this way? Simply that I might “stand”. This passage is not about advance or attack. It is not about “onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war”. It is about making sure I keep what I already have in Christ. Stete is the military term for defending a position that is already occupied. I am to be strong in Christ’s strength and clothed in God’s armour so that the devil can neither cause me to lose ground nor plunder me of what I have already been given.

Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armour on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in His mighty power;
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.

Charles Wesley

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