Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6.10.
A literal translation of the admonishment in this verse is “be made powerful in the Lord”. Endynamousthe is the passive imperative of the verb endynamoo — “to empower”. “Be empowered,” Paul is saying. “You need to be powerful but you cannot bring that about by yourself. It is something God has to do for you.” And how does God do that? By releasing power into us through Christ.
When I am “in Christ” — when my life is being lived in union with him — I am able to participate “in the strength (kratos) of his might (ischus)”. Kratos is strength that relates to, and is perfectly adequate for, a particular task or objective, whereas ischus is strength possessed … latent power. Paul’s thought seems to be that Christ is full of power and that as I live in union with him sufficient of that power is made available to me for whatever task or difficulty or conflict that I am facing and have to handle.
But there are two challenges to me in all this. First, I must actually be in union with Jesus. Like the branch in the vine, so I must be “abiding” in Jesus … remaining in him (John 15.4). There is a sense in which every Christian is “in Christ” (as opposed to being “in Adam”) but to assimilate all that Christ has for me, including his power, I need to be “in him” in a much more organic way than that. My life and his need to be intertwined.
And secondly, even when I am “in him” in the fullest sense of that expression, the power that Jesus has for me must be appropriated. That is why Paul gives the Ephesians this admonishment. Elsewhere, he gives a similar injunction to Timothy: “Then my child, be empowered by grace in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2.1 literal translation). “By grace”! Empowerment is a gift, and gifts must be received and unwrapped to be enjoyed.
Paul goes on in the remainder of Ephesians 6 to talk of spiritual warfare … and that is, of course, why it is essential that I am “empowered”. If I try to engage the enemy in my own strength I will most certainly be defeated, but the promise here is that the power that Jesus can impart to me will be more than adequate for anything I have to face. Charles Wesley captured perfectly the underlying thoughts in today’s short passage from Paul …
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.