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January 28, 2021 7:00 am
Imagine this, you're considering enlisting in the Army, but you struggle with fear, about going into battle. Your relieved when the recruiter explains that no matter how intense the fighting may get your side will always be guaranteed to win in the end today on the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce will find out how the Christian life is very much like a war but one with a guaranteed victory welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. We often hear about the armor of God you don't often consider the implications of that term doesn't the need for armor suggests the reality of battle. What are we fighting against will find out as we listening together into the teaching of Dr. Boyce some time ago and something I was reading I came across a statement.
A man never forgets his first girlfriend.
I don't know whether that's true or not. I suppose it is. But I do suspect that a preacher never forgets his first sermon. I can remember my first sermon I was 13 years old at the time and I had chosen for a text passage to which we now come and our verse by verse exposition of Ephesians this passage that deals with the Christians warfare. Remember that I used visual aids for my sermon.
I played football at the time so I brought my football equipment into the pulpit with me and when I talked about the breastplate of righteousness. I held up my shoulder pads and when I talked about the helmet of salvation. I held up the helmet and so on. I remember that quite vividly. I can almost see it in my mind now because the notes for my sermon were on the back of the pieces of equipment that I was holding up all the time. Since then, nearly 35 years I have only preached fun this passage. One other time in a special series of messages that were given in the evening and I think that's unfortunate because almost suggests suggest wrongly that the subject of Christians warfare with which these verses deal is on important.
Actually, the opposite is the case. This is the culmination of Paul's book. Begone, you will recall way back in the first chapter talking about God's plan of salvation that goes back into the furthest reaches of eternity past and he showed how God in carrying out his purposes has developed at all in the coming of Jesus Christ on the calling of a new people to himself.
He doesn't end at that point to goes on.
As we have seen to talk about what that means in terms of concrete human relationships now at the end warfare that is to characterize our Christian life to the very end. Apostle Paul certainly found this to be important because if I can summarize it in a nutshell, he says there is a Christian warfare and were going to be successful in that spiritual struggle only to the extent that we make use of the armor of God is provided and fight that battle in his strength. Now we have a kind of Christianity today that hardly regards that is important, and for several reasons. There is a kind of Christianity that looks upon the Christian life not so much as the entrance into a battle joining the Army, but as an exit from a battle.
It's the kind of philosophy that looks upon the Christian faith is the solution to all your problems have any problems will come to Jesus. Jesus will solve your problems.
Are you discouraged Jesus will make you happy.
Are you downcast Jesus will lift you up.
There's a measure of truth all that, of course, but this is sometimes presented in such a easy way that one would think that to become a Christian is simply to embark on a very smooth and pleasant Road or to take a trip on very calm and beautiful sees actually what the apostle Paul is saying is that it's warfare is also time of theology of the Christian life that has this effect, though I think perhaps unintentionally, I think here of the study of the entire book of Ephesians by the Chinese teacher and expositor watchman Nee watchmen the road a little book on Ephesians that is entitled sit, walk, stand that is both the outline of Ephesians is and he sees it, and also a theology of the Christian life and he points out that in the early chapters of this book were told what Jesus Christ is not having finished his work. He sat down in the heavenly places in these theological point is that the Christian life begins by our sitting down with him that is entering into what he is already accomplished for us resting in him. Then the second portion of this book has to do with walking. That is the practical working out of these things in the Christian life and that to something were to do and then becomes of the very end of this this matter of the Christians warfare in the makes a great point of saying that it is not a question of an offense of warfare on our part but rather what he calls a defensive warfare another word says see the ground has already been taken by Jesus Christ in our obligation is not to take new ground to stand upon that which Jesus Christ is already conquered and he points out any does that rightfully that in this section, the word stamp occurs four separate times. There's a version of this with you might know better by the little catchphrase let go and let God. That little phrase means that we are never going to achieve anything in the Christian life by doing it on our own what we have to do is learn to give up on things to set back and let God move and do it now. There's a great element of truth in that, properly understood, something that we should all learn what the unfortunate thing is that it doesn't inevitably suggest breakfast because we're so lazy basically that there is nothing to do with the Christian life.
After all, Jesus is one the battles God is the one who must give the victory well then let them know it will sit back with folder hands will want to work in when he achieves it will praise God and give them all the glory and we don't have to fight that's not what Paul is saying is true. That's Paul does use that word stand four times stand your ground. It's the point he's making when it comes to describe the Christians armor.
He describes not only the armor which is used for defense. The helmet in the breastplate of the shield, but he also describes the offense of weapon which is the sword of the Spirit namely word of God and whether it's an offense of warfare or defense of warfare, it is nevertheless a warfare. I don't know some of you have no doubt fought in the military service, and if so, I'm sure you would testify to the fact that from the point of view of the soldiers anxiety. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference whether you're storming the enemy's territory or whether the enemy is storming yours. Still have to fight him and that is what Paul says we must do. We must fight each. If we must win for Jesus Christ. I think Paul strikes the perfect balance of the very beginning of the passage; your special attention in the two commands we find in verses 10 and 11 first command, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power second command, put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil's schemes that text and combination of commands is saying that we are utterly helpless in the struggle God is the one who must win it, but God wins it through us as we put on the armor and engage in the battle that he set before his people.
John RW Stott talks about the inevitability of this struggle in his commentary on these verses given two things.
First of all, the purposes of God that are expounded in the opening chapters of the book, and second, the existence of the devil, who is a post for those purposes.
Stott writes this is God's plan to create a new society than that made it possible spiritual forces will do their utmost to destroy has God through Jesus Christ broken down the walls dividing human beings of different races and cultures from each other in the devil through his emissaries will strive to rebuild them. Does God intend his reconciled and redeemed people to live together in harmony and purity on the powers of hell will scatter among them the seeds of discord and sin.
Stott shows it is really striking that that beautiful picture of peaceful and loving Christian homes and harmonious relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, employers and employees are masters and servants is followed immediately by the harsh warfare that's described in the latter portion of Ephesians 6. This is really Paul's way of saying that even these beautiful things that he is just talk about are not going to be achieved without struggle not where you not for anyone else and victory will not be one in any other way but God's like away William Godel that great 17th century Puritan handled the subject.
He wrote one of those masterful volumes that the Puritans were famous for. Of in this case, 1200 double column pages, at least in my addition entitled the Christian in complete Armour treatise on the Saints war against the devil but that's only to shorten title. The real title goes on like this, wherein the discovery is made of that grand enemy of God and his people and his policies power seat of his Empire wickedness and chief design behalf against the saints, and a magazine magazine is where you store your arms, not the kind of thing read in a magazine is open from whence the Christian is furnished with spiritual alarms for the battle help Don with his armor and taught the use of his weapon together with a happy issue of the whole war Puritans really knew how to tell it in more recent times. Martyn Lloyd Jones as part of his exposition of Ephesians is written to all books on this chapter. There's a first one called Christians warfare which deals with verses 10 through 1326 chapters and then there is a second volume called the Christian soldier which deals with the whole passage 26 additional studies. So it really is a very important matter.
Now the point I want to make as we begin this study is that this is an invisible war. That's important because we live in a world which only deals with what I can see. I think when I read this passage of the advertisement that was used years ago, for that very successful Broadway musical called my fair Lady, you can remember the advertisements for that. You recall that they showed character that looks something like God.
At least he had a beard and he was up in the clouds actually looked awful lot like George Bernard Shaw was the author of the play Pygmalion upon which my fair Lady was based at any rate, there was George Bernard God with his strings controlling a puppet who was Higgins, the chief male character in the play, who in his turn with Springs was controlling Eliza Doolittle who was the chief female character in the play and the point of the advertisement, which was also in its own way.
Shaw's point in the drama as it just does Higgins thought he was manipulating Eliza making her into the kind of woman he visualized she could be so was God or fate, or George Bernard Shaw manipulating Higgins comes to mind when I look at that because this is what Paul is saying he saying we look at this world in terms of the struggle we can see and what we noticed is that one particular kind of individual is exercising power over another rent forces of one particular nature or exercising force over other forces and so on, and what he says is that we have to see beyond that is Christian people and recognize that the real struggle that is going on is not the physical visible struggle, but the spiritual struggle that stands behind a struggle which he describes as being not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil. Given the heavenly realms.
As I say the world doesn't understand that this world in which we live is secular and materialistic secular means bounded by this age and so the secular world is one that doesn't see beyond the time in which we live. There's no eternity to major things against the secular world and the materialistic world is one which philosophically regards reality as being only what we can see and touch and measure doesn't see or recognize that there are such things as spiritual forces the world doesn't take this idea of a devil seriously true the world does take the idea of God with certain amount of respect, probably out of deference to religious traditions. God desires little respect, at least in words but the devil devil little man in red underwear, with a long forked tail and horns that goes about trying to get people into trouble.
You can't be serious Malcolm on maybe by the devil as is just absolutely absurd because the world can see the devil and yet as the Bible teaches, there is one and he is a powerful enemy.
Peter said, is like a warming lion walks about, seeking whom he may devour. So the first thing we have to learn to become a passage like this is that there is such an enemy, and our duty is to join hands and arms in a united warfare against them find it interesting that when Paul begins to talk about this warfare.
He does use this word against four times notice. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, you know that's not really good writing when we talk about writing today of a modern editor got hold of this he would eliminate at least three of the repetitions and probably a lot of the other so-called redundancies as well modern editor would say we don't struggle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, a little more against, against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. That's just smooth the writing that you know I think Paul knew exactly what he was doing when he repeated that word as many times as he did a much more important. I think the Holy Spirit guided his writing had a purpose in doing that.
It's a way of emphasizing the fact that if I can put it this way in this Christian life. We are really up against it not been blighted to license and be easy, but were invited to a battle and it's against these forces to carry weight when you repeated that way against the rollers against the authority's against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Now how are we to take those for mounds rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces are people who looked at that and have said well it probably has to do with various ranks of the demonic forces. The argument would go like this weight and at the bottom you have spiritual forces of evil lives would be mere demons over those spiritual forces so people there are powers powers are governed by authorities and the authorities are governed by the rulers and probably over all that you have the devil or you turn it the other way around. The rulers are at the bottom in the authorities and the powers in the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
I don't think that this is what Paul is doing. It may be that there are ranks among the demonic powers, but I don't think that's what he's doing here, Paul is taking these terms collectively as it were, to say, look, we are up against great spiritual forces and I was to analyze them in terms of what he really means by each one. I'd suggest that what Paul is thinking of here is the way in which evil operates, rather than the particular demons or structure of the demonic order that's involved. Look at it that way. First, this matter of rule what is rule and well rule involves territory were talking about earthly rule were talking about earthly kingdoms. One who rules sin England governs English territory.
One who rules in France governs French territory.
The one who rules in the United States of America governs American territory and so on. And that's what he has in mind here and it's really the case. If what he really hasn't view with the demons because the demons are not like God was on the present meaning that God is everywhere at once the demons are finite, they are not on the presently have to be in one place at one time. And so if the demons really aren't exercise rule in human affairs has to be territorially or regionally, which is probably what Paul has in mind, we know that by the way, because there are areas of the world geographic areas of the world in which the rule of wickedness is very strong where demonic activity is even very evident and then there are other areas of the world where particularly as the gospel of Jesus Christ has advanced. That rule is been broken and the evidence of direct demonic intervention is much less so that's what's involved in the word rule in my judgment. This authority involved.
Well authority is different from rule rule involves territory actual control authority has to do really with moral suasion or the strength and force of moral values to give you an example.
Mother Teresa is not a person who rules any territory does not wealth is never an empire, and yet she is an extremely potent moral force. She has authority she doesn't have rule we carry that over into the spiritual battle but we really are concerned with here values. The values of our culture, we must recognize as Christian people is that when were talking about Christian warfare.
What we are really talking about is warfare against the values of a secular and materialistic culture. The me first philosophy, the pleasure first loss of a the materialistic philosophy and many other things. This is antithetical to Christianity. This is not reality, it is not the truth by jobless Christian soldiers to stand against it.
The powers of this dark world power involves control control over others. Writing of that term. I think our culture of the kind of control is exercised by the media, newspapers, magazines, television such things extremely powerful control, the struggle is in that area but notice just against those who control the media. But as Paul talks about it. Those spiritual forces that stand behind even those who exercise such strong force in our land. When Paul gets to this final term spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms is quite evident in case we missed it before.
That is not talking about merely evil people is that he was talking about to Adolf Hitler. For example, the power of this dark world. Always talking about spiritual forces in the heavenly realms, and, moreover, is perfectly evident that he's talking about evil spiritual forces because authority uses it's not you see that there can't be a spiritual benevolent force. As a matter fact the wrist. That's the force of God Almighty and what Paul is saying here, is it were to stand in the strength of God against the power of the spiritual forces but you say that as these demonic forces exercise their influence in the world. It is an evil influence and must be recognized as such doesn't come on as an evil influence. The double doesn't go around saying I'm a bad individual will carry you to hell. Although we joke about that.
The devil says, look, this is the right way.
This is the way of pleasure. Here's illumination.
While I don't follow in that old dark superstitious way of thinking that Christian people have been following for centuries work. Follow the enlightened way. Yet the devil's enlightenment is actually spiritual darkness and those that follow him plunge increasingly in the darkness and in the spiritual death. Well, we need to struggle against it. That's what Paul says we need to do so.
Not in our own strength but in God's power as we begin to look at this. We are going to look at it in greater detail and analyze all parts of that carefully. But I want you to say, I'm sure you've seen it already, even at the beginning when we talk about the armor that is to be used by Christian people in the struggle every aspect of that points us to Jesus Christ. You know how Martin Luther put it, that great Reformation him the second verse did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing were not the right man on our side man of God's own choosing, asking that maybe Christ Jesus to see what Sampaio's name from age to age the same. He must win the battle usually take those parts of the armor and asked where we got them the belt of truth we need truth. Yes, we do where do we find it we find it in Jesus Christ who said I am the way, the truth and the life no man comes to the father but by me.
The breastplate of righteousness do we need righteousness. Yes we need righteousness where we find that we find that in Jesus Christ too is made on the us righteousness and wisdom and redemption gospel of peace. Where do we find that we find that in Jesus Christ because the gospel is his gospel faith.
Where do we find that we needed. We find it in Jesus Christ's faith in him. The helmet of salvation, we need a helmet. Yes we do, where do we find that in Jesus Christ because he is made on the us salvation and even prayer which Paul closes something that is made possible for us by Jesus Christ, opened the door into God's presence as long as you and I live were going to be engaged in spiritual warfare and were going to be victorious only to the extent that we employ God's armor and fight the battle in God strength of the spring.
Father, we ask you to bless these studies as we begin the bow to our hearts and minds to teach us what we need to know about our spiritual warfare, but that we might be intimidated or made fearful by our enemy, but that we might turn to Jesus Christ were alone adequate strength for the battle may be found grandly my growth through the studies of us to grow these very things that Paul mentions in truth and righteousness and faith in the knowledge of the gospel, and above all, teach us how to use the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God so advance your cause and your kingdom in part through us as were found faithful. Jesus, you are listening to the Bible study hour with a Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by.
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