Called to fight a holy war – Thursday, 30th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 6:10-20
We come to the end of the book of Ephesians. Even though tomorrows first reading, taken from the feast of Saints Jude and Simon the apostles is also a text from Ephesians, we will be bringing today an end to this series of teachings.
The author to the Ephesians draws the book to a close with a call to spiritual strength. The Christian is to arm himself or herself with the strength that God supplies and to maintain his or her vigil of prayer for one’s own battle against evil and also for the apostolic ministry. Ephesians 6:10-20 functions as a rousing conclusion to the entire letter in which Christians are being called to arms for the battle in which they are pitted against all spiritual forces of evil.
Even before chapter 6, Ephesians has been clear that evil spiritual forces, though defeated, are still active (1:21, 3:10). God’s victory cannot be snatched away, but the enemies have not surrendered yet. Paul has already told us in Ephesians 4:27 and in our text of today (6:11-12) that The devil has allied with all the evil powers of darkness. He continues to scheme against God, to work his destructive, divisive ends, and to attack the saints of God. Living as Godly people in an ungodly world poses a whole host of problems.
If you think that Paul has overstated the danger, you have closed your eyes to the overwhelming presence of evil in our midst. The violence and ruthlessness and greed that dominate so many lives to say nothing of the great divide that separates the very rich from the very poor. While there are many wonderful people in our world, there are also many who are evil at their core. So faith does not mean complacency or ignoring the daily reality of evil. One of Satan’s most successful ploys has been to persuade people that he doesn’t even exist.
So, Paul makes a clear call for a holy war; not with others but against evil. The Christian must be defended from evil and that defence comes from the spiritual armour that comes from God. To fight this battle, the entire church is enlisted and equipped to stand on God’s side in this continuing conflict.
If you think of it, Paul did not call the believer to enter into spiritual warfare. He simply announced it as a fact: we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but (we do wrestle) against principalities and so forth. You are in a spiritual battle. If you are ignorant or ignore that fact, you probably aren’t winning the battle.
In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to “put on” the armour of God. The armour described in our text includes whatever prepares one to proclaim the “gospel of peace” (verse 15). The imagery used here is armour for violent battle; however, the strength advocated is not the might of armies, but the world-reconciling power of God embodied in the cross of Christ. The church stands “against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) by its love and reconciliation, by the peace and righteousness