Ephesians 6

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The Armor of God

Verse 10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. (NRSV)

  • In English you can't tell, but this is a second person plural “be strong.”
    • Despite the imagery of individual soldiers being equipped this should not be seen as an individualistic metaphor.
    • A better interpretation is to accept the plural usage and view the armor of God metaphor as the final description in Ephesians of the Christian Church.
  • There is no question about where the Church's strength comes from. “strong in the Lord” and “in the strength of his power” are not separate ideas, but a restatement of the same idea.
    • The repetition of a believer's reliance on God for strength emphasizes the importance of this point in the overall passage.
    • By placing this phrase at the beginning of the passage, and by repeating it, Paul seems to be implying that there is some question about where we could be getting our strength from.
    • Through repeating this, Paul is also taking away from an militant or violent leanings that this passage could bring up. It is not our strength, our arms that we rely on. It is God's, and so here Paul is taking our strength, our desire to attack, out of the picture. This is a militaristic metaphor, but not a violent one.
  • There are three different words used here for “strength” and “power”. Normally, all three uses here could be fulfilled with “exousia” but that Greek word is not used at all here.
    • ”Kratos”, the second word for “strength” has the sense of the presence of power, not necessarily of its' use (Kittel vol 3, 904).

Verse 11: Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (NRSV)

  • Again, “put on” is a second person plural verb, indicating it is being directed at not just an individual soldier, but God's army.
    • This verb is also imperative, a command or order.
    • ”Putting on” by definition means that the Church, or most Christians in it, do not currently have God's armor.
    • Interestingly, this is not an active voice, but a middle.
    • Having armor was the rite of passage into the military. Each soldier got a complete suit of armor given to them on enlistment (Robinson 9). We are soldiers in this illustration.
    • Once a person became a soldier they could not marry, but had to be dedicated wholly to the emperor (Goldsworthy 62).
      • Middle voices are rare and mean that the subject (you) is not doing the action completely, but it's not being done to you either. The subject is involved, but so are others.
      • Here the impression is that the full armor is not put on only through our own efforts, but we are involved, it isn't just handed to us. Undoubtedly, God is the one who is involved in this case.
  • ”panoplian”, translated here as “full armor” more accurately means the “full equipment” of a soldier.
    • This is important, because that includes not only the armor but the weapons and kit as well. This means that to Paul everything mentioned here are the only things needed. No other pieces are required.
    • Polybius mentions the same basic equipment as mentioned here as being the equipment of a foot soldier (Kittel vol 5, 295), though the chest armor is a different word.
    • Josephus describes a Roman soldier and while the breastplate and sword are the same with Ephesians for a foot soldier, the helm and shield are different. More importantly, Ephesians misses the spear and the second sword that Josephus mentions (Josephus Vol 3 92-97).
  • Even though the language does not specifically say so, this is almost certainly a description of a Roman soldier as Ephesus was surrounded by Roman retirement camps.
  • Again, God is brought into the discussion. This is specifically God's armor, even though it is the average believer who wears it here.
  • The language and imagery is reminiscent of Isaiah 59:15-17, where God puts on very similar armor.
  • This verse is the first time “stand” appears. In English it will appear three more times, in Greek twice more, and another variation of the term will appear once.
    • This version of “stand” is the generic term for standing, “istemi,” and is about standing upright.
    • This can also have the connotation of standing in a particular place, which in this context would be military discipline and direction.
    • Discipline and a firm defense were hallmarks of the Roman military, and discipline has been described as being “everything” (Reinhold 446).
  • The Greek word here for “schemes” is where we get the word “method” from.
    • In a general sense it appears to have a neutral sense of procedure (Friberg 256).
    • This word appears only in Ephesians in the NT and in Ephesians 4:15, it's talking about the activities of people who have not been saved (Kittel vol 5, 102).
    • It appears that here it refers to the negative plans that come against the Christian soldier.
  • The term here normally translated as “devil” is troublesome.
    • The term is “diabolos,” and does have an article in front of it, making it definite and unique, not a generic term.
    • At its' root, it means “slanderer” (Arndt 182), and did not have an association with an individual at first.

Verse 12: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (NRSV)

  • Again, the emphasis here is not on attacking other people. That is ruled out completely here as there is no implication that these powers are infesting people.
  • Struggle” is a wrestling term more than a military one (Arndt 606).
  • If we are soldiers in this metaphor, then whatever else this verse does, it firmly puts non-believers into the category of civilians and not enemy combatants.
  • Once more have mention of power and strength, like in verse 10. But the words are different, and the meaning is very different. There is a contrast here between the strength of God, and the power (strength) that is in this world and beyond. And God is decidedly against what is going on here.
  • This verse has often been used to turn the entire passage into a treatise on spiritual warfare. There is some validity to this idea.
    • However, this view neglects that much of a Roman soldier's work in that day consisted of things besides killing. The Empire had stopped expanding much and was mainly defensive. Soldiers guarded borders, policed cities, and built roads (Goldsworthy 152). The job was protecting and helping citizens more than it was killing enemies.
    • It seems that in the light of the metaphors for the Church used elsewhere in Ephesians, that this verse should be taken as reinforcing that the spiritual nature of this armor and to remove any thoughts of using this equipment against people, rather than as emphasizing spiritual warfare only.
  • There is no direct connection made here with demons, Satan, or any other concrete term. It is merely “spiritual forces of evil” in heaven which is linked in parallel with the evil powers of this world.
  • The use of “heavenly realms” is problematic. It is not “heaven, ”but this world “heavenlies” is derived from it.
    • Heaven is a noun, this is the adjectival form of the same word.
    • The word generally means things from heaven, things associated with heaven, or associated with God somehow (Arndt 306).
    • As “heaven” was also a generic term for spiritual places other than here on Earth, it is not necessary to assume that this evil is with God himself, or comes from God.

Verse 13: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (NRSV)

  • Instead of “because” or a conclusion statement opening this verse, in Greek it is the word “through this” and is again referring back to the strength of God. It is operating as a conclusion, but continues to draw the reader back to the centrality of God's power in our actions of putting this armor on.
  • See commentary on verse 11 for discussion on “whole armor” and “panoplian”
  • The term for “be able” is the same root word as “be strong” in verse 10, thought “be strong” has an additional prefix.
  • There are two terms for “stand” in this verse.
    • The second use of it is the same as in verse 11, but the first use is “stand against” which is used as a battle term to resist an enemy, or withstand them (Arndt 67).
    • The first use is not just standing upright, but standing firmly, purposefully, without being willing to be moved and standing against something else.
    • The second use of “stand” in this verse is simply meaning standing upright. It means that at the end of the conflict, we are in the same place as we were when it all started, standing. That means victory. We didn't move, we didn't run, we didn't fall over or die.
    • As will be discussed more fully in verse 16, standing firmly and in a specific location in relation to the other soldiers around you was crucial to Roman military strategy and to victory. Standing is not just crucial to the individual, but to the group.
    • This is also a moral point. Victory in that day was won not when one side surrendered or was destroyed, but when one side lost moral. Roman rarely lost because they refused to fail and stuck it out (Goldsworthy 173). This is applicable to the Christian as well, and seems to be referred to here.
  • There is no mention of “the evil day” in the previous verse, which is odd.
    • That the readers would know what evil day is being mentioned is assumed.
    • Both “evil” and “day” have articles, connecting them together but also making both definite. This is a specific evil and a specific day. But we aren't explicitly told what day or what evil that is.
    • This is possibly referring to specific persecution by the Romans that Christians were experiencing or had experienced, but probably refers to preparing for the last days and Jesus' return, though that theory is weakened because there is no mention of Jesus' presence.
  • The word often translated as “done everything” is about victory, accomplishing something through work (Liddell 420), not doing everything we think is possible but still failing.
  • Besides “done everything” or “been successful”, the author also includes “everything” which is not strictly needed, but reinforces that this is a complete victory, a total finish.

Verse 14: Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. (NRSV)

  • Even though some translations add “firm” after “stand” the Greek does not support this addition. “Therefore stand” is a transition phrase that leads from why we need to stand and transitions into a description of what we have at our hands that will allow us to stand.
  • Oddly, there is no belt actually mentioned here. It simply says “having encircled your hip in truth.”
    • This is striking because the other items are mentioned, but perhaps not shocking because Paul regularly uses other names than the precise ones for the military equipment.
    • A belt should be supplied here.
  • A Roman soldier's “belt” was not just a leather wrap.
    • It, together with the under-tunic, was what identified a person as a soldier, even when the rest of their gear was off (Bishop 100).
    • The belt held up the knife and sword (earlier armors had two belts) and also had armor, with four to six straps coming down off it to protect the groin (Goldsworthy 119).
    • The belt also functioned as a status symbol, a way of identifying that the soldiers were people set apart (Goldsworthy 122).
    • This was an actual piece of armor, as well as the identification and basically the glue for the armor. It held it all up and together.
  • There has been a great deal of discussion about whether the spiritual property attributed to an item should be assumed to possess some of the item's qualities or not.
  • That truth alone is mentioned as being wrapped instead of a belt made of truth emphasizes that truth is something we are enclosed in, and encompassed by.
  • The prominent placement of truth goes along with the donning of a soldier's equipment, but it also puts priority on the importance of truth as a virtue for the Christian.
  • Interestingly, Isaiah 11:5 has God donning “righteousness as a belt”. Here the two things are separated but still next to each other.
  • The term for “breastplate” here is problematic.
    • The word used here for breastplate is “thorax” which means a breastplate, a solid piece of armor for the check.
    • Solid breastplates, however were too expensive for the average soldier (Goldsworthy 21) and so only the officers had breastplates.
      • Some Praetorians (emperor's guards) might have had breastplates too (Robinson 147).
      • The officer also did not have spears, which are not mentioned here either.
      • However, the large shield, the use of “panoplian,” the generic term for helmet, and the lack of insignia or designation of rank indicate that the description here is of a common foot soldier, possibly up to a praetorian but not an officer.
      • Therefore, and discussion of the breastplate not protecting the back is not legitimate.
    • The common soldier wore one of two types of armor.
      • Squamata was what we now call “chain maille” and was in use by the veteran Triarii spearmen (Bishop 208). This was an armor made or thousands of interlocking rings riveted together, forming a very flexible but strong shirt.
      • Segmentata is similar to “scale maille” and was used by the classic Roman soldier (Bishop 208). This is the “normal” armor of a Roman soldier and is what most people are familiar with. Segmentata is made of larger strips of metal joined together on the inside with leather straps and on the outside with metal buckles.
      • Both of these suits are possible. Squamata was in use from the first century BC (Robinson 158), and Segmentata was in use from AD 9 (Goldsworthy 128). We can't be sure which is meant.
  • Righteousness has a great many different connotations. Here are some issues that arise with interpreting this term.
    • Righteousness can also be seen as being upright. In a moral sense it is being right with the law, and especially of fulfilling God's laws (Arndt 196).
    • People are assumed to be basically unrighteous as an initial state.
    • We are considered righteous when we are in a right relationship with God, which in OT was proved through keeping the laws and living in right relationship with others as well (Scobie 758).
    • In English thought, righteousness is personal as opposed to justice which is corporate. In biblical thought these are not such clear distinctions (NDBT 740).
      • The word normally translated as “righteousness”, including here, can also mean “justice” or “piety” (IDB Vol. 4, 92).
      • Righteousness includes the sense of seeking justice for the oppressed (Scobie 758).
    • Some ideas about righteousness is that it is “covenant faithfulness” or God keeping his promises and us keeping our covenant with God (NDBT 741).
    • Righteous acts are those that maintain good relationships, those that hurt them are unrighteous, especially with regards to the covenant relationship with God. the acts are not righteous in themselves but because they are required for good covenantal relationships (IDB Vol 4, 80).
    • As well as an ethical component (being right morally) there is a forensic element (being legally right) to righteousness (NDBT 742).
    • Righteousness is also called justification. Basically, where someone is brought into a right relationship with God, which involves forgiveness of past sins and the ability to stay in that right relationship in the future (Scobie 428).
    • Basically, righteousness is doing right as well as being morally right, both in the smaller personal scale and the larger corporate sense.
    • Much of our righteousness consists of accepting the forgiveness God gives us and the restored relationship that goes along with it.
  • In relation to the armor, it is interesting that righteousness is made of a variety of things coming together in a pure life, and the armor is also made of segments that forms to protect completely.
  • The emphasis, as always, is on this being God's righteousness. This seems to be imputed righteousness, or God's righteousness that we put on, not us becoming righteousness underneath.
  • Both “encircle” and “put on” are both undefined participles (aorist). The only real verb in this verse is “stand” which the other verbs seem to be referring back to still.

Verse 15: As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. (NRSV)

  • The aorist participles continue in this verse as well, still using “stand” as the main verb.
  • This is a tricky verse because it is unclear participles can have multiple meanings and implications. Literally this verse is “Tie down your feet in preparation of the gospel of peace.”
    • It is unclear if this is talking about shoes that get us ready for the gospel, putting on shoes to be ready to proclaim the gospel, or the gospel getting us ready for that day of evil.
    • The last option is probably most likely, as it refers back to why we are standing. Anything that ties sections together is generally to be preferred as an interpretation.
  • The Roman soldiers did not really have shoes, no one did. Instead, they had long lace up sandals called “caligae” (not named after the emperor Caligula, he was actually nicknamed “little shoe”).
    • These sandals were some of the best in the entire world, both comfy and utilitarian (Bishop 100).
    • Most shoes wore out very quickly, and being made of leather could not go over rough terrain easily. The Romans added metal studs to the bottom of their sandals (Goldsworthy 119) like cleats, which improved traction and durability.
    • The sandals were what allowed the Roman legions to march for long periods of time all over the Western world, and fight in a variety of conditions and on any terrain.
  • It is important to note that when talking about shoes and the possibility of advancing, attacking, Paul matches that piece of equipment with “peace.” That the gospel is one of peace is key, and further reinforces how we move, purposefully and without attacking people.

Verse 16: With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (NRSV)

  • The first words can be taken two different ways. It could mean that on top of everything that has already been put on, these articles need to be worn as well. Or it could mean that in all circumstances the shield needs to be carried.
  • Again, “take up” is a participle, with this verse still relying on “stand” in verse 14 as the main verb.
  • Shields were very important for the Roman army, and are really what made them famous.
    • The word here for shield is “thureos” which means a stone that is used to close the entrance of a cave (Spiros G2375). Later on it became used as a term for a shield.
    • The more technical term for a shield would have been “scutum” (Goldsworthy 124).
    • This is possibly a Greekized version of the Latin "scutum" and so would be the technical term for the roman shield in Greek. But that is unclear.
    • There were two types of Roman shields used by foot soldiers, curved and flat (Bishop 208). Different units used different types, but by the early 1st century AD rectangular shields of one type or another were in use by both the legions and the Praetorian guards (Bishop 82).
    • These shields would be about 3 feet 6 inches high, by 2 feet 8 inches wide and made by layers of wood alternating grain directions much like plywood (Goldsworthy 129).
    • As people were shorter then, this shield would cover the entire trunk of the body, including the sides, leaving only the lower legs and the shoulders/head unprotected (Bishop 209). The armor was of course best in the shoulders and head.
    • Shields also could display the unity markings with colors and crude heraldry, as well as be used offensively to strike at people thanks to a metal boss in the center of the shield (Goldsworthy 130, 134).
  • The Romans were famous for their shield lines. The shields were large enough that it a row of shields could protect both the person holding it and the person to the left.
    • This made each man much more protected and as long as the wall was intact the army would likely be victorious.
    • This tactic is most famous formation (even then) is the “testudo” or “tortoise shell,” where not only did the front row interlock their shields, but the rear rows raised their shields over their heads to protect against any projectiles. This tactic made the Romans almost impervious to assault (Naphtali 454).
    • The shield wall was not only physically effective but psychologically important. Behind a shield wall people felt safe and protected, and were less likely to run.
  • The shield was the first line of protection, not only for the individual but for the group. With Paul aligning our faith with a shield there is an imagery of our faith protecting each other.
  • Faith is a very important word, and deserves study here.
    • Faith as a term is not defined here, and we must rely on other places in the Bible for ideas of exactly what sort of faith is implied.
    • In the New Testament, “faith” is about an individual's response to God (Scobie 704).
    • The OT defined faith through people's lives not through definitions (Scobie 705). This seems to be about trust and action.
    • In the NT, “faith” is the same word as “believe” (Scobie 723).
    • For Paul, faith is “the total response of thee individual to the gospel (Scobie 724).
    • Faith is used in relationship, not as something between people. The modern distinction between “faith” and “faithfulness” was not in the Biblical texts (NDBT 488).
    • In Paul's thought there is a high correlation between faith and righteousness (IDB Vol 2, 230). Faith brings us into a righteous relationship with God.
    • It is through this individual faith that the person becomes a member of the Christian community (Scobie 724).
  • The use of “be able” is a future tense, but there is no uncertainty here. With faith, the arrows can be stopped. This doesn't have to be the end times, however, but can be a near future of normal troubles.
  • The darts being shot against faith are not defined either. They could be doubts, or temptations, fears, or all of the above. Our faith in God and in where we are going can help us withstand all of them.
  • The community aspect of faith in this passage should not be overlooked. Faith is something that here people can stand behind, find safety in, and work together with other people's.
    • Our faith reassures us, keeps us going, as does seeing the faith of others around us.
  • ”Darts” or “arrows” is a generic term for a missile (Liddell 149).
    • These things could be rocks, arrows, javelins, darts, even ballista bolts coming at us.
    • It could be important that this term is left generic, after all there are a wide variety and sizes of things that come at us in life as well.
    • There are stories of shields being wrapped in wet leather to put out fire arrows, but not many cultures used fire arrows.
    • That these items are on fire indicates they are probably either arrows or ballista bolts (up to six feet long fired from a giant crossbow).
  • Fire arrows against people do not really increase the damage, but they definitely increase the fear, and make people panic and run.
  • Quenching something does not stop the velocity of it, only the fear aspect of it.
  • ”The evil” is the same term used for “the day of evil” in verse 13. “Day” might be implied here, but most likely because it is singular “the evil” is referring back to “the deceiver” of verse 11.

Verse 17: Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (NRSV)

  • These are not sports helmets, or small helmets that only go on the top of the head.
    • Roman helms of this time were “Coolus” type helms (Robinson 26), though this was a time of transition so many different types were in use.
    • These helms has brow reinforcements, neck guards, and cheek pieces (Goldsworthy 123).
    • The point of these helms was to protect the head while still allowing use of all the senses (Goldsworthy 124).
  • While it is tempting to think that Paul was meaning that salvation changes our mind, it is unlikely he knew the role of the brain in controlling thought and actions.
  • Most likely, the connection with salvation is about the senses, and salvation dealing with what we say, see, and hear.
  • The term for sword is not a specific one, but “maxaira,” which generally means a “long knife” (Liddell 489).
    • The Roman Gladius was a very short sword, especially compared to the longer two handed sword used in other cultures.
    • Given the timeline of Ephesians, this would be the Pompeii type sword, not the Mainz assuming Paul wrote Ephesians (Bishop 71).
    • A longer sword, the Spatha, was used by the cavalry (Bishop 71).
  • The sword was not the only weapon of the Roman soldier. The spear was used as a primary weapon by some of the most experienced troops, and most other legionnaires used throwing spear called the Pilum.
    • That this was not mentioned emphasized the importance of not attacking.
    • The Gladius could be used defensively, and was also close in. That this is represented and not the Pilum or spear emphasize the importance given to not attacking and to a lack of violence.
  • The Spirit here should be taken to mean the Holy Spirit, and the divine aspect as being intended.
  • The connection of the Spirit with a sword is interesting. It could be that the Spirit is the one aspect which reaches out ahead of us, and this is also the only element of God that we directly get, which means it is the only thing that can take on what faces us.
  • That the sword is not of our own devising, and is in fact God with us is crucial, because we cannot take on the evil against us.
  • Recent common interpretation has diminishes the role of the Spirit here, and emphasized how the spirit is defined, as the word of God.
    • In recent years any time the “word of God” is mentioned, it is taken to mean the Bible.
    • In the Bible, the word of God refers to many different things, but rarely if ever to written scripture.
      • It can mean anytime God speaks or leads someone directly, a new message, often in the form of inspiring the prophets (1 Kings 12:22, 1 Chronicles 17:3).
      • It can sometimes also mean words and laws that God has already been spoken (Proverbs 40:5, Matthew 15:6).
      • In Acts, the term can also refer to knowledge about God and God's message (Acts 6:7, and 12:24).
      • The most notable reference to God's word, however, comes in the beginning of the gospel of John where Jesus is that word.
    • In this passage “word of God” is not used to define the sword, but to define the Spirit. This is God speaking and acting, through the Holy Spirit.
  • What is not clear is whether this is the Holy Spirit speaking to us, speaking through us to others, or God acting directly in a situation. My guess would be the middle option.

Verse 18: Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. (NRSV)

  • This verse should be included in the discussion of armor of God, and it is no accident that it follows immediately after the sword of the Spirit, and mentions the Spirit again. This is a transition verse from the metaphor and into the conclusion.
    • Prayer is communication back with God, which connects in with the Spirit, God speaking to us and those around us.
  • Given that the believers are told to pray in the Spirit, and have the sword of the Spirit, it is probable that prayer is not another item at all but is how the sword of the Spirit gets used. This is especially probable because the sword already has one additive description.
  • If prayer is the way that the sword of the Spirit gets used, then it is interesting that it is not used offensively here, but used to pray for others and for Paul.
  • There is no mention of praying for oneself, or praying against anyone. The emphasis is firmly on others and on the Church, not on the needs of the individual soldier.

Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

"To Save A Life"This Series uses the Christian Movie, "To Save a Life" in conjunction with the Bible to explore issues relevant to TeensTeen, Youth, Jr high, Sr HighCurriculum
Armored Righteousness14We cannot be righteous through our own efforts, but God can make us righteous.RighteousnessGeneralGeneralMessage Idea
Be a Warrior for Christ12Think of spiritual warfare and the spritual warrior as possibly "similar to a spritual ninja"Be wise as serpents/gentle as dovesChildren and Youth, Young AdultsMessage Idea
Meet Me in the ArmoryA study of Ephesians 6, the armor of God.Women, AdultsGeneralCurriculum
Standing11-14We can only survive this life by standing where God puts us.ObedienceAdultsGeneralMessage Idea
Sword Training17-18Prayer cannot be something we only do with our eyes closed but a way of life.TeamworkGeneralGeneralMessage Idea
Take It Up10-20We have incredible spiritual possibilities before us, but we have to use them.Growth
GeneralGeneralMessage Idea
Testudo of Faith16As Christians, we are made to support and take care of each otherFaith
GeneralGeneralMessage Idea