Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:10a “Finally, my brethren,. . .”
Approaching the close of his epistle, Paul directed the attention of his readers toward one last, vital topic. The loving Apostle’s pastoral heart could not help but think of the intense struggle lying before the Ephesian Christians.
He feels compelled to talk of the storm, for he has himself had to weather its relentless fury often. He knows whereof he speaks. His words rise from the sanctuary of a battle-scarred soul. Paul had been in the furnace, and felt the flames. He could smell smoke in the Ephesian Christians’ future.
Being in prison had granted Paul much time to analyze the profound spiritual struggle which had been waged in his life. The Apostle had no illusions about the obstacles the Ephesian Christians would have to face. He feels he must be transparent, totally honest, and hide nothing from them. They must not be given an unrealistic view of life. Paul refused to sugarcoat the message and mislead his readers. He sounded the alarm, and sent forth a warning.
Our text, with its call to vigilance, begins the third and last major division of Ephesians, as Watchman Nee outlined: sit (1-3), walk (4:1-6:9), stand (6:10-24). Sit, walk, stand–the order is significant. First, we decide to exercise the privileges which are ours due to our lofty position; we sit with Christ in heavenly places (2:6). Second, we decide to walk worthy of our calling (4:1), to lead an exemplary life. Until we make these two decisions, our Christian life is only talk, a fantasy, an illusion. Satan can afford to ignore such a one.
However, if we commit to use our heavenly seat and to display godly conduct, then watch out, there will be trouble. Thus, “finally,” Paul makes us scrutinize the opposition we face. We must learn how to stand before the foe.
Beware. Let us heed Paul’s wise counsel. If we take seriously our resources and responsibilities, there will be difficulties. Troubles, temptations, trials, strifes, and setbacks lurk before us. If you seek health and wealth theology, you will not find it here in Ephesians 6, or anywhere else in Scripture.
Eph. 6:10b “. . .be strong. . .”
A better translation is, “be strengthened continuously.” This verb is in the passive voice and in the present tense. Both these facts are very significant in helping us understand exactly what Paul was commanding us to do.
Passive voice means the subject is acted upon. In other words, God must provide for us the strengthening required of us. Left unaided, we are powerless, doomed to defeat (JN 15:5). Even for what we deem the most common, mundane, everyday duties of Christian conduct, God’s power is needed. We are insufficient in ourselves. “Our natural strength is perfect weakness” (Henry).
Providing us His own strength is God’s way of enabling us to live as He commands. The goal of salvation is not only to be a Christian, but to behave as a Christian should. Standards of conduct are set for how believers should act within the fellowship, at home, on the job. These standards are fixed, non-negotiable, and, as we quickly learn, unattainable in our own strength.
Unfortunately, many Christians, due to repeated failures, give up the effort to live by God’s standards. They throw up their hands in despair, complaining the Biblical standards are humanly impossible. The tragedy is, these people quit trying just one step shy of victory. They are halfway to the goal, and halfway is good if still making the journey, but not okay as a destination.
Acknowledging our weakness is not to be a stumblingblock over which we trip, but a steppingstone on which we appropriate God’s strength. We never have the right to say we cannot accomplish a certain duty. To say God’s standards are unrealistic or too high is irreverence. Everything God requires of us He enables and empowers. Thus, all His commands are also promises.
Do not be a slacker in this. To be strengthened is our duty. To remain weak is sin, for it makes us yield to temptation and do evil. Weakness is not merely a calamity to be tolerated and bewailed, but a sin to be repented of.
We now return to the verb of our text. The passive voice denotes our need for God to empower us. The present tense indicates continuous, ongoing activity, and tells us our reliance on God must be ceaseless, unbroken, never ending. We must be empowered, not once for all, but constantly for each given situation. The drain is never-ending. Our supply must be replenished often.
The Christian’s struggle is relentless and life-long, constant to the end. Failure to accept this fact is responsible for the widespread passive acceptance of depression and defeat among believers. Many believers deem this normal behavior, and take no thought of the ongoing warfare relentlessly waged against them. Defeated before they begin, they consider no other option.
Victory and success require constant vigilance. We terribly err if we think we can, after conversion, put our lives on automatic pilot and use Cruise Control to lead a victorious life. Spiritual growth is never a given. Thinking the opposite explains why many church members fall by the wayside after their aged parents die or their last child leaves home. These are dangerous times because many are guilty of slipping into the habit of practicing religion by proxy, doing it only for the sake of parents or children. Somewhere along the way, the vitality of personal intimacy with Jesus waned.
Never forget, even after many years of being a believer, we have no more power in ourselves against the foe than when first saved (RM 7:18). We ought to leave this life in a blaze of glory, but many fizzle. Due to carelessness, their spiritual pilgrimage ends in a lackluster way, their final years a spiritual zero.
Napoleon’s retreat in a relentless Russian winter left 500,000 Frenchmen dead. Russians trailed the French army, preying on stragglers. Those overcome by cold and fatigue fell to Russian swords. One day the Russians dashed toward a dark object on the snow. They found themselves face to face with a small body of French soldiers who had their bayonets at the charge and were formed into a square for resistance. The Russians rode round and round, seeking a weak place to attack. Finding none, they charged the square, and found it formed of frozen corpses. The Frenchmen had died at the ready, waiting for the foe. Brothers, let death find us fighting the good fight. Remain on guard. Always be seeking God’s power. Ever maintain close communion with Jesus.