Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:13a “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God,. . .”
Our foes described in verse 12 are awesome and formidable. Human effort is impotent against these evil spiritual forces. We cannot use the physical to fight what is spirit. Without God’s help we have lost the battle before it begins. When depending on our own strength, we make new years resolutions, grit our teeth, determine to do better, and then watch ourselves fail.
“Wherefore,” Paul challenges us to avail ourselves of God’s power. Do not despair before our powerful adversaries. Opt not to throw down our weapons and run. In our strength we are no match for our foes, but dressed in the panoply of God, we are invincible. We prepare for battle, confident of victory.
Eph. 6:13b “. . .that ye may be able to withstand. . .”
“That ye may be able” is a promise of victory. Paul had a wonderful optimistic spirit. Whatever the temptation, he considered no other option than being able to overcome. Never come to any spiritual battle from the premise of defeat. Be ever confident God will provide us ample power “to withstand.”
“Withstand” calls to mind a powerful word picture. The devil stands up against saints. “Satan stood up against Israel” (1 CH 21:1). When he stands up against us, we must with God’s help “withstand,” stand up against him.
Satan wants to bully us, to dislodge us from our vantage-point of communion with God. “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 P 5:8). Peter’s vivid imagery is frightening, but his intent in this passage is not to cause us despair; his very next phrase is “Whom resist steadfast in the faith” (1 P 5:9). We can and must “withstand.”
Satan can not be slain, but can be repulsed, sent from the field at least momentarily, in any particular temptation. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). We need this assurance, for the battle can be brutal.
Eph. 6:13c “. . .in the evil day,. . .”
Constantly have your armor on, always be totally prepared, for we do not know when our battlefield’s simmering, seething pressure cooker will boil to a climax. “The evil day” refers to those special times of danger we all face, those seasons of extra intensity, of violent temptation, of peculiar peril and trial.
Fortunately, as “day” implies, these extreme seasons do not last forever. Our weary, achy spirit often cries, “How long, Lord?” But do not quit. Zion’s winter can be long, but does end. Unfortunately, each temporary “evil day” ends merely to make way inevitably for others. They hit us, wave after wave.
Spiritual warfare is never ending, but does ebb and flow. Some days can be comparatively quiet, but there are other “days when all the cannon belch at once, and scaling ladders are reared on every side of the fortress” (Maclaren).
Some days seem especially advantageous for Satan’s assault. He will toy with us a while and then without warning rush on us like a surging tidal wave. “We may be like soldiers sitting securely round their camp fire, till all at once bullets begin to fall among them” (Maclaren). Learn to expect the unexpected. Keep the “whole armor” on, for there will be “evil days” when things suddenly swell to a crescendo, critical moments when Satan assaults most vehemently.
Even “in the evil day,” a believer can be safe. The raging battle may be painful and dangerous, but with God’s help we can “withstand” anything Satan hurls against us. In one fell swoop Job lost everything–children, friends, health, wealth. It was such an “evil day” that his wife begged him to curse God and die, but Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (JB 1:21). “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (JB 1:22). He later declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (JB 13:15). Job was “able to withstand in the evil day.”
Satan often intensifies the conflict, forcing our hand by means of a do-or-die, winner-take-all, ambush. Potiphar’s wife flirted with Joseph a while, and then pressed the issue, demanding, “Lie with me” (GN 39:12). In this “evil day” Joseph was “able to withstand.” He ran and preserved his purity.
Often these “evil days” are turning points, determining which direction one’s life goes thereafter. At the Diet of Worms, Luther faced an “evil day.” Accused of heresy, and in danger of being sentenced to death, Luther boldly resisted, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. . . .Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” On this “evil day,” Luther crossed his Rubicon, the die was cast.
Our dear Lord oft faced an “evil day.” His agony in the Garden was so intense that an angel came “unto him from Heaven, strengthening Him” (LK 22:43). After the angel arrived, Christ’s torment increased until “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (LK 22:44). The “evil day” was intense, but Jesus was “able to withstand.” Rousing His disciples, “Rise up, let us go” (MK 14:42), He boldly went forward to confront His arresters, and said, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (LK 22:53). He who resolutely marched ahead to do His duty enables us to do the same.
Eph. 6:13d “. . .and having done all, to stand.”
If we obey the command, “take unto you the whole armor of God” (6:13a), the promises are, we will be able to “withstand” in any given battle (6:13b), and be able to “stand,” to be found holding our position, at the war’s end (6:13d).
“Having done all” means having accomplished all things pertaining to the war, having fought bravely in full armor to the end. Christians, what ultimately matters is what happens when the war is over and the smoke clears.
John MacArthur tells of three preachers who fifty years ago conducted huge and successful evangelistic crusades in Ireland. Years later an Irish pastor who was converted in those meetings sought the three. Only one was still faithful to the Lord. One had become apostate, another had died in open sin.
Many have for years preached or taught Sunday School, brought people to Jesus, led Bible studies, ministered to the needy, only to give up one “evil day,” to turn their backs on God, and disappear into the world. This defames our Lord, and besmirches the heritage we leave to those who come behind us.
Our calling is to be faithful unto death–yea, death itself is the final “evil day,” our last opponent. The war isn’t over till it’s over. Even the mighty Paul feared being shipwrecked someday (1 C 9:27). He dreaded losing not his salvation, but his usefulness and reward. We should all share his apprehension.
I rarely feel envy, but I do when at a cemetery, burying one who died faithful. Their fight is over–no more fear of disappointing others. Their race is run–no more chance of failure. They were faithful to death–they have won.
Loyal warriors, God shall eventually command, “Retire from the field. Come home, ye faithful. Receive the unfading crown of glory.” Yes, someday it shall be. In the meantime, though others desert and fall about us, let us resolve to stand. At the end may we be neither dislodged, wandering, nor felled. Let us be found at our post, “unwounded, unmoved, and unafraid” (Eerdman).