Ephesus was a town in what we now know as Turkey on the Eastern edge of the seaboard over looking the Aegean sea towards Greece. A long way from Jerusalem 1000 km! It had 200, 000 inhabitants and a Temple to the Greek God Artemis. A silversmith Acts 18-20, in Ephesus made models of Artemis to seel to worshippers. He stirred up a storm for Paul because he was loosing money when people converted to Christianity. The church at Ephesus had a lot of problems with leadership, rivalry, immorality and false teaching.
Paul writes to the Ephesians, telling them to "be strong in the Lord". A Christians we face constant trouble, not just from people, but spiritually.
We are told to "be strong" – to be continually empowered. The present tense means ongoing strengthening. It is a call to all of us as a community. Find your strength in the Lord", "Let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong".
Put on, ie be clothed, in the full armour of God. The full weaponry of a soldier about to go into battle, God's mighty power.
So that you can resist the strategies of the devil. Take your stand, stand your ground, hold the enemy at bay, against the devil's schemes, the wiles, trickery, deceit of the devil.
Because our struggle, the enemy we wrestle with, is not people, or the government, but is a spiritual enemy. And these spiritual powers exercise authority in the world,
Paul says that these, spiritual forces are satan's evil heavenly army; "the spiritual army of evil in the heavens, the headquarters of evil. It sounds a bit like something from Star Trek doesnt it!
Paul explains that we must take up all God's armor, so that when things are at their worst, we are ready and prepared to meet such days. But Paul is also here talking about the persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire and the destruction of Jerusalem, and the trouble in Ephesus with temple worshippers and magic.
He encourages us that even when we have fought to a standstill, we are frozen, to stand our ground.
The background to the imagery of armour is also in Isaiah 59:17.
Put on the whole armor of God in order to resist the onslaught of the evil one,
with the belt of truth buckled around your waist literally by truthfulness, by speaking the truth. The belt was a solid leather strap protecting the loins as well as supporting a sword. So truthfulness means sincerity, integrity, telling the truth, being honest. Put on truthfulness as a soldier puts on his belt ready for battle.
The breastplate of righteousness of justice, a breastplate which consists of doing what is right. Righteousness in the sense of doing what is right. Put on right, just behavior, as a soldier puts on his breastplate ready for battle.
Having put on, fitted shoes. (The "fitting" of military footwear - the studded sandals of a Roman soldier), with the readiness firm footing, sure footing, firmness, a solid foundation, the word is only used here in the NT. The sense of the word is unclear, either "steadfastness", or "readiness", "put preparedness to preach the gospel on your feet", so "be fitted with the shoes of the gospel of peace".
As a Christian soldier, ready to resist the enemy, we must put on protective footwear which is the gospel, God's important message to humanity; this we must put on and stand ready to proclaim. Put on peacefulness as a soldier puts on his footwear ready for battle.
in addition to all this take up the shield of faith. It can extinguish every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. The arrows belong to the evil one.
Take the helmet, the Roman bronze helmet of salvation. It is the joy of having been put right with God, and the inward sense of wholeness, peace and vitality which this brings.
The Spirit supplies the sword which is the word of God,
Take up praying as a soldier takes up his helmet and sword ready for battle.
Keep on praying fervently in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests
With this in mind be alert, don't lose interest in prayer, always keep on praying
for all the saints, for all the believers. Pray for one another. Its our protection from ourselves and others.
The source of our courage is found "in the Lord." He is the one who will strengthen us in the trials of life. This is God's "mighty power", the power that raised Christ to life, Eph.1:19-20. It is the power that comes from the operation of the Holy Spirit in our inner psyche, Eph.3:16.
We are strengthened by putting on armour that is good for attack and defence. This armour comes from God and enables the wearer to stand against the deceitful attack of the devil. Paul has already described the devil's schemes earlier in this letter, 4:26-27. As far as Paul is concerned, the attack of the powers of darkness serves to undermine fellowship in the church by working on anger and hurts.
Paul now goes on to describe more fully these evil powers which seek to attack us. He reminds his readers that our real battle is not against the circumstances of life, or even against evil people. The real battle is spiritual, and to stand in this battle it is necessary to possess spiritual armor - "the full armor of God." Paul gives a number of titles to these evil powers and sums them up in the phrase, "spiritual forces of evil." It is fascinating to realize that not only do they inhabit the earth, but they also reside in the "heavenly realms." That is, their headquarters are in the spiritual domain.
These powers of darkness will confront us in the "day of evil" and it is then we must be found wearing God's armor. The evil day is the time of the great tribulation at the return of Christ, but it is also represented in the daily troubles that inflict the human race. The armour will enable us to stand as a good soldier, fully doing our duty - to stand and not retreat.
As a prisoner in Rome Paul is tempted to play the gospel down and so he wants to be brave enough to proclaim it.
John Bunyan used Paul's imagery in "The Holy War", and in particular, in "The Pilgrim's Progress". In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian receives the armour in the armory of the House Beautiful. He was to use it against Apollyon in the next stage of his journey. Bunyan made a point of noting that there was no armor for the back!
The attacker is the "evil one", the devil, whispering his lies and playing to our self interest.
Victory against the tempter is ours if we wear the armour of God. These then are the six pieces of a Christian's armor against the Tempters power.
i] The belt. As Christian soldiers, prepared for battle, we put on truthfulness, wisdom like a belt. In simple terms, tell the truth.
ii] The breastplate. We are to put on right behavior like a breastplate. Be Christ-like.
iii] Shoes. We are to put on peacefulness like shoes. Speak peace - be peaceful rather than argumentative;
iv] The shield. We are to take up trustworthiness like a shield, faith in Christ - saving faith, faithfulness.
v] The helmet. We are to put on salvation like a helmet. Be sure of your salvation. Isaiah 59:17 describes God as wearing victory like a helmet;
vi] The sword. We are to take up prayer like a sword.
If you want to know more read Walter Winks “Engaging the Powers”.