Be Strong in the Lord
October 17, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Paul’s words, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” are well known among Christians, but do we truly live mindfully of spiritual warfare? It is far too easy to allow our sight and physical realities to command our attention. The call of Scripture, however, is to be battle ready for spiritual warfare. Through this multi-week series, we will consider what Scripture teaches about this spiritual struggle. This is part three.
So far, we have sought to “know thy enemy,” namely, Satan. Revelation 12:17 says that Satan has gone “off to make war on…those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The battle is inevitable. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Paul’s assumption in Ephesians 6 is that we “wrestle.” There is no middle ground of being a pacifist in this spiritual warfare. Either you fight or you are conquered, defeated. And Satan is out to destroy our faith and testimony in Christ.
How, then, should we “wrestle”? This is the focus of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6. It all starts with the source of our strength: Christ’s victory.
Paul says in Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” This command to “be strong” echoes Moses’ commands to Joshua as he prepared to take over the leadership of Israel. “Be strong and courageous…” (Deut. 31:7). As God’s people, we are called to be courageous in the face of adversity. William Gurnall, a Puritan writer, comments of Paul’s command, “The Christian of all men needs courage and resolution… A cowardly spirit is beneath the lowest duty of a Christian” (The Christian in Complete Armor).
This strength and courage, however, is not in ourselves. Notice Paul’s words: “Be strong in the Lord.” Our strength and courage are supplied by Christ himself. The same was true for Joshua (note the following verse, Deut. 31:8, which directs his attention to the source of strength in the Lord). Christ affirms this in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing.” The strength and courage we need for our spiritual battle are all in Christ.
From where does Christ’s strength and victory come? At the cross.
The apostle John writes, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). This decisive victory culminates at the cross, as Paul writes in Colossians 2:15, speaking about the work of the cross, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” And the writer of Hebrews adds, “through death [i.e. on the cross] he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
Christ defeats the devil by 1. Resisting his temptations; 2. Exposing his lies; 3. Disarming Satan’s weapon against the saints, namely guilt; and 4. Overcoming death through his resurrection. All of Satan’s tactics are defeated by Christ.
So, we are called to “be strong” not in our strength and ability to fight against Satan, but in Christ’s finished victory on the cross.