Be Strong in the Lord: It’s Plural!
October 24, 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 four.
One of the weaknesses of English is that second person pronouns and verb forms are identical. For example, I can say, “I love you.” Only the context can help identify whether “you” is singular or plural. Verb forms of commands are the same. “Be strong in the Lord.” Is that for me, as an individual? Or is that for the church, as a community?
The Greek language is clearer in this matter. There is a difference between the forms of second-person-singular and second-person-plural verbs. This command in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord,” is plural. Paul is addressing the church at Ephesus as a community. The theme and focus of the letter have been on the power of the gospel to make a new community. “For Christ himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two” (Eph. 2:14-15). The latter half of the letter is a call to live out that power of the gospel. “I urge you (plural) to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1).
Paul comes to conclude his letter (note the conjunction “finally,” which can mean “in summary” or “in conclusion”) with this final exhortation for the church: “Be strong in the Lord.” The discussion on spiritual warfare is not an afterthought or add-on to the end of the letter. It is the final thought of a letter that has focused on how the gospel transforms the church community.
What difference does this make for our study on spiritual warfare?
- We are not alone in the battle. Doesn’t this encourage you? The battle is not you (singular) against the devil. Paul says, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” We are in this together. We are to “stand firm” together.
- We are strong in the Lord only as a church body. The clear message of Scripture, from the beginning to the end, is that there is no single human being who is sufficient and strong in himself/herself…except Jesus. We all fail and fall short. There are days when I am not strong in the Lord. But an inter-connected relationship with the church protects me from being vulnerable to the “schemes of the devil.” We need each other. Part of being “strong in the Lord” is being connected to the church.
- The use of the “whole armor of God” is a community project. The second-person-plural verbs and pronouns continue in verse 11. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” The church is to “put on the armor of God.” The church, as a community, is “to stand against the schemes of the devil.” While we have individual responsibilities and roles within the church, it is the collective work of the church to be clothed in truth, righteousness, peace, and faith. This is our battle together.