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08.23.09 Ephesians 6:10-20 Our First and Last Resort Sermon Start

by on August 19, 2009

What a week! I feel like I’ve been personally doing battle with the forces of evil, keeping me from commenting on this week’s sermon (still have to do sermon scraps for last Sunday!) till now. Our passage is a classic among evangelicals: Ephesians 6:10-20. In actuality, it doesn’t really say what they think it says.

Yes, it’s militaristic. Yes, in the English, it appears to affirm a kind of battle-ready religious zeal. It’s the stuff of “Lead on O King Eternal” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” that has inspired faithful individuals to conquor sinful peccadillos. That’s OK. But unfortunately it also inspires violent individuals and nations to kill in the name of God and in the cause of “spiritual warfare.”

Obviously, for those of us who profess to follow the Prince of Peace, this passage can’t be interpreted and applied that way. It does make reference to the cosmic scale of salvation, to the conflict between good and evil, between God and “the Devil.” But our place in that conflict is as passive observers. As observers, we sometimes suffer consequences of the battle that rages in the heavenlies, but our role is limited to prayer.

Prayer is the active expression of our trust. And putting on the “armor of God,” which mostly consists of defensive weapons, means simply preparing ourselves to suffer the battle, but not to engage it. We are called to be pacifists, as Jesus was on the Cross, triumphing with him in his death and resurrection, both events of which he experienced passively. Rome killed him. God raised him. He was the victim who became the victor through God’s power.

And so it is with us. Our first and last resort is prayer. In the mean time, we are passive. We will be victimized during the battle waged by God against the powers of darkness and evil. Eventually we will suffer our final death in this battle, but in our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we know that we will be raised with Christ anew. In the mean time, Ephesians urges us to take up this defensive armory that we can withstand the battle until it ceases. We are to trust God, pray, quote God’s promises to remind ourselves and our enemies of the reason for our trust and prayer (this is what Jesus did in his temptation, and what the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” refers to), and to hope.

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