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Fall Quarter: God’s Exceptional Choice
Unit 3: We are God’s Artwork
Sunday School Lesson for the week of November 27, 2022
By Craig Rikard
Acts 19; Ephesians 6:10-24; Revelation 2:1-7
Key Text: Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you’ve done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
Author’s note: This lesson is very long. This passage of Scripture contains a wealth of spiritual treasure. It is difficult to unpack it all at one sitting. The lesson is intended to be a supplement to the Teacher’s Book. I pray the two can provide all you need to help your listeners grasp Paul’s closing words to the Ephesians. Again, all pronouns are traditional, though God transcends all language and cannot be bound by gender. Finally, for the Winter Quarter I pass the baton to my dear colleague Dr. Jay Harris. I love his lessons and so do you. He is of great heart and mind. Pray for him as I will.
The Message of the Text
- To understand the importance of our choices and decisions.
- To realize God has provided all we need to withstand temptation, especially in our most vulnerable areas of life.
- To understand the need to always be ready for spiritual battle.
- To recognize our constant need to remain planted and anchored in God’s truth.
- To recognize the all-important discipline of prayer as we engage in spiritual warfare.
Paul usually ends his epistles with words of encouragement, a call to be faithful, and offers the practical means on how to live out our faith in daily life. He is bringing his thought in this letter to a close, calling us to live the faith he beautifully expressed in the former chapters. He offers us four responses to live faithfully in the world.
The closing of this letter should be read in its historical context. Persecution is growing, and Paul knows life for the Christians will become difficult if not dangerous. This concluding passage is concerned with the temptations Christians face and the spiritual battles we fight.
Throughout the letter to the Ephesians, Paul has beautifully and powerfully described what God has done for us in Christ. Now, he ends with a real concern: “What are we going to do in response, especially when facing adversity?”
Living the Christian life is not a passive lifestyle. It is true that God has done everything for us through grace. However, it is up to us to embrace and apply God’s gift in the circumstances of life. The words “be strong” mean that our free will and choices are vital in fighting and overcoming temptation. Whether we live in weakness or strength is up to us.
When my granddaughter was about to encounter someone with whom she was angry I said, “Now, be kind.” I have taught her compassion and kindness all her life. However, I could not be kind for her
, nor could I vicariously take her place. The moment was hers, and her actions would have to be hers. I provided her with all the wisdom I could possibly muster. Still, she would have to be the one to choose kindness over expressions of anger.
After all God has done for us: “be strong.” Jesus told a parable of ten virgins waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. One did not possess enough oil for her lamp. Thus, she attempts to borrow oil from another. However, her attempt fails. There are some things that cannot be borrowed. We are influenced by the faith of others. We can draw strength from their wisdom. Yet, we must own a personal faith. Faith in Christ is ours to own, nurture, and enact in life. When we face temptation or confront evil, we are usually alone. We face a personal battle. We can try to ignore the temptation, but we quickly discover we cannot. Or we can decide to yield to temptation, God forbid! We must choose to “be strong.”
However, Paul adds an important preposition. We are to be strong “in” the Lord. Though the decision to fight and overcome belongs to us, the strength to overcome comes from the Lord
. We are “in Christ,” and “Christ is in us.” The Spirit of Jesus is within us. Remember, following his baptism Jesus faced some of his strongest temptations in the wilderness. However, the strongest temptation he confronted occurred in Gethsemane. He faced the possibility of horrific suffering and death. Jesus could have escaped from the garden in an attempt to avoid crucifixion and death. However, Jesus had accepted the call to be Messiah. At His baptism He accepted the ministry of life, death, and resurrection. Following His baptism God spoke, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” We cannot escape the reality that Jesus possessed choice. He chose faithfulness and sacrifice when tempted to become selfish. He chose love when tempted to neglect and ignore others. He chose death that the world might know just how far God would go to tell us he loved us and how deeply God desired to redeem us.
This is the Christ that dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. Thus, as Christians we possess the strength to say no when facing temptation. The power in us is a “mighty power.” As Paul stated in the salutation, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power indwelling us. God never asks of us what we cannot give!
Temptations usually attack the most vulnerable area of our lives. When faced with temptation, what is the first action you take? How can you draw upon the power you have in Christ? What do you think it means to “act in confidence”? Can you share a time when the temptation was so strong you doubted your ability to stand strong? If you overcame, how did you overcome? Do you embrace the power in you through worship, prayer and study? Can you share passages of Scripture and other devotional materials that help you find your confidence in God? Can you share a moment when a particular Scripture or passage entered your mind in a time of temptation? How did it empower you? How do you think the Body of Christ can help each other grow in confidence?
Put on the Full Armor of God
Again, notice the action to be strong is to be ours. The actions we take are to be taken in confidence. Remember, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 1:4). God has given us what we need to face temptation, evil, and all the hosts of darkness. Naturally, Paul is not speaking of literal armor in our text. He uses a soldier’s armor as a metaphor. The gifts God has given serve the purpose of “spiritual armor.” This spiritual armor, which we examine later, is to cover every spot of vulnerability. Though God’s power indwells us, we are still flesh and blood. We are still people with emotions and lingering habits we developed in the past. All of us have places of vulnerability. We are not asked to be strong alone without the protection necessary for spiritual battle.
Can you identify the vulnerable areas that relate to your spiritual walk? Are there areas in which you sense weakness that prove more difficult for you when tempted? Can you name the most common and repetitive temptations in your life? How can you, with the help of God, strengthen those areas of your greatest vulnerability?
Before we examine the armor God provides, Paul wants us to realize our struggle is not simply a human struggle. We daily battle against the dark spiritual powers of this world. The manner in which we respond to these powers has a profound effect upon our spiritual walk. In our journey of faith, we learn to discern light and darkness. We learn that darkness does not always present itself in the obvious. Darkness and evil are often subtle and sly. As a matter of fact, darkness can take on the appearance of goodness and beauty. It is quite interesting to me that the ancient book of Genesis clearly recognized this trait of the darkness. The fruit of the forbidden tree appeared “pleasing to the eye.”
I participated in a small group in seminary for spiritual growth. One of the members sat down overjoyed. He praised God and said, “Dr. King did not mark four of my answers on the test wrong when they were!” All of us looked at him, surprised. One member of the group asked, “Don’t you see anything wrong with what you just shared?” The happy student answered, “No. Why?” The good and honorable thing to do was to inform the professor of the mistake and take the consequences. For the student, the mistakes looked beautiful! The mistake was an act of goodness for him. He thanked God for letting the accident happen. However, the professor’s mistake was a wrong that needed to be addressed. He left the group feeling down but did the right thing. In his vulnerability, he saw darkness as light. In our humanity, we were vulnerable through our inability to recognize the darkness subtly existing in the evil. The serpent was described as the most beautiful creature. In a single moment of weakness, humankind was exiled from Eden. The dark, spiritual realities in the world are powerful and destructive. We can never take them lightly.
Can you share a time when a temptation appeared as harmless or benign? Did it appear as so pleasing to the eye that you were blinded to it destructive power? When did it “rear its destructive head”? How would you have responded differently after being “bitten” by the darkness?
It would prove impossible for us to create a list of all temptations or all manifestations of evil. It is our walk with Christ that empowers us to differentiate between the darkness and light. The Holy Spirit does not just empower us to withstand temptation; the Spirit helps us recognize
between good and evil. As I’ve stated in previous lessons, I now recognize certain realities as darkness that I formerly considered benign.
An evangelist came to town during my college years. At the end of his “everyone can be healed” message, he offered a black book for money. Inside the cover one found tabs with certain illnesses listed. When a person was sick, they were to find their illness on a tab and open the page. There they would find a list of individual biblical texts. Instead of taking medication, the person was to read the text three times a day. As a baby Christian, I initially viewed the book as helpful. After all, if the evangelist believed it helped people to be healed how could the book be an instrument of darkness. As I continued to walk with Christ, I quickly recognized the darkness. The person wasn’t evil, just misguided. However, individuals would become very ill when they refused to take their medicine, instead opting for the verses. Just as importantly, I realized he had misused Scripture, taking them out of context. I was young, new to the faith, and uncertain about life. I was vulnerable. Today, I would immediately recognize the dark, destructive consequences in using that book.
Each of us have experienced such moments. Perhaps those moments were not as obvious as the one I shared. Still, there were times when you saw something as pleasing, attractive, and even good. Later, as you journeyed with Jesus, you began to see the darkness. We should not simply trust others to tell us what is light and what is darkness. The advice and wisdom of other godly people are helpful. Others are essential to our growth in faith. However, each of us must learn to recognize for ourselves the darkness in life.
It is important to understand we should never go through life looking for darkness. Instead, we look for God and God’s light. As we encounter the light, the darkness is revealed. One cannot walk closely with God and not recognize the good from the evil. As a minister, I find it a mistake to preach constantly on the manifestations of darkness all about us. As soon as I mention five, there are always five more. There are always many more! Sadly, many walk through life looking for all the things that are wrong or of the devil. On occasion they are mistaken. In those moments when they are correct they rarely share with their listener how to deal with it. When we study the life of Jesus we find the Lord rarely pointing out one evil after another. He confronted them when evil stood before him, challenging him. The vast majority of Jesus’ ministry was teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God. He didn’t have to look for temptation and evil. When we walk in love, truth, and light the darkness always confronts us.
If I preach the presence of a loving Christ, an empowering Christ, and the joyful life made possible for us, I am equipping people to discern what stands in opposition to that message. If I preach a loving God, people will recognize hatred. If I preach forgiveness, people learn to recognize grudges and bitterness. There is darkness in the world and powers of darkness. They should never be ignored or neglected. They are overcome through a life of prayer, Bible study, devotion, worship, and service. When we walk in light we see life as it is. We recognize God’s presence, and the snares and acts of evil. And, always, God is more powerful.
In our text, when Paul speaks of the armor of God, notice the armor is for “defense.” The darkness comes against us for the righteous life we live. Some might ask, “But aren’t we supposed to come against all evil and darkness. The answer is a strong yes. However, we come against it by living a Christian life that cannot be ignored. Christianity challenges the darkness and evil. Love is a threat to hatred. Light is a threat to darkness. Good is a threat to evil. Peace is a threat to division. Paul wrote in Romans 7:21, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” (ESV)
Can you share how walking with Christ has helped you discern good from evil? What do you think is the danger of depending totally on others to point out darkness and light? What disciplines do you find most helpful in developing a discerning life? Can you identify the danger in judging a moment as darkness or a person as promoting darkness without a life of prayer, study, worship, and service? What do you think is destructive about always looking for the darkness? What do you think is so helpful about seeking God’s presence and light in all moments of life? Can you share a moment when your Christian faith brought out an expression and temptation of darkness?
Paul asserts with certainty that there is a realm of evil consisting of evil powers. Though Paul does not use the title “Satan,” he is most certainly addressing the evil one. Satan means “adversary.” Therefore, not every moment is an encounter with the presence known as Satan. However, according to Scripture, Satan is the origin and force behind all dark moments. There is a spiritual realm of spiritual powers. We cannot gaze into that realm, nor do we have adequate words to describe it. However, we do see expressions of that realm in this life.
It is extremely important to remember that we do not
recognize “two gods.” We worship the one true God, the Creator, the one who joined humanity in Jesus Christ and redeemed us. Satan is never presented as an equal. In the mystery of God’s will, Satan is allowed to exist and tempt. Still, according to Revelation, it is evident that when the Day of the Lord arrives, the evil one will be destroyed and all evil works with him. However, we do not have to wait until the end of the age to inflict harm upon the realm of evil. With the Holy Spirit with us, and through our choice to be strong in the Lord, we can defeat Satan and the realm of evil in any given moment.
We are asked by Paul to “stand firm.” After the onslaught of temptation and evil, God has provided us the strength we need to stand firm, not giving an inch of ground. Paul goes on to write, “after we have done everything, to stand.” Though, again, it is our battle, and our strength is in the Lord. What is the “everything we have done?” After we have chosen faithfulness to God, recalled what the Lord has taught us, and passionately prayed for God’s power to be unleashed in the moment, we will stand.
Do you feel prepared to face difficult temptation? If yes, from where do you draw your strength? If not, what do you believe will help you to be prepared?
In this closing section of Ephesians, Paul mentions in verse 13 “the day of evil.” We are to put on the full armor of God that we may stand in the day of evil. There is a difference between the daily battle we face against temptation and the darkness in the world and what Paul meant by the “day of the Lord.” In the Old Testament, the Day of the Lord represented the total arrival of God’s righteous, just, and loving Kingdom. It also is the time when evil will end. It is the day when evil is vanquished and peace, justice, and righteousness stream from the holy city of Jerusalem. From Jerusalem God will rule the world in holy righteousness. The Old Testament prophets often wrote of the Day of the Lord. It was a day for which the Jewish people longed. The expectation of the Day of the Lord was especially strong in times of defeat and distress. When Israel and Judah fell to foreign powers, the people of Israel lived in hope that the Day of the Lord would soon come.
This is the same day of which we read in Revelation. However, the Day of the Lord in Revelation was for the redemption of the world, not just Israel. It is important to understand that prior to the arrival of the Day the world would undergo apocalyptic events. Great battles against evil would occur. As discussed earlier in this lesson, ultimate goodness, love, and righteousness are drawing nigh. Thus, evil powerfully rears its ugly head. Matthew 13 reads, “The tares grow side by side with the wheat” as the final harvest arrives.
Consequently, Paul’s closing exhortation applies to both the present and future. The greater the assault of evil, the greater our need for the armor of God. Paul was writing, “These are the gifts that will protect you in the battle against evil: truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and the word of God.” Thus, we will examine the importance of these gifts and recognize their protective power.
Have you noticed in your walk of faith that temptation does not leave you? Can you share some experiences in which you were living in a faithful manner and experienced a battle with darkness? What do you believe is the difference between always looking for darkness and always looking for God’s light? Why do you believe walking in the light and seeking God daily are more spiritually productive than looking for signs of darkness?
There is truth. As Christians, we are people of the truth. We are girded in truth. Darkness and evil are always associated with lies and twisted truth. In Eden the serpent asked, “Did God really tell you not to eat of the tree?” Twisted truth doesn’t deny the existence of truth. Instead, it makes us question whether we interpreted the truth correctly. The serpent asked, “Is that what God really said?” Again, darkness has proved subtle from the beginning. One must regularly study and pray so that the truth of the Lord is clear for us.
Another form of deception is the half-truth. Half-truth is related to the omission of information in sharing a story or in offering an explanation. A young man in love may buy a beautiful diamond ring for his fiancé. The salesman could say, “This is a beautiful diamond on a beautiful gold band.” Later, the innocent young man may discover the beautiful gold band was “gold plated.” The fact that it was a beautiful ring was true. However, leaving out vital information allowed darkness to enter the moment. Half-truth is just as harmful as any blatant lie.
We follow the one who said, “I am the truth.” There is no shadow or turning in Him at all. His love is pure, His righteousness is pure, and His redemption certain. If any temptation or expression of evil raises doubt concerning the truth in Jesus, we are to stand firm in the Lord. Truth must never become a victim of trying to be liked, or to move upward and higher in the world. If we sacrifice truth we have taken a step into darkness, and darkness is always destructive.
Can you share an experience in which truth rescued you from a serious mistake? Can you share an experience in which truth rescued from falling into temptation though the temptation appeared “pleasing to the eye?” Can you share how truth empowers you to discern light from darkness? Can you share a specific example?
A belt holds all pieces of the armor in place. It ensures the pieces of armor fit properly. Of course, it contains the sheath of our sword, and, without the belt, other pieces of the armor may prove too loose and hang away from the body. It is the truth of God, embodied in Jesus and imparted to us in the Holy Spirit, that holds our spiritual life together. It is the truth that Jesus was God incarnate, that He lived in love and mercy, that He sacrificed and gave Himself for the sins of the world, was raised and now sits in the heavenly realms, and shall return to establish the Kingdom of God in its fullness. This truth holds every aspect of our faith together. If one facet of the truth revealed in Jesus is removed everything begins to loosen and fall away. Our righteousness, love, faith, and hope are held together by God’s eternal truth.
Paul then addresses the importance of righteousness. As Christians, we can discern goodness from evil. Through prayer and introspection we can identify that which is Christ-like and that which is not. Our own personal righteousness still falls short. We are a work in process. Our own righteousness might be frail, but the righteousness of Jesus within us is eternal. In Christ we highly value righteousness. In Christ we draw strength from his righteousness. Through faith we appropriate His righteousness as our own. I may be aware of my failures and vulnerabilities, but I am aware that Jesus has none. Thus, I trust the one within me, the righteous one, and stand my ground. Where we stand in lack, He is our sufficiency. The question, “What would Jesus do?” sounds like a commercial slogan today. However, it is a vital question when facing temptation. Though I am vulnerable, when I ask, “What would Jesus do?” I am drawing strength from His righteousness presence within me; from what I know, Jesus would pray and stand firm. We are to surround ourselves with the knowledge of Jesus’ righteousness and stand firm. If alone, we might fear strong temptation, but we know what Jesus would do.
The breastplate is among the most important pieces of armor. It protects the heart and every major organ. Righteousness is the antithesis of wickedness. When confronted with evil and temptation, we stand in a righteousness given to us in Christ. Jesus’ goodness is continually at work within all of us, and evil cannot overcome goodness. Righteousness was given to protect our heart. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) reads, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
We are not, on our own, righteous. Yet, God has declared us righteous in Christ. How does the righteousness of Jesus within you empower you when facing evil and darkness? What does it mean to you to be considered righteous by God through the forgiveness of Jesus on the cross? How do you believe you can appropriate that righteousness in your life? How can the gift of righteousness of Jesus empower you to live a righteous life? Have you noticed a change in your heart as you’ve walked with Christ? Have you been more capable of making righteous choices in your faith journey? What factors in your walk with Jesus have changed and empowered your heart?
Paul now mentions having our “feet fitted with readiness” that comes from the gospel of peace. To be ready is also to “be prepared.” Though we walk through life seeking God and God’s goodness it does not mean that we should be surprised when confronted by temptation. The tares are growing alongside the wheat! A state of readiness does not mean that temptation and evil are all I think about. It means through prayer, study, worship, and service I anchor myself in truth, and I am aware that I am walking in Christ’s righteousness. Those who live in righteousness can expect spiritual battle. Therefore, we must be ready. Choosing to follow Jesus doesn’t mean we are totally prepared to face evil. We must appropriate and develop those gifts within us through the Holy Spirit to stand strong. We may not be totally prepared to overcome the darkness in a given moment, but the one within us is more than capable. We are to faithfully act with what we have, pray for that which we need, and trust God.
Footwear, or boots, are related to journey. We are not going to walk far without covering for our feet. We journey with Christ through life. We will encounter beauty, light, love, and life. When we recognize darkness, we do not abandon our journey. All of the past steps we’ve walked with Jesus prepare us for the moments we face now and in the future. Walking with Christ ensures we will be ready when darkness appears.
The Christian faith is always described as a walk or journey. However, Paul seems to imply that when we encounter evil to “stand firm.” Why do you believe Paul does not encourage us to rush headlong into spiritual battle? Do you think it is because we are still a people with vulnerabilities and weakness? (Note: we are not in any spiritual battle without God being present.)
We know we are participants in the “Gospel of Peace.” As Christians we are aware of where all things are headed. We know the Kingdom of God is already moving in the world and is coming in all of its glory in the future. We pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of peace. Thus, we can stand strong and firm, knowing with confidence that the Kingdom coming is already present in the world. It is especially present within us. In John 14, Jesus said, “My peace I give to you, not as the world gives.” We stand before temptation and darkness with a deep, abiding peace. We are anchored in truth, which is indestructible. We are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, which cannot be penetrated by evil. Thus, we know we are anchored in the eternal, the unchangeable, and the all-powerful. We stand with our feet girded and ready for what comes because we know who is already here, and the life He gives for all time.
As residents in the Kingdom of Peace we act as faithful residents. People of great serenity know where they stand in life, what is most important, and where their behavior is leading. People of peace also accept life as it is and embrace it. Life as it is offers everything beautiful, loving, and meaningful. Still, darkness exists in this life. Genuine peace does not have to wait for temptation and evil to be totally eradicated. Peace is found when we understand temptation and evil may inflict wounds but never destroy us. They can create confusion and chaos but never steal our assurance of who we are and where we are headed. Our feet are anchored in God’s peace.
What do you believe is the difference between God’s peace and peace as the world understands it? Do you find comfort in knowing that in Christ not a single temptation can destroy you? Can you list the different ways God’s peace is different from our culture’s understanding of peace? For example, the world and culture define peace as the absence of conflict. God’s peace is present even in the midst of conflict.
Paul’s metaphor continues with the images of a shield and sword. The shield is always for protection. It is used to fend off blows. Some of the other pieces of armor are to protect the warrior against the blows that often can’t be seen. Thus, we are dressed and ready to withstand those blows. However, the shield is used to divert the blows we see coming. Our shield is our faith.
Faith does not shrink or cower in battle. Faith trusts in the protective armor and trusts the fact that we never fight alone. Paul most likely was using the metaphor of the armor used by Roman soldiers. In battle, as the enemy approached, the Roman soldiers would stand as close as possible together. They would lock their shields together to form a strong wall. When Christians stand together, we possess tremendous power against evil. Our individual strength is important. Our personal faith is powerful and helps us fend off the strongest temptations. However, walking through life in community with other brothers and sisters is to present a powerful front against all that is evil, destructive, and dehumanizing. Often, shields were made of animal skins. On occasion the soldier would wet the animal skin, thus dousing any flaming dart or arrow. The eyes of faith see the dart coming, and our mind of faith responds and moves our shield into position. One of the strongest gifts bestowed upon us is the gift of faith.
What do you believe is the difference between hope and faith? Our faith is in Jesus Christ and also in the promises of God, especially in God’s Kingdom. How does faith in that which is coming empower you in the here and now? Do you believe God’s Kingdom is present when the realm of evil is present? Does knowing the final victory of good over evil help you stand firm, and when necessary to say, “No!”?
The head is the most vulnerable part of the body in battle. Salvation in the New Testament meant far more than being saved from judgement after death. Salvation meant “wholeness.” What God did for us in Jesus Christ encompasses our entire life. We are saved from ourselves, from meaninglessness, from alienation, and from broken relationships. Apart from God’s salvation for us in Christ, we are standing in a vicious battle without a helmet. The truth we hold dear, the righteousness that endows us with discernment, the moral backbone we possess, and the peace that anchors us in the most troubling times are made possible through the salvation of the Lord.
How would you answer if someone asked you, “What do you mean when you say ‘God saved you’”? Since God saved you in every way possible, do you believe we have a witness in every moment? Since Satan and darkness attack us at the point of our vulnerabilities, how does our salvation through Christ protect us from those attacks? Do you have weaknesses you have never addressed? Do you have vulnerable areas of life that you have never considered how Jesus’ salvation can create strength?
All of the above pieces of armor and accompanying attributes are for defense. They protect us and help us stand our ground in confidence. Now we address the offensive weapon. We have the sword of God’s word. The word is the inspired, revealed truth that we hear, remember, store in the heart, and speak against evil and temptation. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he addressed every temptation by quoting Scripture. Satan had nothing to say against the word of truth.
The inspired word touches the heart and illuminates the mind. I recently realized anew just how powerful scripture is. Twenty-three years ago I offered a one-minute devotion and Scripture over the radio. It only lasted six months before the church decided to use another means to reach the community. I received a call this year from the sound engineer. He was a good person but not affiliated with a particular church. He lost a loved one. When the funeral director asked if there was a pastor, he gave my name. I had not seen him in over twenty years. He remembered the messages and scripture. Over all those years, somewhere in his heart was stored the inspired Word. Never underestimate the power of the Word.
Paul certainly wasn’t speaking of memorizing the Word or knowing exact quotes. Remember, there was no Bible when Paul wrote Ephesians. The Old Testament and a few letters of Paul that were circulated were all many Christians possessed in relation to writings. Still, not every Christian had a copy of the Old Testament or Paul’s letters. The Christians were very dependent upon the oral transmission of the Word. The Greeks, most often, were not familiar with the Old Testament. Paul certainly meant for the Old Testament to be understood as God’s Word for he saw Jesus as the embodiment of the Law. However, he asks the church to remember and embrace his message and teachings. Paul’s message was given by THE WORD of John 1:1. Even the first Gospel was written near the end of Paul’s life. Eventually, Paul’s writings would be gathered and become the major portion of the New Testament.
Paul was in essence encouraging the Ephesian Church and all Christians to remember and take to heart the message and teachings Paul delivered concerning Jesus the Christ. The Christian Church handled Paul’s message with great care. When copying Paul’s letters, for the purpose of circulating them to other churches, great care was taken in the process. The Word of God was inspired before it found its way to the printed scroll. Thus, the early Christians were to remember the truth of the Old Testament as Paul connected the message of Jesus with the redemptive message of the Old Testament. And the inspired messages of Paul and those sent by Paul were to be taken to heart. The spread of the inspired word, oral and verbal, was a great weapon in driving the darkness away. The Word exposed the falsehood. The Word exposed lies. The Word liberated hearts.
Do you have a disciplined method of reading and studying the Word? Can you share how you remembered the message of the Word when you were tempted or engaged in a spiritual battle? Have you considered that since God’s Word is inspired, it inspires you? Have you considered the Word’s power to inspire the listener? Can you share a favorite Scripture when facing spiritual battle and temptation?
Above all, the Christian community was to pray. Prayer is never presented in Scripture as something we do in very difficult moments. Prayer is a vital, necessary discipline in one’s walk with God. The one praying truly believes God hears. As the psalmist wrote, “Our God hath a listening ear.” When we begin our day in prayer, we bring God into our spiritual consciousness. In prayer we learn to see God in life throughout the day. Learning to pray without ceasing is to carry on a conversation with God all through the day. It is difficult for evil and temptation to strike a blow when we are in regular communion with God. After all, we know who dwells within us, we are confident in God’s power, and we are prepared.
Paul’s entire message on the armor of God offers one basic message. Our Christian faith will expose us to darkness. Therefore, let us always be prepared. A recognition of what God has done and a faithful response on our part provide the means to overcome and triumph.
Do you pray to start your day? How does prayer at the beginning of the day help you to see God in life? What do you believe it means to pray without ceasing? If you have trained yourself to pray without ceasing, can you share how you pray in such a manner and the great effect it has on your life? Since prayer opens our hearts and minds to the presence of God, how does prayer help us when facing darkness?
Almighty God, thank you for your inexpressible gift of grace. Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray to stand strong and firm at all times but especially in the midst of temptation. May your inspired Word be stored in our hearts, and may it live in our voice. In Jesus name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at email@example.com.