10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
When Paul exhorts Christians to be strong in the Lord, he is reminding them that the “arm of the flesh” is weak. There is much that a person can do to help themselves, but ultimately, the source of all strength and courage is in the Lord. Those who forget this spiritual truth and place ultimate trust in health, money, power, position, prestige, family, or government will find them all to be broken reeds. If leaned on too hard, they will each pierce the hand causing pain and sorrow. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). To trust in the Lord is spiritual strength. To trust in the Lord is to rely on Him fully to meet your every need.
Many Christians do not fully rely or trust the Lord. They are like Uncle Oscar who was apprehensive about his first airplane ride. His friends, eager to hear how it went, asked if he enjoyed the flight. “Well,” commented Uncle Oscar, “it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but I’ll tell you this. I never did put all my weight down on the seat!” To be strong in the Lord is to trust Him. To be strong in the Lord is to rely on the power of His might, which is omnipotent. Let us note something about omnipotence. Does omnipotence mean that God can do literally anything?
No, that is not the meaning. There are many things God cannot do. God cannot do what is self-contradictory or nonsensical, like squaring the circle. Nor can he act out of character. God has a perfect moral character, and it is not in him to deny it. God cannot be capricious, unloving, random, unjust, or inconsistent. Just as he cannot pardon sin without atonement because that would not be right, so he cannot fail to be faithful, and just, in forgiving sins that are confessed, in faith and in keeping all the other promises he has made. Moral instability, vacillation, and unreliability are marks of weakness, not of strength: but God’s omnipotence is supreme strength, making it impossible that he should lapse into imperfection of this sort. The positive way to say this is: though there are things which a holy, rational God is incapable of intending, all that he intends to do he actually does. “Whatever the Lord pleases he does” (Ps. 135:6). As when he planned the make the world, “he spoke, and it came to be” (Ps. 33:9), so it is with everything that he wills. With people “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip,” but not with him” (James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986). Those who trust in the Lord, and in the power of His might, will not lean unto their own understanding. They will not try to be clever, domineering, or forceful. They will not be self-sufficient, or self-centered, but they will be spiritually strong.
11 Put on [with urgency] the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles [strategy and tactics] of the devil.
To enhance trust in the Lord and spiritual strength, the exhortation is given to immediately put on the whole armour of God. Life is to be lived with a sense of urgency.
“Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.”
The specific reason for putting on the whole armour of God is given. Christians are in the midst of a spiritual battle.
12 For we wrestle [in hand to hand combat] not against flesh and blood, but against principalities [rulers], against powers [authorities], against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [or wicked ones] in high places [such as Lucifer himself and his demonic host].
Christians are caught up in a spiritual warfare that includes the devil and his fallen angels, who are highly organized. Christians are told to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). What the apostles want the Church to know, is that we do wrestle against a spirit world, and so we need to take unto ourselves the whole armour of God, in order to be able to wage an effective war against a well-organized and well-armed enemy. mThe Organizational Chart of the Demonic world is patterned after the governing body of ancient
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
The promise is given that if the Christian will trust in the Lord, if the Christian will be strong in His might, if the Christian will take up and use the whole armour of God, and use it effectively, they will prevail in the evil day. The evil day is the day of temptation.
The evil day may be today, or tomorrow. The evil [poneros] day is the day of testing for the purpose of approval.
For Joseph, the Evil Day was the day Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, and he fled.
For Esther, the Evil Day was the day when she could betray her people, while saving her own life and leaving the palace with personal possessions. But what did Esther say? “If I perish, I perish.”
For Daniel and his friends, the Evil Day was the day when they had to forfeit their lives by fire if they did not bow before the king. What happened? They did not bend, they did not bow, and they did not burn.
For Jesus, the Evil Day came when He was tempted to by pass the cross. And the Devil said unto Him, “All these things will I give thee, if you wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9). Jesus had been waging battle with the devil for forty days. He was wakened. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He was tempted.
But Jesus had put on the whole armour of God and was able to withstand the Devil. “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matt. 4:10-11).
Not everyone who has been tested spiritually has passed. Those who have failed the test of approval, failed because they did not take unto themselves the full spiritual armour of God.
A Belt of Truth
For Adam and Eve, the Evil Day was the day when Satan began to question them about the goodness of God. On that day they did not gird their loins with truth or doctrine.
A Breastplate of Righteousness
For Esau, the Evil Day was the day of hunger, when he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. Esau
had no breastplate of righteousness which is a holy character. He was a profane man.
A Shield of Faith
For Abraham, the Evil Day was the day when he lied about Sarah being his sister, and not his wife. Abraham laid down the shield of faith which is to believe the promises of God. He did not fear the Lord but was terrified of Abimelech.
For Lot, the Evil Day was the day he left the protection and security of his uncle and “chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east” (Gen. 13:11). When Lot tried to witness, the people laughed at him. He had lost his testimony and credibility. Lot chose Sodom and Gomorrah. The feet of Lot were not shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace and so he had no effective witness nor desire to present Christ.
For David, the Evil Day was when he saw Bathsheba disrobed and desired her. He was not watchful of his heart and so did not persevere in holiness.
Failure to Pray
For Peter, the Evil Day was the day when he failed to confess Jesus as Lord, and the cock crowed. Peter failed to pray that he enter not into temptation as Jesus had taught him to pray.
The Helmet of Salvation
For Judas. the Evil Day came when he betrayed the Lord of Glory for 30 pieces of silver. He had failed to put on the helmet of salvation. Only those who put on the whole armour of God will be able to stand.
One reason why Paul appealed to the idea of the armour of God is because he was familiar with the Roman soldiers of his day, and the many battles being fought with the enemies of the Imperial Empire. In his epistles Paul appealed time and again to military images. Paul had witnessed military drills and parades. He uses that imagery to illustrate the various echelons of the resurrection and compares them to the battalions of a regiment passing in review, each in his own order ((1 Cor. 5:23).
Paul likened the clear exegesis of the Word of God to a military command. The correct trumpet sound mobilizes the soldiers for battle but, “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 4:8). The point was made. The Word of God must be clearly taught without confusion of meaning.
Paul respected the discipline of the soldiers of Rome and told Timothy to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3, 4). As a reward for enduring hardness, the Roman solider, after basic training, was branded for life.
There was a mark burned into his body signifying he would follow the eagle on the Roman standard flag into battle. He would not waver. He would not run. He would press on to victory. Paul referred to that distinctive mark of honor in Galatians 6:17: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Paul had gone through his own basic training, and then into general service on the field of spiritual battle. He had followed the colors. Paul had served his Commander in Chief on active combat duty. He bore in his body the distinctive mark of someone who would always be faithful.
Paul had a right to encourage Christians to press on and take the high ground of victory in Galatians 5:25. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” The word for walk is the military word “stoicheo [stoy-kheh’-o) and means “to march in (military) rank, to keep steep; that is to conform.” The word speaks of a good soldier pressing on to victory. This was not always easy to do because the temptation comes to give up, or to forsake one’s duty.
Desertion and absence without leave was a grave offense in the Roman army. It was a problem in the Roman military, and desertion was a problem in the early Church as well. Writing to the Galatians, Paul rebuked some of the believers for going AWOL from grace. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6).
Fortunately, not all of the soldiers of Rome were deserters and so a great empire was born and maintained bringing the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. Strong garrisons were established throughout the empire to ensure the peace of society.
Paul wanted spiritual peace and harmony in the Church and in the hearts of Christians. To that end he prayed that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [mount a guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6).
Because Rome was great and powerful, the army would go forth and conquer their enemies and then march them back to the Eternal City in a triumphal procession. The strategical and tactical victories of the Roman soldiers were displayed.
Paul used that imagery to speak of anticipated spiritual processions and a triumphal display of Divine glory. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14).
Because Paul was so familiar with the Roman military, he could tuned particular attention to the armour of the Roman solider to draw a spiritual analogy between the Roman fighting man and the royal priest, the Christian armed and equipped to vanquish his own unseen enemies.