Remember how Ephesians begins. It couldn’t begin on a more positive note, beginning with all the blessings we have in Christ. He ends the epistle on a realistic note, reminding us that we are engaged in warfare. Notice, he uses corporate language. This is not just for the individual but is addressed to the church. Each of us is part of an army; the church, as a whole, is the army. Ephesians is a prison epistle. The apostle is in jail suffering for his faith.
We are living in a culture that is changing very quickly. We hear more and more a mantra that there is no such thing as truth. The big word used for that is postmodernism. This can be hard to define with precision, something like trying to nail jello to a wall. I would say the driving force of postmodernism has to do with truth. Dr. MacArthur says, “If you were to challenge me to boil down postmodern thought into its pure essence and identify it in one simple, central characteristic I would say it is the rejection of every expression of certainty”. In other words, you can’t be sure about anything. According to postmodern though you can’t be sure there is a God, or a hell, or a heaven. You can be sure about moral absolutes – who is right and who is wrong; everything is up for grabs. You can’t be sure about marriage or gender. Everything is pliable; everything is in flux like playdough. You can twist it and shape it into anything you want it to be. Even the baby in the womb is acknowledged to be human. They just say he isn’t a person until he is born and begins to make independent decisions of his own. This is the drum beat of our day: there are no laws, no givens, no absolutes.
What do we do as Christians? We can cower in silence. We can run and hide. We can drown in the tsunami of this cultural change. Or there is another option – it is the biblical way. We are the light and salt of the world. The early Christians dared to confront the culture of their day and paid the price. They preached the Gospel; they preached Christ crucified. Paul tells us the answer here: we must remind ourselves that we are soldiers, we are an army. The emphasis that he uses again and again to call us to action is to put on and to stand fast (v.13, 14). We have to put on the armor of God in order to stand. He reminds us we are on a battlefield. Paul isn’t running and hiding himself. He wants to continue to fight. In v. 19 he asks for prayer that he will have words to boldly proclaim the Gospel. He is not backing down an inch. He’s in jail, but he’s not compromising. The story of Christianity has always been the story of martyrdom.
Things are going to get more difficult, greater costs, greater sacrifices. How do we stand? What is the secret to standing? Supernatural strength. We need grace. We don’t stand on our own strength. “Be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might”. We need to pray for strength and courage, even in the matter of the Lord’s Day. The cultural winds are pushing us; we need to stand fast with regard to the Lord’s Day. RC Ryle has a sermon on victory, seeking to encourage Christian soldiers. He says, “Remember that the best time is yet to come. Here in this world we are in warfare. There are many hard things to be born, wounds and bruises, fatigues, reverses and disappointments. The end of all things, don’t forget, is that he who overcomes will receive the conqueror’s crown.” This is why we keep our eye on the future. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world”.
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