Ever play chess? In the game of chess every piece is important. Even a pawn can make its way to becoming a bishop, knight, rook, or a queen. The whole board works together as a community event. Not one piece can function apart from the others. The same in the church. We are all valuable pieces in the church. Not one of us goes solo. Everyone is pulling together to make sure that the King wins the game.
When we think of Paul, we may recall the many imprisonments that he suffered – the beatings and stonings for the precious name of our Lord Jesus. What we may fail to account recall is that this eloquent letter to Ephesian church was composed under the personal duress of house arrest. The letter to the Ephesian church is one of several letters during his imprisonments. The other letters are to the churches at Philippi, Colossae, and the letter to a slaveholder, Philemon. With each letter Paul emphasizes his prayers for the church and her people addressing the areas that need personal growth. The church at Ephesus had a fine past but grew to become loveless (Rev. 2.1-7).
Contemporary disciple Watchman Nee writes about the letter to church at Ephesus from his own imprisonment. Both of these men of God find themselves suffering behind guarded doorways on their knees writing letters to their beloved friends in Christ. In the 1930s Watchman Nee created an indigenous movement of church plants in China. Nee was found guilty on a large number of false charges in 1952 and was imprisoned until his death in 1972. Twenty years behind bars provided Watchman Nee the opportunity to learn how to persevere as a Christian in the direst circumstances.
Nee has his own insights into the Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians. Nee sees the letter divided up into three prayer postures – sit, walk, and stand. We sit in heavenly places with Jesus and live in the authority of the ascended Christ Jesus. All power is given to Christ and Christ gives that same power to all believers. We walk upon this earth to serve Christ and not ourselves. All service must be given to Christ for it is ours to give. We stand our ground against all evil particularly the archenemy of Jesus – Satan.
When we remember who was present in the garden then we can read Ephesians through the proper lens of Scripture. In the garden God Almighty begins to create – the earth and all that is in it. Then Adam and Eve are formed to care for the earth. And, while God knew creation was marred in its very form of being created, God loved his creation very much. And, when that creation was invaded by Satan, God provided a way to stand against the temptations to be evil.
Paul reminds his readers of the Grand Plan for reunification of creation to the Creator teaching the hearer that they can take the postures of sitting, walking, and standing to maintain their relationship with the Creator.
I am intrigued by Nee’s language of sit, walk, and stand. Surely this language is shaped around the limited space of a prison cell where the captured person would only have a limited space to inhabit, and this was the case for 20 years for Nee. These basic human activities of sitting, walking, and standing would surely aid the imprisoned to find freedom beyond the limits of space.
The church at Ephesus was full of people who were coming out of a culture of spiritual bondage. They had been using all sorts of magic so much so that they had a bonfire for a book burning that cost the community nearly $3 million. We also know that the sons of a Jewish chief priest were driving out demons in the name of Jesus, but they were not converts. They were dabbling in spiritual powers that they did not understand, and they found themselves in a head on collision with the darkside.
We can dig deeper into the text! Let’s look at verse 6.10. The word for power “dynamo” is in the Greek Imperative Mood. This means to keep on keeping on or continually be empowered of the Lord with his might. It is a divine empowerment, not by human hands, but it does require human cooperation. We are to participate in the action of continually being filled with the power from on high. Salvation is not stagnant. It begins with an encounter with God, but our relationship with God must continue to grow, be alive and active. When we choose to be filled with God’s power, we allow the Holy Spirit to invade our spirit and fill it with his own.
“If you do not arm yourself with the armor of God, you are open to interferences in your hidden personal life from supernatural powers which you cannot control; but buckle on the armor, bring yourself into real living contact with God, and you are garrisoned not only in the conscious realm but in the depths of your personality beneath the conscious realm.” —Oswald Chambers, The Place of Help, 214
When we look at 6.11 again we see the Greek Imperative Mood meaning to keep on keeping on. We are to be continually putting on the whole, complete armor of God. Our enemy (evil angels) are powerful, wicked, and cunning. Our enemy has two devices to attach us accusation and deception (Rev. 12.9-12). Chuck Swindoll says it this way, “Whenever you see manipulation by intimidation for the purpose of domination, it is from the enemy.” William Gouge says, “To put the armor on is to put on, ‘Christ himself: whereby is implied, that we should apply Christ unto ourselves: and so make use of him, and of all his actions and sufferings: yea also of all those graces, which he conveyeth to us.’” When we put on the whole army of God, we are choosing to allow our Creator God to recreate our soulish realm – mind, will, and emotions – to look more like Jesus.
John Wesley wrote a sermon entitle “Of Evil Angels” based on 6.12 (Sermon 72). Wesley believed that this passage pointed to the whole spiritual doctrine concerning evil angels. He spoke boldly that our wrestling is no against flesh and blood – but weak men, fleshly appetites and passions. Darkness has a reign over this world and labor to infuse unbelief, pride, evil desire, malice, anger, hatred, envy or revenge. Wesley believed that Satan was the first to be discharged from his responsibilities in heaven. How astonishing to imagine that the holiest of all God’s creatures became the most unholy! Evil has a common leader, one head, that is Satan. When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, he claimed to have much dominion, kingdoms, and power upon the earth. This Jesus did not dispute. Scripture points to the reality that evil continually wars against humanity. The Scriptures thus point out that every evil deed is accompanied by the influence of the evil one upon the heart of humanity, and every good deed is done only with the aid of our Good God. Jesus himself was tempted and no one should think they are outside the realm of those temptations that come upon humanity.
“They [the enemy of our soul] recognize no Geneva Convention to restrict or partially civilize the weapons of their warfare. They are utterly unscrupulous and ruthless in the pursuit of their malicious designs,” notes John Stott. Our main weapon is the mind of Christ so that our conscience is void of offense toward God. As we did deeper we find that 6.13 is also the Greek Imperative Mood meaning to keep on keeping on. Paul urges us to keep on taking up the whole, complete armor of God. UMC Pastor Mike Voigts points out, “To be fully armed is to rest in the arms of Jesus.” This action of taking up the armor makes us more obedience in our inward self and less self-reliant.
Dr. Steve Seamands believes there are four evident sources of truth we can rely on: Jesus, the person of Truth; Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth; Scripture, the Word of Truth, and the church, the foundation/cornerstone of Truth. When we think about strapping the truth around our waist, is it not the place in our bodies that is not vulnerable. It is where our vital organs are housed, and the place to digest the food that sustains.
Gary Kinnaman states, “You cannot even begin to think of standing up in spiritual warfare unless you are first committed to personal integrity.” We must make every effort to keep accountable for our thoughts and actions. Because, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out, “Sin wants to remain unknown. It hides in the darkness. In confession, the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the human heart. The sin must be brought up into the light.”
We need to deal with the areas in your life where we know we are not being absolutely truthful. We need to ask God to continue to reveal areas in our life where we are living in unreality and not facing the truth. In fact Jamie Buckingham stated, “The truth shall set you free–but first it will make you miserable.” In The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck defined mental health as “an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.” Dishonesty, even little white lies distort truth and blind us to God’s reality. The challenge for most Christians is to line up their life story with the Scriptures – because they don’t always line up. Compromise has a way of creeping into everyday experience. Righteousness means that Christ Jesus must dwell within us and his righteousness becomes an impartation of grace. Tom White says it this way, “Our struggles trace to the unsanctified self particularly those parts of us not yet yielded to the Spirit or healed by grace.” We must yield our messy selves to Christ for transformation.
Firmness of footing and readiness to go forth to proclaim the Gospel are both valid interpretations. Peace is the key ingredient in discerning God’s word. “This is why the masters of the spiritual life give this great principle for distinguishing the true inspirations of God from those that come from the devil, namely, that the former are always gentle and peaceful and lead us to confidence and humility while the latter are agitating, unquiet and turbulent, leading to discouragement and suspicion, even to presumption and the following of our own will.” according to Jean-Pierre de Caussade (The Fire of Divine Love, p. 48).
The major flaming arrows in our lives that wreck havoc are Fear, Doubt, Critical Words, and Confusion yet our shield must be operative to protect us. Our shield is laying hold of the promises of God and believes by faith that God will cover us. Trust essential.
Salvation is wholistic – past, present and future – rescuing from sin, providing new life, and planning for heaven. We need to be saved from our present negative thinking patterns rooted in our fallen human nature, the flesh. Gary Kinnamon says it this way, “Your head needs salvation from wrong thoughts; immoral and impure thoughts; thoughts of suspicion and self-pity; thoughts of anger, hatred and violence; distorted thoughts; prideful thoughts, obsessive thoughts. Your head needs an infusion of divine glory.” Further, the enemy can toss thoughts into our heads. We must defend our minds by taking on the mind of Christ. We must guard our minds. Charles Kraft puts it this way, “If this is from the enemy, I command you to stop it!” We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Philippians 4.8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
When I speak of rhema word of God, I’m talking about the word of God demonstrated in the creation of the world – when God speaks matter responds. The word of God in the Bible is alive and active, and so is the word of God written on our hearts as we are transformed, and in our minds when we receive the mind of Christ (our minds are changed to reflect Scripture). Steve Seamands points out that there are two kinds of words from God – logos a general word such as the Bible – and rhema – a specific word from God. When we are faced with difficulties, Gary Kinnamon notes, “If you are facing a particularly difficult situation, or trying to overcome a temptation or break a habit, you need a rhema, a special power word from the Spirit of God. Just reading the Bible or listening to Christian music will not resolve long-term issues. Study the Bible with a purpose. Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you select three or four references that apply specifically to your problem.”
The importance of prayer rests on the fact that people need an intimate encounter with the living God. Watchman Nee has it right. We must understand our position of sitting in the heavenly place with Jesus and understanding the authority we possess because Christ dwells with each of us. We must understand that when we know who dwells with us we are able to walk forth in integrity, truth, righteousness, and peace sharing the Good News. We must understand that when we face troubles, we must stand in our authority having been filled with the Spirit and having exercised our repentance and cleansing. But what Watchman Nee took for granted in his teaching was that every person would know the first requirement to standing our ground is intimacy with Christ. And the way we find intimacy with Christ is on our knees in prayer.
As I read through R.A. Torrey’s writings on prayer I am filled with encouragement because he is a leader in the Kingdom of God who understood the position of kneeling, sitting, walking, and standing before God in hopes of renewal of the church proper. All people who aim toward the renewal of the church must find their greatest gift to the church upon their knees before they stretch out their hands in generosity to their neighbor. My friend, Margie Burger, has written several books and resources. Her latest book is called Treasures from the Heart. In it she writes, “Relentless prayer is the force behind every true move of God. Let it be so, Lord.”
Quotes from Dr. Steve Seamands class on spiritual warfare at Asbury Theological Seminary. Watchman Nee’s book is entitled Sit, Walk, Stand. The notes from the original Greek language are from Accordance software with support from other biblical resources.