Updated: Jan 28
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
This reading from Paul is scheduled for public presentation in Episcopal churches on the Sunday after Pentecost in years designated as B, known as Proper 16. This will next occur on August 22, 2021, which will designate the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost in that year. It was last read aloud on Sunday, August 26, 2018, then designated as the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
This reading is important as it is Paul clearly stating that each and every Christian must himself or herself be a priest to the temple of God. The temple is one’s own body of flesh. The soul within that flesh must become a priest that serves the high priest of the temple, who is the soul of Jesus. The strength then comes from a marriage with Yahweh, the union of one’s soul with the Holy Spirit, which makes one wear the armor of the Christ.
The metaphor of that comes from Paul writing to “fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.” This metaphor should be seen, along with the footwear [sandals or shoes] that gives one the expectation to walk the priestly path, as the clothing worn by a high priest of the Tabernacle.
When Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” the whole armor can only come through the marriage with God. God is the completion that brings wholeness. Without that presence within one’s being, then one is incomplete and all armor of God is based on knowledge that keeps God external. The Holy Spirit has not been received and Jesus has not merged with one’s soul. Without that inner strength, one easily becomes prey to Satan.
The Greek word “methodeia” is translated as “wiles,” but it can equally state “scheming, craftiness, deceit.” This should be realized as being ever present, with the greatest times when one is vulnerable being when one feels within a safe environment. For many Christians, a church building, or being amid church members, represents such a safe haven. This is where the warning comes to beware false shepherds and hired hands, who appear to be there for one’s benefit but in reality they are there for their own benefit and no one else’s. Without the full armor of God on – filled with the Holy Spirit as a stand-alone temple to the Lord – the devil sows the weeds of doubt, fear, and knowledge as a replacement for God.
This is seen supported in Paul writing, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The translation of “enemies” can be misleading, as the Greek word “palē” is written, which means “wrestling, a wrestling bout; hence: a struggle, fight, conflict, contest.” (Strong’s usage). This says one’s struggle to avoid the influence of Satan is less about one’s heritage [“blood”] and one’s presence [“flesh”] – the inner self struggle as a Christian [or Jew] to commit to righteous living – and more about the powers over self that one gives freely to those who are external to one’s being – governments, philosophies, and influences advocating the denial of God.
The Greek words translated as “rulers” and “authorities” are “archas” and “exousias.” In the setting of Paul, who (as Saul) was both a Roman citizen and a Jew, his “rulers” were Roman, which included all that empire’s vassals (such as in Judea). His “authorities,” however, were those who exerted influential powers over all who were Jews, being the Temple “authorities.” It was those “authorities” who had fallen away from God, having turned instead to worship the profits they saw as obtainable in the earthly realm. It is that realm where exists “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” where “epouraniois” (“heavenly realm”) should be read as those who rule over one’s soul.
This external danger is one that exists commonly and is prevalent in all people lacking true faith in Yahweh. Paul wrote, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” The Greek word “stēnai” translates as “to stand firm,” but also means one must become one with God in order “to be steadfast” in the ability to resist a most common attack. The commonality of evil in the world cannot be avoided; without God’s help one will succumb to that power. The meaning of “having done everything” is emphasized by the word “kai” preceding it, meaning everyone is born a sinner and knows sin all too well. Thus, to “take up the whole armor of God” means one has to allow oneself to be “raised up” spiritually.
Paul then wrote these words of encouragement: “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” His words spoke of the visual armor worn by Roman soldiers that were prepared to do battle. However, the metaphor speaks for one who is prepared to do battle against Satan and his realm of evil, as one filled with the Holy Spirit and enabled to “stand fast,” armed with the “truth” of God’s enlightenment, a heart filled with God’s love, an ability to walk the walk of righteousness, more than talk the talk of goodness, because one’s “faith” is an elevation that protects the soul, which comes from having sacrificed self-will for divine “salvation.” The “sword” of God is the Christ, which comes out of one’s mouth and speaks double-edged words of truth.
When Paul then wrote, “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints,” the purpose of prayer is to “at all times” remain in direct communication with God, through His Son’s Holy Spirit within one’s being (Jesus Christ reborn). The use of “supplication” takes this communication beyond simple chitchat and makes it earnest, heartfelt direction. When Paul used the term “hagiōn” (“saints”), this was not some measly designation of one who wears vestments and says he or she can call upon the name of the Lord to bless crackers and wine. The designation of “saints” becomes a statement of truth: one has been made sacred by God as set apart from all influences of evil in the world. To a saint, prayer and supplication is the conversation between Yahweh and His Son taking place as one’s soul listens and one’s flesh does as commanded. It is less about self-preservation than it is about bringing others to the same presence within themselves.
As such, Paul then spoke to the saints of Ephesus, saying (per the translation): “Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.” In actuality, this is the Greek of what Paul wrote here:
“kai hyper emou , hina moi dothē logos en anoixei tou stomatos mou , en parrēsia to mystērion tou euangeliou , hyper hou presbeuō halysei , hina en autō parrēsiasōmai , hōs dei me lalēsai .“
This literally translates to state: “kai on behalf of me , that of me may be given divine utterance in the opening of the mouth mine , with freedom of speech to make known the mystery [revelation] of the coming of the Messiah [Christ] , for which I am older in a chain , that in it I may speak freely , as it is necessary to speak .“
Notice how there is no repeating of the word prayer. That has been transposed from earlier in a translation effort to create a separate sentence of Paul, with the repetition meaning that has already been stated prior. These segments of word build from Paul stating the word “saints.” The word “kai” is then an indicator for the reader to take notice of how the creation and maintenance of “saints” was the purpose of Paul [and all like him – those also filled with God’s Holy Spirit]. Thus, saints are Paul’s “concern” (from “huper” meaning “over, beyond, on behalf of, for the sake of, concerning”), because making and maintaining saints is what saints do.
This then leads Paul to say that saints are made by his speaking divinely. This does not mean his “divine utterances” (“logos“) are explaining Scripture so well that people’s brains swell with thoughts of devotion. It means his presence, being joined with the presence of Jesus Christ, makes his words bear the same effect as did Jesus. The souls readily willing to sacrifice of themselves for service to God will “hear” those words divinely and receive the Spirit.
The saint is then speaking on such a higher level than physical words can ever bear [the reason Scripture needs explanation] that a seeker of truth’s soul will “hear” the truth in a “secret” or “mysterious” way, where “mystērion” means: “a mystery, secret, of which initiation is necessary; in the NT: the counsels of God, once hidden but now revealed in the Gospel or some fact thereof; the Christian revelation generally; particular truths or details of the Christian revelation.” (Strong’s usage) That “secret” is the passing on of the Holy Spirit, which means “the coming of the Messiah [Christ]” into a new saint.
Paul then stated that he was “an elder” (“presbeuō“) in a “chain,” which means he married God before those who came after him, but as a chain (“halysei“) all are equal links, with the same strength coming into them as Jesus Christ reborn. The purpose of his being a link in longer standing becomes meaningless, as his pending death would simply mean more equal links would be needed to replace him and keep the chain growing.
Everything is then dependent on all links in the chain freely speaking the Word of God, as Jesus Christ reborn. This is the necessity of Christianity. This does not come from years of having learned what to say from classes taken, books read or lectures heard. All of that simply prepares one to seek for higher truth, with a history of learning being seen by God and known to be where one’s heart lies. Where the heart leads the head will follow. The Jesus Spirit replaces the brain with Mind of Christ. Still, one needs to hear God speaking, in order to receive the Holy Spirt and become His Son reborn, becoming another link in a most divine chain, where all links are temples unto the Lord and each link is a priest that serves the High Priest Jesus Christ. At that time the whole armor of God is surrounding one’s soul and one is prepared to battle evil.
R. T. Tippett