Ephesians 6.

P. A. H.

Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887, p. 237.

There are three kinds of conflict in the word of God; they describe the whole state and condition of man in this world, converted and unconverted, saved and lost. The first is in Ephesians 2 and Colossians 1:21; the second is in Romans 7; and the third is in Eph. 6. If you can find your place in one of these, you will find your true state in this world as to God, and discover from Himself just where you are in your own soul.

First, God gives us the fact that man is an enemy to God by wicked works - "enemies in [your] mind by wicked works" - and in active conflict with God, on account of being a guilty creature, hating God, hating the very presence of God, because it discloses to him what God really is, what his own actions are, and what he himself is. He hates God, he is an enemy to God, and he entirely distrusts God. God tells us that man by nature is just in this state of alienation; i.e., an enemy to God by wicked works. The Lord comes into the midst of this world in grace and goodness and love. He does a work that glorifies God, and makes it possible for the most bitter enemy of God to be at peace, to be at rest in the very presence of God. No matter how great the bitterness, the enmity, the work the Lord Jesus has done has laid the foundation on which God is known, and enemies to Himself are reconciled. It is a most important thing for all of us to recognize, that this is the ground we are upon. If you have known what the grace of God is to yourself, you delight to know this ground, and that you are upon it, never to know again for one little moment what enmity against God is, because He has beaten down your opposition in His divine grace and love, and set you down reconciled to Himself. Is there not a wonderful difference between a pardoned sinner and an enemy reconciled?

By the blessed finished work upon the cross I am through grace reconciled to God. This brings the soul into a conflict, but there has been a transition from one state to another, with the same result as to conflict; but it is the second conflict now - that described in Romans 7  -  and let me say that the subject of Romans 7 begins at Romans 5:12. What the word of God here speaks of is a root of evil in us, and now the man having laid down his arms finds a fresh conflict in himself. He knows and loves God; he loves Him and delights in His law after the inward man; he strives his utmost to keep in check a will that in himself he really desires to control. Thus the law says, "Thou shalt not steal." So he says, "I will not put out my hand to take what is not mine." So with the other commandments, not to bear false witness, and the like, he says, "I will not do it; I will keep myself in check." He may get the upper hand to a certain extent - "I will hinder this lust, overcome this propensity; I will have myself in control as to it." But how can I check having lusts? I may hinder the gratification of a desire, but here is the word of God like a flame, all fire before my heart and conscience. The law says, "Thou shalt not covet," not merely, "Thou shalt not give way to the desires," but, "Thou shalt not have them." Thus God comes in and shows me what I am - a poor, feeble, powerless creature, knowing good and doing evil. Every effort that such a one makes only makes it the more hopeless. "Thou shalt not have the lusts" - that goes to the root. I must have power from outside myself; for I find none in me, no help at all. So in the despair of his soul he cries to God to be delivered from himself, not for power to control this or that lust, but to be delivered from himself. "O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

The way into Romans 7 is by conversion, and the way out is by the individual cry for deliverance. There seldom is the arriving immediately at the end of this conflict, or getting into the severity of the conflict against self at the moment the soul is awakened. Every converted soul is conscious he has this conflict in himself; he cries to God Himself for deliverance, and then, and then only, does he pass into Romans 8. You can settle for yourselves which conflict you are in. If you are not converted, you are an "enemy to God by wicked works," and thus really in the first conflict; but if converted you are in the second conflict, though as to your own experience you may not be there in the activity of it, not there really in spirit. It is not doctrine, it is practice. The soul knows what the conflict is that goes on, and it cries to God for deliverance. If you only take the order God gives us in His word you will find it so. There is the cry of the saved soul for deliverance from itself; and with the deliverance comes this third conflict which we enter through His grace.

Let us trace this conflict a little; it begins with "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." You cannot do without the whole of this armour, if you are to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. You are here in this world where Jesus was crucified, where the devil reigns. You are here in this world, not to fight for yourself, nor against yourself, but to fight for God and His Christ. Oh, what a place it is! This is the true Christian place; you may speak of the other as a converted, undelivered place, but here is the place where a man can lose sight of himself, and be here wholly and simply for God. "Put on the whole armour of God," not that you may be able to do great things, but that you may be able to stand for God in the world that denied Him, that crucified His Son; in the world that is making its very joy and delight in this, that He is not here. We are to stand for Him; not to do great things. Beloved, it is not to be in this world, to be here for ourselves or for Christians, but for God and for Christ. This, if you apprehend it, will make you a true Christian; nothing else will, for you have your eye off the mark if that blessed place where He has set you in this world is not practically yours. The very object on the part of God in our being in this world, is Christ and Christ only. The object of our being here is that we may be able to stand for Him. The greatest generals and historians have told us, over and over again, that the best soldier is the one who can stand still the longest in simple endurance; that is the one who is most tested, who is of most service, who can really be of use when the moment comes that he is required.

"Put on the whole panoply of God." He tells us what the conflict is, not against ourselves, nor against God, but against everything that is against God. You are changed now from the place of an enemy, from the place of a poor soul struggling against itself, and you are changed to God's side. Do you think we have apprehended what that means, that you and I, with all our littleness, all our foolishness, are set on God's side in a world like this? This is what He has done for us, to be here in this world for God, to be of Him and for Him. Full of pride by nature, you will not know what pride is if you have that in your heart, except as a thing deep down to be kept there as dead. Pride! Was ever a man proud in the presence of God? Men are proud out of His presence, but they are never proud in His presence. There the soul is humble, there the soul learns what dependence is, and what the cross is. God tells us that this conflict is the place of privilege and honour in which He sets us. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God." He speaks in verse 10 of being "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." Just the very thing we have here; it takes all the power of the might of God Himself (that is what you need) to endure; being in this world for Him, that you may just go on and endure.

Then what does He give us first? I only draw attention to one or two of the points; it is all inward armour before it is outward. "Having on the breastplate of righteousness." It is of the greatest importance for us to understand that this armour is given us on the part of God, given to the Christian by God to be for God in the very place where the wiles of the devil are exercised. Not one bit of the armour is against God, not one bit of it is between the soul and Him. God puts Himself, as it were, behind the armour, as if He said, "I am here behind the armour with you." It is given from Himself to be used for Himself.

The breastplate of righteousness is not divine righteousness, but uprightness of heart before Himself, a clear conscience in simple uprightness in what we are doing, as a man that lives in the light where is no shadow. It is not righteousness toward God, but uprightness before Himself, every single thing in uprightness. You go into this world, let Satan cast a dart if he can. I do this in God's name, for His sake, to His glory; I do it openly with Himself, find fault with it if you can. Beloved brethren, where is rest without it? There is no good conscience without it, and if you have not a good conscience, Satan knows very quickly that you have a bad one, and will touch you on that point; he will just play upon it, for he is a master of wiles. They are the wiles of the devil.

"Having the loins girt about with truth" - the inner man, the centre, is to be "girt about with truth."

"Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." Some insist upon it that this means going out to preach the gospel; it is nothing of the kind. It is the soul walking up and down habitually, practically, in that blessed avenue "the gospel of peace." You can go out and preach the gospel, and announce it without being there yourself. God may even bless it; but when He speaks of the armour, He does not speak of mere ability to go out and announce it, but yourself in the full, blessed, daily, hourly enjoyment of the gospel of peace. That is what He means. Not having and knowing the truth merely, but having the truth under our feet, in the blessed peace and enjoyment of it. "Every place the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you." He shows you the land, all before you. It is the soul standing there, the blessed gospel of peace under its feet, the soul really there walking up and down in the peace of its possession.

"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Now we come to outside armour. One does not like to leave the inside armour; it is so important and blessed, but the shield of faith covered it all. And what is this faith? It is simple, unwavering, childlike confidence in Himself. Have you got it? Simple, unfailing childlike confidence in Him outside; inside all the preparation of the gospel of peace. The outside covering is the shield of faith "wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Whatever fiery dart he may bring, there is the childlike confidence in God Himself. This will turn aside every attack, but you cannot hold up the shield of faith if you have not the inside armour. It is no use talking about childlike confidence in God if you have not the inside armour on, the loins girt about with truth, the gospel of peace under the feet, in blessed present enjoyment. Then you have power to hold up the shield of faith.

Now look at the next thing, "the helmet of salvation," the soul really able to look up to God in the midst of all that surrounds it in this world, apart from it all, separate from it all. One may say, "Here I am in this world in the truth of salvation, saved by His grace, looking up to Him in the conscious knowledge of salvation, the head lifted up in its reality and certainty, not bowed down in doubts and fears and uncertainty."

Then there is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." He Himself gives it to us. If you look at that sword, there is one practical characteristic of it; it has two sharp edges, but it has no handle. It is not a thing put into your foolish, inexperienced hand to go and slash with; it is sharp, keen, powerful, and two-edged; it comes home to me. Thus it acts rightly on another through me, because it has first affected the one who uses it. It searches the heart, and does its work in the soldier of Christ before it does its work elsewhere. There is the edge that goes in, "piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Not merely it discovers whether the action done is done aright or not, but it goes in and discovers the thoughts and intents of the heart. Do you know this use of the word of God? Do you know the word of God in that character? That is God's way of making His word effectual; all the secret motives, the little pettiness, the little prides, the little self-seekings, He lays bare. There is nothing more terrible than this sword of  the Spirit; it always does its work within your own soul first, and then the other edge of the sword begins to do its work for God and for Christ.

There is another very important thing, perhaps most important of all. Over all this beautiful armour of God He casts the blessed, beautiful mantle of prayer. Over the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the loins girt about with truth, over every thing that constitutes the armour, we have this blessed mantle of prayer; and what is it? Unceasing, unfailing dependence upon Himself. Prayer is the expression of the soul's dependence upon Him, so He says, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Not praying when you are in distress or sorrow that you cannot get out of save by prayer, but "always, with all prayer and supplication … for all saints." You need not go into your room and kneel down for that. It does not mean the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, but always. It is the soul's habit looking up to Him in conscious, known, real dependence upon Him. You need not get away into a corner for that. What God proposes for us is the blessed access of known, felt, and expressed dependence on Himself.

Ah, here is a man absolutely free. Did you ever see a man like that? I have; and I can see him now at this moment. Here he is in verse 19, a man with the armour upon him. Now, he says, "and for me." Here is the great servant, here is the great soldier of Christ. He has that armour, that mantle upon himself; and he says, "Pray for me, not that 1 may be delivered out of troubles, not that I may go free - go back to my friends and relatives - but 'that utterance may be given me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."'

Listen to him, dear friends. Here is prayer in the Spirit divinely uttered, divinely recorded. "Oh," says this man, "pray for me, that with all that utterance He gives, I may go and proclaim in this world what the unsearchable riches of Christ are, that I may proclaim among the nations - among my own countrymen, before kings, governors, and rulers, before the richest, to the very lowest, vilest, and poorest - the riches of Him who came with a heart full of love - divine love - to seek and to save, to give His life a ransom for many."

God gave to Ananias the sign of Paul's conversion in the words, "Behold, he prayeth." You will find the divine result of the apostle's conversion in the end of this epistle. It is blessed to see how the Spirit of God in the epistle answers to the sign given in Acts 9. There the Lord points him out as a praying man. At the end of his journey he says, "I need prayer more than ever. Without it all the armour would be useless."

May God in His blessed mercy give us to realize this in the power of an ungrieved Spirit - to be really for God. Being for God in this world, He gives us, provides for us, all that we need. He does not set us to "go a warfare at our own charges." "I give you everything - what you need, and what you delight in too." If that delights the heart of God, can it not, will it not delight our hearts in fellowship with Himself? Wonderful and blessed place to be in. P. A. H.

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He who is not satisfied with Jesus does not know Him, or, at least, has forgotten Him. It is impossible to enjoy Him and not to feel that He is everything; that is to say, that He satisfies us, and that, by the nature of what He is, He shuts out everything else.