Jul 29 2011

52- THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS part 6

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The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians

(Part 6)

E- Explanation of the Epistle (contd.)

12-The Christian Home (Eph. 5:22 – 6:9, see part 5)

13-The Christian’s Spiritual Struggle (Eph. 6:10 – 20)

St. Paul concludes his epistle by offering spiritual directions, to believers from all the walks of life, with respect to their spiritual struggle and their steadfastness in their faith in Christ; his message is inspired by the Roman soldiers who surrounded him, armed with sword, shield and helmet. He thus tells them: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10) He wants them to remain strong in their spiritual warfare, to derive their strength from the Lord, and to take refuge in Him, since He is “Omnipotent,” “Omniscient” and “Almighty.” St. Paul also exhorts them to “Put on the whole armor of God” which will enable them to fight with resolve and without retreating, when faced with “the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) – this is the unrelenting enemy, who spares no avenue to ensnare, disturb, exhaust, threaten the peace of, raise doubts in the minds of and, ultimately, weaken the faith of, believers. Our task might have been easier, if the enemy were flesh and blood; but we are wrestling against the satanic hierarchy, led by “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and “principalities … powers … rulers of the darkness of this age … spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Indeed, we need the whole armor of God to “be able to withstand in the evil day” i.e. the hour of temptation in all its forms. And after succeeding in our mission, we remain steadfast in our watchfulness and anticipation of the next rounds, confident that our armor is neither carnal (of the physical body) nor of a limited physical effect, but “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” which the enemy has erected against the faith and against leading a life of holiness, “casting down arguments (heresies and evil thoughts) and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10: 4, 5) These are the most significant fortifications which Satan has in place to resist the faith in Christ, which is our stronghold, which we defend, and in which we seek refuge.

This is the whole armor of God: (1)Tychicus is also the one to whom St. Paul dictated his epistle to the Colossians, and the one who delivered the message to them.  St. Paul furthermore mentions him towards the end of his second epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:12), saying that he sent him to Ephesus.  Finally, St. Paul mentions him in the conclusion of his epistle to Titus (Titus 2:12). An old tradition has it, that Tychicus became a bishop of Bithynia or Neapolis in Cyprus.] “Truth;” this is analogous to the girdle with which a soldier girds himself for protection and support and which enables him to stand strong and resolute; truth is none other than God and His commandments, the unequivocal straight godly path, and all that is noble, just and pure; (2) “Righteousness;” this is analogous to the breastplate – it refers to God’s righteousness which conveyed us from darkness to light, “into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Colossians 1:13) We are thus confident that we are the children of God, and the children of Light, and this confidence gives us steadfastness in our resistance of Satan, so he will flee from us. (James 4:7); (3) “Preparation of the gospel of peace (evangelization);” this is the goal to be achieved when we are aligned as one army regiment with our feet shod and ready for war; (4) “Faith;” this is added like a shield which a soldier carries in his left hand, manipulating it in all directions to fend off “all the fiery darts of the wicked one,” extinguishing them instantly upon impact – similarly, our faith and trust in God our Father will abort all Satan’s strikes; (5) “Salvation;” this is analogous to a soldier’s helmet which he wears on his head – it fills the mind and heart with the grace of rescue from eternal death, and the certainty of eternal life – Satan is incapable of penetrating this confidence and hope, and is thus incapable of making us doubt that which we have been granted – let us therefore put on “the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8); (6) “The Word of God;” this is equivalent to the sword in the warrior’s hand – St. Paul called it “the sword of the Spirit” and, in his epistle to the Hebrews, he said “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Once we have this sword, drawn and vibrant, we will “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Peter 3:15) In His temptation on the mount, the Lord offered us the example to follow: the wily Satan used the word cunningly to realize his intentions – but the Lord revealed to us that our knowledge of the word of God protects us from deceivers and heretics who use the word of God out of context. (Ephesians 6:14 – 17)

In addition to all those weapons, we have a potent unbeatable weapon, namely, (7) “Prayer”. In his epistles, St. Paul continually urges believers to be committed to prayer: “praying always with all prayer and supplication (“men always ought to pray and not lose heart” – Luke 18:1) in the Spirit (but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered – Romans 8:26), (fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer – Romans 12:11, 12), (Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God – Philippians 4:6), (Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving – Colossians 4:2), (pray without ceasing” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17) “being watchful to this end with all perseverance (persisting without losing heart) and supplication for all the saints … (remember your brethren, since this is an indication of your love and selflessness, as the Master commanded; being confident that “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name” – Hebrews 6:10–12); also remember to pray “for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

How splendid is this stoic evangelist, who sees himself as “the least of all the saints” (Ephesians 3:8); in his humility, he asks the object of his service to pray for him, so that he might continue preaching the gospel openly. And where? In his dark prison, with his feet shackled, his hand chained to his resident jailer, and his other hand writing; or alternatively, he is dictating the epistle to a companion.

In this miserable atmosphere, he neither surrendered, weakened, nor wavered in his resolve; rather, he was filled with zeal, asking for prayer for him, so that he might preach to “those who are of Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22); in other words, to preach to the soldiers and officers. Despite St. Paul’s adverse circumstances, his motto remained “for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)

14- Personal Note (Ephesians 6:21, 22)

In his epistle’s conclusion, St. Paul refrained from writing about his personal affairs, in order not to detract from the primary purpose of his message; rather, he says, “But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus(1) … will make all things known to you … that he may comfort your hearts.”

15- The Apostolic Blessing (Eph. 6:23, 24)

St. Paul concludes his epistle to the Ephesians with “Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (no specific persons mentioned since, likely, the epistle was sent to all the churches of Asia, and not just to the Ephesians) seeking “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” a lasting love, untainted with defilement, weakness or perdition.

(1) He describes Tychicus as the “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.” Tychicus was St. Paul’s Asian disciple, who might have been from Ephesus itself. His name also appears in St. Paul’s trip through Macedonia (Acts 20:4), he accompanied Paul on his return trip to Jerusalem through Miletus, and attended a meeting with the Ephesian church elders – he remained with Paul until Jerusalem. He furthermore accompanied Paul on his perilous journey to Rome, and remained a faithful companion along with Luke. He is the one who wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians, as recorded at the end of that epistle. Tychicus is also the one to whom St. Paul dictated his epistle to the Colossians, and the one who delivered the message to them. St. Paul furthermore mentions him towards the end of his second epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:12), saying that he sent him to Ephesus. Finally, St. Paul mentions him in the conclusion of his epistle to Titus (Titus 2:12). An old tradition has it, that Tychicus became a bishop of Bithynia or Neapolis in Cyprus.

Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make copies of these notes to distribute them. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these “Short Notes” or in private correspond­ence. Write to us:
PO Box 6192, Columbia, MD 21045

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