The exhortation (Ephesians 6:10-20) just prior to the benediction of Ephesians urges the Christian community to continue in the way of life recommended throughout this letter.
As a conclusion to the letter it does three more things. A) It sums up the case being made to the readers. B) It places a negative light on anyone who disagrees with the major arguments of the letter. In this case the opponents are the cosmic powers of darkness spoken about throughout the letter. C) And it uses every bit of persuasion the writer of the letter could muster to arouse sympathy for his Christian cause.
In order to accomplish these three objectives the writer uses the metaphor of putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10). Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 refers to this metaphor in a much less elaborate fashion than Ephesians. Many interpreters have discussed the details of the pieces of armor. Compared to those of the enemy they are the more defensive and less offensive pieces. Readers would have been familiar with these pieces of armor and weapons of war from the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Greco-Roman literature.
Roman armor was used to protect the soldiers. It is clear that the Roman purpose was to make it so that the soldiers could fight another day for the Roman Empire. Here in Ephesians the purpose of the whole armor of God is to keep alive the Christian faith of truth, righteousness, salvation and the gospel of peace.
Some may worry over the war imagery but note the tension in these detailed descriptions, especially with regard to the foot ware. It is to be made up of the gospel of peace. As one commentator said, this seems like “a lofty paradox.” However, one does not need to reach far to see the juxtaposing of war and peace in the Old Testament (see Isaiah 11:1-9). How do you see the tensions between war and peace?
Ephesians 6:10-20 consists of three parts. First, the assurance that the armor of God will assist the people (Ephesians 6:10-13). Second, the extended comparison of God’s power to the pieces of armor provided the faithful. How many of those pieces to you count? Third, it concludes with what one might call the additional part of the whole armor of God, namely the necessity of being a community of prayer, intercession, and proclamation.
The progression within in Ephesians moves from walking to sitting to standing with the armor of God. This movement is similar to what one reads in the introduction to the Psalms 1:1-6. As one commentator has said the marks of the living church come in faith, resistance against evil, worship, and prayer. This is a powerful message not only to the community at Ephesus in the late first century CE (AD) but to all of us in the 21st century.
(Note: Share your thoughts by making a comment or if you wish a less public exchange do not hesitate to send an email Kent.Richards@firstumcmystic.org . We learn in community.)