I have one more passage, full of deeply important matter to which I wish to direct your attention, by the help of God. You will find it in Eph. vi. and this, for the present, will be the last portion to which I shall direct your attention, except the Lord on Friday evening should lead me to anything else. I shall now only enter upon it, and shall not be able to finish it tonight; but will continue it on Friday evening.
The portion is verses 10 to 18 of chapter vi. This passage, for the first four or five years after my con-version, was one from which, when I came to read it, there was a kind of shrinking in my mind; because I read it merely as a commandment, and found myself reproved by it; therefore I shrank from it.
One Lord’s-day, about forty-five years ago, I awoke early in the morning, about five o’clock. I felt tired—very tired, having had a great deal to do on the day previous. I felt I should like to spend another hour in bed; but it came to my mind, “This is the Lord’s-day, and there can be nothing better than to rise and give myself to prayer and meditation.” I did so, and in the course of my reading I came to this sixth chapter of Ephesians. I began reading; I soon saw that it was full of the gospel—blessedly full of the gospel. It pleased God to bless it greatly to my soul that day, and, ever since, this portion has been particularly dear to my heart.
I desire now, as God may help me, to bring before you what the Holy Ghost would teach us in these verses.
“ Finally,” the apostle says, as if he meant, Now, after I have said, let us sum it up in the following verses “My brethren.” This word “brethren” is to be specially noticed. As if he meant to say, this is a word for believers, and specially for them. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”
The first point here is, for the beloved fellow-disciples never for a moment to suppose that they have, or can have, any strength of their own. And, because they are converted, and are not now dead in trespasses and sins, and have been brought from death unto life, yet they are not to suppose that they have any strength of their own. “Be strong in the Lord.” In ourselves we are utterly weak, and in ourselves we remain weak as we are by nature. Our strength is in the Lord; and by looking to God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, we receive wisdom, strength, help, and, in short, everything we can possibly need as we pass through this vale of tears.
Therefore do we especially need this exhortation, “Be strong in the Lord.” We cannot fight, we can do nothing of ourselves, we have no might nor strength of our own. And if any one should say he thinks he has any strength or power in himself, I would say, “My brother. you are mistaken; you have no such thing.”
And this we have to remember to the very last moment of our life. I desire day by day, and hour by hour, to remember this, and I request all of you to remember it, that you may never suppose you have any strength or wisdom of your own. If you do so, you are neglecting the resources laid up in Jesus Christ; and moreover if you do so, you will not make use of the wisdom, power, and strength which God has laid up for us in the hour of our weakness, in the person of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore is this exhortation much needed, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
The next time we shall see, if the Lord will, the deep importance of this exhortation to put on the whole armour of God. But now I wish you to notice that it is of great moment that we should
PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD.
Not simply the breastplate; not simply the helmet; not simply taking the shield; but the whole armour of God. And these words, “put on” the whole armour, are to indicate to us, to make use of the armour. It is to be “put on.” It is one thing to know the armour which God has provided. We may know all about it very intimately, but it is a different thing to put it on. Yet, God has provided this armour, in order that we may put it on, and thus be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
If we do not put it on, then it will profit us nothing. Just as it is with the gospel. God provides it for us; He has made this provision in order that we may escape punishment; and Christ says that they who believe shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Yet if poor sinners do not receive Christ, if they reject Him, and go on trusting in self, or living in carelessness and utter indifference as to the things of God, then all this blessed provision for them, through the sufferings and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, will profit them nothing. They must appropriate it, by God’s grace, to themselves.
Now, it is precisely so with the saints. They will not profit by the armour, unless they put it on. But one says, “I am so weak”. What then? You stand all the more in need of it; cry, “my Father, I am Thy weak child; help me to put on Thy armour.” God will accept thy cry, and He will help the weak one who so cries.
There is an apparent contradiction between, on the one hand, the sovereignty of God, which is plainly revealed, and on the other hand, the “will of man.” We have no power of our own, and yet we are responsible persons. We are commanded distinctly to receive and obey the gospel; and if we do not, yet we are responsible.
If, however, we feel our own utter inability, then let us go to God, and say to Him, “I am weak and sinful, and cannot receive the gospel. Help Thou me.” If we do this, we shall be helped, as God is willing to do so, and willing to bless us, if we only seek Him.
So it is with the armour of God. If we are weak, let us say, “Father, see Thy weak child. Yet I wish to put on this armour. Help thou me.” You will find that He is willing to help us.
But why is it so important that we put on the whole armour of God, and not a part only? For this very reason, that we should be able to
STAND AGAINST THE WILES OF THE DEVIL.
There are many of those who say, with the ungodly world, that there is no such person as the devil. But the Holy Ghost reveals the fact that there is such a person. I am as thoroughly convinced of this in my inmost soul, as I am convinced of the reality of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ; and of the existence of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the salvation of all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But while it is true that there is such a person, and while it is true that he who is against us is mighty,—very mighty, yet this is also true that He that is for us is still more mighty; and that in the riches of His grace He has created and provided for His poor weak children the whole armour, whereby they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. And as long as we make use of this whole armour, we shall find how ready He is to help us in all our weakness and helplessness.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers; against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We have a conflict, but it is not a conflict of this world. It is not according to the ideas of this world. As, for instance, when in an earthly conflict soldier wrestles against soldier, flesh and blood against flesh and blood. Not thus is our warfare. It is of a spiritual character, and altogether against spiritual forces; “against principalities and against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” In a word, against the power of the evil one.
Here we stop, and from this, if God will, we shall go on next Friday evening to consider the whole armour of God. And those who come here, I affectionately advise to consider it before you come. Read the passage, and seek to meditate upon it with reference to your own heart, and try to see how far you understand these verses.
Thus our meditations, when we come together, will be all the more profitable. I have it particularly laid on my heart to say a word on this portion of Scripture, which I have found repeatedly to be food to my own soul, and which I trust may be also made profitable to others.