“Why are you called a Christian?” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 32). We are because we bear the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16). Not only does this name mark us out positively as followers of Jesus Christ, but also it marks us out negatively—as targets for Satan’s flaming arrows. Do you realize you are at war, Christian? Wake up! Your enemy is at the gate! Arise; prepare for battle! Your manual for battle is found in Ephesians 6 and Paul’s description of “the armor of God.” It’s this manual on spiritual warfare that we’ll become familiar with in the coming articles. Let’s focus now on verse 10 and the necessity of being strong against Satan.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” What kind of verbs are “be strong” here in verse 10 and later in the text: “put on” (v. 11), “take up” (v. 13), and “stand” (vv. 11, 13, 14)? These are imperatives. That means that they call us to do something. You are called to “be strong” and “fight against sin and the devil in this life” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 32).
This idea that we are called to be strong in warfare against sin and Satan is illustrated wonderfully from church history. From the early records we have, they had a practice in which the person being baptized or the parents who brought their children for baptism not only pronounced their faith—“I believe in God the Father Almighty . . . I believe in Jesus Christ . . . I believe in the Holy Spirit”—but they would also renounce the devil. They were asked, “Do you renounce the devil and his works,” to which they were to reply, “I renounce.” In 1561 Zürich’s main pastor, Heinrich Bullinger, prepared to die by writing his last will and testament in the form of what came to be known as the Second Helvetic Confession. In it he said by baptism we have become “soldiers enlisted for the holy warfare of Christ, that all our life long we should fight against the world, Satan, and our own flesh” (art. 20.4).
This call is impressed upon us in the post-baptismal prayer where we pray the baptized will “manfully fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion.”
To “be strong” takes spiritual courage in the face of a formidable foe. You are called to stand opposite on the field of battle against Satan. He is the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2)—a vast army of fallen, selfish, and wicked demons. He is like a “roaring lion” (1 Pet. 5:8)—strong, powerful, and fierce. He is “a great red dragon” (Rev. 12:3) whose desire is to devour you, his enemy. And although he disguises himself as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), you know before whom you stand. Do not be deceived or lulled to sleep.
Be strong, O church! Have the courage of Abraham and his 318 trained men, who sought and fought four great kings to rescue Lot (Gen. 14). Have the courage of Joshua, who took up arms against the armies of the nations. Have the courage of David, who, though being young and ill equipped, stood against Goliath in the name of the Lord and defeated him. Have courage against your knowing “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
How dare we stand up to Satan and his minions? How dare we stand up to one who deceived sinless Eve and Adam? How dare we stand up to the one who has deceived the nations and led them astray for generations? John Calvin said of this passage, “There is always much to enfeeble us, and we are ill fitted to resist.” Yet we resist not in our own names or strength. Our confidence is in the name of the Lord and in the strength of his might.
First, we are to be confident in the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we not be confident, courageous, and willing to heed the Spirit’s call to courage when we follow our victorious captain into battle?
It is this Lord who greets us in grace and peace (1:2).
It is this Lord in whom we were chosen from the foundation of the earth (1:4).
It is this Lord through whom we were adopted into God the Father’s heavenly family (1:5).
It is this Lord in whom we have been blessed (1:6).
It is this Lord who has redeemed us through his own blood (1:7).
Shall I continue? Are you confident yet?
It is in this Lord that we have an eternal inheritance (1:11).
It is with this Lord that we have been made alive (2:5).
It is with this Lord that we have been raised to sit in heavenly places (2:6).
It is in this Lord that we have been recreated for good works (2:10).
It is by this Lord’s blood’s that we who were once afar off have been brought near (2:13).
It is this Lord who is our peace (2:14).
It is this Lord who has abolished the law of commandments against us (2:15).
It is this Lord who has reconciled us to God (2:16).
It is through this Lord that we have access to God (2:18).
It is upon this Lord’s foundation that we as the household of God are built (2:20).
It is this Lord whose unsearchable riches have been preached to us (3:8).
Our confidence is in Christ, beloved. Can you see why? This is why Paul elsewhere says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Second, we are to be confident in the strength of the Lord’s might. What is this strength? It is the power and might of God in raising Christ. Listen to Paul’s prayers in Ephesians. Paul prays that we would know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (1:19). What power is that? The power “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). How high is that? “Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (1:21). That power, you see, is toward us who believe! Notice also Paul’s prayer that we might be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” and that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love in Christ (3:16, 18, 19). And how can that power cause us to be confident? “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (3:20).
Beloved, there is a spiritual war raging in this world. Engage your calling! Be courageous and confident in the strength of the Lord and his might.
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
is the pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church in Carlsbad/Oceanside, CA.