STRONG IN THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-21-71 8:15 a.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Strong in the Lord. In our preaching through the Book of Ephesians, we are rapidly coming to these closing verses. And I read from the text, Ephesians chapter 6, verse 10:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against—
then he names orders, the hierarchy of evil spirits—
against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in—
and you have it translated here—high places—in other texts in the Book of Ephesians it is translated—
in the heavenlies, in the heavenlies. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand.
All of Paul’s epistles are divided into two parts. The first part is doctrinal. He is expounding the will and mind of God. Then the second part is always hortatory; it is practical, admonitory. Now, in the long list of precepts by which Paul concludes the second half of this letter to the church of Ephesus, he finally comes to this magnificent passage of rhetorical grandeur. So splendid is it that the passage is actually lessened by exegesis and exposition. But we shall look at it closely, and the message today and Sunday week will be the warfare in the world of the spirit, in the spirit world. Today the message concerns us, as that warfare affects us.
Let us look at some of the words that he uses. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” [Ephesians 6:10-11]. The reason we look at these words, they mean far more if we can see the exact syllables that the Holy Spirit inspired, and then place it in our language and in our thoughts; for it is very difficult to take a word in another language and make it mean exactly what it first and originally meant in another word.
“Be strong in the Lord,” endunamoō, that’s present tense, second person plural, indicative mood, and passive voice of endunamoō. Endunamoō actually and literally means “to clothe one’s self with power.” And in the passive voice the subject is acted upon. In the King James translation you might think it refers to self effort, “Be strong in the Lord.” There’s no approach to that idea as you would gain from that translation. It is in the passive voice; the subject is acted upon. “We are to be strengthened in the Lord” [Ephesians 6:10].
You have that word used regarding the apostle Paul in the ninth chapter of Acts, after he was saved and went into Arabia [Galatians 1:15-17], then after three years returning to Damascus and that word is used: “And Paul was increased in strength” [Acts 9:22], that is, the power of the Lord God came upon him. You have word used in the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans. Paul is describing Abraham who was a hundred years old, and his wife was ninety years old, Sarah was ninety years old [Genesis 17:17, 21:5], “But he staggered not at the promise that he should have a son by Sarah; and,” then the word is used, “he was strengthened in the faith” [Romans 4:19-20]; God helped him to believe. Now that is the word here, endunamousthe, we are to be strengthened, something God does for us, something that human nature of itself cannot do. We are to be strengthened in the power of the Lord, in the Lord, “and in the power of His might” [Ephesians 6:10]. What’s the difference in “power,” kratos and “might,” ischus?” Well, kratos, translated here “power,” is manifest power, dominion. In those marvelous doxologies, as in 1 Peter chapter 4, “To Him be praise and power, dominion” [1 Peter 4:11]. In the first chapter of the Revelation, verse 6, “Unto Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and kratos, dominion, manifest power” [Revelation 1:5-6]. Then ischus, that’s inherent power. In the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians, Paul will say, “When He comes, when the Lord comes in the glory of His power” [2 Thessalonians 1:9], ischus, inherent power.
“Be strengthened, therefore, in the Lord, in the kratos, in the dominion, and in the ischus, in the inherent power of God. Put on the whole armor of the Lord, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles” [Ephesians 6:10-11]—and that’s one of the most interesting words you’ll ever see. Translated “wiles,” which is a limping kind of a translation, methodeia, “method,” methodeia. Now look at that word. Methodeia literally means to follow after a thing systematically, to learn it, to follow it, to write it down, to analyze it, to systemize it; methodeia, to follow a thing systematically. And the word came to have an evil meaning: to follow after with cunning deceit and trickery, methodeia. And it refers to the systematic evil of Satan.
Somebody asked me yesterday: in the temptations of the Lord, Satan promised Jesus the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them if He would fall down and worship him [Matthew 4:8-9]. And the question was did Satan have that glory to give to Christ? And my answer is very plain and simple: yes. It was no temptation or trial at all if he did not have it to give.
But Paul, in the fourth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, called Satan “the god of this world” [2 Corinthians 4:4]. Well, do you believe that? Look around you. Do you see anything more universal than death? Satan, the god of this world; do you see anything more universal than sin, or pain, or suffering? This world in the heavenlies and in the terrestrial is afflicted with methodeia, a systematic system, a methodical trickery of evil, presided over by the spirits of the abyss under the leadership of Satan; the system of evil of the devil [Ephesians 6:10-11].
My brethren, there is conflict at the very heart of this world; “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness” [Ephesians 6:12]; all of those are names of hierarchical evil angels in the heavenlies. There is conflict and war at the very heart of the universe. And you cannot escape it, you cannot flee from it.
If we go to the moon, we’ll find that conflict among us there. If we finally get to Mars, we’ll find that same altercation and confrontation among us there. If we explore the heavens, and build spaces up there in the sky, they will be used for war and for purposes of destruction. The history of the world is written in blood, every page of it: in the days of the Hittites, and the Hyksos, and the Elamites, and the Sumerians; in the days of Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser and Sennacherib, and Ashurbanipal; in the days of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar; in the days of Cyrus and Cambyses, and Darius, and Xerxes and Artaxerxes; in the days of Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great, in the days of the Cassander and Antigonus, and Lysimachus, and Ptolemy, and Antiochus, and Seleucus; in the days of Pompey, and Caesar and Hannibal, and Scipio; in the days of Attila, and Genghis Khan, and Kublai Khan, and Tamerlane; in the days of Charlemagne, and Napoleon, and Wellington, and in the days of Bismarck, and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Hitler, and Tojo. And in days of peace, prepare for war. There is conflict at the very heart of this universe, and its story is written in blood.
Why? For personal pride. One thing; sin began in the heart of Lucifer when he lifted himself up against God in pride; pride [Ezekiel 28:15-17]. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for my glory and for my excellent majesty?” [Daniel 4:30]. And Alexander the Great sat on the banks of the Indus River and wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. Napoleon said, “Conquest has made me, and conquest must maintain me.” Can you imagine the thrill that Hitler felt when the youth of Germany by the hundred of thousands raised their hands to heil Hitler?
Why? For national supremacy. Hamilcar took his little boy Hannibal and made the little lad swear undying hatred and destruction of the Roman Empire. Japan in the Second World War fought for her place in the sun, and because there is something inherent in the human spirit that drives toward oppression and conquest and domination.
Sound, sound the clarion; fill the fife!
Let all the trembling world proclaim
There’s more glory in one hour of strife
Than an age without a name.
[from “Old Mortality,” Sir Walter Scott and “Verses Written During the War,”
Thomas Osbert Mordaunt]
When Clovis king of France had his army baptized, his warriors held up their fists above the water to wield their battle-axes as never before; this arm is unbaptized, and they fought as furiously as they ever had done before.
Now that conflict and that civil war is also in the Christian life and in the Christian faith. “Finally, my brethren, be clothed in the power of God and in the kratos of His ischus. Put on the whole panoplia,” translated here “armor,” “put on the whole panoplia of God, that you may be able to stand against the methodeia,” the system of destruction of the devil. “For our war, and our fight, and our conflict is not against flesh and blood” [Ephesians 6:12]. It’s not something you can seize with your hands and choke it to death, or take a sword and cut it asunder, or a submachine gun and mow it down. “It is against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, spiritual thrones and influences in even the heavenly places” [Ephesians 6:10-13].
The Christian warfare therefore is internal. It’s in you. It is a civil war in your own soul. In the fifth chapter of Galatians, and in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul will describe the two natures on the inside of you [Galatians 5:16-26; Romans 8:1-27]. You’re two. You’re not one, you’re two. And they war against one another, the apostle says. Sometimes people think because of the depravity of their own souls, even after they’re Christians, after they’re saved, that they haven’t been really, genuinely saved. It’s just the opposite. Because you have that conflict and that war in your soul is a sign that you are saved, and you all have it; this war is in ourselves. The battlefield is our very souls, and that battlefield is in the world all around us.
Worldliness: how do you grasp it, or hold it, or shoot it, or murder it, or cut it, or decimate it? Worldliness is an influence. It’s a spiritual reality. It’s an atmosphere, and you live in it. The world does not lend itself to praise, or to piety, or to prayer. Worldliness is an enemy to God, and we live in a world of worldliness. And the conflict reaches into the realm of the spirit world above us, beyond us, around us, beneath us, and in us. The very world, unseen and invisible, wars against the child of God. When the Lord was driven out into the wilderness, why? Because He had taken upon Himself our nature, and He had to be confronted with the trials of the evil one [Matthew 4:1-11]. The Christian warfare is inside, and it’s outside, and it is spiritual, and of a spiritual nature.
Now, the apostle in presenting that, “Finally, my brethren, endunamousthe, be ye strengthened” [Ephesians 6:10]; how? How does a Christian war, and how does he fight, and how does he stand against such insuperable opponents and enemies and decimating avengers? Could it be that we can war with physical strength?
You know, the time was when a man was estimated and his value was ascertained by his physical strength. Can you imagine how the exploits of Samson must have thrilled the people of his day? Well, even I can remember when I was a boy; there wasn’t any boy that didn’t talk all the time about who could whip whom. And even the adults were somewhat like that. That is a passing, insignificant nothingness.
Even a Prussian monarch, with his seven foot grenadiers, made but for today a submachine gun’s more splendid target; physical prowess is nothing. As I go around the world and look at these walled cities, I cannot help but think as I look at them, in India, or in Japan, or Jerusalem, say, those tremendous walls, just exactly what would that physical might be against a modern atomic bomb and the bomber to deliver it? It is nothing. It’s very insignificance mocks it and the purpose for which it was built. The strength cannot be physical.
Well, shall we war with weapons of the intellect and of the mind? I don’t deny that brilliance of intellect charms and captivates. The Greeks had a saying, “gnosis dunamis estin,” “knowledge is power.” Socrates taught that if one actually knew, he would be actually perfect. Having known, having been taught, being knowledgeable, he would always make the right decisions. That is the basic philosophy of Socrates. Oh, don’t you wish that could be so? That this warfare would be nothing but a matter of teaching, and of knowledge, and of understanding?
The problem lies that our minds and our intellects are just as fallen as our mortal anatomical frames. Actually, the mind can enter into nothing! It is of no consequence and significance. There’s not a question, a vital question that I want to know, that I ask, that the mind can ever answer, never. The mind, the understanding, the intellect, cannot enter into beginnings and origins. They don’t know, nor shall they ever know. The mind and the intellect and the understanding cannot enter into futurities and into destinies. Nobody knows; nobody. The mind cannot enter into it.
Nor can the mind and the intellect and the understanding even enter into the mysteries that I see around me. Just exactly how those beautiful flowers out of mud, and muck, and mire, and dirt; you just see it, and it’s a mystery into which mind cannot enter. My brother, you cannot burnish a lampstand and make it give light. All that the lampstand can do is just to hold up the light. Nor is there light in the mind itself; It is but a lamp stand in which God places the light of His truth and grace and redemptive glory.
Then how am I to be strengthened in this warfare of the soul, and of life, and of the world? “Endunamousthe, be clothed in the might and in the power, in the dominion and in the inherent strength of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:10]. It is something that has to come from God. It is not something we can do ourselves in our weak, and impoverished, and decimated, and fallen natures. A brawny muscle may be able to tunnel through a mountain, and a brilliant intellect may be able to grapple with mathematical problems; but in the warfare in which we’re engaged, to build in troublest times, in warfare, a temple to God in our own souls and a temple to God in the congregation of the Lord, this is beyond the pale of our human ableness and endowments. It must come from God.
Well, if God is to do it, how? The Scriptures plainly reply: “God has spoken once; and twice have I heard it; that power belongeth to God” [Psalm 62:11]. “All authority, all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18]; and that kratos, that dominion, and that ischus, that inherent authority and strength, God gives to us.
There’s no sweeter, more meaningful passage in God’s Book than the twelfth verse of the first chapter of John: “But as many as received Him, believed in Him, trusted Him, took Him, but as many as received Him, to them gave He the power, the authority, the privilege to become the children of God . . . born not after the will of the flesh or of blood, but after the will of God” [John 1:12-13]. It is a strength from the outside, beyond us, from heaven in the Lord.
It builds itself upon the rock of Christ [1 Corinthians 10:4]. It takes hold upon the almightiness of Jehovah. It sees things invisible and eternal. It endures as beholding Him who is invisible. And it triumphs in the power of the Lord. It kneels in prayer. It communes with heaven. It searches the Word of God for the divine secrets and the mysteries of His revelation. And it appeals to us all in the call and work of the Lord; all of us; all of us. The appeal is to all of us. The humblest, the most unlearned and untaught, the poorest, the finest, the most intellectual, the most academic, the most elevated, the most cultivated, the most gifted, to all of us, that appeal from God is made: come, come, come.
You know, I remember the marvelous address of Admiral Nimitz on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay the second day of September, when Japan capitulated and the war was done. Admiral Nimitz closed that short but marvelous address. He was the head, the admiral, the chief of all the naval operations in the Pacific; and Japan was a naval empire. And he closed that wonderful address with these words, something like this: “Close to my headquarters in Guam, in a little green valley, there is a military cemetery. I look out my window on that little valley and I see those ordered rows of white crosses.” He says, “I walk among those fallen comrades, soldiers, Marines, and sailors, and I read their names.” And he named a long list of those men, ordinary, plain American boys. Then he said, “They fought together as comrades in arms. They died together, and now they sleep together. And this day of victory and triumph is the fruit of their dedicated lives.”
That is exactly what God calls us to in the warfare of the Lord: plain, humble, ordinary people locked together in a common determination, brothers in arms, in Christ.
Am I a soldier of the Lord,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed thro’ bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
[“Am I a Soldier at the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
“Finally, my brethren, endunamousthe, be strengthened, be clothed, in the kratos, in the dominion, and in the ischus, in the power of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:10].
That’s your invitation from God, to join hands with Christ and march to glory and to victory with Him. If you will, come and stand by me. A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, I make it now, I am coming now” [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. Do it now, on the first note of the first stanza, and may the angels of glory attend your way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Ephesians divided
into two parts: doctrinal, practical
B. The words Paul uses
– “be strengthened in the Lord”(Acts 9:22,
– “manifest power and dominion” (1 Peter 4:11,
– “inherent power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
– refers to systematic evil of Satan
Satan is the god of this world (Matthew 4:8-9, 2
II. Conflict at the heart of universe(Ephesians 6:12)
Cannot escape it
History of the world written in blood
1. Fought for personal
2. Fought for national
3. Fought for glory and
III. The Christian warfare
the world of spirit beings
In our own souls (Galatians 5:17, Romans 8:13)
In the world in which we live (Matthew 4:1-11)
IV. Endunamousthe – be strengthened(Ephesians 6:10)
A. Not physical
B. Not intellectual
Spiritual strength – must come from God(Psalm
62:11, Matthew 28:18, John 1:12-13)
Appeal to all of us to come
Hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”