This is perhaps a familiar passage to most, which may deaden us to its impact, but it is a very powerful and challenging climax to the letter. As the threads are drawn together we see that all that Paul has been telling them has an urgent importance – for the Christian life is no game or hobby, there is a war on against a deadly foe.
v.11 explains v.10 – the way to be strong in the Lord is by putting on God’s armour (his perhaps in the sense that it is the armour he wears (cf Is.59:17), as well as the armour he supplies.)
“the devil’s schemes” – particularly it would seem have the aim of spoiling relationships within the body (4:25-27, and compare 2Cor.2:10,11). Recognizing the nature of the foe is crucial if we are to realize the nature of the conflict (and therefore the kind of weaponry needed for the fight) – if we think of our foe in earthly terms we will look to merely earthly resources.
“the heavenly realms” have figured earlier in the letter – look at 1:20,21 and 2:6, which should encourage us that this foe, though real, is defeated. We need only to resist him, armed with the Gospel.
“the day of evil” probably refers to critical times in this present evil age when the devil’s schemes are particularly strong.
Notice the purpose is to “stand your ground”.
I wouldn’t suggest an in depth study on the individual pieces of armour. Essentially putting on the armour of God seems to mean knowing the Gospel, living the Gospel, and telling the Gospel – that is how we’ll stand firm as Christians.
“truth … righteousness” could refer to the truth of the Gospel and the righteousness given in the Gospel, or truthfulness and righteous living: there is warrant in the letter for taking them both ways. It needn’t be either/or.
“readiness” – to share the Gospel of peace is the sense.
“faith” – that lays hold of God’s promises
“sword of the Spirit” is the one offensive weapon, which we employ as we proclaim the Gospel.
Prayer is not part of the armour, but is essential for the fight and is given more prominence here than any particular weapon; it is foundational and the means by which we arm ourselves. Prayer at all times, about all things, and for all the saints – the battle is not ours alone and we should be helping our brothers and sisters to stand through our prayers.
Alertness is often linked to prayer (eg 1 Peter 4:7), and suggests in particular a mindfulness of Christ’s return.
As well as praying generally for other Christians, Paul particularly asks for prayer for himself. We might not have thought that Paul lacked fearlessness, but twice he asks them to pray for it, as we should for all those who preach the Gospel.
In both of the prayers we have looked at so far, Paul has prayed for them to know God’s strengthening power. Why is it needed in the light of this passage?
The Christian life often feels a struggle, but how do we sometimes fail to recognize who our struggle is against?
Why does it matter that we properly recognize the nature of the foe we are up against?
What are the devil’s schemes? What is he trying to do?
Is spiritual warfare about marching across the land to claim the ground for Jesus, according to these verses? If not, what kind of battle is it, and what is our objective?
What is the armour of God we are to put on?
In your own words, what does it mean to put on this armour? How then do we stand our ground?
Paul has prayed for them earlier in the letter, but now he urges them to pray. Clearly prayer is crucial in this spiritual battle.
How are they to pray?
[What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? … Alert to what? etc]
For whom are they to pray?
[presumably for themselves, but for each other too that we each stand firm, and for preachers]
For what are they to pray?
Particular lessons here for us?
How have these three studies challenged or changed our prayer lives?