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    Prayer and fasting 21 days – Ephesians 6 

    How we live at home and at work – or wherever we are with other people – really matters.  If our faith does not work at home it is not faith!  If we love and respect others, whatever our relationship with them might be from a human perspective, we are actually serving the Lord.

    Paul closes his letter with the famous passage about spiritual war.  We are not fighting humans (v12).  So we need to stand firm against all that the demonic forces can throw at us (v13).  How?  By living in truth and righteousness, ready to speak out the gospel as well as living it out; by living in faith and entering fully into salvation, the ‘shalom’ and wholeness that God offers us; by holding firm to what God says, particularly in scripture, and above all by prayer inspired by the Spirit!

    Lord, help us to recognise the enemy tricks to distract us from living well and serving you in the way we live with others.  Fill us afresh with your Spirit so we may persevere in prayer and stand firm in godly character.

    Further reflection

    As before in Ephesians the ‘instructions’ to different groups of people could look like the Law and be taken as things to do, but in fact the motivation and the ability come from God.  So we treat others well and love and respect them because we are serving the Lord in this way (verse 7).

    Children are to honour parents (that much is in the Old Covenant Law but the motivation is different now – see yesterday’s chapter and blog especially verses 1-2).  But for fathers not to provoke children was a challenge to the absolute power a father had under Roman law (the head of the family even had power to kill his own child!).  For parents to bring up children in discipline and the instruction of the Lord might seem normal to us, but it was radical in those days to treat children as people capable of having faith and worshipping God in the family of God.

    Employees are not bound to employers (“slaves” to “masters”) by wanting to please people but because are now “slaves” to Christ, obeying Him as Lord from the heart not out of mere obligation (verse 6).  Slavery in New Testament times was often more like a modern employment relationship but we must not play down the difficulties (e.g. bullying, unreasonable or illegal demands etc.) both then and now.  Employers are to be fair – imagine how radical it was in that society for a slave-owner to help and serve a slave in some ways just because he/she was a brother/sister in Christ!

    The passage on the armour is often taken as illustrating different defences against spiritual attacks, but it is better to see all the aspects as part of the same thing.  “Put on the whole armour..” (v11) – righteous living and righteous words go together and there is no great divide between prayer and speaking truth.  If we are deceitful or not peacemakers then we cannot expect God to hear our prayers!

    The armour is not just for defence.  We are wrestling (v12) against the powers so that all people have a chance to acknowledge Jesus is Lord (Mark 13:10 the gospel must be preached to every people group before the end; Psalm 110 He must reign until his enemies are subdued, etc.).  We are wrestling against the powers so that all things can be reconciled to God through Jesus (Eph 1:10). We are wrestling against the powers so that the manifold wisdom of God is shown to them (Eph 3:10).

    Theologians have debated whether the powers Paul speaks of are human powers (institutions, structures and authorities that are opposed to godly ways of living) or demonic spiritual powers.  Either way our struggle is not with human beings and not with human weapons.  He speaks simply of “powers” and the Old Testament background in passages like Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 link human and demonic powers. So the best interpretation is probably that Paul means both sinful structures and demonic spirits that motivate and energise them.

    However we understand the details, the important things are that we fight by living in truth and righteousness, ready to speak out the gospel as well as living it out; by living in faith and entering fully into salvation, the ‘shalom’ and wholeness that God offers us; by holding firm to what God says, particularly in scripture, and above all by prayer inspired by the Spirit! 

    Simon Smailus, 13/09/2017