The Preparation: Strength in the Lord
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. (6:10)
Basic to the effective Christian life is preparation. The unprepared believer becomes the defeated believer who seeks to serve the Lord in his own wisdom and power. The strength of the Christian life is dependence on God, being strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Any other strength proves to be impotent.
The cardinal reality presented in the book of Ephesians is that, as believers, we are in Christ and are one with Him. His life is our life, His power our power, His truth our truth, His way our way, and, as Paul goes on to say here, His strength is our strength.
The Lord’s strength is always more than sufficient for the battle. When Jesus told the church at Philadelphia, “I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:8), He was affirming that even a little power was enough to preserve them, because it was the Lord’s supernatural power. Our own strength is never strong enough to oppose Satan, but when we are strong in the Lord, even a little of His strength is sufficient to win any battle. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” Paul said (Phil. 4:13). It is not the amount of the strength we have that is important—only its source.
In the ultimate sense, the church’s battles with Satan are already won. In his crucifixion and resurrection Jesus destroyed Satan and his power of sin and death (Rom. 5:18–21; 1 Cor. 15:56–57; Heb. 2:14). Trust in Jesus Christ initiates a person into that victory. To the extent that a Christian is strong in the Lord, his victory over the worst that Satan has to offer is guaranteed. We are in a war—a fierce and terrible war—but we have no reason to be afraid if we are on the Lord’s side. Appropriation of that strength comes through the means of grace—prayer, knowledge of and obedience to the Word, and faith in the promises of God.
After several years of ministry, Timothy became fearful and timid. He faced stronger temptations than he had expected and considerably more opposition. Paul wrote to him, “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.… You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:6–8; 2:1).
Our Enabling (6:10)
With the simple word “Finally” (Eph. 6:10), the apostle reminds us that there has been instruction preceding this immediate plan for spiritual battle. This plan cannot operate in isolation but presumes a grasp of matters previously addressed in the book of Ephesians. These matters include an understanding of the divine source of our relationship with the God who eternally loved us and made us his own (chaps. 1–2), the need for a unified relationship with others in the church whose varying gifts help make us spiritually mature (chaps. 3–4), and the beauty of loving and sacrificial relationships in our families that help us incorporate and reflect Christ’s grace (chaps. 5–6). Implicit in these preceding instructions are all the patterns of belief and behavior that we would expect the apostle to say equip us for godly living.
There are no shortcuts to the spiritual battle preparation identified here but, thankfully, there is no mystery either. Doing as Paul has instructed in preceding passages—putting ourselves under sound teaching, seeking prayerful association and accountability to others in the church, and serving one another in healthy family relationships—nourishes Christlikeness in us. Following these well-worn paths to godliness informs and aids Christian living. Ours is not a magic religion full of mysterious incantations, secret handshakes, and arcane codes. Thus we have a duty to challenge others and ourselves to be faithful in these ordinary patterns of spiritual preparation if we are to progress and persevere in spiritual maturity as God intends. Our immersion in, and integrity with, these patterns of Christian association and accountability are the ordinary means by which we grow in godliness.
Of course, we fear that these ordinary means of growth are not enough. And, in truth, they are not. If all we are depending on to help us overcome Satan are our own right beliefs and behaviors, then we are in grave danger. Perhaps we have discovered this when we have altered our patterns and renewed our personal resolve to master a sinful practice in our lives, only to struggle and fall again. Then what should we do? Paul answers in what follows with his gentle reminder of the necessity of godly patterns in our lives. Paul does not annul the necessity of the patterns, but he places them in their proper context.
Godly Power (6:10)
Ultimately God’s power alone equips us to grow spiritually by motivating our hearts and enabling our wills to follow the patterns of godliness his Word commands. God expresses this power by embracing us and energizing us so that we can do as he requires.
We can begin thinking how this empowering process works by acknowledging the reservations we may have about the biblical patterns already mentioned. We may feel cautious about these ordinary means of grace not because we question their goodness, but because we fear that we are not good enough to practice them faithfully enough. Our Lord’s care shines in how he deals with this concern in Paul’s initial words.
The apostle begins his instruction by urging us, “Be strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10). The “in the Lord” phrase is Paul’s common way of referring to our relationship with God made possible through our union with Christ. We are in him: covered by his blood, robed in his righteousness, members of his household, sons and daughters, in union with him, beloved. We may dread the exposure of our weaknesses in our battle against sin, but the apostle reminds us that the strength of our relationship with our God is provided by Christ. Because we are in him, we have access to a power that is greater than we.
My five-year-old daughter decided to play soccer with her much older siblings and cousins at a Thanksgiving gathering. She quickly tripped and got trampled. In tears she ran off the field, determined to enter the fray no more. So I picked her up, hugged her to my chest, and played the rest of the game with her in my arms. Knowing that she was in my embrace renewed her zeal for the battle, and she could not have been a more enthusiastic team member. In a similar way we gain strength for spiritual battle from knowing that even if we have failed and fallen, we are “in the Lord.” Because knowledge of our unchanging relationship grants us the will to fight and to reenter the fray when we have fallen, we understand why Paul first urges that we “Be strong in the Lord.” In God’s embrace we will battle with renewed zeal and strength.
After these words of relational encouragement, Paul identifies the source of the power that we will need for spiritual battle: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (lit., “the power of his might,” Eph. 6:10). God not only provides us support but also the actual strength that we need for spiritual battle. The nature of this strength that comes from God should not be mistaken for mere internal energy, as though God were promising to dispense spiritual vitamins or pep pills. Paul’s specific wording indicates that God does not want us merely to supplement our strength with his, but so to invigorate the new life that he has regenerated in us that he is our strength.
The phrase that Paul here uses to refer to God’s might, he has used previously in this epistle. In the first chapter, Paul writes that he wants the saints to know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:19a). That incomparable power the apostle then describes as “the power of his might” (Eph. 1:19b) that God “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:20). Then Paul goes on to say that this power also “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.… And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5–6). All of this background makes it clear that the “mighty power” in which Paul urges us to “be strong” is resurrection power—the divine power that makes the dead live and reign in heaven.
The powers of resurrection and rule have special significance in this passage where Paul indicates that believers war not against flesh and blood but against authorities and powers of this dark world (Eph. 6:12). Since Paul has earlier said that the risen Christ is above all authorities and powers (Eph. 1:21), then we who are in union with Christ are spiritually seated with him in heaven and thus have rule with him over the authorities and powers of Satan. The present effects of this power have been carefully described in the early passages of Ephesians. Because of the power of God’s might, we who were once dead in our transgressions and sins are now alive (Eph. 2:1, 5). Once we followed the ways of this world and were under the dominion of the ruler of the kingdom of darkness, but now by virtue of the definiteness of his sovereign choice we reign with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:2, 6). Once we were by nature objects of wrath, but we are now his glorious inheritance (Eph. 2:3; 1:18). Once we were foreigners and aliens, but now we are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19).
We can further understand the power of God’s mighty work in us by identifying the differences that distinguish our past spiritual status (before Christ indwelt us) from our present status (due to his indwelling Spirit):
|Once We Were||Now We Are|
|Dead (2:1)||Alive (2:5)|
|Under the dominion of Satan (2:2)||Seated in heavenly realms (2:6)|
|Objects of wrath (2:3)||His glorious inheritance (1:18)|
|Separate (2:12)||Brought near (2:13)|
|Foreigners (2:19)||Fellow citizens (2:19)|
|Aliens (2:19)||Household members (2:19)|
|Denied gospel mystery (3:5)||Understanding gospel mystery (3:4)|
|Infants (4:14)||Maturing in Christ (4:15)|
|Old self (4:22)||New self (4:24)|
|Darkness (5:8)||Light (5:8)|
These contrasting descriptions reiterate with startling clarity that God’s resurrection power has made us fundamentally different creatures than we were in our unregenerate state.
Through the power of God’s might, we have a new nature. Whereas the old nature was not able to resist the wiles of Satan and the lusts of our flesh, the new nature operates with the power of the risen Lord and thus has abilities never before attainable nor apprehensible. Sinclair Ferguson summarizes,
While we continue to be influenced by our past life, “in the flesh,” it is no longer the dominating influence in our present existence. We are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). Christ’s past (if we may so speak) is now dominant. Our past is a past “in Adam”; our present existence is “in Christ,” in the Spirit. This implies not only that we have fellowship with him in the communion of the Spirit, but that in him our past guilt is dealt with, and our bondage to sin, the law, and death has been brought to an end.
Biblical truths examined previously in this epistle now ring with greater clarity and significance (see Eph. 1:21–22; 2:4–10, 22; 3:16; 4:7; 5:8, 18). Because of Christ’s resurrection power at work in us, greater is he that is in us than the Evil One who tempts us (1 John 4:4). We enter spiritual warfare with strength born of the confidence that no temptation will assault us that is greater than our ability to resist—because we face our trials with that same indomitable force that raised Christ from the dead (1 Cor. 10:13). Isaac Watts wrote of the resurrection victory that we have over Satan’s attacks:
Hell and your sins resist your course;
But hell and sin are vanquished foes:
Your Jesus nailed them to the cross,
And sang the triumph when he rose.
Our minds protest, “This is not the way that I feel. I feel that I am not able to resist. I have fallen before and have resolved with all my willpower that I will not fall again, but then I have. I do not feel that this resurrection power is mine.” We feel this way because no greater vestige of our former nature clings to us than the doubt that our new nature is real and that the God who gave it is more powerful than any foe. That is why the apostle prepares us for spiritual battle with the truth of God’s certain relationship and the reality of our resurrection power. Faith in these is essential if we are to enter the battlefield with confidence.
Faith that God has made us new, has made us his, and has made us able is essential before we will experience God’s victory over compelling and compulsive sin. I thought of these truths as I listened recently to my wife working with a thirteen-year-old doing an algebra problem. The answer was not coming easily, and before too long my straight-A-student daughter was crying, “I will never get this. I can’t do it. I’m so dumb.”
My wife, with a voice made stern enough to cut through the tears, said, “You are not dumb, and I never want to hear you say that. Now look back two pages in your book and see what you already know is right and then come back to this problem.” Our daughter is not dumb. The sternness in her mother’s voice was actually a loving affirmation of our daughter’s true nature and ability. Only the lack of confidence that she could handle the problem kept her from pushing through to the answer. When her mother refused to allow this child to characterize herself by that powerless nature, the capability our daughter actually had came to the fore and she solved the problem.
God speaks in a similar fashion to his children through the apostle Paul. The Lord hears us crying, “I am so weak, evil, stupid, and incapable that I cannot overcome this sin.” We are lovingly corrected: “ ‘Be strong in the Lord and his mighty power.’ The One who has loved you gives you a nature that makes you capable. You must have faith in the power of his might. Your Adversary, who says that you cannot resist, lies and seeks your harm. Do not believe him.”
Finally. Resuming his general exhortations, he again enjoins them to be strong,—to summon up courage and vigour; for there is always much to enfeeble us, and we are ill fitted to resist. But when our weakness is considered, an exhortation like this would have no effect, unless the Lord were present, and stretched out his hand to render assistance, or rather, unless he supplied us with all the power. Paul therefore adds, in the Lord. As if he had said, “You have no right to reply, that you have not the ability; for all that I require of you is, be strong in the Lord.” To explain his meaning more fully, he adds, in the power of his might, which tends greatly to increase our confidence, particularly as it shews the remarkable assistance which God usually bestows upon believers. If the Lord aids us by his mighty power, we have no reason to shrink from the combat. But it will be asked, What purpose did it serve to enjoin the Ephesians to be strong in the Lord’s mighty power, which they could not of themselves accomplish? I answer, there are two clauses here which must be considered. He exhorts them to be courageous, but at the same time reminds them to ask from God a supply of their own deficiencies, and promises that, in answer to their prayers, the power of God will be displayed.
10 Paul introduces his final point with a customary “finally” (tou loipou; cf. Gal 6:17; Php 3:1; 1 Th 4:1). Returning to the language of power employed earlier in his prayers for his readers (1:19; 3:16, 20), Paul urges them to be strengthened continually (present, probably passive, imperative verbal form). The verb endynamoō (GK 1904; “strengthen”; NIV, “be strong”) is a favorite of Paul (six out of its seven uses in the NT are Paul’s) and one he often uses to describe God’s empowerment for his own ministry and for surviving hardship (Php 4:13; 1 Ti 1:12; 2 Ti 2:1; 4:17). In the same way, the church needs to appropriate God’s empowerment to fortify it for the spiritual ordeals it encounters. The call to “be strong” is natural in calling soldiers to battle (recall Jos 1:6–7, 9). To this appeal, Paul appends two prepositional phrases. First, they must be strengthened “in the Lord.” This comes as no surprise: only in union with Christ do the church and believers within it find the power to live the life to which God has called them. No human power alone can resist the devil’s designs. Second, and redundantly, they need to be strengthened “through the power of his [the Lord’s] strength” (en tō kratei tēs ischyos autou; NIV, “in his mighty power”). Paul first used the terms in this phrase in 1:19, where he told his readers of the “mighty strength” available to them in Christ. The capacity to fight spiritual battles lies in appropriating God’s strength. We are strong as we allow ourselves to be continually strengthened by God.
“Be strong in the Lord” (v. 10)
The main idea in this paragraph is that Christians must “put on” (v. 11) or “take up” (v. 13) “the full armor of God.” Beginning in verse 14, in fact, Paul gives a point-by-point set of instructions for how we must do this. Notice, however, that Paul begins the paragraph with an even more basic idea. The first thing he says is not “Take up the … armor” but “be strong in the Lord” (v. 10). That command, it seems, is foundational. The Christian must “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” This is the main thing—indeed, the goal which the armor of God serves: that we “be strong in the Lord”; that we have the courage and capacity to enter the fracas and engage the “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Let the self-sufficient among us remember, however, to put no confidence in our own power and abilities. For we are to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
“Be strong in the Lord,” Paul says. That is the most basic thing we must do as we engage the dark forces around us. But why? What are we trying to accomplish in our skirmishes with the devil? Our goal is to …
6:10 / Finally, that is, this is the last or concluding exhortation. The phrase be strong in the Lord is not a plea for self-effort. The present passive verb endynamoō literally means “be made strong in the Lord continually.” The next phrase indicates that this empowerment is possible because of the resources that the Lord supplies—in his mighty power.
Within this verse there are three Greek words for power—dynamis, kratos, and ischus. Distinctions between these words are not always possible or necessary; the message that comes through is that God’s resources enable the believer to face evil. These same words in 1:19 described the spiritual gifts of the believer (indicative); now believers are exhorted to experience the effect of that power in their daily life (imperative).
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 334). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 162–163). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.