“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”
Finally, my brethren . . .
The apostle is nearing the end of his epistle to the Ephesians. And, now, as far as the rest is concerned, concluding my epistle to the church at Ephesus, and also to the church of God throughout the ages, the apostle would say, I leave with you this final word of God: Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. And then the apostle holds before us in the verses that follow how we can be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Engaged in the fearful struggle of the ages, fighting a battle which is exclusively spiritual, we must put on the whole armor of God.
We must be strong in the midst of the world. That we are in the midst of the world is, of course, an obvious fact. But, what is fully as important is that we must be in the midst of the world. We do not believe in world flight, that we must seclude ourselves from the world. As impossible as it is for us to “get out” of the world, so wrong and contrary to the will of God is it for us to do so. Although not of the world, we are nevertheless in the world. Naturally speaking, contact with the world is unavoidable. We are not called to separate ourselves from any world sphere. In the world, we must certainly “rub elbows” with those who love the darkness rather than the light, with all the powers of sin and darkness.
What is this world that confronts us? Viewed naturally, they are exactly as we are. We come into contact with men having bodies and souls, who have the same needs we have . . . . We meet men who stand in the same earthy relationships as we do, such as parents and children, husbands and wives, employers and employees, etc. They are men of like passions as we are; they receive from God the same gifts, such as and sunshine, etc.
Viewed spiritually, however, they are vastly different. The children of the world are governed from below. It makes not a particle of difference how they may appear and conduct themselves in the outward sense of the word. They may be ever so humanitarian, striving for the betterment of mankind, making this world a better place in which to live. Fact is, they are governed from below. How scriptural this is! How the Word of God emphasizes this in Eph. 2:1-3 and Rom. 8:6-8! And governed from below, controlled by the power of sin and evil, they have but one purpose and goal. They are unalterably opposed to God and the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. All their humanitarian efforts are only man’s vain attempt to set up and establish his kingdom of sin, without God and the Christ of Calvary. All this will culminate in the kingdom of Antichrist. How important it is that we understand this, as fathers and mothers, as husbands and wives, also as young people.
Besides, this world is strong. On its side are the spiritual powers of the air, the devil and all his demonic host—see Eph. 6:12. United with the world are countless millions of men, far more numerous than the people of the Lord. Then, they have access to all the resources of this world . . . . And, to add to this very sober and apparently gloomy picture, there is the manner in which we must conduct this warfare. We may never resort to force or violence over against those who are in authority, and this also includes our employers. We must be willing to be led as sheep to the slaughter, even as Christ, and we must trust that the Lord will vindicate us in His own good time.
To be strong always means two things. It means that we must be strong in the truth. We do well to bear in mind that, in the apostle’s description of the Christian’s armor in the verses 13-17, the first item mentioned is the girdle of truth. We must know the will of God, what the Lord demands of us in the midst of the world. That will of God is contained for us in the infallible scriptures. And, we must also be able to recognize that will of God from whatever is opposed to it. We must have the power of spiritual discernment. Secondly, we must also be strong in our walk. We must always be ready to seal our confession of the truth with a new and godly walk. This may imply that we invite trouble and disaster. Yet, we must be strong. Doctrine and life belong inseparably together. If we are not grounded in the truth, we will be as a ship without a compass and a rudder; then we will drift aimlessly to and fro. But, if we do not seal our confession with a godly walk, then all our knowledge will be nothing more than a tinkling cymbal; then we are nothing; then it would have been better had we never been born.
How can we be strong? The expression, “be strong,” as it appears in the original, can mean two things. It can mean that we strengthen ourselves. It can also mean that we are strengthened. We prefer the passive interpretation: be strengthened. We believe this interpretation to be more in harmony with what follows: in the Lord, and in the power of His might. The translation, “be strong,” is permissible, if only we remember that our only strength is exactly in the Lord and in the power of His might. Besides, the word, “be strengthened,” is in the present tense, a being strengthened, and this means that we must be strengthened continually, as in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Indeed, we can never be strong in ourselves. On the one hand, the odds are hopelessly against us. The people of God are hopelessly outnumbered, in man power and in resources. Besides, we can never be strong because of ourselves. The fifth columnist lurks in our every bosom. We are holy only in principle. The spiritual undertow, the current against which we must struggle, is terrific in its force. And, we are naturally attracted to the things that are below. How can we ever protect this small principle of our new and heavenly obedience? Indeed, the history of the Church is littered with the debris of those who would stand in their own strength.
How can we be strong? First of all, we can be strong only as in the Lord. The Lord here is surely our Lord Jesus Christ. To be strong in Him means that He must be the sphere and origin of our strengthening. We must never seek help outside of Him. Of course, we must be in the Lord, united with Him. But then we must also seek all our strength from Him; always He must be the source and origin of all our strength. And, secondly, we must be strong in the power of His might. These words are added by the apostle as a further explanation of the words: be strong in the Lord. Indeed, well may we seek our strength in and from the Lord because of the power of His might.
Indeed, what a tremendous power is His! This power which proceeds from the crucified and living Christ is surely the same power which was wrought by God in the Christ Himself. It is the mighty power which raised up Christ from the dead and exalted Him into the highest glory, far above all principalities, power, might, and dominion. Christ emptied Himself into the lowest abyss of hell; the power of God exalted Him, our crucified Lord, into the highest heaven.
And, this power of His might is also ours. Christ is not merely an individual. He is not merely another man who suffered and died and rose again, and now beckons unto us that we follow in His footsteps. If this were true, we could never attain unto heavenly glory. Jesus must surely be more than a trail blazer who shows us the way. This Christ is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He suffered and died as our Head, the Head of all the elect given Him by the Father. He suffered and died for our sins. For us He merited everlasting life and glory. So, the power of His might which elevated Him to the highest glory is now His, and to be wrought by Him in all His own, the elect given Him by the Father from before the foundations of the world.
Now we understand the word of the apostle: be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Seek Him at all times, constantly, through God’s word and prayer. Seek Him as our Lord Whom we confess, Who suffered and died for us, paid for all our sins and has begun His work of grace in us. Seek Him as the One Who is alone able to keep us and to preserve us, Who can give us grace to be strong, to stand in the battle of faith, to persevere against hopeless odds, to enable us to suffer and shame, and then, when our life’s course has been finished, to take us unto Himself in everlasting life and glory.
Indeed, the struggle will be difficult. How this truth is emphasized in the Word of God! The world is unalterably opposed to the kingdom of God and of His Son. The book of Revelation speaks vividly of the struggle throughout the ages between the kingdom of this world and the cause of God and of His Christ. InRevelation 13 we have the description of the antichrist as he rises out of the sea and out of the earth. And inHebrews 11 the inspired writer speaks of the great cloud of witnesses, the saints of God throughout the Old Dispensation. Seeking all our strength in the Lord and in the power of His might, our path will not be a path of roses. The Word of God tells us that the servant is not greater than his master. This same truth is also emphasized in this sixth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians.
However, we will be strong. We will be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. And whatever may be life’s troubles and trials, this will be our joy and experience: the assurance of eternal and heavenly victory, that no harm can really befall us, and that all things work together for our good. Although hopelessly outnumbered, God is for us, and, if God be for us, nothing is and can be against us. We are more than conquerors through Christ that loved us. Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of His might, can preserve us even unto the end. And we will have the assurance that nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Even as we may read it inRomans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Let us, then, put on the whole armor of God, stand in the power of His grace, and rejoice in the victory which is ours and will be given us in that day when the battle will be over and the crown of victory given us only because of Jesus, the Captain of our salvation and the Author and Finisher of our faith.