ASK Commentary
June 23, 2005 

Our Greatest Weapon

Commentary for June 23, 2005 — Call for Support

Best-selling author Tom Clancy writes military techno-thriller books, several of which have been made into popular movies. He is well versed in the latest military technologies.

Several years ago I saw an interview of Clancy on C-SPAN cable television network. The moderator asked Mr. Clancy what was the most powerful weapon on the modern battlefield. Clancy answered simply, “the radio.” The moderator asked him to clarify, how is it the most powerful weapon? Tom Clancy replied (I’m paraphrasing), “Because you can call down a whole lot of hurt on the enemy if you can radio for help and support.”

That help and support means you can call for artillery fire on the enemy, call down air strikes, request reinforcements, request evacuation of wounded, request evacuation of your troops so you can fight another day. The radio can do all those things if you keep communications open with your superiors.

Biblical Warfare of Paul

Likewise, the apostle Paul tells us to call for support when we need it whenever we are involved in spiritual matters. In the last section of teaching in the Book of Ephesians comprising verses 6:10–20, Paul uses a military analogy:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

After encouraging the churches of Christ to be strong and empowered, note that in verse 11 Paul tells them to “put on the whole armor of God.” This is not a request by Paul. It is not a suggestion. It is an imperative command — “Do it! Put on the whole armor of God.”

It is this command to put on the armor of God that tells you that this is a combat metaphor using military implements in Paul’s day to clarify his message. He describes the enemy that is just as real (perhaps more so) than any human enemy.

It is an enemy that we must “wrestle” against. This word “wrestle” may seem out of place in an extended warfare metaphor until you understand, as Paul’s audience would have, that hand-to-hand mass combat in ancient times was a wrestling match by crowds of men pushing, stabbing, shoving, hitting, struggling — indeed wrestling — against one another to kill and injure the enemy before them.

In verse 13 Paul repeats the command about armor, again in the imperative mood:

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”

Note the three-fold repetition of the word “stand” which in Greek are three variations of the root word for “stand.” In verse 14, the third use of “stand” is a command also in the imperative mood in Greek. In ancient combat any one who falls is extremely vulnerable. Only those who stand will prevail.

Paul then goes on to describe the rest of the armor, the panoply, of military equipment that they must use:

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

  • Ephesians 6:15–17

Most of this equipment was defensive in function. The sword was offensive, although the shield on the front line is used as an offensive weapon as well. Particularly the Roman shield was used offensively to hold an enemy away from you, to knock him down, or push him back so you can gain room to swing your sword or spear to stab, injure, or kill the enemy. The edge of the shield was also sometimes used as a direct weapon to strike at the enemy. And yes, the shield’s main function was defensive to stop or hinder the “fiery darts,” the slings, arrows, javelins, and spears of the enemy.

Note what Paul then encourages us to do. He mentions the equivalent of the radio that Tom Clancy said was the most powerful weapon on the battlefield.

Praying always [on every occasion — continually]  
with all prayer and  
[with all] supplication in Spirit,
and watching thereunto with all perseverance and  
[with all] supplication for all saints.”

Praying and watching. We should be praying and expecting results if we pray and watch “in Spirit,” which means in accord with God’s Word (1 Kings 8:54; Psalm 6:9; Daniel 9:20; Matthew 26:41; Mark 13:33, 14:38; Luke 18:1, 21:36; Acts 1:14; 1 Peter 4:7; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2, 6; 1 Thessalonians 1:17; Hebrews 5:7; 1 Timothy 2:1; 2 Timothy 1:3). Paul also wanted them to pray for him (Ephesians 6:19) so he could “make known the mystery of the Gospel” for which he was God’s ambassador (6:20).

Our main offensive weapon is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. The shield of righteousness can also be used as an offensive weapon. Prayer and supplication (petition) is the equivalent of the radio which communicates direct with headquarters, with God. We have total and instant communication with God the Father to help us fight our spiritual battles as He directs, remembering always that we are not fighting against human agents.

On the battlefield if you do not request help, you will not receive assistance. Put simply, if you don’t ask, you won’t get. We have the Word of God as our communication from God. Prayer is our communication to God so we can request aid, reinforcements, more ammunition, have the wounded removed to safety, and even to “pull us out” of a bad situation when the battle goes against us. Communication is the strongest weapon, whether on the physical battlefield, or the spiritual battlefield. To neglect prayer is to neglect one of our most powerful weapons in our warfare.

Finally, Paul also asks them to pray for him (verses 19–20) as he performs the function of ambassador. Paul no longer needs prayers. He is dead in Christ, but we need each other’s prayers to call down assistance in our battles “not against flesh and blood.”

Paul’s Other Warfare References

Elsewhere Paul talks about wars that we must fight, in terms similar to those written later in Ephesians:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the 
pulling down of strong holds; 
Casting down imaginations, and  
[casting down] every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and  
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:3–5

This is not defensive warfare. It is offensive warfare, taking the battle to the enemy. In a personal letter to his colleague and spiritual son, Timothy, the apostle Paul again uses the war metaphor.

“This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:18–19

Paul admonished Timothy to continue having faith and a good conscience, to continue the war against spiritual powers and our own failings of the flesh. Learn from Paul’s words. Use your “radio” of prayer to call down, as Tom Clancy says, “a whole lot of hurt” on the spiritual enemies that you are war with in your life.

Prayer is direct communication. It is your personal communication with God your Father with Christ as the only mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). Use prayer. Do not neglect prayer. Ask God to help you pray constantly, not in formal ways, but casually yet privately, “instantly” as the King James Version has it, which actually means “persevering” in prayer (Romans 1:20). Dr. Martin’s excellent article “The Essentials of Prayer” will help you understand what prayer is all about, how Christ used prayer, and how you can pray according to God’s will. You can also listen to Dr. Martin speak the message of the article. The link is contained on the “The Essentials of Prayer” webpage.

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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