Ephesians closes with one of Paul’s great rallying cries. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand the evil day. And he goes on to describe the armor, the weapons of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, exhorting the Ephesians to pray always for all things. And pray for me, Paul adds, that I may open my mouth boldly.
You can almost hear the Ephesians rising to their feet, armor clanking, cheering, raising their hands, feeling the wind in their sails.
And Paul says: pray for me that I may speak boldly, for I am an ambassador, in chains.
And suddenly the room goes silent. Paul, the great apostle, the great general in the army of Christ is delivering this rally cry from where? From a Roman prison.
Paul knows what he’s doing. He knows that Christians are tempted to forget how God loves to work.
Paul does not deliver this mighty rallying cry, this defiant call to arms – he does not deliver this in spite of his chains. Paul does not call the Ephesians to battle overlooking his chains, ignoring his chains, mentally bracing himself against the appearance of defeat. Paul cries “victory!” precisely because of his chains, precisely because he has been arrested. Paul isn’t closing his eyes and imagining another world. Paul isn’t pretending that he’s somewhere else. He’s not daydreaming and picturing himself on a white horse atop a hill with a host of valiant warriors behind. No, Paul is looking at the cuffs on his wrists, the bars in front of his face, the smell of feces and death all around him, and the moans of suffering echoing through the cells, and Paul tells the scribe writing the letter to the Ephesians, tell them to get their battle armor on because I am in chains and now we’ve got the principalities and powers on the run.
How do we know this?
Because the death of Jesus is the great Christian victory. Now even death has been taken from the enemy, plundered and now resides firmly in the hand of our Jesus. In His hand, He holds the keys to death and Hades (Rev. 1:18). Now even death and suffering must serve Him. Now when the saints suffer, when the saints die, we know even these have been taken up into Christ’s conquest of death and darkness. We know that the death of the saints is precious in His sight. We know how this story goes. Because of the cross, now even death has been turned back on death. Every saint who dies goes down into the grave a ticking time bomb, and at the last day, death will be blown to Hell because of the death of millions upon millions of God’s beloved saints. Now we lay our lives down boldly, gladly, triumphantly. If our King has triumphed over the grave, then our bodies are like cruise missiles well aimed and every single one, another blow to the Kingdom of Darkness.
So take up your cross. Stand tall. Cry boldly. Pray confidently. Sing louder. Rejoice that you have been counted worthy to suffer as a saint of God. Don’t you know that God has determined to flood this world with His grace, through the weakness and brokenness and yes, even the death of His precious saints? Look at your chains, look at your chemo, look at your ailing body, look at the grave marker, look at the brokenness, and remember your King. Remember Paul calling the Ephesians to seize the victory while sitting in Roman chains. Take up the full armor of God, the armor of light, because now we have the powers of darkness on the run.