Spiritual Warfare And The Church’s Mission According To Ephesians 6:10–17 -- By: Mark D. Owens
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 87
Spiritual Warfare And The Church’s Mission According To Ephesians 6:10–17
Ephesians 6:10–17 is typically understood as either a call to engage in spiritual warfare with the ‘powers’ or as a plea for ethical living. While these two interpretations are not necessarily incorrect, they are likely incomplete. More specifically, they do not account for the author’s use of Isaiah in verses 14–15 and 17 and how this text summarises the whole of Ephesians. When one considers these two factors, it becomes reasonable to conclude that this text portrays the church as a community of ‘divine-warriors’ who continue Christ’s mission by extending the new creation inaugurated by His sacrificial death and resurrection.
The significance of the call to ‘put on the whole armour of God’ in Ephesians 6:10–17 unfortunately remains a matter of some debate.1 This passage seems most often read (especially by laypeople) as a command to engage in spiritual warfare.2 Others, who are unwilling to accept the existence of cosmic evil, view the primary function of this
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 88
passage to be an appeal to virtuous living.3 D. Reinhard has also recently argued that this text should be understood as a description of the believer’s union with Christ with a view to reminding believers of the resources available to combat the disunity effected by the ‘powers’.4 In general, one could argue that the two primary interpretations of the passage emphasise different aspects of this text. That is, while the spiritual warfare interpretation stresses the nature of the Church’s opponents, the Christian virtue interpretation emphasises the ethical qualities associated with the panoply in verses 14–17. The difficulty with these readings is that neither sufficiently accounts for two significant features of this text: 1) the likelihood that Ephesians 6:10–17 is a summary of the entire letter;5 and 2) the use of Isaiah in Ephesians 6:14–17.
Click here to subscribe