Paul promised the Ephesians that they would be built up or strengthened by the Word of God’s grace (Acts 20:32). Paul also prayed,on behalf of the Ephesians, that the Father “would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). How is this strengthening accomplished, and what is the relationship of the Word and the Spirit in this process? Paul explained this in detail in Ephesians 6, part of the near context of chapter3.
Paul began by admonishing Christians: “be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10). This is parallel to “be strengthened” (Ephesians 3:16). He went on to speak of “the power of his [God’s] might” (Ephesians 6:10). This is parallel to “with might” (Ephesians 3:16). How does the Holy Spirit strengthen the saint with might in the inner man? Paul answers by saying that the Christian must “put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11).
Four times in four verses Paul stated that this “armour of God” will give the Christian the ability to “stand.” First, he said that this armour will make him “able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Paul then proceeded to list the devil’s wiles: (1) “against principalities,” (2) “against powers,” (3) “against the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and (4)“against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Second, Paul stated that God’s armour will make saints “able to withstand in the evil day”(Ephesians 6:13). Third, Paul exclaimed that, by taking this armour, children of God will be able “having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Fourth and finally, Paul commanded Christians to “stand therefore” (Ephesians 6:14).
Paul next launched into a detailed description of the “armour of God.”First, we are to be “girt about with truth” (6:14). Second, we are to have“on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). Third, we are to be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Fourth, we are to take “the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16). Fifth, we are to “take the helmet of salvation”(Ephesians 6:17). Sixth, we are to take “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). These are the things that Paul says can strengthen us so we can stand. But “the Truth” is the Word of God which sanctifies (John 17:17, 19). Righteousness refers to the commandments of God (Psalms 119:172) as revealed in the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17). The “Gospel of peace” is the “Gospel of grace” (Acts 20:24) or the Word of God’s grace which builds up and sanctifies (Acts 20:32). “The faith” is the “word of faith” Paul preached (Rom.10:8) and which was once delivered unto the saint (Jude 3). The Gospel of Christ is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Finally, the “sword of the Spirit” is the “word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). All six of these pieces of Christian armour and weaponry relate to the Word of God.How does the Holy Spirit help saints to stand? How does the Holy Spirit help saints to be strengthened? How does the Holy Spirit help saints to be sanctified? How does the Holy Spirit save saints at last? According to Paul, He does so through the Word of God (coupled with general/indirect providence). Do we need more than the Bible to be saved at last? According to Paul, we do not.
David B. Watson