These small group studies of Ephesians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, commentary, and applications for small groups. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Ephesians 6:10-23 Bible Study For Small Groups- Put on the Spiritual Army
I. Put on the whole armor of God (10-17)
II. Pray at all times in the Spirit (18-20)
III. Closing remarks and benediction (21-24)
I. Put on the whole armor of God (10-17)
- Why use the word “finally” here?
- How can we be strong?
- How can we put the armor on?
- What is the purpose?
- What is the real war taking place in the world?
- Who is it between?
- Who/what are the rulers/powers/world forces/spiritual forces of wickedness?
- What are they doing in the world?
- What is their goal?
- Who are they serving?
- How can we fight back?
- How can we win?
- What is the purpose of the armor?
- What does it mean to stand firm?
- Against what?
- How were these pieces used in war at the time?
- What is the significance of assigning certain characteristics to certain parts of the body?
Isaiah 40:31 – but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Colossians 1:11 – Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
1 Peter 5:8-9 – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Romans 13:14 – Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Colossians 3:10 – and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Colossians 1:13 – For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
Colossians 2:15 – And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Finally – Here we are at the end of the book of Ephesians. Paul has laid down a lot of foundational doctrines and spent the last two chapters on practical Christian day-to-day application, including how to act in the church towards other believers and how to act in the family. Now he comes to how to act towards the evil influences and satanic forces in the world. His instruction here is critical if a believer is to keep a close relationship with God and live a victorious life. If we lose the battle to Satan it is our families and our church who will suffer.
2. Be strong in the Lord –
We have to realize that we are weak. We are sinners. We stand no hope of being victorious against Satan/temptation by ourselves. Satan is the most powerful being in the universe apart from God and maybe the archangel Michael. He is clever and has masterfully perfected several schemes that have worked countless times to take down believers. He is a very strong foe. The only way we can win is to rely on God and His strength.
To understand the battle we are facing and how to win, it is helpful to read the famous hymn by Martin Luther “A Mighty Fortress.”
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate.
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
The devil is strong, but God is stronger still!
3. Stand firm against the devil and his schemes – Make no mistake. Satan and his demons are active in the world. They hate God and all the followers of God. Their constant goal is to fight against God and His kingdom. They enjoy nothing more than seeing believers sin and seeing unbelievers with hard hearts reject the gospel. Because they can’t defeat God, they go for the next best thing, defeating God’s followers.
This is a way to strike at God’s heart because He is grieved when we fall. It is a way to keep us from enjoying His blessings. They are spiteful and miserable. Misery enjoys company. They know they will be condemned by God and all they can do is drag as many down with them as possible. His strategies are effective. They worked in the garden of Eden and have worked countless times since then. This is our adversary.
4. Our struggle is not against the world. Our struggle is not against our unbelieving parents; it is not against communism; it is not against democrats; it is not against Obama; it is not against evolutionists.
Why not? These people are just the pawns in a larger battle. Even the worst politicians are still simply blind pawns and don’t know what they are doing.
Who is the battle between? It is a battle that has been going on for millennia, perhaps even millennia before the creation of the earth. It is a battle between Satan, his demons, and God and His angels. A battle between good and evil. No compromising. Satan has no rules of combat, no Geneva convention. It is an all-out, take no prisoners war.
His goal is the complete destruction of everything good, holy, and just.
So if they are invisible to us, how do they fight? They influence the world’s way of thinking, set up false systems of belief, tempt people to sin, and seek to undermine the foundations of the church through division.
Sometimes they encourage people to do good (to try to earn their way to heaven) and sometimes tempt people to do evil, like murder, rape, violence, terrorism, etc.
Satan is tricky. False teachers are tricky too. Most false teachers will not come into the church and say, “Hi. I am a false teacher. And today my topic is worshiping Satan.” No, Satan is subtle and sneaky. He generally avoids frontal assaults and attacks from the rear. He uses the world’s system and pop culture.
Why do we say all of this? It is a bleak picture, but every good soldier needs to know what he is up against. He needs to know what his enemy is like so that he can be alert
and won’t be caught by surprise. We need to know our enemy and just how evil he is. Don’t underestimate him.
A famous tactician named Sun Tzu once said, “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.”
We almost need to “respect” him. If we underestimate him, we will probably fall into his trap. When we underestimate Satan we attempt to face temptation on our own thinking we can “handle it.” By knowing how strong he is, we know that our only hope is depending on God.
5. What is our goal?
Our goal is to stand firm, to resist. Never surrender. Never give in.
Fight against this evil wherever we see it including our own lives, the lives of family members and friends, the church, the workplace, and the world. We do this not with our strength, but with the power that God gives to us. And God has given us the rules of combat:
- Flee temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18)
- Resist the devil (James 4:7)
- Seek fellowship and accountability (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Proverbs 27:17)
- Meeting together with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18)
- Seek wisdom from above (James 3:17-18)
- Avoid places of temptation (Psalm 1)
6. What are we to do?
Put on the full armor of God. This word “full” is very important. Imagine a soldier that goes to battle with most of the armor, but not all of it. He will have a weak point that will be exploited by the enemy. His mistake will probably cost him his life. The same is true spiritually. Every one of these characteristics is necessary if we are to be successful. If we neglect any of them, Satan will strike our weak point and we will fall.
God provides full armor and everything we need. We have no excuse not to be successful and we have no excuse not to have all of it. This is God’s protection for us. But we still have a decision to make, and that is to put it on. If the commander gives a soldier armor, and the soldier doesn’t put it on, that is his fault. Same with us.
If we don’t put on any of this armor it is our fault. It is a decision we need to make daily, a lifestyle choice. God gives us the resources. We need to use them.
7. What is the significance of the belt, helmet, shield, etc? (Discuss each piece of armor one by one.)
Is any one of them more important than the other? Some people spend a lot of time trying to ascertain the exact benefit of the breastplate, shield, helmet, etc. But I don’t think this is that important.
The armor is like a parable and if we break it down too far we can lose sight of the main point. If you take note of the cross-references at the beginning of this section you will notice that righteousness is described as a belt in one place, a weapon in another, and a breastplate here. Faith is described as a breastplate in 1 Thessalonians 5:8. If you call the breastplate salvation, and the helmet righteousness, I don’t think the meaning will change significantly.
What you can get from the depictions of the belt, helmet, shield, etc. is that each one is VERY important. Each one is critical. If even one is missing, the soldier will be very vulnerable. This goes hand in hand with the full armor. The armor is complete. We need each piece. If we ignore one area of our life, Satan will attack there. He always attacks at the weakest point.
China built the Great Wall to protect the country from invaders. It was amazing, stretching about sixty-nine million feet. It took hundreds of thousands of people generations to build it. But it didn’t work. It never successfully repelled an attack. Why? Enemies simply looked for a weak point and attacked it. In all of that distance, they were able to identify a weak spot and take advantage. The entire defense crumbled because it wasn’t complete.
8. All the weapons mentioned are defensive, except one.
What is our only attack weapon? What do you think is the significance of this?
This is a very important point. We don’t fight with our minds, words, opinions, logic, etc. I can try as hard as I can with my own logic and arguments to convince a person to become a believer. And let me tell you, I have tried, but it doesn’t work. We can’t talk anybody into heaven. If I want to convince someone to become a believer, I have to use the Word and let the Spirit use do His work in their hearts. If I want to change society, I have to use the Word. Lobbying or proposing social reforms won’t make a lasting difference. In the end, only true revival will change a nation.
God’s Word is what convicts the heart, changes societies, saves families, touches lives, etc. This is our weapon.
If a soldier could choose to fight with a sword or a towel, which would he choose? A sword of course. But if we choose to use some other weapon instead of the sword of the Spirit it is like choosing a towel or a pillow, not a very effective weapon.
Application: Every soldier needs to be well trained in their weapons. Are you well trained in God’s Word? How can you become more familiar with this weapon? The more you use it the sharper swordsman you will be.
The “Hand of the Word” refers to five ways to get a grasp of the Bible and never let go. The five methods are:
Pick one of these “fingers” and share how you can improve as a swordsman this week.
II. Pray at all times in the Spirit (18-20)
- When should we pray?
- What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
- What can we get from the command to be on the alert?
- Who should we pray for?
- What was Paul’s prayer request?
- Was this a physical need?
- Do your prayers mostly focus on the physical side or the spiritual side?
Romans 8:26-27 – In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. In this section we can learn six things about prayer
A. Pray at all times –
We are to pray regularly, devoting ourselves to it. We are to pray throughout each day as we encounter difficulties, temptations, or things to thank Him for. Daniel, Nehemiah, and others are great examples of this. When Nehemiah heard about his countrymen and the situation facing Jerusalem he instantly prayed (Nehemiah 1.) Later when the king allowed him to share his feelings, he instantly prayed a quick prayer to heaven. Nehemiah had a lifestyle of prayer, praying in big chunks and also quick bursts.
We all know we are to do this but are we doing it?
B. Pray in the Spirit – Very similar to praying in the name of Christ, we are to pray according to His will, not our own, to submit ourselves to Him. Prayer is a time to come to God seeking His will for ourselves, rather than trying to push Him to do ours. Prayer is more about changing ourselves as we align ourselves to Him than changing Him.
C. Be on the alert – This touches our attitude. It reminds me of the garden where the disciples were falling asleep. They were not alert. We are to realize the evil times of the world around us, be alert to the enemy and our own flesh, and be sensitive to the circumstances around us.
D. With all perseverance – Jesus touches on this in Luke in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Don’t give up. If something is worth praying once, it is worth praying more than once. If the request is good and right, keep making it. We should remember, however, to pray in the Spirit.
This is not an endorsement to bring our selfish requests, or ones we know are not God’s will, to Him again and again hoping He will give us what we want. Rather, it is a reminder that if we are praying in the Spirit, we should keep doing so even if the answer is slower or maybe different than what we thought we would see.
One time I shared with a brother who was dating and hoping to marry an unbeliever. We talked about God’s commands to not be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14.) At the end of our conversation, he said he would pray about it. I responded, “You don’t need to pray about it. God has already told you what to do in the Bible.”
Sometimes we pray to try to change God’s mind. His moral principles will not change. We should first have the right prayer request and then pray with perseverance.
E. For all the saints – We are to pray for one another. Too often our prayers focus on ourselves. But we need to focus on others. This is a spiritual battle and prayer is a large part of that. Praying for others is one of the best ways we can serve them. I hope all of you will regularly pray for each other throughout the week.
F. Paul’s petition was not for a physical need – Even though he was in prison, he didn’t ask for prayer that he would be released. He asked for prayer that he would speak out with boldness. There is nothing wrong with praying for physical things, but if you look at Paul, the vast majority of his prayers for the saints and himself were of the spiritual variety, prayer for holiness and wisdom, prayer for character.
We should examine our prayer and see if it is mostly physical requests. If so, we are ignoring the more important spiritual side. Pray for your character growth. Pray for weaknesses in life and the lives of others. Pray for strength against temptation. Pray for the salvation of friends and family.
Application: How can you grow in your prayer life as a result of what we have learned in this passage?
III. Closing remarks and benediction (21-24)
- How does Paul conclude this letter?
- What does this show about his heart for them?
Ephesians E-Book Study Guide – If this study is helpful, you can download our complete Ephesians study in PDF or other E-book versions.
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