Sabbath School Lesson for September 16-22, 2023

Overview of Lesson 13, Waging Peace

Memory Text: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:16, 17 ESV

What to expect:

  • Sunday: The Church, a Unified Army–Victory depended on their unified efforts to fight the evil one.
  • Monday: Belt and Breastplate–God’s truth and righteousness would protect them.
  • Tuesday: Shoes, the Church Wages Peace–Sandals provided by God are the means of spreading the happy news of peace.
  • Wednesday: Shield, Helmet, Sword–Faith, knowledge of salvation and the promises of God found in His word would see them through to the end.
  • Thursday: Practicing Battlefield Prayer–Earnest, persevering prayer brings to mind the promises of God that would save them.

Many Christians have read John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, written in 1678. Writing from prison, like the apostle Paul, Bunyan relates how a man named Christian travelled from the City of Destruction (representing earth) to the Celestial City (representing heaven). In his book, he refers to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and how the church was to wear God’s armor to protect them on their spiritual journey to heaven.

With God’ full body armor, they are to march together, as a conquering army. Paul is quite descriptive of this armor in the conclusion of his letter, found in Ephesians 6:10-20. The shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, would be most useful in the conflict, which has become known as the great controversy between Christ and Satan.

Sunday: The Church, a Unified Army

Paul is clear in using this battle cry, addressing it to the church. His counsel is not for individual believers, as much as it is for the church at large. The Greek verbs and nouns used in Ephesians 6:10-13 are plural, meaning more than one. Whether he’s talking to “my brethren”, “you”, or “we”, the idea is undeniable that he’s talking about more than one soldier of Christ. His desire is for a unified army, the kind that most ensures success for the God it serves.

Paul’s final cry for prayer “for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18) emphasizes the plurality and cohesiveness that the Christian army is to have. We are in the final stages of this ensuing battle, a time when we must make our commitment to God known and our loyalty to each other steadfast. The struggle against evil is best fought when we approach it as a corporate body, armed with all the spiritual armor God provides.

Bible Verses:

Ephesians 6:10-13

  • What gives us the idea that Paul isn’t just talking about one Christian putting on his armor, but about the whole church needing God’s spiritual protection?

Ephesians 6:18

  • How do our prayers for each other unify us?

Monday: Belt and Breastplate

The call to arms (Ephesians 6:13,14) comes frequently to mind in Paul’s writings. As conquerors, we are told to arm ourselves and be vigilant (1 Peter 4:1, 5:8, and Romans 8:37).

Probably mentioned first because the belt and breastplate were first put on when a soldier was preparing to go into battle, Paul tells us how important God’s truth and righteousness were in the battle against evil. These two pieces of armor protected the soldier’s vital organs. Without them, he would most surely die in battle.

We often say we “have the truth”, but in reality, it is God’s truth that has us, and protects us from Satan’s attacks. His truth and righteousness are related, and are both associated with His holiness and goodness. When we likewise treat others with love and fairness, we are putting on God’s armor of righteousness.

Bible Verses:

1 Peter 4:1, 5:8, and Romans 8:37

  • What message is Paul’s expressing in this battle cry?

Ephesians 6:14

  • How do we demonstrate God’s truth and righteousness in our daily lives?

Tuesday: Shoes, the Church Wages Peace

A Roman soldier’s sandals typically had rugged hobnails on the soles to provide a firm, balanced stand and to prevent them from slipping and sliding on the battlefield. They would have made a distinct sound when running was involved. Isaiah recalls the wonderful sound of a messenger approaching with news that the battle had been won and that peace was secure. Isaiah even calls the feet of such a messenger beautiful (Isaiah 52:7).

All believers are messengers who proclaim the victory of Christ and the peace that exists in God’s heavenly kingdom. They “wage peace” by demonstrating Christian virtues like humility, love, and forgiveness, which lead to peace. Their prayers and worship promote God’s plan of salvation and His goal to unify all beings in the universe.

When the divisions that limited peace, such as between Jews and Gentiles, are gone, there is cause for joyous celebration. Whatever is done to enable such peace and unity should replace the actions that cause hatred and division.

Bible Verses:

Ephesians 6:15

  • How does one wage peace, instead of war?

Wednesday: Shield, Helmet, and Sword

Shields of a Roman soldier, or even medieval knights, were made of some kind of wood, covered with animal hide. Not metal, as we might think of bulletproof ones used by law enforcement today. But the protective element in shields remains the same, even though weapons have changed. For the Christian soldier fighting spiritual warfare against the rulers of darkness, the shield would be a symbol of his faith in God’s protection. Our faith is useful no matter what Satan’s weapons are.

The helmet, worn to protect the head, was a good reminder of God’s salvation that we come to understand through our mental faculties. God’s protection of our brains serves to keep out Satan’s unwanted thoughts that confuse our minds about how we are saved.

Finally, lifting up our sword, we realize it as our only offensive weapon against Satan’s accusations. Paul clearly defines the sword as the word of God. Satan’s main strategy is to twist God’s truth, making us to misunderstand His character and doubt the Scriptures.

Bible Verses:

Ephesians 6:16, 17

  • What kind of protection does the shield, helmet, and sword provide for the church?
  • In what way are these symbols accurate ways to help us deal with our spiritual struggles?

Thursday: Practicing Battlefield Prayer

It’s very common for soldiers to pray on the battlefield. It’s understandably a time when they feel the most powerless and vulnerable against their enemies. Even though prayer for protection and victory isn’t an actual piece of armor, it may be our surest defensive action we are called to take, on or off the battlefield.

Paul outlines the kind of prayer that should be pouring out of our hearts and minds at all times. Through the Spirit, we should be praying, not just for ourselves, but for all our comrades-in-arms fighting with us (Ephesians 6:18). After all, the battle won’t be won without each soldier having God’s presence and protection.

Guidance in the content of our prayer requests was Paul’s last comment about prayer (Ephesians 6:19, 20). As ambassadors of Christ, like Paul, we depend on others to pray for our courage to say the right words at the right time. God will be victorious when our greatest desire is for His gospel to be known to all mankind. Only persevering, watchful prayer will lead to that moment.

Bible Verses:

Ephesians 6:18-20

  • What benefits do we get when we pray for ourselves, and what benefits are there in praying for others?

Luke 18:1-5. Colossians 4:2, and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • What are some other elements of prayer that Paul endorses?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Peace seems to be rapidly disappearing in our world today. Violence, aggression, and hatred surrounds those in many countries and communities, causing a need for all believers to become “prayer warriors” on a local and world level. Fear for our safety drives many to their knees. We long for that time of never-ending peace, which God promises for our future.

Paul’s comprehensive description of the armored protection that God provides to counter this lack of peace is a welcome encouragement to the church, as it struggles to survive Satan’s angry attacks in these last days of earth’s history.

Let’s examine our own armor and join forces with our fellow believers to wage peace, not war, as we forge our way into an uncertain, chaotic future. God has promised not to forsake us, no matter what battle we are facing.

Next Week: Ephesians in the Heart

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