Luther on Spiritual Warfare (part 1)

Edifying Treatment of the Armor and Weapons of a Christian

Preached by Luther in 1532

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17

  1. These words comprise an exhortation.

This is the last part of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, and it is not teaching how they should believe and live (which he has already done before in the whole Epistle.) But instead it is an exhortation, that, because they have the doctrine of faith, they see to it and know what each one should do as a Christian in his station, and that they remain in the same, and not turn from it in anything.

2. Likewise a battlefield sermon by Paul.

And he does like a pious, true captain, who addresses his people in battle formation. He preaches a battlefield sermon, and exhorts that they stand firm, that they should fight boldly and bravely. It could easily be called “An Army Sermon for Christians.” Because he shows here that those baptized into Christ, who want to hold on to Him, must and should be warriors, always armed with their shield and weapons; he shows that the station of a Christian is not an idle one, nor one of peace and security, but that it consists in always being on the battlefield and warring.

3. Because Christians are surrounded by nothing but foes.

Because we do not sit here in quiet, like a farmer, townsman, or craftsman in a city, where he lives in peace and has nothing to fear. Instead we lie in a dangerous place, in the middle of foes and murderers, who mean business with us, and who want to take our treasure if we make a mistake, so that we are not secure for a moment from them. Therefore, whoever wants to be a Christian must understand that he marches under his Lord’s banner, and while he lives here, without ceasing, he stands on the precipice, and the foe watches him at all times.

4. Therefore they have need to be awakened to the fight by means of God’s Word.

Since daily we stand and live in such danger, it is necessary that one awaken, drive, and push us through God’s Word, as through our army-drum, so that we do not snore or become lazy and lax, but rather always be and remain awake and armed. For it is not enough, that we have the Word and knowledge of faith and life, but it takes constant care and diligence that we keep both, that the devil not tear away the doctrine, nor change and falsify it, or lead you away from your station, nor bait and lure you from it through the evil mouths and example of the world, yea, even through your own flesh. As the wise say, it is as great an art to keep the goods one has already won as to win them in the first place, and requires no little labor and diligence. Just as it belongs to a good house-father not only to acquire money and goods and bring them home, but when he can and does do that, that he also keep them safe in the house. These two virtues must both be together, otherwise everything is lost—trouble, cost, and labor which one spent to acquire the goods in the first place.

5. How Paul carries out this battlefield sermon.

Thus St. Paul wants to say in this text, in summary: Because you have now become Christians and renounced the devil, and have been brought again to your true Lord, and know and have received everything that belongs to being a Christian, so see to it, and let it be from now on, that your only care be how you may remain in these things and not allow yourself to be taken away from them, whether by might or by deception. Nor allow yourself to be made lazy and tired with regard to these things, because you have an evil and tricky foe against you, who does not sleep for a moment nor take a holiday. With all malice and with every art he tries how he may hinder and fight you in your faith and office, in order that he may catch you and bring you into submission to him again. Also he has helpers in his world and your own flesh, which you bear around your neck, and always draws you back, that you should become secure and inattentive, and neglect to be awake and to struggle. Therefore Paul now begins with such words to cultivate people of war, to address and to exhort them, that they gallantly stand and fight, and says, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.”


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