Lloyd-Jones and the Christian’s Warfare

We are in a battle for our very lives:

Any believer who is even somewhat biblically literate and is aware of what is happening in the world today will know perfectly well that the Christian life is not a bed of roses but a struggle. It is in fact a life of battle and warfare, with good and evil being fought out every single day.

How can this not be, given that our spiritual enemy is at work 24/7 to get us to fail, to give up, to revert back to our old way of life, to get us to turn our backs on God, to get us to doubt God’s word, and so on? This is ever happening, so the man and woman of God must ever be in military mode.

The Bible speaks to this throughout, and it is of course full of military imagery. Just one Old Testament passage can be mentioned, which I again read this morning: Psalm 144:1-2:

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples under me.

But here I want to look at just one chapter from just one New Testament book written by just one NT author. I refer to Ephesians 6. As all believers should know, Eph. 6:10-20 is all about the whole armour of God. Without this, we will NOT make it in the Christian life.

And to look more closely at this portion of Scripture, I will simply draw from one famous expository preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The Welsh-born, London-based preacher devoted quite some time to the book of Ephesians. Indeed, he did a total of 260 sermons on the book, preached on Sundays from 1954 to 1962.

The whole series is now available in book form, with eight volumes totalling some 3000 pages. And the passage I am here discussing takes up two entire volumes in the set:
-Volume 7, The Christian Warfare (Eph 6:10-13)
-Volume 8, The Christian Soldier (Eph 6:10-20)

There would be so much I could share from these 736 pages, but let me just offer a few representative quotes from each volume.

The Christian Warfare

“The Christian life, in the first place, is a warfare, it is a struggle. ‘We wrestle.’ The whole section is designed to impress this fact upon us. There is no grosser or greater misrepresentation of the Christian message than that which depicts it as offering us a life of ease with no battle and no struggle at all. There are types of holiness teaching that teach just that. Their slogan is, ‘It is quite easy’. They say the trouble is that so many Christian people remain ignorant of the fact, and therefore go on fighting and struggling. That is the essential characteristic of the teaching of the Cults. That is why they are always popular. ‘Quite easy!’ You cannot fit that into this Epistle with its ‘We wrestle!’ ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand.’ The first thing we have to realize is that the Christian life is a warfare, that we are strangers in an alien land, that we are in the enemy’s territory. We do not live in a vacuum, in a glasshouse. The teaching which gives the impression that the pathway to glory is all easy and simple and smooth is not Christianity, it is not Paul’s Christianity, it is not New Testament Christianity. It is the hallmark of the quack remedy always, that it cures everything so easily! One dose, and there is no more trouble!” (p. 20)

Image of The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13
The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Author) Amazon logo

“There is nothing sentimental here. I would lay it down as a fundamental proposition that if any teaching concerning holiness and sanctification is sentimental, it is not scriptural! There is a series of books which betray themselves, it seems to me, by their very title. An example is, ‘Quiet Talks on Power’. Can you fit that notion into the words which the Apostle uses here? There is a contradiction in the terms used. You cannot have a quiet talk on power; you cannot have a quiet talk on Niagara, you cannot have a quiet talk on the explosion of an atomic bomb. A quiet talk on power! It is sentimental, it is flabby, it is weak. That is not what we have here!

“Dare I go further and say that surely nothing has done so much harm to the true doctrine of sanctification as what are generally described as ‘devotional talks’. It is part of this same ‘nice teaching’ – quiet devotional talks, with simple affecting illustrations! But that is not what the Apostle is talking about. What we have here is the exact opposite. We have a martial atmosphere, we have a rousing, stimulating call. It is a trumpet call – ‘Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God.’ Do you not hear the bugle, and the trumpet? It is a call to battle; we are being roused, we are being stimulated, we are being set upon our feet; we are told to be men. The whole tone is martial, it is manly, it is strong.

“Then go on to realize that there is nothing quick and easy about all this. You have to go on doing it. ‘Put on the Gospel armour. Each piece put on with prayer.’ You do not simply do one thing and then all is right and well. No, Paul gives us all these details, and it takes time to work them out. There is nothing quick and ready-made about this; you have to work it out in detail.

“Finally, you have to keep on doing it. There is ‘no discharge in this war’. While you and I are alive in this world the devil will be there with all his evil and malignity; and he will fight us to the end, he will fight us to our deathbed. Is this hopeless? It is the reverse! It is glorious. We are given the privilege of following in our Lord and Master’s footsteps; ‘As he is, so are we in this world’ (1 John 4:17). It is a mighty conflict; but I can be ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of his might’, I can clothe myself with ‘the whole armour of God’. Are you ready for the battle? Are you on the alert, are you on your feet? Are you just indulging your weaknesses and whims and fancies, and pitying yourself, and grumbling and complaining about this and that problem or situation? Rise up, shake them off, stand on your feet, be a man! Realize that you are a member of this mighty regiment of God, fighting the battle of the Lord and destined to enjoy the glorious fruits of victory throughout the countless ages of eternity. Have you heard the trumpet call? ‘Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God.’” (pp. 21-22)

“The Apostle is exhorting these Ephesians to realize something of the nature of the battle in which we are all inevitably engaged as the result of being Christians. Indeed this battle exists whether we are Christians or not. The teaching of the Bible throughout is that this world in which we live is a battle-ground, is a place in which we literally have to fight for our souls, to fight for our eternal welfare.

“The Apostle gives these Ephesians some very specific instruction with regard to the nature of that battle, and as to the only way in which it can be waged successfully. Clearly the exhortation is primarily for Christian people; his whole argument is based upon that consideration. At the same time, however, it has a message for everyone; for it is true to say that this is a conflict which affects all persons whether they realize it or not. Those who are not Christian do not understand their own world at this present time; they cannot understand why it is as it is, and why various things are happening. So while we are looking at the Apostle’s instruction with regard to the way to fight this great battle, we shall, incidentally, be seeing the exposure of the complete failure of all who are not Christian even to understand their problem, and still more their failure to deal with it in an adequate and successful manner. In other words, we are confronted here with the Apostle’s teaching as to the way in which we can fight successfully the forces that are arrayed against our souls and their highest and best interests.” (pp. 23-24)

The Christian Soldier

“We are never to forget that we are individual units in a great army. We are not fighting some personal, private war. That is not the position at all. We are simply individual soldiers in a great army which is fighting a great campaign. In other words, the real, the ultimate issue is not so much my fight with the devil, as God’s fight with the devil. That is the way to look at it. To look at the matter in this way immediately gives you great strength….

“The moment we realize this truth, the whole position becomes immediately transformed. Think of soldiers in an army fighting in their little sector. They are being hard-pressed and things are going against them. If they think that it is just their own private fight they will soon be defeated. But when they remember that they are only a part of a great and mighty army, and that at the back of it all, and directing it, is the Captain, their Leader, immediately the situation is entirely transformed. In other words we have got to realize as we fight this fight of faith and wrestle with these principalities and powers and face the assaults of the world and the flesh and the devil, that God is involved in it with us. We would never have been in it but for that. The ultimate battle is the battle between God and the devil. between heaven and hell, between light and darkness.

“That in turn should make us realize a further truth, that this campaign cannot fail, because God’s honour is involved in it. Lift up your minds and your hearts in the thick of the battle and call this to mind. You see the might and the power of the enemy and you are conscious of your own weakness. But say to yourselves, ‘This is God’s battle, we are given the privilege of being in it and of fighting as individual soldiers, but God’s honour is involved in it all. He cannot allow this to fail because His character, His glory, and His honour are involved at every point.’ ‘Be strong in the Lord’; remember that He is there, and that it is His battle.

“This cannot be emphasized too much. It is the theme of the Bible from the beginning of Genesis. God made a perfect world. The devil comes in, the woman and the man listen to him, and fall, and the devil becomes ‘the god of this world’. But it is not left at that. God did not turn to the man and to the woman and say, ‘Very well, because of your rebellion and your folly and your sin you have brought all this on yourselves. Now get on with it. You have brought it on yourselves, so you will have to fight for the rest of your lives against this evil power that has mastered you’. That is not what He said. He did say that there would be enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. That is the wrestling, the conflict. But He did not stop at that, He gave a promise – ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’. He is involved because it is His world and they are His people. He is not going to allow the devil to defeat Him. God cannot allow the Evil One to mar His great work finally. Of course not! So God gives His promise about the seed of the woman that is going to bruise the serpent’s head. God is involving Himself in the conflict. The whole movement of salvation is for God’s glory; not simply for our deliverance, but for God’s glory primarily. Our deliverance is only one expression of this glory and honour for the great Name of God. That is one of the reasons why Paul says, ‘Be strong in the Lord’. Let us realize this! Get rid of the notion that it is just a little private battle that you are waging on your own: ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might’.” (pp. 27-29)

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4 Replies to “Lloyd-Jones and the Christian’s Warfare”

  1. Hello Bill, I remember a speaker on Ephesians 6, at a women’s conference many years ago, and it has always left an impression upon me. She focused on the fact that we are told to ‘take your stand, ‘stand your ground’ and ‘stand firm’. She said that we have been equipped with the armour of God for our role to be on the defensive, not on the offensive. We are to use the word of God, in the battle against Satan, by praying, and proclaiming what God’s word says, for the situation of battle we are facing. But, it is not our business to go looking to attack Satan. This made sense to me, especially after having witnessed ‘extremes’ of preachers taking it upon themselves to include in their prayers, a direct addressing of Satan, and heaping abuse on him, contrary to what it says in 2 Peter 2 : 10-11 ‘Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgement on them from the Lord.’ Jesus himself, when facing Satan in the wilderness, proclaimed what the word of God said. So, I could never understand why these preachers would address Satan directly, when, since the Holy Spirit indwells us, and when 2 or 3 are gathered together, He is in our midst, so of course, Satan would not be in the presence of the gathering of God’s people. I would appreciate your thoughts on this issue, and the concept of ‘standing firm’ in the defensive, rather the offensive, from Ephesians 6. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for that Lucy. Well, a full-length article would be worth penning to deal with your concerns. But a short answer would be this: The overall New Testament teaching on spiritual warfare and related issues includes both defensive and offensive elements. Ephesians 6:10-20 includes both of course, and there are various things we do. We can start by “resisting the devil” as James 4:7 says we should. But yours are good questions that I may well discuss at greater length so stay tuned.

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