Check Your Panoply
WHEN WE TURN to the skeleton of the Ephesian letter in our Keyword Concordance, page 341/410/367, we learn that the first half of this epistle refers to doctrine, and the second half to deportment. It is from these two angles that the subjects in the central column of the skeleton are approached. Thus the topic “joint enjoyers of an allotment” is first taken up with a view to our celestial blessings (1:3-14), and then with regard to our celestial warfare (6:10-17). What is ours in Christ is balanced by our walk and service which are in the Lord. This was emphasized in an article that this magazine published 28 years ago (volume XXIII, page 387) under the title “The Celestial Conflict” from which we quote:
“To those who confuse contexts, God’s Word is full of contradictions. One of the great truths of a previous portion of Ephesians is that we are seated together among the celestials (Eph.2:6); there is relaxation and rest. Now this seems to be denied, for in Ephesians 6:14 we are exhorted to stand, clad with all the accouterments of conflict; there is vigilance and warfare. Both are true, in their contexts. Both are false out of their contexts. As related to Christ Jesus, as members of His body, we have no work to do, for He has completed it all Himself. But, as related to God, as enjoyers of an allotment among the celestials, we need to be invigorated with God’s mighty strength and to stand in His protective panoply. The allotment is ours. We shall enter upon its tenancy in fact when we are called above. But now we need to hold it by faith. There is where the danger lies. There failure may be found.
“To correspond with our weakness, our panoply is composed of five pieces: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. These are figured by a girdle, a cuirass, sandals, a shield, and a helmet. Let us remember that all of this is “in the Lord”, not “in Christ.” Our destiny is not at stake. It is altogether a matter of conduct and the present life. We have all of the spiritual graces which make up this armor in Christ. In Him, we are righteous and justified. In Him, we have peace with God. But this is not in view here. To win in this defense we must know the truth, we must act justly, we must practice peace with our fellow men, we must exercise faith, and then we will enjoy a present salvation from the assaults of the powers of darkness.
“We need to know but little truth to be saved from sin. We need a thorough realization of God’s revelation to be saved from the Adversary during our present life. . . . Though we have been saved from our sins, and are being saved from sin, we still need salvation in the celestial spheres.”
The above quotation from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES shows the necessity of a prayer guide concerning the realization of God’s will, for we all are aware of the fact that only a prayerful study of the Scriptures can help us to perceive what He has revealed in His Word for the present administration of grace, or, as Paul puts it, the words of faith and of the ideal teaching (1 Tim.4:6). The context in Ephesians six shows that our spiritual suit of armor should be taken up and put on during every prayer and petition, while praying on every occasion, in spirit being vigilant for it (6:18). And the apostle adds that the petition should concern all the saints.
A PRAYER WITH A PROMISE
Paul’s Colossian prayer guide fits the occasion precisely. Therefore it is our privilege to emulate the apostle and pray for ourselves and our fellow saints
that we all may be filled full with the realization of God’s will
in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,
that we all may walk worthily of the Lord to please Him in all things,
that we all may bear fruit in every good work,
that we all may grow in the realization of God,
that we all may be endued with power,
in accord with the might of His glory,
namely with power for all endurance,
and with power for patience with joy.
Daily prayerful reading of these words in the first chapter of Colossians will contribute to the energizing and vitalizing of our spirits, the same way as they animated Paul’s spirit when he was a prisoner in Rome. We find him thanking the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in verse three, and again giving thanks to the Father in verse twelve. At a later occasion, D.V., we might discuss the details which prompted the apostle’s gratitude; now, however, we want to emphasize the fact that the Colossian prayer guide begins with thanksgiving and ends with thanksgiving; and in between we have the wonderful verses nine to eleven. Here the Lord teaches us how to pray! This is a prayer with a promise, and He will answer every request in it! So there is no reason for discouragement and depression in view of our shortcomings and failures, our insufficiency and impotence in walk and service, and our lack of understanding God’s Word and realizing His revelation.
This prayer guide will teach us how to experience God’s sufficiency and omnipotence, as long as we will ask for it, day after day. Israel, during their wilderness journey from Egypt to the promised land, was sustained by a daily supply of manna over a period of forty years. They were not allowed to lay in supplies for longer periods of time (though no manna could be gathered on a sabbath). In a similar way, God will give us our spiritual food daily so long as we pray for it daily. When we neglect to do so, our growth in the realization of God’s will might be retarded; it is impossible to lay in supplies of power for endurance to last for a month, a week, or even two days, and forget about this prayer in the meantime.
A PRAYERFUL ATTITUDE
This realization of God’s will and this glorious power for endurance and patience will be ours, but only as long as we remain in the attitude of petitioners, all day through, until there is another occasion for praying along the lines of Colossians 1:9- 11. Such an attitude will remind us to read the Scriptures when we want to be filled full with the realization of God’s will; so we will make a daily effort to study the words of faith and of the ideal teaching. Such an attitude will govern our soulish desires and sustain the yearning in our inmost heart to walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing Him in all we do. Such an attitude will encourage us to abstain from vain undertakings and help toward bearing fruit in every good work.
In other words, the divine thoughts of the Colossian prayer guide will go with us day and night, even unconsciously. This is what Paul calls, praying unintermittingly. We find this term in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, “Always pursue that which is good for one another as well as for all. Be rejoicing always. Be praying unintermittingly. In everything be giving thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This divine declaration confirms the fact that such unintermittent prayer will provide us with the contentment, consolation, joy, and exultation that God wants to give us through His Word, together with the realization of His will and all power for endurance and patience with joy. For He is operating in us to will as well as to work, to learn, to study, and to pray for the sake of His delight (Phil.2:13).
THE GRACE OF GOD TOGETHER WITH ME
All this is in line with Paul’s confession: Yet, in the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace, which is in me, did not come to be for naught, but more exceedingly than all of them toil I—yet not I, but the grace of God which is with me.” (1 Cor.15:10). We know the Supreme and His grace only through words; but since they are His words, they charge our own spirits with divine vitality. We are in need of unintermittent contact with God’s spirit so that He can operate in us to will as well as to work. It is only by faith that we can establish such contact, and it can be done only by our spirits into which the divine declarations will put new life.
God’s grace in Paul did not come to be for naught; in this grace he was a petitioner pleasing to the Lord, praying along the lines He had taught him. Grace is urging us now to request the realization of God’s will, so as to guide us in walking worthily of the Lord. And such a walk will enable us to grow in the realization of God. It is the ceaseless repetition of this divine sequence (realization—walk—realization) that results in the wonderful gift described in verse 11, ” . . . being endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy.”
The accompanying chart reveals something like a chain reaction, starting with (1) unintermittent prayer for all, requesting (2) the realization of God’s will, (3) walking worthily of the Lord, (4) bearing fruit in every good work, (5) growing in the realization of God, (6) power for endurance and patience with joy, and (7) giving thanks to the Father.
POWER FOR ENDURANCE IN PRAYER
Endurance is the fortitude to stand distress, and also the ability to continue; in our case, to continue with the Colossian prayer day after day. The grace of God which is in us, urges us to repeat the above requests which He has made ready beforehand that we should be praying accordingly until that glorious moment when the Lord will call us to meet Him in the air (I Thes.4:17). This is why Paul says, “..we do not cease praying for you” (Col.1:9). The repetition of the divine sequence (realization—walk—realization) will endue us with power for endurance in prayer, too, so as to make it unintermittent.
No man, except Jesus in His earthly life, has ever shown endurance in good acts (Rom.2:7), and endurance in the prayer of faith is a rare thing. Let us praise the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He has enlightened the eyes of our hearts for us to perceive how His grace is operating in us. It urged Paul to write down this prayer for us; grace urges us now to pray accordingly and since the words are of divine origin, they will provide us with all power, in accord with the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all scripture is inspired by God; so are the prayer guides which the exalted Christ had Paul write down for us. And we may add that they are beneficial for the correction of our prayer habits, that the man of God may be equipped with the right words for petitions, pleadings, and thanksgiving.
THE DIVINE SEQUENCE OF REQUESTS
The Supreme has given us the sequence of thoughts in Colossians 1:9-11, and we are supposed to follow the rules as they are laid down here. Hence it would be unwise just to ask for numbers two and five only (realizing God’s will and growing in the realization of Him). It would not be wise either to request numbers three and four only (walking worthily of the Lord and bearing fruit in every good work). And it would be outright foolish to ask for power (six) and forget about the other requests. All of them are given to us in a package and in divine order; hence we are not authorized to pick out at random whatever we might regard as beneficial for us. God has created us the way we are; HE knows all our needs, and He is working all together for our own good; He puts the right thoughts of prayer into our heart so that we can make our requests in the right order. He will answer them and thus work all together for our good as well as for His glorification. All power for endurance and patience with joy is available to us if the sequence of requests is not interrupted.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of this combination of divine thoughts for our spiritual life in general. All the more is this true because of the similar sequence pertaining to our celestial conflict (Eph.6:14-17), which should not be interrupted either if we do not want to nullify the effectiveness of our panoply.
While the Colossian prayer leads us toward the realization of God’s will, the spiritual suit of armor is given to us for the special purpose of securing the enjoyment of our allotment among the celestials; the panoply is a present salvation from the assaults of the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, as we have pointed out before. For this special salvation in the celestial spheres, however, we need a thorough realization of God’s will and revelation. Here the Colossian prayer guide will be of help to us. So let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, let our requests be made known to Him, and let us thank Him again (Col.1:3,9-12a).
A word of comfort is needed for those who are aware of their own shortcomings and failures: You may be assured that we are praying for you along the lines of Colossians 1:9-11, even if we do not know your names or your troubles. May we quote from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES once more, volume XXXII, page 245:
“Confession alone would not only humble us in the dust, but would lead to discouragement and depression. In view of God’s grace, there is no cause for this, for abasement is only a precursor of exaltation. Moreover, it leads to real, genuine prayer and praise. Our petition wells up spontaneously out of a humbled heart, aware not only of its own shortcoming and insufficiency but of the sufficiency and love of God. We are driven away from our impotence into the arms of His omnipotence. We appeal to God for deliverance from the world, the flesh, the adversary, and all that is connected with them, and implore for power to fulfill His will. Each breath of the man of God should be accompanied by a subconscious repetition of those words of our Lord: Not My will, but Thine! And each pulse beat should be a note of praise. It makes us thankful for all that we receive from His hands, and for all that He is to us. We praise Him in anticipation of the future and for the preparation of the present. May ever-increasing praise ascend from the hearts of all who read these lines!”
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