Independence Day is one of my favorite movies in spite of its themes of war and nation :-). In this clip, we find the moment where it’s time to take action against the alien invaders. So the president, after having lost his wife, gets up in the middle of the prepping militia, and gives a motivational speech that will energize them for the battle to come. One thing that you should know about me is that when I watch a movie, the storyline always sucks me in. I almost always find myself identifying with one of the main characters or imagining that my own life is caught up in the plot. Every time that I watch independence day, and it gets to this part of the film with this deeply motivational speech, and the president says: “we will not go quietly into the night…” I literally get the chills! Ya, I know it is ridiculous. Especially in light of the fact that I recently found out that this was voted ‘cheesiest movie speech’ of all time! So now, apparently I am the cheesiest movie watcher of all time.
We find the same kind of speech being imitated in Ephesians 6.10-18 (without the cheese of course). The passage we are going to be looking at is what ties the letter together as a whole. Following the pattern of ancient Greek speeches, Paul brings everything in his letter to its culmination, while also tying together the basic themes, so as to call the people to action. In order to implement this motivational theme, he borrows basic elements of motivational speeches that were often given by generals before their troops were to go into battle. These speeches called “paraenesis,” (pa-rain’-e-sis) were common in Greek literature. Perhaps you played sports growing up. Did you ever have a coach that could give a motivational talk that fired up your whole team? Remember that experience, and you have experienced “Paraenesis.” One scholar demonstrates what these kinds of speeches or literature all seemed to have in common:
“…exhortation not to disgrace this heritage by suffering defeat, a comparison with enemy forces with a reminder that it is ultimately valor and not numbers that will prevail, a detailing of the prizes that await the victors, a pointing to favorable auspices and to the gods as allies, an appeal to patriotism, a reminder that this enemy has been conquered before, a depicting of the wrongs inflicted by the enemy, and praise of the commander as superior to the leaders of the opposing forces.”
Paul writes this part of the letter as an adaptation of military rhetoric (and no this doesn’t mean he supported the military, so don’t go there!) that most people in antiquity would have been familiar with, while also drawing on some major themes that are found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Imagine yourself out on the battlefield, not a human vrs human war—because remember that our Ephesians text makes very clear that our battle is not against “flesh and blood”—but a war with the actual spiritual enemies of God.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6.10-18 (NIV, 2010)
Our two cultural observations in the intro post had to do with the reality that Hollywood seems obsessed with supernatural themes and that pop-culture also has a desire to do justice and make it hip to do so. We also made three foundational observations as well that explain the basic thesis of the powers/demons who are determined to corrupt God’s creation by:
1) tormenting individuals– People both Christians and non-Christian alike can fall under attack from Satan and his Demonic Powers… which we called: demonization.
2) corrupt nature – Demonic Powers have distorted God’s good world…even its weather patterns.
3) influence systems of injustice – Demonic Powers influence institutions in our world and cause oppression and suffering to innocent people.
But guess what? The bible teaches that God is at work. God cares about people like you and I who are oppressed by evil in our own lives. God cares about those who have suffered because nature is out of whack. God cares about every single victim of social injustice. Because our God want to take all of these broken pieces and put them back together, which is why he sent Jesus!
So, for this post I simply want to ask: Are you motivated by Paul’s fire-you-up coaching speech? Are you ready, to the best of your ability to partner with God to battle against whatever the powers of Darkness may be up to? My prayer is that you are beginning to hear the words spoken from Paul’s inspired pen to your heart. Next week we will dig into the background of the Ephesians text with greater detail and discuss the question: How does God deal with the evil powers?
Lincoln, Andrew T., Ephesians, 433.