Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Well, Paul was quite explicit when he defined what we, as Christian pilgrims, are up against. As human beings, we automatically think in human terms, so anything defined as an “enemy” is something or someone situated in our physical and natural zone. The war in Ukraine is raging on as I write this blog today, and the combatants are obvious in human terms. But what Paul was saying was that there is a spiritual realm as well as our natural realm, and our real enemies are located there. An unseen world full of evil and powerful forces, which are a far greater threat to us than a military force equipped with tanks and guns.

In a recent Alpha video, there was a point when some young people were asked the question, “Do you believe in the devil?”  And the answers were revealing – one young person’s response was, “Not really”. And that is something Paul was writing about when he warned us about the “strategies of the devil”. Our enemy, the devil, is delighted if people don’t believe he exists, because then he can undertake his attacks unseen and unknown, fulfilling his aims of destroying God’s creation. 

So how does the devil manage to attack us, God’s people? One way is that he finds out our weaknesses and uses them to undermine and destroy our faith. As an example, if a Christian tends to be a worrier, the devil will bring up issues that cause more and more worry and anxiety, disrupting and weakening his or her faith in the process.

So why does the devil want to attack humans? Because he wants to be God and be in control of everything that belongs to God. That’s why he was originally kicked out of Heaven. And the problem that Christians give him is that they don’t want to be controlled by him. They want to follow God, not the devil. So the devil attacks them by distracting them, undermining them, leading them into sin through temptation, picking away at any weaknesses that he can find. And he has an army of demons, the evil spirits that Paul warned his Ephesians friends about, to help him. But the good news is that Jesus defeated the devil at Calvary. And because of that, we have all the resources and power we need to resist the attacks of the enemy. With the resources we have access to we can stand firm, resisting the devil’s attacks. James 4:7 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you“. We can resist him; we don’t have to fold and submit to the devil at the first attack by sinning. But sometimes we can fall into a trap and end up doing things we didn’t want to do. The old Apostle John wrote, “But if we confess our sins to [God], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”. (1 John 1:9) So cleansed and forgiven, we pick ourselves up and move on, the wiser from the experience, more able to avoid the trap the next time the devil comes along with another ploy to trip us up.

Paul was desperate to deliver his message in person but there he was, trapped in a prison cell. But if he hadn’t been incarcerated, we would have missed out on the helpful and instructive verses in his Epistle. We thank God for him, and, now forewarned, we pray for protection from our true enemies, the devil and his hordes, safe in the knowledge that the protection we need is there for the asking.


A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
Ephesians 6:10

Paul is in the final section of his lengthy letter. He has meandered his way through a maze of thoughts and instructions, doing a Holy Spirit-inspired brain dump, tailor-made just for his friends in Ephesus. And he now wants to leave them with a model that they, and so many since, have found very helpful. He introduces this section with the encouragement to be strong in our faith, our strength coming from the Lord and the power that is available to us through Him. 

Paul wasn’t the only Bible writer advocating the strength of the Lord. Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand“. Another verse is in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid“? The strength we find in God is freely available, if only we ask.

But to our ubiquitous Christian pilgrim, what does “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” actually mean? And how will such an inspiring exhortation help us? In our life journey, we will be attacked on all sides from an enemy who wants to stop us in any way he can, from entering into God’s presence. And he does that through temptations, lies, leveraging our human proclivity for sin; in fact in any way where he can find a weakness. So this verse in Paul’s letter reminds us that in God we have all the power and strength to overcome the devil’s strategies and stay on the path mapped out for us. An admirable example of this was when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the devil even using passages of Scripture to try and trip Him up. But He stayed “strong in the Lord“. Jesus’ example of using Scripture is one we too can follow. So we need to read the Bible. There is an amazing wealth of strength and power in this Book. And as we become more and more familiar with the Scriptures, we will become more able to find the strength we need in the times of testing. Another powerful resource is the Holy Spirit Himself. Jesus said that He will be an Advocate, our Helper. God Himself standing alongside us, resourcing us when in need of power and strength.

So this “final word” really puts the icing on the cake of Paul’s letter. In the coming days we will look at the ways in which this power and strength can be distilled using the illustration of a Roman soldier’s armour and attire. An amazing resource for the pilgrim of today.

No Favourites

“Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and He has no favourites.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this verse we replace the words “Masters” with “Employers”, and “slaves” with “employees”. It then makes more sense in our society today. When we do this we receive a picture of the ideal workplace, of how it should be. Harmonious attitudes dictate an environment where, as far as possible, the business aims and goals of the owner are achieved. Thankfully today, our working environments are governed by laws and regulations, and the dangerous practices of previous years, with their long hours and disregard for worker health, are behind us. Though, having said that, my next door neighbour died prematurely through a cancerous lung condition called mesothelioma, probably gained when he was a carpenter working with asbestos. And the next village has a number of retired coal miners, their lives blighted by a variety of lung conditions. So we don’t have to return to Victorian days to see the effects of a poor working environment.

But life for the workers hasn’t always been bad. In the 18th and 19th Centuries there were several entrepreneurial philanthropists who employed people and tried to better their lot, in an otherwise savage society, in the process. Near where I live is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, called New Lanark. A textile mill established in the late 18th Century but now preserved so that visitors can get a glimpse of life in that period in history. But the outstanding feature is how the owners tried to provide work, food and education for people who otherwise would have been scratching a subsistence living. A fortunate work force well-treated, by the standards of their day, by their employers. 

Sadly there were many examples of workers being badly treated in history. And not just workers – life in general in previous times was often brutal and difficult. Life expectancy low. Infant mortality rates high. We need to remember those historical days as a reminder of what life was like and how it has shaped our societies today. Not days to be erased or periods of history to be cancelled, as some try to do.

So employers are encouraged to treat their employees well because everyone, regardless of their status in life, has the same God, the same Father, in Heaven. And Paul reminds us that God has no favourites. Just because one person is wealthier than another doesn’t imply that God blesses that person more than the other. One day we will all have to give an account for our lives, to God.


“Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this verse, Paul told his friends in Ephesus that, in the end, only two things matter – that one day they will be rewarded for the good they have done, and, by implication, it doesn’t really matter how they were spending their lives, in slavery or freedom, because it was their attitudes that mattered.

Taking the second point first, this is very applicable to pilgrims today. We won’t all have degrees, or be academic wizards. We won’t all be blessed with entrepreneurial prowess or political abilities. Or any other human attribute considered a great to have. All God is asking us is that we use what gifts we have, and set our hands to our work, no matter how lowly a job might be considered, with the right attitudes. We saw in a previous verse that we must do what we do “as to the Lord”, and when we live and work in that way, we are putting our lives into God’s reward zone.

Was Paul implying that there was some connection between our salvation and doing good? This is an error adopted by some Christians, who think they have to earn their salvation. But the reality is that no matter how hard we try, we will never have the abilities or resources to reimburse God for what He has done for us through Jesus. On a scale of one to a thousand, we won’t even move the pointer off zero. In Ephesians 2 we read, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. Seems quite clear to me – we are saved by grace alone. We are saved because of God’s unmerited favour towards us. All we have to do is put our faith in Jesus, that He came to this world to save us. We read in Romans 10, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”. No mention here of working for God, or doing good to others, to get into Heaven.

So what did Paul mean that we will be rewarded for doing good? I suppose, logically, doing good to others is part of our commission in sharing the Gospel. Doing good may be as little as sharing a kind word or putting away a neighbours trash bin. Or it may mean visiting a sick friend or neighbour in hospital. The possibilities for doing good are endless. Jesus said in Luke 6, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you”. Pilgrims spend their lives focused on their life-journey and its Heavenly goal, and in the process, we do good to and for others, whether we like them or not. In some inexplicable way, it’s part of the journey.

The Workers (2)

“As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:6b-7‬ ‭NLT

We are “slaves of Christ”. The word “slave” is perhaps not the most popular way to describe us pilgrims. It has so many negative connotations, still lingering in our DNA, a stain left there due to the practices of our ancestors. Even today, examples of slavery, occasionally bubble up to surface in a media report. Sad tales of unfortunate people locked into a situation because the hold another person has over them. There are even tales of “slavery” occurring in a marriage, an unhappy husband or wife locked into a relationship from which there seems no escape. 

So what does it mean to be a “slave”? First of all, we have to realise that slavery in Paul’s day had good and bad points. Of course, the bad included the loss of freedom and potential abuse, but in many cases the slave was treated as part of the family. He or she was fed, had the clothes they needed and a bed to sleep in. And we read in the Old Testament, about slaves who came to the end of their tenure and were due to be released, but chose instead to stay with their masters (Deuteronomy 15).

But to be a “slave of Christ”? Are there any bad points? The paradox we have is that as Christians, we are called “slaves of Christ” but in so being, we are set free. Free of sin and its consequences. Free of the worldly and dark practices so endemic around us. To be enslaved to God means we live in His ways, live with His people, submit to His will, and enjoy His protection. We are His possessions and have been elevated from the mundane into a position of royalty as part of His family. We are sons and daughters of the living God. So, back to our question – there are no bad points of being enslaved to Christ.

I remember an old Bob Dylan song and the chorus goes like this, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. In this life we will never be truly free in the absolute sense because we are bounded by our capabilities and our life-choices. If we don’t follow God then we are following the devil – there is no other choice, no other way. We can never escape from either – if we are not following God and His ways then, by default, we are following the devil and his ways. We may think we are following neither but the reality is as the song says – we will be enslaved to either God or the devil.

So as pilgrims in today’s war-torn world, struggling through the devil’s minefields on our way to our promised land, we must remember our status as royal sons and daughters of God our loving Father. Sin has defined our environment but we don’t have to be enslaved by it. Christ has set us free.

The Workers (1)

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:5-6a ‭NLT‬‬

Thankfully, slavery has been abolished in the UK. But these verses apply very well to those involved in the workplace. Employers and employees. Bosses and workers. The principle of slavery is of course not applicable because the “earthly masters” have no hold over their workers in the way a slave master or slave owner would have had, but there is the expectation that the workers do a job in return for monetary payment. A job that furthers the business aims of the employer.

So Paul writes to the slaves about how they should do their job and treat their owners. Treating my employer with respect was always something instilled within me, from my earliest job experiences. Sometimes the manager above me, representing my employer, wasn’t worthy of due respect because of his or her behaviour, but their position as a manager was. Something I often had to remember. 

Paul was right when he used words such as “obey” and “deep respect“. “Serve” and “please“. Such qualities exhibited in the employer/employee relationship mean the job gets done efficiently and in a cohesive and harmonious atmosphere. The word “fear” doesn’t, or shouldn’t, apply in the workplace today, though there can always be the thought that if we don’t shape up and do well for our employers, we could lose our jobs. A fearful event for many, probably.

In the workplace, do we try and please our employers? Even when they aren’t watching? I have been in workplace situations that deteriorate into chaos and mayhem when the boss has been absent, and it’s not a nice place to be. In such industries where manual labour is employed, many companies put in place bonus schemes to incentivise their workers, or instal cameras to check up on them. Paul was obviously aware that the slaves of his day would try and skive off, given the opportunity. And it can be the same in our workplaces. 

Most pilgrims today will be employed, and in the workplace they will do a job to earn money. But Paul encourages them not just to serve the employers, but to serve them as to the Lord. In other words, we pilgrims work for Jesus. Would we do that in a way that is less than 100%? Would we skive off from our service to God? In their seats in the Ephesian church, you can perhaps feel the guilt rising from those who were slaves. They would have listened and compared, and resolved to do better. In our workplaces, perhaps we too should listen to Paul’s words. Inviting Jesus to join us in the seat next to us in the office will perhaps make a difference to the way we do our jobs. After all, He’s there in Spirit.

But this is not a legalistic instruction from Paul. A “do it or else” reminder to unwilling listeners. We do our work well because of our love for God. As we read earlier in this epistle, God lavished His love on us. A love that is transforming and life-changing. A love that changes our lives and the lives of those around us, as we allow that love to spill out into their lives as well.

Fatherly Instructions

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now here’s a novel idea. Bringing up children by applying Biblical principles? Whatever next! But humour aside, here in the UK we live in a society that has lost its way, when it comes to bringing up children. The state is increasingly interfering with the rights of parents to bring up their children in the way they believe best. Social workers, teachers and the NHS, all have their own agendas, which often sacrifice Biblical principles, that have stood the test of time, on the altar of progressive and unproven thinking and theories. For example, in schools children are taught about sexual matters far removed from Biblical principles. Child gender issues abound with so-called experts agonising over the best way forward. If only they opened a Bible, they would find the answers to their dilemmas.

The Bible has a lot to say about bringing up children, both directly but also in an implied way. Way back in Deuteronomy, we read this, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up”. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). The way that we bring up children starts with us. With our own adult relationship with God, with the way we live our Christian lives. Our children look on. They see whether or not we are faking it. They can smell hypocrisy from afar. Parents living a life devoted to God and each other will set our children role models that will shape their own lives. And by so doing, we instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. 

My own children were fortunate enough to have been brought up in a Christian home. That is not to say that my wife and I always got things right. But they were able to watch us resolve our difficulties and move on in the Lord. The church teaching also helped them. I can remember that my daughter, in her High School biology class, challenged her teacher’s evolutionary beliefs, getting her in the end to agree that there was also a case for the creation model. Evolution is taught as fact in UK schools in spite of the difficulties with evolutionary theory that are conveniently glossed over. But that’s a subject for another day.

God is the Father over a large and growing family of children. He sets out the family rules, rules based on His love for His children, rules designed for our good and the good of His family as a whole. The Bible is our Source of discipline and instruction. We do well to read it, distilling out every Divine thought, every loving hint, always praying that our Father will help us in aligning our ways to His ways, our thoughts to His thoughts, our life to His life. And in the process teaching our children to do the same.


“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Provoking children. Now what does that look like? It implies behaviour that ridicules, teases, and demeans. Perhaps physical or sexual abuse. Neglect, ignoring them, making them look small in front of their friends. The list is endless. And notice what this verse says. It is the fathers who are told what not to do, not the mothers. The fathers have the responsibility to lead in the family, and particularly in the way their children should be treated. I can remember being in a house where one of my friends was getting a good telling off from his mother. And her rant ended with, “Wait until your father gets home – you’ll know all about it then!”. This was a family that knew where the buck stopped. And no doubt his bottom was rather warmer, after the encounter with his father, than it was before. It is so sad today that so many children grow up without a father figure in their home. A hole in their lives that their mothers do their best to fill, but a hole nevertheless. 

Many adults fail to have a positive and loving relationship with their Heavenly Father because of a bad experience of their own father. They can develop a picture of God that is based on someone who is never there for them, who is a strict and unloving disciplinarian, a misogynist who may be ineffective and laughable, pathetic and to be ignored most of the time. When older, they have to go through a re-learning process of what being a true father is really all about. 

So how should a father treat his children? With love and respect. Always helping them. Teaching them life-skills. Affirming them. Being fair with them. Lovingly disciplining them. Supporting them in their difficulties. Standing up for them when they are being treated unfairly. Spending time with them. Pouring out his love for them. And above all, teaching them God’s ways – how to pray, how to read His Word. Exampling God’s love for them. It is not to say that children will never go on to do wrong, but it will mean that their relationship with their father will prevail in the end.

To be a father is far more than a brief sexual encounter. It involves a life-time commitment, and God’s input to lead him in the right paths.

Obedient Children

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honour your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honour your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.””
Ephesians‬ ‭6:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul continues his instructions about family life, with this section addressed to children. There are two other possible translations to the first verse, one just simply saying, “Children, obey your parents”, and the other “Children, obey your parents who belong to the Lord”. But I like the way the NLT translates today’s verse because it implies that children have a special place in God’s family; they belong to the Lord regardless of their situation or family background. Hopefully, these junior pilgrims, our children, find it easy to be obedient to their parents, with a relationship of love and respect laying a foundation for them. Sadly, so many families today are dysfunctional, lacking a moral compass, sometimes blighted by drugs and alcohol, domestic strife common. And increasingly, children are growing up in a home where one of their parents is missing. There can be so many factors that conspire to make obedience difficult or impossible for children. My wife and I know – we fostered children for many years. But we found over and over again that if a child can be given a secure, warm and loving family, then they will thrive and move into adulthood better equipped for continuing the way God has marked out for them.

The instruction from Paul goes on to quote Exodus 20:12, “Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you”. It’s there in the Ten Commandments, sandwiched between taking a Sabbath rest and not murdering anyone. And Paul repeated God’s instruction, given to Moses so many years before, that honouring parents is a fundamental ingredient in living life to the full. It is there in the family home that children find honour, respect and love, grace and compassion, qualities that will stand them in good stead in their lives ahead. 

Both my parents have now passed on to a new life with God. I will always be grateful for their love and commitment to me in my formative years. Their example, honouring their own parents, filtered down into my own life. And they continued to stand with me through the difficult years as I transitioned from childhood into adulthood. Even when they were grandparents, their influence continued. 

We thank God for our parents. Families are modelled on God’s family and we honour too our parents in the Lord, our ministers and pastors. And particularly we obey and honour God our Heavenly Father. Where would we be without Him!


“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her”.
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:22, 25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We can’t lift Ephesians 5:22 out of this Scripture passage, taking it out of context. Some have attempted to do this in the past, with disastrous consequences. But in the misogynistic society in Paul’s day, a wife’s place was often little better than a servant’s. Even today, some Middle-Eastern countries still have the same cultural expectations. So as the letter to the Ephesians was being read out, you can just imagine the emotions and thoughts that would have been swirling around in people’s minds. Often people hear only what they want to hear, and verse 22 perhaps resonated in a male mind, leading to a confrontation between a husband and wife when they returned home, verse 25 forgotten or ignored.

There is something special about a God-ordained and God-focused relationship. In a marriage, both the man and woman have their own particular roles. Roles designed by God, who clearly understood how marriages will work. And we find that successful, life-long, marriages have in place a mutual love and commitment, that weathers all the storms of life. That is not to say the lives together have all been easy, but the husband and wife have worked through issues together.

The marital model Paul wrote about, as captured by our verses today, is based, first and foremost, on a husband loving his wife, in such a way that it mirrors the sacrificial love Jesus had, and still has, for His church. A husband lays down his life for the sake of his wife. That means he puts her needs first. He looks after her, giving her protection and security, dealing with any marital issues with compassion and leadership. In return, the wife uses her experience of submission to Jesus as the basis of her submission to her husband. In the issues of life, the marital love-submission model concludes with the husband making the final decisions, but in reality, such conclusions are jointly made.

So what does today’s pilgrim make of marriage? The image of a lonely single man or woman walking the paths of life, facing into whatever dangers and difficulties are around the next corner, is somehow softened by two pilgrims, hand in hand, helping each other through whatever is before them. There is a Scripture that, in the end, defines a successful outcome to the pilgrimage, all obstacles resolved. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken”. The secret lies in the third cord. Though a man and woman can weather many of the storms of life together, the addition of a third Person makes the marriage invincible. A couple who are close to God inevitable end up closer to each other. They pray together. They worship Him together. And in times of discord and disagreement, coming before God with the issues will result in a remedy. With God being the most important Person in the marriage, it cannot fail to succeed.