This is an opinion to share in the conversation that is going on globally. There are links to check out as well as some footnotes that are below the article. Would love to get your thoughts!!
Context: Ephesians 6:11-12
In these verses, Paul is inviting his audience to see their world a bit different than they are used to. Some Greeks adhered to the Egyptian idea of how the world was ordered. The term most use today to describe this worldview is geocentric, which means that all things moved around the earth. (Now, we know since then this theory has been debunked). They believed heaven was above and death was below. Paul was introducing a new kind of worldview from the Hebrew perspective. So, Paul is dealing with this issue head on when he invites his Greek audience to see that
the world is not separated but that all actions, words, reactions, acts of creation and destruction have incredible spiritual value. That
as author Rob Bell so eloquently put it, “everything is spiritual”.
For the most part, we live in a world divided.
We tend to use the word “spiritual” to separate certain acts or music we listen to or books and movies we may spend time watching or reading. But Paul is saying that everyone already lives in this spiritual realm, that we cannot separate ourselves from being spiritual because we all are spiritual*. Let’s take a moment and see what Paul was dealing with before these two verses to help us understand these words in context.
Paul is dealing a lot with how society was ordered. He initially deals with the family unit in the first few verses. Why? Because we all learn our values from behind closed doors and we take them into our world and workplace. Then he goes out into the workplace and begans dealing with relationships and emotions within those relationships. Paul is more like a music conductor here and less a theologian, he is building up his argument like a crescendo and it will end with this new worldview and realization that whatever you do and whatever happens to you is much more than what you see. That everything that you experience is for your spiritual development. Some people might have been going through life and couldn’t seem to find the meaning in what they were doing and the author is instructing the listeners to NOT see society and the people within it as the enemy here** that there is something deeper and darker here that he wants to inform them about. Let’s unpack a bit of what Paul is saying here:
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Some words to keep in mind: (these are in Greek)
panoplia is the word for “full” or “complete armor”. It is all inclusive: helmet,sword, breastplate, shoes and etc.
Dynamai: (ye may be able) — to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom
prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely
a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer,
metaph. applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him
As one of my friends recently said, I don’t think Paul meant for us to metaphorically put on spiritual armor. That idea would seem to go against the new worldview he was sharing with those who did not share his worldview. My friend goes onto say that he envisions that Paul might have been looking at a Roman Centurion and taking his inspiration from what he saw. (This isn’t to devalue those that adhere to this belief; there is value in this belief as well.)*** And by these people doing so they too are adhering the metaphor as well. Also the word here that Paul uses is not the same word for Satan, it is a sinister act of impeding someone from getting something done. Which tends to be the Hebrew view of Satan. So, if we take the message within its context and language and modernize it, it might sound something like this:
All of your sleeping, eating, drinking, conversations, work, play, thoughts and language have this immense value. Depending on how you choose to use them will determine how you partner against or with God in his dream for a world restored.
For example, a couple verses later Paul tells his readers to gird themselves with truth. Some might misinterpret this to mean that we should have all the answers and never lie. Which is good, but might be a little off target. The Greek word for truth is Aletheia which in Greek thought isn’t simply a word, it is a way of life. It is this idea that we get to help uncover hidden things when we discover them. Another rendering or interpretation might be that we should be ready (“gird”) to learn new things. That in the process of learning these new things we bring them with us and live them out, and in the process of living them out, people too will discover with us the mysterious truths romantically luring us around each corner of the journey called truth. It is an unfolding rather than a conquering of truth.
Paul also says in this series of verses that we “don’t wrestle against flesh and blood…” and then goes into a list of hierarchical systems within these spiritual realms. Now interesting enough, the phrase “flesh and blood” was a of Jewish origin. It had a direct reference to the Lords’ Supper, but also borrowed some imagery from the Torah and other cults which were around at this time. Blood was a metaphor for life. Flesh was also another metaphor for food. So Paul is essentially inviting his Greek audience into a new way of seeing life. If we take into context all that Paul has said thus far, we get this idea that Paul is not only dealing with how people view one another but life in general. He is saying we don’t spend all of our energies looking for food, life isn’t about going to the grocery store. It isn’t about fighting each other and looking out for number one. And when it does become that, we then forget that there is something bigger going on, that we all are apart of. That we can too easily join the “rat race” and forget that we can help change history by promoting things like peace, love, grace, and resurrect all these things in the lives of those we encounter. Paul is essentially saying in this verse through metaphor:
that we can choose to break ourselves for the healing of the world, or forget that there are darker forces we can too easily align ourselves with by simply focusing all of our energies on our own needs (“flesh and blood”)
Thanks for listening!!!!
This challenges the idea within Christianity that says some may have to utter a “special prayer” to become spiritual or to experience
the Holy Spirit. Remember, when God created mankind he breathed Ruach into all of creation. The hebrew word ruach means breath.
We all have the divine spark. All of God’s creation. Even Osama Bin Laden. It is up to us how we choose to use it. Ruach is also the same word we use to describe the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh to be exact. So, essentially at the creation of all of mankind everyone already becomes spiritual. And therefore all we do and say has spiritual value.
** To see that the world is still “very good” as God said when He created it. That world IS still very good in the eyes of God even now. And our responsibility through our actions is to help find ways to preserve and restore that goodness.
*** Paul was a Jew, first and foremost, when he spent time in training (for how long is under discrepancy amongst scholars) he would have undergone rigourous study in Hebrew thought along with other philosophies, but his roots would have most likely been in Hebrew thought to start. Knowing this helps us understand that Paul’s writing style would have easily been peppered with metaphor, as is a lot fo Scripture.