When the apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, he was in a prison chained around the clock to a Roman soldier. These warriors were his constant companions. As he stared at their armor and weaponry each day, the Holy Spirit presented him with a living illustration of the spiritual warfare every Christian is engaged in. As the Spirit of God impressed this message on Paul’s spirit, a command from God appeared four times in less than five verses. That command is “stand firm!”
It will help us understand the spiritual emphasis if we understand a bit of the historical background of why the Holy Spirit used this illustration and this particular command. Rome was the military superpower of the world in Paul’s day. Her soldiers had conquered most of the known world. Roman outposts would eventually stretch across the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern and Western Europe as far as the Scottish lowlands. These warriors were feared for their effectiveness, tenacity, and superior training. They were lean, mean, killing machines.
Before a battle, the Imperator (a Roman general) would call his officers in and share the battle plan with them. These officers, in turn, would call their centurions together and brief them on their responsibilities. Each centurion commanded eighty to one hundred soldiers. Every centurion had fought his way up to that rank from among the enlisted soldiers. Their appointment had been earned on the battlefield, not through political favors, well-placed friends and family, or bribes.
Once a centurion had been given his orders, he would assemble his men and give them their orders—their responsibilities in the upcoming battle. He would remind his squad that they were fighting for the glory of Rome, their families, and their emperor. The last command every centurion gave was, “Stand Firm!” Every soldier was expected at the very least—the minimum—to hold the ground in battle on which he stood, and if given the opportunity to take as much ground as he could from the enemy.
After the command to stand firm, the centurion reminded his troops that it would be better for that soldier to die on the field of battle and be carried off on his shield than to live because they retreated or ran in fear. Cowardice in battle and desertion were dealt with quickly and brutally. That soldier was clubbed or stoned to death by his own comrades in arms. If you study the armor of a Roman soldier closely you will find there is little protection on their back. Retreat or defeat was not an option to be considered.
As warriors of Jesus Christ, God calls on us to “stand firm!” Once we put on the armor of Christ, we are not to give ground or surrender. We are called to plant our feet firmly and not blink when the enemy attacks. Our ability to do this is found in our relationship with Jesus Christ, not our own strength, ability, or training. Our armor is Jesus, not leather, metal, or even Kevlar. Our armor is Jesus and our ability is based on relationship.
Are your feet planted firmly? Are you facing the enemy each day with your shoulders back and head up?
Are you standing firm or are you running for your life?