Strong in the Lord
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Eph. 6:10
What is the function of this appeal in this epistle? It clearly functions as a closing appeal. We see this in the opening word, “Finally, my brethren . . .” (10). But why put it here? There are exhortations all over the epistle; why end on this note?
I think the clue is in the opening exhortation: “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (10). From the beginning of this letter, the apostle has several times pointed the believers at Ephesus to the power of God for them. Not just the power of God, mind you, but the power of God which is appropriated for the day-to-day life of faith. Think back to chapter 1; there the apostle encourages them to know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:19-20). In fact, the apostle uses the same words here and in chapter 6 to describe the power of God. And then you have the mention of heavenly places which also shows up in 6:12. So you might think of these two passages as sorts of bookends for the epistle.
And then, right in the middle of the epistle, there it is again: Paul prays that God “would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (3:16). Again, we have this prayer for spiritual strength, and the source of this strength is the power of God.
Now this is tied to the overall theme of the epistle, because I think if you could sum up the overall theme of this epistle, it would be in the two words, “in Christ.” The apostle is reminding us of the spiritual blessings that we have in him (cf. 1:3). Everything we have that will bring us to heaven in the end comes in and through the person and work of the Son of God. We do not have eternal life because of who we are or what we have done. We have eternal life because of who Christ is and what he has done. It is an astonishing reality: we have union with God through Christ. And this means that the power of God is now available for every believer. It is not only available, we wouldn’t even be believers apart from the power of God raising us from spiritual death. But the point is that that same power is available to every believer, no matter where they are on the sanctification ladder. We may (and rightly so) feel our weakness and inability, but in Christ we are no longer alone. Yes, without him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5), but through him we can do all things (Phil. 4:13).
So when the apostle ends this epistle, it should not surprise us that he comes once again to the issue of union with Christ and the result of this union in being empowered with the power of God for daily victory over sin. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” Union with Christ is not just an abstract doctrine to be believed and defended and admired. It is to be appropriated in our daily life through faith in Christ. What the apostle is essentially saying is this, that if we really believe the truths of this epistle, if we really believe that we have union with Christ, we are not going to sit down in defeat and gloom and despair. No, rather we are going to stand against all our foes. This epistle has reminded them of what God is doing for them and in them and through them. They are not alone. The grace of God has gone before them in election, was there at the beginning of their spiritual walk in regeneration, and is a constant aid in Christ. He is still able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
In summary, the apostle ends with these words because in doing so he is showing them how to take the great theme of this epistle, the wonderful truth of union with Christ, and put shoe leather on it, how to put it into practice. We live out the reality of being “in Christ” when we are strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, when we face down our spiritual enemies without running or giving up. Show me a Christian who really believes the truths of Ephesians, and I will show you a courageous man or woman. Theology matters, because theology, properly appropriated by faith with humility, puts fire in the bones and courage in the step. So this exhortation is a fitting conclusion to this epistle.