What does it mean to be strong in the Lord in Ephesians 6:10?

Ephesians 6:10 says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." As Christians, it's common to hear it said that we should be strong in the Lord or find our strength in Him. So, what does it mean to be strong in the Lord? And, how do we become strong in the Lord?

Ephesians 6:10–20 discusses the armor of God. Verse 12 draws our attention to the reality of the spiritual warfare going on around us. The command to "be strong in the Lord" has to do with living a spiritually victorious life. This relates to standing firm in the faith, to persevering in trust in God, to putting sin in our lives to death, and to resisting our enemy Satan (1 Corinthians 16:13; Hebrews 3:12–14; 1 Peter 5:6–9).

The Greek word translated "be strong" in Ephesians 6:10 is in passive verb voice. It might be better understood as "be strengthened," as translated in the New English Translation. We do not make ourselves strong; rather we are strengthened or empowered in the Lord. Being strong in the Lord requires that we lean on Him for our strength instead of ourselves.

Note that this strength is something that comes when we are "in the Lord." It is only when we are in union with Christ that we can be strengthened by Him. The first part of being "in the Lord" is having salvation by God's grace through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1–10). When we trust in Him for salvation, we become a member of His family—we are "in Christ" (John 1:12; Romans 6:23; 8:1–11; 12:5; Galatians 3:26–29). Jesus told His followers about abiding in Him as a branch abides in a vine (John 15:1–11). Only in Him can we bear fruit. He gives us the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides us, strengthens us, and transforms us (John 14:15–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Philippians 2:12–13).

In Ephesians 1:3–14, Paul explains some of the advantages of being in Christ. We are blessed with "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (v. 3), chosen "that we should be holy and blameless" (v. 4), adopted (v. 5), redeemed (v. 7), and forgiven (v. 7). God's grace is described as having riches and being "lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight" (v. 8). We have an inheritance (v. 11) and have received the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of it (v. 13–14).

Paul tells his readers that he prays for them, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:17–23). Notice how Paul describes "the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe" (v. 19); it is this same power by which Jesus rose from the dead. Certainly God has plenty of strength for us!

While it sounds simple to rely on someone else for strength, and we know that God is eminently capable of strengthening us, living it out in practice can be a bit challenging. Have you ever broken a bone? Maybe you broke your leg and had to be on crutches. Chances are, you had to rely on someone else to help you by driving you places, carrying your groceries for you, and so on. While it was wonderful to have them there as your strength, the tradeoff was that you yourself were weak. When God is your strength, you rely on Him to be your source of strength. He will always be stronger than we are, but we, as humans, can tend to stubbornly cling to our own strength and desire for total self-sufficiency. Even as Christians we can sometimes falsely trust in our own merits for our strength rather than allowing ourselves to be strengthened in the Lord.

Paul reminds us of what God said to him when he was upset by his own human weakness: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). In Paul's personal weakness, he ended up finding his strength, power, and contentment in God. Through God's strength, we can do all that He calls us to do (Philippians 4:12–13; 2 Peter 1:3).

By continuing on to read in Ephesians 6:10–18, we see some of the ways we are strengthened in the Lord:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints."

The armor of God makes us strong in Him: truth, righteousness, readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and praying in the Spirit. As we put on the armor of God, we begin to walk in His strength, rather than our own. We are strengthened by Him, made strong in the Lord. With God as our strength, we will not falter, and we will be able to persevere in living for Him throughout the triumphs and hardships alike that we face (see Psalm 18:29–36).

Related Truth:

What is the full armor of God?

What does it mean to submit to God?

What is the sword of the Spirit?

How can I come to really know God?

Wait on the Lord — What does this mean?

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