by Evan H. Hopkins
Evan Henry Hopkins (1837-1918) was born in New Grenada, South America, where his parents were temporarily living. He was educated in England and Australia. After his conversion, young Hopkins studied at King’s College in London, before his ordination as a deacon in the Church of England. Hopkins’ great and lasting ministry began after his marriage to Isabella Sarah Kitchin, when he became the first vicar of Holy Trinity in Richmond, serving that church from 1870 to 1893.
In 1873, Hopkins heard Robert Pearsall Smith, an American Quaker, teach that sanctification as well as justification was by faith, and that there were promises made by God which needed to be realized which would completely change the Christian’s life. Thereafter Hopkins was one of the leading teachers and exponents of the teaching that “holiness is by faith in Jesus, not by effort of my own,” to quote Frances Ridley Havergal.
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“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:10, 11).
“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Almost immediately after the believer realizes what it is to have eternal life in Christ he is brought face to face with conflict. It is of the utmost importance that he understand clearly the essential elements of this warfare, in order to be victorious. One of the chief passages of Scripture on this important subject is Ephesians 6:10-17.
The first thing to be noticed is the preparation for the battle, given in verse 10: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
To be strengthened in the Lord we must first see Him as the Conqueror. When God raised Christ from the dead and set Him at His own right hand, it was “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come, and He put all things under His feet” (Eph. 1:21,22). Through His death He has vanquished him who had the power of death, that is the devil.
As has often been observed, the Epistle to the Ephesians in the New Testament corresponds to the Book of Joshua in the Old. It is here that the Lord manifests Himself as a man of war. It is not until the children of Israel are standing within the borders of the promised land, that Jehovah appears to them as the Conqueror: “As the Captain of the Lord’s host am I now come.” It is the same divine Person, come now to lead them forth to the conflict, and to teach them the true secret of victory.
As Joshua, after conquering the five kings, required his battle leaders to identify themselves with him in the victory by placing their feet on the necks of those kings (Josh. 10:24,25), so our Joshua would have His believing followers by faith plant their feet on the victorious position which He has obtained for them. This is to be made powerful in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
Let it be clearly understood, that this is not a question of progressive attainment, but a matter of immediate acceptance by faith. We take it before we begin to fight, for not until that position is taken, are we prepared for the conflict.
The conflict does not consist in dislodging the enemy from his vantage ground. To see what Christ has accomplished is to see that the enemy has already been overcome and dislodged from his stronghold, and that our conflict consists in fighting, not for this position of victory, but from it. All we have to do is to hold our ground. We have “to keep the field,” as Martin Luther puts it. And so the apostle says: “that you may be able to withstand…and having done all, to stand” (v. 13).
Not only must the right position be occupied, the equipment which God has provided must be appropriated: “Put on the whole armour of God.” We note that what we have here is equivalent to the direction given in Paul’s epistle to the Romans: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14). To put on Christ is to be brought into entire subjection to His supremacy, to be wholly under His control. This is the secret of having His power. (See “Conditions of Power,” page 30, in the January issue.) Until this is obtained, we are not ready to engage in the battle.
The believer who really fulfills the conditions insisted upon in Ephesians 6:10-17 is, as Gurnal says, a “Christ-enclosed man.” Satan is too experienced a general to waste his strength against walls which he knows are impregnable. So he seeks to lure us out of our Fortress. His aim is to get the believer to quit faith’s position. If he can only get him to doubt, he will succeed in his schemes; for the moment the believer quits faith’s position he falls under Satan’s power. Hence the fight is not merely “the good fight,” but “the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).
There are three “ables” in this passage that should be carefully noted. The first is in verse 11: “That you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The provision made for us in the armor is sufficient to enable us to stand. There is no reason why even the weakest saint should be overcome by Satan. It is God’s purpose that we should come off victorious. Let us expect not defeat but triumph.
Notice next the “able” in verse 16: “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” We know something of these fiery darts and the suffering they occasion: those unbelieving thoughts, desponding, hard, abominable thoughts—inflaming our worst passions and plunging us into the darkest gloom. How we long to be delivered! Where is the remedy? It is in the shield of faith. Let that shield be ever between us and the enemy, and not a single dart shall reach our souls.
Then, back in verse 13, we read, “That you may be able to withstand (anthisteme) “ in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” The same Greek word occurs also in James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:9 where it is translated “resist,” but bearing in mind that the meaning is really “withstand” we see that the only way in which Satan can successfully be encountered is for us to be found by him entrenched in Christ. We are to “resist” Satan by standing fast in faith’s victorious position.
From these passages we can detect the secret of our past failures. We have not seen the necessity of this attitude of trust; we have relied on our own efforts, our own prayers. While we have believed that justification was by faith, we have not really believed that the fight and the victory were also to be realized through faith. But this is God’s appointed means.
The “law of liberty” is nowhere more necessary to our spiritual success than in this matter of conflict. If we are not really free from ourselves, we cannot fight so as to “withstand.” We must, therefore, put on the whole armor of God. There lies the secret of a continuous life of triumph over the power of the enemy.
But an important passage bearing on this conflict has not yet been noticed. It is Paul’s declaration in his Epistle to the Galatians: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:16-18). The enemy which the apostle has especially in view in this text is “the flesh”—meaning the seat of sin in man The flesh is that tendency to self or to sin which exists even in the regenerate.
The believer cannot really conquer himself; but by giving Christ the throne, by simply falling in with His conditions, self is conquered, the flesh is held in abeyance, kept in the place of death, so that the believer is free to fight the enemies of the Lord. What the apostle here declares is that “walking in the Holy Spirit” is the means of living in continual triumph over, or in a state of deliverance from, the “lust of the flesh.”
We must jealously distinguish between rebellion and true Christian conflict. If we are not willing that God should have His way with us, if we are setting up our will in opposition to His will, this certainly is conflict; but it is not Christian conflict. It is not “the good fight of faith.” It is like a soldier who, going out to fight his country’s enemy, is found sometimes on the side of the foe.
What then is needed on the part of the believer in order that his life may be a life of triumph? Not struggles with the flesh to overcome it. He has no power really to conquer the flesh; but he is free to choose either the flesh or the Spirit. He can yield either to the one or the other; and by the constant surrender of his will to the Holy Spirit, he finds at once that power in God which he does not possess in himself, a power that completely conquers the flesh and gives him continually a path of deliverance from its lusts.
But note what the apostle says at the end of this chapter, “They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.” As Lange explains, those who by faith appropriate to themselves Christ’s death upon the cross “have divested themselves of all vital fellowship with sin, whose seat is the ‘flesh,’ so that as Christ was objectively crucified, we crucify the flesh subjectively, by means of the entrance into fellowship of His death on the cross…. To Christians considered ideally, as here, this ethical slaying of the flesh is something which has taken place; in reality, however, it is also something taking place and continuing.”
It is our identification with Christ’s death unto sin, and being made one with Him in mind and heart in that death, that not only brings the flesh to the cross but keeps it there. To keep it in the place of death is the only way to walk in a path of continual deliverance. And it is in, through, and by the Spirit that this putting to death of the flesh is to be accomplished (Rom. 8:13).
What therefore this chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians puts before us, is not a description of that struggling between the two natures which so many Christians mistake for true Christian warfare, but the way of deliverance from one of our most serious hindrances to victorious conflict. It shows us how by the power of the Holy Spirit we may stand in a position of freedom from the harassing influences of the “lust of the flesh”—a freedom which is essential in order that we may engage in the conflict, run in the race, labor in the work, and abide in the fellowship to which by God’s grace we have been called.
From The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life
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