As the apostle Paul begins to close his letter to the Ephesian church, he makes this appeal: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). The word translated “be strong” here actually means “be strengthened,” as rendered in the New English Translation: “Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power.”
Paul had been teaching the Ephesians about the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and the life that flows from it. He outlined the standards of this life for believers individually, for fellowship within the Christian community, and for the more intimate family relationships within the home. Finally, Paul reminded believers that the Christian life means participation in a spiritual battle. From his own experience, the apostle knew the opposition is real and the warfare intense: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12–13).
Since believers are engaged in an ongoing spiritual battle with the powers of darkness, they cannot endure without the power of God. To be strong in the Lord and the power of His might is vital to living a victorious Christian life.
First, it’s important to understand what “be strong in the Lord” does not mean. In the original Greek language, the term is a passive voice verb meaning “to be rendered (more) capable or able for some task.” To be strong in the Lord does not involve building up your own strength. Believers cannot strengthen themselves in the Lord; rather, they must be empowered or be strengthened, as the Greek voice indicates.
The next key to understanding what it means to be strong in the Lord is the apostle’s use of “in the Lord,” rather than “by the Lord” or “of the Lord.” Only when our lives are positioned in the Lord, in union with Him, do we possess the appropriate power to overcome the enemy. Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’” (John 15:4–5). The believer’s empowerment comes from being in Jesus. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but in Christ we have at our disposal all the strength of His might. Through the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the Lord’s power makes us able or capable. He strengthens us with everything we need for any task. Closing his letter to the Ephesians, Paul goes into detail about how the Lord equips us for ongoing spiritual warfare with the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13–18).
Earlier in Ephesians, Paul had prayed that his readers might understand and experience “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (Ephesians 1:19–23, CSB).
When Paul encourages believers to “be strong in the Lord,” he is calling them to faithfulness—to abiding in Christ and trusting in the Lord’s power for everything in life. True Christian strength comes from recognizing our utter dependence on God. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, CSB).
Often we are strongest in the Lord when we operate in the realm of human weakness. God allowed Satan to afflict Paul, but God’s purpose was to keep Paul humble and to demonstrate His power in his life: “But [Jesus] 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9). The power of Christ in the Christian’s life can be defined as “power in weakness,” for the Lord’s grace is apprehended only in recognition of our weakness.
Throughout the Bible, God delights in demonstrating His power in situations where human strength is lacking (1 Samuel 14:6–15; 1 Corinthians 1:27). When we are weak in ourselves, we are strong in the Lord because God’s strength becomes evident: “For he was crucified in weakness, but he lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by God’s power” (2 Corinthians 13:4, CSB). To be strong in the Lord means to be in spiritual union with Christ. Only then can we experience both the weakness of the cross and the power of the resurrection (Romans 6:5).