The Armor of God
By Pastor Luke Jones | April 1, 2018
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Today I had a chance to look again at a passage of scripture that has always been one of my favorites, as I imagine it may be for many of you. The Armor of God passage at the end of the book of Ephesians captures our imagination, describing several key aspects of our relationship with God as the main parts of a first-century Roman soldier’s armor.
First, Paul tells us what this armor is for, that we need it to stand up against the devil, who is our enemy. Paul makes it quite clear that our true enemy is spiritual. This means that our situation in life is not our enemy, our finances are not our enemy, and other people are not our primary enemies. Consider that Paul wrote this while imprisoned during a time when Christians were receiving persecution both from Jewish leadership and from the Roman empire! If Paul could write this in that setting, then we must confess that our neighbors, our boss, our relatives who we don’t get along with or who have intentionally made our lives painful are not our enemies, or at least not our primary enemies. They are, at best, challenges for our Christian love and, at worst, unrealizing tools in the hands of our true enemies: the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly Realms. If we are to stand our ground against the spiritual forces of evil, we NEED God to equip us!
The Belt of Truth – First, we have the belt of truth. We know that truth is important and that God desires us to know the truth, that Jesus said his disciples “will know the truth and the truth will set [them] free,” but why is truth a belt? Is this analogy an arbitrary part of the greater analogy of God being our armor or is there some way in which Truth is like a belt? Perhaps Truth is a belt because the belt holds everything together. Even your sword might be hung on your belt. Truth is like that in our lives. Every part of our relationship with God is connected to what we believe to be true about God and about our condition without God. Without this foundation holding things together, the other parts of our relationship with God can become disjointed and weakened individually but if we remember what we believe as Christians to be true, our armor stays on.
The Breastplate of Righteousness – Righteousness is not required to be saved. In fact, you cannot become righteous before you are saved. That would be earning your salvation, which the Bible tells us over and over again isn’t possible. Even so, once we accept the truth of Jesus and ask for his forgiveness and his Lordship, the Holy Spirit enables us to become more like Jesus – more righteousness. But in what way is righteousness as breastplate? The image of righteousness protecting my heart makes me think of passages like Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,” and Matthew 15:18, where Jesus says, “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these define them.” Righteousness flows from our hearts, as does wickedness. To enable us to grow in righteousness, God has to keep the devil out of our hearts.
Feet fitted with the Readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace – In other words, Good News Sandals! In the passage we often refer to as the great commission, Matthew 18:18-20, Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything [He] commanded us.” The gospel of peace, the good news that Jesus has come with his kingdom to set us free of our slavery to sin and death, isn’t something we are meant to keep to ourselves. We are meant to run with it to every people group on the planet! It is fitting, then, that the gospel be the part of the armor that prepares our feet to go places.
The Shield of Faith – Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Ephesians 2:8 says, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith,” so we know faith is vital to our relationship with God, but in what way is Faith a shield with which we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one? Have you ever been under spiritual attach of some kind, whether it be temptation, doubt, worry, or depression, and found that you had no answer to offer the devil and no way to move forward, as though you were under a rain of flaming arrows and felt powerless to move? When we don’t know what to do or how to move forward, Faith keeps us alive in Christ. In Faith, we stick to what we believe even if we can’t explain why in the middle of a crisis until the arrows stop and we can stand up again.
The Helmet of Salvation – Reading about Salvation as a helmet, protecting my head from the devil’s attacks makes me think of passages like Romans 12:1-2, which says, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” When we are saved by God’s mercy, our minds are redirected, guided by the Holy Spirit so Salvation is indeed a helmet, without which our minds cannot become the mind of Christ.
The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – In Isaiah 55:11, God tells his people, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We know God’s Word is powerful in bringing about what God desires in the world and in us, but in what way is it a sword? Well, Jesus used scripture when he was being tempted. He countered the Devil’s every attack with quoted scripture and sent the Devil packing! As God’s Word reveals the truth in us, showing us our own intentions, it readies us for temptation and when that temptation comes, we have those verses that have shaped our souls to strike back against the Devil, just as Jesus did.
Prayer – I would argue that, although it is not made a part of the armor analogy, Prayer is included at the end of Paul’s challenge in Ephesians as part of our readiness for spiritual battle. If we have all the other pieces of the armor, but forget that each of those pieces comes from God, we won’t last long in the spiritual battle of life. Our understanding of truth, our ability to live righteously, our mission to share the gospel, our ongoing salvation, the strength of our Faith and the life found in the Word of God are all dependent on our regular conversation and relationship with God through prayer.
Whatever battle awaits you today, may you be ready, fully protected and equipped with the armor of God!
- Pastor Luke