The Whole Armor of God

A Sunday Morning Exhortation

 

 

Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18

 

 

In this familiar passage we read words of encouragement, words of strength.  Words intended by the Apostle Paul to fortify the believers in Ephesus against the wicked influences of the world – the “principalities”, “powers”, “rulers of the darkness of this world”, and the “spiritual wickedness in high places”.  During the 1st century A.D. it was the Roman power that controlled and influenced all aspects of political, economic, and more importantly spiritual life, as is described in this passage. Though we no longer live under the yoke of Roman authority, the influences of government and culture as they now exist are no less wicked and influential as they were almost 2,000 years ago.  Though we are fortunate to live in a society that lets us practice our religious conscience in relative peace, the influences of popular culture and mainstream religion are certainly powerful and capable forces to contend against in our efforts to serve God acceptably in these “last days”. 

 

We have not yet arrived to the glorious time when the “high places” or “heavenlies” – symbolic of governmental and religious leadership – are inhabited by Christ and His Saints.  That is the “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” that the Apostle Peter alludes to in his Second Epistle - The era when “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”  But for the time being, we exist and function in the current order known as the Kingdoms of Men - this being a constitution of things that is at enmity against the Kingdom of God.  Though the Kingdom of God has not yet been re-established a condition of conflict exists among the citizens of that future Kingdom with the current constitution of man-made order.  This conflict is not yet being fought through physical violence (at least not on the part of those who seek this future Kingdom, though violence at times has been shown towards them) but is one of spiritual warfare – found in the realms of belief, conduct, conviction, philosophy, and future expectations.  It is a war of conflicting ideology and spiritual allegiance.  One side (made up of a vast majority of the human race) confidently but foolishly allies itself with the thinking of man (i.e. the flesh), the other side (made up of a remnant hardly worthy of notice) obediently recognizes the supreme authority of God and understands that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than man” and therefore commits itself to the directives and will of this invisible but yet ALL-POWERFUL leader.

 

Though the believers in God and his Truth’s are involved in a spiritual war and not a physical conflict, it is a war nonetheless. Therefore it is fitting that the scriptures make reference to the believer’s current situation as being one of conflict and being a “soldier”.  In Philippians 2:25, Paul speaking to Ephaphroditus calls him “my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier.  In 2 Timothy 2:3 we are exhorted to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  And the next verse continues on to say “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

 

Therefore, we are called to be “soldiers of Christ”.  We do not physically or even spiritually contend for the preservation of the present world (kosmos).  As Christ stated to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight..   Our fight is currently of a spiritual nature, but it is to ward off the evil influences of the “spiritual wickedness in high places” that detract us from properly serving God and His Son.  The influences of this world are extremely great upon our weak constitutions.  Though they are pressures that lead us to eventual death, their appearance is not usually frightening and they influence us by manipulating our thinking through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.  They are influences that we can see, that appeal to us, that make us feel good or give us a sense of relief for the time being.  In conventional warfare the site of bullets, bombs (swords and spears) causes great fear and incites an automatic reaction to seek protection.  But the spiritual weapons of the world around us, though having the same devastating impact, do not appear in such a frightening way.  Instead of destroying a man on contact, the weaponry of the world gets inside of a man and destroys him from the inside out.  What is even worse, if the armaments of the world penetrate us, within ourselves we have tendencies and weaknesses that help to aid the progression of their destroying power.

 

So it is very fitting that Paul exhorts us to protect ourselves with the imagery he uses in this 6th chapter of Ephesians.  Here it is described as “the whole armour of God” – an extremely fitting visual representation of a spiritual struggle.  The need for “armor” indicates the absolute necessity for protection of the human make-up.  Our heart, head, the use of our feet, & etc. are pivotal functions in the activities of the spiritual soldier.  These can be easily penetrated by “spiritual wickedness” if not properly protected, maiming the “soldier” and making his service to Christ of no strategic value – rendering him useless and left to die.

 

In considering the specifics of this spiritual armor, Paul gives us a detailed head to toe consideration.  It is an historical fact that the armor of Paul’s day (and which is the case for any soldier throughout the ages) consisted of two functions – defensive and offensive.  A soldier is of little value if only allowed to function from a defensive aspect in that if the enemy is left unmolested it is allowed to continually attack and weaken down the defender.  The soldier must not only be able to protect his vital functions but must also be able to attack the enemy as well weakening their ability to constantly attack. The old saying, “The best defense is a good offense” is not without merit.

 

The first piece of armor that the Apostle mentions is that of the loins or mid section of the body.  This is the girdle, or military belt.  The Diaglott informs us that this was to be “used to brace the armor tight to the body, and cover the two parts of the breastplate where they joined; and to support daggers, short swords, etc.”  It is fitting that Paul speaks of this first in that this was the section that basically held the body armor together, without this it seemingly would either fit too loose or fall apart altogether.  What is this spiritual armor? - Nothing less then the Girdle of Truth.  How fitting it is to compare Truth with this all important girdle.  Without Truth, nothing else seems to matter and everything falls apart.  There is no capability to raise a spiritual defense or mount a spiritual offensive.  The warrior is useless and incapable of action.  As an example, such was the spiritual condition of the Jews who during the time of Paul had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge”.  To have “zeal” or energy in embracing a cause is of the utmost importance, but it is of little value if we do not understand what we are fighting for.  The subject of Truth is at the heart of the message of the scriptures.  We are instructed to “buy the truth and sell it not”.  In Ephesians 1:13 we are told that the “word of truth” is “the gospel of your salvation”.  Truth is also equated to “light” in the scriptures and it is against its opposite - the “darkness” - in which we are in mortal combat against.  As Christ emphasized the importance of Truth in his prayer to his Father - “This is life eternal that they might know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

 

We next move on in Paul’s illustration to the Breastplate of Righteousness.  The Diaglott again informs us that the Breastplate consisted of two parts: One that reached from the neck to the navel, and then the second that continues to down around the knees.  Here we have the vital organs protected, but most importantly the heart.  The heart is spoken of throughout the scriptures as representing the inner man – the root of his very character.  If the heart is pierced by a foreign object the man instantly dies.  Speaking from a spiritual aspect, if the heart is infiltrated by the works of darkness and spiritual wickedness then the very motives and desires of a man are redirected.  Spiritually he becomes mortally wounded.  The inner-man must be sheltered at all costs.  Therefore, we must protect the heart, not with the unrighteousness of the world that only turns our heart towards evil, but we must cloak our hearts – our mid section – with the righteousness of God.  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6).  Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.” (Psalms 106:3).  The latter reference that is found in the book of Psalms helps to understand the vital character of this attribute of “righteousness” – we are to practice it “at all times”.  It is a piece of armor that must remain on continuously.  Just refraining from evil is not enough to ward off the wicked influences upon the heart; we must be active participants in doing that which is right before God.

 

Paul then directs our attention to the feet.  Here we are instructed to “have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.   This piece of the warrior’s armor was called the “Greaves” and was made of “gold, silver, brass, or iron” and covered the front part of the leg as well as the top of the feet.  It is not difficult for us to understand the importance of our legs and feet.  Our legs and feet are our vehicles for movement.  Our feet find common use in the scriptures as to indicate our spiritual direction.  Our life in the Truth is referred to as our “walk”.  The word “walk” is found some 30 times in the writings of the Apostle Paul alone in reference to our spiritual course.  In Ephesians 4:1 it is stated, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” Christ himself refers to the “straight and narrow path” that leads to life everlasting – a path impossible to trek unless our feet our doing as they should.  In Hebrews 12:13 we read, “And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed.”   Here we have healthy feet (spiritually applied) walking a “straight path” but those feet which are lame being referred to being “turned out of the way.”

 

The protective armor that we are given to keep our feet secure is that of the “gospel” or good news of “peace”.  Though we are currently embattled in a great conflict with spiritual darkness, what we are fighting for now is most assuredly a message of peace.  The Things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” is a system of belief, a future reality that promises a joy and peace that cannot be achieved by the current order of things as conceived by men.  What God promises (and that which was the center piece of Christ’s teachings) was that of a future era without pain, suffering, conflict, and death.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”   In Isaiah 52:7 we read, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, “Thy God reigneth!  The full reality of these words has yet to be fulfilled until the return of the Messiah, but we prepare for these future events now through the “gospel” or good news that we now embrace.  It gives us solid ground in which our feet can find support and successfully fight upon, and also gives us the proper direction and course in which we follow after.

 

No ancient warrior was defensively protected without his shield.  Paul tells us to “above all” take “the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.   Again, referring to the Diaglott we read that the shield was “sometimes round and sometimes square, was made of strong thick leather or hides; sometimes was wood covered with brass and iron”.  By the historical description given of the shield we would understand it to be very strong but extremely heavy and difficult to hold as a defensive tool.  Our shield is to be “Faith”, or “The Faith” as it should be rendered.  Like holding the shield of the ancient warrior, to hold up faith as a defensive tool is often difficult for the weakness of the flesh.  To have faith, which is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” must take a great degree of spiritual strength and maturity in order for it to be properly used as a source of defense.  It is only through conviction of the utmost assurance that we are able to overcome the doubts and insecurities that often plague the human mind.  We naturally find comfort and confidence in the things that we can see.  God cannot be seen and His promises are yet to be fulfilled therefore creating a challenge for the shallow and nearsighted attributes of the flesh.  But as the scriptures warn, “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”  Through faith, men such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses were able to see beyond the passing and vain times in which they lived and understand that their confidence had to be directed by the promises that God had made.  Christ was able to overcome the dismal circumstances of his first appearance through “the joy that was set before him”.  The shield of Faith, if held high, protects us from the “fiery darts of the wicked” that seek to undermine our Faith in God’s promises.  We know that such “darts” come at us from the world but we also have to recognize that they come at us from within the Household as well.  They seek to weaken our resolve by shaming us, shunning us or dangling before us what is perceived to be a more attractive way of living.  If our faith is not strong, if we do not use The Faith to counteract such “darts” then we become wounded and weakened in our efforts.  The man of “faith” is not fearful of the opinions of others.

 

Our attention is then drawn to the head, which is protected by the Helmet of salvation.  It is the Truth of God’s word and our faith in that Word that saves us – that is our salvation.  We cannot separate the tools of our spiritual armor one from another in that they are all inseparably linked – so it is not surprising that we see subject matter already dealt with in the consideration leak over into this aspect of spiritual armor.  Our head is where the process of thought, intellect, and reason is stored.  Our mind has to understand the absolute importance of the Truth in saving us.  Paul refers in 1 Thessalonians to the “hope of salvation”.  Our mind must be protected so that we do not lose our focus on this “hope”.  It is easy for individuals of even the greatest intellect to question or even reject the simple Truths that make up the hope that we have.  Many a so called “wise man” has fallen in this regard.  We must protest our head from the vanities and philosophies and “science falsely so called” that attempt to change our view of The Truth and our Hope.  It is by keeping on the “helmet of salvation” that this is accomplished.

 

Finally we reach the offensive weapon that every soldier must have – without it they are useless as a soldier in that there is nothing in which to attack and defeat the enemy.  That weapon is the “sword of the spirit”.  This sword, this weapon is nothing less then the word of God.  In Hebrews 4:12 we read, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.   This Word defeats anything that the enemy desires to throw at us, whether it be false doctrine, immorality, or any other tactic they attempt in defeating our stand in the Truth.  God’s word stands firm whether it is accepted or not by men.  Not only is it used against our outward enemies but it can be used on ourselves to purify the weaknesses that we have, the workings of that enemy known as “sin in the flesh” that dwells within us.  Christ used this word to overcome his temptations – we should also use it in the same manner.  The great enemy is sin, whether it be from outside influences or the tendencies that come out of our own flesh.  In the future, when Christ returns, we see that this will be the primary weapon that will attack the nations of this earth that dare to stand against Christ and his saints. 

 

In Revelation 19:15 it is stated, “And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”  Men who stand against this “sword” will not only be defeated morally but at the time of Christ’s Return will lose their lives at the tip of this spiritual sword if they are unwilling to accept God’s requirements.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Our battle is at times overwhelming but the defensive and offensive weapons and armor at our disposal is of a strength that is impenetrable if properly used.  Therefore let us heed the advice of the apostle and “praying always with all prayers and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.  The battle is very real but so is the potency of the Truth, Righteousness, Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, and Word of God that have been granted to us for our use.  Christ no doubt availed himself of this armor and now stands as “The Captain of our Salvation”.  Let us look unto our Captain in remembrance and appreciation of all that he overcame, and serious consideration as to the means he used in which to overcome.  And following after his example, let us take on the “whole armor of God” and do honor unto him who we have been called to be soldiers under His authority – truly being soldiers of Christ.

 

A. Thomas