All Scripture references are New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1978 by New York International Bible Society
It doesn't require the brain power of a nuclear physicist to realize that the world in general -- and American society in particular -- is madly careening down the broad path to eternal destruction. More than ever, warriors of the Lord Jesus Christ must hear His trumpet call-to-arms, and obey. But we cannot hope to win this fight against evil unless we are properly armed.
The Lord has commanded us, "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 6:13)
The Roman foot soldiers with whom Paul was so well acquainted were the models for this passage. These men were often poor peasants, forced to depend upon their superiors for armament. Likewise, we who serve in Jesus' army do not have the means to create spiritual armor and weapons for ourselves. We must depend solely upon our liege Lord. And He has graciously given us these items in full measure.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist . . . (Ephesians 6:14a)
The belt was central to a Roman soldier's armor. From the belt hung his sword, dagger, and metal-studded leather strips to guard the groin. If a soldier was fortunate enough to receive an award for valor, this linen strip was also knotted to the belt. Without the belt there could be no place to attach these devices.
The Gospel of John teaches us that Jesus is Truth: "The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:14, 17)
Later in John, when the disciples are wondering about Jesus' purpose, He tells them, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Even non-Christians recognize Jesus as a great prophet, teacher and sage. Scripture shows us He is all those things and so much more. If we are not girded with a clear understanding of Jesus' nature and earthly mission through frequent, fervent study of the Word, we have nothing upon which to hang our Christian faith.
. . . with the breastplate of righteousness in place . . . (Ephesians 6:14b)
Roman chest armor was fashioned in a variety of styles and metals, according to the wealth of the soldier; everything from hard-boiled leather, to mail shirts, to elaborately carved, silver-plated masterpieces. In whatever form, the breastplate's primary function was to protect tender, vital organs.
The Lord has designed the Breastplate of Righteousness to guard our hearts from evil. This must not be confused with self-righteousness, as with the Pharisee who thanked God that he was "not like" murderers and thieves (see Luke 18:11). Genuine righteousness is manifested in the humble desire to live a godly life, according to God's perfect will and purpose. Our spiritual wealth determines how sound this piece of defensive armor will be.
. . . and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace . . . (Ephesians 6:15)
Hand-to-hand combat, whether on the battlefields of ancient Gaul or in today's boxing ring, demands agility and speed in addition to strength and skill. A spiritual warrior cannot be victorious when his feet are mired in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and acclaim.
The "readiness that comes from the gospel" implies possession of a two-fold form of wisdom: a knowledge of the Scriptures and the expertise to apply a certain passage to a situation. The Pharisees of Jesus' day could quote Scriptures all day long. Yet their knowledge was only academic. Focusing solely upon the individual words, these religious men were blind to deeper spiritual meanings. Jesus strongly condemns this attitude in Matthew 23:23. Academic knowledge of Scripture is useless without the willingness and ability to apply the truths to everyday living.
In John 15:19, Jesus reminds us that Christians do not belong to the world. He has chosen us to be separated from the world. This idea is constantly reinforced throughout the epistles. With the Shoes of Gospel-Readiness to help keep us from being bogged down with worldly concerns, we are better equipped to carry out His orders in the fight against evil.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
Throughout history the shield has been an essential part of a warrior's accouterments. Usually we think of the shield strictly in terms of defense, as when we read Paul's command to raise the Shield of Faith against "the flaming arrows of the evil one." These arrows of temptation, worry, hatred, self-doubt and fear are relentlessly aimed at every aspect of our lives. And the stronger our walk with the Lord, the more arrows we can expect to come zinging our way. We must become adept at quickly positioning the Shield of Faith where it will provide the greatest protection.
Yet the skilled warrior also uses his shield as an offensive weapon to beat back the enemy. And Paul's instruction reflects this technique. He tells us to use our Shield of Faith -- not merely to defend ourselves from the fiery arrows, but to extinguish them. This verb suggests a bold, proactive response to Satan's assault.
Take the helmet of salvation . . . (Ephesians 6:17a)
The Romans of Paul's day recognized the importance of protecting the head. Even the lowliest auxiliary foot soldier was issued a helmet, which also doubled as his mess tin. How much more has our loving Father provided for His spiritual soldiers.
As the Breastplate of Righteousness guards our hearts from impurity, so the Helmet of Salvation keeps our minds from worrying about where we will spend eternity. A warrior cannot fight effectively if his mind is cluttered with concerns that have nothing to do with the battle. We are weak witnesses for the Lord unless we stand firm in the assurance of His saving grace and forgiveness.
. . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God . . . (Ephesians 6:17b)
Life in the Roman legions was demanding, as it is in today's armed services. Roman soldiers were often deployed to hotbeds of political unrest and outright rebellion as the Roman politicians tried to control their vast empire. Thus the soldier's constant companion was his sword. Even during periods of peace, it was never far from his hand.
It is relatively easy to immerse ourselves in the Word and wield the Sword of the Spirit when we have a pressing problem to overcome. Yet if we are to serve as true warriors for the Lord, we must realize that we are in a battle. Satan is constantly vigilant, and we should be also. The one purely offensive weapon for combating evil, the Word of God, should never be very far from reach.
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 saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
Communication is extremely important in any battle. A unit is crippled when it is unable to receive orders or send information back to headquarters. Prayer is our "hotline" to God and the battlefield on which we fight. Without prayer we cannot receive His commands, call upon His power, or report the progress of our spiritual warfare.
Our Heavenly Commander-in-Chief has issued six tools to use in our battle against Satan and his "dark forces:" the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of Gospel-Readiness, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit. Each item is powerful in itself, yet we have been ordered to arm ourselves with all six. For when we do, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against our efforts!
Command, Winter 1993-94
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