Ephesians 6:10-20 The Whole Armour of God
We have an enemy!
The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians is written as an encouragement to the Christians in Ephesus as it is also an encouragement to us: an encouragement to live out our calling as Christians: not to live in the futile way that people who have not been saved live: who live licentiously: without moral restraint, greedily: without self discipline, with bitterness and anger in their hearts, slandering, stealing and swearing…
But, rather live differently: truth telling, being encouraging; being kind hearted and making the most of the time that we have left: loving our families, loving our neighbours, even our bosses and employees.
But, Paul recognises that it is very difficultto live like this: there are so many temptations; there are so many provocations, other people behave so badly and so do we….and so we are constantly failing in this absolute requirement to love others. If we are being honest with ourselves, it is so difficult to live as a Christian!
But there is a reason it is so difficult: we are in a battle; we have an enemywhose sole objective is to prevent us from living like this. He is an enemy who operates in the heavenly realms that other dimension which we cannot see but has an impact on our lives in this world today.
Our enemy’s objective is to persuade us; trick us; lie to us; do anything he can to distract us from living like this from living as Christians.
Now I know that it is difficult for us to accept the idea of a personalised force of evil and some find it ridiculous. But here is an extract from the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, one of the greatest writers on theological themes in the 20th century. Its a letter written by a senior devil to a junior tempter about his patient who has recently become a Christian:
‘My dear Wormwood…
Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves….The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you…
Your Affectionate Uncle Screwtape’
Please do read the book, if you have not done so already!
In seeking to live as a Christian we are all fighting a battle against a concealed cosmic force of evil. We are standing shoulder to shoulder in a line of battle. Remember that Paul is dictating this letter to the Ephesians, whilst chained in a prison cell in Roman to a Roman soldier and wonderfully using him as a sermon illustration – perhaps bringing him to faith!
The battle that we are in is one in which there can be casualties. Like the soldiers of the time we depend on each other to fight this battle together. Our failures have an impact not just on us but upon everyone who professes to be a Christian and how they are perceived in the world and so we must not allow the enemy to establish a foothold in our soul. We must not let the devil’s work of temptation turn into our choice, which then changes our habits and ultimately distorts our character and results in us or those that we love being one of the casualties and letting down our comrades.
It’s a battle that we fight day to day in all the circumstances which we encounter. A battle not just against the demons tempting us; but the demons operating in others who they have allowed to establish a stronghold in their souls.
But it is not a battle against people Paul says (Verse 12) ‘that our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh but against the rulers against the authorities against the cosmic powers of this present darkness against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’.
It’s not people who are the problem, its the persons behind the people its what are influencing them that are the problem. So the most unpleasant bullying person we are likely to meet is not the problem. Its the enemy influencing them which is the problem. Its like they (and sometimes us) are enslaved to this enemy.
Seeing things this way makes it much easier to be compassionate about the people however vile they are that we encounter. Our enemies are not of flesh and blood. Our enemies are not our neighbours, however badly they behave.
But Paul points out that we are not fighting this battle alone as Paul says verse 10 ‘be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power’ not in our strength in his strength that is how we resist the devil’s tricks. We are on the side of the ultimate winner in this conflict. There is no need for us to be a casualty in this battle. There is no need for us to let others down but we will if we try to fight this battle in our own strength.
Paul encourages us to put on the whole armour of God so that we can stand against the wiles of the devil and stand is the operative word.
Therefore says Paul, (Verse 13) take up the whole armour of God.
Verse 14 put on the belt of truth (Balteus).
The balteus was something that Roman soldiers wore even when not in field armour. It was a mark of their status as a soldier. Taking away the belt for hours or days was a humiliation which was used to discipline them.
But Paul says wear the belt of truth. Without truth; without integrity; without being on the outside what we truly are, we are vulnerable. The belt of truth shows the world our status as Christians. Integrity is what people expect of us when we present ourselves as Christians; when we are known to go to church, without integrity, without the belt of truth, we are going to be caught with our trousers down. Hypocrisy makes us weak in this battle. It means that others cannot see us as Christians and we let our comrades in this battle down.
Then put on the breastplate of righteousness (Lorica Segmenta).
The breastplate covers the vital organs front and back. Paul says put on the breastplate of righteousness. This probably means moral conduct and character. So its not just about integrity; being who we appear to be but also behaving morally. Are we doing our best to behave morally? If not we expose ourselves to mortal injury, behaviour which in non Christians, people would barely notice: adultery for example, is shocking and unacceptable in Christians. If we do this we let our comrades in the battle line down.
But then verse 15, we put on our feet – Boots (caligae) whatever will make us ready to proclaim the gospel. We need a firm footing for the gospel of peace.
We need confidence that in the middle of the battle against the enemy, we can be sensitive to act graciously acting with undeserved courtesy and generosity to our opponents and be able to break off the battle when the moment is right.
Shield of faith (scutum) does our faith feel strong enough to withstand the flaming arrows of the devil? Remember doubt in God is the enemy’s first weapon and one of the worst: Doubt in what he says and in his character – his motivation (Genesis 3). Are we trusting in God on a daily basis, to build up our faith to learn how we can rely on him in a crisis?
Helmet of salvation (cassis) A blow to the head is going to be fatal. But for the Christian soldier the end of life is but the beginning of eternity. This is why the helmet of the Christian soldier is of salvation. Confidence in salvation will have an impact on how we deal with the enemy and the risks we are willing to take for God…….What’s the worst he can do? Kill us; but then we are freed to eternal life!
Sword (gladius) of the Spirit which is the word of God. The sword is used in stabbing motions mainly offensively to defeat the enemy. We are not going to be able to defeat the enemy without a knowledge of scripture; without understanding the gospel. If we don’t know scripture; if we don’t understand the gospel; if we don’t read the Bible, then we are going into this cosmic battle without a weapon, we are going to fail; we are going to be defeated.
We are in a battle, whether we like it or not, but we need to deploy all the weapons against an enemy who conceals himself in ourselves and in others we encounter: those we are required to love….
If we remember:
to live with integrity – the belt of truth
to live with good moral character – the breastplate of righteousness
but are gracious if an opportunity for peace arises- the boots
trusting in Christ so our faith develops — the shield
using the sword of the spirit – the word of God, being entirely familiar with the Bible,
then this is a battle in which we will not be a casualty; we will not let down our comrades in the line of battle and, as Paul encourages us, we will be strong in the Lord and able to stand firm despite everything!
The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.