THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD
Ephesians 6:11-13 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
In the verse previous to the lesson text, Paul begins his closing message to the church at Ephesus by saying, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. He recognizes the vulnerable state of the Ephesian brethren in their stand against Satan. He recognizes the worldliness the devil supports, and constantly places before them, in order to lure them away from serving God and the cause of Christ. As inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrotethis same message to every church of Christ in Asia Minor, at that time, as well as to all churches today. The same war that existed between His church and the Satan at that time in biblical history, is the same war being waged against every Christian and each body of Christ today. This message is a warning to God's people of all ages to stand against the wiles of the devil. In order to do so effectively, Paul says it is necessary to put on the whole armor of God.
At the time Paul wrote this epistle to the Ephesians, protective armor was widely used by most military forces, especially the Grecian and Roman armies. Armor was also used to protect individuals in battles of strength, that were performed in sporting arenas for the amusement of audiences. Although there were many alternatives and modifications, there were some standard parts of armor. Most were made of metal, with metal mesh, and leather, used to allow the motion of joints. The helmet was protection for the head and often included a movable face cover called a beaver. The breastplate was generally two pieces that covered both the front and back of the upper torso having attachments to cover the upper arms. The girdle covered the waist and thighs and served as a support for attaching scabbards and sheaths for offensive weapons. Gauntlets were worn to cover the lower arm and hands. Greaves were put on to protect the legs below the knees as well as to secure attachments to cover the feet. The most widely used piece of armor was the shield, which attached to the arm, and was moved as needed to ward off, and give protection from the strikes of enemy weapons. These were all used for defensive purposes. Offensive weapons were varied and had many shapes and designs. Some of the more common weapons were spears, lances, swords, daggers, battleaxes, bow and arrows, slings, and maces (iron clubs), with the sword being the most prevalent weapon. All were used in order to successfully ward off the attack and defeat the enemy.
The analogy Paul used to teach about the war, which all Christians must wage against Satan, was easy to understand at the time he wrote this message to the Ephesians, and is just as easily understood today. First, all Christians should know that they are constantly in a battle for the salvation of their souls, and the enemy is the devil, Satan, himself, as well as all those that are within his army, and follow his wicked ways. The battle we must wage is not against flesh and blood - not a physical battle against other human beings. It is a spiritual battle. The enemy of the Christian, isSatan. To slay a Christian is definitely not Satan's purpose. Rather, he wins the battle, when he draws Christians away from serving God, and converts them inot following the ways of the world, and spiritual wickedness. Since this a spiritual battle, the Christian does not need armor to protect the body, but to protect the soul. This, Paul says, God supplies to all that seek His protection. With the whole armor of God, the Christian can safely protected his or her self from the wiles of the devil - to stand firmly and steadfastly against all encounters with Satan.
Paul now explains the complete, protective armor available to every Christian soldier in the army of God (Eph. 6:14-17). Protection starts with having your loins girt about with truth. Without the truth of God, that is found in His word, it would be impossible to identify sin and the evil ways of worldliness. And without its recognition, it would not be possible to avoid and abstain from the temptations of evil. Other protection from the sinfulness of Satan is available by having on the breastplate of righteousness. Through the knowledge of God's word, the Christian distinguishes between what is right and what is wrong. With this knowledge, we know the conduct of life that is right in the sight of God. To put on righteousness, is to practice righteousness - to incorporate moral integrity, purity, piety, and holiness in our lives. Christians defend against sinful conduct, by practicing righteous living.
As Paul continues to describe spiritual armor, he says that all Christians should have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. In Romans 10:15, Paul quotes the sentiment found in Isaiah 52:7, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. Preparation to teach the word of God comes through study - a continual study. And the practice of living a righteous life, is the continual practice of obedience. By word or by deed, all Christians should be prepared to teach the peace found in the gospel of Christ. Here, and only here, can one find true peace. Self-peace requires peace with God and peace with your fellow man. Walking in peace is the best defense against the difficulties, dangers, and temptations of life, that are constantly placed before us by Satan, and those that have enlisted in his evil army.
It is the army of Satan that continually hurls the fiery darts of the wicked at the children of God. Paul tells us the shield of faith is the armor necessary to quench, or ward off these fiery darts. The apostle John uses this same analogy and tells us that our faith ...is the victory that overcometh the world (1 John 5:4). Peter says that our steadfastness in the faith enables us to conquer our adversary the devil (1 Peter 5:8-9). Just as the shield of the soldier deflects the darts and arrows avoiding death or injury, so the shield of faith deflects the spiritually harmful darts of Satan - thoughts that would wound and destroy the soul through unbelief, or temptations that lure one into sinful, worldly pleasure. This thought is summed up in Paul's message to the Corinthian brethren when he said that by faith ye stand (1 Cor. 1:24b). By inference, this statement tells us that, without the shield of faith, we would fall against the fiery darts of the wicked.
The helmet of salvation is also necessary as part of the complete armor of God. Paul told the Christians at Thessalonica to put on an helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8b). Satan wants to torment and trouble your mind, to confuse and cause you despair, to place doubt in your mind and cause you to withdraw your trust in God, to convince you to seek salvation through worldly wisdom rather that through godly wisdom from above. It is vital for the soldier in battle to have the hope of victory in order to defeat his foe. So it is with the soldier of the cross. With the hope of salvation, the conflict with Satan can, and will, be won. Our hope should be built on nothing less than the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is this strong hope that serves as our helmet of salvation.
The spiritual armor described by Paul, allows the Christian to successfully defend themselves against the attacks of Satan. In order to win a battle, one cannot passively rely only on defense. It is necessary to battle back; to fight the enemy in a positive, aggressive way, with offensive weapons such as the sword. To the Christian, this offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Read Matthew 4:1-11. There we find Jesus, Himself, confronting Satan in a verbal battle, and using the word of God as His weapon to defeat the devil. In every instance, Jesus replied, "It is written,"quoting God's word, in order to overcome and defeat the temptations of Satan. The temptations of Satan thrive where false teaching exists. Satan has no defense against the Christian that is armed with the truths found in the holy, inspired word of God. The writer of the Hebrew letter says that ...the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12a).
To emphasize the importance of the lesson found in this text, re-read the opening verse. Take it to heart; apply it to your Christian life. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. With the armor of God, we can, and must, stand firm in the Lord.