The Whole Armor of God
Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
My Father and I are both veterans of the US Navy, Dad having served in the Seabees during the Korean War and me as a submariner during the Cold War. We were talking about his time in the service the other day, which led to a conversation about other wars he’s lived through. He’s old enough to remember what things were like during World War II. He recalls there was scarcely any unemployment, for everybody was engaged in the war effort. Everyone understood there was a war going on. Nearly everybody was sacrificing, so victory could be assured.
Our text speaks of a war which long preceded all other wars, a war which still rages on. There is not a place on this planet where you can escape it and everyone is affected by it. But you won’t hear about it on the news and many deny the reality of its existence. Yet this war is actual and the Lord Himself calls on every believer to engage in it. We need to live in the realization we are at war!
It won’t work for us to fight this battle in our own strength. Instead, we are exhorted to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Earlier in this epistle, Paul wrote of the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19). It is as Martin Luther wrote, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.” The One by our side is the One who died for our sins and rose from the dead, winning the decisive victory over our foes (Colossians 2:13-15). Apart from Him, we can do nothing!
We need to know our enemy. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). Our enemy is not our fellow human beings, but the Devil and his emissaries. We are prone to look only to the horizontal plane, when behind the scenes there is an unseen enemy who is ever working to deceive and destroy. John Phillips has commented on this, “Our enemies are not people. We must see beyond people. Satan may use people to persecute us, lie to us, cheat us, hurt us, or even kill us. But our real enemy lurks in the shadows of the unseen world, moving people as pawns on the chessboard of time. As long as we see people as enemies and wrestle against them, we will spend our strength in vain.”
We need to stand firm. The phrase “stand firm” is repeated three times in the passage. To stand firm in the military sense is to hold one’s position, even if under attack. Used here, it speaks to holding fast in one’s faith and obedience amidst the assaults of the enemy. Much as Martin Luther did when he stood before the Diet of Worms having been condemned for declaring that men were saved by faith alone in Christ alone. He said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God…Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”
We need to put on the whole armor of God. Paul drew on the imagery of a Roman Soldier in describing what this means. For every point of vulnerability, God has provisioned protection. Every piece of the armor is strategically essential if we are to withstand the assaults of the enemy. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power” (2 Corinthians 10:4). The Word of God and prayer are both essential and to neglect either is to leave oneself vulnerable.
Ray Stedman, “Those who ignore this call and the battle that rages around them are doomed to be casualties. We cannot remain neutral. We must choose sides. We must align ourselves with the forces of God, the forces of good. We must answer the bugle call, we must put on our armor and stand our ground, or the battle will roll over us and in our defenseless, bewildered state, the forces of evil will trample us into the dust of the battlefield…Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not flesh and blood weapons, not physical weapons, not political weapons. Rather, our weapons are mighty, through God, unto the pulling down of strongholds and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). That is the path to victory!”
“Unless we are motivated and directed by truth, we will be defeated by the enemy.”Warren Wiersbe
SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, ARISE
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
and put your armor on,
strong in the strength which God supplies
thro’ his eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
and in his mighty pow’r,
who in the strength of Jesus trusts
is more than conqueror.
Stand then in his great might,
with all his strength endued;
but take, to arm you for the fight,
the panoply of God.
Leave no unguarded place,
no weakness of the soul;
take ev’ry virtue, ev’ry grace,
and fortify the whole.
To keep your armor bright,
attend with constant care;
still walking in your Captain’s sight,
and watching unto prayer.
From strength to strength go on;
wrestle and fight and pray;
tread all the pow’rs of darkness down,
and win the well-fought day.