The Armour of God
The Christian life is not an easy one, yet it is a blessed one. The enemy that deceived us for so long as unrepentant sinners will now direct his efforts to destroy any enjoyment you or God might get from your new life in Christ. It may be by direct attack or it may be by subtle deception and distraction. It may be to appeal to the lusts of our flesh which remains with us until death or it may be through pressure from the world and those close to us. To resist his wiles and stand firm in the faith we have been given the Holy Spirit and the armour of God. We need to use it or we will fall.
The armour (or panoply) of God
“For the rest, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the might of his strength. Put on the panoply of God, that ye may be able to stand against the artifices of the devil: because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies. For this reason take to you the panoply of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having accomplished all things, to stand. Stand therefore, having girt about your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and shod your feet with the preparation of the glad tidings of peace: besides all these, having taken the shield of faith with which ye will be able to quench all the inflamed darts of the wicked one. Have also the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word; praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching unto this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:13-18).
“But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh's lust. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these things are opposed one to the other, that ye should not do those things which ye desire” (Galatians 5:16-17).
“For walking in flesh, we do not war according to flesh. For the arms of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful according to God to the overthrow of strongholds; overthrowing reasonings and every high thing that lifts itself up against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every thought into the obedience of the Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
The might of the Lord …
The source of a Christian’s strength is God Himself. Peter tells us that we are to do what we can "each according as he has received a gift, ministering it to one another, as good stewards of the various grace of God. If any one speak—as oracles of God; if any one minister—as of strength which God supplies; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might for the ages of ages. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). Everything that we have, any strength for endurance and service, any ability to understand the will and mind of the Lord, any understanding of the scriptures all comes from God Himself. We are nothing without Him. The gospel went forth in the power of the Lord. The Holy Spirit was supplied to us to give us the power to apprehend all truth, even the mind of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). The Lord also is the power behind the gospel and not ourselves. “The Lord therefore, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God. And they, going forth, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs following upon it” (Mark 16:19-20).
Our struggle …
We are in a struggle. It takes energy and effort to fight a war and win. Every Christian is in this war and they are either winning or losing in their corner of the battle. The Holy Spirit is fighting the flesh in us but we soon know all too well that our old desires, our old wants, our old man wants to go back to the way things were before we found the Lord. Where there was no struggle before (we always did what our own flesh and pride dictated) there is now a great struggle within us between the old crucified and dying man and the new man that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The only point when the old man is finally gone is when it dies and we leave it behind to enter the presence of the Lord who has become our life. We are also in a struggle with the world. We stand opposed to all its lusts and pride proclaiming a way of salvation that requires the world to lose its influence over people. They can’t understand what drives a Christian and they deride them. The armour is what preserves us and enables us to fight back. We do not fight with fleshly (or carnal) weapons but we are engaged in a spiritual war in which the enemy is very powerful and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Being girt about your loins with truth …
A soldier in the Roman army wore a loin cloth which was worn around the waist. When going to battle this cloth was tied up to prevent it from getting in the way during the fighting. In more old-fashioned language ‘he girt up his loins’. The loin is the area of the waist down to the hips. It is the area of greatest weakness as it has no natural protection unlike the chest which has a ribcage. It is also the area where we experience the greatest temptation in the form of sexual desire. We are to bind up and surround this area of greatest weakness with the truth. Spiritually, this mean that we are to make sure that we apply the truth of God’s word to every area of our lives and follow it. Especially in the areas in which we know we are most likely to fall into temptation.
Breastplate of righteousness …
The breast is where the heart is. Symbolically, the heart speaks of our affections. The relationships that we have and the way we love others is to be righteous. Our relationship with God is to be righteous and not feigned or an attempt into deceiving God that we are being faithful (for He knows the state of our hearts anyway). If we are righteous and always do what is loving and right (even to our enemies) we will find that the enemy will have nothing of which to accuse us. Satan is always trying to make us feel that we are a complete failure and not worth anything to the Lord but we know that “Him who knew not sin he has made sin for us, that we might become God's righteousness in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We have been made as righteous as God is and therefore we cannot be shaken as long as we remember this and don’t listen to the doubts of the enemy. Our hearts were the means of our salvation and it is in our hearts that we have the love of God placed there by the Holy Spirit. “For with the heart is believed to righteousness; and with the mouth confession made to salvation” (Romans 10:10).
Our belief in God was the result of our hearts being touched by God to love Him. This belief was reckoned to us as righteousness. We must “keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded” (Proverbs 4:23).
Preparation of the glad tidings of peace …
Our feet are what takes us to places. We should “be always prepared to give an answer to every one that asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you, but with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). That means we have had some thought about what we might say to someone. This doesn’t mean we have planned and written out exactly what we are going to tell someone about the gospel, but rather that we are sound in our understanding of the gospel and ready to explain it to others. We have ‘shod our feet’ or put on our shoes. This means we are ready to go and tell others about our wonderful saviour, His love and the glad-tidings of peace that He has given us. Peace with God!
Shield of faith …
We are told clearly that “all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4). Faith is the key to victory. We have nothing if we don’t have faith. Our faith in God, our continual gaze upon Him and reliance upon Him means that the efforts of the enemy, and the world over which he has tremendous influence, cannot deflect us from the path of God’s will. A shield defends a soldier from the blows of the enemy. The enemy is using inflamed darts. Things that are small and hard to see but which, once wounded by them, the sufferer finds grow and take hold. Our faith will prevent the things (that seem so small at first) from becoming a massive infection that destroys our dependence on God.
Helmet of salvation …
The head contains the brain and therefore the mind. The mind is what thinks and tries to logically reason things. Our salvation has completely destroyed every attempt of our mind and its wisdom to make us suitable for God. When we were saved we realised that “Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; for neither indeed can it be: and they that are in flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). Our own reasoning or determination could never save us from God’s wrath against sin. Now that we are saved, however our minds are to be subject to our hearts for it is in our hearts that God has shed abroad His love by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). Our love for God is to drive our thoughts now. Our minds are to be subject to His will. Remembering our salvation will cause us to be dependent on God for everything and prevent our minds from going back to its old ways. Our salvation then acts as a helmet to guard our thoughts and cause us to depend on God’s will. Then we will be able to do the following:
“Be careful about nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses every understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts by Christ Jesus. For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:6-8).
“Have your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth; for ye have died, and your life is hid with the Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).
Sword of the Spirit …
A sword is used to attack. It is also something that a soldier has to be trained to use. We are told that our sword is God’s word. We must learn, internalise and meditate on God’s word. We must seek the help of the Holy Spirit who leads us into “all truth” to teach us and then guide us in how to use the scriptures for maximum benefit for God’s glory. This may be used to admonish our brothers and sisters in Christ or to bring home to unbelievers their need for a saviour. If we have learned from the Holy Spirit then we will be able to use God’s word effectively. We cannot use it effectively unless we have been trained by the Holy Spirit. There is great power in God’s word when it is used rightly. “For the word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The word of God may be used by the Holy Spirit against us, to discern our own hearts. Once we have seen what is in our own hearts then we will be able to use the very word that convicted us to convict others. If we have learned its power in ourselves then we will know how it can be used in others.
It is also key to remember that God's Word is the Holy Spirit's sword. We must depend on His guidance so that He may be use it through us.
We are to “pray unceasingly” (Thessalonians 5:15). Here we are to specifically pray for the saints. We need to look out for one another and pray for the preservation of each other from the attacks of the enemy. In prayer we are completely cast upon God for His strength recognising that we have no strength in ourselves. We are not fighting a physical war, but a spiritual one with a far deadlier foe.
The purpose of the armour
The purpose of the armour of God is to break down the proud and cast down “every high thing that lifts itself up against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every thought into the obedience of the Christ” so that we do nothing in our own strength. It is to guard us against the world’s influence that would distract us from the Lord and to prevent us from ever trying to become spiritually self-sufficient. If we succumb to pride and lust, which is sin, we know that the enemy has found a chink in our armour and we need to turn to God for the strength to resist. We do have the power to resist in the Holy Spirit that indwells every believer in Christ. James tells us to “Subject yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Fighting the good fight
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. So, what does it mean?
The Word "fight"/"battle"/"combat" can be seen as a Christians daily battle against evil - whether it's within ourselves or in the world. It goes as far as to say that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Paul tells Timothy to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). In Ephesians 6:12 we can even read "what" exactly we're "fighting against". It says: "because our struggle is NOT against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness - against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavens". So as Christians we face the never-ending struggle against evil; against Satan. That is the reason why we must put on the armour of God, "so that we may be able to withstand in the evil day" (Ephesians 6:13).
Yet, putting on the armour of God, doesn't change the fact that we have to fight daily. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:23 that he's endured exceedingly abundant labours, been struck excessively, been cast in prison often, been killed, shipwrecked three times, yet even in these he proclaimed his victory in Christ: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
The encouraging thing is that Paul has not only fought the good fight, but he also "finished the race" and "kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). He had a remarkable sense of fulfilment and contentment with his life. To the Philippians he writes: "I pursue, looking for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:11-13). What an amazing goal to work towards! This is the goal for us to work towards.
As believers today, we can have no greater sense of fulfilment than to know, as Paul did, that we have fully accomplished all that the Lord has called us to do. May we “fight the good fight” and “be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfil our ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).