Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The armor of God is the image of God. Can we call this the foundation for doing battle in the power of the Spirit? Today’s text helps us build on that foundation, first by revealing the nature of the full armor of God:
The Word of God.
These unseen supernatural realities can protect us. Note I did not say they will protect us but can. We bear some responsibility in this matter; more on that in a minute.
First, we need to be reminded of why we need protection. The previous text laid it clearly before us with one addition from our present text.
The Devil’s schemes.
The powers of this dark world.
The spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The day of evil.
The flaming arrows of the evil one.
Who knew we had so much working against us? Though many do not believe in a personal evil being, Scripture seems clear. If Paul is not convincing, hear the apostle Peter: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).
Now, hear the apostle John: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b NIV).
Then there’s Jesus himself, who taught us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13 niv).
One question I have is given all these threats: Why doesn’t God just put the full armor on us himself? Wouldn’t that be easier? I suppose the same question could be posed concerning salvation. Why doesn’t God just save everyone irrespective of any response on our part?
Human beings have response-ability. We are not robots. We have the freedom of will to act or not act. The doctor can prescribe life-saving medication, but the patient must put it in their mouth and swallow it.
Paul is explicit in his instructions. Put on the full armor of God. What does that mean? Truth is like a belt holding everything together. Righteousness covers us like a breastplate, protecting the core of our being. Peace enables us to move with ease. Faith is like a shield and the Word of God like an invisible sword.
Note the way the text calls us neither to an offensive posture nor a defensive one. Three times in the previous text and one time in this one we see the same word repeated: “stand.” We are not responsible to defeat Satan. Satan has already lost. Our calling is to put on the full armor of God and then to stand firm.
It reminds me of the great exodus when Pharaoh’s army pursued the Israelites to what appeared to be a certain death with their backs to the Red Sea. Listen carefully to Moses’ words to the people: “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again’” (Exod. 14:13 NIV).
One more observation. The armor of God and the image of God have in common the Son of God. Jesus is the truth. He is our righteousness. He is our peace. He is our shield and our salvation. Indeed, he is the Sword of the Spirit, the very Word of God in human flesh. To put on the full armor of God can be nothing less than clothing ourselves in Jesus Christ, bearing witness to his life within us. After all, the battle is not ours but his. In that spirit, let’s give the great Martin Luther the last word today, from the second stanza of his immortal hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
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:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who must win the battle. Thank you that he is our sword and shield, our righteousness and peace, our truth and salvation. Fill us with your Spirit that we might be clothed, inside and out, with Christ. And teach us what it means to stand firm and behold the deliverance of the Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.
How have you understood the concept of the “full armor of God” in the past?
In what dimension of the armor do you feel as though you have substituted your own strength for the Lord’s?
What might it look like for you to actively and intentionally put on the armor—even in a daily way?
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