10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17 (NASB)
In my ministry career I have had opportunities to meet soldiers. I am always amazed at their commitment and courage. I recall once eating an early breakfast with a Lt. Colonel in the army infantry. As we chatted over pancakes I casually asked him. “So what’s on your schedule for today?”
He calmly replied, “I will be leading a group of men making a practice parachute jump in a couple of hours.”
I looked at him in amazement and remarked, “If I knew I was going to jump out of an airplane today, I sure don’t think I could eat breakfast.”
He later commanded a brigade at what is sometimes called the most dangerous place on earth: the border line between North and South Korea.
Any modern soldier must be properly equipped for combat. He or she must have a helmet, a bullet proof vest, boots, a rifle, etc. The basic equipment has not really changed all that much in centuries. Ancient Roman Legionnaires had as essential equipment a breastplate, shield, helmet, sandals, and sword, spear, or bow & arrow.
As we looked at in the previous installment of this series, Christians are involved in warfare as well. It is not a war fought with swords or guns, but is of a spiritual nature. We first identified our enemy as a powerful fallen angel we call Satan, the devil, and other names, and his army of demonic entities we call demons.
In this installment we will examine the weapons we must depend on to fight the war effectively. When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he was languishing in a Roman prison where he was guarded by Roman soldiers day and night. As a result he became well acquainted with the equipment they wore and their purposes.
Paul saw a close analogy of military combat to the spiritual battles in which Christians are engaged. Paul reminded the Ephesians that their war was not against earthly powers, but spiritual forces even more dangerous (vs. 12). He recognized that, in the same way a soldier must be prepared to fight his enemy, every Christian must be equipped to engage his spiritual enemy. He calls on them to put on “full armor of God” to resist evil and stand firm. (vs. 13).
As Paul observed his prison guards armor he wrote about the six metaphorical elements of the armor of God. Let’s look at them in depth as weapons of spiritual warfare.
Paul starts his list by telling us to stand firm in our faith having “GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH” (vs. 14a). As any male athlete knows, one important item of clothing that they must wear is an athletic supporter. Not only is it necessary for the athlete’s physical protection but the support it offers allows him more agility and speed.
The trained Roman soldier knew the value of such under garments, called subligaria. As he prepared to go into battle he would pull a piece of strong cloth up between his legs and pull it up tight around his waist. This gave him good support and protection during hand to hand combat.
Paul uses that analogy when he says to gird our loins with truth. Truth is the essential basis for spiritual warfare. But what does he mean by “truth?” As we have stated often on the MarketFaith Ministries website, truth can be defined as what conforms to reality as it really is.
As Christians we must always stand for truth. In our case the truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just because we want to believe it, but because historically it has stood the test of time, even in the face of the harshest kind of criticism.
Paul says put we should wear truth like a supporting belt that holds us upright and strong. We must remember that Satan hates the truth and will do anything to hide it. As Jesus warned those who denied His Messiahship, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
Paul’s guard would have been wearing a standard Legionnaire’s breastplate, called the lorica, made of either metal, hard wood’ or chain mail. Often they included an insignia and rank and were made to fit tightly on the man’s torso. The obvious purpose for the plate was to protect him from blows to the body and heart by swords or arrows. Modern soldiers often wear body armor made of hard Kevlar to deflect bullets or shrapnel.
So Paul says to put on PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (vs. 14b). But what is “Righteousness?” Let’s break it down. The root word for righteousness is simply “right.” That term has several definitions: (1) to be in accordance with fact, reason, or truth; (2) to be correct; (3) that which is fitting, proper, or appropriate; (4) that which is most favorable, desirable, or convenient; and (5) that which is straight, uncurved, or direct.
Being “right” in every sense of the word is part of the essential character of Jesus. Only He meets all of the above definitions for His moral nature. Jesus always does what is “right.” Thus, being righteous is the state of being “right.” So Paul is saying that Righteousness is doing and thinking things that are righteous and in accord with God’s will. He likens it to the body armor a soldier wears to protect his heart. We must, however, understand that the righteousness we put on is not our own (we really have none that is capable of defending us from Satan’s attacks) but that which is imputed to us by Christ.
3. THE GOSPEL
All men and women involved in athletics know the importance of wearing the right kind of shoes. Nearly every sport has its own special footwear for gripping the floor, turf, court, or track for maximum performance and speed. The Roman soldier was equipped with heavy spiked sandals called caligae. They were designed to give him the best advantage in battle while protecting his feet from objects on the ground or attacks below his knees. Today’s armies are “shod” with heavy hob-nailed boots with soles reinforced with steel. They are also good for kicking the enemy.
In verse 15 of Ephesians 6, Paul uses a strange phrase in a military metaphor. He says to “shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE” (VS. 15). We don’t normally think of peace in the context of warfare. In this case Paul is saying that we must stand upright and strong for the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. That is the true basis for peace of mind.
When we proclaim without compromise the message of salvation, we are standing in solid shoes. By telling the Gospel, we kick the devil where it hurts him the most since people will be liberated from his evil kingdom of sin by receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.
The Roman soldier’s shield, called a scutum, actually served several strategic purposes. The foot-soldier’s shields were made of hard wood and steel. They were about 3-4 feet high and a couple of feet in width. Their primary function, obviously, was to protect the fighter in combat from the enemy’s swords, lances, and arrows. Often they would stack shields in two levels as a make-shift wall. One other novel way they were utilized was when a group of men would form a team and put their shields together on their front, back, sides, and above. They would then slowly advance forward toward the enemy lines or a city wall shielded on all sides. They called this formation ‘the turtle.”
In verse 16 Paul advises us to take up “the shield of faith” in order to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Faith in God is our chief defensive weapon against the attacks of Satan. It is important, however, to understand that the kind of faith Paul is talking about is not just believing something is true. Faith is total trust in God – so much so as to place absolute dependence on Him. As someone once said, “Faith is not belief without doubt, it is trust without reservation.”
We all know some people who are afraid to fly. Others are not intellectually worried at all. They believe that the plane is able to fly and that the pilot knows what he is doing in the cockpit. However, not until the passenger actually gets on board the plane does he exercise real faith. In the same way, we must put our total trust in God’s ability, through Christ, to save us from our sins. That kind of faith provides maximum defense against any and all Satan’s attacks.
In recent years controversy has grown over the high numbers of brain concussions suffered by athletes. Hockey, lacrosse and especially football have garnered particular criticism. Sporting goods companies are constantly looking for more effective ways to protect player’s heads from violent hits. Obviously the one piece of equipment that is essential for that purpose is the helmet.
The military also uses helmets to shield soldier’s heads from bullets and shrapnel that may fly their way in battle. Modern army helmets are made of Kevlar and include protective eye glasses and built-in two-way radios.
The Roman army was a pioneer in the design and making of effective helmets (galea). They were usually made of metal or wood and fit tightly over the skull. Sometimes they had front pieces with eye holes.
Paul uses that image when tells us to “take THE HELMET OF SALVATION” (Vs. 7A). THE TERM “salvation” is defined in several ways: (1) preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil; (2) a source, means, or cause of such preservation or deliverance; (3) deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption; and (4) the agent or means that brings about such deliverance.
Our salvation in Christ fills all of the above definitions. Paul’s use of the helmet metaphor is most appropriate (vs. 17a). It is our salvation that protects our mind and spirit from destruction just as helmet protects our brain.
6. THE WORD OF GOD
Paul’s final image is that of the sword of the Spirit, which he says is the Word of God (vs. 17b). A Roman soldier’s primary offensive weapon was his sword, spear, or lance. He usually carried a metallic two-edged sword of about two to three feet long called the gladius (ca. Gladiator and Gladiola). This was used in close order fighting. Infantrymen also usually had a six foot long spear or lance, called a hasta that they could throw at short distances or lunge forward toward an enemy.
The Word of God (Scripture) cuts through Satan’s evil defenses to strike at him with power. As Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Our knowledge and use of Scripture is the key to victory in spiritual warfare. Even Jesus, when attacked and tempted, quoted the Word of God to fend off Satan’s barrage (See installment 1 of this series). It is our offensive weapon of truth for which Satan has no defense.
Once again we must not forget we are in a great spiritual conflict between and heaven and hell. It is cosmic in scope, but local and personal in engagement. We cannot avoid it. The enemy is at the gate ready to lay siege on our lives. Therefore we must put on the full armor of God and be ready for battle. In the final installment we will explore several important elements in our strategy for spiritual victory.
© 2013 Tal Davis