The Armor of God
In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul comes to the last major thought unit of his great letter to the church(es) at Ephesus and reminds us that Christianity is a fight. The good news is that Jesus has equipped us with all that we need in this fight. He put down his armor and took your defeat, so that you might take up his armor and take his victory.
In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul comes to the last major thought unit of his great letter to the church(es) at Ephesus. He lands on a very somber, practical and important note: we have opposition. As we go about our every day ordinary lives we must realize there is a spiritual battle taking place. If you’re not a Christian, there are active personal evil forces at work to prevent you from trusting Jesus. If you are a Christian, there are active personal evil forces at work to prevent you from fully experiencing life with God. No one is exempt from this. This is particularly important for you individually and for our church at our stage and age.
Christianity is a fight. One of our enemy’s main tactics is to put us to spiritual slumber by keeping us preoccupied with trivial things. Sin is a spiritual depressant that deadens our senses to the great cosmic story that we are all a part of. Real Christianity alerts you to the seriousness of the situation. In fact, one of the ways you know you’re really a Christian is that there is a fight going on.
[Most of what we see in the world today is not] true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians…But you never see any “fight” about their [faith]! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all…certainly this is not the Christianity of the Bible … The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity…Do you find in your heart of hearts a spiritual struggle?…Well, thank God for it! It is a good sign [that God is at work in you]. (JC Ryle, “Are you fighting?”, Bishop of Liverpool, 19th century)
Q: Is there any fight in your Christian life right now? If not it indicates that you have either fallen into spiritual slumber or you are not a Christian.
The good news is that we don’t fight in our strength. Rather, here, Paul calls us to be “strong in the Lord”, “in the strength of his might”, by putting on the “armor of God”. On the cross the decisive victory over Satan, sin and death took place. (1:19–22; cf. 4:8) Their authority has been broken and their final defeat is imminent; they’re defeated, but haven’t yet conceded. Christ reigns over them and by faith in Christ, we too reign with him – over them. Therefore, this shouldn’t be scary, but faith-building. We’re conquerors w/ Christ (Romans 8:37).
WHO IS OUR ENEMY? 6:11b-12
Our primary enemies are not human but demonic spirits under leadership of Satan. We have to understand our enemy if we are to experience victory, 2 Cor 2:11 “that Satan might not outwit..”.
Satan is called many things throughout the Bible, including: Abaddon (“destroyer”, Rev 9:11), Accuser (Rev 12:10), Adversary (1 Peter 5:8), Apollyon (“destroyer”, Rev 9:11), Beelzelbul (Mt 12:24), Belial (“wicked”, 2 Cor 6:15), Deceiver (Rev 12:9), Devil (Lk 4:13), Enemy (Mt 13:28,39), Evil One (Mt 13:28,39), Father of Lies (Jn 8:44), god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), Great Dragon (Rev 12:9), Lawless One (2 Thess 2:18), Liar (Jn 8:44), Morning Star (Isaiah 14:12), Murderer (Jn 8:44), Prince of the Power of the Air (Eph 2:2), Ruler of this World (Jn 12:31), Tempter (1 Thess 3:5), angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), prowls like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8)\
Satan and his demons are both powerful (“rulers”, “authorities”, “cosmic powers”) and evil (“spiritual forces of evil”, “darkness”, etc). But, in no way are these evil forces equal to God. Their knowledge, presence and power are all limited as they are created beings. Their motivation is one of pride and self-glory instead of humility and God-glory.
Q: How does the demonic manifest itself in out lives? Ordinary and extra-ordinary ways.
Satan primarily gets ground in XNs life thru unconfessed sinful patterns of behavior – i.e. “old way of life” (Eph 4:27) – and through the sin of others against us.
Jesus wants us to be united, Satan strives for disunity.
Jesus wants us to be committed, Satan cultivates consumerism
Jesus wants us to be pure, Satan strives for impurity
Jesus wants truth (teaching, doctrine, etc), Satan spreads lies (false religions, teaching, Jesus’)
Jesus wants us to be forgiving, Satan stirs up bitterness (Eph 4:17-32)
Jesus wants us wise, Satan wants us to be foolish (Eph 5:8-21)
Jesus wants us active, alert, watchful, Satan wants us ambivalent, asleep and spiritually lethargic
Jesus wants us gracious, Satan want us to be gossips and busybodies (1 Tim 5:11-15)
Or, demonic activity may manifest itself in more extra-ordinary ways, including: psychological torment (Acts 5:16), physical injury (Mt 9:32-22, 12:22-33, Acts 8:4-8), false miracles (Acts 8:9-23, Acts 16:16, 2 Thess 2:9-10), accusation (Rev 12:10), condemnation (Rom 8:1), death (Pr 8:36), murder/suicide (Jn 8:44)
It’s important to note that we can’t blame Satan for our sin, but there is typically some measure of demonic influence behind all sin. Initially sin appears attractive, desirable and legitimate, but is a trap. (Puritan Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices) His lies often sound like this:
“Here is a pleasure to be enjoyed. Why would you stay away?”
“This sin will never bring you shame, b/c no one will ever find out.”
“It’s only a small thing. Everyone does it right?”
“God won’t make a big deal about it. He’ll forgive you right?”
God’s goal, in Jesus, is to remake us into his image – one that is explicitly God-centered.
Satan’s goal is to make us in his image – one that is essentially self-centered.
HOW DO WE STAND? 6:13-20
Standing is Paul’s major concern (3x’s + “withstand”) The question is “how do we stand?” Answer: Put on the armor of God. Armor is normally external, but this armor is internal for the heart (see Eph 3:16 “strengthened w/ power through the Spirit in your inner being”)
Q: What does it mean to put on the armor of God? (cf Eph 4:22-24) Just as Paul urged the church to put on the “new self”, here he urges the church to put on the “armor of God”. What can that mean? Answer: the new self is the armor of God.
In other words, to put on armor is to put on benefits and privileges of the gospel. (i.e. all of Ephesians!) What it means to lead the Christian life is to see who you are in Christ and begin to cash in on it. That is, to take the benefits of the gospel – ie your new identity in Christ – and live accordingly. That requires creating a new habitual way of thinking about yourself via the cross. It is a new way of seeing life.
In Christ, you have benefits, powers and privileges. Now, Paul says, “Put them to use! Arm yourself with them!” This requires regularly, daily, reminding yourself of who Jesus is, what Jesus done, who you are in Him. Paul wants these gospel truths to be vivid, captivating our imaginations.
Why is that? Answer: Because all of satanic influence is an infection of the imagination.
What is worry? An infection of the imagination w/ vivid pictures of everything thats going to go wrong.
What is anger? An infection of the imagination w/ vivid pictures that you deserve to be ruler of the universe and should oppose all who interfere.
What is lust? An infection of the imagination w/ vivid pictures that sex can provide more than God can.
What is jealousy? An infection of the imagination w/ vivid pictures that tell us satisfaction comes via other peoples things.
So, Paul rightly paints a vivid picture for us of God’s armor – that is already ours, in Christ – in order to capture our imagination w/ the truth of God and what he has done through Jesus Christ.
6:14 “belt of truth”
6:14 “breastplate of righteousness”
6:15 “shoes…readiness given by the gospel of peace.”
6:16 “shield of faith”
6:17 “helmet of salvation”
6:17 “sword of the Spirit”
6:18 “praying at all times…with all prayer…with all perseverance…for all the saints”
Here, Paul is painting a vivid picture of truth to capture our hearts and minds. This is God’s armor, but we must personally put it on by faith. One of the primary mechanisms for that is prayer. Putting on the armor of God is not a formal, mechanical, sterile process. Rather, it is an expression of our dependence on Him (i.e. prayer). Our enemy is Satan, but our position is in Christ. Let’s step forward in faith, rooted in Him, and watch Him work.
Jesus is not asking you to go anywhere He has not gone. God himself crossed enemy lines to become an enemy of God, that you might become a child, friend and ally of God. He put down his armor and took your defeat, so that you might take up his armor and take his victory.