In this sermon, David Capoccia examines what it means to put on the armor of God. In part 1, David discusses how to interpret the armor metaphor based on how it is used elsewhere in Scripture. David also explores four of the eight holy attitudes in the passage that believers must put on to stand against Satan’s deceitful schemes and destructive desires:
1. Truthfulness (v. 14a)
2. Righteousness (v.14b)
3. Peaceful Readiness (v.15)
4. Faith-filled-ness (v.16)
Before we turn to the Word, let’s pray:
Our great God and Savior, what a joy it has been to sing about the great salvation that You have accomplished on our behalf. It is all You, Jesus. It is all Your blood. We could never have been good enough to be acceptable to You. Jesus, You had to do it all. You had to pay the entire penalty for all of our sins, and You had to give us Your own righteousness. That is the only way we could ever be acceptable. Lord, You did that once and for all by Your work on the Cross. Then, You gave that to us as a gift by faith. Lord, we are charged to walk worthy of this great salvation. Lord, I pray that You would help me to be able to explain more how to do that as we look again at the book of Ephesians. God, we want You to be glorified in our lives, and we want to experience the joy of our great salvation, not have it be taken away from us by satan or any of the demons. Lord, please build up Your church now. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Brethren, let us return to the subject that we began speaking about of our spiritual conflict with satan and the demons. Remember, we are in the letter of the Apostle Paul to these new gentile believers in Ephesus, which is Western Asia Minor.
The overarching message of this letter is broken into two halves. In the first half of the letter, Paul tells the Ephesians, and essentially, he tells us:
You gentile believers have, truly, full salvation blessing in Christ by faith alone. Just as the Jews always had, you have full salvation inheritance and blessing as do they.
Then, in the second half, Paul’s message is:
Consequently, you gentile believers must walk worthy of your salvation calling before God. This isn’t to save you, but it is a result and fruit of your salvation.
Our text, which we have been examining, appears at the end of this section, in Ephesians, as a final summary charge to the believers, and really, to us.
Last time, we looked at the introductory portion of Ephesians 6:10-13. In this part, Paul gives us one main command; then, three reasons to obey that command. The main command is: to be strong in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We saw that to be strong in the Lord means to have faith in the Lord.
As Greg mentioned, we do not have sufficient strength. You do not have sufficient strength in yourself to overcome the enemies that are before you, but as you rely upon the Lord’s strength, and act in faith, you are able to even move mountains. Rather, God is able to move mountains through you and for you.
Last time, we heard three reasons from Paul that we might be strong. In Ephesians 6:11, we saw that we must be strong in order to overcome the many schemes of satan. The reality is that we have a supernatural enemy, who constantly seeks to entrap believers by various lying temptations. He is a dangerous foe. However, he can, and must be overcome, by the power of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 6:12, we saw that we must be strong in the Lord, by faith, to prevail in our supernatural struggle. The people of the world have a different struggle that they are concerned about. They use temporal weapons to overcome temporal enemies for temporal gain.
However, our struggle is different from most people. We fight against demonic rulers of this evil world system. They are the ones who stand against us, and they are dangerous and powerful foes. We don’t use temporal weapons against them, or mere human equipment. We use the strength and equipment of God. By Christ’s mighty strength, we can overcome even the demonic rulers.
Then, in Ephesians 6:13, a third reason for us to become strong in the Lord, by faith, is so that we can keep standing in the evil day. The whole Christian life is, indeed, a struggle against the evil one and his allies. However, certain periods are particularly evil. They are filled with special difficulty or unique temptation. Our goal and missions are to keep standing even in those days. To hold on as long as it takes until the Lord grants relief. To do this, we must be strong in the Lord, and we must have faith in the Lord.
Last time, we ended by drawing our attention to the second command that also appears in Ephesians 6:10-13, and it is a command that is parallel to the first. Paul not only calls upon on believers to be strong in the Lord, but also calls on believers, specifically in Ephesians 6:12-13, to put on the full armor of God.
Remember, that term full armor refers to a complete set of military equipment, not just defensive pieces of armor, but actual weapons and other military equipment. This armor is from God, and it represents, for us, complete provision and total protection from satan. We have everything we need in this armor.
To put on the full armor of God is really another way of saying, “be strong in the Lord.” As we will see, the pieces of armor that Paul figuratively describes are merely a more specific breakdown of what it means to be strong in the Lord. That is, living by faith and in the power of God’s spirit will encompass certain attitudes, beliefs, or behavior symbolized by the different pieces of armor that appear in our passage. Ephesians 6:14-20:
Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16in 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. 17And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
In the beginning of Ephesians 6:14, the command is to stand firm. This is not the first time we see this command, and it was featured back in Ephesians 6:11 and 6:13. Again, this is a defensive term indicating resistance – holding one’s ground. In fact, Paul uses stand firm three times, and the related term resist, for a total of four times in five verses, which is significant.
Paul is being emphatic with us. He really wants to drive home, in our understanding, that our fundamental goal, as believers, is to stand firm against satan and demonic powers. We are to hold our ground. We are to push the enemy back. They will come and attack, but by God’s strength, we are to repulse them. This goal of standing firm is to be clear and ever present in our minds.
Notice the therefore that appears next in the text – stand firm therefore. Why are we to be so vigilant about standing firm? Because of satan’s schemes, supernatural struggle, and the evil day, we are not ignorant of the challenge before us, so that is why we have the idea of standing firm so fixed in our minds. As Paul is about to explain, we stand firm by putting on the Lord’s armor.
Here, we need to answer a fundamental question: what is Paul’s intended sense in using abstract concepts as Christian armor? In Ephesians 6:14-17, we have before us a belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, sandals of the preparation of the Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and a sword of the spirit, which is also called the word of God.
Those different armor pieces all represent something abstract – a spiritual concept. Aside from the last piece, there is, potentially, some ambiguity about what Paul means. Are we to understand these terms as describing Christian life characteristics, or are they, instead, to be understood as Gospel realities to be appreciated and applied personally by a Christian? Let me illustrate what I mean by example.
Take the belt of truth. Does the belt of truth represent truthfulness – that the Christian is to be honest and sincere, or does it represent the truth – the Gospel, Christ himself, right doctrine, which a Christian is to believe and apply to himself?
Take the breastplate of righteousness. Does it represent a lifestyle of righteousness in the believer, or does it represent Christ’s righteousness on behalf of the believer, which he is to appreciate, believe, and apply to himself? What sense does Paul have in mind when he speaks of spiritual equipment intended to protect the believer?
Some interpreters try to figure out what the theologians are saying, and some interpreters lean one way, some lean the other way, and some say it is both. At first, I found myself taking that third position. I couldn’t figure out a way, from this passage, to rule out one sense or the other.
As I looked at how similar spiritual armor metaphors are used throughout the Bible, I began to change my perspective. So, I want to walk you through the context of this metaphor, so that you may understand why I’m interpreting this passage the way I am and why I argue for that interpretation. This may conflict with what you’ve previously understood this passage to mean, but I hope you can see why I am presenting it the way I am.
To start this background study, let’s turn to Isaiah 59:15-17. The context of Isaiah 59:15-17 is a prophesy about the coming of God himself to the earth as a deliverer. In the greater context of Isaiah, we know this is referring to Messiah. The Divine Messiah is coming to destroy evil and destroy all of God’s enemies. However, listen to how Isaiah describes the Divine Messiah, God himself, in Isaiah 59:15-17:
Yes, truth is lacking;
And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.
Now the LORD saw,
And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.
16And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
Then His own arm brought salvation to Him,
And His righteousness upheld Him.
17He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing
And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.
Here, we see very similar descriptions as we do in Ephesians 6. In fact, back in Ephesians, if you are using a NASB translation, then you probably saw that many of the descriptions are written in small, capital letters, which is the NASB translator’s way of indicating to you that the New Testament passage is quoting the Old Testament.
However, in Isaiah, the prophet says that God will put on righteousness like a breastplate. He will put on the helmet of salvation. Not only that, but He will put on garments of vengeance, and even a mantle, which is a long coat, of zeal. What do these metaphors mean?
In this context, it is pretty clear. There can be, in my mind, no argument as to understand the armor metaphor here – the armor describes the qualities of the wearer, which is God.
God is characterized by righteousness; hence, the breastplate. God brings and is characterized by salvation and deliverance; hence, the helmet. God is characterized by vengeance; hence, His clothing. God is characterized by zeal. That is, a jealousy for His own glory; hence, His mantle.
With these metaphors, the divine Messiah is pictured as a mighty warrior, who cannot be overcome by evil. Instead, roots and destroys evil. Consider another text in Isaiah 11:4-5. We hear another description about the Messiah, and notice what Isaiah says:
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
Again, notice that there is a similarity in Isaiah, in the Messiah’s metaphorical equipment, to the equipment described in Ephesians 6. In Isaiah 11:4, it describes the Messiah slaying His enemies with the Word. It is possible that Paul, in Ephesians, is alluding to this when he speaks of the sword of the Spirit.
More specifically, in Isaiah 11:5, we have a belt described as righteousness and faithfulness, which somewhat corresponds to the idea of the belt of truth. However, do these terms, which describes the Messiah, describe God’s righteousness and God’s faithfulness on Messiah’s behalf, or are they intended to describe Messiah himself?
Surely, the idea is that Messiah himself is being described as righteous and faithful. These qualities characterize Him to such an extent that it is like He is wearing them on His body. The context of Isaiah 11:4 backs up this interpretation.
With righteousness, the Messiah will judge the poor. With fairness, He will decide for the afflicted of the earth. He is demonstrating His righteousness, fairness, and faithfulness. These are the actions of a righteous person in a faithful King. Thus, the armor must be meant to describe the qualities of the wearer.
In looking at Isaiah, the very place that Paul seems to be drawing this spiritual armor metaphor, we see that the metaphor describes the qualities of the armor wearer, not external realities merely appreciated by and applied to the wearer. However, we don’t only see this metaphor in the Old Testament, but also in other places in the New Testament.
Ephesians 6 is not the only place where Paul describes putting on spiritual armor. In 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8, Paul is urging gentile believers to persevere in holiness in light of Christ’s imminent return, and notice what Paul says as part of his exhortation:
for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
At first glance, this parallel passage is a little startling. Wait a second, Paul, you’ve mixed up the metaphor! It is supposed to be the breastplate of righteousness, not the breastplate of faith and love. How can you put two spiritual concepts on piece of armor, and where is the shield of faith? Paul, what are you doing?
Actually, this parallel passage is very informative for understanding of Paul’s usage of the armor metaphor in general. Please notice that first of all, the general idea of the protective piece of equipment is more important for the metaphor than the symbols of the specific item mentioned.
If Paul says the helmet of faith, the shield of faith, or the breastplate of faith, then the same basic idea still comes through – faith is part of the armor God provides to protect you from evil. Now, Paul can slightly rearrange the specifics of the metaphor depending on his audience and what he wants to emphasize. There is some significance as to where he assigns it, but he can rearrange the metaphor. There is no real contradiction or inconsistency in him doing so.
Also, the three spiritual concepts mentioned in 1 Thessalonians are faith, hope, and love. Interestingly, paralleling the grouping of abstract concepts Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13, the three concepts here describe qualities of believers as they respond to the Gospel.
As a Christian, you are characterized by and exercise faith just as you, as a Christian, are characterized by and exercise hope. What about love? Conceivably, love could represent your meditation on and application of God’s love toward you. However, that would break the unity of love with the other two terms. Why should two of the concepts apply to what a believer does, and only the one concept apply to what God does on behalf of the believer, which the believer merely appreciates?
Would it not make more sense to simply say that all three describe the lives, qualities, and attitudes of a believer? Besides, look at the context of these verses: it is about behavior. He says:
Let us not be like those who are of the night, who sleep and get drunk. Let us not behave like the people of darkness, but overcome darkness by lives of faith, hope, and love.
Finally, this hope is said, specifically, to be the metaphor of the helmet of the hope of salvation. This description suggests that there is a connection between what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians and in Ephesians 6. There is the helmet of salvation, and in 1 Thessalonians, is the helmet of the hope of salvation, but there is probably a connection.
Thus far, we are seeing that the spiritual armor metaphor, as used in the Old Testament, and as used by Paul in certain places of the New Testament, describes the qualities of the wearer rather than outside realities appreciated by and applied to the wearer. Let me give you one more passage to drive this point home.
In Romans 13:11-14, the context is similar to what we read in 1 Thessalonians 5. Based on the great truths of salvation experienced by believers, how is the believer supposed to walk? Paul tells his audience:
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
This sounds a lot like the passage we just looked at, and a lot of the same terms and descriptions are used. However, notice here that we have two commands set in parallel: put on the armor of light and put on the Lord, Jesus Christ. Again, these are two different ways of describing the same thing.
Putting on the Lord, Jesus Christ is another way of saying put on the armor of light, which is another way of saying be strong in the Lord. Really, each of these phrases are describing walking by faith in the Lord, such that our faith produces characteristically righteous thinking, speech, and action.
Also, both of these commands are set in contrast to the same opposing idea, which are the deeds of darkness and evil behavior. The contrast is not specifically set against unbelief, or failing to meditate on the indicatives of Scripture, Christ’s righteous work, or your justification. Rather, the contrast is between putting on this armor of light and participating in the deeds of darkness – putting on the Lord, Jesus Christ and behaving like the people of darkness. Instead of participating in those deeds, they are to put on this armor and to put on Christ.
In order for the contrast to make sense, putting on the armor and putting on Christ means, more specifically, to put on righteous characteristics, belief, and behavior. Let me summarize what I just presented to you.
When we examine the usage of the spiritual armor metaphor, in both Isaiah, which appears to be the origin of Paul’s quotations, and in Paul’s other writings, then the metaphor is used to describe the life qualities of the armor wearer himself.
If that is the way Isaiah uses it, and the way Paul uses it elsewhere, then Paul must be doing the same thing in Ephesians 6. The different armor pieces describe, in Ephesians 6:14-17, the believers necessary life characteristics rather than salvation realities to be believed and applied to the believer.
A few follow-up questions: could the armor of God represent both life qualities and salvation realities. Well, truly no aspect of the believer’s life can be divorced from Gospel truth. For example, we indeed speak the truth because we have come to believe the truth – we will not do one without the other.
However, to say that Paul intended to communicate with each piece of armor that the believer should both be righteous and appropriate salvation realities to himself, then that is asking a lot of a simple metaphor, and it makes the passages instruction extremely complex. You must have a whole complicated system and model going around in your head just to understand that. Moreover, we just don’t see the armor metaphor used in that way in other places in Scripture.
Again, there is an indirect relation of the armor pieces to the salvation realities that we’ve come to know in the Gospel. However, I present, for your consideration, that Paul, in Ephesian 6, speaks only and directly about the Christian’s necessary life qualities via this metaphor of spiritual equipment.
Now, the other big question: if the armor is supposed to represent characteristic behavior, belief, and life attitudes, then why use the armor metaphor at all? Why would Paul say, for example, being truthful protects a person from satan? Isn’t satan’s temptation for you to not be truthful? How can an act of obedience be protection from an act of disobedience? I think this question represents the great mental stumbling block that we have to this passage.
However, I think there is an answer, and I believe the answer is this: the schemes of satan are not, ultimately, to get you to sin. Oh yes, satan does want you to sin, but that is not his end goal. Remember, in the book of John, Jesus said that satan is a murderer.
Moreover, in the book of Revelation, we hear about a demonic commander named Apollyon. Many believe, and I agree, that this is likely another reference to satan, so what does Apollyon mean? It means destroyer. Satan is a killer and a destroyer. As his goal, he wants to ruin and obliterate all that is good, which is why he hates God, believers, and does what he does.
Consider satan’s handy work throughout Scripture and look at what satan did to Adam and Eve. He didn’t just make them sin, but he ruined them and the entire human race by extension. Look at what satan did and wanted to do to Job. He destroyed everything Job had, and he wanted Job to turn against God and into an apostate.
Consider what satan did through and to Judas. He moved Judas to betray the very Son of God. Then, when Judas felt remorse, he committed suicide. It wasn’t just to make sin, but it was to destroy him, and to destroy even the Lord.
Satan is a destroyer. He never brings any good to anyone and his demons are no different. We can look at what the demons are doing in Scripture. The Bible tells us that demons turn men into lunatics, who cut themselves. Demons are throwing boys into convulsions, into the fire, and into the water. Demons are turning professing believers into liars and hypocrites.
This is the core desire of satan and his demons. Is it any wonder that Jesus said he came to destroy the works of the devil? You see, satan’s schemes are not merely to get us to sin, but they are intended to destroy us. They are intended to ruin us. They are intended to enslave us. They are intended to rob us of all the great salvation blessings that Paul has spoken about in Ephesians 1-3.
He doesn’t want you to enjoy those. He doesn’t want you to have those. By extension, satan and the demons want to destroy our marriages, our families, our churches, our leaders, our teachers, our witness, and our joy in Christ. They are destroyers. They are murderers.
If we have such mighty folks and our destruction is their aim along with blaspheming God, then what is going to protect us from realizing their desire and being ruined and destroyed? Is it not being strong in the Lord and putting on the armor of God? Is it not characteristic life attitudes? Is it not characteristic holy beliefs and behavior?
So, I still hold to these pieces of armor, indeed, to be life qualities of the believer that are to be put on, not merely so that you don’t go the way of temptation, but so that you are not destroyed, wounded, or injured. That we, as a church, are not wounded, destroyed, and injured.
Here, in Ephesians 6, are eight holy attitudes to protect you and the church from the deceitful schemes and destructive desires of satan. We see our first attitude in the beginning of Ephesians 6:14:
Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH…
If we are to engage and overcome satan and his demons in spiritual combat, then our first necessary and holy attitude is truthfulness. Truth ought to be like a protective belt around our waists. Many have said, and rightfully so, that Paul probably has in mind a Roman soldier when he uses this armor metaphor.
At this time, Roman empire is in control. They were the soldiers everybody saw and knew, so if they are going to picture a soldier, they are going to picture a Roman soldier. The equipment he outlines in this passage is the basic equipment of a Roman soldier. As we go through each one of these pieces of armor, I am going to tell you a little bit about what Roman soldiers wore, and how that informs the metaphor.
In those days, Roman legionaries wore leather belts, and these belts serve various functions. The belt kept the soldiers short-tunic from snagging on anything above the waist. Typically, the belt held the scabbard, for the sword, on the right side of the legionary’s side. Hanging down from the middle of the belt were a series of leather strips covered with round metal studs, and it’s thought that these hanging strips were part of protecting the legionaries groin area.
Paul says, via God’s spirit, that honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness will aid and protect us against satan just like a Roman legionary’s belt. If satan is the father of all lies and lying, then what better way to fight back against him and his schemes than by only speaking the truth?
The irony, of course, is that people lie to protect themselves. They are ashamed of something they did, they fear consequences, they fear people, so they lie. In so doing, they neglect to fear satan, who loves lying. More importantly, they neglect to fear God, who hates lies.
Brethren, please listen to this: if the first piece of armor is truthfulness, then Paul is telling us something. If you attempt to use lies to protect yourself, then know that you are actually throwing off God’s armor and laying yourself open to the attacks and ruin of satan.
If you really want to protect yourself, resolve only to speak the truth. Let that be your attitude. Let truthfulness be your attitude. Granted that sometimes you don’t have to say anything. However, if you must speak or communicate in some way, then speak only the truth.
You cannot live as a hypocrite. Do not try to hide a double life. That is playing right into satan’s hands. Protect yourself and protect others by standing only in the truth. This will require you to trust God, and it may result in persecutions and trials. However, God will provide for you, and He will protect you from satan. Jesus says in Matthew 5:37:
But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
Jesus says that anything beyond the truth is not good, it is not neutral, and it actually comes from evil. You can even say it comes from the evil one himself. When you speak satan’s language, expect ruin and shame to eventually follow. However, when you speak God’s language, the truth, then expect God’s provisions and your eventual vindication.
Calvary, what about you? Have you armed yourself with God’s belt, with truthfulness? Or, do you foolishly attempt to protect yourself with lies? Escape now from this scheme of satan. If you insist on living as a hypocrite, weave your web of lies, then know that the one you are actually going to trap is yourself. Repent and be armed with God’s mighty strength and unfailing armor. That is our first holy attitude if we are going to be able to stand strong against satan’s schemes.
A second holy attitude that we need to put on like a piece of armor appears in the second half of Ephesians 6:14:
…and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
A second holy and necessary attitude for us to put on before the battle with satan is righteousness. If you will put on righteous thoughts, righteous speech, and righteous actions like a breastplate, then you will be safe from satan’s schemes and able to stand firm in the evil day.
In Paul’s day, Roman soldiers were usually wearing segmented plate armor made of iron and steel bands to cover the chest, the back, and the shoulders. This plate armor was near impervious to cuts and thrusts. Even arrows could not successfully pierce this armor. The only thing that could was a ballista bolt, which is like a big catapult arrow. There’s not much you can do against that.
However, this is great armor, and such great protection was extremely important for a Roman soldier. The chest area is where the heart, lungs, and belly are. Paul says that a life characteristic of righteousness will protect you from satan’s schemes in the same way as Rome’s famed, iron breastplates.
In some ways, this concept of the breastplate of righteousness overlaps a little bit with the belt of truth. A lot of these concepts of the armor do overlap with one another, and real armor does the same thing – they overlap.
Paul is saying that if you walk with the Lord according to His righteous way, then He will bless you, He will provide for you, and He will protect you. However, if you spurn God’s way and go your own way, and if you ignore God’s wisdom and search your own experience or the wisdom of others, then expect to be pierced by the devil right through the chest. You are unarmored, and the enemy is going to take advantage. He cannot help himself, and he sees a juicy target. Psalm 32:10 says:
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. The righteous will have trials and troubles. You might even have more because your righteous, but the Lord will protect the righteous one even in the midst of his trials, troubles, and specifically from satan and his schemes. The righteous one will not lose his peace, enjoyment, or full revelry in any of his salvation blessings.
Would you like to be protected from satan’s deceitful schemes and his destructive way? Then, put on the breastplate of righteousness. Repent of the ways you have trusted satan to your own hurt. Lay aside the old ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. Walk as a new creation by faith in Christ and in the power of God’s spirit. Brothers and sisters, are you wearing the breastplate of righteousness?
Though you are not perfect, is your life characterized by righteousness? Is that your fundamental attitude? Have you committed to following the Lord’s way in everything no matter the cost because you know you can trust Him and you know it is worth it in the end? Or, are you missing the breastplate?
Or worse – do you maintain a facade of righteousness as if it were a piece of armor? On closer examination, your armor is cheap imitation that will not withstand a satanic assault or satan’s ruining desires. Are you obedient in some areas, but not others? That is like wearing only half a breastplate. You are still exposed and in great danger of satan’s weapons. Where do you need to repent, so that you can be fully covered and protected by God’s breastplate?
The third necessary piece of armor that we see is in Ephesians 6:15:
and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
The third holy and necessary attitude, for us to put on before battle with satan, is peaceful readiness. This third piece of equipment is a little less straight forward than the first two, and it takes some thinking through. Roman soldiers wore a type of sandal-boat with straps covering the feet and lower legs.
On the bottom of these sandals, are short nails that are digging into the ground, which is a bit like the modern cleat. However, these spikes are not for running fast, but for keeping the soldier’s feet planted firmly. These types of sandals help the soldier keep his footing in the heat of battle. Paul says that God has provided us with spiritual equipment for us to do the same against satan.
If we are to have firm footing, we must put on this peaceful readiness, and how we are to understand this phrase:
… THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
The term preparation can also be translated readiness, which is why I’m using that term. However, what should believers be prepared or ready to do? Well, some say it is readiness to declare the Gospel that brings peace to other people, and they cite another section of Isaiah, which does use some related terms. Isaiah 52:7 says:
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
However, the context of the passage of Ephesians is totally defensive warfare, not offensive warfare. Believers, in Ephesians are tasked with standing firm, not advancing. Moreover, our targets are not to rescue other people from satan, but to stand against satan himself. Furthermore, the quote from Isaiah does not exactly fit this passage, especially since there is nothing in Isaiah 52:7 about putting something on your feet.
Biblically and theologically, there is a sense in which we do fight, as Christians, to release captives from satan. Now, I’m going to argue that’s not the focus of the passage in Ephesians 6. Here, we are talking about holding fast against the schemes and desires of satan. I think we need to understand this phrase in a different way.
A better understanding of the phrase is a readiness to endure whatever comes because of the Gospel of peace. Because we have come to know and believe the Gospel, which is characterized by peace, that sets us at peace with God and one another, are attitudes that ought to be one in which we are ready to do anything for the Lord’s sake and the Gospel’s sake. I think of some related words from Jesus in Mark 8:35:
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
You can’t hold anything back. You’ve got to give up your entire life if you want to save it. I also think of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:13:
… but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
Whatever Christ and the Gospel requires, I’m ready. However, the passage that sticks out most in my mind, in relation to this particular piece of armor in Ephesians 6, is Philippians 4:11-13. In that context, Paul has just finished speaking about how God’s peace ought to be manifest in the hearts and relationships of believers. Then, Paul speaks about how the Lord has enabled Paul to be at peace and content with any situation. He says:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I believe that this is Paul’s sense when he is talking about the necessary readiness of the Christian. The Gospel should make us ready to endure any situation. To have an attitude before our Lord that says:
Wherever you want to place me, that is where I want to be because I trust you.
God’s gospel ought to give us contentment, a readiness to do whatever the Lord deems necessary, and isn’t that a basic to be a soldier? A soldier needs to be ready for whatever the commander tells him to do. However, for the soldier, who comes with pride and various expectations about what he should or should not have to endure, he will find himself both at odds with his commander and vulnerable to the enemy. That soldier, when he finds things going ways he did not expect, will soon find himself saying, “I didn’t sign up for this,” and he will abandon the faith.
Brothers and sisters, if we are to be properly armed against satan, then we need a Gospel readiness to be wherever and to do whatever the Lord wants. If we have such readiness equipped like shoes on our feet, then we will be able to stand against satan’s schemes and desires. So, do you have that kind of readiness? Do you have that kind of preparation? Is your heart content no matter the circumstances? Or, do you cling to a certain expectation saying to yourself:
I demand this condition be satisfied or else I am going AWOL!
My friend, if you have such an attitude, then you are letting yourself open to the enemy. Believe the Gospel that brings peace and teaches us that we need nothing more than God and whatever God chooses to graciously provide. Let go of every desire, every idol, and submit them all to God, so that you might say:
Thy will, not my will, be done.
He knows how to provide for you. He will give you what is good, and you will stand firm in the spiritual struggle.
A fourth, and final, piece of armor we will talk about is in Ephesians 6:16:
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.
The fourth and necessary holy attitude we are to put on before battle with satan is faith-filled-ness. We are to take up faith like an ever-ready shield. If we do, Paul says that we will be able to stand against satan and his demons.
Now, Paul gives special emphasis to this armor. He says, “in addition to all,” which is like an introductory statement as saying, “pay attention, especially to this next one.” Also, he places this piece of equipment at the end of the first list of armor. He is highlighting for us this shield, and he highlights for us just how effective it is. It says:
… with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The Greek word used for shield pictures a Roman soldier’s shield. That is a large, rectangular shield for which the Roman men were well known. These shields were made of wood, edged with iron, and given an iron boss in the center for deflecting arrows and ramming into enemies. In size, these shields were similar to a small door, which provided Roman soldiers with excellent protection from both sword strokes and arrow fire.
In fact, when a whole line of soldiers faces an enemy, and they are set with their Roman shields, then it forms a mobile wall. Crotched behind their huge shields, given only short, quick thrusts with the sword, Roman soldiers were extremely difficult to hit. They basically have a wall in front of them. God says that is like the shield that He has provided for us.
Notice the reference here for flaming arrows. Flaming arrows were a fearful and dangerous addition to any battlefield, but they were well-known in ancient times. The flames not only added an extra bit of fear fact, but the flames were a potential counter to shield. Shields were made of wood, and wood burns. If the Roman soldier’s shield caught fire, that soldier would be forced to discard the shield, and he would be exposed.
If you lose your shield in battle, you are in a very dangerous position. It’s not like the movies where you can keep on fighting with just a sword – you really need the shield. However, there is always a counter to the counter, right? If you have a wooden shield and they fire flaming arrows, then what do you do?
Well, the Romans prepared for flaming arrows by covering their shields with animal skins by soaking the shields and the skins with water. Naturally, skins are averse to fire, and when you make them wet, it makes it even less likely that the shield will ignite. A well-prepared soldier did not have to worry about flaming arrows on the battlefield because he knew his shield would protect him.
It is the same for us as Christians when it comes to flaming arrows of the evil one. The shield of faith that God provides is able to extinguish all of the devil’s flaming arrows. By exercising faith and what God has said and believing his promises despite what our eyes tell us or what the flesh feels, we are able to overcome every scheme and temptation the devil can throw at us. We are not just shielded, but we’re invulnerable. That’s only if we use it and are prepared with it.
For Roman soldiers, the large shield was understandably heavy. If they had not prepared and trained with it, then they could not use it effectively in battle, which is also true for us. Is your characteristic life attitude to exercise faith in the Lord? In both the little things and the big things.
Before the trial and temptation comes upon you, and the battle begins, is your attitude to walk by faith, not by sight? Do you have your shield at the ready, or you not prepared to exercise faith at all? Have you forgotten or ignored the promises of God in Scripture? Have you paid no attention to all the examples of the Lord’s faithfulness to both believers in Scripture, believers around you, and in your own life? When trouble comes, are you instantly putty in the devil’s hands?
Brothers and sisters, listen to this word. If you will not exercise faith in the Lord, then you are like a soldier going into the battle without his shield. Soon, you are going to be turned into a flaming pin cushion. The devil is going to wreak havoc on you, and you will be pierced with many sorrows – you and your brethren.
Where are you not exercising faith in your life? Where have you been afraid to believe the Lord and be obedient? If need be, brethren, repent. Take up, again, the great shield of faith against, which the evil one, will have no recourse.
So, we have finished looking at the first group of equipment in this passage, which is describing the necessary attitudes we must put on – God’s panoply. If we are to be strong in the Lord and stand firm against satan’s desire for our ruin and destruction, and before the battle even begins, we must put on, as armor an attitude of truthfulness, righteousness, peaceful readiness, and faith-filled-ness.
For next time, I will give you a little preview: there are four other necessary and holy attitudes that we see in the rest of the passage that we must put on to protect ourselves against satan. The fifth piece is salvation hopefulness. The sixth piece is word-full-ness. The seventh piece is prayfulness. The eight piece is alertness.
As we conclude today Calvary, consider your own stance against satan. Do you see how the evil one and his co-lords are trying to make inroads into your life, your family, and even here in the church? Don’t think, “oh no, that’s just other churches.” No, he is trying to come here today. He is trying to spread ruin, and he is trying to hurt us here too. Do you notice and are you alert to that?
Therefore, will you stand strong against him by putting on these holy attitudes, and becoming strong in the Lord? Such is the only way to prevent satan from threshing you and us as with a threshing sledge. Remember what he did to Peter.
Also, I should say that if you don’t yet know Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, then none of this armor is available to you. Satan’s ruining desires have free reign over you. It’s only God’s grace that has prevented you from being ruined and destroyed up to now. Though, you have felt the injuries of satan’s schemes. God has prevented it from being worse just because He is a merciful God.
However, make no mistake, satan and his demons will eventually ruin you. First, in this life; then, eternally in the next. They want you to go to hell. That would please them. They will keep you out of heaven, away from God, away from all goodness and blessing if they can. Don’t let their desires be the ones that win. Repent! Turn away from your old life and old way. Be reconciled to God, so that you might receive all His blessing and His protection.
My brothers and sisters, satan’s assaults will inevitably come, and some days will be worse than others, but God has outfitted us in such a way that if we would only put on these holy attitudes, then we will overcome and continue to experience God’s salvation blessings unevaded. May God grant this to us. Let’s pray:
God, we thank You for this Word. Lord, I pray that You would protect this church, each marriage, family, and person from the schemes and desires of the devil. I pray that You would bring repentance. Cause the people to reach out to their fellow soldiers for help because we are not in this battle alone. We are in it together under our head, Lord, Jesus Christ. O, Spirit, please work among Your people. Deliver us from satan and the corruptness of our own flesh, so that we might enjoy walking with You by faith. Amen.