In my last post, I briefly discussed the end goal of Christ’s mission: to redeem and release human persons from Satan’s captivity, and ultimately crush Satan in the culmination of his mission. I promised to revisit the subject of Kingdom conflict and more specifically our role in the battle for souls. In this post I will explore how our spiritual armor enables us to engage in the Kingdom conflict.
Let me begin by asking you to read through Ephesians 6:10-18. It will not be the purpose of this post to fully exegete the text, rather, I want to explore the practical implications associated with our spiritual armor.
We are in a heart-wrenching battle between flesh and Spirit. Therefore, we must carefully put on each piece of the armor given to us by the Chief Commander.
Strong in Him
Before we can begin to analyze the armor of the Christian we must acknowledge that we cannot be strong apart from God’s gracious power. Paul reminds us in verse 10 that we are to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. We are strongest when we allow God to be our strength. His strength is made perfect in our human weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) Apart from God, we cannot muster up enough strength to conquer Satan and his minions. We can endure temptation and testing only by the mighty hand of God. Human will alone is not competent to engage in the Kingdom conflict. That doesn’t leave us without responsibility though.
A Soldier’s Armor
The responsibility of every soldier is to prepare for battle. Weapons training is one of the most important aspects of a soldier’s training. We would never troops into battle without first training them how to use their weapons. The same is true for the spiritual soldier, who must put on the whole armor of God that he might stand against the wicked schemes of the evil one. (vv.11-12) In this passage Paul employs the usage of imagery found in Isaiah 11 and in Roman culture. The soldier’s armor consists of the following:
- The Belt of Truth
- The Breastplate of Righteousness
- Gospel boots
- Shield of Faith
- Helmet of Salvation
- Sword of the Spirit
So what exactly are these pieces of armor? It is easy to miss the forest for the trees here, but we must be careful to understand how each piece of armor functions.
One of the most important pieces of the soldier’s armor is his belt. Truth serves as the foundation for our relationship with God and others. God’s truth provides us with a firm foundation on which to build our lives. The Truth-belt holds all the other pieces of armor together. It is the starting point for a faith life. Satan is a liar and one of our greatest weapons against his truth, for all truth is God’s truth as someone has said.
The next piece of armor is called the breastplate of righteousness. Baker’s Exegetical Commentary refers to this as the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. The enemy has dominion over all things unrighteous, whereas Christ has dominion over all things righteous. Jesus alone is perfectly righteous. Everything God does is done in perfect righteousness. His righteousness goes before us and protects us against the false accusations of the enemy. Our imputed righteousness silences the attacks of the enemy.
The next piece of armor is a bit more difficult to understand. Verse fifteen says, “and having shod your feet with preparation of the gospel of peace.” (NKJV) Commentators are uncertain exactly what Paul is referring to here, but he is clearly referring to the shoes of a soldier. I’m reminded of reading of General Washington’s troops who traversed on difficult terrain in the winter months, often with no shoes on their feet. Historians tell us that many of Washington’s troops died because they had improper footwear. Even today soldiers wear sturdy boots because a person’s feet is his or her support base. If the feet are not taken care of, the body is more susceptible to danger. The same is true for the Christian soldier. Our feet must be ready to march in Gospel willingness. This means that the Gospel of Peace is what pushes us onward. We are called to put on these spiritual boots as we march onward for Jesus, pleading with the world to respond to his beckoning call to come. This Gospel of Peace greatly thwarts the attack of Satan on the world in which Christ reigns Sovereign.
Every soldier must have some type of protection from enemy artillery. Paul recognizes this when he says that we are to put on the shield of faith, whereby we can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. This shield of faith is unlike an wooden shield or even a metal shield. In the Old Testament we read that Yahweh is a shield or buckler to His people. God’s shield of faith not only protects us, but it also deflects the darts of the Enemy. Faith is complete and total reliance on God, despite our inability to see what lies ahead. When the enemy throws darts of despair, disappointment, and temptation at us, we must respond in faith, knowing that greater is the One in us that the one in the world.This shield of faith stops the arrows of Satan dead in their tracks. There are two pieces of armor left for us to discuss.
Paul also mentions the helmet of salvation. For the believer, salvation has already been accomplished, but will be finally realized when Christ takes his bride home. (See again, Baker’s Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians.) The helmet of salvation is the assurance that comes from knowing Christ. We are given assurance of our salvation because “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9-10)
One of the greatest attacks of Satan is the attack on our minds. If he can convince us to think in such a way that we begin to doubt God’s promises he will be well on his way to defeating us. That’s why we must fill our minds with good and wholesome things. That’s why we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
There is a final piece of the soldier’s armor, that is his weapon of attack, his sword. God has certainly given us defensive weapons to protect against Satan’s scheming, but He has also given us weapons of offense. We have been given the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. We see Scripture referred to as “living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit and joints and marrow” in Hebrews 4:12. Taking up the sword of the spirit is coupled together with prayer. God’s word is to be continually on our heart. We are to hide His word in our hearts in order that we may not sin against Him. Jesus proved that temptation can be conquered by the very words of God. Scripture alone sends Satan fleeing in the opposite direction because in Scripture we see Satan destroyed by the Sovereign Lord. It is foolish to think we can engage in the kingdom conflict without employing the use of the Holy Scriptures and prayer. These are our only offensive weapons.
Whether we admit it or not, we are engaged daily in spiritual warfare. The battle is very tiring and the soldiers feel defeated. We must prepare ourselves for the battle of our souls. Each day we can choose to worship God and thereby crush Satan. In this world the battle will be bloody and brutal, but “we are more than conquers through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) It doesn’t mater what battle you are facing today. You can be victorious by relying completely on the matchless power of God. In Him you can live, move, and have your being. Satan is actively seeking soul’s he may devour. He desperately wants to destroy any who will join Christ. He is after you, but you can prepare yourself for battle and emerge victorious.
God has given us all we need as we engage in this Kingdom Conflict. We know that in the end Christ will crush Satan under his feet. Good soldier, press on, put on your armor, and rely full on the strength of God. You must put on your armor if you are to march in Christ’s army.
Many of you are familiar with the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Notice the following lyrics:
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.