"(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 6:14–17, NASB95)
In these verses we have six pieces of armor presented which are intended to compare with how a Roman soldier would have made himself ready for battle. Each piece had a purpose, and it was put on in a specific order. If the soldier did not pay careful attention to his preparation, he would find himself ill equipped for battle and exposed to the enemy. For the soldier the results of neglect could be fatal. Paul instructs us to prepare for spiritual attack by paralleling the essentials of spiritual warfare with the essentials of hand-to-hand battle. And in so doing, we are to be just as serious and orderly about it as the Roman soldier was, knowing that the results of the battle may very well depend upon our preparation. It is so important that Paul instructs us twice in verses 11 and 13 to “put on” or “take up” the full armor of God.
Following is an overview presented in a course prepared for Calvary Crossroads Church on Spiritual Warfare. It will be followed in the next several posts by a deeper look at each piece.
A. The “armor of God” represents: Jesus and what Jesus has accomplished for us.
These pieces of armor are not physical pieces of armor, but symbols of something real. In Romans 13:14, Paul clearly declares what this armor represents. He says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14, ESV) Also, in writing to his son in the faith, Timothy, the Apostle says to Timothy in military terms, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” … “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1, 3, ESV). Jesus is the source of our strength. Christ and His works is our defense. He is our armor.
B. There are two general divisions of the armor.
These six pieces of armor fall into two divisions. The Roman soldier of Paul’s day actually had two groups of armor. The first was that which he never took off. For instance: he always kept on his belt upon which all the other weapons hung, he always wore his breastplate and his sandals. This part of his battle dress was his daily uniform. Anytime he went outdoors, he wore this part of his armor. With these on, he was ready at a moment’s notice to pick up the second portion of his armor to fight off would be attackers. When the battle got hot, all the soldiers had to do was to pick up their second group of weapons to defend themselves. Such weapons as the shield, the sword, and the helmet were to be carried into the heat of battle.
1. Permanent pieces of armor to be worn at all times. v.14-15
In verses 14 and 15 we find the first three pieces which are set apart as pieces that are always worn. This is designated by the word “having.” “(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;” (Ephesians 6:14–15, NASB95) All three of the verbs describing these pieces of armor are past tense. The word “having” indicates that this is something that was already to have been done. It was a completed action. From this we know that the first three pieces of armor represent something that has already happened to us in the past, at the moment that we were saved, whether we were aware of it or not.
These pieces of armor, like the armor worn by soldiers of Paul’s day, represent foundational truths that are never meant to be taken off or forgotten. They are permanent weapons to be worn at all times. But part of our problem as Christians is that many times we forget about or have never really known about these three truths represented by each of these three pieces of armor, and hence we do not prepare ourselves with awareness. It is as if we somehow lay them aside. Then, when the enemy attacks us unprotected, we get hurt.
2. Armor to be carried into the heat of battle. v.16-17
The second group of weapons we only need to pick up when we become aware that we are in immediate danger or are being attacked, so to speak. “(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 6:16–17, NASB95) These pieces of armor are indicated by the present tense of the verbs in verses 16-17. “Take up the shield of faith”; “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.” These pieces symbolically represent things we can do today, truths we must act on when we are in the heat of a spiritual battle.
C. There is a precise order to which we are to put on each piece of armor.
The next observation to be pointed out about is that pieces are given to us in a specific order, because they are to be thought of or put on in this order. Historically, we know how Roman soldiers prepared for battle. They all got dressed in the same manner and put on their armor in the same order. First they put on the belt, over which they put on the breast plate, and later upon that same belt, they attached the sword, etc. No soldier, unless in an absolute emergency would go into a fight without first putting on his breastplate. He wouldn’t want to leave himself exposed. Theologically, this also makes sense as we will see in depth when we look at each piece of armor.
So, the order in which we apply the truths of this passage or the order in which we put on this armor cannot be ignored if we want to be successful soldiers of Jesus Christ. When we get mentally dressed for spiritual warfare, we must mentally put on this truth, or recall and consider as true the truth that each piece of armor represents. Each truth sets the foundation for the next truth.
D. There is no protective armor for the back of the soldier. (James 4:7)
Another observation is that there is no armor given to protect the rear of the soldier. And there is a reason for that. You and I are not to turn and run from Satan. We don’t have to, and God doesn’t expect us to. If we walk with Jesus, controlled by the Holy Spirit, we do not need to run. Do you remember what James 4:7 says? “Submit yourselves therefore to God (in other words, allow Him to take control of your life). Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, ESV)
E. Every piece of the armor is essential.
A fifth point that should be noted comes also out of verses 11 and 13. Paul stresses that the “full” armor is absolutely necessary to be victorious and to stand firm. You need every piece of the armor to be successful in spiritual warfare. All of it is essential. Without all of it, you can fall flat on your face. That’s why we are going the time to look at each part of this armor, to make sure we know what each piece represents and how to use it.
F. Our goal = to resist and to stand firm.
The last point that we want to observe is our goal or objective in the battle. Verses 11, 13, and 14 tell us that we are commanded to “stand firm.” Paul doesn’t tell us that we are supposed to seek after new territory to conquer or to fight Satan and his cohorts so as to slay them. Instead, he tells us that our goal in this war is to “stand firm and resist the devil.”
The reason is twofold: first, our enemy is not made of flesh and blood. We cannot see Satan, so how can we go out and aggressively hunt him down and attack him? We can’t. It is a sign of victory to just resist and stand firm.
Secondly, we have no new ground to conquer. In Christ, we already own it all. Ephesians 1 says we already have all of the inheritance we will ever need. We have no more to gain. “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:14, NASB95) Nowhere in God’s word does He command us to go out on a witch hunt and to look for demons to cast out. He does tell the apostles that he will give them and us authority over demons, and should we come in contact with them during the course of our lives, we are to resist them without fear. They cannot harm us or have any control over us, as long as we remember who we are in Christ.
One other thing about this command to stand firm, the verb form used here for “stand firm” dictates the translation to actually read not just “stand firm”, but more accurately “start and keep on standing firm”. By saying it this way, Paul is saying to his readers, and God is saying to us, that some of us are either not aware of the war and what our objective is or we are not being obedient to the Lord and putting on the armor to be more effective fighters for Him. Or to put it another way, some of us are losing the battle right now and God is saying, get with the program!
(Note: A good portion of the text of these posts on Ephesians 6:10-17 is taken from a sermon series given after preparing the course in Spiritual Warfare. A good portion of the text of the course was prepared by Bob Bonner, teaching pastor at Calvary Crossroads. Recognizing this, the outline and much of the text of today’s post are more his words than mine. Our hope as always is that whosever words are used that they accurately present the truths of God’s Word. Thanks Bob for letting me be a part of this.)
Sorry for the longer post.