Some people have the wrong idea of Christians. To some, we’re all hippy-like pacifists, who’d rather sit around a campfire singing “Michael Rode the Boat Ashore” than engage in ambitious, meaning activities. But people who think that way are completely out of step with Biblical teachings about God’s people. For starters, Jesus was no supine hippy. Here was the Man who got so angry with some folks in the Temple that He actually kicked over their tables and chairs and made a shambles of money-changing business. He is known to have said things like this –
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ” ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…’” (Matthew 10:34, 35 TNIV)
Paul could hardly be called a Mr Milquetoast. He had more in common with Indiana Jones than with Mother Theresa. Here was an adventurer who was shipwrecked three times, traveled all over the known world, founding and establishing churches, challenging the political leaders and established religions of his day.
There is no teaching in the New Testament that Jesus’ disciples are to sit around and be walked all over by other people or that they should just let things happen without any regard for shaping their own destinies. One of the key teachings of the New Testament runs completely contrary to the notion of the stoner hippy Christian stereotype –
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10 TNIV)
Take a stand
Another mistake some Christians make is to assume that salvation in Christ brings an end to all strife and problems in life. Experience teaches us that certainly isn’t the truth, but even Jesus remarked that being His disciple would never be an easy life. Quite the contrary, Jesus taught that following Him would bring difficulty and suffering into one’s life. One time, Jesus likened the Christian life to a king preparing for battle!
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:27, 31 – 33 TNIV)
It’s important for Christians to understand that all around them a battle is raging – a spiritual battle. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, Satan considers you to be an enemy, armed and dangerous. Satan will treat you as the enemy – HIS enemy. And Satan doesn’t fight fairly. He is a spiritual terrorist. He will always hit you when you are down and attack you when you least expect it. In order to win this spiritual battle, Christians need to be powerful; we need to make ourselves powerful and let God make us powerful.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10 – 11 TNIV)
Because Christians are both physical and spiritual in nature, the nature of our conflicts as we live our lives is both physical and spiritual. Human ingenuity and strength will get us only so far but prove wholly inadequate against the dark spiritual forces that constantly bombard us. As God’s people, we need His divine resources operating in our lives if we are to gain the upper hand in this spiritual struggle.
The Greek word for “strong,” endunamousthe, is in what we call the present passive, which suggests two things. First, that believers are to continue to be strengthened by the Lord, and second, that the source of this strength is not in themselves but rests outside – it comes from Christ as we are in union with Him. In other words, as we live in union with Jesus Christ, His resources are our resources; His strength is our strength; His wisdom is our wisdom; His courage is ours. We need these things all the time because Satan doesn’t rest in his attacks against us, hence the notion that we are to “continue” to be strengthened by the Lord.
In verse eleven, Paul sounds more like a commanding officer than a preacher! The verb for “put on” is an aorist imperative, so it should receive the strongest emphasis possible: Put it on! God’s armor is equated with mighty power; once we are have it on, we are powerful.
Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison and he had seen his share of Roman soldiers. The images of their dress, their weaponry, and their dress formation had been seared into his mind, so in this admonition he takes for his illustration the Roman soldier, decked out and ready to do battle. Our “whole armor” is really one word in Greek: panoply, or a complete suit of armor. Because our spiritual warfare is so serious and dangerous, nothing less than the “panoply of God” will be enough. No Christian has the inherent defense needed to stand against Satan’s power apart from the strength he gains in Christ.
When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. (Psalm 138:3 TNIV)
That’s David writing about his experiences and God was his chief weapon. Our Lord, during His earthly ministry, faced difficult time and Satanic attacks, and what did He do?
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him… (Hebrews 5:7 – 9 TNIV)
Christ’s strength wasn’t in His human nature, but in His relationship with His heavenly Father. Never overlook these things. Victory over the wily attacks of the devil is guaranteed but only if we do what Paul advised in the spirit of David and Jesus: humble submission through prayer and obedience.
The enemy of every believer
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12, 13 TNIV)
The enemy to be defeated in the Devil and his entire demonic army. We can never trust our own unaided strength – we need what the Lord offers. As only Paul could, he parades the army of Satan past our eyes. Christian warfare is never against human forces, but against spiritual ones. Regardless of appearances, our fight is always a spiritual one. And we can’t loose that battle; equipped with God’s armor, we will always win.
As we read what Paul wrote here and elsewhere, it becomes clear that he not only believed in a personal Satan, but also that Satan has an organized power structure at his disposal.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 TNIV)
Satan is the “god of this age.” This present world-order as it exists today is in open rebellion against God and only in Christ can believers win the victory of them and be released from their hold. This was something other followers of Jesus understood –
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19 TNIV)
The “day of evil” is today; it’s this present age –
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15, 16 TNIV)
The age is an evil one because of evil forces that have been vanquished by Christ, yet are still able to exercise control and influence over parts of the world that have not laid hole of the fruits of Christ’s victory.
…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4, 5 TNIV)
Christ has won the victory and all those who put their complete faith and confidence in Him may win the victory too. Still, so determined is Satan, the god of this age, to oppose the believer that the believer has no choice but to don the complete armor of God in order to participate in our Lord’s victory.
Victory is assured
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14 – 17 TNIV)
The various pieces of defensive armor are described in Galatians as “the fruit of the Spirit.”
But here in Ephesians, these graces look like this:
The belt of truth. The Roman soldier’s belt tied his free flowing tunic close to his body so that he could move quickly and smoothly. The belt also allowed him to carry his sword, easily accessible and ready to use. “Truth” as it is used here is not objective as we might think, but rather subjective. It refers to the believer’s knowledge of and belief in the revealed Word of God. The Christian soldier appropriates the Word through faith. The Word of God gives the believer wisdom and understanding, but it also becomes his motivation for living. Here’s Paul’s point: Our reason, traditions, education, and philosophical bent may not hold up in the heat of battle, but God’s Word, believed in and lived by faith, will.
The breastplate of righteousness. Paul may have had in mind the words of the prophet Isaiah when he wrote to the Ephesians –
He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Isaiah 59:17. TNIV)
Our “breastplate of righteousness” refers to an upright life; a life of holiness and purity that a relationship with God creates. William Barclay’s thoughts are important:
When a man is clothed in righteousness, he is impregnable. Words are no defense against accusations, but a good life is.
Who would have thought that a “good life” could be a weapon against evil? Paul did!
Shoes of the Gospel. In ancient times, soldiers wore specially designed and fitted sandals which protectEd the feet and gave him a sure step regardless of the terrain. The soldier of Christ be similarly protected. Hodge thought Paul meant something like this:
As the Gospel secures our peace with God, and gives the assurance of His favor, it produces the joyful alacrity of mind which is essential in the spiritual conflict.
Peace with God goes a long way in giving the believer confidence in appropriating the power of God within him as he does battle.
The shield of faith. The shield Paul had in mind was not the small round one you see in the all sword and sandals movies, but the large oblong or oval-looking one which the Roman soldier would carry when the severity of the battle warranted it. It was carved out of wood and was covered with leather so that if the fiery arrows of the enemy should strike it, the fire would be snuffed out. This “shield of faith” carried by the believer has been thought of as his “saving faith” – the faith which procures God’s forgiveness and provides the power to live a new life. But another view sees the “shield of faith” as a complete dependence on the Lord – the faith that trusts in the Lord’s help and deliverance.
The helmet of salvation. This helmet was fitted to the soldier’s head to protect that vital part of his body. The Christian need never fear losing his salvation when he’s wearing the “helmet of salvation.” In fact, going a little further, this salvation is the guarantee of victory in battle. Our salvation carries with it a past, present, and future aspects. We were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. No doubt.
The sword of the Spirit. This refers to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, an association that is clear in Scripture. The other pieces of armor are largely defensive, but this one is offensive. John Wesley:
We are to attack Satan, as well as secure ourselves; the shield in one hand, and the sword in the other. Whoever fights with the powers of Hell will need both.
The writer to the Hebrews spells out the effectiveness of the Word of God in combat –
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12. TNIV)
If we Christians would take the time to clothe themselves completely in God’s armor, we’d never lose. The problem is, most Christians want to do battle by go off half cocked. And they wonder why they stumble and fumble in battle. If we do it right, we’ll always come out on top.