Equipped for Battle
I am fascinated by military stories and heroes.
There is something inside me that stirs when I hear a story about a man putting everything he has on the line to courageously fight for and defend what is right.
Maybe it goes back to a time when, as a young man, my grandfather took me back to his study and showed me his map of Southern France, where he spent the Christmas of 1944. He served as a paratrooper in WWII, jumped into Southern France, and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He pointed to a small x on the map that showed where his friend was killed by a mortar shell in the days surrounding Christmas.
That was my first real taste of the heroism that displays itself in battle.
In fact, there are days when I regret that I didn’t serve our country in that way. I know we have many veterans in this room who have served, and I want you to know that your example inspires me.
Whether you realize it or not, you are in the middle of a war right now.
Behind the scenes of our daily routines, there is a war raging that we often ignore.
It isn’t being fought in a far-off land. Instead, it is right here, in our homes, in our church, and in our community.
Some would dismiss this as first-century superstition, or the uninformed explanations of a primitive people.
However, the Bible clearly tells us that there is a battle that has been going on for a long time.
We cannot ignore it, and we dare not underestimate the significance of it.
We are going to conclude our study of Ephesians this morning by looking primarily at Ephesians 6:10-18, so go ahead and turn over there this morning.
As Paul brings the book of Ephesians to a close, he gives us one final challenge: stand and fight.
If you and I are going to honor Christ in our relationships, if we are going to put off the old way of life and put on the new, if we are going to live like we have been changed, then we are going to have to fight.
Paul is going to explain how we do that in three ways this morning, so start reading with me in verse 10.
He starts by again reminding us that the strength is God’s, not our own.
Then, Paul begins to discuss this battle by first challenging us to...
1) Remember there is a battle.
1) Remember there is a battle.
Look with me at verses 11-13.
Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, we are in the middle of a spiritual battle.
We will talk more about verse 11, about how God has equipped us to fight, in just a minute.
However, before we can even begin to think about how we fight, we have to first acknowledge that we are fighting!
Do you ever wonder why it seems like the world is out to corrupt Christianity?
We find people trying vehemently to deny that what we believe is true, trying to reject the idea that there is a God we are ultimately responsible to.
Others are trying to dilute the message, saying that some of the Bible is true, but the parts we don’t like aren’t.
Why do people hate a baker who stands for traditional marriage? Why do pastors around the world get thrown in jail for preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus?
Because there is a war going on.
There are spiritual forces at work.
If you are here, you likely believe in God. You probably also believe in angels.
The Bible teaches that God created the angels to serve him. However, one angel didn’t want to serve God, so he rebelled against God and led others to do the same.
That angel is called Satan, and he is still trying to destroy what God has made and disrupt God’s rule over all creation.
The first time we are introduced to Satan, he is deceiving Adam and Eve and getting them to doubt God, ultimately committing the first human sin.
We see him try to tempt Jesus, to get Jesus to follow Satan’s plan instead of God the Father’s plan.
He is still fighting against God, trying to keep people trapped in darkness, not surrendering their lives to the God who made them.
For those of us who are following Christ, we are thrust into the heart of the battle as we try to swim upstream.
If you are living like you are supposed to in Ephesians 4, 5, and 6, then Satan is going to try to stop you! He doesn’t want God honored, and he will do whatever he can to stop you.
“The faithful Christian life is a battle; it is warfare on a grand scale—because when God starts to bless, Satan starts to attack.” (John MacArthur, Jr.)
Notice that Satan isn’t alone.
Verse 12 indicates that there are others who are fighting with him against God, pushing back against God’s rule and reign.
If you are putting off the old way of life and putting on the new way of life, then you need to realize that you are in the heart of the battle.
Once you realize this, you have to...
2) Ready yourself to stand.
2) Ready yourself to stand.
Verse 13 says that the reality that we are in a battleshould lead us to take up the armor God supplies for us to fight against him.
You are called to take God’s armor and resist Satan’s attacks.
Pick up with me in verse 14-16...
Here, we begin to see exactly how God has equipped us to fight this battle.
Paul would probably have been chained to a Roman guard at this point, so he draws from what he sees at hand to describe for us how we are to be equipped.
We start off with a command: “stand”.
The idea of this passage is that through what God has given us, we should never retreat away from the spiritual battle in front of us. It may be hard, but we are given what we need to move freely, dig in, and hold our ground.
The first four pieces of armor that he mentions are all introduced in similar ways in Greek, so we are going to look at them together.
By the way, commentators have some different ideas as to exactly what each of these items means, so you may have heard some minor variations on these items if you have heard them taught before.
However, the main idea still stands: God equips us with everything you need to stand up to temptation.
If you are going to stand firm in the middle of Satan’s attacks, then you first must wear truth like a belt.
In those days, guys wore long, flowing tunics. It isn’t easy to fight in a dress, so the first part of your armor was a belt that would hold up your tunic so you could run and move freely. It would also hold the sword we will get to in a minute.
So, what does it mean to make truth your belt? Although it may refer to the truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, it likely refers to living a life of integrity.
If you are going resist Satan’s attacks, then you need to be a person who speaks the truth!
That goes back to Ephesians 4:25, where we saw that our new life in Christ should involve speaking the truth.
As a Christian, you should be a man or woman whose word can be trusted.
Not only that, but your actions should line up with your words!
That’s the idea behind having your chest protected by righteousness, or “the breastplate of righteousness”
Roman soldiers would wear a piece of either plate or chain armor that covered from their neck to their thighs. It was a crucial piece of armor to protect your vital organs from damage.
For the Christian, fighting against Satan and his foes, you protect your heart through right living.
Again, go back to what we have seen in chapters 4:1-6:9 and see how you are supposed to live.
When you are doing what God calls you to do, you will be better protected to fight against temptation.
Not only that, but you will be able to do what 4:14 said, which is to be protected from error and false teaching.
One commentator linked the first two items with this phrase: “righteousness in works, truth in words”(1)
If you are doing the right things, and if you are staying true to your word, you won’t be easily tempted to get pulled off track.
You will be able to react quickly to any attack because you won’t be worried about getting caught in a lie, and your heart will be protected by a habit of right actions.
A lot of that seems to depend on you, though, doesn’t it?
Couple that with the next two items, and you see that this armor isn’t something you come up with on your own.
We see verse 15 telling us to have our feet sandaled with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
What does that even mean?
In those days, a Roman soldier’s sandals were made of leather with metal studs in them to give them traction. Think of them a cleats.
Those cleats would give you a firm footing from which to defend your position, because you were rooted and anchored in place.
For us, that stability comes from the message of the gospel.
The Christian life is built on the reality that you were separated from God and he sent Jesus to die in your place, be buried, and rise from the dead. Now, he is the king over all creation and, as we have seen in Ephesians, is exercising his rule and reign in greater and greater ways across all of creation.
When he rose from the dead, he proved that he was stronger than death and sin and Satan, so he is victorious!
My ability to stand doesn’t come because I am some super-spiritual warrior. I can stand because Jesus has taken my sin and offered me his strength.
That means that no matter how heavy or difficult the battle God places me in, I can have peace because Jesus’ ultimate victory over sin and Satan is already won!
With that in mind, dig in and stand your ground!
That leads to the last piece of the armor in this section: the shield of faith. Look back at verse 16.
Although this looks like another command, it is still a part of standing!
This shield was the big shield you could hide your whole body behind for protection.
It had the ability to stop arrows and darts and even some spears.
So, what is our shield? Faith! Faith that God will keep his promise, that God will honor his word. Faith that trusts him no matter what.
It’s the faith Jesus displayed when Satan tempted him, trusting God’s will over his own desires.
It’s the faith that saves as we saw back in chapter two, since we are saved by grace through faith.
Faith isn’t blind; it is trusting the God who has revealed himself through his word!
That same faith, that same trust, extinguishes the flaming darts Satan shoots our direction.
It reminds me of some of the lyrics of a song we sung recently, “Before the Throne of God Above”:
When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look, and see Him there Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free; For God, the Just, is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me.
When you are tempted to quit because it is too hard, when you are buried under the weight of guilt for things you know you have already been forgiven of, hide behind the shield of faith—look up and see Jesus, hanging on the cross, and trust the God who would do that for you!
Don’t give in to Satan’s lies! Don’t fall victim to his temptation. Don’t give up the ground Jesus died to win in your heart.
Instead, fight against temptation and sin. Stand you ground in integrity, both in words and actions. Dig your feet in by remembering the Gospel, and when the arrows are flying, fall back behind the shield of faith and trust in him.
Paul isn’t done yet, though.
Not only are we to stand while outfitted with these four pieces of armor, but we are also called to take up two more pieces.
That’s why we also see that we fight this battle by...
3) Receive the help you need.
3) Receive the help you need.
Look at verse 17.
We have another command here, and that is to “take” or “receive”, so there seems to be a difference with these last two items.
Who is giving us these things? The God who calls us to stand.
He is protecting our heads with the helmet of salvation.
In another passage like this, 1 Thess 5:8, Paul refers to the helmet we receive as “the hope of salvation”.
If we are going to fight in this battle, we must have our heads protected by the hope we have.
Our hope is not that everything in life is going to be easy and fun. It isn’t that our health will always improve, just like our bank account will always be perfect.
Instead, our hope is that no matter what happens, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have eternal life.
As we saw back in chapter 1, we have an inheritance waiting for us that is unimaginable, and we get to enjoy tastes of it now.
That is the source of our hope, and it is what protects our minds when things get tough.
That is one of the blessings Paul wished on the church at Rome:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It isn’t by your power, which is why you receive it.
The same is true of the last item we have in our kit: the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The idea here is not that you are going to whack Satan in the head with your Bible.
Instead, we are to model our response to temptation on how Jesus did.
We don’t have time to look back at it, but write down Matthew 4 in your notes.
That chapter records Satan’s temptation of Jesus.
We wield the sword of God’s word like Jesus did, using the promises and truth of God to fight against the lies Satan throws at us.
The Spirit of God is the one who takes the written Word of God we have and helps us see how it applies to every situation.
Practically, how do we take these things up?
Look back at verse 18 - through staying alert through prayer.
Although this section is smoothed out in English, both “pray” and “stay alert” are connected with the command to “take” the helmet and sword.
You receive the assurance and reminders of hope you need by spending time talking with God and listening from him.
As you pray while reading God’s word, you see how it speaks to the unique temptations you are facing today, sharpening the sword and readying you for battle.
As we maintain an attitude of prayer throughout our days, we see God at work, we recognize Satan’s attacks, and we are able to stand our ground.
Remember, though, that it isn’t your ability to stand that determines whether or not you get to heaven.
Jesus has already defeated sin, death, and Satan through his death and resurrection.
Now, it is in his power, his might, that you and I are called to stand until the day he finally and fully asserts his reign over every aspect of creation.
Ephesians has taught us that he is bringing it all together.
So, until the day he does, may he find us faithfully standing and fighting, resting in his salvation, and waiting for that final victory.
(1) Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 357.