Eph 6.13-18 The Armor of God, Part Two
The Armor of God, Part Two
Chip Ingram has written a book entitled The Invisible War. He writes about a time when he was pastoring in Santa Cruz. He was walking down Pacific Avenue, a popular place for people to go who are just enjoying the evening. Ingram tells that there are several bars on Pacific Avenue, and as he was walking down the street, he saw a couple of pretty big, muscular guys in T-shirts being confronted by the much smaller guy who was working as the bouncer for that bar. The bouncer had called for the police to help with these guys, bigger and stronger than he was, who were drunk and getting more and more agitated by the minute.
Ingram said he didn’t want to get too close, but he was curious as to what was going to happen. Just a couple of minutes went by before a police cruiser pulled up to the curb with its lights flashing. Out stepped an officer ready to take charge of this situation before it got out of hand. The problem was that the officer was a four-foot-eleven woman, much smaller than any of the guys standing there arguing with each other. How was she going to handle this?
The petite female officer went straight up to the troublemakers and asked, “Gentlemen, do we have a problem here?” The two guys started in on her, but she immediately interrupted them. She pointed to her badge and said, “Excuse me. I’m authorized by Santa Cruz County to enforce the law. I’d like both of you over against the car right now. Do you understand?” They hesitated, and then she put her hand on her revolver. Ingram said that he had “never seen two burly drunk guys get sober so fast.” They got up against the car, legs spread, arms behind their backs.
Then Ingram asks, “Why on earth did two enormous bullies submit to a very small woman? In any other situation, that confrontation could have been disastrous. But this situation had nothing to do with size and strength. The police officer had authority, and the guys on steroids didn’t.” Here’s what you and I need to pull from that story for our lives today. We are up against an enemy stronger and more numerous than we are, but we have all the resources and authority of heaven itself behind us.
We’ve spent some time exploring what the Bible says about our spiritual warfare and the weapons and armor we are to use. Since this is a spiritual battle, we must have spiritual weapons. We must not fall into the pit of thinking that our own ingenuity or intelligence will help us to somehow work our ways through it.
Most Bible scholars believe that Paul was in prison as he was writing this, and that he had been observing a Roman soldier standing there perhaps guarding him. He drew some parallels between what that soldier wore, and the provisions God has made for us in this spiritual battle. These various pieces as described by Paul constitute standard issue battle gear for the Christian. And while all of them are effective protection and weapons in hand-to-hand combat, none of them is effective piled up in a corner. None of them would help the soldier very much if all he did was think about putting them on.
So Paul tells us that we are to put on
The Belt of Truth
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Gospel of Peace
The Shield of Faith
The Helmet of Salvation
The Sword of the Spirit
Every one of these areas—truth, righteousness, peace, faith, our salvation, and the Word of God—is a primary area where Satan attacks. Last week we explored the first three of these; today we turn to the rest of the various pieces of armor.
The Shield of Faith, v. 16
The first three pieces of armor—belt, breastplate and shoes—were worn all the time, even when the soldier might be sitting or relaxing. The phrase “In addition to all this” in verse sixteen refers to the last three pieces—shield, helmet and sword—were always kept nearby to be ready at a moment’s notice. Paul says, “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
There were two primary kinds of shields used by the Roman soldier. One was a small round shield, maybe two feet in diameter. It was light enough to be carried and used in hand-to-hand combat. But the one that Paul refers to here in verse sixteen was perhaps two and a half feet wide and about four feet tall. In fact, the word used here originally mean the stone that was rolled across the opening to a tomb. It referred to a door. A typical Roman was a good bit smaller than the average male today, so he could crouch down behind it when he needed to and be completely covered.
But it gets better. We’ll talk about this again next time from a different perspective, but we need to touch on it just a bit today. These larger shields, the one to which Paul was referring here, were designed to be linked together, so that a soldier’s shield was most effective when the soldiers were beside each other, close enough together that they helped protect one another. The parallel is almost too obvious to even comment on. The faith we have in God certainly is a personal thing, but it affects others as well. Our faith and trust in Almighty God feeds off of the convictions and personal trust of others.
Notice next that Paul tells us that with the shield of faith we will be able to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” The tips of arrows many times were wrapped in cloth and soaked in pitch. It was set on fire just before it was shot at the enemy. When the arrow hit its mark, the pitch would splatter for several feet, setting on fire anything it touched. Not only would it burn the soldiers, but in their panic they might even drop their shields, leaving them even more exposed. When the enemy has a strategy, the best thing is to have a counter-strategy. Here’s what the Romans would do. In many cases, these shields were metal, in which case they would not catch fire. But sometimes they were covered with leather, which had been soaked in water before the battle. When they were struck with a flaming arrow, the water in the leather would extinguish the flames! That’s why the verse reads as it does: “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
That’s what Paul was talking about here. Satan’s arrows are set ablaze by the evil fires of hell, and they most often take the form of temptations, fear, angry, pride, lust, doubt, discouragement. And they come as suddenly as an arrow flies through the air. When Satan shoots his fiery missiles at us, we need to make sure that we are protected. What Paul is telling us here is that our faith—our trust—in God can protect us from those fiery arrows, as long as we are hidden safely behind it. Listen, folks! We can trust God! Proverbs 30 contains these astounding words: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (v. 5). Psalm 33:20 reminds us “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” God becomes our shield when by faith in Him and trust in His Word, we hide ourselves behind Him and believe that every word He has ever uttered is completely and absolutely true.
So when Satan fires his fiery arrows at us—and sometimes they come with such ferocity and frequency that they would almost seem to darken the sky—we can be safely protected when we have hidden ourselves in God. Here’s an example of how our shield of faith protects us: Satan or one of his minions whispers to us, “You’ve really messed up this time. God couldn’t possibly love you now!” But the shield of faith causes us to reply: “But God says in Romans 5:8, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’” The enemy says “Look at all your problems.” Faith says, “Oh, but look at the promises of God.” The enemy says, “You’ve wasted your life.” Faith says, “God isn’t finished with me yet.” The enemy wants us to focus on the negative and the depressing, and if we do not take up the shield of faith, we will do exactly that, and we will be negative and we will be depressed.
But the shield of faith protects us from those fiery arrows, so that we are able to say, “Lord, I don’t always understand what’s going on, and I can’t always see You working in my life, and I don’t always hear Your voice. But I know you are bigger and stronger than any problem I have. I know you are true and eternal and loving. And I will not believe these lies from the pits of hell!”
The Helmet of Salvation, v. 17
Here’s what Paul wrote in verse seventeen: “Take the helmet of salvation.” Paul used similar language in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, when he said, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
The Roman soldier’s helmet was made from either brass or iron. That wouldn’t be very comfortable, so many times the soldier would line his helmet with sponge or some type of cloth. The helmet extended down along the back of the neck, and there were two pieces that hung down along the sides of the soldier’s face. By the time Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, soldiers were beginning to use various colors in the plumes on the top of the helmet to signify their rank. Centurions and other officers wore crests on their helmets, so that their men could see them and follow them into battle. In hand-to-hand combat, the soldier’s head was especially vulnerable. One swipe of a sword or a club could mean his death.
The “helmet of salvation” refers of course to the finished work of Christ on the cross. You know how this works. Mankind fell into sin through the original sins of Adam and Eve. All of us since then have been born as sinners to sinful parents. The good news is that God had a plan to provide for the redemption of mankind—a plan that was centered on the death of the Son of God on the cross. When you and I “take the helmet of salvation” we are accepting that what Christ did for us on the cross is enough to secure our salvation from sin. We are not depending on our own good works, what others think of us, what we’ve accomplished or what we own. We are declaring our faith in Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and provide an eternal home for us. We are saying that our own goodness and reputations are not enough—that only the covering provided by Christ is sufficient.
Oh, hear me today! If you are depending on anything—anything!—to secure your home in heaven other than the blood Jesus Christ, you are like a soldier going out into battle without a helmet. You may be a very good person, but you don’t have a helmet on your head. You may be an active church members, but you don’t have a helmet on your head. There may be many people whose lives you have influenced, but without Christ, your head is uncovered in the battle. You are going out to deal with an unseen enemy without the protection afforded us through the blood of Christ. Be sure when you go out to do battle against this invisible foe, who is stronger and smarter and more numerous than you are, that you are completely covered by the salvation that comes only by faith in Jesus Christ.
The Sword of the Spirit, v. 17
The rest of verse seventeen tells that we are to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The sword of the Roman soldier was about two feet long, was crafted from iron, and was sharpened on both edges. In hand-to-hand combat, the soldier’s sword was the primary weapon against his enemy. Paul said that our sword, the sword of the Spirit, is none other than the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews agreed: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” 4:12).
So it is not surprising that one key area where Satan has launched an all-out attack in our day is against the Word of God. It is our primary weapon against Satan’s attacks. Satan will first plant ideas and thoughts in our minds that tell us things which are contrary to what God says. In fact, the very first words recorded in Scripture from the mouth of Satan were to discredit what God had said and to cast doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:1 tells us that Satan asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” And he uses the same tactic today: “Yes, God said that, but did He really mean it? Or did He really mean it in this particular situation?”
Casting doubt on the Word of God was happening a long time ago when some were teaching that Jesus did not actually come in the flesh, that He was only a spirit that looked like a body. The letter of First John was written to deal with that heresy. There are so many false teachers in our world today, and through the Internet and satellite television, their influence is more prevalent than ever before. Benny Hinn teaches that God created Adam with wings, because He intended for man to fly, but when Adam sinned, his wings fell off. Gloria Copeland teaches that it is possible for us to actually leave our bodies to go pray for someone in another location. There are several popular “Christian” preachers who have openly denied that Jesus is the only way to God, who refuse to preach about the cross and about our sin that nailed Jesus there.
Oprah Winfrey, called by some “The High Priestess of the New Age Religion,” has said on her show that “if God for you is still about a belief it is not truly God,” that God is more of a feeling than a belief. And she is leading millions of people astray, millions of people who now believe that you don’t have to believe in Jesus to receive eternal life. There are many others. Those are small examples, but what concerns me the most is that there are people the whole world over who hear these blasphemies and accept them as the truth of God, because they do not know what the Word of God says! They are being seduced by these false and evil teachings. Bible believing Christians should stay away from those kinds of influences. Don’t expose yourself to that kind of thing!
Whenever you hear someone teach on anything—anything!—you should always put it alongside what God’s Word says about that subject. Jesus Himself told us, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” In other words, they are going to appear to be something they are not. They may look like dedicated, pious believers who live lives of victory over the devil, lives of healing and miracles and all sorts of signs and wonders, but Jesus told us that we need to beware—some of them may be false prophets. We’ve got to put what they teach up against the only Standard for living that exists—the Word of God—and make a determination as to whether these preachers and celebrities are actually proclaiming the truth, or a lie.
We must become expert swordsmen in this spiritual battle. We must know how to handle the Word of God, rightly dividing truth from error. We must know how to not only use the Word of God, but use it correctly, not finding pet verses to satisfy our carnal desires. And when we become serious students of God’s Word, not only will we know what it says and be able to use it correctly, we will also be able to recognize when someone is not using it correctly.
So there we have it: The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Paul tells us that since our struggle is not against flesh and blood, that we are to “put on the whole armor of God.” When it’s time to do spiritual battle, let’s not be guilty of leaving any part of it behind.
Charles Wesley encouraged us through his wonderful hymn, Soldiers of Christ, Arise:
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength
Which God supplies
Through his eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of Hosts,
And in his mighty pow’r,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.
Stand then in his great might,
With all his strength endued;
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God.
Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul;
Take ev’ry virtue, ev’ry grace,
And fortify the whole.
To keep your armor bright,
Attend with constant care;
Still walking in your Captain’s sight,
And watching unto prayer.
From strength to strength go on;
Wrestle and fight and pray;
Tread all the pow’rs of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day.
08.03.08, AM--Bethlehem Baptist Church, Benton, Mississippi