This is Pastor Dave writing to you before taking my Sabbatical this Summer. Before I left I wanted to leave you with some words to help you better understand the armor of God during the SWAT summer sermon series.
Paul teaches us about the armor of God in Ephesians chapter 6 in a spiritual call to arms. This is imagery taken from the soldiers in the Roman army. They were responsible to wage war on behalf of the empire. Paul describes different pieces of the spiritual armor one by one. Take a moment to digest each piece of armor, some pieces are defensive and some pieces are offensive.
“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. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”
(Eph 6:14-18, NIV)
The “Belt of Truth”
The military belt connected everything else together. The “truth” here refers to the truth of the Gospel. Satan is called “the father of lies” (Jn 8:44) and we must gird ourselves with truth. Kevin DeYoung notes, “That’s essentially what spiritual warfare is: believing the truth from God instead of the lies from the devil.”
The “Breastplate of Righteousness”
This piece was the heart-protector. Spiritually, since we have been given the righteousness of Christ, nothing can penetrate this piece of armor. Our hearts belong to God and He offers us His divine protection. (1 Jn 3:20)
The “Boots of the Gospel of Peace”
Ready feet were an important part of being a good soldier. Everywhere the soldiers went they would carry the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. This was a peace through strength. We must remember the message we are always ready to carry is that we can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1)
The “Shield of Faith”
There were two types of shields in Roman times; there was the hand shield and the shield being referred to here. This shield was 2 ½ feet wide by about 4 feet high and was very large. (The word here is the same Greek word for “door.”) Typically, this was two layers of wood glued together, covered with hide, and bound with iron. The soldier would look up, and though he would see hundreds of arrows coming at him, he would be protected by this mighty shield. Sometimes soldiers fought behind a solid wall of shields. We have a record of a battle warrior who had 220 darts sticking to his shield. Why do we need this shield? To protect us against the flaming darts of the enemy. Arrows were often dipped in pitch and propelled toward a person with deadly speed. Your enemy loves to throw arrows at you; arrows of doubt, fear, bitterness, accusation, or any sinful temptation. In those moments, our shield of faith, our faith in God is the most powerful advantage we have. We have to have an active dependence on God. “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn” (Isa 54:17, NKJV).
The “Helmet of Salvation”
All the other armor was laid out to be put on, but the helmet was personally handed to the soldier by his armor-bearer. Notice it says “take” or really “receive or accept” the helmet. The imagery here is that we receive our salvation as a gift from God. In those days, the helmet protected the cranium and skull. One hit with a sword or mace might be the end of you. This is why we need a helmet – even today, when biking, it’s an essential piece of armor. In Christ, we now have mental confidence and a sound surety of the mind.
Satan will attack your thinking, but we must take “every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5). The helmet of salvation will deliver you from wrong thinking about God.
The “Sword of the Spirit”
This was a short, two-edged, cut and thrust sword wielded by the soldier. No man would go into battle without his sword – it was his first line of offense. A soldier would go through intense swordsman training to learn how to use it. One cannot just “swordfight” by flailing the blade around and hoping it sticks – there was a strategy involved. One had to be a learned swordsman to defeat the enemy. The same is true when using the sword “of the Spirit,” the Word of God, the Spirit inspired Scriptures. The word used here for “word” denotes the “spoken word,” which we give with our own lips. Remember in His temptation, even Jesus defended Himself against the devil with Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). We, too, need a good steady artillery of Scriptures to be meditating on at all times. I hope you are so in love with the Word of God that you bring it everywhere. It is the most powerful weapon you have.
One of the key concepts in the Christian life is called “mortification.” This word means “to kill or to put to death,” referring to the flesh or the sin nature. If we do not mortify the flesh, this will weaken or darken our souls and stunt the process of spiritual formation. The apostle Paul writes, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:12–13 ESV). One of the ways we put to death the deeds of the flesh by means of the Spirit is by using the sword of the Spirit.
“Praying in the Spirit”
This is the most necessary element to resisting the devil, but it is often the most neglected. Satan hates people who pray. He’ll keep you busy so you won’t pray. We are too busy to talk to the all-knowing God, who knows our every circumstance. We even see Jesus using this piece of armor in Gethsemane. How much more should we be praying without ceasing? (1 Thess 5:17) Friends, be prayed up every day!
Finally, notice how much each piece of the armor is connected back directly to the gospel. In some ways, this armor is akin to putting on Christ. Our helmet refers directly to our salvation in Christ. Our breastplate is the imputed righteousness of Christ. We believe this gospel as our shield of faith. We embrace the “truth” of the gospel around our waist. Our feet are to be ready to share this gospel message. The resources of the gospel are the resources of heaven and they are at your fingertips – and yet many don’t take advantage of them. The Christian life is a war. Be on guard. Stand firm. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Js 4:7, ESV). Know that greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Trust Him and use the means He has provided to defeat the enemy of your soul, all for His glory. One day, God will crush your enemy (Satan) underneath your feet. (Rom 16:20)