The Armor of God – Ephesians 6:10-20

The Armor of God

Nick Esch, 1/19/2020 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Ephesians 6:10–20 

After laying out many of the wonders of who God is, what He’s done, and how He’s loved us in Christ, and who we are as His beloved children, as His bride, as His church, and what our mission is as His church, Paul then goes on to show how to live out that mission. We are to display the glory of Christ to the world by being disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus, and in all things make much of Jesus. We do this by knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, and following Jesus… by fighting sin, pursuing holiness, and helping others do the same. So we do this individually, we do this in community and in and through our relationships, and we do this in the home, school, the workplace, or wherever we find ourselves. And what we started to look at last week, is that if we are serious about this mission, about our walk with Christ and living for the glory of Christ in every aspect of life, we will find that we are at war. And that’s where our passage starts… At this glorious climax of Ephesians…

In verses 10-12 we read, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Though our enemy is not flesh and blood, we do in fact have a very real enemy. One that hates God and all His glory, and hates us because we were created in the image of God, and as Christians we were recreated to live for the glory of God, and we are covered in the righteousness of God the Son, and since we bear His mark, His enemy, Satan and all of his demons, despise us, and are therefore waging war against us…

What these verses are telling us is that if we are serious about the Christian life we can expect there to be serious conflict. That’s why verse 10 says finally… When you walk the narrow road that leads to glory you walk into a battle; so as Paul has been breaking down how we are to walk, he’s now stressing that with this walk comes war… And as verse 12 stresses, our war is against Satan, demons, and their effects. That’s the idea behind the list of powers there… And though it says our battle is not against flesh and blood, because we are battling Satan, his army, and their effects, we must also battle flesh as well… Namely, our own flesh… So we could read verse 12 to say, we do not wrestle merely against flesh and blood, but also against all of the powers of darkness… For, the primary way that the enemy battles against us is by deceiving us and tempting our flesh. 

The thing about our flesh is that it’s all about self: the pleasure of self and the glory of self. So the enemy, knowing this all too well, seeks to deceive us and hide or skew the truth of God’s Word, tempting us to reject God’s Word and to follow our sinful heart instead, to allow the flesh to lead us… But, our flesh, nor Satan or his demons ever lead us to joy or satisfaction… At least not lasting joy and satisfaction… Sin and Satan never keep their promises. The old puritan, Thomas Brooks, said it well when he said, “Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst: he promises honor and pays with disgrace, he promises pleasure and pays with pain, he promises profit and pays with loss, he promises life and pays with death; but God pays as he promises, for all his payments are made in pure gold…”

So, we must not cave to the enemy… We must not believe his lies or fall into his ways… We must wage war. And therefore, Paul says, we must, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [We must] Put on the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” But, how do we do that? What does that look like? Well, that’s what we see in the rest of our passage. As verse 13 says, we are to, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” As we began to look at last week, if we would stand firm, if we would hold the line in battle, we must stand in God’s strength, and we must battle in God’s armor.

So, starting in verse 14 Paul begins to unpack this for us. He says, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” Now, before we dive into this piece by piece, let me first explain that on the one hand, though Paul is clearly using the armor of a Roman soldier as imagery to explain the armor of God, on the other hand, Paul is simply referencing the Old Testament and how it spoke of the armor of God, that is the armor of the Lord, the Messiah.

In Isaiah 11:1-5 God’s Word says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” Or in Isaiah 59:17 it says, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.”

So, while Paul is certainly using the armor of a Roman soldier to unpack the armor of God, when he refers to the armor of God he’s referring to the armor of Jesus, the Messiah, or rather, to the Messiah Himself. That’s why he says in Romans 13:12, 14, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light . . . . [We are to] put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” So, you see, the armor of God, the armor of light, is the armor of Christ; so when you think about the armor of God think about Jesus—they are one and the same…

With that in mind then, Paul says that if we are to stand we must first fasten on the belt of truth. A Roman soldier would typical wear a long, somewhat baggy, tunic, which in and of itself, because of all of the loose excess fabric, would not be good to fight in. So in order to pull in all of the loose ends and get ready to fight, the soldier would put on a belt. Likewise, the belt of truth: the truth of God’s Word, the truth of the gospel, and the truth of a consistent life—a life of faithfulness where you’re seeking to live for Christ every day, not just on Sunday morning—transforms us, gets rid of our loose ends, and gets us ready for the fight.

So the belt of truth is the truth of God’s Word, the truth of the gospel, and the truth of consistent faithfulness, a life lived in accord with the Truth. And when we put on this belt of truth it will truly help us stand. Because only in and through God’s Word do we encounter the gospel, and it’s by the gospel that we are saved, transformed, and enabled to live in step with the gospel; and only when we rightly encounter and put on these things can we begin to stand… only then can we proclaim, as we sang earlier, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…” We stand in, on, and by truth; and as John 14:6 says, Jesus Himself is the Truth, the life, and the way…

Next we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness. A soldier’s breastplate is what protects the heart and other vital organs; it’s kind of like a bulletproof vest, for all of you Texans… A shot to the chest can take you out quick if you’re not properly protected. Likewise, if we’re not properly protected by the righteousness of Christ then we are open for attack, and any attack will be critical. We are safe in spiritual battle insofar as we stand upon Christ’s finished work. Again, as we sang earlier, our hope must be built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… For if we are trusting in anything else, or clothed in anything else we will have no assurance and no holiness… For only when we are looking to Christ are we covered in His righteousness and enabled to live out true righteousness. So, when you think of the breastplate of righteousness think of the righteousness of Christ first and foremost, and then think of your own Christlikeness. For when we are trusting in Jesus alone, and seeking to truly follow Him, then we will be protected from the temptations of Satan, and the accusations of Satan.

The great reformer Martin Luther knew this all too well. He said, “When the devil throws sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell we ought to speak thus: “I admit I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.” So you see, the breastplate of righteousness brings assurance and protects us from the shots of the evil one…

Now look at verse 15. There he says, “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Beloved, never underestimate the importance of shoes… Without the proper shoes a soldier couldn’t march or advance, let alone stand. They needed shoes that not only protected their feet, but also gave them grip to advance and to stand. The language Paul uses here seems to come from Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

Beloved, if we would truly stand firm against sin, self, and Satan, if we would not slip but stand secure, we must stand in the gospel. Our feet, our very lives must be planted firm in the gospel. So we must know it, understand it, believe it, and cherish it. At its most basic level, the gospel is the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ. But there’s so much attached to it, and so much that flows from it.

The gospel tells is there is one true God who is infinitely holy, good, and glorious, who created us to glorify Him. But, we rebelled against Him; we sinned and fell short of His glory. And in our rebellion we offended His infinite goodness and glory, and thus became infinitely guilty. We deserve death and wrath; and that’s what we’re all destined for in our sin. But, because God is infinitely good and glorious, He chose to save sinners. In His mercy and grace, because of His great love, Jesus, God the Son, stepped down from glory, took on flesh, lived the perfect life for God’s glory we are called to live, and died a sacrificial wrath-absorbing death. The infinite stepped in the place of the finite, and because Jesus is God in the flesh, because He Himself is infinite, He fully satisfied God’s wrath due His people—the wrath we deserve for our infinite offense…

And after satisfying God’s wrath Jesus died… but He didn’t stay dead. On the third day after His death Jesus rose in victory, so that all who repent and believe in the gospel, all who look to Him by faith will be saved from sin, saved from wrath, and will be with Jesus forever in perfect glory in perfect joy. That’s why it’s called the gospel of peace; through Christ we have peace with God. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” So even in war, we have perfect peace—peace beyond all understanding…

And all of this that I’ve just laid are just the basics of the gospel. The gospel is like a glorious diamond with infinite facets to its beauty and worth. And it’s this gospel that we are called to know, understand, believe, and cherish. And just like the soldier with his shoes, so we are to take our gospel shoes, our shoes of peace and stand secure, and even advance the gospel… Notice it says that we are to put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. We are to be ready and actively working to advance the gospel deep into our hearts and into the hearts of others, and wide out into the world, so that the lost would be saved, the saints would be edified, and the glory of God in Christ would be magnified and enjoyed…

But, if we actively seek to not only stand in the gospel, but to advance the gospel, we can be sure that the enemy will be after us. That’s why in verse 16 Paul says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” First, notice that he says we are to take up the shield of faith in all circumstances… Paul seems to be tying this to what he said in verse 13 when he spoke of being able to withstand in the evil day. In one sense, every day since the fall has been evil; but Paul seems to have in mind especially evil days… Days of great trial and temptation… Days when the enemy rages… Often these are days that on the surface don’t seem especially evil, but because of temptation, desire, and opportunity they end up being days of great evil because if we aren’t clothed with the armor of God and resolved to fight, the three sided attack of temptation, desire, and opportunity give way to much sin. So, resist temptation, put sinful desires to death, and give no opportunity to sin and Satan. Take up the shield of faith in all circumstances; on the evil day and on the good. Always be ready for war…

But, what is the shield of faith? Well, the Roman soldier’s shield was about 2 feet by 4 feet; it was large in order to protect the whole body. And often before the battle raged the shield was soaked in water so that if it was hit by any flaming arrows they would be quenched… Likewise, the shield of faith is what protects us from the attacks and the flaming arrows of Satan. Faith is knowing, loving, resting in, trusting in, delighting in, and treasuring all that God is for us, has done, and will do for us in Christ. It’s what protects us from temptation and condemnation. It’s what keeps us from sinning, or if a flaming dart does land, it’s what pulls us out of our sin, quenching the flame and leading us to repentance. Faith is what keeps us mindful, or reminds us that Jesus is better, thus enabling us to resist temptation, or to repent before we make shipwreck of our lives… Just as the soldier soaked his shield to quench the arrows, so we are to soak our mind, our heart, our soul in the water of the Word, and so strengthen our faith so that we are ready to stand, come what may…

But there’s another major aspect of the Roman soldier’s shield that we have yet to mention. It was designed in such a way that it was not meant to only protect one soldier, but a whole battalion. When the arrows would fly the soldiers on the front would put their shields in front of them, the next row would put their shields over the soldiers in front of them, locking their shields together. And the next row would do something similar until they were all covered in what was like a dome made of shields. The shield was not just about the individual soldier, but the whole battalion. And the same is true for us. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone… The life of faith, sanctification and growth, perseverance, and spiritual warfare as a whole are a community project. This is one reason why the local church is meant to be central in the life of every Christian. If you wish to be protected from all the flaming darts of the evil one, you must be protected on all sides, and that takes the whole battalion—the church…

Next, in verse 17, he says that we are to, “take the helmet of salvation…” The helmet protected the soldier’s head and brain… It could take a solid blow from all kinds of different weapons. So likewise, our salvation acts as a helmet, keeping our minds focused on God’s glory, God’s love, God’s mercy, and grace… It protects us from any blow that might cause brain damage, thus allowing us to think straight and to see things aright… For it is only the Christian worldview, the gospel worldview that sees and understands this world rightly… But this helmet is more than all of that… In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul calls this helmet the helmet of the hope of salvation, which makes sense, because that’s what it does: it guards and helps renew our mind, keeping us focused on the things that are above and on our great salvation, so that we will have assurance, comfort, and hope… Through the helmet of salvation we receive knowledge of God’s amazing grace: we see that we are saved by grace, we are being saved by grace, and we will be saved by grace, and thus we have great hope… Because the whole of the Christian life is all of grace… The helmet keeps our minds on a gracious God…

After walking us through all of this he then points us to our main offense: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” The Roman’s soldier sword was more of a dagger, used for close combat… This is what they would use when the fight elevated and the enemy came in close. So likewise when the enemy comes in close to take us out, we must be ready to fight with the sword of the Spirit. When sin, Satan, the world, or the flesh creeps in and seeks to do us in we must fight temptation, we must fight sinful desire, we must fight with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit because it is the very Word that God the Holy Spirit inspired, the Word He wrote through the men of His choosing. And He not only inspired it, but He empowers it. He opens our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts to it, and then opens the Word to us, showing us that the God of the Word is better than sin—that He alone is holy, good, and glorious, and that He alone is to be worshipped and adored. Our allegiance is to belong to Him alone. So, just as Jesus fought the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, and declared to him, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)… So we must take up the sword and fight the temptation to bow down to, to worship, to live for lesser things, and remember that true delight, true joy, true satisfaction and fulfillment is found in God alone; and He alone deserves all the honor and glory of our lives. His Word reminds us of this and points us to our great God in all His glory again and again.

So the Word is crucial in spiritual warfare… As Romans 8:13 says, “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.” And we put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit with the sword of the Spirit—with the Word of God. The Word, the sword of the Spirit is crucial because life and death, eternal life and eternal death depend upon it… And so we are to use this sword to fight sin… But, just like the shield of faith there is a communal aspect to this. We are to read, study, memorize, meditate, and speak God’s Word to ourselves, but we’re also to share this Word with others… We are to take out our sword and go to war against the enemy, pushing back the kingdom of darkness with each swing and thrust. We are to use God’s Word to evangelize the lost, helping people come to know, love, and follow Jesus, and then we are to use it to disciple others, helping them grow in their knowledge of, love for, and obedience to Jesus… And we are to help one another, by the Word, put sin to death… And if we actively engage in this warfare there is no doubt that the enemy will indeed push back…

This is why Paul adds to this next, in verse 18, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” You see, the enemy’s temptations, accusations, and threats are a burden to us, but our prayer to God is a far greater burden to the enemy… Especially if our prayers are in the Spirit: meaning that they are led by, initiated by, inspired by, and saturated with the Word of God. For it’s only when our prayers are led and saturated with God’s Word that we can really pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). Only when we pray God’s Word can we be sure that we are praying God’s will. And when we pray God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit, we are truly praying in the Spirit.

So Paul says in the last part of verse 18 to verse 20, “To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Beloved, we should not only be praying God’s Word and God’s will, but we should be praying for God’s people and for the advance of God’s gospel. Paul is writing this from prison, in the midst of much suffering and persecution, yet his prayer request is not for safety, comfort, or security, or even freedom… it’s for boldness in declaring the gospel. His prayer request is focused on the advancement of the gospel, and thus on the glory of God and the good of God’s people… even the good of those who have yet to come into the fold of God, but who will upon hearing the gospel rightly preached.

Friends, do your prayers work towards this end? Do you make it a habit to pray for the saints? Do you make it a habit to pray for the advancement of the gospel, and for gospel boldness for you and others? Beloved, are you embracing a wartime lifestyle, where you live clothed in the armor of God, armed with the sword of the Spirit, regularly using the wartime walkie-talkie of prayer, actively engaging in spiritual warfare for God’s glory and the good of God’s people? Do you pray through the church directory? Do you pray for the lost and for missionaries around the world? Friends, we are at war, so we must do these things… If we would stand, we must fight…

Conclusion

Therefore, as pastor and theologian Joel Beeke has put it, “The positive call to spiritual warfare is to ‘stand’ against the Devil’s forces while using ‘the whole armor of God’ (Eph. 6:13). It is God’s armor because he alone can save us with the armor and weapons of his righteousness (Isa. 59:15-17). To put on the armor of God is to put on Christ by faith in his saving work (Rom. 13:12-14). Yet putting on Christ is more than the act of faith, but is also the work of faith in obedience, just as putting on the new man involves actually practicing the virtues of truth, diligence, love, and so on (Eph. 4:24-32).”

So if we are to be Christians, if we are to put on the armor of God, if we are to stand, we must have faith—which is knowing, loving, resting in, trusting in, delighting in, and treasuring all that God is for us, has done, and will do for us in Christ—for that is how we truly put on Christ, and it He who is the armor of God… And then we must saturate our lives in prayer and God’s Word with God’s people, and then we must seek to trust and obey. For that is how we put on the armor of God, and that is how we stand. We fight sin, pursue holiness, we faithfully share Jesus with the lost, and seek to disciple our brothers and sisters in Christ, while allowing them to do the same for us…

But, again I must say, if you commit yourself to this life, to the serious Christian life, the enemy will rage… We will truly find that we are at war. But fret not… As that old hymn by Martin Luther says, “though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us… We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us…”