The Armor of God Ephesians 6:14-20
Ian and I flew to New York last week. When we were sitting in our seats waiting for the plane to take off when the stewardess gave all of us some instructions to consider in case the plane experienced some kind of emergency.
Afterwards she came up to the man sitting in front of us and began to talk to him. When she talked with him her demeanor became more serious and intense. She told him that he was sitting in the row where the emergency exit was located. She stressed to him how important it would be for him to open the door if there were an emergency and that he would be the one who would direct people through the door. She also said that he would stand at the door and be the last person off of the plane. After she explained all of this she said,
“Do you understand what I have just told you?”
“Can you follow the instructions that I just gave to you? Because if you cannot do so then I do not want you to remain in this row.”
The man assured her that he would accept responsibility and that he was capable of remaining and fulfilling every duty that she had just given. After he said this the stewardess looked at him and smiled for the very first time and said, “Thank you”.
I have sat in the emergency row on an airplane before and have been given those instructions and asked those questions. Like that man, I said that I could do everything that was being asked of me. But I will admit that there was a part of me that wondered,
“Would I really be willing to be the last man standing in that plane?”
“Would I be willing to fulfill that responsibility under any and every circumstance that may occur?”
As we come to the end of this letter Paul has and reminded us that we are to remain standing in the evil day and we are not shrink back from the responsibility that has been entrusted to us.
Paul has told us how we are to act in the evil day and he also tells us that we can only fulfill these expectations by putting on the armor of God. Our text this morning is found in Ephesians 6:14-20 which says,
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. 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.
In this passage we find the armor of God listed out for us. Some have said that we have six pieces of armor given here by the apostle Paul.
There is the belt of truth (14)
the breastplate of righteousness (14)
having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (15)
having the shield of faith to extinguish all the fiery darts of the devil (16)
we are to wear the helmet of salvation (17)
we are to wield the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (17)
Others see seven pieces of armor in this text. They would say that Paul’s admonishment to pray is also part of the armor. I have determined that prayer is a very vital part of this warfare and so I would also include it with all of the other armor listed. If you want to defeat your enemy easily then concentrate your attack upon their ability to communicate. Paul believed that prayer was so important that he reminds the Ephesians to be praying for him so that he could stand boldly when he is given the opportunity to declare the truth.
Of these pieces of armor only two, the sword of the Spirit and prayer, are used on offense. The majority of this armor is for defensive purposes. This can be an indication that we are not to go out and look for a fight but we are to be ready to fight when the day of battle comes. We are to do all that we can do to stand in the evil day by putting on this armor and by being a people who pray in humble dependence upon the Lord.
The first piece of armor that Paul speaks of is the belt of truth. Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…”
The belt had several important roles for the Roman soldier.
First, it holds the clothing tight to the soldier so that the soldier would have free range of movement. If he become entangled in his clothing and were unable to move quickly the soldier would find himself in a great deal of trouble. Proverbs:4:10, “Hear my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”
Secondly, this belt protects the soldiers midsection. The belt was made up of leather and it would help to protect the soldier from any blows to the stomach that he might receive.
Thirdly, this belt was also used to fasten the breastplate on and to secure the sword to a soldiers waste.
It would be difficult to over emphasize the importance that truth is to a Christian. We are to seek truth, to know truth and to defend the truth in this world. Christians are a truth oriented people.
It is the truth that guides us and stabilizes us in this world. You cannot sway a strong soldier with any attempt to lure them away from the truth.
Our disposition concerning the truth in scripture is to be strong and sure. It is not to be half-hearted, apathetic, indifferent, passive, irresolute, listless or lukewarm.
It is to be received and fastened, fixed and secured tightly. James says, “...for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind…a double minded person is unstable in all of his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
A strong Christian will not be swayed by cunning philosophies, deceitful schemes, deceptive myths, creative new philosophies and doctrines of men.
The truth of scripture takes precedence over human reason, human opinion, human plans, religious traditions and human mandates.
Secondly, we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:14b says, “...and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”
The breastplate covers and protects the heart of a Christian soldier. We are to have a heart that seeks after God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Our heart is to be transformed by the grace of God in godliness and not easily conformed to this world. The breastplate of righteousness is a vital part of our armor.
There two ways to apply the righteousness of God.
First, we apply the righteousness of God through justification through our faith in Christ. Justification is that one time judicial act when through repentance and belief in the gospel we are declared by God to be righteous and we are brought into a right relationship with Him. Even though there is a battle that a Christian is engaged in, they now find themselves at peace with God and clothed in the righteousness of God. (Romans 8:31-32 – “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”)
Secondly, this righteousness is to be applied to our lives through sanctification. A good soldier wants to have a heart that is seeking after God, obeying God and honoring God in all things. Paul speaks of this in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Share in the suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
Thirdly, our feet are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:15 says, “...and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”
Last week when I was in New York we spent all day Friday walking around the city. It was exciting to see the city and I could have spent more time doing it, however, my feet were sore and blistered. By the end of the day I found it hard to walk at all. If a Christian soldier is going to walk throughout this life prepared for a battle that may arise at any time he needs to have the proper shoes on his feet.
Consider some of the other translations concerning Ephesians 6:15,
New American Standard - ...and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace
New King James - ...and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace
The word ‘preparation’ in these verses is significant. Being a Christian Soldier is no cake walk. The life of a Christian is not something that we can engage in nonchalantly. We must be prepared for this walk. There is preparation needed to be done so that a Christian can walk successfully and finish the race that is before them.
Buzz and Anna have often told me about all of the work that they would put into preparing for their vacations to go hiking in the grand canyon. They would prepare for an entire year for the hike that they were going to take up and down that canyon. You can also tell that as they now have to face so many challenges as they have gotten older that they spent their life preparing spiritually for these challenges as well. Every time that I talk to them they express faith, confidence and hope. This is not a by-product of their age; rather, they have prepared their whole Christian life for these moments. As a result, whenever they speak you hear faith, hope, and the gospel.
Similarly, good soldiers are going to use their feet to prepare themselves for the good news of the gospel. They will walk on the narrow path and avoid the wide path that leads to death.
Soldiers will use their feet to learn the scriptures so that they can understand the gospel of the grace of God.
And then that soldier will be in a good position to deliver the gospel to those who are around him. A good soldier takes the time to be prepared to share the grace of God to others. This is the very thing that Paul speaks of as he ends this letter when he says in Ephesians 6:19-20, “...[pray] 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.”
In Ephesians 6:16 we find the forth piece of armor, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…”.
The shield that is referred to here is the door sized shield that a Roman soldier would use to protect his whole body. It was a shield that was 4’ tall by 2.5’ wide. It was made of wood and covered with leather so that the fiery darts of the enemy would be extinguished. An entire army of Roman soldiers could stand together and hold up their shields together and they would become an impregnable fortress. They would become a wall that could not be breached.
There is a scene in an Avenger movie when all the good guys have taken refuge in Wakanda. It is a capital city that is shielded by a powerful force field. When the bad guys show up to fight against them these huge projectiles fall from the sky and are destroyed as they hit the shield over the city. As this begins to happen Bucky turns to Falcon and says, “I love this place”.
The shield of faith is a tremendous piece of armor and I hope that we are all using it in all circumstances. The devil will take every opportunity to shoot his fiery arrows at a believer. When these arrows come a good soldier will take the Word of God and apply it by faith to quench the arrow that is shot at them. A soldier will stand upon the Word of God and quench the attack that the devil brings against them.
Fifth, we are to wear the helmet of salvation. Ephesians 6:17 says, “...and take the helmet of salvation”.
The helmet protects the head the soldier. A good soldier will focus his mind upon the fact that their sins have been forgiven through Christ and that there is now no condemnation in Christ.
The world says you must work to be saved.
The devil tries to convince believers that they have been too bad to be saved.
A good soldier will focus their mind upon the grace of God. It is the grace of God that saves us; not our merit, not the law, not our works, and not our religion.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians there were only a couple commands given to Christians. The majority of those chapters pertained to what God had done for us and what He had graciously given to us.
One of the only commands that we were given in those first three chapters had to do with the mind. We were told in Ephesians 2:11-13 that we are to continually remember what God has done for us. Paul said, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having ho hope without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
The sixth piece of armor is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17, “...and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”.
The word that is used for sword is more like a dagger than a big military sword. The implication is that every believer will have personal moments of warfare where you will need to use the dagger. It will be a battle of hand to hand combat.
We will win spiritual battles when we can take the Word of God and use it in the proper way. We are to know the Word, believe the Word, learn the Word, and develop in our faith so that in any situation we can use the Word to defend ourselves.
This is what Jesus did when He was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus cited those scriptures from the book of Deuteronomy and the devil fled from Him. A good soldier knows the Word of God and he applies it in these moments.
Not many have heard of Edward Payson. He was the pastor of the largest congregation in Maine during the second Great Awakening. He was the son of a congregational minister and a godly mother.
Although Edward often expressed his gratitude for having been raised in a Christian home he did not surrender his life to Christ until after he had graduated from college. He entered Harvard at the age of seventeen. His friends would jokingly says that there was not one book in the library that he had not read.
His father was concerned because he did not see that his son showed adequate fruit that his life had been given to Christ. At one point, he said to Edward, “To give you a liberal education, while destitute of religion, would be like putting the sword in the hands of a madman.”
We all are wearing some sort of armor. We are all fighting some sort of battle. Some are fighting a fleshly battle with fleshly armor. Others have learned to fight a spiritual battle with spiritual weapons.
What type of armor do you have on?
What type of battle are you fighting?
There are lots of Edward Payson’s in the world.
Some are wearing carnal armor and fighting fleshly wars.
Some have come to know Christ as their Savior and have now begun to fight a spiritual battle while wearing spiritual armor.
Which Edward Payson will we be?