The Armor of God
The subject of spiritual warfare is a very popular subject these days, and is approached in a variety of ways by various preachers and teachers. The basis for the discussion of spiritual warfare is found in Ephesians 6:10-18, as well as in other Scriptures, in which the Apostle Paul talks about a battle that exists between Christian believers and evil spiritual forces in heavenly places.
When considering this subject, a number of questions arise. What is this battle about? Who is the enemy? What are his weapons and strategies? And what are the weapons and defenses of the believer? We will attempt to answer some of these questions as we look at the passage of Scripture in Ephesians, chapter six.
Be strong in the Lord
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
The Greek word translated “strong” in this verse means to be empowered, to be increased in strength, to be made strong, or to be enabled. Be empowered, strong and enabled in the Lord. Notice that Paul did not say to be strong in ourselves. He said to be strong in the Lord. We are not told to be strong in ourselves, but in Him. He did not say for us to just hang in there till the end, and hope for the best. He said to be empowered in the Lord.
There is a strength, an empowering, an enabling, that comes from God. Jesus told His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they be endued with power.
Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
There is a strength, an enabling that comes to us from the Spirit of God, and we are not expected to fight spiritual battles in our own strength, but in His. He will give us that strength, as we spend time with Him in prayer, and ask Him to give that strength to us. We are not limited by our own natural and mental abilities.
Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His mighty power. We lean on His miraculous power, His ability to do what we cannot.
The whole armour of God
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Put on the full armor, the concordance says, or, that is to say, put on all of it. Paul speaks here of a complete set of armor, that will protect every area. We are only as strong as the weakest place in our armor. Notice that he says to put it on, leaving us to infer that we can choose not to put it on. Putting on the armor is something we do on purpose, and it is not an automatic thing just because we are born again. And we put it on for a specific purpose, to be able to stand.
The wiles of the devil. Here is the first mention of what we are fighting against, or what the battle is all about. The wiles of the devil. The word translated here as “wiles” means trickery, cunning, lying in wait, or craftiness. The devil is a master of craftiness and trickery. He is the author of all deception, the father of lies.
With craftiness, he deceived Eve in the garden of Eden. The first thing he spoke to her was “. . . hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” His strategy for deceiving her focused on her understanding of what God had said. He told her she would be like God if she ate that forbidden fruit. But she was already like God, made in His image and likeness. The devil tries to deceive us into thinking we need to become what God has already made us to be.
He did the same thing when he tempted Christ in the wilderness. If you be the son of God, he said, then do this or do that. Jesus was already the son of God. He didn’t have to do anything to prove it. The devil also endeavored to make the word of God mean something it didn’t mean, and to cause Jesus to apply it incorrectly. And that’s what he still does today. That’s what he is good at. He has had millenniums of time to perfect his craft.
He tries to convince us that we need to become what the word of God declares that we already are. And he perverts the promises of God so as to make them ineffective in our lives.
2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Here again Paul is talking about weapons of warfare, weapons that are not carnal or natural, but which are strong through the power of God to pull down strongholds. He further defines strongholds as imaginations, or reasonings, speculations, and rationalizations concerning the word of God, or that is, reasonings that exalt themselves above the word of God.
This is the area of the devil’s expertise: reasonings, speculations, and rationalizations concerning the word of God. A wrong understanding of the word of God will make it powerless in our lives. Jesus told the Pharisees that by their tradition they had made the word of God of no effect. So, we must understand that the devil’s battle against us is primarily in the area of subverting our understanding of the word of God. If he can blur our knowledge of God’s word and His promises to us, then he can rob us of our inheritance in Christ. This is why we must always be seekers of truth, those who continuously hunger and thirst after righteousness with a sincere heart.
Rulers of the darkness
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Paul makes it clear that the battle is not with people, not with the natural world, not with flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces. Those forces consist of principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and wicked spirits in heavenly or celestial places. You can look up the meaning of each of these entities, but all of them are spiritual forces who rule the darkness or spiritual ignorance of this world. Their mission is to keep the masses ignorant of spiritual truth, which would otherwise set people free from their dominion.
1 John 5:19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
The word “wickedness” used here refers to that which is bad or evil. It refers to spiritual darkness, but it is also used in at least one place to denote a title, such as the Evil One, or the Wicked One. Some translations read that the whole world, the entire world of those who have not been redeemed from darkness, is under the control of the evil one. This control is administered through principalities, powers, and wicked spirits, at the direction of the evil one himself, the devil.
Just a side thought. One of the devil’s greatest accomplishments in today’s modern civilized world is that he has convinced the vast majority of people that he doesn’t exist, but rather is merely a product of pagan mythology. And the whole world lies in darkness, just where he wants it to be. The point is that we are in a battle with spiritual enemies that the world is not even aware of.
Having done all, stand
Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Wherefore, or because the battle is a spiritual one, take the armor of God and put it on. Again, we are exhorted, as in verse 11, to take unto ourselves the whole armor, or the full complete armor of God, that we may be able to withstand in the battle. The armor is not an automatic thing that we are clothed with just because we are saved and redeemed. It is something we must proactively put on. He says to take it unto yourselves, that you may be able to withstand, that is, stand against, oppose and resist, in the evil day, the day the enemy is pressing against you.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
It’s a Biblical truth that the devil will flee from those who resist him. The problem is that, more often than not, we don’t recognize that it’s him, much less resist him. The armor of God is what we use to stand against the enemy, and resist. So then, now that we know who the enemy is, and what the battle is about, and what the purpose of the armor is, let’s look at the armor.
Truth and righteousness
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Loins girt about with truth. Be clothed with truth. What is he referring to? He is referring to the revealed truth of the word of God. In chapter seventeen of John’s gospel, Jesus prayed for His disciples.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
The truth we need to be clothed with is the revealed truth of the word of God. The enemy’s lies are powerless against God’s truth. The more truth we know, the more separated we become. That’s what sanctified means, separated. How do we clothe ourselves with truth? We pursue it, through study and meditation of the word. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in believers. One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into truth.
John 16:12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:
Jesus could not tell His disciples all that He wanted to, because they were not able at that time to understand, because those things would have to be revealed to them by the Spirit of God, Whom God the Father promised to send to those who believe on Jesus.
1 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
When does the Spirit search the deep things of God? He searches them when we are searching them, and He reveals them to us. He already knows the deep things of God, and does not need to search them for Himself. We need to be seekers and pursuers of truth. The blessed man of Psalm 1 has one outstanding feature or characteristic. He spends time in the word of God.
Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Dig deep and meditate in the word of God.
Ephesians 6:14 also says to have on the breastplate of righteousness. The Strong’s Concordance describes this word “righteousness” as meaning, in a broad sense, the state of one who is as he ought to be. We generally think of righteousness as being those things that one does or the behavior that causes one to be approved of God. And both definitions are true in a general sense.
But, in a New Testament sense, there is a clear distinction made between the righteousness that is achieved by doing good works, and the righteousness that is attained by faith in Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
If righteousness is that which causes us to be approved of God and pleasing to Him, then it’s impossible to have righteousness without faith, because it’s impossible to please Him without faith. Righteousness is the free gift of God, given to those who believe on the name of His only begotten Son.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
We are made to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We do not earn that. We believe unto it. As long as we are trying to earn righteousness, then we are attempting to become what we already are, and the enemy has us defeated. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Boldly declare, I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am righteous because He has made me righteous, not because I’ve earned it. I am righteous, whether I feel like it or not, and whether I look like it or not. I am righteous, even though the devil may try to tell me that me I’m not. I am redeemed, and I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
The preparation of the gospel of peace
Ephesians 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Remember that we are discussing armor, and the defenses we have against an enemy who comes against us. This particular piece of armor is called the preparation of the gospel of peace. The word translated “preparation” here is a Greek word that means the act of preparing. Gospel means the good news, and peace means a state of tranquility rather than war. It also speaks of assuredness of salvation, rest and quietness. It simply means time spent preparing our hearts to have an assurance of our salvation, and to have that a sense of peace, rest, and quietness. The enemy attempts to get us into a place of turmoil and doubt, a place of confusion and uncertainty. But if we have prepared ourselves with time alone with the Lord in prayer, and time meditating in His word, our hearts are confident before God, and we are hard to shake. We must take time to prepare ourselves in the assurance of our salvation, our trust in God. Psalm 112 speaks of the blessed man who delights greatly in the word of God.
Psalm 112:7-8 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
This man is not shaken up when bad things happen, or when bad news comes. His heart is fixed and unshakable, for he is trusting in the Lord. He has spent time in the word of God, because he delights greatly in it. His heart is prepared. His feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
The shield of faith
Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
The shield of faith will extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy. And since faith will quench them, then it stands to reason that those flaming arrows must certainly have to do with doubt and fear and anxiety that God may not come through in my particular situation. The Bible tells us that fear has torment. And as we face life’s sometimes unpleasant events, there are times when we may become fearful and uncertain and even entertain doubts about God’s faithfulness to deliver us.
The Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. We build up the shield of faith by getting into the word of God, and finding God’s promises for us, and putting our trust in those promises, especially in the face of contradictory circumstances. The more we do that, the more the shield of faith grows. The devil will try our faith and put it to the test, but our job is to stand strong in our faith in God’s promises.
Flaming arrows are those thoughts that come to us that try to extinguish our faith in God and His promises. They may simply be thoughts that arise in our hearts, or they may come from the words of other people, which all too often tend to discourage. Either way, they originate in our enemy, the devil.
The helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit
Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Paul, in the passage of Scripture about the full armor, is attempting to assign a spiritual weapon or spiritual truth to every piece of armor a soldier of his day would have been wearing.
To the soldier’s helmet, Paul assigns the spiritual reality of salvation, which means the salvation we have in Christ, and our full assurance of that salvation, like we spoke of concerning the preparation of the gospel of peace. One of the first things the devil does in a believer’s life is to try to convince them that they are not really saved, or that they are not as good as other Christians. Many people struggle with that for years. I saw a minister preaching recently who told the story of how he had struggled with things like that as a young Christian, because of some unpleasant and traumatic things that had taken place in his childhood. He said that he always felt dirty, and unworthy, until he discovered the Scripture we looked at earlier in 2 Corinthians 5: 21.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
When he found that Scripture, he began to stand in front of the mirror each day and say to himself, You are the righteousness of God. He said it felt strange at first, but the more he did it, the more he believed it. After all, it is the word of God. He was using the sword of the Spirit, the word of God in his mouth, to stand against the demonic suggestion that he was dirty and ungodly and unworthy, and just not as good as other Christians.
It takes the word of God to overcome those things. Notice that the word of God in our mouths is a weapon of offense, as well as a defensive weapon. Paul likened it to a sword, one of the the only offensive weapons in the armor. And it’s a weapon against the enemy in whatever situation we’re in.
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
One translation says to pray always with all prayer and supplication led by the Spirit. So, we’re not just talking about praying in tongues, as many folks equate with praying in the spirit, but with all manner of prayer. Prayer, all manner of prayer, is a weapon against the enemy. It releases God to do things in the earth.
There is a famous John Wesley quote that says, "It seems God is limited by our prayer life – that He can do nothing for humanity unless someone asks Him." The good news is that He will do things for humanity, if we ask Him to in prayer.
John 16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Put on the armor
So, in a nutshell, the Scriptures tell us to put on that full armor, the armor of God, which consists of God’s revealed truth, the righteousness that’s by faith, the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, which comes by hearing the word of God, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God in our mouths, and all manner of prayer and supplication that is led by the Spirit of God within us.