|Vol. 12 No. 8 August 2010||
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (10). Paul is finishing his letter to the Ephesians. In closing, he tells them to “be strong in the Lord.” The word strong can mean grow in strength. Paul tells the Christians to grow in their strength by leaning on God’s power and strength.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (11). Notice, we are to wear the whole armor, not just part of it. This is the Greek word for panoply (even used in at least one song we sing). The word “stand” can indicate, “hold up.” We are to “hold up” against the devil. The “wiles of the devil” means the ways he tempts us to follow him and forsake God. First John 2:16 tells about the “lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes” and “the pride of life.” These are the three ways Satan gets us to leave God. Every temptation we face will fit into one of these categories. James 1:13-15 further explains how this works. The devil places before us the things of this world that we want. When we give in and partake, the temptation turns to sinful actions, and unrepented sinful actions lead to spiritual death. The armor that we are to put on allows us to protect against the devil’s methods.
“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” (12). The Bible repeatedly compares the life of a Christian to a soldier at war (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4). Notice, it is not a physical war, but a spiritual one. As noted above, the devil tries to entice us into leaving God. We must fight, using the armor of God, to resist the devil (James 4:7). Second Corinthians 10:3 and 1 Peter 2:11 describe the battle as the flesh warring against the soul.
“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” (13). Notice, Christians are instructed for the second time in three verses to put on the whole armor. No soldier only partially outfitted in his gear will survive the battle. The word here translated “withstand” means “to resist or oppose.” The armor of God will help the Christian to resist the devil.
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness” (14). The first piece of a Christian’s armor is the belt of truth. This belt on a Roman soldier held the clothing close to the body so the normally loose tunic would not get in the way during battle. It was also on this belt that the sword or other weapons would hang. The belt was not a narrow piece of material like those worn today. It was more similar to a belt with an apron attached that would hang down close to the knees. Though made of cloth, small metal plates would be attached to provide additional protection. This belt protected the lower abdomen and served as the centerpiece for the rest of the armor. On the Christian, this belt represents truth. Jesus said in John 14:6 that He was truth, and in John 17:17 that the Word was truth. No Christian soldier can successfully fight the battle against the devil without first holding the truth of God’s Word. Truth is the foundation of everything the soldier will believe and do. Without the Truth, the soldier cannot know who the enemy is or the conditions of the battle and of the victory.
The next part of the armor is the breastplate. This piece of banded metal protected the chest, most importantly the heart and lungs. The Bible often refers to the heart of man as the place of thoughts (Mark 7:21; Matthew 12:35). Pure and holy thoughts lead to a pure and holy life. The breastplate of righteousness protects this vital quality of a good soldier for Christ. The right living according to God’s Word is a necessary protection in the battle for our souls. Isaiah 11:5 and 59:17 use the imagery of the belt and breastplate.
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (15). The third part of the armor mentioned in this passage is footwear. The original Greek wording means “to put on the shoes.” The common Roman soldier wore a heavy leather sandal that tied around the ankle. Into the bottom of these sandals were pounded metal nails. The officers also wore greaves that protected the shins. The nails in the bottom of the sandal provided traction when walking on rough terrain and became a firm foundation when taking a stand against the enemy. The Christian soldier should be prepared at all times with the Gospel, the good news of Christ. The Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) should be our foundation in the fight against the devil. We should be ready to share it with others (1 Peter 3:15). Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15 refer to the feet bringing good news.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (16). Next, the soldier needs his shield. This part of the armor was not a small round object as sometimes depicted. The original Greek word refers to the shield that was a large rectangle resembling a door. These shields were made of wood, covered with leather and bounded with metal. During battle, soldiers could use them to block enemy weapons and push enemies away. As a group, soldiers could line their shields side by side and provide even more protection. One common formation used the shields as a wall and ceiling around a group of soldiers. For the Christian, this shield is his faith, the conviction that Jesus is the Christ and Savior of the world. It is his reliance on the death of Christ for salvation and the promise of God for protection and victory. The Roman solider would often drench his shield in water prior to battle to help extinguish the fiery arrows the enemy would hurl. Paul claims the Christian’s faith, used as a shield, will extinguish the fiery darts of the devil. Like Roman soldiers in battle, Christian soldiers also can put their shields together to strengthen each other in battle (1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians 6:1-2). Psalms 5:12 urges God to be our shield.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (17). The last piece of protective (defensive) armor is the helmet. Without the head, a body will die. A serious injury to a soldier’s head prevents him from continuing in battle. The helmet of the Roman soldier covered his head, neck and the sides of his face around his ears. The Christian soldier has the hope of salvation to protect his head (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Without hope of salvation (eternal life), there is no reason to fight. The protection provided by the helmet, the hope of salvation, allows the soldier to battle the enemy with every thought of a chance at eternal victory. Isaiah 59:17 also uses the imagery of the helmet of salvation.
All the armor pieces to this point have been for the defense of the body. The last part of the armor mentioned in this passage is not defensive, but offensive. Roman soldiers carried several weapons (sword, dagger and two pila or javelins). Soldiers normally threw the javelins from a distance. The sword and dagger were used for hand-to-hand combat. God grants only one offensive weapon to the Christian soldier. That weapon is the sword; the Roman soldier used it to cut and thrust his enemy. Paul tells the Christian his only offensive weapon is the sword – God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 describes the Sword of the Word as “quick and powerful” with the ability to divide “asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.” The soldier’s sword could also be used to block a blow from an enemy, making this weapon both offensive and defensive. Second Timothy 3:16-17 tell us exactly what God’s Word is useful for; it is everything we need to teach others how to obey and worship God, how to correct ourselves and others, and how to encourage each other. God’s Word can be used to defend against Satan and attack him (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Notice God assigned the Christian soldier a weapon used for close combat, not one used at a distance. For our battles, we need to keep the Sword of the Word close to us; we can’t use it unless we practice with it (2 Timothy 2:15). One other item to note about the armor is that very little of it covered the back of the soldier! A successful soldier never turns his back on the battle.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (18). The successful Christian soldier, like Paul, will fortify his armor with consistent, persistent prayer for himself and other Christians.
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel” (19). Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray that he would be bold in proclaiming the Gospel to the lost.
“For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (20). Paul wrote this letter to the Christians at Ephesus while he was a prisoner of the Roman government. He was an ambassador for Christ, but sat chained to a guard. Even as a Roman prisoner, Paul (under house arrest) willingly proclaimed the Gospel message every opportunity he had (Acts 28:30-31; Philippians 1:12-13, 4:22).