We are in the middle of our Spiritual Soldier Series, battlefield trainings preparing each of us for spiritual warfare. We have talked about spiritual weapons in worship. Now we will address one of the most powerful images in the Bible for spiritual warfare, the armor of God.
Chained to a Roman soldier under house arrest in Rome, Paul observed his weapons of warfare and used them as powerful images for us. As he wrote the prison epistle of Ephesians he ended the letter by talking about spiritual warfare and the power we have on the spiritual battlefield.
He talked about virtues given to us by Christ that, when we demonstrate them, both protect us from the enemies of our souls and provide offensive weapons to take the kingdom of darkness by force for Jesus’ Kingdom. Let’s dive in!
- Stand Strong in the Lord.
It’s not the first time soldiers have been told to stand strong. But four times in just three versus Paul uses the word for “stand” (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 14). Back before Joshua and the second-generation of his relates went into the Promised Land God told him to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9).
When you are taking territory from the enemy you must first be able to stand against him. You must have courage, given to you by Jesus. You do not stand in your own power. Surely that is not enough. We recognize we need strength because the enemy has real power at this time.
But Jesus’ power and the Holy Spirit’s power in you (1 John 4:4) is greater than his. As I have discussed before in the battlefield trainings, power and authority come from our relationship with the King of Kings, Jesus. We must be connected to Him. Demons run from Jesus and His name but they know us because of Jesus.
Knowing we have this power from Jesus, we stand with all the spiritual courage we have. We need not fear any demon or evil spirit. We fight in the authority, reputation, and power of Jesus. They must flee.
Before we can run against the enemy we must first stand. Paul uses variations of the word. Sometimes it is to stand, other times to withstand the attack of the enemy, and the third variation is to stand firm. All of these stances seem defensive but we have weapons to advance against the enemy as well.
- Don’t Neglect the Armor.
Paul says twice to put on the “whole” armor of God (Ephesians 6:11, 13). Every part of the armor helps to guard us against the enemy. We need to wear every part of it. We cannot neglect any of the pieces.
Probably because Paul is staring at a Roman soldier and using his armor as the image for the armor of God he keeps the concept of the image by saying “put on” the armor of God. But when we look more closely at each part of the armor we will see that it has to do more with our character than actual pieces we can take off and on.
When I “put on the armor” every morning in my prayers it is not that I do not have truth and righteousness and all the other parts already in my character. I pray through the armor, asking the Lord to demonstrate these character traits in me for that day. I will talk more about praying through the armor as we go through individual parts.
Without truth or righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, or any other part of the armor we are exposed to the enemy. Imagine what it would be like to not realize the lies of the enemy, not have the offensive weapon of knowing Scripture, or having faith to withstand the attacks of the enemy.
Each part of the armor, and everything it stands for, is necessary for us to be victorious. We can represent Jesus well without demonstrating each part of the armor. Leaving out any part may us less and the full character the Holy Spirit is working in us to be conformed to Jesus’ image (Romans 8:29).
So we must put on the whole armor of God. It is a holistic attack on the enemy and defense for our lives. So put on every part and wear it faithfully. Do not forget who you are in Christ. And do not leave any part of your character exposed to the enemy in battle.
- Wrestle the Right Enemy.
Another principle Paul presents in this passage on the armor of God is to not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the evil spiritual powers in this world (Ephesians 6:12). It’s hard to follow through on this battlefield tactic when the person is standing right in front of us.
People will look like they are the offenders, the ones who are doing evil things to us. But we must see past the people to the demonic influences behind them. To be sure, some people are evil and they know it. But people learn evil from the evil creatures in the spiritual realm.
When Paul talks about the weapons of our warfare he says that they are powerful to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Paul mentions four or five enemies in the spiritual realm. It’s possible he does not set a precedent for hierarchies of powers but is referring to spiritual powers pagans in Ephesus consider hierarchies in the heavenly realms.
If this is so Paul is referring to the same types of beings the Old Testament refers to as “gods.” These could be evil angelic beings that must report to God and present themselves to him like the Angels in Joel 1-2 and those who appeared in the divine council (Psalm 86).
No matter who these evil powers are we stand against them with the power of God and the armor. Truth, righteousness, God’s Word, faith, the gospel of peace, and the other parts of the armor cannot be defeated by these evil spiritual foes. So let us stand not against people but against the powers of this world.
- Let Truth, Righteousness, Faith, and Salvation Guard You.
Four of the seven pieces of armor are defensive. They help us guard against the attacks of the enemy. On the Roman soldier’s armor Paul uses as an image to describe the character of Christ in us the pieces he mentions protect the soldier’s vital organs.
As we will see when we dive deeper into each piece and character trait, the belt of truth holds everything together on the armor. It especially holds the sword of the Spirit. The breastplate protects the heart.
The shield can be an offensive weapon if wielded against the enemy but is usually defensive. It protects the soldier from arrows and sword swipes. And the helmet protects the head, the brain, and the mind.
These four pieces of armor protect the vital areas of the Christian. Without them any number of our vital “organs” would be exposed to the attacks of the enemy. This is why we must wear every part and allow it to guard us against such attacks.
- Advance against the enemy with the gospel, the Word, and prayer.
On the other hand, three pieces of armor give us a clear offensive advantage over any enemy we face. The shoes of the gospel of peace not only prepare us to spread the gospel but allow us to advance against the enemy, moving forward step by step. As we go into the world the light of the gospel confronts the darkness and overcomes it.
Another offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Speaking the truth of Scripture and knowing what God has said we put the enemy in his place. Just as Jesus used God’s Word to bring the truth to the deceptive devil in the wilderness so we also must know the truth of Scripture and properly apply it to every spiritual battle (Matthew 4:1-11).
Although Paul does not mention a piece of armor with prayer is clearly part of the passage on spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6. Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we have in the fight against the enemy. Through our battlefield communiqués with Jesus through the Holy Spirit we understand the battle and call on our divine Warrior to help us on the battlefield.
These three weapons are powerful for breaking down strongholds and destroying the works of the enemy. The armor of God is our powerful defense and offense. Jesus knows exactly what we need to defeat the enemy and has provided it for us through the character development of the Holy Spirit and the offensive weapons to destroy the works of the enemy.
- Don’t Leave a Man Behind.
This is not only one of the premier principles of our US military forces but is a biblical principle. Paul finishes the section on prayer by asking for prayer for himself as a missionary of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Paul is on the front lines of the war in the spiritual realms. He is surrounded by darkness on all sides as he penetrates that darkness as a missionary. He is breaking new ground for Jesus. He sets up new foundations and builds churches where none existed before.
He asks specifically to be able to speak and declare the gospel. You are surrounded by other believers who are fighting the same spiritual battles you are. Jesus instituted the Church so that we would be there for one another.
Christian community means that we don’t practice Jesus’ teachings alone. But we also don’t allow the enemy to pick us off one by one. When you see others embroiled in battle do not stand on the sidelines. Jump into action and help in their defense. Join forces to push back the enemy. Hold up other Christians in prayer.
We have looked at the introduction to the armor of God, seeing some of the truths and principles about the armor and battle in general. These strategies set you up for victory in the spiritual realm. Remember, no weapon formed against you will prosper () but the weapons of your warfare cannot be stopped by the enemy.
Keep all of these truths in mind and practice them on the battlefield. Be prepared for every onslaught of the enemy and you will see Jesus’ victory. What other principles of spiritual warfare have you used in battle?
We have read the principles and truths about spiritual warfare and God’s armor. Now we will turn to the battlefield trainings on individual pieces of the armor, beginning with the belt of truth.