Last week we saw the beginning of the opposition as Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The struggle was not just physical in nature, but spiritual as well. Behind the scenes in the spiritual realm a fierce battle was going on. What many people forget is that everything we do has a spiritual implication. You cannot separate it from the physical realm. Knowing this, Paul gave an excellent exposition on the Christian’s daily spiritual battle and the need for us to dawn the full armor of God. Paul in his brilliance, had a full understanding of a Roman soldier’s battle gear and used it metaphorically for the Christian. Paul was a prisoner of Rome and as such had a Roman soldier attached to him every hour of the day. There is evidence that Paul had conversations with every soldier, sharing the Gospel with them (Philippians 1:13), and many converted (Philippians 4:22). I think he probably studied the soldiers uniform and even asked them about the use of each piece of armor, or if they had been in battle. From his imprisonment in Jerusalem to his travels to Rome, and house arrest under the Imperial guard, Paul had many opportunities to get to know these men. My desire is to help you understand the message Paul was trying to convey through the “Full Armor of God.”
“Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17
“The Belt of Truth”
Having girded – “Perizonnumi”. It is a compound word which breaks down into “Peri” meaning “around” and “Zonnumi” meaning “to gird”. Properly, “to gird around”. During this time Roman soldiers wore tunics which were full length garments that touched down as far as the ankles. A Roman soldier could not go into battle with a tunic down to his ankles because it would encumber him, possibly causing him to trip and fall over it or to limit his movement. In order to properly ready himself for battle the soldier would wear a belt that he would fasten around his waist. He would tuck his tunic into the belt so that it would no longer encumber him. Likewise, the believer has a sin nature that we carry with us wherever we go. What Paul is telling Christians to do is to prepare for battle each day against our sin nature by fastening those shortcomings, which are stumbling blocks, into the truth. We all have different sins that we specifically have trouble dealing with. Someone may have a problem with stealing while another has a problem with sexual immorality. One might struggle with self-righteousness, while another might struggle with gossip or unrighteous anger. By binding these things that will cause us to fall on the spiritual battle field into God’s truth, we will be able to beat back the desires of our sinful heart.
Truth in the ancient Greek is “aletheia” which as you know is the name of my blog. Here is how it breaks down: “A” Alpha is a negative prefix meaning “without” and “lanthano” meaning “to escape notice” or to be hidden”. Together it reveals something that is exposed and can be seen. It is evident. Properly it is rendered, “truth” or “reality”. What helps us to bind up our weaknesses? The word of God. It is what separates truth from deception and in this instance will allow you bind your desires to the word of God, not allowing them to encumber your walk with Christ.
Breast Plate of Righteousness
The Greek word for breast plate used is “θώραξ” (thorax) it stretches from the base of the neck all the way down to the navel. The word denotes a “breastplate” that covered both the front and the back. Its primary job was to protect the vital organs from a fatal blow or strike.
Righteousness “δικαιοσύνη” (Dikaiosuni) – It derives from “dike”, which means “a judicial verdict” or better stated, “judicial approval”. In scripture it denotes a righteous person has been redeemed because they bear the righteousness of Christ. We have no righteousness apart from Christ. When a believer stands before the court of God, He will judge the believer as righteous by the work done on the cross by Christ. God has imputed Christ’s righteousness to believers. Therefore, righteousness is a sign of faith. It is His Holy Spirit that dwells within us that strengthens our faith and sanctifies us in trials making us more like Christ whose righteousness we bear.
In context, righteousness, or even better, “rightwiseness” protects the believer from falling in battle. As the Roman soldiers prepared for battle they would take leather thongs on the bottom of the armor and attach it to loops on the belt in the front and back making it a battle harness of sorts. It kept his armor stable so that in the heat of battle it would not slip and give someone an opening to cut them down. For the believer it shows that righteousness is firmly rooted in the truth. The two are synonymous. Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” A believer that is ready for battle will face each temptation with God’s word. This will make the believer rightminded and protect their heart from a blow of corruption.
Boots of Readiness
The Greek word for “having shod” is ὑποδέω (hupodeo). “Hupo” means “under” and “deo” means “to bind/to tie”. Properly, “to underbind or bind underneath”. In the context of a soldier it is binding their feet with shoes that are fit for battle. For a warrior, maintaining their footing was essential to holding the line in battle. The Roman soldiers wore sandals that had pieces of metal or nails on the bottoms of the soles. They were essentially a sandal like cleat that we see worn as shoes by modern day football or soccer players. It kept them from sliding around or being pushed backwards. For the believer, the Gospel is our footing. We have been redeemed and we never have to fear losing that. We are eternally secure ( John 10:28). It is important because when you are in battle with a group of atheists who do nothing but deride and make fun of you, there is a temptation to doubt or to repay their evil. If you have committed a sin against God there is a temptation to doubt you are secure in God’s hands. Knowing that you are at peace with God will give you peace to know that Christ was persecuted and so will you. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” Matthew 10:22. Or, if you have sinned there is restoration in repentance. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. Can you see the pattern of the armor? It all revolves around Christ and in doing so it all revolves around His word. The believer does not retreat in the heat of battle because those who are firmly rooted in the word will not run, but will hold the line.
One of the best examples that I can give here is how the world is trying to pressure the church into accepting homosexuality by attacking Christian bakers and florists. They pronounce lies like “God is a woman”, or that “there is no Hell”, or that “all ways lead to heaven” as there are no consequences for sin. We live in a sin saturated society where they are daily trying to force us to assimilate. Things will continue to get worse for the believer as we get closer to Christ’s return and it will only be a matter of time before the world says, “Assimilate or die.” Will you hold the line with the truth of God’s word and not acquiesce to the world system? Holding the line for Christ is brutal, not easy. He will give you the strength to do so because He is a gracious God (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13).
Shield of faith
“Shield” θυρεός (Thureos) – This Greek word reveals that this is a large rectangular shield that covered the entire body of the soldier. The front of the shield was covered in leather that had been soaked in water. When enemy archers began firing flaming arrows at these soldiers they would duck behind the shield which would absorb the arrows and extinguish the flame. Another interesting use for the shield in combat was that the soldiers could group together in what was called a “testudo” formation. The front line soldiers would drop their shields to the ground where their necks and heads would peer over the shield, while a second line of soldiers would come and place their shields at an angle over them. The soldiers on the back line would rest the shield against their helmets to give it stability. This would snuff out almost any chance of an arrow penetrating the line.
In the context of spiritual warfare our enemy Satan is firing flaming arrow after flaming arrow in hopes of getting the believer to stumble. He is relentless in the number of temptations that he volleys at us each day. He is the ruler of this world system so he uses it to influence our flesh to take the bait. Woe to the believer who does not take cover behind His shield. You could be praying and have an evil thought enter your mind out of nowhere. You could be walking down the street wearing your wedding ring and an attractive member of the opposite sex strolls by smiling at you, and then gives you a wink. The one thing that you must know about our enemy Satan is that his quiver never runs out of arrows. His attacks are relentless and only have our destruction in mind. There are those Christians that try to serve two masters so that when Satan fires an arrow at them there is no faith to get behind the shield, so they are hit and destroyed by the arrow. There are Christians that battle drug addiction, alcoholism, pornography, sexual addiction, homosexuality and many others, but because they believe Satan’s lies and hold them as truth they are struck and utterly destroyed. You cannot serve two masters, you can only love the one and hate the other. The believer lifts the shield of faith in battle when a temptation comes by remembering God’s word, trusting it so that you get behind it and let His word protect you. Faith is rooted in belief. In order to overcome the temptation you must believe that God’s word is true. If you don’t believe God’s word is true then you will succumb to the arrows and fall headlong into the darkest pits of depravity. The truth protects.
There is another way that the shield of faith is wielded that I haven’t heard any theologians mention. Remember the Testudo formation I mentioned above? When Satan’s arrows are coming at you, you have at your disposal other believers that you can call on to stand with you in battle. They will lock shields with you and join you in prayer or accountability to help you persevere through even the darkest hours of your life. Is there some area of your life where you are constantly stumbling? Maybe God is moving you to call for others to lock shields with, giving you strength to persevere?
Helmet of Salvation
“Helmet” περικεφαλαία. Is a combination of “peri” and “kephali”— “Peri” means “around” and “Kephali” means “head.” Properly, “Around the head” denoting something covering and protecting the head. The head was vulnerable in battle and would be a target to slay an enemy. In the battle at the river Granicus, Alexander the Great charged out into battle ahead of his soldiers. He was met by a Persian soldier that brought his scimitar down over the top of Alexander’s head. The strike from the scimitar hit Alexander’s helmet, cutting half of it off. The helmet saved his life. Likewise, the helmet of salvation represents our current position before the King of Kings as those whom have been saved. This has nothing to do with attaining salvation. One thing Satan is good at is getting into our heads to cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness in the assurance of our salvation. If we harbor any sin in our hearts, be sure that Satan will leverage it against us. If we cannot keep our head in battle we will surely fall.
Sword of the Spirit
“Sword” μάχαιρα. The machaira was more like a short sword or a dagger, not a long sword. It was used in battle for close combat. A sword is used both offensively and defensively. It can block a strike or pierce an enemy soldier. The word of God is sharper than any double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) and as such it can block a lie or even cut through a lie. God also uses it to pierce through the hearts of men with His truth. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God and is the foundational piece of the armor with which all other pieces work. Have you ever had a person pierce you with the truth before? I remember when I was on a singles retreat and was close friends with another girl whose boyfriend lived in another state. We hung out a lot that weekend. We went running together, went out on the beach together, and talked together. I had a friend and his girlfriend come up to me and warn me about what I was doing. They told me that what she and I were doing was wrong. Amongst other things they said she was desperate for attention because she wasn’t getting much from her boyfriend, so I was being used to fill that need. That crushed me, but at the same time brought me back to a sober mind. My eyes opened at that very moment to something that I had never seen. I was immediately convicted. My heart had deceived me. I really did like her as more than a friend, and it was wrong. We were both wrong. God in his grace pierced my heart and stopped me from hanging out with her anymore. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:6. What my friends told me was rooted in God’s truth and had a lasting impact on me. The word of God is powerful and should not be wielded carelessly like many liberals and legalists do. Legalists cut to hurt and maim, not heal. Liberals wield a dull blade that is useless. The believer wields the word of God in grace and truth whether in offense or defense.
Soli Deo Gloria!