- Before describing the armor, Paul writes that we need to “be strong in the Lord.” A soldier’s equipment on a weak and untrained body does not help very much. One does not give an untrained recruit all the soldier’s equipment right away and send him into a battle without first having taught him how to shoot. But a strong and well-trained soldier with the right equipment is ready to face any danger.
- As good as the armor King Saul had, it was too big and unwieldy for little David in his fight against Goliath (1Sa 17:38-39).
- If you intend to climb Kebnekaise, the highest mountain in Sweden, it is not enough to just have the right equipment, shoes and bag, you also need to be reasonably fit. Otherwise, you give up halfway, no matter how good equipment you have.
- Before you are ready to deal with danger, you need to get to know Jesus and grow in your personal faith through the Bible and prayer. A strong faith combined with the right spiritual equipment is a great combination to face any opposition.
- Reading Ephesians, one can easily get the impression that the Christian life is amazing, glorious, and completely without difficulty. We are chosen in Christ, we have gone from death to life, Jesus has torn down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile and given us a new life in Christ! But then, perhaps to your great surprise, you meet resistance. Not to be surprised, and above all not to give up, by all the resistance one encounters, Paul wants to prepare us for the fight.
- In the work of fulfilling Jesus’ missionary command, preaching the gospel, spreading the kingdom of God, and loving our Lord and fellowmen, we will inevitably be attacked by the Devil. He wants to prevent, complicate, and destroy for us so that we cannot fulfill what God has planned for our lives. In that situation, Paul encourages us Christians to become strong in the faith and put on God’s armor and compare this to a Roman soldier’s gear. The armor is primarily defensive and aims to help us stand firm, not to go out and attack unprovoked. But if we actively work to spread the gospel, we must expect that the Devil will try to stop us, and in order not to give up on these attacks, we need God’s armor.
- Paul wrote the letter to Ephesus while in captivity in Rome.
- Isaiah prophesies of the Messiah that “righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins” (Is 11:5), and that God clothes himself in “righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” (Is 59:17)
- Paul encourages us to “put on the armor of light” (Ro 13:12), to present our members “as instruments for righteousness” (Ro 6:13), to take “the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (2Cor. 6:7), and “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1Thess 5:8).
- The Christian struggle is not against people, even if they see us as their enemies, but against the Devil and his demons. Our weapons are not swords, rifles, and cannons, but Bible, prayer, and love (2Co 10:4, Ro 12:17-21).
- Spiritual warfare is not first and foremost about offensively attacking the enemy, but about defensively resisting the attacks one is subjected to from the Devil. The offensive mission is to go out into the whole world and preach about Jesus and spread the kingdom of God. When we meet resistance, we should resist the attacks so that we can continue to fulfill the mission.
The Belt of Truth
- In Biblical times the ordinary clothes was a long piece of cloth. When you sat down or relaxed, you took off your belt. If you were preparing to work or do something, you had to put on your belt and tighten up your clothes. Therefore, “fasten your belt” became an expression that urges readiness and to get to work or fight (Ex 12:11, Luke 12:35, 1Pet 1:13).
- The Greek word “alēthĕia” means “truth”, something that has really happened in the way that is told. The woman with hemophilia told Jesus the “whole truth” when she was saved (Mark 5:33). Jesus is described in the New Testament as the Truth with a capital T (John 14:6), a truth that we will receive and that will set us free (John 8:32).
- The first meaning of belting truth around life is that the foundation of Christian work must always be Jesus as Lord and Savior. Missionary and working for the kingdom of God without believing in Jesus creates a skewed focus and a skewed outcome.
- The second meaning is that a Christian who wants to fight the good fight must stick to the truth, be honest, and not have a hidden agenda. A Christian worker may have amazing swords and weapons in his spiritual equipment, be an accomplished evangelist and prophet, but if the work is not built on truth and honesty, it will eventually fall and collapse like a house of cards. But he who is genuine and honest and does the best he can to share the gospel with his fellow man will see good fruit from his work for Jesus.
- The belt of truth is taken on when preparing for battle. A Christian worker prepares for the spiritual battle by always sticking to the truth and building his entire business on a genuine honesty.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
- The Roman soldiers wore a bronze armor on their chest and back to protect the most important organs in battle. Of course, it was possible to die in battle even while carrying an armor, but if you didn’t, you could die far too quickly and easily from the first best stab.
- The Greek word “dikaiŏsunē,” which translates to “righteousness,” means simply doing what is right, whether one is persecuted for it or not (Matt. 5:10).
- Taking on the armor of righteousness means deciding to do what is right, whether you are being opposed, criticized, or suffering for it. To continue to help refugees regardless of whether society considers it politically correct or not. To continue preaching the truth of God’s Word regardless of whether society changes its mind.
- The breastplate of righteousness is put on as the battle approaches, when one sees that the clouds of concern are piling up and criticism begins to increase. Then you should continue to do what is right and not become a weathervane that changes your mind according to the politically correct opinion of the day.
The Shoes of Readiness
- The Roman soldiers wore special sandals called “caligae”. These shoes were often equipped with sharp little spikes underneath, much like studded tires on ice, which allowed them to stand firmly and firm, as well as being able to march very far at a fast pace in difficult terrain.
- The Greek word “hĕtŏimasia” means to be “prepared”, “ready” and “willing”. The word is also used to describe something that is “finished” and “ready.” For example, the room that Jesus told his disciples to prepare for Easter celebrations, it was prepared and “finished” and stood “ready” for the disciples (Mark 14:15).
- The first meaning of being “ready” is being able to stand steadfastly stuck in a battle. In order to be able to “stand firm” in a battle, these “stud-shoes” were invaluable to the Roman soldiers. For a Christian to stand firm in his faith in the midst of a spiritual struggle, the “inner peace” of the gospel is priceless. This inner peace we get because we know that the gospel is “finished”, it is already prepared and fixed by Jesus. We don’t have to do anything more than receive. If you have the inner peace you get from the gospel, you can stand as unwavering in the midst of the heat of battle as a Roman soldier with studded shoes.
- The second meaning of being “ready” is being able to go further and faster than anyone else even if the terrain is difficult. The fact that we have received the gospel and received peace in our hearts makes us want to spread this gospel to more people who have not yet heard of Jesus. We are “prepared” to go further than we can see, to “cross the mountains” to “proclaim peace and salvation” and “bring forth good news,” as Isaiah prophesies (Isa. 52:7).
- “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”” (Is 52:7)
- The shoes of readiness are put on when it’s time to head to the battle. When you understand that it’s going to be tough, you need to pray to the Lord for the inner peace that only Jesus can bring.
The Shield of Faith
- At the beginning of the battle before the man-to-man battle, the enemy could send a rain of arrows over the opponent. The Roman soldiers then each had a shield to hold up for protection. The protection became extra effective when the soldiers formed the so-called “turtle formation” by putting the shields together and helping to protect each other. The front ranks hold the shield in front of them and the rear ranks hold their shields above the heads.
- Since the shields were often made of wood, the enemy sometimes shot burning arrows to set fire to the shields. The Roman soldiers had therefore often wrapped their wooden shields in wet leather so that the fire would quickly go out.
- The Greek word “pistis” we usually translate to “faith” in English. When we come to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are saved and have our names written in the Book of Life. We have been born again and live in faith to go to heaven the day we die. We remain in this world waiting for the day of resurrection. We know that Jesus has forgiven us our sins and that the Holy Spirit has begun a work of sanctification within us.
- But all of this is done in faith. It is easy for someone to remind us of our past sins, question our salvation and make us start to doubt. Mean words can create confusion, make us lose heart and give up. The words are shot at us like burning arrows and should they take hold in our lives they could get us completely off balance so that we give up. But we should not listen to the enemy’s slander about us, but instead stand firm in our faith in Jesus. When the Devil reminds us of our background, we will remind Him of His future. When people call us bad things, we are to remember who we are in Christ.
- Just like the Roman soldiers, we too need to help each other hold up the shield of faith above each other. We need to remind each other of what Jesus has done in our lives, that we have had our sins forgiven, that the Holy Spirit has transformed us, that we have begun to live the saved life already here and now, and that we will see it fully when Jesus returns.
- The shield of faith is brought out when you see the enemy from a distance, when the evil words begin to hail and the criticism begins to sting.
The Helmet of Salvation
- The Roman helmets were often made of bronze and leather. They protected one of the most important parts of the body, the head, but were normally only taken on during the battle.
- The Greek word “sōtēriŏn” in this context means the “salvation” Jesus gives us with his death and resurrection.
- Paul writes to the congregation in Thessaloniki about “the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1Th 5:8). When the enemy attacks us with jeers, when the Devil tries to get us off balance, then we can still stand firm and be confident that Jesus has not only saved us in theory, but will also win victory and give us salvation in practice.
- “O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.” (Ps 140:7)
- The helmet of salvation is put on when the battle is near, when the enemy wants to get us out of the battle with one big stab. But because of the helmet of salvation, we know that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 8:39).
The Sword of the Spirit
- The Roman swords were mainly used in melee combat and were relatively short, only 60 cm, in order to be extra agile and manageable when used in group formation.
- Once the battle rages, then there is no longer time to prepare, but to actively fight the fight. The only offensive weapon we have been given in this context is the “Word of God.” Just as when the Devil tempted Jesus out in the wilderness and tried to get him to give up and he responded by quoting the Bible, so too should we answer the Devil with Scriptures (Matt. 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13).
- If the Devil says that our sin is too great for God to forgive, then we can quote, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Is 1:18b)
- If our enemy tries to forbid us to testify, then we can read, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,” (Acts 4:19b)
- If we are told that we are too inept to serve the Lord, then we should answer, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26b)
- If the enemy means that we are ugly and useless, then we should answer: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Ps 139:14)
- If the Devil claims that we should not evangelize and missionary, then we should quote Jesus who, after his temptation, quoted Isaiah: ““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”” (Lk 4:18–19)
- The sword of the spirit is used in the heat of battle when one is showered with hard thoughts and corrosive jeers. When the spiritual attacks are massive, you need to sit down with your Bible and remind yourself who you are in Christ and clearly explain it to the enemy.