Last week, I spoke on the reality of the spiritual battle that is going on around us. Satan is on the attack, but we have nothing to fear, because we’re on God’s side—the side of victory. But, as we learned last week, we cannot be ignorant or passive. We must accept the fact that we are in the battle and that we have to fight.
We should be encouraged that God is on our side and that we are fighting on the side of victory. 神が私たちの味方であり、私たちは勝利の側で戦っているということに勇気付けられましょう。
Today is part two of the message. Today, let’s look at HOW we can fight.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)
We need to put on the full armor of God. This is a willful decision to engage in the battle. Why else would you put on the armor? In American football, you don’t put on all the pads, guards, and gears just to go watch the game. You put them on if you’re going to go play the game. We’re not just spectators in the spiritual battle. We’re participants.
And the instruction is to put on the FULL armor, not just the partial. This is a willful decision to be ready for anything. In American football, you don’t just put on the helmet and flak jacket in order to guard your most vital parts (the brain and the internal organs). You also need your mouthpiece to protect your teeth, and your butt pad to protect your tailbone. By putting on all the armor, you are ready for all attacks.
1) The belt of truth.
We think of a belt today as having the purpose of holding up one’s pants or adding that finishing touch to your clothing emsemble with that bedazzled, blinged-out buckle. Back then, the belt served the purpose of protecting your lower body and securing your body armor, as well as holding your sword. It was an important piece of protective armor, and that’s exactly what truth does. It protects us.
When the attacks of the enemy come in the form of lies and deception, the truth of God is what’s going to protect us. When the enemy’s lie says that we’re not loved, God’s truth says that we are “so loved that he gave his only son.” When the enemy’s lie says that we’re not saved, God’s truth says that we have been “saved by the blood of Jesus.” Protect yourself with the truth of God, which is written in the Bible! That’s why it’s important for us to read the Bible, to study the Bible, and to know the Bible.
2) The breastplate of righteousness.
The breastplate served the purpose of protecting the vital organs, namely the heart and lungs. Metaphorically speaking, the heart and lungs can also represent our emotions as well as our spirit. And that’s what righteousness does. It protects our emotions. It protects our spirit.
As Christians, why do we often feel down? From personal experience, I would say that I feel down when I feel inadequate, when I have sinned, or when I feel I have disappointed God with my actions. Righteousness protects us from such negative emotions and a demoralized spirit. At one level, you can say that our righteous actions and decisions help to encourage our resolve and fight to do what’s right. But at another level, we also know that our righteousness is based on our faith and not on what we do.
I think both are crucial. We need to have moments of victory in our actions and decisions to encourage us. But we also need the humble realization that our righteousness comes from our faith in Jesus. When we have both aspects, our defense is most strong against negative emotions and a demoralized spirit.
3) The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Here’s one piece of armor that isn’t descriptively physical, but mental. This readiness is associated with our feet. Our feet take us places. Metaphorically speaking, our feet represent movement and action. So, in essence, it’s saying that we need to be ready to move and to act in this spiritual battle.
It says that this readiness, this state of mind and heart, comes from the gospel of peace. The “gospel of peace” is the message of Christ, the same message of repentance and salvation, the same message of us being reconciled to God, the message of Christianity. In essence, everything we do as Christians is, or should be, predicated and motivated by this message. We are ready to fight this spiritual battle, basically because we are Christians who understand that we belong to a God who loves us.
4) The shield of faith.
This is similar to the belt of truth. The shield is a clear and concrete example of a defensive tool used to protect oneself from focused attacks (the Word here describes them as “flaming arrows of the evil one”). So, if these “flaming arrows” are being thrown at us by our enemy in the form of lies and deception, our faith will protect us.
Having the truth is important, of course, but having the faith to believe that it’s truth is equally important. Having the two together is the ultimate form of defense. The truth may say that “God has set us free,” but sometimes we may not feel like that’s true. The truth may say that “God has forgiven us,” but sometimes we may not feel like that’s true. It’s at those times that our faith needs to kick in and believe the truth of God’s Word. Then, we will be protected from the lies and deception of our enemy.
5) The helmet of salvation.
The helmet, of course, served the purpose of protecting the head. Metaphorically speaking, the head represents our mind, our thoughts, and even our world view. The concept of salvation is to be understood and affirmed in our mind. The truth is that God is holy, but we are sinful. But God desires a relationship with us, so our sin problem needed to be resolved. The resolution was the forgiveness of our sins through faith in Jesus. In essence, God saved us from our sin because he loved us.
This is the truth. We have been saved by God because God loves us. This truth is to be firmly understood and affirmed in our mind. If we stray from this truth, we stray from our faith. The Word is saying here, guard your mind. Put on the helmet to guard your mind. Put on the helmet to guard the truth of salvation that defines who you are and what you do.
6) The sword of the Spirit.
Here we go! Finally, a piece of offensive weapon in the armor! The sword! Like any battle, there are both the offensive side and the defensive side. In sports, a form of competition and battle, as well, there are both offense and defense. And the spiritual battle that we’re engaged in is no different.
Our offensive weapon is the Word of God. It’s the exact same weapon that Jesus used in the desert when he was being tempted by Satan. Three times, Satan tried to lie and deceive him, tempting Jesus to succumb in his physical body, in his faith, and in his character. And what was Jesus’s response all three times? “It is written…,” “It is written…,” “It is written…” Jesus’s response was to silence, to attack, and to ultimately defeat with the Word of God as his weapon. Again, this should be an encouragement to us to read the Bible, to study the Bible, and to know the Bible, so we can use it to attack the enemy and make him flee.
Another offensive weapon that we have is prayer. As the very next verse in today’s passage says:
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)
There is power in prayer! Like the Word of God, not just for defensive purposes, but for both defensive and offensive purposes, prayer is a powerful weapon against the enemy. There’s a picture of this in the story of Israel fighting the Amalekites in Exodus 17. Moses had his hands up, most likely in prayer, as he oversaw the battle from atop a hill. As long as his hands were up, as long as he was praying, the Israelites were winning. But when he grew tired and his hands started to drop, when he stopped praying, the Amalekites were winning. At the end, with Aaron and Hur supporting Moses’s arms (and in prayer), the Israelites won the battle. This should be an encouragement to us to pray, and to pray without ceasing and to pray at all times, as the Bible encourages us. We can use prayer to attack the enemy and make him flee.
Let’s make one thing straight. In the spiritual battle, we are not just on the defensive. I think many Christians have a misunderstanding that we’re just relegated to defending ourselves. That’s wrong. Yes, there is a time to defend, but our struggle is not just to keep. Our struggle is to gain ground and to claim victory! As verse 13 in today’s passage says:
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
Our objective in fighting is not only to “stand our ground,” but also “to stand.” We “stand our ground” by defending ourselves from the enemy’s attacks, but also, after we have fought offensively, we will “stand” victoriously. That’s my prayer for all of us, that our lives would reflect such a fighting spirit and victory in this spiritual battle.