“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil… Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13).
We are in a spiritual war. Christians are frequently depicted as soldiers in the scriptures (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 8; 1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3-4). God has supplied the armor necessary to survive this spiritual war. It is up to us to put it on, and use what has been provided.
1. Gird your waist with truth (Ephesians 6:14a).
The girdle or belt held things in place. “This went about the loins, and served to brace the armor tight to the body, and to support daggers, short swords, and such like weapons, which were frequently stuck in it” (Adam Clark). In every day life the girdle or belt bound up loose flowing robes for movement and work.
Truth is the Christian’s belt. Truth is God’s word (John 17:17; Psalm 119:160). It keeps the Christian from spiritually falling apart. Spiritual success depends on learning, knowing, and meditating on God’s word. This is the first reference to God’s word.
Peter instructs us to “gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Peter 1:13). Our minds should be pulled together with truth.
2. Put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14b cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8).
The breastplate protected such vital organs as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. “This consisted in two parts, called pteruges or wings: one covered the whole region of the thorax or breast, in which the principle viscera of life are contained; and the other covered the back, as for down as the front part extended” (Adam Clark). It “protected the soldier from the neck to the waist” (W.T. Hamilton, Glory In The Church, p. 122).
Righteousness is the Christian’s breastplate. The term “righteousness” is used in different ways in the Bible. It is sometimes used of right doing (e.g. Acts 10:34-35). It is sometimes used of having a right standing with God (e.g. Luke 1:6; Romans 4:3 cf. Genesis 15:6). It is sometimes used of God’s plan for man’s righteousness (Romans 10:1-4). These things – what should be done, and how to have and maintain a right relationship with God – are revealed in God’s word. This is the second reference to God’s word.
This is also called the “breastplate of faith and love” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). One cannot be righteous without faith (cf. Hebrews 11:6) and love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
3. Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15).
The proper foot wear was important. It protected the feet and prevented slipping in battle, which could be deadly. “Greaves or brazen boots, which covered the shin or front of the leg; or kind of Solea was often used, which covered the sole, and laced about the instep, and prevented the foot from being wounded by rugged ways, thorns, stones, etc.” (Adam Clark).
The gospel of peace (cf. Romans 10:15) is the Christian’s footwear. The gospel is revealed in God’s word (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Mark 16:15-16). This is the third reference to God’s word.
Foy Wallace Jr. remarked, “The Christian is the messenger of the gospel. Feet shod, not seats padded… Every Christian – prepare to take the gospel” (Wallace, A Commentary on Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, p. 228).
4. Take the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).
There were different types of shields. Some were small. Some were large. This was the largest of shields in common use. It was four feet long and two and one-half feet wide” (Lipscomb, A Commentary on Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, p. 132). “This was always made of wood, and covered with hides… It was called a thureos, a door, which it resembled in an oblong shape, but it was made curved” (Adam Clark). “Darts were dipped in pitch and set on fire. Wooden shields (were) covered with leather to prevent burning quickly” (Fallis, Brown Trail class notes). “Joined together, these large shields formed a wall, behind which a whole body of troops could hide themselves from the rain of enemies missiles” (Lipscomb, p. 132).
Faith is the Christian’s shield. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This is the fourth connection with God’s word.
It is good to join together our shields of faith. It is good for faithful Christians to work together, and help one another, when possible, in this spiritual war.
Do not cast away your shield of faith (Hebrews 10:35). Robert Milligan commented, “There seems to be an allusion here to the conduct of weak and cowardly soldiers, who in the day of battle were wont to throw aside their shields and turn their backs on the enemy. This was regarded by the ancients as extremely dishonorable. And hence when the Lacedemonian women presented shields to their sons on going to battle, they were in a habit of saying to them, ‘Bring this back, or be brought back upon it,’ The same sentiment prevailed also among the ancient Germans. Tacitus says, that ‘to lose or cast away the shield in battle, was regarded by them as a matter of the greatest dishonor; and that those who acted so were not allowed to be present at the sacrifices, nor to attend the public assemblies of the people (Germ. c. vi.) In allusion to this very prevalent feeling among the ancients, our author exhorts his Hebrew brethren not to act the part of cowardly soldiers by voluntarily casting away the shield of faith” (Milligan, A Commentary on Hebrews, p. 373).
5. Take the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8).
This protected the head (the brain) and perhaps the neck. “This was the armor for the head, and was of various forms embossed with a great variety of figures. Connected with the helmet was the crest or ridge on top of the helmet, adorned with several emblematic figures; some for ornament, some to strike terror” (Adam Clark). “The Roman soldier’s helmet was a cap made of thick leather or brass, fitted to the head” (Lipscomb, p. 133).
The hope of salvation is the Christian’s helmet (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Hope helps us to keep our heads (or spiritual minds) when life is difficult. Hope comes through God’s word (Titus 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is the fifth direct or indirect connection with God’s word.
6. Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17b).
The Romans had two swords. They were both made from an iron alloy. The long sword was generally used by the cavalry. The short sword was usually used by foot soldiers (swordhistory.info). The short sword was about 20″ in length and typically double-edged (ibid). It is the short sword which is mentioned here.
The word of God is the Christian’s sword. It is a defensive weapon (cf. Matthew 4:3-4, 5-7, 8-11). It is an offensive weapon which can be used to convict the consciences of men (cf. Acts 2:36-37). This is the sixth reference to God’s word.
Foy Wallace Jr. remarked, “It is said that the word is the sword that the Holy Spirit uses. Rather, the word of God is the sword the Holy Spirit forged for us to use. The Spirit does not wield the sword – we ourselves wield it, and if we do not wield it, then it will not be wielded” (Wallace, The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit, p. 85).
7. Pray always (Ephesians 6:18).
Do not underestimate the value of prayer. The word of God and prayer are our armor in this spiritual war.
Andrew Connally wisely said, “Medieval armour (is) useless now before bullets, castles (are now) no protection against artillery… the foe determines the kind of armour needed. Physical force will not serve us: Samson’s strength (was) no avail against temptation… Spiritual armour is needed” (Connally, Great Lessons From Ephesians and Colossians, p. 86-87). God has provided the armor. It is up to us to do it.