Stronghold 13: Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Armour of God).
“10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For 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. 13Therefore put on the full armour 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. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And 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 6:10-18)
The Armour of God in Ephesians 6 is such a cool passage. I remember memorising it a long time ago, because, as a teenager, I was very taken with the thought of wearing God’s armour. There’s something very tactile about this passage that means you can almost feel, smell and touch the protection of God in its various forms. It’s not just for boys who like the idea of dressing up as soldiers, but for everyone who follows Jesus. We all face the same spiritual attack and so we all need the same spiritual defence.
This stronghold is one of equipping, of being kitted out in God’s gear. In some strongholds it’s ok to just hide and take shelter, but in some strongholds we have to play an active part in the defence. That means being dressed for the part. If you’re going to stand on the ramparts of faith you first have to gear up in God’s armoury. It’s no good having soldiers on the walls who have no shields, whose vitals parts are exposed and who could get taken out by every arrow.
So down to the armoury we go. There, flickering in the torchlight, is a rack of armour and weapons, waiting for you to put them on. God’s armour is available for all of us, but we have to choose to put it on. The best armour is useless if we don’t actually put it on.
Two things we have to get straight from the start: firstly, you need all this armour. Paul doesn’t stress the need to put on the ‘full armour’ (v.13) for the sake of it, He’s making the point that this suit of armour comes as a whole, that we need it all, and that it all actively works together to protect us spiritually. If your heart is protected but not your mind then you’re going down, and if your helmet is on but your heart is exposed you’re going to get hurt. So put it all on – don’t miss a single piece. Each bit has its own vital value.
Nor is it enough to be armoured one day and not the next, because the attack is not going to let up. The enemy’s lies will come at you day after day, so be sure to get armoured every day. Get into the habit of praying this over yourself every single day. Whatever you do for a living, don’t venture out of the house without being dressed in God’s armour. A trip to the spiritual armoury should be an essential part of your daily routine.
The first thing you put on is the belt of truth (v. 14). You start with God’s truth, the truth of the Bible. It should surround your life like a belt surrounds your waist. It’s at the centre of the armour and holds all the rest together. Knowing God’s truth is what allows us to access the readiness, righteousness and right thinking that comes elsewhere. If you don’t know God’s truth – find out!
Next comes the breastplate of righteousness (v. 14). This piece protects your core, your heart, and as Solomon said, ‘above all else guard your heart‘ (Proverbs 4:23). We must protect our hearts from bitterness, anger, jealousy, greed, lust and all other kinds of sin that can come in and poison us. It’s the breastplate that stops this from happening. Instead of metal the protective layer is righteousness. Not our own, but a righteousness from God (Romans 3:21-22). We can’t keep our hearts safe through our own efforts, but we can by embracing the power of Jesus. With His righteousness surrounding our heart we stay right with Him and right with others. Our hearts will be in the fight. But if your heart isn’t in it, all the rest of the armour will be useless.
Now our feet must be ‘fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace’ (v. 15). Who goes out of the house without shoes, and who can expect to last any kind of distance without the right footwear? No, we need to put God’s boots on – our equivalent of the heavy-duty sandals that Roman legionaries wore. We have a long road in front of us and lots of marching. We have to be ready to take the gospel to others, which means reaching them where they are. We have to be ready to flee from temptation and walk resolutely along the right path, following God’s ways. As Jackie Pullinger said, we should have hard feet and soft hearts, not soft feet and hard hearts. But without these boots of readiness our feet will be too soft for the journey, and without the breastplate of righteousness our hearts will be too hard to do any good along the way.
Thanks to the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness you’ve now got body-armour, but there’s another layer of protection: the shield of faith (v. 16). We’re told this can ‘extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one’. Make no mistake, the evil one/the enemy/Satan (whatever you want to call him), is real and he’s got it in for you. He’ll be firing flaming arrows your way, and you need defence against it. Those arrows might be spiritual forms of attack: lies, discouragement, bitter thoughts, temptations, a twisted perspective on situations, or they might be physical forms of attacks where the enemy tries to mess with your life. The shield of faith works by trusting God to help you overcome it. By faith you can ignore those lies, replace those bad thoughts with better ones and claim God’s promises that even when bad things happen, God can turn it into good (Romans 8:28). The shield of faith is a protective barrier of trust between the enemy and your heart. Bad things will still happen, but they don’t have to pierce your heart and snuff out your faith.
The last piece of defensive armour is for the head, the helmet of salvation (v. 17). Christianity involves both the heart and the head, and thus both must be protected. In this whole-life warfare the breastplate and helmet work together to protect your heart and your head. The helmet of salvation serves to protect your mind by guiding your thoughts into God’s truth, reminding you of your salvation and all it means for you. It helps channel you towards Godly ways of thinking and Godly perspectives on situations. It fills your mind with the light of Christ and even serves as a lighthouse to help give light to others, like a shining helmet that gleams afar on the battlefield.
Never take your helmet off. Never leave your head exposed to anything except God’s truth. Without the helmet of salvation, you can be ignorant of Christian teaching and intellectually lazy in your faith. Without the helmet of salvation, you’re exposed to the wayward and seductive messages of the world, which bombard us constantly. Keep the helmet on to fend them off and retain the truth of what Jesus has done for you.
That’s the defensive armour: belt, boots, breastplate, shield & helmet. The next piece of the armour is the only offensive one, the sword of the spirit (v. 17). We’re told the sword is the ‘word of God’, that is the Bible. The Bible is your sword. You don’t need any other weapon. Bible verses are your ammunition – the more you have at your disposal the better. The Bible isn’t supposed to sit on your shelf, unused and un-learned. That’s as useless as a sword in a scabbard hung on the wall – it might look impressive to well-meaning visitors, but it leaves you impotent and in great danger on the battlefield.
No, the Bible is meant to be living and active in our lives (Heb. 4:12), it’s meant to be open in our hands and ready for use. You use it to encourage yourself with God’s words and to encourage others with the same. You use it to counter lies and call out untruths. You use it to speak life and blessing into people’s lives and to transform broken situations. Every situation in life has a Biblical truth that can help, and we need to know them so we can apply them.
And remember, a sword is both defensive and offensive – it can be used to parry attackers’ swords (fending off discouragement) and to strike blows at the enemy (bringing the Bible into situations where it’s needed). Studying your Bible is the equivalent of sword-training, equipping you to both defend and attack. A good soldier is one who can do both. Those who only defend never take ground or make progress; those who only attack will sooner or later be cut down. Those who succeed and flourish in the Christian life are those who can both defend and attack spiritually. Learn how to do both.
Then the final item in the armour is one that people often miss: the cloak of prayer (v. 18). It’s not that Paul finishes talking about the armour and then goes on to talk about prayer; no prayer is part of the armour. When we pray, we armour ourselves spiritually. On top of the breastplate and shield, prayer is another layer of spiritual protection, like a cloak over the top. We’re encouraged to pray all the time about all sorts of things – nothing is out of scope here, nothing too trivial and there’s definitely no such thing as too much prayer. We should be mindful, alert and aware in our prayers, both for ourselves and for ‘all the Lord’s people’. Just as prayer keeps us healthy spiritually and connected to God, so a lack of prayer leaves us weak, exposed and disconnected.
So, there you have it, the full armour of God. Use it all and put it on daily. Rely on this and on the power of the Holy Spirit, not yourself. Your part is to come to this stronghold every day. I urge you to make this part of your routine – I can’t tell you how much of a difference this has made in my life to pray it over myself and my loved ones daily. This is an amazing stronghold of incredible power, a place to be equipped and empowered. Why wouldn’t you come?
(come back next week for Stronghold number 14: Philippians 4. You can find my first 12 Strongholds here: Numbers 6 , Psalm 23, Psalm 84, Psalm 121, Psalm 139, Proverbs 4, Isaiah 40, Jeremiah 29, Zephaniah 3, Romans 8:28, Romans 12:1-2 & 2 Corinthians 10:5).