Monday, August 13, 2012

The Armor of God

“Put on the full armor of God…”  Ephesians 6:11a

     My church recently went through a study of Ephesians 6:10-18  the passage talking about the Armor of God – which I really enjoyed because I learned more about the background behind the actual armor.  Now don’t get me wrong, the other stuff is great too!  But I’ve always been fascinated with learning the historical context behind the verses.  Like, what would this have actually meant to the Israelites when they read it?

     “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. 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 saints.”  –Ephesians 6:10-18

     First of all, there’s the pretty obvious stuff.  You know, “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12)  The armor that we’re reading about isn’t solid – it’s not something that you can actually physically put on – because the enemies we’re fighting and defending ourselves against aren’t flesh and blood.  They can’t be defeated by the physical.  But then you get into the other stuff that makes a lot more sense when you know their actual history.

     See, the Armor of God is made up of a belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword.  This is actually very similar to the armor that a Roman soldier would have worn during that time.  Because most of the known world was governed by Rome, the Christians of that day would have been very familiar with that armor and it's purpose.

The Belt of Truth
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…”
     The first thing a Roman soldier would put on is his belt.  Without it, he would be constantly stumbling, tripping over his tunic and he would also have nowhere to put his sword.  The Christian’s belt, similarly, was to keep them from stumbling around without the Truth (God).

The Breastplate of Righteousness
“…with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”
     A Roman soldiers’ breastplate protected him from his neck all the way down to the tops of his thighs and helped keep him from being hit by an arrow, or a sword in his back.  It protected two of the three vital areas, one’s heart and one’s midsection (bowels) where the other organs were.  During that time, thinking was associated with the heart and the bowels were associated with feelings and emotions.  One of the things Satan likes to attack are our thoughts and emotions, so if we’re wearing a breastplate of righteousness that comes from God, our vital areas are protected.

The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
“…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
     A soldier needed firm footing, and the Roman soldiers’ caligae (“half boots”) provided stability, support, and traction.  They looked similar to sandals, having an open design so their feet could breathe, keeping them from getting “trench foot” after walking through water and to keep them from getting fungus on their feet.  Also, in the bottom, they attached nails, which provided stability as well as a weapon.  As Christians, Satan is constantly trying to shake our footing, but when we have our feet firmly planted in the Gospel of Peace through Jesus Christ, he can’t move us.

The Shield of Faith
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
     The shield of a Roman soldier was four feet tall, two feet wide, and made of thick leather.  Before battle, this shield would be dipped in water in order to not only stop, but also extinguish their enemies’ arrows which were often dipped in pitch and then lit on fire.  Our shield is God – the very object of our faith – who protects us from Satan’s fiery arrows which are both piercing (persecution) and burning (temptation).

The Helmet of Salvation
Take the helmet of salvation…”
     The purpose of the Roman soldier’s helmet was to protect his head, particularly from the broadsword which was 3-4 feet wide, two sided, required two hands to wield, and one of its main purposes was to crush the enemies’ skull.  And just as a Roman soldier would receive his helmet from his commanding officer, we as Christians receive the Helmet of Salvation from God.  (The Greek word used for “take” actually means “accept” or “receive”)  Instead of “saving” us or making us Christians (we’re already Christians if we’re fighting Satan), it protects us from Satan’s broadsword whose two sides are discouragement and doubt.  He tries to convince us that we aren’t actually saved, but according to 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”) we as Christians have hope – a sure and certain expectation – of salvation through Christ.

The Sword of the Spirit
“…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
     The sword referred to in this passage isn’t the broadsword that the helmet helped protect against, but the sword more commonly carried by soldiers, the machaira (or makaira), which was anywhere from the 6 inch dagger to an 18 inch sword and kept in a sheath or scabbard at the soldiers side.  The machaira were used in hand-to-hand combat both for offense and defense.  Ephesians 6:17 tells us specifically what the Christian's sword is: the word of God  the Bible.  As with the sword, we can use it both as offense and defense in battling Satan.  As defense, to fight off Satan using scripture, and as offense, to share the story of salvation with others.

     In closing, I'd like to make one more comparison between a Roman soldier and a Christian. A Roman soldier wouldn't think of going into battle without his full armor – he could be in big trouble if he was missing a piece – but all too often we Christians think we can get by if we just, say, leave off the helmet for once, or think we can set down the shield or sword.  But the truth is, that leaves us vulnerable.  We need to be like a soldier in the midst of battle – always at the ready and fully clothed in the armor of God, because Satan doesn't wait for us to be ready to fight, he attacks us when we're at our weakest, at our most vulnerable.

     The Comma Queen

 All information was taken either from my pastor’s sermon series, “The Armor of God” or John MacArthur’s 1979 sermon series, “The Believer’s Armor”.  I would greatly encourage you to listen to or read these sermons for yourself, as they are full of really good information that I wasn't able to include in this short article.

“The Armor of God”

“The Believer’s Armor”

Bible verses taken from the NIV 1984

Image by Leaping Lizard


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