Believers must be fully equipped for battle against the forces of evil. Paul in Ephesians 6:14-17 will describe the suit of armor believers are to wear. In order to do this, the apostle makes use of six metaphors derived from the armor of the Roman hoplite, the heavily armed Roman legionary going forth into battle. To be sure, there is also a seventh weapon, the climax of them all. However, that seventh one stands in a place all by itself. It is not indicated by any figure or metaphor. To do justice to the six one should see the entire picture all at once.
Today we will examine, Ephesians 6:14-17 which says, “Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”
The girdle or the belt, in physical warfare, was fastened or buckled around the short tunic worn by the soldier. Thus his limbs were braced up for actions. Both the breastplate and sword were subsequently attached to this cincture. The belt, therefore, was very important, and basic. In spiritual warfare, truthfulness which Paul has been stressing over and against the deceitfulness that characterizes the man of the world (5:15, 25; 5:6, 9)—is the basic quality needed by the warrior. By this truthfulness is meant sincerity of mind and heart, removal of all guile and hypocrisy. There must be “truth in the inward parts” (Ps. 51:6). “Whosoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home” (Judges. 7:3). The sincere person is more likely to be a blessing to all those with whom he/she comes in contact than is the hypocrite.
The breastplate is the piece of armor that covered the body from neck to thighs. It consisted of two parts, one covering the front, the other the back. Spiritually the breastplate is the devout and holy life, moral rectitude (Rom. 6:13; 14:17). In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul speaks of “the breastplate of faith and love.” In both of the previous Ephesians instances the word “righteousness” was employed in an ethical sense (4:24; 5:9).
In 2 Corinthians 6:7 Paul mentions “the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” that is, such armor as enables one to meet an attack from any quarter. This occurs in a context in which purity, kindness, etc. are also mentioned. It should also be borne in mind that the apostle in this very epistle has been putting great stress on the necessity of living lives worthy of the calling which believers were called (4:1). Apart from such a life, the Christian has no defense against Satan’s accusations. He/she has no assurance of salvation, and also lacks the power to attack, for the testimony of their lips will be ineffective, the neighbor will not be won for Christ, and the evil one will not be vanquished. On the other hand, when righteousness in conduct is present, what a mighty weapon for defense and offense it becomes!
Proper footwork spells readiness. A person who experiences within his/her own heart the peace of God that passes all understanding, the very peace the gospel proclaims results in people being delivered of a great burden. The conviction of being reconciled with God through the blood of Jesus Christ gives him/her the courage and zeal to fight the good fight. Readiness is derived from the gospel whose message is peace. The believer has a twofold weapon, defensive and offensive.
The shield was for the protection of the body and the helmet for the protection of the head. The shield in battle was a kind of protection against enemy missiles dipped in pitch or similar material and set on fire before being discharged. When these darts collided with the shields their points were blunted, their flames extinguished. The exercise of genuine God-given faith enables one to “extinguish all flaming missiles of the evil one.”
In the devil’s quiver, there are all kinds of fiery bolts. Some of these missiles kindle doubt, lust, greed, vanity, envy, etc. Only by looking away from self to Jesus and by placing one’s trust in him for life, death, and eternity, relying on His word of revelation and promise, is it possible to repel this shower of flaming arrows. Faith is more than a weapon of defense. It is also “the victory that overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the apostle Paul identified this helmet with the “hope of salvation,” here in Ephesians 6 it is with salvation. The difference is not as important as it may seem since salvation is both a present possession and an inheritance not yet fully acquired in this life, hence, the object of firmly anchored hope. The helmet is not only a piece of defensive armor as the songs of salvation, considered an essential part of salvation, constitute a mighty weapon in the believers’ offensive, as well as defensive armor.
Truthfulness or integrity the belt is not exclusively defensive as it captivates! Righteousness the breastplate not only serves as a protection; it also wins the neighbor for Christ, that God may be glorified (Matt. 5:16). The peace that provides readiness for spiritual battle the shoes furnishes both time and energy for invading the enemy’s domain and robbing him of the spoils he has taken. Faith the shield overcomes the world, recapturing the lost. And salvation the helmet sings its way into the enemy’s prison-camp, setting the prisoners free. Although all of this is undoubtedly true, nevertheless, the most conspicuously offensive weapon, offensive both in physical and spiritual combat, is the sword. Paul says, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
The sword spoken of in Ephesians 6:17 is the gospel (1 Peter 1:25) God’s utterance; the Bible, the entire Word of God. It is the Word that “stands forever” (Isa. 40:8) and cannot be defeated. The hammers that would destroy it will be broken. The anvil remains.
This spoken word is called “the Sword of the Spirit” because it is given by the Spirit and also because by the Spirit it is applied to the heart. Soldiers for Christ handle the word, heed it, hide it in their hearts, and hold it forth among the nations. The sword, thus wielded, is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). By using this powerful sword Paul and his associates had won amazing victories. And any victory that is being won today either at home or abroad is the result of the wielding of this sword.
It is by means of the gospel that man’s state of guilt before God is revealed and his sinful condition exposed. Through it, too, when applied to the heart by the Spirit, man is led to the Savior from sin, to thanksgiving, and then to praise. Through it doubts are dispelled, fears are driven away, assurance of salvation given, and is Satan put to flight. When Jesus was tempted He answered every word of the devil by an appeal to the written Word of God!
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