It’s war and we are all soldiers. It isn’t a battle fought at some set battlefield. It isn’t an enemy that can be stopped with a bomb and there are no spiritual drones that can be sent out to hit the leaders of the enemy army. It is the war between good and evil, between God and Satan, between the church of the Lord and every effort to turn people away from God in the world.
Satan’s efforts are never upfront. He pictures his cause in the best language with the nicest pictures and the models appear to be happy and fulfilled in the way of life they have chosen. Yet in the aftermath of Satan’s work are broken hearts, broken marriages, abandoned children and the people chained by addiction to all kinds of drugs and to immoral behavior. It is always amazing how beautifully Satan is able to present his advertisements and how completely depraved are the actual results of following him.
How do we prepare to fight such an enemy? If we choose the wrong way to fight against Satan and his army, we may actually be fighting for him instead of against him. In Ephesians 6:13-17 Paul challenged us to stand up for what is right and for God. He said for us to make such a stand it is necessary for us to “Put on the whole armor of God so that we will be able to stand and then stand.” If I were guessing what would be included in God’s armor for his soldiers it wouldn’t have included any of the things the Holy Spirit led Paul to give as our armor. Start with me at the top of the things in his armor. On the head is the helmet of salvation. The breastplate to protect the vital organs is to be righteousness. The belt around the waist is truth. The shoes on the feet is the preparation of the gospel of peace. The shield is faith in the Lord. The sword of the Spirit that we are to take and use is the word of God. The whole armor is tied together and energized by prayer for all. We are to especially pray for the preaching of the word of God that it might be done with boldness.
Almost the whole armor is for the defense of the Christian soldier instead of to attack the enemy. Focus on each thing for a moment. The helmet of salvation has to do with what we are and what we know. Certainly one must be saved from sin if they are to fight against Satan and for God, but he goes further and says that it is vital not only that we be saved but that we know we are saved. It is when we are secure in our relationship with God that we can do well as a soldier of Christ.
The breastplate is righteousness. To protect the vital organs we must be those who live the right life before God. In the sense of perfection, there are none righteous, no not one. But when Jesus is our Lord we have two amazing promises, that our sins aren’t marked up against us as we live for God and the righteousness of Jesus is counted to our account according to Romans 4. Being in a loving relationship with the Lord doesn’t in anyway mean that we can live any sort of way and still be right with God. The righteous person is always trying to be what God calls him to be and live in harmony with His teachings. When we fail to live right we are broken and want to repair the relationship. When one lives this kind of faithful life their sins don’t destroy the relationship but they are constantly being cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
The shield that one uses to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one is the shield of faith. This isn’t “The faith” that refers to the word of the Lord. It is the personal faith of the soldier of Christ. If we are to do well as Christ’s soldier we must walk by faith in Him, trusting His care, believing His every word and certain that all He has promised will take place. This is the kind of faith described in Hebrews 11 in which the great followers of God throughout the ages lived and walked by faith. In every example those who lived by faith were obedient to the Lord, and made right choices when God put them to the test.
The belt or sash with which the person of that day tied up their garments so they could fight better is truth, integrity, fidelity and honesty. Truth is saying what is right. All of God’s word is truth. But this is speaking of truth on all fronts. We are to be people whom one can trust because the habit is one of speaking and living what is right all the time.
The Roman soldier of the first century wore sandals on their feet. Often in preparing to go into battle the soldier would drive nails through their sandals so that they would be certain not to lose traction when in the midst of the battle. To slip and fall at such a time would likely mean death. Paul said the soldier of Christ is to have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We are to be a people ready and anxious to share the good news of Christ with others all the time. Paul declared in Romans 1:14-16 that he was in debt to Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, to the wise and unwise “so that as much as is in me I am ready to preach the gospel to those who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Being ready to share the good news of Christ is good offense but it is also a great defense against the attacks of the devil.
Finally, he said the soldier of Christ is to take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Notice it is the sword of the Spirit, but it isn’t the Spirit of God that uses the sword, it is the Christian that is to take it and wield the sword. The Roman soldier of that day might well have used a large sword with which he could chop up the enemy. But the word used here for the sword of the Spirit isn’t the word for the large sword. It is the word for a short, precision instrument that one would use with care to attack the enemy. The word used implies the way it is to be used. God’s word isn’t an axe to use to chop people up and to be used to cut people to pieces. We are to use the word with care, with precision so that it does good and changes lives for the Lord. Earlier in Ephesians Paul said to speak the truth in love so we can grow up into him who is head even Christ.
God’s armor is sealed together with prayer. The soldier of Christ doesn’t depend on his own power or strength but on the power of God to fight against Satan and sin. A prayerful life makes all the difference in the world in knowing who we are and what we are about. Prayer fits with all the elements of the armor of God and makes them work as God intended.