By Donnie V. Rader
When one becomes a member of the church, he is then a part of the Lord’s army. He is a soldier; a Christian soldier. No, not a soldier in a carnal battle, but one who can “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). It is a spiritual warfare. The apostle continues, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (v. 12). The same writer wrote in another book, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Though not a carnal battle that would receive attention on the evening news, our battle is just as real as any other.
This fight is not just for preachers to wage from the pulpit and on the printed page. This battle is for elders too. But, again, it is not just for the leaders in the church of our Lord. This is a war to be fought by every child of God. Our text will bear this out. Thus, we as soldiers must put our armor on and prepare to do battle for we can be sure that Satan will do all that he can to destroy the Christian and the church.
Ephesians 6:10-20 reveals that those “in Christ” are armed to stand against the forces of Satan. To be effective we must focus our attention upon our adversary, our armor, and our aim.
Our adversary is the devil. Peter said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The church and Satan are on a collision course. One writer has said that the church has an enemy that is hell-bent on its destruction. However, we sometimes forget that there is a fight, that Satan is real and that he is seeking our destruction.
Our enemy is not the Lord. If we are not careful we can find ourselves contending with the Lord himself. There may be times that we want to argue with him over his requirements and commands. We may resist his guidance and correction thinking every restriction is too much or is some kind of punishment. We can easily forget that his commands (however pleasant, difficult, or restrictive) are for our good (Deut. 6:24).
Our foe is not ourselves. Here again, we forget our real enemy and thus turn and fight with our own brethren. Sometimes it is nothing more than a personality clash or contention for the sake of just getting our way. I wonder if some brethren start a quarrel over some insignificant matter just to have a fight since no one else will fight with them. When such is the case we have obviously lost sight of our adversary. When unnecessary strife broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot, Abram said, “Let there be no strife . . . for we be brethren” (Gen. 13:8). Brethren shouldn’t be enemies. Yet, when they are, they will destroy one another (Gal. 5:15).
We have a common adversary. The Lord’s enemy, the church’s enemy, mine and yours are all the same. So, let’s not fight in different directions. The Devil is wise enough to know that if we have some weakness, cowards, or gaps in the front line, he is winning the battle. Let us fight together. Let us present a fortified and united front and make our attack.
We must fight against any and all of his wiles. Satan uses many schemes and cunning devices. He will use anybody and anything he can to accomplish his purpose. He may use some of our own brethren or friends. If so, we must fight against them as they are being used of Satan. If what they practice or teach didn’t originate with God, then it is of the Devil and we must oppose it. We can’t sacrifice truth because they are brethren or friends. Paul rebuked Peter as he had been influenced of Satan (Gal. 2:11-14). The prophets of old were found contending with the people of God. In the New Testament men of God fought every threat to the children of God. For Paul “it had been . . . a fight between Satan-inspired Jewish and pagan vice and violence; against Judaism among the Galatians and others; against fanaticism among the Thessalonians; against contention, fornication, and litigation among the Corinthians; against incipient Gnosticism among the Ephesians and far more among the Colossians; against fightings without and fears within; and last but not least, against the law of sin and death operating within his own heart” (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of Ephesians 274).
In our text Paul alludes to the armor of the ancient soldier which was necessary to defend himself and make his attack. More than once Paul says we must put on the “whole armour” (panoply) of God. We are not prepared until we are completely armed. Should we be lacking just one piece of the armor the Devil is sure to win at least over that soldier.
Paul’s picture in Ephesians 6:10-20 of the Christian’s life is not that of mere enjoyment or ease. It is one of work and hard conflict. Let’s consider the pieces of the armor.
1. “Stand therefore, having your lions girt about with truth” (v. 14). The soldier wore a girdle (sash or belt) that served to tie up his garment or long flowing robe so he could travel and run. It was also used to carry his sword, money, pipe, and writing instrument. Thus in parallel, the truth holds all things in place and preserves the soldier.
2. “. . . and having on the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14). The breastplate was a coat made of metal rings, plates or scales that covered the soldier, front and back from neck to the thighs. Obviously, it was a protective piece of armor. Our breastplate is “righteousness” or right living. When we are moral, holy, devout, and pure, we have on our breastplate. “Words are no defence (sic) against accusations, but a good life is” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians And Ephesians 217).
3. “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15). To be ready for battle the soldier must have his sandals on and greaves strapped below the knee to protect his legs from danger. A soldier whose feet were not shod was not ready at any time for battle. This I take to refer to our readiness to carry the gospel to others. Paul himself was ready to preach the gospel (Rom. 1:15). In Romans 10:14-15 attention was focused upon the feet of those that preach the gospel indicating that they are messengers who are eager and ready to take the gospel message to others. With his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, the soldier is borne safely through the obstacles in his way.
4. “Above all, taking the shield of faith . . .” (v. 16). The shield was a must for the ancient soldier. He would strap a shield (about two and one-half feet wide by four feet long) to his left arm to protect himself from the spears and darts that were hurled at him. Some of the darts were dipped in tar and set on fire and then thrown at the enemy. Without the shield the soldier was sure to suffer. Our faith serves as our shield to protect us from the “fiery darts of the wicked” (v. 16). When we lose our faith or it becomes weak, we are like the soldier who becomes a coward and throws down his shield and runs back (Heb. 10:35).
5. “And take the helmet of salvation . . .” (v. 17). The helmet was a defensive part of the armor worn to protect the head of the soldier. The hope of eternal salvation protects and preserves us through all the battles of life. Were it not for that assurance we would have no reason to endure the hardships of the soldier (2 Tim. 2:3).
6. “. . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). The soldier carried a short sword much like a dagger. It was an offensive part of his armor. He used it to make his attack on his enemy. The word of God is our sword. The Bible is not compared to a soft feather that is to be used to tickle the ears of men. It is a sword! Its purpose is to prick the hearts of men. It must be used to destroy error and slice sin to pieces. We must bring the sword out of its sheath and put it to use cutting away at the efforts of Satan. “To be strong is our duty, to be weak is our sin” (Pulpit Commentary Vol. 20, 258).
7. “Praying always with all prayers and supplication . . .” (v. 18). Many commentators and other writers only list six parts of the armor from our text. However, prayer is very much a part of the armor of those in Christ. While Paul does not continue his use of the metaphors in verse 18, it is still a very important part of the armor. Without prayer we have not put on the panoply of God. Prayer strengthens our faith and calls for the help of God. We have access to the greatest power of all through prayer.
The bottom line of the armor of God is faithful adherence to the plan of God. Those who are diligent in their efforts to serve the Lord are armed in Christ to stand.
1. To abide (“to stand”). Our text says that we are to put on the whole armor of God in order “to stand against the wiles of the devil” (v. 11). Two verses later the writer says, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v. 13). To stand means to hold your ground. In battle the army tries to hold its ground and not lose any territory. In our war with Satan we must not allow him to make any advances. So, we stand our ground. But, we can’t stand and compromise at all. We cannot compromise on morals, sin, innovations or the doctrines and sounds of men. We can’t be indifferent toward the Lord’s work and still hold our ground. The apathetic army always loses ground.
2. To attack (“to speak”). In the last verse of our text Paul asked that brethren pray for him that he may “speak . . . as I ought to speak” (v. 20). We cannot sit idle. We must attack. It is possible that “not only in this or that particular battle but the entire war will be lost unless we exert ourselves” (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary Exposition of Ephesians 271). As we use our sword to make our attack we must remember to speak as we ought to speak. We must speak: (a) As the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). First and foremost our message must be true. We must speak “according as it is written” (2 Cor. 4:13). (b) The whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). No part of God’s revelation should be held back. (c) Using great plainness of speech (2 Cor. 3:12). Hints and vague generalities will not do. If something needs to be said, we need to say it plainly. John the Baptist was such a spokesman (Mark 6:14-18). Neither should the gospel be clouded by our feeble efforts to make it sound deeper or more impressive. May our listeners be impressed, not with the messenger, but with the simplicity of the message. (d) Boldly (Eph. 6:20). We must present God’s message without apology or great concern about how it will be received. Amos was just that kind of messenger in the Old Testament (Amos 7:10-17). He refused to bow to the pressures of the people. His intent was to preach God’s message whether or not Amaziah, the king, or anyone else liked it. Paul and the other apostles had the same attitude (1 Thess. 2:2). When we shy away from some area of the gospel because we think it will not be well received we are unfit for the Lord’s army (Gal. 1:10). (e) Fearfully (Jas. 3:1). We should realize the tremendous responsibility we have to handle the word properly and those we teach (2 Tim. 2:15; Eph. 4:15).
Only those “in Christ” are so armed to stand and speak. “Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armour on . . .”