Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11
I notice that when all the pieces of armor are added together, there is no piece that guards the back. Spurgeon long ago commented about this, “'Tis hard going on, but we cannot retrace our steps, for we have no armor for our backs. Suppose we should take to reasoning, suppose we should give up the fundamentals of our faith, what would remain to us?”1 There is no turning back for the Christian, only pressing forward toward the high calling of Jesus Christ. Does that mean that the Christian will not suffer defeat in battle? By no means!
What does it mean then? God has, I think, called us to live a life of faith, a faith that presses forward into whatever he has called us, and some of the time, that ends in utter defeat, but according to the province of God. God simply is greater than evil, though that in no way denies the evil of our world. While it is true that in the near future defeats may come, all will prove victorious in the end. The prayer of Christ haunts my soul with its uplifting words, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost” (John 17:12). None of them is lost. Ever. May I point out that most of those apostles died a death of martyrdom? Yet still they win! The victory is ours in Christ, though we may have temporary defeats in this world.
In particular, I think the verses are referring to setting yourself up, or building yourself to be able to stand “against the wiles of the devil”, and thus the verses are encouraging us to take upon ourselves the weapons that God has given us. It is to those weapons that we must look if we are to at all understand how to arm ourselves.
Before I explain those weapons, I would like to note that here is yet another place where we are told to stand, and yet if I understand scripture at all, it is God who stands in us. The mixture of the will of man and the sovereignty of God is blended in a manner that we cannot fathom or separate. God both clearly sanctifies, or separates us for his holy purposes, but he also calls upon us to sanctify, or separate ourselves to his purpose. Man’s will and God’s sovereignty are mixed together inseparably in a manner that is absolutely unfathomable to man. It is all God working in us, and still we are responsible to give ourselves to him. Who, besides God, could ever understand how they work together?
Stand, says Ephesians, girded with truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Every Christian has the truth of the gospel, and every Christian is to keep themselves with the righteousness that is by faith. Staying centered in the Spirit, being quick to confess and agree with God about your sins, and looking with the Spirit onward to the high calling of Jesus is precisely what we are called to do. I am reminded of the little boy David when he faced Goliath and said, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.” It is only through faith that we can have victory at all, and if we are to beat our Goliaths, we must come in the name of the Lord of hosts.
Ephesians bids us to shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel. One of my aims as a young man was to commit large portions of the Bible to memory. This I did, and over the period of many years, I have memorized many great passages of scripture. But when we come to the Word, we really are coming to something which would teach us of the Infinite, and now with forty years of being a Christian, I have realized there are many gems to yet be appreciated within Bible study, and if I am to get them, I must dig diligently. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” says the Bible, and God has many treasures left for those of us who will search the scriptures. Shodding your feet is a lifelong process, and one I suspect may continue with us in the hereafter.
The shield of faith is still required, even for a sixty year old man. I find myself under attack as a voice will whisper in my mind, do you really believe that? It is just too fantastic to be true. At such times, I must take the shield of faith, and reply to that voice, yes, I believe that because I choose to believe God. I find it ironic that even when I know God so well, and have experienced his hand in many years of my life, that it is still by faith that I must walk when those doubts assail me. Particularly hard for me is all the evil in the world that an older fellow becomes aware of. I am by no means sophisticated enough to realize the evils of the world, and yet, I do become more aware of both the wickedness of many men, and of the world. Believing in a God of Goodness and Mercy, and seeing a frighteningly evil world requires faith, trust in God that does go beyond what I know to that of which I have assurance. We must walk by faith.
The helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Carrying forth the message of salvation with the Word of God to back it up is the highest and most important calling of the Christian life. If the message of Christ is to be believed, the world is hell-bent, and it is only by the life-changing message of salvation that any will be saved. Our family members and our friends are many times without this knowledge and the burden to carry the message to them, as frequently and boldly as we can, is a burden to eclipse all else. Jude reminds us to snatch them from the fire, hating even the clothing stained by their lifestyles. If we truly loved and believed God in this message, I believe that our hearts should be broken continually for those around us. Paul says, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” So ought to be our attitude towards our friends and family and countrymen.
In everything, I ought to pray. My God loved me enough to send his Son. My God loved me enough to set his Spirit inside of me, to hear me, to aid my prayers, and frequently to answer those prayers. Let me come boldly before the Throne of Grace, to know that he is filled with mercy and tenderness toward me, not because of anything I am, but because he chose to love me. What power I have in prayer! Oh God, help me that I might avail myself of you in prayer, and seek your power in reaching a lost world.
1. Spurgeon, Charles (2011-10-05). The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon: Over 60 Books, Sermons, and Devotionals (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 16653-16654). . Kindle Edition.
2. Ephesians 6
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 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.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
3. Isaiah 59
17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.