One of the strengths of the Roman army was in its highly developed battle gear. Each piece of the soldier’s armament and weaponry served a well-thought out purpose. In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul uses each item of the soldier’s assigned equipment to urge us to be prepared – with God’s help – for temptations or trials.
The Sphere of the Aggression
The field of battle in the Christian life is a spiritual one. Paul explained in verses 10-13 that we are engaged in a conflict with unseen forces of the non-physical realm.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NKJV) – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Peter also used the analogy of military conflict to describe the temptation to sin: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11, KJV). “War” is from the Greek term for “serving as a soldier” (Vines).
The Strength of His Armor
The Lord strengthens us (verse 10) by making available seven specific blessings and characteristics which we may call upon to aid us, which Paul likens to pieces of the Roman soldier’s armament:
Ephesians 6:14-20 (NKJV) – “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
We must “put on the whole armor of God” to stand against the devil during challenging moments.
- Satan wants to destroy us with error, so we need to be girded with truth (v. 14). The Galatians had been “bewitched” (Gal. 3:1) into following “another gospel” (Gal. 1:6-9). Satan had deceived them into believing that the distorted gospel they had been listening to was better than the original. He is described as the “father of lies” (John 8:44), because deception is his primary method of attack. There will be those who are deceived into believing a lie because they do not love the truth (II Thess. 2:10-12). To protect ourselves, we must know and follow the truth (John 7:17; 8:32, 36).
- Satan wants us to fail to do what is right, so we need the “breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14). John declared that “all unrighteousness is sin” (I John 5:17). Satan wants us to be indifferent to doing right. But it is just as bad to fail to do what is right as it is to do what is wrong. To know the good thing to do, but not to do it, is sin (James 4:17).
- Satan wants to keep men from the power of the gospel, therefore we ought to be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15). God’s power works through the gospel message. The gospel is “God’s power unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). The devil wants to prevent this this power from being realized in someone’s life. We ought to be ready to take the good news of Jesus Christ into all the world (Mark 16:15, 16). By grasping the gospel of Christ, we will be equipped to walk upon any kind of path with Him: “Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm 86:11, KJV).
- Satan is hurling fiery darts at the hearts of the self-dependent, so we need to bear the shield of faith (v. 16). We should “walk by faith, and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). Satan’s “flaming arrows” are “poisoned with faith-destroyers.” He wants to destroy our faith by filling our minds with doubts. He could say, “There is no need to pray. God doesn’t answer prayer anyway.” He might declare, “The Bible is an old book and it’s too hard to understand. Why should you waste time studying it?” And he could smirk, “The church is full of hypocrites. Why should you get involved? No one notices when you try to do good.” The shield of faith protects us from such doubts. Confidence in God’s promises enables us to overcome any foe (I John 5:4).
- Satan works to cause us to doubt our relationship with God, therefore we need assurance of salvation (v. 17). This “helmet of salvation” is our confidence of salvation. God wants us to be saved and to be assured of our salvation. John said we can know that we have eternal life (I John 5:13). If we walk in the light, we will have fellowship with him and also be assured of continued fellowship when this life is over. We will enjoy eternal life when our earthly lives have concluded (Mark 10:28- 30). Examine yourself (II Cor. 13:5). Are you sure of your salvation? We are able to endure the devil’s attacks when we know the Lord and are assured of our standing with Him (II Tim. 1:12; I John 2:3).
- We need the sword of the Spirit because Satan cannot defend against it (v. 17). Instead of directly operating upon the hearts of sinners or saints, the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to both convict of sin and guide men to heaven. As a sword, the word of God is our weapon in battling Satan. Jesus used it victoriously in His trial by the devil (Matt. 4:1-11). We too can use it when we study it, learn its true meaning, and properly apply it to our lives (II Tim. 2:15). God’s word has power (Heb. 4:12-13).
- We need to pray, because the devil turns and runs when we draw close to God. Roman soldiers usually marched in silence, but when about to enter battle would use their shields as a type of megaphone for the “barritus,” a “harsh, intermittent roar” (Tacitus). Christians may call upon God for His aid at any time (I Thess. 5:17; I Peter 5:7). James wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:7-8, KJV).
In facing the daily battles of life, the Lord offers us strength and protection. Will you accept His offer?