The Armour of God



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. 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. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Eph 6:12-18)

This very famous passage in Ephesians gives us a good model for how we defend against spiritual attacks. Those attacks can come in many forms, but the defense is the same. We rely on 1) truth, 2) righteousness, 3) the gospel of peace, 4) faith, 5) salvation. The one thing listed here that is not solely defensive is the "sword of the Spirit." A sword is both for defense, to block the attack of your enemy, and also for offense - a means to fight back.

It's good to keep in mind that the writings of Paul are letters, not short little capsules of wisdom. Before studying a passage like this in detail it would be a good idea to read the whole of Ephesians straight through in order to establish the context. Most of what is said here in chapter 6 is already hinted at earlier in the epistle. The points that Paul makes in the opening of the epistle are that we are chosen out by God, "foreordained" to be the instruments of His glory. As such, we are not left defenseless. Just as our salvation is set out from the foundation of the world, our means of spiritual empowerment is established as well.

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (Eph 1:19-22)

The opening salutation ends with this declaration that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work now in us. That power is above all the power in this world that might be possibly arrayed against us. Paul goes on to declare that we are "to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (3:16) and that all is done "according to the power that worketh in us" (3:20). This idea is repeated in chapter 6: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." (Eph 6:10) This is an important point to remember and is the basis for what follows. The strength we need to fight this fight flows to us from the Holy Spirit. If we were to try to be strong through our own skills, we would lack the strength to withstand.

This power is also said to be in the "inner man" and that gives us a good clue as to where the battle is fought. It is an internal war of the spirit, although it may be perceived in the physical world. That means that we must primarily guard our thoughts, our emotions, our internal state of peace and not let the things happening in the physical world distract us from that inner conflict. Keep in mind that spiritual warfare is "spiritual" not "carnal" as Paul clearly states (6:12). Always be in remembrance that the battle is against "spiritual wickedness" and not simply against physical manifestations. If we attempt to fight the physical manifestations only with no discernment of this spiritual influence, we cannot win against it. The underlying, hidden (occult) spiritual force is what we must be on guard against and where we must counter attack. We bind the spiritual influence in order to stop the physical manifestations. We defend our own inner spirit in order that we do not get thrown down by spiritual forces.

We must also understand the spiritual battle we are engaged in. The opening of Ephesians makes clear that God's purpose is to pour out His glory. When we join with Christ, we become the instrument of that glory. The devil's desire is to prevent that. He attempts to get us to disconnect from God's spirit, and thus prevent the power of that spirit from working in this world. This is what we constantly "wrestle" against: to turn from God to the things of this world such that God's will is thwarted. Our place in this battle is not to defeat Satan, Jesus has already done that, but to demonstrate in our lives that God's power is sufficient to overcome all evil. In a sense, we do not fight for God, but rather He fights for us.

With that in mind we can look more closely at the armor that Paul describes.

Truth -- Jesus said that the devil is a liar and the father of lies. We cannot defend against him by telling lies or by holding onto lies. We must seek the truth and speak the truth, even if we find it uncomfortable. The truth will destroy the lie. This is not as easy as people think. We all carry around in our minds a bunch of preconceived ideas, or prejudices, some of which may not be true and others that may be only a partial truth. We must always be checking our basic assumptions to see if they are consistent with the knowledge we are encountering so that we do not reject the truth out of an egotistical need to protect what we already have accepted into our mind. Truth requires effort of mind to discern and openness to seek deeper and deeper understanding. Whatever prejudices or misunderstandings we carry in our mind can be used by the devil to initiate an attack.

Righteousness -- Our righteousness is by the Grace of God, by faith, made possible by the propitiation for sin by the blood of Jesus. True righteousness is not simply following a set of rules. It has to do with standing in the right relationship to God and that relationship is established for us through faith in Jesus. The word righteous is a contraction of right-wise and that is exactly how we must be. If we get out of step with God, we are no longer able to receive clearly His word to us and may go off into danger. Also, if we turn from righteousness by faith into some legalistic, self-willed actions, we displace the protection of God's righteousness in us and can fall prey to spiritual attacks. Attempting to be "righteous" by works can lead to pride and arrogance, and those are weaknesses that the devil will exploit. You can get so caught up in doing "good works" that you never counter the spiritual forces attacking you but only try to make things better by doing some act of charity or good will in the physical world. The devil would love nothing more that for us to spend all our time doing charitable works while totally ignoring our spiritual state and condition. It looks like you are doing God's work, when in fact it is completely human-centric and only glorifies man. In addition, we will falter from time to time in the flesh. If we are dependent on our own will power for moral behavior, we open ourselves to further attack of guilt. The devil loves to whisper words of condemnation that point out our weaknesses and get us to fall into continual guilt. That inhibits action since we don't feel worthy, don't feel we can make a difference, etc. We must always, therefore, remember that though we are weak, our strength comes from the spirit working in and through us. Our sins are covered and there is no need to live in a constant state of guilt. Simply repent, accept the grace of God and go forward again.

The gospel of peace -- This is an interesting phrase because it doesn't simply say the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gospel here is probably intended in a more generic sense of "good tidings" not the specific sense of THE GOSPEL that we preach. Specifically it is talking about the state of peace that comes through the spirit working in us. Peace is that inner state of being where we realize we are acceptable to God, no longer in fear of His wrath, no longer obsessed with the things of this world, but in a state of harmony with God. That state of peace prevents anxiety and fear. When we are anxious and afraid, or angry and bitter, we can be easily distracted and diverted away from doing the will of God. The slightest problem or offence can get blown up all out of proportion. We then begin to obsess over material needs, opinions of others, etc. Those things will divert attention away from God and leave us open to further spiritual attack. So, remain in peace. When you begin to feel angry, bitter, worried or anxious stop and pray for peace until it comes.

Faith -- This should be obvious but there is often a misunderstanding of faith. It is not merely belief in the mind but encompasses the idea of total trust leading to action based on that trust. Faith shields us because we trust without limit in God�s ability to deliver us. We trust in His word, and are not fooled by the lies of the world. We trust in His grace and are not obsessed with self-righteousness. We trust in His power and are not fearful of our own weakness. No matter what the devil throws in our way God has provided a means to escape. All we need to do is look for the solution that God has provided to us. That is the nature of faith. We may not see in advance how God will deliver us but we know for certain that He will.

Salvation -- Our most basic instinct is for survival. The fear of death and destruction is a primary means of spiritual attack against us. However, when we realize that our life in this world is only for a short time and that we have eternal life with God waiting for us, that fear of physical harm and death is eliminated. Because our salvation is already assured by faith in Jesus, there is nothing in this world that can ultimately destroy us. Any threats against our physical wellbeing can be overcome by realizing that this physical state is only temporary anyway. The world's way of control is always to threaten a person's physical survival or comfort. When our focus is on the eternal, that means of control is lost to the enemy. It is said that in warfare you try to take away from your enemy the thing he most relies on. Because we rely on God for our salvation, eternal life cannot be taken from us.

Finally we come to the "Sword of the Spirit, the word of God." This is both our defense and our means of counter attack. What is translated "word" is the Greek term rhema and refers to something spoken. It is tempting to think of the "word of God" as simply the scriptures. But the rhema of God includes anything that He has spoken or is speaking to us today. We use the scriptures to learn what things God has spoken. Whatever God has promised through the scriptures, we can claim as our own through our faith in Jesus. Because we are made righteous by our faith, all the statements in scripture that describe God's blessings to those who are righteous can be appropriated for our situation. Just remember that God speaks to us today as well. He can speak through your heart so that you gain an understanding. He can speak through others around you and their actions as well. Used defensively, the Sword of the Spirit reminds us of all the truths that God has given us, all the blessings that He has promised, and thus we can deny the lies of the enemy by comparison with God's word.

Used offensively, God's word is a rebuke to the spiritual forces arrayed against us. When we praise God, when we speak the truth of His word, when we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we throw the enemy to the ground. And, perhaps most importantly, Jesus has given us a delegated authority to speak in his name. When we speak in his name, our words are given the force and effect of his power. We can, therefore, command the spiritual forces to leave, to cease, to shut up and go away. As the epistle of James states, "Rebuke the devil and he will flee from you." Whenever spiritual attack comes, rebuke it in the name of Jesus and know that your words will have the power of His authority. You don't need any special formula or pleading to do this. Simply say, "SHUT UP Satan" or whatever words you feel best fulfills the need at the moment. The next time you recognize a spiritual attack, try this see what happens. When done in faith, there will be an almost immediate lifting of the spiritual oppression.

One last little bit that I sense needs to be said. I hear from time to time Christians rebuking each other. Remember that you are not at war with each other. Rebuke Satan. Love and pray for one another.





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