Expounding the Armor of God, Part 1
A DEEPER LOOK AT OUR ARMOR Ephesians 6:13 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. Over a hundred years
A DEEPER LOOK AT OUR ARMOR
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.
Over a hundred years ago, this one Scripture was translated into what would be called, in this day and age “layman’s terms” by some of the more scholarly minded of the day. For instance, one Dr. Moffatt translated it to say, “So take God’s armor that you may be able to make a stand in the evil day and hold your ground by overcoming all your foes.”
A man by the name of Dr. Weymouth tried to pull everything he could from Pauls words when he translated it to say, “Put on the complete armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the day of battle, and having fought to the end to remain victors on the field.”
That last translated really stirs your blood and it can be regarded as a truly vital interpretation of the kind of counsel that Paul would rouse us with.
Paul’s Ephesian Audience
Paul was writing to a tiny community of Christians located in Ephesus. Their number was so small that they were a mere drop in the bucket of the surrounding city population. But yet something amazing happened anyway.
The influence of Jesus’ Gospel stirred this small group of men and women to do something harder than anything they had, to that point, been called to do. They separated themselves from a lifetime’s worth of attachments, many of which they had probably been very fond of. They cut ties as well as roots. The let loose of friendships that may have been considered dear to them. In essence, living the life of an alien in their very own city, as strangers now.
As foreigners and pilgrims in the very land of their birth, they had truly taken hold of being “in it”, but no longer “of it”. It was to these people that Paul admonished to take on God’s complete armor and to be ready to stand firm when the time came for battle.
Did the Circumstances Really Warrant Armor?
There was truly a hostility surrounding these believers at Ephesus. Ephesus was, after all, an absolutely overwhelming world power at the time. It’s location alone favored prosperity, being both sheltered and yet open to the rest of the world.
In considering what the city might have looked like, you could imagine a cup with at least one-third of its side broken away all the way to the bottom. Roughly two-thirds of Ephesus was situated against hills, while it opened up in one direction toward a port on the open sea. In another direction, it opened up into a rich plain that was well known as having rich, fertile soil. And this was Ephesus.
The city was so luxurious, it couldn’t help but be carnal. It seemed everything made an open show of the worldly ways, and it was in the middle of all this that this tiny little group of Christians made their home.
In addition to the lushness of the city, there was also the fact that another religion had its own grounding there. The Temple of Diana was once a magnificent temple and stood as a representation of nothing less than extremely unprincipled morals. It was quite different from the obscure space in which the Christians held their gatherings.
Finally, there was yet another stark contrast in which the Christians of Ephesus found themselves. That was the invisible bonds and amazing social power of the popular customs of that day. Opposing such social and religious customs were like running into an invisible web of barbed wire.
Just consider, for a moment, what it’s like to oppose just one simple, single notion of today’s society. To do so is to throw yourself headlong into a mass of suspicion and hatred, and sometimes much worse. These Ephesians, only a few short years away from the very resurrection of Jesus Himself, were opposing them every day because they knew it meant that much. It wasn’t a simple notion of “going to church” because it seems like a nice respectable thing to do. At that time, against a hardened and antagonizing world, these “young” Christians were seeking to live a life that was both set apart from the world, and consecrated to Holiness.
Beyond Flesh and Blood
As Paul wrote his words to this little flock, he sought to help them look past the opposition they were facing that were merely flesh and blood backed by vain tradition. He sought to pass through the veil and reveal what was invisible, yet spiritual, alive, and very actively hostile.
You can almost hear him say:
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.
Today, it might have sounded something like this:
Our conflict is not merely against flesh and blood but against oppressively cruel powers, and forces that have control over the very darkness of this world, and the spiritual rulers of evil that come against us in warfare that is nothing less than heavenly.”
For Paul, it was almost as if when he looked at Ephesus, it became completely transparent. He could see behind that veil into the invisible realm and the evil spiritual forces that were the enemies of those Christians there. Both worldly and evil forces strove together to create great trouble. To Paul, the true instigators of all the trouble were completely unseen to those who were not believers, or who were yet young believers.
And so Paul taught that the early Church had an invisible army to fight, and the spiritual adversaries that made up the brunt of that army. That enemy is not only very real but always active, relentless, day in and day out. For us, today, entrenched in the evils that society and its traditions attempt to trap us in, are in the very same battle those Ephesian Christians found themselves in at that time, so long ago.
In those days, it was Paul that issued urgent warnings to the young Christians. He warned of how subtle this warfare could be, how devious and cunning the devil was in all his tactics against them, and of their powers and devices and traps.
How the Hostile Opposition Wages War
The question comes up then, how do these unseen hostiles attack the soul? It must first be understood that the soul is the realm of the mind, will, and emotions. Then we can understand how the enemy goes right to work, spirit against spirit. That mind can put great pressure on our minds so that there is an influence that is quite immediate even into our secret lives.
It is definitely mysterious, but not at all surprising. More and more, we see the social influence of many different kinda of transferring of thoughts. What started years ago as a kind of hypnotism has become outright and blatant, as people cannot see anything at all wrong with it. One mind can easily influence someone else’s mind, with either words or action, and both are left imprinted in some way or another.
It is no longer shocking, nor surprising to see those that make a prey of a person’s mind, imagination, ambitions, and opinions, all with the express intent of stealing them away from their true loyalties to God. In fact, it is becoming less and less “shocking” to see utter rebellion against God taught as a right.
No, we are certainly not fighting flesh and blood only. These enemies are spiritual and invisible to the flesh eye.
Understanding Who We Are
Moving deeper into how these spiritual enemies can work on a person’s soul, we can look at how powerful and infectious large numbers of people can be. Society itself has become entrenched in the midst of the destruction, whether completely ruled by the enemy or simply used as a pawn in his overall plan of the day.
Life as a Christian is nothing less than immense. It’s not something to be considered and played with when we have nothing better or pressing to do. It isn’t just gathering together for enjoyable friendships. It’s not the worthless act of simply “joining” a Church so people can see what we’ve “become”. It’s so VERY much more than that!
Being a true Christian, being a Believer in Christ Jesus, is not simply some impressive label we wear. It’s an outright campaign, sometimes desperate, sometimes glorious. In fact, many of us have to keep the devil in a choke-hold on a daily basis. Rarely can an inch be gained some days without a battle.
But then, there are no amazing victories without the fight.
Overcoming and Prevailing In the Fight
The next question is how do we overcome? How do we win? Paul says we start by putting on the complete armor of God. Our first need is always for our God. Without Him, we’ve lost the battle long before it ever starts. We are as likely to beat back our unseen spiritual enemies without God as we would be to lift a single hand against an opposing army in the middle of a great military battle. It simply can’t be done.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
If we’re not careful though, we can take this verse to mean something it shouldn’t. We can put too much emphasis on ourselves and not enough on God. We might do better to read that verse and understand it to mean, “Be made powerful in the Lord.” When we are MADE powerful by the all-powerful God we serve, it can fill us with the power of a promise. This kind of power is not a trophy, but rather the result of intimate communion. It’s not something that we win, it’s something we receive.
Consider this Scripture in correlation with the previous one:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:
The kind of power we’re talking about here is nothing less than a Gift from God, a ministry of grace, offered to every soldier in His army, bearing no price because it cannot be purchased. It is a gift.
It is absolutely crucial that we gain our strength from God Himself. But not only our strength. In the same way, through God, we gain every single piece of armor that we will need for the spiritual fight. Offensive and defensive armor. As we consider each piece of armor, in the coming parts to this series, we will find that they are free and abundant from God’s armory.
We will say again, though, as we’ve said before, that if we really want to win this battle, we have to first seek God.
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Seeking the Lord in prayer, kneeling in earnest prayer must be brought together with a desire to make His will our own will. The Christian life is not a bowl of cherries. We cannot simply “take it easy” and leave the fighting to Him. If that were the case, we would have no need of obtaining strength nor for a full suit of armor.
We are weak, and our wills and flesh and are also weak. However, we can even exercise that weakness in prayer at the very source of all power to receive a gift He promised us we could have. Stand, therefore! Having done all to stand, STAND! Having received that gift of power spoken of in Acts 1, square your shoulders in stubbornness against the unseen enemies and say, “Here I stand! It may be all I can do, but I am going to stand! God help me! In the Name of Jesus!”
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!