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The Whole Armor of God

    spiritual warfare


Believers’ response to the reality of this warfare should be to use every piece of God’s armor. The armor is available, but the believer—soldier must use it. We would be neglectful to do otherwise, for the battle is real, and we are Satan’s targets. Only with the armor will believers be able to be standing firm, a word describing standing against great opposition; indeed, it would be impossible to stand on our strength alone. Christian soldiers must be able to hold their ground and not flee or surrender under Satan’s attacks. The time of evil refers to the hours of trial that have within themselves the seeds of the last and greatest trial. Christians must be prepared for every day’s conflicts with the forces of evil.

In order to stand their ground in the heat of battle, believers need every piece of God’s armor. The order of the pieces listed in the following verses is the order in which a soldier would put them on. First, fasten the sturdy belt of truth around your waist. This belt, also called a girdle, was about six inches wide. Probably made of leather, it held together the clothing underneath as well as holding the other pieces of armor in place, such as the breastplate and the sheath for the sword. It may have contained a “breechclout,” an apron that protected the lower abdomen. It may have also braced the back in order to give strength. When the belt was fastened, the soldier was “on duty,” ready to fight. A slackened belt meant “off duty.” Christians, however, must face each day with a fastened belt, ready to fight the battle when needed. As the belt formed the foundation of the soldier’s armor, the truth is the foundation of the Christian life. When the enemy, the father of lies (John 8:44), attacks with his lies, half-truths, and distortions, we believers can stand firm in the truth.

Next, the soldier must put on the body armor of God’s righteousness. The body armor was a large leather, bronze, or chain-mail piece that protected the body from the neck to the thighs. Protecting the vital organs, no soldier would go into battle without his body armor. Often this had a back piece too, protecting the body from hits from behind. Righteousness provides a significant defense; it gives the evidence that we have been made right with God and that this righteousness has been given us by the Holy Spirit. Satan seeks to thwart righteous living. When the enemy, the accuser (Revelation 12:10), tries to convince us that we are not really saved, that we just keep on disappointing God, and that we’re “poor excuses” for Christians, we can stand up to him because of the righteousness we have been promised through our faith in Jesus Christ.

A soldier wore special sandals or military shoes that protected his feet without slowing him down. Roman soldiers had special shoes made of soft leather with studded soles. This allowed them to march farther and faster as well as giving them facility of motion in battle—they could dig in and hold their ground when in hand-to-hand combat.

Believers also need special shoes—peace that comes from the Good News. Believers can stand firm, with peace, even in hand-to-hand combat, because they know that they are doing right and that they are on the winning side. Christians are in the battle both with the inner peace Christ has already given and the desire to produce that peace in the hearts of others. This can only happen as they share this “gospel of peace” with those who have not yet heard and accepted it. When the enemy, the deceiver (Revelation 12:9), offers false ways to peace or tries to get us to focus on our concerns and fears, we Christian soldiers can stand up to him.

The soldier needed to also carry extra protection in the form of a shield. The image was taken from the Roman shield, a large oblong or oval piece, approximately four feet high by two feet wide, made of wood and leather, often with an iron frame. Sometimes the leather would be soaked in water to help extinguish fiery arrows. The ancient “flaming arrow” or “fire dart” was made of cane with a flammable head that was lighted and then shot so as to set fire to wooden shields, cloth tents, etc. For Christians, this shield is faith—complete reliance on God. Faith means total dependence on God and willingness to do his will. It is not something we put on for a show for others. It means believing in his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet. When the enemy, the ruler of this world (John 12:31), sends his fiery arrows of temptation, doubt, wrath, lust, despair, vengeance, problems, and trials into our lives, we can hold up our shields and stop them. Faith gives us the strength to stand against Satan with firm courage, even when he uses his most fearsome weapons.

The helmet protected the soldier’s head. Helmets were made of leather and brass, or sometimes bronze and iron—no sword could pierce a good helmet. Isaiah 59:17 describes God wearing a helmet of salvation. Believers’ salvation, already accomplished, will be consummated when Christ comes to claim his own. With the assurance of salvation protecting their minds, Christians can stand against Satan’s attacks. As a blow to the head often means death, so a person without hope of salvation will be easily defeated by the enemy. When the enemy, the Devil (1 Peter 5:8), seeks to devour and destroy God’s people with empty or evil thoughts, trying to get us to doubt our salvation, we can trust in the protection of the helmet. Our salvation will be accomplished, for God has promised it.

Finally, the soldier takes the sword of the Spirit—the only offensive weapon mentioned. This refers to the short sword used in close combat. The sharp, short sword was one of Rome’s great military innovations. The Roman army was called the “short swords” because of its use of the short swords in winning battles. The sword’s double edges made it ideal for “cut and thrust” strategy. The Spirit makes the word of God effective as we speak it and receive it. The Spirit gives the word its penetrating power and sharp edge. Jesus’ use of God’s word in his temptation prompts our use of it against Satan (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). With the Holy Spirit within, believers have the constant reminder of God’s word to use against Satan’s temptations. When the enemy, the tempter (Matthew 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), tries to tempt us to do evil, we have the power to send him away with the word of God. The Spirit will bring the words to mind.

This verse, although not naming another “weapon” in the believer’s armor, does continue the thought of 6:17. As we take the sword of the Spirit, God’s word,

Spiritual Warfare - The Battle Belongs to The Lord


we must also pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Praying in the Spirit means that the Spirit helps us when we pray (Romans 8:26); the Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:27); the Spirit makes God accessible (Ephesians 2:18); the Spirit gives us confidence when we pray (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6). He inspires and guides us when we pray. He helps us communicate with God and also brings God’s response to us.

Paul was not calling prayer a weapon; instead, he was giving the how-tos for taking up the armor described in the previous verses. We must not underestimate Satan’s forces. He will strike in different ways at different people; thus, we need to pray “all kinds” of prayers, allowing for all kinds of requests. Satan will attack at various times, but he will always be attacking someone. Satan will attack when we least expect it, so we need to stay alert to prayer needs when they arise. Satan will rarely let up if he thinks he can win the battle, so believers must be persistent in praying, no matter how long it takes. No believer is exempt from being Satan’s target—Satan demands battle against his enemies (believers). Thus all Christians everywhere need our prayer support.

How can anyone pray at all times? Make quick, brief prayers your habitual response to every situation you meet throughout the day. Order your life around God’s desires and teachings so that your very life becomes a prayer. You can make prayer your life and your life a prayer while living in a world that needs God’s powerful influence.

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