The Armor of God
by Jack Wald | February 26th, 2017

Ephesians 6:10-20

We arrive this morning at the end of Paul’s Ephesians letter. Let me remind you what I said about this letter in January when we began again working our way though this letter.

Ephesians is one of four letters Paul wrote while in prison in Rome. He was 56 years old, just two to four years away from his death at the hand of the Emperor Nero. His body was wracked with pain from all the beatings and floggings he had received over the years. In addition to his physical suffering, Paul was consumed by his concern for the churches he had planted.

Why did Paul write this letter? I think Paul was aware of his mortality and desperately wanted his message to be heard. Because he could not go himself to teach and preach, he did the next best thing. He sent one of his disciples to take this letter with his teaching and read it to the different communities of followers of Jesus.

Unlike his other letters, Paul is not addressing a particular problem or concern. In Ephesians Paul is saying, here is truth you cannot live without. If you know nothing else, this is what you need to know. This letter is packed with exceptional content.

The first three chapters of Ephesians unfolds for the readers of Paul’s letter God’s great mystery and plan for the church, and he has prayed an awe-inspiring prayer that they might know all of Christ’s love and all of his blessings. I have been reading this prayer as our benediction these past few weeks. The second half of Paul’s letter, chapters 4-6 apply the theology of chapters 1-3. The application has two major themes: unity in the church and a call to live a life worthy of the calling we have received from Jesus.

Ephesians 4:1
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

We are to reflect the one who has called us. As a prince or princess has the responsibility to reflect the king and queen, so do we have the responsibility to reflect God who has called us to become his daughters and sons.

And then Paul urges us to “bear with one another in love,” to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” And he reminds us that
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Paul exhorts us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received from Jesus and unity is a major part of that calling.

Now as he comes to the end of the letter he writes about spiritual warfare. This ends his application of the truths he presented in the first three chapters but this also serves as the climax of his entire letter. Paul did not have a little bit of room at the end of the scroll on which he was writing and not know how to fill up the rest of the scroll. In a letter filled with “if you know nothing else, this is what you need to know,” he writes about spiritual warfare. At the end of the letter he has saved the best for last. This is truth that is critical for us to know.

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Those who come from a fear/power worldview (Sub-Saharan Africa and island nations) know this to be true and generally are better prepared for this battle. Those who come from a guilt/innocence worldview (North America and Europe) wonder if this is true and are generally not prepared at all for this battle. North Africa, the Middle-East, Asia, and Latin America are somewhere in between.

There will be a number of C.S. Lewis quotes from his book, The Screwtape Letters, in this sermon. These are letters written by Screwtape, a senior devil, to Wormwood, a junior devil. Screwtape writes to Wormwood about the most effective ways to draw humans into hell and when he talks about the enemy, he is talking about God. Here is a quote taken from Lewis’ preface to the book.

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.

The Western world falls into the first error, disbelieving in the existence of the devil. Sub-Saharan Africa and island nations can fall into the second error, feeling an excessive and unhealthy interest in the devil. Individuals in each of these countries can fall into either error.

Whatever your worldview, Paul considered it to be of utmost importance that we understand the reality of spiritual warfare.

Paul begins by saying,
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

One of my mother’s consistent criticisms of my faith in Jesus was that I should stand up on my own and not be dependent on someone else. She was offended by my reliance on Jesus. But what chance do we have against the devil? Are we strong and self-sufficient?  Can we, in our own power, stand up against the devil and win?

The devil is an angel. The devil is a fallen angel, but still an angel. And an angel has far more power than we do. From a reference in Jude, there is an indication that Satan is a powerful angel, so powerful that the archangel Michael did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him.

At any rate, when it is you versus the devil, you will lose. You will lose every time. Peter thought he could stand up for Jesus on his own but discovered that he was not able to do so and he denied knowing Jesus three times.

You do not have power over the devil. But as a Christian you are filled with the Holy Spirit and it is the power of God in you that defeats Satan. (I John 4:4)
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them (false spirits), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

The King of kings and Lord of lords is more powerful than the prince of this world, the devil. When we understand that we are not self-sufficient and that we are powerless by ourselves to resist the devil and live a life with Christ, then we allow Christ to be our strength and then we are strong.

Paul understood this well. In 2 Corinthians 12 he writes a defense of himself against what he calls the “super apostles” who are undermining his authority in the church he planted. He writes of his visions and revelations from the Lord. He writes about being caught up in the third heaven, whatever that means. He writes that along with his great revelations he was given a thorn in the flesh, perhaps a problem with his eyes. Paul viewed this as an attack of Satan and pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from him. But this is what God told him. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We may think we are intelligent, disciplined, bold, and able to defend ourselves, but the truth is we are spiritually vulnerable and need to be strong in our relationship with the Lord and benefit from his mighty powers.

Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord. Secondly, he tells us to put on the full armor of God.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Is this armor God created for you? Did God measure you and make armor that fits you? No. This is God’s armor. This is the armor God wears in his battle against the devil.

Understand that when Paul wrote about the armor of God, he was using the armor a Roman soldier used when he went into battle as a metaphor. Paul did not have a vision and see God wearing armor. God does not wear armor. Paul used the armor of a Roman soldier to describe the character of God that gives him victory over the devil.

When we hold on to Jesus, when we abide in the vine as Jesus talked about it, we become like him. And when we become like him we take on his character. God’s character is our armor. In our dependence on Jesus we are made strong and can stand against the devil’s schemes.

Third, we are engaged in a spiritual battle.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

In Western culture there are lots and lots of films about vampires, werewolves, witches, and demons. It is strange that in a culture that discounts the active presence of the devil there is such a focus on the supernatural evil in books and films. Perhaps that is part of making the supernatural part of fictional life, and not part of real life.

But regardless of movie and book portrayals of evil, evil is very much alive and present. It is not superstition. It is not imagination. It is not metaphorical. Peter wrote in his letter to followers of Jesus (1 Peter 5:8–9)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Followers of Jesus throughout the centuries have experienced the attacks of the devil as they lived their lives for Christ. Martin Luther who began the Protestant Reformation wrote the words and music for the hymn we sang this morning, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. This hymn reveals Luther’s view of the devil and reflects his life experience of resisting and battling against the devil. This is the third verse of the hymn.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word is Jesus.

As Jesus works to draw people he loves into his kingdom, the devil works to oppose him. When you work with Jesus, loving people in his name, sharing why you love as you do, bringing the good news of Jesus to a world hungry for his love, you can expect that the devil will oppose you.

We are in a supernatural battle of good versus evil. If we are working with Jesus we will be actively opposed. The devil works to keep us weak, ineffective, impotent, and inactive, but when we step out to work with Jesus we will be opposed.

When you became a follower of God, you became a friend of God but an enemy of the devil. God loves you and works for your good. God will never use you to get what he wants. God will never manipulate you to do what he wants you to do. God will never ask you to do something that is not ultimately for your own benefit.

The devil, on the other hand, will use you and discard you when you are no longer useful to him. God seeks life, the devil seeks death and destruction. C.S. Lewis writes about this in The Screwtape Letters. Remember, this is Screwtape, the senior devil, writing to Wormwood, the junior devil.
One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food;

He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

You are living in the midst of a supernatural battle of good and evil where you are loved and protected by God and where you are used and abused by the devil. The devil will attack you unless you are living in a way that is not a threat to him.

Fourth, put on the armor of God.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

A Roman soldier wore armor to protect himself against attacks in battle. He wore a belt, buckled around his waist. This was a leather apron that hung under the armor and protected the thighs. The breastplate was a piece of armor covering the chest to protect it against blows and arrows. A Roman soldier wore a half-boot necessary for long marches to battle. The shield was used to repel swords and arrows. The helmet protected the head from injury. And the sword was used to attack.

So Paul uses this imagery to talk about how God resists and attacks the devil and how we can also use his armor to resist and attack the devil.

Once again, being attacked by the devil is not an option for the follower of Jesus who is walking and working with Jesus as he builds his kingdom. As active followers of Jesus, growing in his love and working with him so others can receive his love, we will be attacked.

The belt of truth comes to us as we are made new in Christ. In Ephesians 4:19 Paul wrote about those who have given themselves over to sensuality and then he reminds them
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The truth that is in Jesus protects us from the devil. Paul continues (Ephesians 4:25–27)
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

As believers buckle on this piece of the armor of God, “they will be strengthened by God’s truth revealed in the gospel, as a consequence of which they will display the characteristics of the Anointed One in their attitudes, language, and behavior. In this way they resist the devil, giving him no opportunity to gain an advantage over them.”

The breastplate of a Roman soldier protected his heart and other vital organs. The breastplate of righteousness protects our heart relationship with Jesus.

Paul wrote in (Romans 3:21–22)
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Because of God’s great love for us, when we accept the hand of salvation Jesus offers us, we are made righteous with the righteousness of Jesus. We are accepted into the family of God, we become God’s beloved daughters and God’s beloved sons because the perfection of Jesus is given to us. We are made righteous. We still sin because our human nature remains that puts self ahead of God and others, but now God is at work in us. The Holy Spirit works with us to transform us over time to become perfect as Jesus is perfect.

“By putting on God’s righteousness believers are committed to being imitators of him and acting righteously in all their dealings.”

Feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace.

This is a reference to Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Jesus sent out the twelve disciples and then the seventy with this instruction, (Luke 9:1–3)
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

We are sons and daughters of God who are deeply loved and for this reason, God sends us out into the world. As we are sent, we are to be prepared to share what it is we believe.

In the life of Jesus, he looked, he saw what was happening, he had compassion, and then he acted. We too are to go out into the world, looking. When we look we need to see what is happening in the lives of people and when we have the heart of Jesus, we will have compassion for those who are lost and suffering. Then we need to be ready to act, to share the gospel of peace we have received.

Peter wrote (1 Peter 3:15 )
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

We are called to go out into the world but we need to be prepared with the gospel of peace that will bring life into the lives of people we meet.

The shield of faith refers not to a small round one carried by soldiers, but the large shield that covered the whole person. The shield of faith takes the promises of God and stands firmly on them, confident that God will protect us in the midst of battle. The shield of faith will protect us from temptations to engage in ungodly behavior, doubt, despair, as well as persecution and false teaching.

The shield protected the Roman soldier from burning arrows. Faith protects us against the dangerous and insidious attacks of the devil. Left to our own devices, we would be overcome. But these flaming arrows cannot harm those whose trust and confidence are in the Lord and his mighty power.

The helmet of salvation protects the head. When we are attacked we can resist the devil’s attempts to accuse us. The devil will tell us, “You are not really a very good Christian. I know the things you think about. I know the things you do. Do you really think God can love someone like you?”

The devil attacks us and the helmet of salvation allows us to stand tall and proclaim the truth of our salvation. “Jesus has rescued me from death, wrath, and bondage. I have been set free and am living in the love of God. I may not be perfect, but I am perfectly loved. I have been saved. I am being saved. I will be saved.”

The last piece of armor is the sword. All the other pieces of armor are defensive, designed to protect us from assault. The sword is an offensive weapon designed to attack. The sword is designed to take the offensive against the powers of darkness. The sword is the word of God, the scriptures.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he used the word of God as a sword to attack the devil who was tempting him. The devil tempted him to turn stones into bread and Jesus responded by quoting from Deuteronomy (Luke 4:4)
It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.

The devil tempted Jesus to take a shortcut to his throne as King of kings and Lord of lords and Jesus responded again from Deuteronomy (Luke 4:8)
It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’

A third time the devil tempted Jesus to reveal himself as the Son of God and Jesus responded from Deuteronomy a third time (Luke 4:12)
It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

The scriptures are the sword we use to attack the devil when he tempts us, accuses us, attempts to deceive us.

The truth of Jesus, the righteousness of God, a readiness to go and bring the good news to the world, faith, salvation, and the word of God, this is the armor of God that is given to us.

Fifth, in the spiritual battle taking place, Paul exhorts us to pray.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people

Paul tells us to pray in the Spirit, pray on all occasions, pray all kinds of prayers and requests, and to keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

When Paul and Barnabas were called by God to go out on a missionary journey, where were they? They were in a prayer meeting with the church in Antioch. When Paul set out for a new city Paul prayed. Read through Acts and see how often it mentions that Paul was praying. Peter was praying on the roof when God gave him a vision that led him to the household of Cornelius.

In the spiritual battle taking place, prayer is a weapon God uses to bring victory. In Revelation 8 the Lamb took the scroll and its seven seals and opened it. (Revelation 5:8)
And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

In this vision the 24 elders held bowls full of incense which are the prayers of God’s people. This is a great mystery. Why does God use the prayers of his people to bring justice to the earth? I don’t think anyone really knows, but God does want us to pray and in some way chooses to depend on our prayers to aid him in his work to rescue people.

I have to admit that the bowl holding my prayers is far from full. This is a difficult part of my Christian life. Prayer is difficult but it is critical. We cannot give up in our discipline of prayer.

Historically, revivals and awakenings have begun with movements of prayer. It could be that our lack of prayer is holding back the work of God.

The university students, FCI – Family of Champions, periodically go out to find other students and share the good news of Jesus with them. These outreaches have led to the rapid growth in the university student ministry. There are now branches of FCI in all the university campuses in Morocco and part of the life of these branches is to go out and find students with whom they can share the love of Jesus.

Before the students go out, what do they do? They pray. By this I don’t mean that they meet and one or two or three people pray and then they go out. The meet for extended sessions of prayer before they go out. Those of us who are not students can learn from them.

When we set out to work with Jesus, we will face opposition from the devil. We are his enemy, working for Jesus and against the devil. So we will face opposition. That is why we pray before we set out.

Do you pray before you head off to work, to school? Do you pray for the people you will work with, study with? Are you praying that God will give you opportunities to share his love? The culture of your workplace may not permit you to stand up and preach the gospel, but you can live out your life with Jesus, caring for people, serving the people you lead, showing compassion for the people you interact with. When you live out your life with Jesus, you will have opportunities to share why it is you believe what you believe.

Will these opportunities arise all by themselves? Perhaps. But if it is true that we are engaged in a supernatural battle, these opportunities will arise with prayer and we will know how to respond when we have been praying.

Finally, Paul encourages others to pray for him.
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

I am grateful for the people who pray for me. When I go back to the US and visit churches and people who support me in my ministry in Morocco, I am humbled when someone comes up to me and tells me they pray for me every week. There are people who pray for me every day. There are people in the church who pray for me regularly. I need that support.

You also need that support. Who is praying for you? Make an agreement with some friends and agree to pray for each other.

As followers of Jesus we are part of a supernatural spiritual battle that is taking place.

Fighting in this battle does not require that we learn special formulas to resist the devil. You don’t have to memorize the proper phrases to resist the devil. Resisting the devil is really quite simple. Stay attached to Jesus. Abide in Christ, stay attached to the vine. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit and be transformed into the person God created you to be. As you grow in faith, knowledge, and understanding, you will put on the armor of God that will protect you from the devil and allow you to actively resist the devil.

As a follower of Jesus you do not need to fear the devil. As Luther wrote in his hymn, “one little word shall fell him.” The devil and his army of fallen angels were defeated when Jesus rose from the dead and they cannot harm those who follow Jesus, as long as we stay on the path with Jesus. So cling to Jesus, hold on to Jesus. Grow in the love relationship Jesus created for you. Become more like Jesus as you cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t become preoccupied with the devil, fix your eyes on Jesus where you will find life, love, and safety.