July 28, 2017

Living In The Armor (Introduction)

Spiritual warfare can be a difficult topic. Maybe it’s not something you think about daily, but it is a reality which confronts us every moment of our lives. Pop culture may portray spiritual warfare in spectacular dramatic fashion with movies such as The Exorcist or Constantine, but in reality, it typically manifests in ways far more mundane. The insidious nature of the enemy’s tactics, more often than not, leads us astray little by little, in ways which we may not recognize until trouble is at our doorsteps.

So how can ordinary people stay safe from spiritual hosts of wickedness from the heavens?

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Ephesians 6:10-17 is a very well-known passage of scripture often quoted when discussing the topic of spiritual warfare. In these verses, the Apostle Paul lists six components of the “whole armor of God.” They are, in order: a girding, body armor, sandals, a shield, a helmet, and finally, the sword.  The apostle Paul wrote this passage knowing that each of these pieces of military equipment would have been familiar to first century Christians living under Roman rule with the ubiquitous presence of Roman legions.  For us today, a proper understanding of this Biblical passage hinges, in part, on a working knowledge of the equipment used by those Roman soldiers. 

Each piece of military equipment is associated with a specific spiritual quality or concept:  truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God’s Word.  Much of the teaching on this passage today is based upon good understanding of the spiritual elements, with only limited knowledge of the literal items.  If we hope to effectively apply these Biblical truths to our daily lives, we need a basic and accurate understanding of each piece of equipment, how it was used, and how it fits together with the other pieces, both literally and spiritually.

In order to fully appreciate the depth and scope of these verses, we must also understand that whenever a list of things is presented in the Bible, there is a purpose to the ordering of the items in that list (click here for more about lists).

Paul’s ordering of the pieces of God’s Armor is not random; they are placed in the order we find them for a specific reason.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, that reason has more to do with the spiritual symbolism of the item in question, rather than the order in which a soldier would actually put on each item.  As we explore each piece of armor and its symbolic significance, we will come to see that one item prepares us spiritually for the next, while also building upon the one which came before.  We will discover that some pieces literally overlap and investigate the corresponding spiritual ramifications which follow.

Studying God’s armor reveals layer upon layer of theological treasure, but that knowledge remains worthless until it is put into action (see James 1:22 and 2:20). It is no coincidence that the first words of Ephesians 6:11 are “put on.” A soldier may own the best gear, armor, and weapons, but until they are put on, they are no more useful than collectibles sitting on a shelf, gathering dust. A soldier does not put on his armor by accident, but deliberately, carefully, and with purpose.

Likewise, we cannot put on the whole Armor of God without taking specific action to do so. God is faithful to do His part in our spiritual battles, but He doesn’t magically *poof* all of our challenges away. We have our part to do as well. If we fail to fulfill our mandate to follow God’s law and keep Christ’s commands, there will be consequences in this life. We cannot blame God, nor can we even claim to be surprised when the consequences come.

Putting on the armor translates into various actions, whether it is in avoiding temptation and sin, spreading the Gospel, or some other act of obedience. Again, we see a fitting spiritual symbolism here: soldiers are expected, above all else, to obey commands. There are consequences when orders are disobeyed, whether one is a soldier or a follower of Christ. It is true that Jesus forgives our sins, but obedience, inasmuch as we are humanly able, is required. It is not merely a suggestion.

While disobedience leads to consequences, obedience leads to blessings. Every act of obedience strengthens our fellowship with our Creator, and the greatest benefits we reap when we obey God are the changes that He makes within us. As we study each piece of the whole Armor of God, we will look at the historical items described and the spiritual concepts they symbolize, but the most important part of the study is in figuring out how to put on each piece.

Our ultimate goal is to see God’s character more clearly, that we may become more like Him. As this series continues, I pray that you will find something which you can put to practical use every day.

1 comment:

  1. The secret to being victorious in all spiritual (and physical) battles is to believe and practice a solid belief in two things; the first is that God is ever with you in all things, and the second is that your faith is in no way pleasing to our Father in heaven. Therefore, we must completely live our life as stated in Galatians 2:20;

    “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

    This touches the incredibly important truth that no man is ever saved in his own personal identity as possessing any true righteousness. All of the righteousness of God is in Christ (Ephesians 1:3); and no mortal may be saved as John Doe. He must renounce self and become identified with Christ who is righteous. But “in Christ,” he is dead to sin, has fulfilled the law, is alive unto God, and the heir of eternal glory "in Christ.” This doctrine, one of the fundamentals of Paul’s teaching, is one of the concepts which gives meaning to and ties together in a coherent whole the various aspects of Paul's writings. This forsaking of one's identity to be "Christ, in a sense, in Christ" was announced by Christ himself, who said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Also he said, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit ... If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, etc." (John 15:4-6). Therefore, if a man is able to answer two questions affirmatively, there is no way he can be lost: (1) Is he "in Christ"? (The only way one can be "in Christ" is to be baptized into him.) (2) Will he be "found in him"? (Philippians 3:9). This means, will he still be "in Christ" when life ends, or the Lord comes? The person described by affirmative answers to these questions is of them concerning whom the voice from heaven said, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Revelation 14:13).


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