Physical wars have dominated history’s attention from the time Cain killed his brother Abel, right down to the present day. This really should be no surprise to us. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:6, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
However, the primary focus of Scripture is not physical warfare but the ongoing conflict between Christ and Satan. Way back in eternity past Satan attempted to lift himself up to the level of God. He said, “I will be like the most high.” So God cast him out of heaven. Ever since, there has been a conflict between God and Satan.
All through Scripture we see this conflict. Satan was there in the beginning of time to oppose God’s program when he came to Adam and Eve in the garden with the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. In Numbers 11:4-6 we again see him opposing God’s program when he put in the hearts of the children of Israel the desire for Egypt. The people wanted the leeks, onions, melons, and cucumbers instead of the manna that God had so miraculously supplied every day. Satan was there opposing God’s program when he put into the heart of Saul to spare the king of Amalek and to take some animals as spoil after God had explicitly told him to destroy them. A very real spiritual battle was going on in the heart of Balaam as he wrestled with his need to mind the word of the Lord versus his desire for the riches and fame King Balak promised him if he cursed Israel. The story of Job gives us a picture of the spiritual powers behind the scenes as Satan attempted to get Job to turn against God. In Matthew 4, just before the start of His earthly ministry, Jesus was tempted of the devil in the wilderness. At the close of His ministry, Jesus was in great agony in the Garden. He was sweating great drops of blood because He wanted to do the will of the Father, yet the flesh recoiled at the thought of the intense suffering of the cross. Satan was there at that moment as well.
Like it or not, every one of us is involved in this battle. The battleground for this intense spiritual struggle is not some piece of earthly real estate. It is the human heart. Both Jesus and the devil are supremely interested in winning possession of our minds and hearts. Christians are called to be more than peaceful spectators or casual participants in this warfare. We must be committed front line combatants. Brothers and sisters, this spiritual war is serious. The outcome determines our eternal destiny.
The holy Scriptures teach us the following:
I. The battle we face is spiritual. Ephesians 6:12, “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.” Since the battle we face is spiritual, the weapons we employ must also be spiritual.
II. Although our armor and weapons are spiritual, this does not mean they are unreal or ineffective. Second Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.)”
III. The Christian’s commitment to his cause and Commander must be as real and complete as that of an earthly soldier. Second Timothy 2:3-4, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”
IV. We need the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11,13). God is not asking us to put on someone else’s armor. We are to put on the armor of God. God’s armor is perfect. Goliath’s armor was not flawless against David’s stone. A stray arrow found a crack in Ahab’s armor, which resulted in his death. But there are no flaws in God’s armor. When we put on the whole armor of God, we have full protection. We can’t expect to make it in battle with just some of the armor. What earthly soldier would think of going out to battle without protection or without weapons? You won’t win this spiritual battle without the whole armor.
What then is this armor that we need for spiritual success? In Ephesians 6, Paul lists seven implements of earthly armor and attaches a spiritual association to each. Let’s look at them.
The belt of truth: A soldier’s belt was not just an adornment. It was an essential piece of military equipment. The belt was crafted of tough leather strips and small brass plates for extra protection. When preparing for battle, a soldier would put on his belt first. It was designed to keep other pieces of his armor in place, including his sword. The soldier would also wear a tunic, which was a loose fitting outer garment that came down to the knee. Prior to engaging in combat, the soldier would tuck his tunic under his belt, giving him maximum freedom of movement for his legs. Paul compared the belt to truth. There are two aspects to this. First, to be girded about with truth is to be firmly established in the truth—the truth of God’s Word, the truth of Jesus. Having the truth fastened about us is knowing Jesus and having Him as part of our daily walk and experience. This is so foundational to all the other pieces of the armor. If we don’t have the word of God as truth to stand on, and if we don’t have Jesus the truth as part of our lives, we are powerless against the enemy. Second, to be girded with truth is to be truthful, genuine, and sincere before God and others. This involves not allowing deceit and unconfessed sin to separate us from the fellowship of God. It means abiding in the truth, walking in the truth, and speaking the truth at all times.
Breastplate of righteousness: The breastplate was the soldier’s protection for the chest and abdomen. It was often composed of a solid piece of metal but could also contain numerous small pieces that were sewn to cloth or leather that overlapped like the scales of a fish. Before battle, the soldier would fasten the breastplate around his chest like a vest to protect his vital organs. If a soldier failed to wear his breastplate, an arrow could easily pierce his heart or lungs. Every Christian has a vital organ that needs to be guarded above all else. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” So critical is the condition of the spiritual heart that the Bible has around 895 verses referring to it. God wants your whole heart and nothing less. The heart sets the course of a person’s life. What is in the heart is manifested in the life. We need to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ as protection for the heart. As we come to Christ in confession and repentance for our sin, and as we by faith accept the righteousness of Christ for our lives, our heart is made pure. And to keep the heart pure, it is paramount that we keep the breastplate on. The robe of the rightness or righteousness of Christ needs to be about us so the enemy can’t penetrate our heart with his filth and trash that he brings our way. An interesting aspect about the breastplate is that it offers no protection for the back. It is assumed that soldiers would not turn their back toward the enemy to retreat. Likewise, Christian soldiers must stand firm and never surrender any ground to the devil. Instead, let the devil flee from you as you loyally stand for Christ.
Sandals of peace: No soldier can go far without the proper shoes. Even with all his other weapons, a barefoot soldier would soon become immobilized by the rough terrain taking a toll on his feet. The soldier’s sandals were constructed of leather and laced up the center of the foot and onto the ankle. The openness of the sandals enabled the soldier to wear them all day in his work of marching, in fighting, and in standing for long periods. They provided good traction and also came in handy when trampling the enemy. Ephesians 6:15 describes the Christian’s spiritual shoes as the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” As soldiers of Christ we need to be at peace with God. This puts a firm foundation beneath our feet. We need to claim the peace God offers for our lives and stand fast in that peace. This means casting our care and anxiety on Him and not succumbing to the fear and doubt the enemy wants to put into our minds. It means yielding to the Lord’s perfect will for our lives and allowing Him to have free course even if it is a road of hardship for us. As we are yielded, we can find rest and peace in knowing God is in control and has a plan for us. The word feet speaks of mobility. We as Christians are called to take the Gospel of peace to the nations. Also consider that having your shoes on speaks of preparation, being ready for action. In the army of God there is never a place for complacency. Christians who let their guard down and get comfortable during a temporary ceasefire will not be ready when the enemy comes in for the kill.
The shield of faith: The warrior’s shield is his first line of defense. Usually made of wood or bronze, it was often big enough to protect the whole body when the soldier crouched behind it. The shield was not held loosely in the soldier’s hand, but was firmly strapped to his forearm so he could resist the mighty blows of the enemy’s sword without fear of dropping it. Verse 16 says “taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Faith is taking God at His word without seeing the visible evidence. So how do we use this shield of faith? It is holding fast to the word of the Lord by faith, accepting the promises of God’s Word. For example, the devil will try to make you believe the lie that sin can provide a better life than God can. Your shield of faith will deflect that attack with the belief that God has provided all you need to live a life of satisfaction in Him. The devil may use fear and doubt to try to get your eyes off of Jesus, but your shield of faith will deflect that attack with the promise that nothing is too hard for the Lord. The devil will tell you that life is not worth it; the trials and troubles are just too much for you. Your shield of faith will deflect that attack with the promise that God will not allow anything into your life greater then you can bear. Your shield of faith needs to be the first defense against the darts of the evil one. When those darts of doubt or of wanting to gratify selfish desires come at you, crouch behind your shield of faith and get a hold of the promises of God’s Word and deflect those doubts and carnal desires. Make them drop to the ground right there! Don’t give place to them in any way. Don’t let them penetrate into your life at all.
Helmet of salvation: A soldier’s helmet protected his skull and neck from enemy blows and falling debris. Fashioned from bronze or iron, the helmet included two hinged side pieces to protect the cheekbones and jaw. Helmets were often lined inside with sponge or felt for comfort. Just as the breastplate of righteousness guards the heart, the helmet of salvation guards the mind. Four of the five senses are part of the head. Much of what we take in from our surroundings is done with the head. When it comes to spiritual warfare, it is very important what we allow to enter our mind and soul. There is much sensuality and many selfish and carnal desires that the senses can indulge in. As Christians we need to put on the helmet of salvation by claiming the shed blood of Christ for our lives. This helmet about our head gives us protection and power to resist the carnality and sensuality that the devil brings to our senses. Through it we can destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. Because of the power of the cross, the enemy no longer has a hold on us; sin does not have a grip on us. We are dead to sin. The helmet is there keeping the sin and filth of the world out of our mind and life. We must choose daily to take up the cross of Christ and put on the helmet, that is, to avail ourselves of the power that is found only in the saving blood of Christ.
Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: The Roman sword was crafted of iron. Blacksmiths hardened the iron by coating the red-hot sword blade with coal dust, thus forming a hard carbon coating on the blade. Sword handles were made of iron, ivory, bone, or wood. The other articles of God’s armor for the Christian are defensive, but the sword can be used as an offensive weapon. The sword of God’s Word is what Jesus used against the devil when He was tempted in the wilderness. Notice verse 17 calls it the sword of the Spirit. The Word is made alive by the Holy Spirit of God. It is filled with divine energy and ability. The Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of man through the Word. It is not just some ordinary text; there is power in it. The Spirit uses the Word to bring conviction to the lost, speak warning to the erring, and bring comfort to the believing. It has stood the test of time. Man has tried to destroy it, but to no avail. Don’t wait until the heat of the battle to learn to use your sword. Rather store up scripture in your mind and heart by regular reading and meditation.
Prayer and watchfulness: This is not a physical component of a soldier’s armor, but a tactic. Any general knows that victory almost always depends on which army has the element of surprise. In the story of Gideon, the soldiers were chosen based on their watchfulness, and they caught the enemy sleeping and won through surprise. Even the best armor is almost useless if the soldier is found dozing. As Christians, in battling the evil one, prayer and watchfulness is of utmost importance.
There is no need to lose in this spiritual warfare. God has given us all we need to be victorious. If you find yourself being defeated in some area of your life, I can assure you it is not God’s fault. You will find that somewhere you have not been faithful at putting on the whole armor of God.
First Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
~ Myerstown, PA