There is no question that the church is entering into a time of great spiritual conflict. Unfortunately it seems that few of us are prepared for such conflict. It is almost as if we were going out to fight the giant, Goliath, with Saul’s ill-fitting armor. We are in fact already facing mighty spiritual powers and we wield but fleshly weapons. In the face of all this God wants us to “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12), and then in Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul describes in detail the spiritual armor that will protect us and help us to be victorious. We must become familiar with this armor and get it into place as quickly as possible, for the sounds of battle are all around us.
THE BELT OF TRUTH
Just as Roman soldiers wore the belt (cingulum militare), we must wear our belt of truth. It literally holds everything else in place. Without it our sword will surely fall off and our trousers may even slip down in the day of battle, leaving us utterly undone. Indeed, the scripture tells us that we must love the truth if we are to be saved (2 Thess. 2:10). If we do not love the truth we will be sent a strong delusion (v.11).
Today in our postmodern world people are prone to make light of truth. It is a cardinal doctrine of Postmodernism that all truth is relative and that there is no universal standard of truth. Postmoderns say that the pagan’s truth is just as true as the Christian’s truth. It seems that about the only sin, according to the postmodern camp, is for someone to question another’s “truth.”
All this of course is utter nonsense and this type thinking needs a good reality check. Those who propose such fantasies would think differently if pagan cannibals were about to boil them and eat them for lunch. At that point they might tend to seriously and anxiously question the pagan’s concept of “truth.”
It seems that many today have done exactly what Paul said they would do in Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.”
Jesus says “I am…the truth” (Jn. 14:6). Thus the truth is a person. Truth is part of the very nature of the Messiah; part of the nature of God. Truth is not relative and truth will not change or pass away. The Bible says: “the truth of the Lord endures forever” (Psa. 117:2 NKJV). When we put on truth we really put on Christ.
THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Next we must have something to protect us from the deadly darts of Satan. In Roman times this piece was known as the lorica segmentata and was essentially a segmented armor plate around the shoulders, chest and sides. For us Christians this item is known as the breastplate of righteousness. Obviously this piece of armor secures our vitals and shelters our heart. Proverbs 4:23 exhorts us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life
We must not think that we ourselves are righteous for we are not. We learn in Jeremiah 23:6 that one of Messiah’s names is this: “The LORD Our Righteousness.” So in essence, Jesus is our breastplate of righteousness just as he is our belt of truth.
However, God not only wants to declare us righteous but he wants to make us righteous through Jesus. He wants us to put on Jesus Christ as we mentioned, and literally wear him into battle. We all know how vulnerable we are when this piece of armor is not in place and we thereby allow some particular sin to pierce our hearts.
FEET SHOD WITH THE READINESS OF THE GOSPEL
From history we know that Roman soldiers wore the caligae or half-boot sandal. This item provided them fleetness of foot, plus excellent traction with its hob-nail cleats. Obviously the feet were very important to foot soldiers. If the feet were injured in any way the soldiers could neither march nor fight.
Sometimes we see Greek soldiers ideally pictured as fighting naked and barefoot. While this may have happened on some limited scale it was generally not the case. Soldiers of every nationality both in ancient and modern times needed sturdy foot protection plus all their other armor.
Here we see that feet should be shod with readiness of the gospel. There are several things that might be involved in this “readiness.” First of all there needs to be a readiness to witness for Christ. The prophet Isaiah speaks of those who witness particularly in Israel as having beautiful feet: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good new…who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isa. 52:7).
Probably another part of this foot preparation is an instant readiness to obey the Master. In 2 Timothy 4:2 it is said: “be prepared in season and out of season.” The idea of being prepared or “instant” as some translations have it, is the idea of standing ready for service (cf. Mt. 24:44; 25:10; Lk. 12:40; 1 Pet. 3:15).
There is another area of foot preparation. It is a readiness to take up his cross and suffer for him. Actually the soldier’s life was never meant to be an easy one. There was always the very real threat of injury or death in battle. The same is true for the Christian soldier today and we must be ready to walk in suffering or even death if Christ so wills.
THE SHIELD OF FAITH
We are told that the Roman shield (scutum) was about 2 by 4 feet (60 cm. x 1.2 m.). It was made of wood that was very similar to today’s plywood. It is of note that Roman soldiers often placed their shields closely together to make an impenetrable line of defense against the enemy.
In comparison to this, our Christian shield is said to be of faith. This faith is in God’s Son, Jesus and in God’s word, the Bible. Jesus and his word act much like the Roman shield. They stop the darts of doubt, fear and accusation launched at us by the evil one (Eph. 6:16). Also, we stand together as the body of Christ we too can make an impenetrable shield against the enemy.
As we have said, our faith is placed first of all in Jesus. Here is his word to us in Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” There is another excellent word in Romans 10:17: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” So, the word of Christ or the Bible is the basis of our faith. We see that the word of God is also the basis for our defense.
Now we want to examine some “dart quenching” words from the Bible. These words of God can be a mighty shield for us when we are under attack by the devil. In Romans 8:1 we see a verse that stops the fiery arrow of condemnation. It reads: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a wonderful shield this verse is from the devil’s attacks and slanders.
Let us look at some more dart stoppers. One famous arrow the devil tries to shoot at us is the arrow of guilt over our past sins. We need to remember 1 John 1:9 when we come under this attack: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Often the devil also questions the eternal life that God has so freely granted to us. We need to remember Philippians 1:6 when we feel this attack coming: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (cf. Heb. 7:25). When fear strikes us we can remember 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV): “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
THE HELMET OF SALVATION
In this end-day battle it is imperative that we know who Jesus is and that we also know who we are in him. It is imperative that our minds be settled concerning our salvation. The Roman helmet, called the galae, covered the head and extended down to cover the sides of the face. It was also adorned with colored horse hair as a form of identification. Our helmet of salvation not only identifies us as being in the Lord’s army but it is also a much needed mind-protector. Today many minds are being invaded by Satan and unfortunately a lot of these are Christian minds. One tragic example of this was reflected in a recent Newsweek report showing that 40% of the clergy now admit to visiting sexually explicit websites. If this is what the shepherds are doing we might wonder what in the world the sheep are doing!
There is much preparation needed in regards to our minds. The scripture says: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled” (1 Pet. 1:13). In 2 Peter 3:18 we read: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We have the sacred responsibility as Christians of growing in the knowledge of Jesus and of becoming like him. In 2 Peter 1:5 we are instructed to add knowledge to our faith. That is part of our mind protection. We are told also that we are to let the mind of Christ be in us (Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:16). Then and only are we prepared for battle.
THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, THE WORD OF GOD
The Roman sword (gladius) was two feet (60 cm.) in length, the perfect size to be wielded quickly and efficiently against the enemy. The Bible makes plain that our sword is the word of God and we take note that it is the only offensive weapon we possess. With this sword we can not only defend ourselves but we can put the devil on the run. Perhaps this is what James 4:7 is speaking of when he advises: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Actually, the word of God is the true “weapon of mass destruction” for the enemy. When wielded properly it can send thousands of demons screaming.
We note how Jesus used this sword of the Spirit very effectively against the devil during the time of his own temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13; Lk. 4:1-13). Over and over Jesus said “It is written” in answer to Satan’s attacks. At this, the devil fled and angels came to minister to him. We see in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.”
Unfortunately for us and for the whole church, we live in a time when the word of God has been discounted and cheapened. Many theologians tell us that we cannot depend upon the word. For them it is no more reliable than some myth. If we are to be effective soldiers today and defend our lives and the lives of our families, we must regain a biblical respect for the word of God. We find this kind of respect in Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Unlike some theologians of our day, Jesus once said in John 10:35, “the Scripture cannot be broken.”
PRAYER IN THE SPIRIT
Last of all the Christian warrior is to be clothed in and protected by prayer. We read in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” We see here that we have the responsibility of praying in the Spirit. This assumes that we have a Holy Spirit filling and that we can exercise spiritual gifts. There is a limit to our natural language just as there is a limit to our natural strength.
As Paul began this passage he warned us with these words: “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” (Eph. 6: 12). Since we must fight in the spiritual realm we need not only to put on spiritual armor but we need to pray in the Spirit. We need to pray at all times and in all places; we need to pray with all kinds of prayer; and we need to pray urgently for God’s people who are often in the thick of battle. We need to remember the words of Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
Publication date, 2005
Picture credits, Wikimedia Commons