The Whole Armor of God
In the last chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians having exhorted the believers to be filled with the Spirit (5:18), the Holy Spirit in this portion, chapter 6:10-20, brings before us in the most condensed form possible the nature and power of the believer’s foe. This foe is not only spiritual wickedness in high places as states the Authorized Version, but actually wicked spirits in the heavenlies according to the Revised Version. How necessary then that we put on the whole armour of God, and that we be filled with the Spirit in order that we get the victory over such an enemy!
As the Lord helps, a few comments will be made on each of the seven pieces which make up the entire armour. Let us examine each piece separately.
The Girdle of Truth
“Let your loins be girt about with truth.” In the First Epistle of Peter, we have the expression, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” The oriental would know very well the use of the girdle. It would be quite in order for him ordinarily to wear his clothes hanging loosely about him, but when going on a journey, it would be necessary that his clothing be girded closely about his body so that his progress not be impeded.
The Lord Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The first great bulwark for the young Christian is to have his loins girt about with truth. The Holy Spirit can only recollect in our memories the Word of God that has already been stored there. One cannot treasure up the Word of God by a little casual reading of the Scriptures, but by a habitual, careful reading and meditation of the truth taught in the Bible.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The second piece of the armour, the breastplate of righteousness, can be seen in human conduct. Furthermore, the child of God is responsible to put it on: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” The righteousness that was imputed to us when first we trusted in Christ was entirely God’s own provision; to which it is impossible to add or to detract. What is referred to here is the practical righteousness that should be demonstrated in the daily life of the Christian. This aspect of righteousness is the result of having the loins girt about with truth; the one is the outgrowth of the other. What a defense! It is well named the breastplate of righteousness.
Equipment for the Feet
The feet are to be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace, and this forms the third piece of the Christian’s armour. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of Peace” (Rom. 10:15). The Gospel testimony of one who is not wearing the breastplate of righteousness is absolutely powerless. How fitting here are the words of Philippians 2:14-16: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” Such a testimony results from having on the breastplate of righteousness, and from having the feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace. All have not the gift of the evangelist; nevertheless, all should be ready to give an answer to every man who asks for the reason of our hope. The believer who has ceased to witness for Christ has lost much of his assurance and joy. It may be that some need to have their feet re-shod in this spiritual way before their private and collective witnessing will be again effective.
The Shield of Faith
The ancient shield was a circular metalic covering used for the protection of the whole body. The believer is enjoined, “Above all, taking the shield of faith.” With it he is to quench the fiery darts of the devil. This fourth or middle piece of the armour is very important. As the shield was shifted to meet any stroke of the opponent, and at every turn of the conflict, even so must the child of God learn to trust in God as his over-all means of defense. The faith mentioned here is not that aspect of confidence in God that was exercised for salvation, but rather that hourly confidence in God for every circumstance of life. May the Lord enable us to keep this ever in remembrance; the Christian is not engaged in any sham battle. “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.” Furthermore, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (3 Cor. 10:4). Should Satan get through with a fiery dart of unbelief, the battle for the time being is lost to the child of God. How necessary it is to resist him! He attempts to accomplish our defeat by introducing wrong thoughts about our loving heavenly Father.
The Helmet of Salvation
The helmet of salvation, of course, is for the protection of the head. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, “Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8). It would appear that this fifth piece of the Christian’s armour indicates salvation in its consumation. Many may not be familiar with the fact that for over 1,500 years of the Church’s history, the precious truth of the Lord’s coming, as we know it today, was practically lost. When this doctrine was forgotten the Church relinquished her position of separation and power as a witness in the world. About 200 years ago the blessedness of this hope was recovered. It has since then strengthened the feeble knees and has encouraged God’s people amidst troubles, trials and difficulties. It can only influence the life if it is held in fellowship with God. Today, as never before, we should lift up our heads for our redemption draws near.
The Sword of the Spirit
We are told that the sword of the Spirit, the sixth piece of the armour, is the Word of God. In the first piece of the armour, the loins being girt about with truth, the suggestion is that the mind ought to be stored with the Word of God in action. There is a clear example of this in our Lord’s answer to Satan, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.” We do well to remember, however, that the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, can only be thus used by us as we surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit. Might it be possible that, even in assemblies of God today, the speaker’s message is ineffective because the Holy Spirit is not the source of the message, nor is He the power in its delivery.
John Bunyan calls the last piece of the armour “all prayer.” It is a terrible thing for a soldier to be out of touch with his headquarters when on active duty. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians that they should pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. All prayer here seems to imply prayer in its every aspect: intercession, supplication, thanksgiving, and these with importunity. Praying in the Hoy Ghost will keep us in the love of God. In the Epistle to the Romans we read, “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (8:26). The context in which this appears deals with our prayers. The Apostle here encourages us to pray for all saints, and in this gives us a little insight into his own unselfish heart and habit.