Taking the Whole Armor of God

January 27, 2013 / No. 3656

Dear Radio Friends,
We have received in our last several broadcasts important instruction concerning various relationships of life—that of husbands and wives, children and parents, and servants and masters. We have found that, as believers, our conduct in these relationships must be radically different from that of those who are still lost in unbelief. There is a horrible breakdown of our society because unbelief has ruined these relationships. Believers in the church, however, are those in whom the Spirit of Christ works and who, therefore, must lead godly, sanctified lives in these relationships. In other words, the holy life of the child of God will reveal itself by the way he lives both in his home and in society. He will not walk as others. His life will reveal itself to others in his marriage, in the way he raises his children, and in the workplace.
In concluding this letter to the Ephesian church, Paul gives one final admonition. We read of that in Ephesians 6:13:
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
This is the verse that we consider today.
There is a reason why Paul gives this final admonition to the church of Ephesus. All along Paul had made the Ephesian church deeply aware of the principal difference between believers in the church and the unbelieving wicked world. God had shown these Gentile believers the beauty of His grace in grafting them into His family and household together with the saints of the Old Testament. But that is no little thing. The work of salvation creates a spiritual gulf between those who are in Christ and those who are yet lost in sin. The wicked are children of darkness; believers are children of the light. This difference is noticeable. It is seen. It is apparent to everyone. It is evident in the way the believer lives in his home and in society.
Such a difference creates tension, even animosity at times toward the church and her members. And the result is spiritual warfare. The Devil and his angels seek to overthrow the church. And since Satan is the prince of this world, he uses the wicked world in an attempt to destroy the church. For that reason, there is a spiritual battle going on. And in that battle we are called to take unto ourselves the whole armor of God in order to withstand Satan and our enemies.
The church of Christ lives in the evil day. Those four words “in the evil day,” found in the verse we consider, present us with the reason we need to take to ourselves the whole armor of God. We live in the evil day.
There are those who contend that there comes a certain day in the future—an evil day—in which the church will be called to fight a horrible earthly battle against her enemies. In that day the foes of Christ and His church will gather together to launch a ferocious attack on the church in order to destroy it. We will be called by God in that day to fight an earthly warfare in an attempt to defend the church from harm and destruction. The church, it is said, will win that earthly battle. The evil day, according to such a view, is a day that is still coming. It is a future event.
But that is not the idea of the term “day” here in this verse. The verses surrounding our text speak of a battle that is taking place right now, not in the future. Right now we wrestle with our enemies. Further, we learn that we do not fight with flesh and blood. The battle we wage presently is a highly spiritual battle that is fought against powers in high places. So Paul does not refer by the term “day” here to some future time or some earthly battle that we are going to fight. Rather, he refers to certain days or times in the life of a child of God when he is called to confront temptations and trials. There are moments, there are seasons, there are days in which the spiritual battle we fight is fierce. When that day comes, Paul says, we must be able to take up the armor of God to do battle with our enemies.
The key here lies in that word “evil.” That word literally means “full of trouble and hardships.” One cannot help but be reminded of what Paul writes to Timothy: “In the last days, perilous times shall come.” We live during those days, days that are evil. During these last days, there are times in our lives as saints that we are called to fight tough spiritual battles. We are tempted by Satan and the world. The wickedness of this world bombards us from every direction. In that day, we are called to fight. It is an evil day. It is a day of battle. And for that reason we are called to equip ourselves with the whole armor of God.
The question is, of course, what is it that makes these days so hard and troublesome? We realize there are various reasons that can make a day evil for us. It might be sickness, or physical affliction. It may be that an accident has caused grief and hurt or that financially we are wanting. There are many different calamities that may befall us that would result in an evil day. But this is not what Paul refers to in this passage.
We face the evil day, hardships and troubles when Satan and his wicked henchmen assail us in our lives. Notice at the beginning of this verse we consider, the term “wherefore.” We are called to put on the armor of God because of what Paul has just described for us in verse 12. And this is what he has described: “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.” Wherefore, that is, on account of that, we put on the armor of God.
We put on the armor in order that we might withstand the wiles of the devil. The battle we fight against principalities and powers definitely is what makes the day evil. We fight against the rulers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Satan and his massive force of fallen angels make up a formidable foe. Together they form a powerful, well-organized army. We sometimes have a far too simplistic picture in our minds of how Satan works. Verse 12 of this chapter reminds us that Satan and his angels are a trained military force. Satan stands at its head with principalities and powers under him. These all lead the forces of evil in this world.
Imagine that, if you can! The army of devils against which we fight—that is frightening! Satan has been cast into this world and he is angry with the woman, the church. He seeks to destroy her. And he uses the wicked world around us to accomplish his wicked ends. The wicked world closes in around the church. The sins of society and its humanistic philosophy press in upon the church. Because we are members of our society and world, the child of God can easily fall prey to their sins—abortion, gambling, drunkenness, adultery, sodomy, just to name a few, are issues that have become non-issues with the wicked world. These sins are no longer even viewed as sin. And the person who stands up against them is mocked and ridiculed.
Not only are these sins accepted in society, but the governments of this world are attempting to force the believer to give his approval to them. Paul is right. We live in perilous times. The days are evil. Who is able to avoid that evil day? Believers face that evil day time and time again.
Then, to make matters all the harder, we find not a few Christian churches going along with many of the sins of this world. Not only are many churches today filled with apostasy, but God’s commandments are scorned. The Christian church world, it seems, has as a whole turned its back on the truth of God’s Word. The lie is passed off as truth. What a generation or two ago the churches in general maintained as godly living has now fallen by the wayside. Instead, if a church abides uncompromising by God’s Word and commandments, it is now labeled as legalistic and judgmental. Anything may go today. In the church!
Have you been called to stand in the evil day? I have. Many times over. Who can avoid it in this world? Neither must we be deceived into thinking that the battle we wage is not all that evil, that is, not all that hard and troublesome. How easy it becomes for us to coast and think everything is going well. But the battle we fight involves our souls. Satan is not interested in our bodies. He is interested in destroying the life of Christ that is in us. And that, because his battle is ultimately aimed at destroying the cause and kingdom of Christ. Satan wants to be God. He wants to rule the nations. He wants to destroy the name of Jehovah in this earth. He desires to destroy those who belong to God and to Jesus Christ.
But this destruction is not a physical destruction. Although there are times Satan levels persecution against the church, his most effective weapon is prosperity and the many temptations such prosperity places before you and me. He uses the ease in which we live, when it seems we get along well with the wicked of this world in our comforts. He uses the media, politics, art and culture, technology, the apostate church, and whatever else you might think of to change the values and priorities of God’s people. Slowly, ever so slowly, he works. He does not do his work in one generation, but over the course of several generations. He is shrewd. He slowly changes the thinking of the church and its members.
Evil days are upon us, dear reader. God’s people must be able to stand when confronted with the evil day. This is why we must take to us the whole armor of God. That is the requirement of every believer. Take unto you the whole armor of God, Paul says.
We all know what armor is. In Paul’s day, long before and even long after Paul’s day, wars were not fought with bullets and canons, with aircraft and bombs, and so on. Wars were fought in hand-to-hand combat. Soldiers would use swords or axes or bludgeons. The only weapon not used in hand-to-hand combat were arrows shot into the rank and file of armies to kill them from a distance. In order to withstand these weapons of the enemy, soldiers dressed themselves in a metal suit from head to foot and carried with them a shield together with their weapon.
The armor the Christian is called to put on in this spiritual battle is the armor of God. This armor, quite obviously, was not made of metal. It is a spiritual armor designed by God Himself to protect and defend the child of God from the attacks of a spiritual enemy. Paul goes into detail in the verses following our text, describing the various pieces of spiritual armor we are called to wear. Now, we do not intend to describe that armor in detail. But we do need to take a brief look at it to understand the verse that we consider today.
In verses 14-17 Paul lists for us, first of all, the defensive parts of the armor: the mail girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sabaton or foot guard of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. Obviously, much of the battle against Satan in this world is defensive. Believers are constantly, relentlessly under attack and must protect themselves from the temptation to turn away from the cross of Christ. To do this, we must be equipped with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation. With these the Christian soldier is able to stand against the spiritual attacks of Satan and the temptations of this wicked world.
The only piece of armor listed here that the believer uses to attack Satan in this world is the sword of the Spirit. This sword is the Word of God. The Word of God goes forth conquering and to conquer. Through the preaching of that Word the Spirit has broken down kingdoms and nations and brought people unto submission to Jesus Christ. With the Word, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of Christ. We arm ourselves, therefore, with the Word of God. And through the study of God’s Word, we must keep on sharpening the edge of that sword. This is the spiritual armor that will defend us against Satan in the evil day.
In that day of temptation, we will be able to resist Satan only if we are equipped with this armor. Otherwise we will fall. If we, in our pride, think we are able to stand against him in our own strength, we will fall before him. We will give in to temptation and sin. That comes as a warning to the members of the church. When we, in pride, fail to read God’s Word and pray, when we fail to sit under the preaching of the gospel, then we cast aside that armor.
And when we scorn that armor, as if it is useless, we will walk in the ways of sin. We are not some spiritual superman or superwoman who has the strength to withstand Satan on our own. Let us not be so proud to think we can do it. When we expose ourselves to the sins of this world, we are taunting Satan and he will pounce on us and rip us to shreds. He is much stronger than we are.
We must be clothed with the armor of God because it is God’s armor. And, therefore, the command of our text: “Take unto you,” or, in verse 11: “Put on the whole armour.” The child of God must take this armor of God to himself and put it on. Yes, this does take conscious activity. We must pick it up and put it on. Believers are the redeemed children of God, after all. Christ works in their hearts by His Spirit. They have been renewed in the image of God, in righteousness, holiness, and the true knowledge of God. The reprobate, unbelieving man surely would not be able to heed this command of Scripture. But Paul is addressing those who are redeemed in the blood of Christ, those who are cleansed and made holy. The command comes to those who are saved. And it says to us: “Take to yourselves this armor.” We must consciously appropriate to ourselves the spiritual blessings of salvation. We must hold dear to ourselves the truth. We must value righteousness and peace. We must go forth in faith. We must know our Bibles. We must take up this armor and wear it. Then we will be able to withstand the fiery darts of the devil.
We must constantly be putting on this armor. Many are the evil days when Satan attacks us. Each time we must defend ourselves by wearing that armor. And we must wear all of it. “Take unto you the whole armor of God,” we are told in this verse. If we were to leave just one piece on the ground, then we will not be able to stand against the attacks of Satan. Each piece is vital for our warfare. If you find you are losing the fight, well, check your gear. When fully equipped with all the pieces of the armor, we are able to withstand the attacks of Satan because it is, after all, the armor of God. He has chosen it for us. He has tempered it in the furnace of the cross. He has beaten it and shaped it by the work of the Spirit.
We must be wise and take it to ourselves by understanding its value. It is worth more than its weight in gold to a soldier of Christ because the price Christ paid to temper it is eternal.
That, then, is the armor of God. That means that it will accomplish God’s purpose for us in our lives. This we find at the end of the verse we consider. We will be able to withstand in the evil, and having done all, to stand.
We receive such great assurance in these words. When we take up that armor, we will be able to withstand our enemies. We will be able to stand over against the spiritual attacks of the mightiest of our foes—even Satan himself. We will be able to defend ourselves.
Does this make the battle any easier or less fierce? Not at all. It is hard to stand firm in the faith always and ever. And it is so easy to grow weary in the battle and wander out into the battlefield unprotected. But, equipped with Christ’s righteousness and with truth and faith, we can withstand the temptations of this wicked world. We are given the strength of Christ Himself to do this. There is the power and the strength we find in the battle—Christ’s strength. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Then there is added: “and having done all, to stand.” This makes reference to the end of our battle. The evil day we confront is every day. But in the end, when our earthly battle is over, we will receive the victory. We will look over the battleground of our lives trembling, weary, ready to lay down our armor. But we will see the armies of Jesus Christ standing victorious by our side. And a shout will go up. The bodies of the slain enemies will be found at our feet. Having done all, we will be standing.
We have been protected by the armor of God. What incentive to put on that armor. What a victory will be ours. Christ will come and defeat our foes in the final day, and we will stand in that day. And then we will hear the cry of Isaiah 40:2: “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” What a blessed day that will be when we can take off that armor at last. And we will live in peace in that eternal land of rest called Beulah.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy Word today. And we thank Thee for the opportunity of studying that Word also as we received it throughout the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. Wilt Thou bless this Word now unto our hearts, too, that we might truly be soldiers of Jesus Christ who fight the good fight of faith. Keep us now in Thy grace, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.