The Armor of God: Part 1
Passage: Ephesians 6:10-14a
I’m thankful for the opportunity to preach both today and next Sunday morning, as we take a break from 1 Timothy and consider one of the more famous passages in the entire NT—Paul’s words to the Ephesians regarding the armor of God.
The Bible clearly teaches that we are in a war. Not a physical war, but a spiritual war. And I think it’s very important for us to remember that in this war, we are supposed to be on the offensive. After all, we’ve been given a mission called the Great Commission, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We’re supposed to take the battle to the enemy!
My favorite illustration of this concept is in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. Do you know of any army that carries its city walls with it into battle? No! Absolutely not! That would be ridiculous! So what picture is Jesus painting? Well, as best as I understand it, the picture that He’s painting is that of believers storming the very gates of hell as they do battle for the souls of men. That’s powerful.
And so we as Christians are to be on the offensive. The church’s offensive assault includes evangelism, discipleship, and missions. But, that’s not what this passage is about. You see the thing about spiritual warfare is that there’s an enemy who fights back. The devil is not just hunkered down somewhere trying to wait us out. No, he’s launching significant and potentially devastating counter-offenses that threaten to handicap or even overwhelm us as we pursue the mission we’ve been given.
To use warfare terminology, we are charging across the battlefield to take the hill, with the cross of Jesus held high like a banner over our heads; but all along the way, we are being assaulted with flaming arrows. And then, we’re attacked by an ambush; and before we know it, swords are being swung at our heads and spears are being thrust toward our hearts. And that’s why it’s absolutely necessary that we put on body armor and take up our sword as we attack.
Before we get into the passage this morning, I want to list five categories of people who are listening to this sermon.
- Some of you can’t wait to study this passage because you’ve been busy, fighting for the glory of God and the souls of men, and you feel the Satanic opposition.
- Others of you aren’t particularly interested in this topic, but you should be. Because you too are busy serving the Lord; and whether you know it or not, Satan’s got a target on your back, so you had better put on your armor!
- But then I’m convinced that there’s a third category of people who are pretty skeptical about—or at least ambivalent toward the whole idea of spiritual warfare. You might say to yourself, “I don’t know what he’s talking about, because I never feel that kind of pressure!" And can I just say that if that’s you, you’re not in a good place spiritually? Why? Because the devil’s no idiot. And so it only makes sense that he’s going to focus his efforts on those who pose the biggest threat to him! Which means that if you never feel the kind of pressure represented by these verses, you are quite possibly unsaved or at least very disconnected from the battle. And so it could be that the very foreignness of this concept that we are going to discuss over the next couple weeks is in itself a call for you to repent.
- But there’s another kind of person who, when he listens to a sermon like this, is overwhelmed with guilt. Perhaps Satan has already taken you down—probably multiple times. I mean, you have fallen in some significant ways. Can I just instill you with some hope, here, at the front end of the sermon? You don’t have to stay down. The righteous man falls seven times and rises up again. So get up, be strengthened in the Lord, put on the armor, and keep on fighting. God has shown us the way of victory, and He has revealed to us His will. Victory is gloriously possible, if we will just put on God’s armor.
- Finally, there may be those here this morning who are pretty unfamiliar with all of the whole concept of spiritual warfare. Maybe you’re visiting with us this morning, or you maybe don’t have much of a church background. Listen, that’s okay. You don’t have to be an expert right now. Just listen closely, and I think you’ll catch on. You’ll learn more about sin and the devil, but you’ll also learn more about God and what He did to free you from the power and penalty of your sin.
So with that said, let’s go ahead and read Ephesians 6:10-14a. Lord-willing, we’ll cover these verses today and vv. 14b-18 next week.
You Need God's Strength
As we begin today, it’s my goal to convince you of one particular truth: “You need God’s strength.”
One of the most difficult things for many of us to do is to admit that we need help. A few months ago, my car was having some issues; so I decided, “I’m gonna see if I can fix this.” So I found a forum thread online about the symptoms I was having, and started following the instructions to try to diagnose the problem. Everything seemed to be going reasonably well until I came to a step that required me to remove a particular part; and wouldn’t you know? The part wouldn’t come off. So of course, what did I do? “If at first you don’t succeed… hit it with a bigger hammer.” So I began to yank harder on this piece. And by the time I was done with my car, I had succeeded at turning a $50 repair into a few hundred-dollar repair. Why? Because I didn’t want to ask for help. I thought I was strong enough.
But the Bible is clear that when it comes to the Christian life, you are not strong enough. You need God. You say, “Pastor Kris, where do you find that in the text?” Well look with me at v. 10. The word “strong” in v. 10 is actually a passive imperative—literally, “be strengthened.” In other words, here’s what Paul is not saying. He’s not saying, “Man up!” Instead, he’s saying, “Receive God’s strength.” And so yes, that’s a command; it’s something I have to do. But that command is not just about me trying harder; it’s about me grabbing onto God’s grace.
But to whom is that grace made available? Well, according to v. 10 it’s made available to those who have a relationship with Jesus. The phrase “in the Lord” or “in Christ” is one that Paul uses throughout the NT to refer to the relationship of oneness that born again believers have with Jesus. And so in order to be strengthened “in the Lord,” you must have a relationship with the Lord. You can’t be strengthened “in the Lord” if you aren’t “in Christ.”
You say, “Well Pastor Kris, I don’t know if I have a relationship with the Lord. In fact, I’m not even completely sure what that means! Well, can I just say that if that’s you, I would love to talk to you about what it means to be born again. And I know that Pastor Kit would as well. So if you aren’t sure whether or not you have a relationship with Jesus, please come talk to one of us after the service, and we would be glad to show you how you can know Christ as Savior.
But for now, let’s continue to focus on v. 10. Paul says “Be strong in the Lord [or “be strengthened in the Lord”] and in the power of His might.” If you’re in the habit of marking in your Bible, you might want to write in the words “that is” near the word “and” in v. 10. “Be strong in the Lord, that is, in the power of His might.” There are vast stores of power to be found in Christ, and these are what we must access if we are to experience spiritual victory.
And so I hope that I have proven to you from the text that you need God’s strength. But just in case you aren’t totally convinced, Paul goes on. And he gives us a description of the enemy that is intended to awaken our sense of dependence and spur us on to action (vv. 11-12).
Your Formidable Foes
You need God’s strength because of the formidability of your foes.
(Now, I don’t particularly like the word formidability, but it’s the best one I could come up with. So if you think of a better word to describe the devil and demons, let me know later.) But the point I am trying to make is that our enemy is incredibly adept. So let’s go ahead and consider for a few minutes who it is that we’re fighting against.
Verse 12 starts out by telling us who we’re not fighting against. We’re not fighting against “flesh and blood,” which means that we’re not ultimately fighting against people, though sometimes, that may appear to be the case.
Our conflict is not ultimately with liberal democrats, or Islamic terrorists, or communist dictators, or outspoken atheists, or leaders of organized crime, or Hollywood film writers, or the pope, or other false teachers, or any human being. They are involved in the battle for sure, but our conflict is not ultimately with them.
You say, “Pastor Kris, if we aren’t ultimately fighting against evil people, then who are we fighting against?” Well, according to vv. 11-12, our conflict is primarily with the forces of evil that control this fallen world in all of its manifestations of wickedness. We are in a war with demonic forces, and even the devil himself.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Now Paul goes into great detail in this passage to describe the devil and his demons, so let’s take a look at what he says. What is the enemy like?
They Are Cunning
Well first, they are cunning. The word “wiles” refers to devious military strategies.
How many of you guys played pick up football growing up? I played some pick up football—not a lot, but some; and one of the things I always enjoyed about pick up football was the huddle. You know, nobody really knows what he’s talking about, but someone starts drawing x’s and o’s in the dirt and telling people where to go and you walk away feeling like you’re really smart.
Can I tell you something? Satan is a master strategist. And his strategy is not uninformed, unskilled, or haphazard. In fact, I have no doubt that Satan has demons assigned to observe you and to take note of your weaknesses. And that those weaknesses then become the basis of his plot against you, to make you fall.
And notice that the devil’s plan of attack against you is multi-faceted. That’s why the word “wiles” is plural in v. 11. Satan’s not just coming at you from one direction; he’s working a variety of different angles. According to Ephesians 4:25-32, he’s tempting you to blow up—to lose your temper, to seethe with bitterness, to say ungodly things, to lie, and to steal. And the list goes on and on.
Of course, most if not all of Satan’s “wiles” at least include deceit. And when he comes to deceive you, he doesn’t just strut right out into the open and announce, “My name is Satan, and I’m here for your soul.” No, he presents himself as an angel of light, to make you think that you are actually doing what is right and good. And he has no scruples against lying. He will say anything to get you to sin. And he’s so good at deception that after you have fallen, you will often look back and say, “I never saw that coming.”
They Are Powerfully Influential
Your enemies are cunning. And they are also powerfully influential.
The word “principality” in v. 12 refers to someone who is in a principal position, or someone who is “first.”
And the word “power” means authority. One who doesn’t have to go to the boss every time and get permission because he himself is a boss; and as such, he is free to make decisions and to act.
The question is, “Over whom do demons exercise authority, and compared to whom are they ‘first’?” The answer to that question is given to us later in the verse, when Paul refers to demons as “rulers of the darkness of this age.” The Greek word for “rulers” is actually a compound noun that combines the words “world” and “rulers.” The demons are “world rulers” over this darkness.
So there we have it. Demons are more powerful than us, and they exercise some kind of authority over this sinful world, thus binding it in darkness. As 1 John 5:19 says, “[T]he whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” And 2 Cor. 4:4 says that the God of this world has blinded the eyes of those who do not believe lest the light of the glory of Christ should shine on them (2 Cor. 4:4).
The Greek word for “rulers” or “world rulers” in v. 12 was also used to describe pagan gods, whom the Jews believed were actually demons. And there are still places in the world today where people worship demons disguised as false gods.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think there are demons at work in the U.S.A.? Of course there are! Now they certainly don’t use all the same tactics here that they might use in Haiti, but they are certainly at work in our country to keep God from being glorified, to bind unbelievers in darkness, and to cause Christians to fall. To cause you to fall.
Of course, God is still in control. And no one can thwart His sovereign will. But those truths do not negate the powerful influence that Satan and his minions have in this fallen world.
They Are Wicked to the Core
Your enemies are cunning, they are powerfully influential, and they are wicked to the core.
Demons are referred to in v. 12 as “hosts of wickedness.” Evil is part of their essential nature. Demons do not play by the rules. They are wicked to the core, and they will stop at nothing to cause you to sin.
They Are Invisible
But even if all of these things we’ve learned about demons were true, they would still be a little bit easier to fight against if they weren’t invisible. But according to v. 12, they are spirits who operate in heavenly places or “in the heavenlies.”
This description of demons reminds me of the story of Job, in which Satan apparently had access to heaven in order to converse with God and accuse Job there. Now the nature of the heavenlies and how all of that works is a bit of a mystery to us, but the point I want to emphasize is that our enemies are operating on a different plane, or even in a different sphere.
You say, “Well Pastor Kris, how do I possibly fight an enemy that is attacking me from a different sphere? I mean, that would be like shooting at an F-18 with a squirt gun! I don’t stand a chance!” And you know what? You’re right. In your own strength you don’t stand a chance against Satan. That’s why it’s imperative that you be strengthened in the Lord by putting on the armor of God (v. 13).
I want you to notice several things about this armor.
First, it’s multi-faceted. Paul says, “Take up the whole armor of God.”
The Greek word there is panoply. It’s a multi-faceted set of gear. And you need it all. You can’t pick and choose which pieces to put on because if you leave yourself unguarded in one place, that is where the enemy will strike.
It's for "the Evil Day"
Second, notice that the armor is intended to be used during “the evil day.” What does that phrase mean? Well, there’s a sense in which all of the days in which we live are evil. As Paul said in 5:16, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
But in that instance, Paul referred to the evil “days” (plural); whereas here, he refers to the evil “day” (singular), which has led many scholars to believe that Paul is referring not just to the wickedness of this age in general, but also to moments and seasons of particularly-strong temptation.
In warfare, armies do not typically attack one another continually. Instead, they attack in waves. In fact, sometimes a commander will often use a period of inactivity to lull his opponent to sleep; and then all of a sudden, he hits the enemy with “everything he’s got.”
Did you know that there will be days in which Satan will hit you with everything he’s got? Now not every day is going to be like that. There may even be times in which Satan tries to lull you to sleep. But then there will be days in which the temptation to sin is so strong that you feel you cannot possibly resist. That is why you must equip for battle ahead of time if you are to have any chance at victory. Because once the attack has been launched, it will be too late to prepare.
So let’s consider in the moments that remain the first piece of armor.
The Belt of Truth
When Paul refers to the belt of truth, he is probably thinking of an apron worn under the armor and made of loose or sewn pieces of leather intended for protecting the thighs. It was also used to fasten other pieces of clothing or to tuck in the skirts when soldiers would “gird up their loins.”
This article of clothing was very important for a couple of reasons. First, you want to make sure to protect that part of your body. And second, it was important because like I said, other pieces of clothing were either fastened to it or tucked into it.
So the belt sort of held everything together. You might say that it was essential for the integrity of the rest of the soldier’s gear.
And in the same way, truth (or “truthfulness”) is essential to our integrity as Christians as we do battle with Satan.
But before we move on, there’s an interpretational question we have to answer. Is v. 14 talking about objective truth (as in perhaps the truth of the gospel) or subjective truth (as in telling the truth and being a dependable person)? In other words, is putting on the belt of truth about clinging to the truth or telling the truth?
And the short answer is that I think it’s about both. However, I also believe quite strongly that Paul is referring primarily to truth-telling.
I’ll give you a three reasons why I believe that to be the case.
First, Ephesians 6:14 seems clearly to be an allusion to Isaiah 11:5. You can look that verse up later, but Isaiah 11:5 says, in reference to the Messiah, “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.” So the Messiah puts on faithfulness like a belt. How does He do so? By telling the truth and keeping His commitments. And so the implication would be that we put on truth the same way.
Also, if the belt of truth was primarily about clinging to the truth, then there would be little if any distinction between it and the shield of faith.
Finally, it makes good sense to take the belt of truth as a reference to truth-telling, because truth-telling has already been an emphasis in this letter. Paul said in Eph. 4:25, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” And he also said in 5:9, “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth [or “truthfulness”].”
Now, the first time I realized that putting on the belt of truth means telling the truth, I thought to myself, “How is telling the truth supposed to protect me against the attacks of Satan? I mean, it seems so basic.” But then I thought of this. How many spiritual falls could have been avoided if the person had simply told the truth?
Take David, for instance. And his sin with Bathsheba. What if David had refused to be deceitful in that situation? Wouldn’t that have stopped him from ever sneaking Bathsheba into his house? It certainly would have prevented him from killing Uriah!
You see, most of the time when a person becomes caught in a sin, there is deceit that goes along with it. And so if we would just be committed to telling the truth no matter what, we could save ourselves so much heartache. Truth-telling would be like a protective wall around our lives. It would keep us from entering into many sins and would stop us from continuing in many others.
How much trouble would we stay out of if we simply refused to lie in order to cover up our sin? If we admitted and confessed our sin the first time we were convicted about it? If we invited transparent accountability into our lives? I hope you see how important it is that we put on truth-telling as part of our Christian character.
But we also need to recognize that telling the truth is not just about what we say; it’s also about what we do. One of the ways we put on the belt of truth is by keeping our commitments. Psalm 15:1 asks the question, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle, who may dwell in your holy hill?” And one of the answers given in v. 4 is, “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” In other words, he keeps his word, even when doing so is very inconvenient.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is so sad to see how lightly people these days take their commitments.
“‘Till death do us part?’ Well, as it turns out, we weren’t compatible.”
“I know I signed a contract to work for you, but something better came up. I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“Yes, I said I would pay my mortgage. But my financial situation changed.”
You see what I mean? Lack of commitment to family, lack of commitment to country, lack of commitment to church, and the list could go on and on. So many people just don’t take their promises seriously. And before you begin condemning others, take a look at your own life and consider where dishonesty or unfaithfulness may be creeping in.
Nobody is immune from this sin. After all, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” And of course, one of the most difficult aspects of truth-telling is telling the truth to ourselves. We could save ourselves a lot of pain and heartache simply by telling the truth and keeping our word.
And husbands and wives, let me make myself clear. This means honoring the commitment you made to your spouse.
So today, before the next wave of temptation comes, please, renew your resolve to tell the truth, no matter what, and to honor your commitments, even when it hurts.
Put on the belt of truth.
I know that this has been a sobering sermon, but I do want to leave you with hope. Notice why God has given us His armor (v. 13). God has given you His armor because He intends for you to stand firm. Isn’t that encouraging? You know what that means? It means that victory is gloriously possible. It may be difficult, it may be hard work, it may be a number of other things, but it’s possible.
I’d like to close by returning to a phrase in v. 10. And that is the phrase “the power of His might.” The words “power” and “might occur together one other time in the book of Ephesians (1:19). In chapter 1, Paul lays out a number of precious truths, and then in v. 15, he begins praying for the Ephesian Christians.
At the beginning of v. 18, Paul prays that God would open the eyes of the Ephesian believers so that they would understand the power that was at work in them. And then he goes on to say that the power at work in them was the same mighty power—again, those are the same two words that show up in 6:10—the same mighty power that did what? That raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him above whom? Above all principality and power. Jesus conquered all of the forces of darkness we’ve been talking about when He rose from the grave.
You say, “Pastor Kris, why do these connections matter?” Here’s why.
First, because Satan and his minions have already been defeated. Now that defeat has yet to be played out in end times events, but because of the resurrection, it’s as good as over. We win in the end!
Second, those connections are important because the same power that raised Christ from the dead, giving Him the victory over Satan and his demons, also raised you to new life (if you have put your faith in Christ) and gives you victory over Satan and his demons. It’s the same power. And it’s also the same Savior. He won the victory on the cross and we win the victory through Him.
You can resist temptation and stand firm if you will put on the armor of God.