“13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”
“…and having accomplished all things necessary to stand, stand therefore, having secured the belt of truth around your waist, and having donned the breastplate of righteousness,”
To stand against the forces of darkness and evil, we must put on the complete armor of God. No part of our body (life) should be left exposed and vulnerable to the attacks of Satan and the demonic beings that serve him. We’re not to take the offensive against the enemy, we’re simply to stand firm in our faith and walk, in total trust in the Lord.
We must “secure the belt of truth around our waist.” This is truth as opposed to that which is false. We live in a time where there is so much false teaching and confusion in the Church. The only way to protect ourselves from that, is to become diligent students of the Word of God. We must be in God’s Word everyday, learning in dependence on the Holy Spirit. If we’re not growing in the knowledge and understanding of the Bible, we leave ourselves open to deception.
Understanding of truth is a long process, but we must be diligent to stay with it, to devote our whole lives to it. Pastors can do a lot to encourage diligent study by teaching the Bible verse by verse, book by book. If all people hear are shallow, topical lessons, it gives the impression that God’s Word isn’t important enough or “relevant” enough to teach verse by verse. The lie that many pastors believe today is that expository teaching doesn’t work anymore. If they really believe this, won’t their people pick up on that? Will it not send the message that verse by verse learning of God’s Word isn’t that important? I believe it will. It will have an effect on the way people view the Bible. “As goes the pastor, so goes the people.”
On the other hand, if pastors are totally committed to teaching God’s Word with a passion, regularly teaching through whole books of the Bible, and encouraging their people to study it diligently for themselves, it’s going to have a positive influence on the people; it will motivate them to seek the truth with the same passion their pastor seeks it with. Every Christian church should be Bible-centered. Every church that serves Christ should be a church of the Word. If pastors are fulfilling their calling, diligently learning and teaching the Word of God, he will provide a safe haven from a lot of false teaching.
However, a word of caution is in order. Not all pastors are fully grounded in the truth, especially young pastors who have only been students of God’s Word for a few years. Calvinistic/Reformed Theology is one of the primary areas where we need to be watchful. Many Calvinist pastors do a wonderful job of using the proper rules of interpretation when it comes to the overall teaching of God’s Word. However, when it comes to the doctrine of election, it seems like all those rules go out the window. All of us need to be consistent in how we interpret the Word, and to do so without the strong influence of bias and association (the group we identify with). As diligent students of the Word, we will be able to test everything our pastors teach, guarding ourselves against false teaching, as the Apostle John instructs us:
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
“breastplate of righteousness”
Paul is either referring to the righteousness that we have in our position in Christ, or he’s talking about the practical righteousness that we’re to have in our every day lives. Since the armor of God is something that we’re to “take up” or “put on,” I believe Paul has practical righteousness in mind.
When we’re not living a righteous life, we’re out of favor with God. We don’t have His blessing nor His power nor His protection. A righteous life keeps us in harmony with God. An unrighteous life, that is, habitual sin, will take us out of God’s favor and leave us exposed to the attacks of the enemy.
Notice that Paul uses righteousness in association with the soldier’s breastplate. I think what he must have had in mind, is that the breastplate protects all the major organs of our body. The soldier’s breastplate covers not only the chest area, but extends down to the waist. This is the area that needs to be protected the most. A sword or spear in that area will quickly lead to death.
In the same way, righteousness needs to be protected. It needs to central. It needs to be given primary consideration. For it speaks of one’s relationship with God, or their spiritual condition before God. Sin takes us out of fellowship with God, and if not dealt with, it can possibly lead us out of a saving relationship with Him. When we’re living a self-serving, unrighteous life, we can’t expect God’s grace in our lives. James and Peter tells us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Ja 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5). To live in humility before God means to be fully surrendered to His will. A self-willed, unrighteous life means that we’re walking in pride. We will not experience God’s grace while living a lifestyle of sinful pride.
“15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;”
“preparation” (Gr. hetoimasia – 2091)
“and having sandaled your feet with the stable readiness of the gospel of peace.”
The type of shoes (sandals) that a Roman soldier wore, had studs or cleats on the bottom, providing them with firm footing in the battle.
Our firm footing, or our firm foundation as followers of Christ, is the gospel of peace, the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides peace with God. We need to be firm and clear in our understanding of the gospel message. There is so much misunderstanding today regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ, even among Christians. There are even Calvinists who believe that in order to be saved one must believe in Calvinistic theology. They equate Calvinism to the gospel. Not all Calvinists believe that, but I know that some do.
Then there are those who believe and teach that the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about getting to Heaven, that one can receive Christ as Savior, while rejecting Him as Lord. That’s a false gospel. Yes, the gospel of Jesus Christ does get us into Heaven, but it’s more about coming into a right relationship and walk with God. Furthermore, there is no salvation for those who want nothing more from Jesus than to be saved from hell. Salvation comes through recognition of who it was that died on the cross for our sins. It was Christ the Lord. True recognition of His Lordship requires the appropriate response, which is surrender to His authority as Lord and Ruler of the universe.
The gospel of Christ is very watered down in many churches today. So many pastors and churches and books present a very shallow message. Often so little is said about sin (some even avoid using the word so not to offend!), about separation from God, about the authority of Christ, about the life of Christ, about the resurrection, about the Christian life, etc., that it’s very likely that many don’t understand enough to get saved. They’re led into a prayer to receive Christ, based on a shallow understanding of the Christ they’re praying to.
I find it remarkable that there should be so much misunderstanding of the Christian message of salvation among God’s people, considering it’s the very foundation of the Christian faith. That’s what happens when churches take a shallow approach to the general teaching of God’s Word. If all people are getting are “relevant messages,” having to do with relationships, finances, marriage, finding the will of God, finding happiness, dealing with difficulties, finding your purpose in life, etc., very little is going to be learned by way of doctrine, and that includes the doctrine of salvation.
As churches and as individuals, we must be prepared to share the true gospel of Jesus Christ. If we’re not, then we have fallen right into Satan’s hands. It’s one of his tactics to distort the message of Christ. If he’s able to do that, then it makes the “gospel” ineffective in saving. We’re called to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, but if we’re not spreading the true message, then people are being deceived about the plan of salvation they’re hearing.
However, even armed with the true gospel message, Satan will attack and work to keep us from sharing it. If he’s not successful in distorting it, he will try prevent us from spreading it to others. We need to be aware of this, and not give in to it. Let’s be faithful in sharing the only message that has the power to save.
The Church as a whole is susceptible to, and weakened by, the attacks of Satan when we are not faithfully teaching the Word of God and proclaiming the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
“16 and above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
“Lift up over all these”
“the shield of faith”
This pictures the soldier holding up his shield in front of his body, ready to block any incoming flaming arrows from the enemy. When we’re walking strong in our faith, no matter what happens in our lives, we will be able to deal with them in complete confidence that God has not abandoned us, but that He loves us and is working everything together for an eternal purpose. Faith in God, a quiet peace that God is at work in our lives, will enable us to continue to walk faithfully before Him.
What we need to understand, is that faith is directly related to the Word of God. Our faith can only grow as we’re in His Word:
“So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” (Ro 10:17)
Satan will fire his flaming arrows at us when bad things happen in our lives, creating all kinds of doubts within us about God’s love for us, about His faithfulness in taking care of us. If we’re not firm in our relationship with God, if we don’t have a close walk with God, those attacking arrows will have it’s desired effect. When trials come into our lives, we must be able to trust God during those times, or we will become angry and bitter toward God, and can lead us away into disillusionment and apathy. It can even result in an abandonment of our faith in Christ.
Faith in Christ gets us into His Kingdom, and it’s a daily trust in Him that keeps us walking in faithfulness. Let’s claim the promises of God’s Word and live with eternity in view. If we’re not living with the Eternal Kingdom in view, we will become focused on the things of this life, placing value and importance where it doesn’t belong. That’s how we fall under the attacks of the enemy.
“17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ”
“helmet of salvation”
I believe what Paul is referring to here, is our own personal salvation, which beings with a correct understanding of the gospel message, which we already talked about. How does a misunderstanding of the gospel leave us exposed to attacks of the enemy? How does it leave us without firm footing? If we’re not secure in our faith in Christ, we will live in doubt of our salvation. How can we live a victorious Christian life if we’re uncertain about our salvation? We must be able to walk securely in our salvation so that we can focus on serving Christ. If we’re so consumed with doubts about our salvation, how are we free to concentrate on living the life that we’re saved to? We must be able to live confidently in Christ in order to accomplish what God has called us to.
Paul refers to the gospel as the “gospel of peace” (vs. 15). The true gospel brings peace. A true understanding of it brings peace. When we’re at peace with God, when we have peace in our souls about our salvation, it gives us the firm footing needed to grow from, for that is our foundation. If we’re not secure in our salvation, then we will constantly be under attack by the enemy. We will constantly be hearing “you’re not saved, you’re not saved.” Some Christians live in constant doubt and fear, trying to find peace about this. We must have a correct understanding of the salvation message, and then simply claim the Word of God about all the assurances of salvation that we have in Christ.
“the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
Earlier I mentioned that we’re not to be on the offensive against the enemy, but to merely stand firm. While that is true, when the fight comes to us, we have the Word of God to be used in the same manner as a soldier uses a sword. However, before I provide any more explanation, I wish to point out who’s sword it is. It’s not ours. It’s the sword of the Spirit. This is really His weapon against the enemy that He will use on our behalf.
When the attacks come our way, we need to stand firm on the promises of God. Strong in our faith, we need to claim all that it teaches. As we do, the Holy Spirit will use it against the enemy, rendering his flaming arrows useless against us.
In order to claim the Word of God, we must be in the Word of God. As we’ve already discussed, it’s important that we become diligent students of God’s Word. We must be passionate about learning it, and passionate about applying it. As a word of caution, we can’t allow ourselves to simply go through the motions, as if performing a daily duty. It’s not the duty of it that we’re to be passionate about, it’s the message and heart of God that we’re to be passionate about. We must allow it to take root within us, with a sincere desire to know the will of God in order to glorify Him in all that we do and all that we are.
When we’re walking strong and faithfully in the Word of God, trusting fully in the promises of God, there is no way for the enemy to defeat us. The Word of God arms us against temptation, enables us to live the Christian life, and empowers us to serve Christ.