The Christian's ArmorFrancis Bourdillon, 1864
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6:10-20
We have a great enemy — and we have no strength of our own against him. All our strength is in God; therefore the apostle says, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God."
But this was written first to those who were leading an active life, a life full of work and of duties, a life of danger and temptation. Does the enemy of souls attack the weak and sick also? Must they too be armed against him?
Yes. They are not safe from him. They are withdrawn from the world, from work and business and society — but they are not withdrawn from the temptations of Satan. Did he not tempt our Lord in His retirement, and at a time when He was weak through fasting? He does not keep away from the sick-room. He does not spare any. Thank God, the armor which He has provided for us is armor which will suit all, and at all times!
Observe however, before considering the armor, that the apostle would have us think very seriously of the power of our enemy, the devil. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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."
There is something solemn in these words. They give us an idea of a mysterious, unseen, spiritual power always at work against us. Not "flesh and blood," not a human power — but wicked spirits, very powerful and very crafty. This is what we have to wrestle against.
We are to take and put on "the whole armor of God." There is comfort in the very words. Here is a complete suit of armor, and a whole set of weapons, provided for us by God Himself. No defense of man's making, no weapons of his contriving, but all of God, full and sufficient even against such an enemy: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand the whole armor of God."
It is a figure of speech, made use of to show us the help and defense which God has prepared for us. Christians are called soldiers of Christ — and this is their armor. Now a soldier's armor consists of various parts and weapons. And carrying on the figure, the apostle goes on to describe the various parts of the Christian's armor — that is, the various means which God has given him for resisting Satan.
We are to stand — mind that word; we are not to yield at all, but to stand firm — having the belt of truth buckled around your waist. You see, truth comes first. We must not trust in anything that is not true. All our defense must be built on the truth of God. And not only so — but we ourselves must be true, perfectly sincere and upright before God. The ancient soldier used to gird up his loins while he mounted guard, and before he went into battle, that he might be ready for everything. We too must be ready, prepared to bring against Satan the truth of God, a true faith, a true heart.
The breastplate was an important part of ancient armor. It guarded the heart. We are to have a breastplate, "the breastplate of righteousness." What does this mean? It cannot mean our own righteousness. Paul himself explains it, when he writes to the Philippians of his great desire to be found in Christ, "Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law — but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." It is the righteousness of Christ that is meant — justification by faith in Him. We are to have this on as a breastplate, to wear it as a defense against Satan, never to put it off or let it go.
Part of the armor is for defense — and part for offense. Now we come to a part that is for offense: "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." We are to go forward in the spirit of the gospel — our faith fixed on Christ, our hearts filled with gospel truth and gospel love, prepared to meet everything that may befall us in a kind and Christian way; ourselves at peace within, peacemakers wherever we go, and ready and zealous to make known the gospel to others.
The very figure shows that we are not to be idle. The feet are shod for active exertion. We are to be active. Slothfulness lays us open to the attacks of Satan. Even if our bodily strength is small, our opportunities few, our sphere narrow — yet we are to be ready, each for what his Lord calls him to. A fervent spirit will find something to do.
Next we come to the shield. That was a piece of armor that was held before him by the ancient soldier, to ward off the darts and other weapons of the enemy. Our shield is our faith, "the shield of faith." We are to take this "above all"; not above all, as being more important and necessary than the other parts of the armor — but over all, as being held in front of them, and so forming an additional defense.
With this "shield of faith" we are to "quench," or turn aside, "all the fiery darts of the wicked one." All of them — implying that they are many and various. And so they are. Evil thoughts are among them. Thoughts that come, we know not how. Thoughts, for instance, of murmuring, of rebellion, of mistrust, of doubt, of despair. Against all these darts of Satan — we are to hold forth the shield of faith. A personal, living faith in Christ Jesus — a faith that He died for us and lives for us — a faith in all God's promises in Him — a faith in the Comforter who He said should come to us, the Holy Spirit. Thus we are to meet the enemy.
"The helmet of salvation" is more fully described in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, "and for a helmet, the hope of salvation." It means a well-founded, scriptural hope of being saved by Christ. This we are encouraged to have and to keep and to make use of as another defense against the enemy.
"The sword of the Spirit" is what we are to fight with, "which is the Word of God." For we are not only to wear armor to defend us against Satan — but we are also to make attacks upon him and his kingdom. We are soldiers of Christ, and a soldier must not be content to be always on the defensive. What is preaching, what is every effort to extend the gospel and to do good to souls — but an attack on Satan's kingdom? We must all, as God gives us opportunity — take to the sword, as well as wear the armor. Our sword is the Word of God. No other weapon will do any service against Satan. Human wisdom, human eloquence, human power, are nothing against him — only the Word of God will prevail.
Thus the apostle has gone through all the parts of the Christian's armor: the girding of his loins, his breastplate, the covering for his feet, his shield, his helmet, and his sword. He is to take them all. They are all parts of "the whole armor of God." He must not neglect any.
One thing more he mentions, not as a part of the armor — yet as absolutely necessary — prayer. "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
Prayer is thus put alone, apart from the armor. Perhaps this is because all the parts of the armor must be used in a spirit of prayer — of prayer and watchfulness, for watching is mentioned too. Yes, we must "pray without ceasing." Whatever else we do, we must pray! "Praying always," he says, "with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." Without prayer, we cannot really use any part of the armor.
But for whom are we to pray? For ourselves, certainly. That Satan may not prevail against us, that our armor may defend us indeed, that we may be good soldiers of Christ. But this is not what the apostle says here. "Praying always ... for all saints;" that is, for our fellow-Christians, and for all of them. Do not we often forget to do this? Yet it is a real duty, a part of every Christian's duty. If Christians did it more for one another, how greatly would Satan's power be lessened, how much strength and help would surely be given! And we can pray, wherever we are.
But again, the apostle begs them to pray for him, that he might open his mouth boldly to preach the gospel. Christians should pray much for the ministers of the gospel, especially for their own ministers. Thus they may help forward the work of Christ, though they themselves be laid aside from it. Sometimes an active laborer in Christ's service is laid aside by sickness or by some other cause. He used to be of great service — zealous, active, persevering, ready for every good work, he was the minister's right hand. He is much missed.
Ah, but he can still work — for he can pray, and pray for his minister. His help is not really withdrawn as long as he can pray; it is only changed to another kind of help. Perhaps he was so busy before, that he did not pray enough. Now let him pray more. From his retirement, from his sick-room, let him beseech God to bless the preaching of the Word in the place in which he lives, to give boldness, zeal, and faith to ministers, to send down the gift of His Holy Spirit, to quicken souls into spiritual life. Thus he will be a worker and a helper still — a soldier of the cross, a true yoke-fellow.