THE CHRISTIAN'S ARMOR
Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
In the passage which is to be before us the Apostle gathers up the whole
previous subject of the Epistle into an urgent reminder of the solemn
conditions under which the Christian's life is lived. By a graphic figure he
shows that the Christian's life is lived on the battlefield, for we
are not only pilgrims but soldiers; we are not only in a foreign
country, but in the enemy's land. Though the redemption which Christ has
purchased for His people be free and full, yet, between the beginning of its
application to us and the final consummation of it, there is a terrible and
protracted conflict through which we have to pass. This is not merely a
figure of speech, but a grim reality.
Though salvation is free, yet it is not obtained without
great effort. The fight to which God's children are called in this life, is
one in which Christians themselves receive many sore wounds, and thousands
of professors are slain. Now, as we shall see in the verses which follow,
the Apostle warns us that the conflict has to do with more than human foes:
the enemies we have to meet are superhuman ones, and therefore in order to
successfully fight against them we need supernatural strength. We must
remember that the Christian belongs to the spiritual realm as well as the
natural, and so he has spiritual as well as natural foes; and hence he needs
spiritual strength as well as physical.
Therefore the Apostle begins here by saying, "Finally, be
strong in the Lord and in His mighty power" (Eph. 6:10). The word "finally"
denotes that the Apostle had reached his closing exhortation, and the words
"be strong" link up with what immediately proceeds as well as with what now
follows. Some of you will remember that the whole of the fifth, and opening
verses of the sixth chapters are filled with exhortations: exhortations
which pertain to each aspect of the Christian life; exhortations to regulate
him in the home, in business, in the world. Those exhortations are addressed
to the husband, wife, child, master, servant, and in order for the Christian
to obey them he needs to "be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."
Thus, the call which is given in verse 10 is not only an introduction to
what follows, but is also closely related to that which precedes.
"Finally"—after all the Christian duties I have set
before you in the previous verses, now—"be strong in the Lord and in His
mighty power." The words "Be strong" mean to muster strength for the
conflict, and be strong "in the Lord" signifies we must seek that strength
from the only source from which we can obtain it. Note carefully it is not
"be strong from the Lord," nor is it "be strengthened by the
Lord." No, it is "be strong in the Lord." Perhaps you will get the
thought if I use this analogy: just as a thumb that is amputated is useless,
and just as a branch cut off from the vine withers, so a Christian whose
fellowship with the Lord has been broken, is in a strengthless, fruitless,
useless state. Thus, "be strong in the Lord" means first of all, see to it
that you maintain a live practical relationship to and remain in constant
communion with the Lord. Just as my arm must be a part of, a member, in my
body, if it is to be vitalized and fitted to perform its functions, so I
must be in real touch with the Lord, in daily communion with Him, in living
contact—not in theory, but in actual experience.
It is deeply important that we should, before we proceed
farther, grasp the exhortation found in verse 10: otherwise there will be no
strength for the conflict. "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."
At first sight there seems to be a needless repetition there; but it is not
so. A soldier not only needs strength of body for the carrying of his heavy
weapons, for the strain of long marches, and for the actual fighting, but he
also needs courage: a powerful giant who is a coward would make a pitiful
soldier. The two chief things which are needed for one engaged in fighting,
are strength and courage, or vitality and a brave heart; and that is what is
in view in verse 10—the last clause brings in the thought of boldness. "Be
strong": in faith, in hope, in wisdom, in patience, in fortitude, in every
Christian grace. To be strong in grace, is to be weak in sin.
It is vitally essential to remember that we need to have
our strength and courage renewed daily. Be strong in the Lord: seek His
strength at the beginning of each day—"those who wait upon the Lord shall
renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). God does not impart strength to us
wholesale: He will not give me strength on Monday morning to last through
the week. No, there has to be the renewing of our strength, and that
strength has to be drawn from the Lord by the actings of faith,
appropriating from His "fullness." The enemies we have to contend with
cannot be overcome by human wisdom and might. Unless we go forth to the
conflict continually looking to Christ for all needed supplies of grace,
deriving all our vitality from Him, we are sure to be defeated.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to
stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). Our first need is to stir
up ourselves to resist temptation by a believing reliance upon God's
all-sufficient grace, that is, obtaining from Him the strength which will
enable us to go forth and fight against the foe. Our second greatest need is
to be well armed for the conflict into which we must daily enter. This is
the relation between verses 10 and 11: "Be strong in the Lord" and "Put on
the whole armor of God": first, stir up yourselves to resist temptation,
seeking strength at the beginning of the day for the conflict; then see to
it that you take unto yourselves, put on, the whole armor of God.
The Christian is engaged in a warfare. There is a fight
before him, hence armor is urgently needed. It is impossible for us to stand
against the wiles of the devil unless we avail ourselves of the provisions
which God has made for enabling us to stand. Observe it is called "the armor
of God." Just as the strength we need, comes not from ourselves, but must be
supplied by the Lord; so our means of defense lie not in our own powers and
faculties, but only as they are quickened by God. It is called the "armor of
God" because He both provides and bestows it, for we have none of our own;
and yet, while this armor is of God's providing and bestowing, we have to
"put it on"! God does not fit it on us; He places it before us; and it is
our responsibility, duty, task, to put on the whole armor of God.
This same figure of "the armor" is used three times in
the Epistles of Paul, and I believe we find in them a reference to the
Trinity. I think the "armor of righteousness" (2 Cor. 6:7) looks more
particularly unto Christ; the "armor of light" (Romans 13:12) more
especially to the Holy Spirit, who is the One that immediately illuminates
us: and the "armor of God" unto the the Father, who is the Provider of it.
Now it is very important we should recognize that this
term "armor" is a figurative one, a metaphor, and refers not to something
which is material or carnal. It is a figurative expression denoting the
Christian's graces: the various parts of the armor represent the different
spiritual graces which are to protect his varied faculties; and when we are
told to "put on" the armor, it simply means we are to call into exercise and
action our graces. Notice, "Put on the whole armor of God," that is,
avoiding the snares of the devil; or to drop the figure, so exercise all the
Christian graces that no part of the soul is exposed unto the Enemy. Those
who wish to approve themselves of being in possession of Grace, must see to
it that they have all the graces of a saint.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that (in order that) you
may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). There is
no standing against him if we are not armored: or to drop the figure, there
is no success in resisting the devil if our graces be not in exercise. On
the other hand, there is no failing and falling before him if our graces are
healthy and active. "For 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" (v. 12). The opening
"For" has the force of "Because": the Apostle is advancing a reason, which
virtually amounts to an argument, so as to enforce the exhortation just
given. Because we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, not against puny human enemies no stronger than ourselves,
but against powers and rulers of the darkness of this world: therefore the
panoply of God is essential. That is brought in to emphasize the
terribleness of the conflict before us. It is no imaginary one, and no
ordinary foes we have to meet; but spiritual, superhuman, invisible ones.
Those enemies seek to destroy faith and produce doubt. They seek to destroy
hope and produce despair. They seek to destroy humility and produce pride.
They seek to destroy peace and produce bitterness and malice. They seek to
prevent our enjoyment of heavenly things by getting us unduly occupied with
earthly things. Their attack is not upon the body, but upon the soul.
"Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you
may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (v.
13). The opening "Therefore" means, in view of the fact that we wrestle
against these powerful superhuman, invisible foes, who hate us with a deadly
hatred and are seeking to destroy us; therefore appropriate and use the
provision which God has made, so that we may stand and withstand. The first
clause of verse 13 explains the opening words of verse 11. Verse 11 says
"put on," make use of all proper defensive weapons for repulsing the attacks
and the 13th says "take unto you the whole armor of God": we "put on" by
taking it "unto us," that is, by appropriation, by making it our own. "That
you may be able to withstand": to withstand is the opposite of yielding, of
being tripped up, thrown down, by the devil's temptations; it means that we
stand our ground, strive against and resist the devil.
"That you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and
having done all, to stand": the "stand" is the opposite of a slothful sleep
or a cowardly flight. We have that illustrated in the case of the Apostles.
In Gethsemane they did not "stand," but lay down and slept at the post of
duty. No wonder that a little later they all "forsook Him and fled" (Matt.
26:56)! I want you to notice that we are not here told to advance. We are
only ordered to "stand." God has not called His people to an aggressive war
upon Satan, to invade his territory, and seek to wrest from him what is his;
but He has told us to occupy the ground which He has allotted us.
This is the third time in these verses the Spirit of God
has repeated that word "Stand"—not advance, not rush hither and there, like
a crazy person. "Stand therefore" is all God has told us to do in our
conflict with the devil.
1. "Stand therefore, having your loins girt
about with truth" (Eph. 6:14). Now that brings before us the first of the
seven pieces of the Christian's Armor which is mentioned in the passage.
First, let me warn you against the carnalization of this word, thinking of
something that is external, visible, or tangible. The figure of the "belt"
is taken from a well known custom in Oriental countries, where the people
all wear long flowing outer garments reaching to the feet, which would
impede their actions when walking, working or fighting. The first thing a
person does there when about to be active, is to gird up around his waist
that outer garment which trails to the ground. When the garment is not
girded and hangs down, it indicates the person is at rest. To "gird up" is
therefore the opposite of sloth and ease, following the line of least
resistance. Be girded about with a belt of truth.
I believe there is a double reference or meaning here in
the word "truth." But first of all, I want to take up what it is that we
need to "gird." The breastplate is for the heart, the helmet for the head,
what, then, is the "belt" for? In that from which the figure is borrowed,
the reference is to the waist. But what does that metaphor denote? Plainly,
the center or mainspring of all our activities. And what is that? Obviously,
it is the mind. The mind is the mainspring of action: first the thought, and
then the carrying out of it. 1 Peter 1:13 helps us here: "gird up the loins
of your mind." "Having your loins girt about with truth" (Eph. 6:14): it is
not so much our embracing the truth, as the truth embracing us. Thus, the
spiritual reference is to the holding in and regulation of the thoughts of
the mind. The mind "girded up," means a mind which is disciplined; the
opposite of one where the thoughts are allowed to run loose and wild.
Again; the "loins" are the place of strength, so is the
mind. If we allow our thoughts and imaginations to run wild, we will have no
communion with God, and no power against Satan. If our thoughts are not
brought into captivity, in obedience to Christ, the devil will soon gain a
hold over us. "Having your loins girt about with truth." I think the word
"truth" has reference, in the first place, to the Word of God: "Your Word is
truth" (John 17:17): that is what must regulate the mind, control the
thoughts, subdue the imaginations: there must be a knowledge of, faith in,
love for, subjection to, God's Word. "Stand therefore, having your loins
(your mind) girt about with truth" (v. 14). Now that suggests to us the
characteristic quality of the adversary against whom we are called upon to
arm. Satan is a liar, and we can only meet him with the Truth. Satan
prevails over ignorance by means of guile or deceit; but he has no power
over those whose minds are regulated by the Truth of God. "If you continue
in My Word, then are you My disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32)—"free" from the toils,
the power, the deceptions of Satan.
I think the word "truth" here has a second meaning. Take
for example Psalm 51:6, God "desire truth in the inward parts": "truth"
there signifies reality, sincerity. Truth is the opposite of hypocrisy,
pretense, unreality. That is why the belt of truth comes first, because if
it is lacking, everything else is vain and useless. The strength of every
grace lies in the sincerity of it. In 1 Timothy 1:5 we read of "sincere
faith," which means true, genuine, real faith; in contrast from a
faith which is only theoretical, notional, lifeless, inoperative—a faith
which utterly withers before the fires of testing. "Grace be with all those
who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" (Eph. 6:24). That is
another discriminating verse, distinguishing between a real and false love,
a true and faithless love.
There are thousands of Protestants who have a similar
love for Christ as Romanists have for His mother, Mary: it is merely a
natural love, a fleshly sentiment, a carnal emotion. But genuine, spiritual
love for Him, strives to please Him: it is an intensely practical thing, a
principle of holy obedience. O how we need to examine our graces and test
them by Scripture, to see whether our faith and love be genuine. We repeat
that, reality and sincerity are the strengths of every Christian grace.
That is why the belt of Truth comes first in the different pieces of armor.
The belt of Truth (corresponding to the military belt of the warrior)
signifies, then, the mind being regulated by the Word of God, and guarded by
real sincerity; and this alone will protect us against Satan's temptations
unto slackness, of guile and hypocrisy.
Only as this is "put on" by us, shall we be able to
"stand against the wiles of the devil": to "stand" is to so "resist" him
that he does not throw us down. To "put on" the belt of truth means applying
the Word to the first movements of our minds. This is where Eve failed: she
had received the Word, but not in the love of it. Instead of resisting the
devil, she parleyed with him. Instead of the truth bridling her imaginations
and desires, she cast it from her. How different with Christ! When Satan
approached Him, He was girded with the belt of truth: His thoughts were
regulated by the Word, and there was an absolute sincerity Godwards.
2. The second part or piece of the Christian's
armor is mentioned in Ephesians 6:14: "And having on the breastplate of
righteousness." First of all, notice the connecting "and," which intimates
that there is a very close relation between the mind being girded with
truth, and the heart protected with the breastplate of righteousness. All of
these seven pieces of armor are not so connected, but the "and" here between
the first two denotes that they are inseparably united. Now, obviously, the
breastplate of righteousness is that protection which we need for the heart.
This verse is closely parallel to Proverbs 4:23, "Keep your heart with all
diligence," understanding by the "heart" the affections and conscience.
As there was a double reference in the word "truth,"
first to the Word of God, and second to sincerity of spirit, so I believe
there is a double reference here in "the breastplate of righteousness." I
think it refers both to that righteousness which Christ wrought out for us,
and that righteousness which the Spirit works in us; both the righteousness
which is imputed and the righteousness which is imparted; which is what we
need if we are to withstand the attacks of Satan.
We might compare 1 Thessalonians 5:8, "Let us, who are of
the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love." I have
been quite impressed of late in noting how frequently that word "sober"
occurs in the Epistles. Soberness is that which should characterize and
identify the people of God. It is the opposite of that superficial
flightiness, which is one of the outstanding marks of worldlings today. It
is the opposite of levity, and also of that feverish restlessness of the
flesh, by which so many are intoxicated religiously and every other way.
"But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of
faith and love." Here, of course, it has the secondary meaning of what is in
view in Ephesians 6:14; it is the practical righteousness, like what we find
in Revelation 19:8.
This second piece of armor, as I have said, is
inseparably connected with the belt of truth, for sincerity of mind and
holiness of heart must go together. It is in vain we pretend to the former,
if the latter be lacking. Where there is genuine sincerity of mind, there
will be, and is, holiness of heart. To put on the breastplate of
righteousness, means to maintain the power of holiness over our affections
and conscience! A verse that helps us to understand this is Acts 24:16,
"Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense
toward God, and toward men." There you have an illustration of a man taking
unto himself, putting on the "breastplate of righteousness." Paul exercised
himself to maintain a good conscience, both Godward and manward, and that
requires daily diligence and persistent effort.
Now the breastplate of righteousness is for withstanding
Satan's temptations unto unholiness. The belt of truth is to meet Satan's
evil suggestions to defile the mind; the breastplate of righteousness is
needed to foil his efforts to corrupt the affections or defile the
conscience. Where there is not a conscience which reproaches us, then we
soon fall victims to other attacks of the devil.
3. Passing on to the third piece of armor:
"And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph.
6:15). This is perhaps the most difficult of the seven pieces of armor to
understand and define: and yet, if we hold fast the first thought that the
Holy Spirit is using a figure of speech here, that the reference is to that
which is internal rather than external, spiritual rather than material, and
also that He is following a logical order; there should not be much
difficulty in ascertaining what is meant by the sandals of peace. Just as
the belt of truth has to do with the mind, the breastplate of righteousness
with the heart, so the shoes for the feet are a figure of that which
concerns the will. At first sight that may sound far-fetched, and yet if we
will think for a moment it should be obvious that what the feet are to the
body, the will is to the soul. The feet carry the body from place to place,
and the will is that which directs the activities of the soul; what the will
decides, that is what we do.
Now the will is to be regulated by the peace of the
Gospel. What is meant by that? This, in becoming reconciled to God and in
having goodwill to our fellows, the Gospel is the means or instrument that
God uses. We are told in Psalm 110:3 "Your people shall be willing in the
day of Your power": that means far more than they shall be ready to hearken
to and believe the glad tidings of the Gospel. There is brought over into
the Gospel, substantially, everything which was contained in both the moral
and ceremonial Law. The Gospel is not only a message of good news, but a
Divine commandment and rule of conduct: "For the time is come that judgment
must (not "shall"—now, not in the future!) begin at the House of God: and if
it first begins at us, what shall the end be of those who obey not the
Gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17). Yes, the Gospel is a rule to submit unto, a
Divine fiat which demands obedience: "your professed subjection unto the
Gospel of Christ" (2 Cor. 9:13). Those words are absolutely meaningless
today in nine circles out of ten throughout Christendom, for the "Gospel"
does not signify anything to them except "glad tidings"—there is nothing to
be in "subjection to"! This is partly what I have in mind when saying there
is carried over into and embodied in the Gospel the substance of everything
which was found in the Law.
Let me put it in another form: All the exhortations
contained in the New Testament Epistles are nothing more than explanations
and applications of the Ten Commandments. The Gospel requires us to deny
ourselves, take up the cross daily, and follow Christ in the path of
unreserved obedience to God. "Your feet shod with the preparation of the
gospel of peace" signifies, with alacrity and readiness, response to God's
revealed will. The peace of "the Gospel" comes from walking in subjection to
its terms and by fulfilling the duties which it prescribes. Just so far as
we are obedient to it, we experimentally enjoy its peace. Thus, this third
piece of armor is for fortifying the will against Satan's temptations unto
self-will and disobedience, and this, by subjection to the Gospel.
Just as the feet are the members which convey the body
from place to place, so the will directs the soul; and just as the feet must
be adequately shod if we are to walk properly and comfortably, so the will
must be brought into subjection unto the revealed will of God if we are to
enjoy His peace. Let there be that complete surrender daily, the dedicating
of ourselves to God, and then we will be impervious unto Satan's attacks and
temptations to disobedience. Just as the belt of truth is to protect us from
Satan's efforts to fill the mind with wandering thoughts and evil
imaginations, just as the breastplate of righteousness is God's provision to
protect us from Satan's efforts to corrupt our hearts and produce that which
is unholy; so having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of
peace means the will being brought into subjection to God, and that protects
us from Satan's temptation unto disobedience.
You will notice when we come to the fourth piece of
armor, the "and" is lacking. The first three were joined together, for that
which is denoted by those figurative terms is inseparably linked
together—the mind, the heart, the will: there you have the complete inner
4. "Above all, taking the shield of faith,
wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one"
(v. 16). I think the words "above all" have a double force. First, literally
understanding them as a preposition of place, meaning over-all, shielding as
a canopy, protecting the mind, heart, and will. There must be faith in
exercise, if those three parts of our inner being are to be guarded. Second,
"above all" may be taken adverbially, signifying, chiefly, pre-eminently,
supremely. It is an essential thing that you should take the shield of
faith, for Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "But without faith it is impossible to
please Him." Yes, even if there were sincerity, love, and a pliable will,
yet without faith we could not please Him. Therefore, "above all" take unto
you the shield of faith.
Faith is all in all resisting temptations. We must be
fully persuaded of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures if we are to be
awed by their precepts and cheered by their encouragements; we will never
heed properly the Divine warnings or consolations, unless we have explicit
confidence in their Divine authorship. The whole victory is here ascribed to
faith "above all": it is not by the breastplate, helmet, or sword, but by
the shield of faith that we are enabled to quench all the fiery darts of the
It seems to be a general principle in the Spirit's
arrangement of things in Scripture, to put the most vital thing in the
center: we have seven pieces of armor, and the shield of faith is the
fourth! Faith is the life of all the graces. If faith is not in exercise,
love, hope, patience cannot be. Here we find faith is likened unto a
"shield," because it is intended for the defense of the whole man. The
shield of the soldier is something he grips, and raises or lowers as it is
needed. It is for the protection of his entire person.
Now the figure which the Holy Spirit uses here in
connection with Satan's attacks, is taken from one of the devices of the
ancients in their warfare, namely, the use of darts which had been dipped in
tar and set on fire, in order to blind their foes: that is what lies behind
the metaphor of "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one"; what is in
view, is Satan's efforts to prevent our looking upward! When those darts are
in the air the soldiers had to bow their heads to avoid them, holding their
shields above. And Satan is seeking to prevent our looking upward.
The attacks of the devil are likened to "fiery darts,"
first, because of the wrath with which he shoots them. There is intense
hatred in Satan against the child of God. Again; the very essence of his
temptations is to inflame the passions and distress the conscience. He aims
to enkindle covetousness, to excite worldly ambition, to ignite our lusts.
In James 3:6 we read, "the tongue is set on fire of hell"—that means the
devil's "fiery darts" have affected it. The third reason why his temptations
are likened unto "fiery darts" is because of the end to which they lead if
not quenched; should Satan's temptations be followed out to the end, they
would land us in the lake of fire. The figure of "darts" denotes that his
temptations are swift, noiseless, dangerous.
Now taking the shield of faith means appropriating the
Word and acting on it. The shield is to protect the whole person, wherever
the attack be made, whether on spirit, or soul, or body; and there is that
in the Word which is exactly suited unto each, but faith must lay hold of
and employ it. Now in order to use the shield of faith effectually the Word
of Christ needs to dwell in us "richly" (Col. 3:16). We must have available
a word which is pertinent for the particular temptation presented. For
example, if tempted unto covetousness, I must use, "Lay not up for
yourselves treasure on earth"; when solicited by evil companions, "If
sinners entice you, consent not"; if tempted to harshness, "Be kindly
affectioned one to another." It is because the details of Scripture have so
little place in our meditations, that Satan trips us so frequently.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you
shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one" (Eph 6:16).
Like most of the other terms used, "faith" here also has a double
signification. The faith which is to be our "shield" is both an objective
and a subjective one. It has reference, first, to the Word of God—the
authority of which is ever binding upon me. It points, secondly, to my
confidence in that Word, the heart going out in trustful expectation to the
Author of it, and counting upon its efficacy to repulse the devil.
5. "And take the helmet of salvation" (v. 17).
This is the fifth piece of the Christian's armor. First of all we may note
the link between the fourth and fifth pieces as denoted by the word "and,"
for this helps us to define what the "helmet of salvation" is; it is linked
with faith! Hebrews 11:1 tells us, "faith is the substance of things hoped
for," and if we compare 1 Thessalonians 5:8 we get a confirmation of that
thought: "But 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."
Here in Thessalonians, then, we have "hope" directly connected with "the
Incidentally, this verse is one of many in the New
Testament which puts salvation in the future, rather than in the past!—hope
always looks forward, having to do with things to come; as Romans 8:25 tells
us, "But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for
it." Now faith and hope are inseparable: they are one in birth, and one in
growth; and, we may add, one in decay. If faith languishes, hope is
listless. By the helmet of salvation, then, I understand the heart's
expectation of the good things promised, a well-grounded assurance that God
will make good to His people those things which His Word presents for future
We might link up with this, 1 John 3:3—scriptural hope
purifies. It delivers from discontent and despair, it comforts the heart in
the interval of waiting. Satan is unable to get a Christian to commit many
of the grosser sins which are common in the world, so he attacks along other
lines. Often he seeks to cast a cloud of gloom over the soul, or produce
anxiety about the future. Despondency is one of his favorite weapons, for he
knows well that "the joy of the Lord" is our "strength" (Neh. 8:10), hence
his frequent efforts to dampen our spirits. To repulse these, we are to
"take the helmet of salvation": that is, we are to exercise hope
6. "And the sword of the Spirit, which is the
word of God" (v. 17). God has provided His people with an offensive weapon
as well as defensive ones. At first sight that may seem to clash with what
we said about Christians not being called upon to be aggressive against
Satan, seeking to invade his territory and wrest it from him. But this verse
does not clash to the slightest degree. 2 Corinthians 7:1 gives us the
thought: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit": that is the active,
aggressive side of the Christian's warfare. We are not only to resist our
lusts—but to subdue and overcome them.
It is significant to note how late the "Sword of the
Spirit" is mentioned in this list. Some have thought that it should have
come first, but it is not mentioned until the sixth. Why? I believe there is
a twofold reason. First, because all the other graces that have been
mentioned are necessary in order to make a right use of the Word. If there
is not a sincere mind and a holy heart we shall only handle the Word
dishonestly. If there is not practical righteousness, then we shall only be
handling the Word theoretically. If there is not faith and hope we shall
only misuse it. All the Christian graces that are figuratively contemplated
under the other pieces of armor, must be in exercise before we can
profitably handle the Word of God.
Second, it teaches us that, even when the Christian has
attained unto the highest point possible in this life, he still needs the
Word. Even when he has upon him the belt of truth, the breastplate of
righteousness, his feet shod with the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel
of peace, and has taken unto himself the shield of faith and the helmet of
salvation, he still needs the Word!
The Word of God is here called "the Sword of the Spirit"
because He is the Author, the Interpreter, and the Applier of it. He is the
only One who can give it power over us. We can handle the Word, meditate
upon it, pray over it, and it has no effect upon us whatever, unless the
Spirit applies His Sword! If you think of this verse in the light of
Christ's temptation, you will find that He used that Sword for self-defense
in repulsing the assaults of the devil: He was not aggressively attacking
him! And blessed, too, is it to mark that, as the dependent Man, He used
that weapon in the power of "the Spirit": See Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:14.
7. The last piece of armor is given in verse
18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and
watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
Prayer is that which alone gives us the necessary strength to use the other
pieces of armor! After the Christian has taken unto himself those six
pieces, before he is thoroughly furnished to go forth unto battle and fitted
for victory, he needs the help of his General. For this, the Apostle bids us
to pray "always" with all supplication of the Spirit. We are to fight upon
our knees! Only prayer can keep alive the different spiritual graces which
are figured by the various pieces of armor.
"Praying always": in every season—in times of joy as well
as sorrow, in days of adversity as well as prosperity. Not only so, but
"watching thereunto with all perseverance": that is one of the essential
elements in prevailing prayer—persistency. Watch yourself that you do not
let up, become slack or discouraged. Keep on! The 18th verse is as though
the Apostle said, "Forget not to seek unto the God of this 'armor,' and make
humble supplication for His assistance; for only He who has given us these
arms can enable us to make a successful use of them."
Some have called it the "all verse." "Praying always with
all prayer . . . with all perseverance and supplication for all saints":
think not only of yourself, but also of your fellow-soldiers who are engaged
in the same conflict!
Question—What does the 12th verse mean?
Answer—It does not refer to the sphere or place where the
"wrestling" itself is done, but emphasizes the fact that the foes which
attack the Christian are superhuman. We are not to interpret that verse by
the language of earth's geography: it does not say "for we wrestle in high
places against principalities and powers." No, the high places are connected
with those who attack the Christian, and not with the place where the
wrestling is done.