The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
When you became a Christian, four things happened. First, you were brought into a new relationship with God in which your sins were forgiven and your condemnation was removed. Second, you became a new creation as God’s Holy Spirit invaded your life. Third, being a child of God, you became part of His family, the church. And fourth, you provoked the attention of an enemy, whose set purpose is to oppose and destroy the work of God. So to become a Christian is to engage in a battle.
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). Your primary battle is not with people. There may be people who bring pain in your life, but they are not the enemy. They are the victims of the enemy.
The biggest problem in your marriage is not your spouse, and it is not you either. The biggest problem in your marriage is the unseen enemy who wants to destroy it.
Your biggest threat comes not from the wounds you have suffered, the defeats you have endured, or the injustice you have faced. It is the unseen enemy who wants to use these things to destroy you.
The first objective of your warfare is to stand. Paul uses the word stand four times:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth. (Ephesians 6:14)
When the day of evil comes—when the battle is most intense—God calls you to one thing: It is not to have the most marvelous testimony or to make phenomenal progress. It is simply that when you face the heat of the battle at its most intense, you will stand.
So make this your goal: aim simply to maintain your position and stand your ground. Be steadfast, unmovable. And do not quit!
How are we to stand in the battle? We must put on the whole armor of God (6:11).
1. Stand in Truth
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Paul is not talking about the truth of the Bible here. That comes later, when he speaks about “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:17). Here he is speaking about candor, honesty, facing the reality or the truth of the situation you are in. The belt of truth is what David spoke about when he said, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,” (Psalm 51:6).
When you find yourself in the heat of battle, your starting point must always be to establish what is true. You will often find that God brings the truth to your attention through the Scriptures. Use the Bible as a mirror. Learn to listen to close friends and wise counsellors who will speak the truth into your life. Allows those who know your situation to contribute what is true that you may have missed.
If you want to help someone in the heat of battle, this is where you must begin. What is the truth of this situation? What is the reality here? What you can contribute may often be something that you can see, which the person has not yet been able to perceive.
Wise counsel begins with a proper understanding of the truth of a situation, which is why James says that we must be quick to listen and “slow to speak” (James 1:19).
We need to put on the belt of truth because the fastest way to become an ineffective Christian is to live in the shallowness of an unexamined life.
2. Stand in Righteousness
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. (Ephesians 6:14)
The breastplate of righteousness does not refer to the righteousness of Christ that is counted as ours when we come to Him in faith. Paul is writing to those who are in Christ. His righteousness is already theirs. When the righteousness of Christ is counted as yours and you are clothed with it, you do not have to put it on every day.
What Paul speaks of here is our daily choice to do what is right. The only way to stand in the battle is to determine what is right before God and to do it—irrespective of the cost.
The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness are at the top of the list because the first questions to ask in any conflict are “What is true?” and “What is right?” A father tells his daughter that she must be home by midnight. When she arrives at 2 a.m., he is ready to unload. But first he must find out what is true. It may be that she has flouted his curfew, but it could also be that her car has broken down. If he takes time to discover what is true, he will be able to discern what is right. That principle holds true in any situation of conflict.
3. Stand in the Gospel
As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)
One of the enemy’s schemes is to use our natural love of comfort to keep us from stretching ourselves in obedience to God. The way to stand against this scheme is to put on the shoes of the gospel. Shoes are for movement and putting on these shoes means that you become intentional about sharing the gospel with others.
Notice that the gospel is described as the gospel of peace. Here’s how you can endure when everything is raging around you: the good news of Jesus is that He has made peace by shedding His blood on the cross; that in Him, you have peace with God, even though your sins are many and your life is far from what you would want it to be. So stand firm in the knowledge that through Christ you have peace with God.
4. Stand in Faith
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
Have you ever had the disturbing experience of destructive thoughts, hate-filled thoughts, or even blasphemous thoughts coming into your mind? When they come, you feel ashamed, and you say, “I cannot believe that I have been thinking these things.”
In a very real sense, it is not you who is thinking these things. These are the flaming darts of the evil one. They come from outside, not from within, and you know that these thoughts come from outside because you hate them when they come.
How are you to stand against these darts? Take up the shield of faith. Faith believes that God is for you and that He is greater than all that is arrayed against you.
Roman soldiers protected themselves with two different shields. A small, round shield worn on the forearm was used in hand-to-hand combat, but it did not offer protection against a volley of flaming arrows.
The picture here is of a larger, rectangular shield, four feet high and two feet wide, like a police riot shield. The Romans developed the idea of a phalanx, in which a small group of soldiers would stand together, arranging their shields to form a protective cover around the whole group, rather like the shell of a tortoise.
Satan wants you isolated in the battle. He would love to have you fighting alone against attacks in your mind and in your home that nobody else knows about. But God never intended you to fight alone. Share your struggle with someone you trust who will stand with you. Take the shield of faith and bind yourself together with other believers under its protective cover.
5. Stand in Hope
And take the helmet of salvation. (Ephesians 6:17)
If you are to sustain a lifetime of useful service to Jesus Christ, you will need to overcome discouragement. There will be times when the results of your work will be disappointing. Prayers won’t seem to be answered as you hoped, and you will find yourself facing problems to which there is no obvious answer. Tiredness will cloud your judgment, and you may begin to despair.
The Bible speaks about salvation in the past, present, and future tense. And when Paul writes about the helmet of salvation, he is referring to the hope of future salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
Paul placed his sufferings alongside the glory that would ultimately be revealed, and concluded that it was well worth the cost of staying in the battle. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18).
If you are tired of the battle, keep your eyes focused on the hope that lies ahead of you.
6. Stand in the Word of God
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)
The Bible is described here as the sword of the Spirit. In other words, the Scripture is the means that the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish His work. Drip feed God’s Word into your life, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to stand your ground.
And remember that the armor you wear is the armor of God. He gives this armor to you. The truth that holds you is the truth that He reveals. The righteousness that covers you is the righteousness He gives. The gospel on which you stand is His gospel. The faith that shields you is confidence in Him. The hope that sustains you is the anticipation of His deliverance. The strength that He gives you comes through the power of His Word.
Thank God there is more here than a call to greater effort. The Lord is with you in the battle. You can prevail because your Savior is with you! So, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).
How do you stand when the battle is raging all around you? Face the truth. Do what is right. Rest in the peace of the gospel. Exercise faith alongside other believers. Anticipate the joy of your future deliverance. Move forward in the power of the Spirit, mediated through the Word of God.
- Where is the battle most intense for you right now?
- Who are the people who have stood with you in the battles of your life? How have they helped you?
- What one step could you take in order to stand more firmly in your battle?
- “The first questions to ask in any conflict are ‘What is true?’ and ‘What is right?’” How might this help you in a conflict you are facing?
- What in this session has encouraged you to keep fighting your battle?