Put on the whole armor of God! Ephesians 6:1018
Background: In Ephesians, Paul began by discussing what it means to be a believer and take hold of the many blessings every believer should have in Jesus. Paul knew that our faith is lived out in the real world. In that world, there is an enemy, and that enemy is at war with Christians.
The whole universe is a battleground between God and Satan, between God’s holy angels and the demonic world, between those who belong to Him and have thus been made holy and those who still belong to the evil one. God’s victory is certain, but the battles go on and every believer is involved.
By way of review, in the opening chapter of Ephesians Paul described who we are and what we have in Jesus. When a Christian is seeking to live the life provided by Jesus, he automatically puts himself in conflict with Satan. The Christian who seeks to live the faithful life can be sure he will face the spiritual warfare described in 6:10-20. That is why we need to put on the armor of God.
Paul used the imagery of a war to describe the challenges we will face as Christians. Paul often used military concepts to describe the Christian life. See I These. 5:8, II Timothy 2:3, I Timothy 6:12, 4:7, II Corinthians 10:4, and Philemon 2.
The message of Ephesians 6 is that there will be warfare for the believer. It is inevitable. Paul’s call is not to war but to preparation for the battles that will inevitably come. As the Lord gives mastery over one area of temptations, Satan will attack elsewhere. We are in conflict with a real enemy. Since we cannot see the enemy, cannot touch him, cannot outwit him, and are not strong enough in ourselves to take him on, we must seek help. We need God’s wisdom, God’s power, and God’s strength. That is what Ephesians 6:10-18 is all about.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 that we will be involved in a struggle. The Christian life is never presented as a passive existence but serious work to the point Paul could call it a struggle. Just before leaving Ephesus after his ministry there Paul met with the elders and declared they would face persecution. Read Acts 20:29-30. Numerous verses urge us to be active for the Lord against Satan. Read II Corinthians 10:35.
Before looking at the specific pieces of the armor God has provided for us, there are several things to keep in mind. The war is not about our salvation. Jesus totally cared for that on the Cross. That critical battle has been won and applied to us via our faith in Jesus. If you are a believer, the battle for your soul and eternal destiny is over.
What is the battle all about? The battle is for our spiritual growth. There are those who claim that once you become a Christian all your struggles are over. We know that is not true. The deeper one goes the harder the attacks will become. Look at Job. Never was there a more faithful man yet never was a man attacked more. Should we think that it is different for us?
Christians can allow themselves to be influenced and even controlled by the demonic world. There are so many challenges and warnings about resisting Satan that there seems to be little doubt that if a man so chooses, he can, even as a Christian, allow Satan to run his life and even work through him. Christians who willingly place themselves where sin is evident, often under the guise of “I’m just here with friends and will not be involved myself” are playing with evil. Christians who dabble in the occult or horoscopes, usually saying things like, “It’s just interesting and fun” are dabbling in areas that Satan controls and, therefore, are placing themselves in a dangerous position.
Christians are challenged to both protect themselves and take the offense against Satan. The armor of God is designed for both protection and attack. That we need help in protecting ourselves is too evident to be seriously doubted and it is the role of the church in attacking the strongholds of Satan that is too often missed by the church. It is too easy to cluster together in church and pretend we are neither being attacked or have no responsibility to attack the sin strongholds of Satan.
Paul began his comments on the armor of God with a command. Paul wrote “Put On.” That is an order for the soldier who would do battle. The command to “put on” is in the aorist imperative tense, which carries the weight of a military command. Military commands demand immediate and unquestioned obedience.
The background to this command is found in the situation Paul found himself in when he wrote this letter. Ephesians, written by Paul from prison where he was probably chained to a Roman soldier. As he looked at those battle-ready men, he must have considered the fact that we, as believers, are in battle and we need to have on our armor. Paul knew that to live the Christian life successfully, we had to be as prepared for spiritual warfare as the Roman soldiers where for military battles.
Paul wrote in verse 13 that we are to take, not make, the armor. It has been fully prepared for us. If we lose the battle, it is not God’s fault but ours. God has provided the armor and His armor is sufficient. We desperately need protection and God has provided all that is necessary. It is His armor that gives victory, not our own strength or ability while we have a responsibility to not only wear it but to develop the skills needed to use it.
To be successful in the spiritual battles we will inevitably face we must put on the whole armor. We must have it all, not just what we feel we want to wear. The importance of each item will become clear as we examine the details of each piece. Imagine a Roman soldier heading off to battle and saying, “I am not going to wear a helmet today, it’s just too heavy.”
The challenge begins with “be strong” but one cannot be strong if he is not seeking to put on the whole armor. The Greek verb form of the verb be strong is present-imperative, that is, it is a command to “be strong.” As a present tense verb, it implies an ongoing process, “keep on being strong.” The command is to “be continually strengthened” or in the context of the passage, “Allow God to strengthen us as we put on His armor.”
God instructed us 3 times, in verses 11, 13 and 14, to stand. Satan is seeking to knock us off our feet. No soldier that is lying on the ground can do battle. Because the whole passage is filled with military symbols, the phrase used here carried the idea of holding a critical position when one was under attack. Soldiers do not retreat at the first sign of a battle but take up an appropriate position, fully prepared and determined to hold it. This command means to stand firm and true to the faith, doctrines, and the life we are expected to live. Stand firm and do not move a bit.
We are called upon to stand firm against, “The schemes of the Devil.” We wrestle against a real enemy. The choice of the word “schemes” is intended to communicate the way Satan seeks to do battle. The word carries the idea of craftiness, cunning, and deception. The term was used to describe a wild animal who cunningly stalked and then unexpectedly pounced on its prey. Satan’s evil schemes are built around stealth and deception.
He is cunning and deceptive. He presents himself as an angel of light (II Cor. 11:3, 1314). If his devices are to be frustrated, then we need heavenly power and protection. Read I Peter 5:8.
Our enemy is Satan. He is the temporary ruler of this world and totally determined to frustrate God and God’s people. He hates God’s people and will do anything he can to keep them from growing spiritually or advancing the cause of Jesus. As Christians we are called upon to be God’s soldiers doing battle with Him, not by ourselves. Therefore, be equipped with the armor God has provided. Put on the WHOLE armor of God.