The Full Armor of God

The “full armor of God”, as described by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-17, was designed to enable a Christian “to stand against the schemes of the devil” (verse 11 NET). The word “stand” might give one the impression that the stance of the Christian is mostly a defensive one. But it isn’t. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He did not only stand firm against the devil, He also went on the offensive by using the Word of God. The Word of God is represented by the “sword” (of the Spirit) in the armor of God. So, the full armor of God is both for defensive and offensive purposes.

I have studied the Full Armor of God for many years now, and have also taught it countless times. But only recently did I see something I had never see before. It was God who allowed me to see this, and I would like to share it with you.

Most of the time, when the Full Armor of God is taught, all the focus has been on the parts of the armor. No doubt, it is important to understand what role each part plays and how we should put them on correctly. But, in addition to that, I saw a sequence in which Paul presents the parts of the Armor to us. Paul hardly does anything randomly. What he wrote is inspired Scripture. And if it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, then surely nothing is random and without purpose.

The teaching on the Armor of God ties in very well with The Normal Christian Birth. It gives us, in a nutshell, the process a Born Again believer takes to become a mature Christian who is also an Overcomer. Track with me, and I will show you what I mean.

Belt of TRUTH

Truth is what the unbeliever is confronted with when the gospel is presented to him. Then “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes 2:13 ESV), he is redeemed and justified and is “baptized into Christ” (Rom 6:3). And because he is in Christ, he is “a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (1 Cor 5:17). He is free from every kind of spiritual bondage and stronghold from his past life because “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV). But his experience of this freedom is only limited by his knowledge of the truth. The more of the truth he knows, the more freedom he will experience (see John 8:32). This is why it is so important that the gospel be preached in it totality, not partially or in installments. The longer you delay in giving the truth to the believer, the longer he will live in bondage.

To most us, truth is something to be known with our minds. It has not occurred to us that truth is also something to be experienced in life. What do I mean?

The Hebrew for truth is “emeth“, which means “stability, firmness, and sureness”. It also conveys the idea of constancy because truth cannot change. It is immutable. In that sense, God is truth because He does not change (Mal 3:6), His word is sure (Psa 19:7), and His love is steadfast (Lam 3:22). We cannot just know God with our minds, we must experience Him. We must accept the invitation of the Psalmist to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psa 34:8 ESV).

Breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS

The next piece of the armor that Paul mentions is the Breastplate of Righteousness. Righteousness, says N.T. Wright [1], denotes “the right standing and consequent right behavior” of a believer before God. This righteousness is not earned by “the works of the law” (Rom 3:20, 28) because by it “no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16). Paul reiterates this by saying, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 ESV). A person is justified, or made righteous, only “through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16).

Having said that, we cannot ignore verses such as Acts 10:34-35, which says: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him”. Some versions of the Bible, like the King James and English Standard Version, says that “he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him”. This might be what N.T. Wright meant when he wrote about the “consequent right behavior”. In short, the deeds of a righteous person are called “righteous deeds”.

Psalm 11:7 tells us that the “Lord is righteous (and) He loves righteous deeds”. And those who do them – the “upright” – “shall behold His face”. Then, in the book of Revelation, we see that “it was granted her (the Bride) to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev 19:8 ESV)

How important are righteous deeds to God? It is important enough that He would discipline us, those He considers His children, so that we might “produce a harvest of righteousness and peace” (see Heb 12:11).

Finally, let us consider Paul exhortation in Romans 13:12.

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Rom 13:12 ESV).

The “day” here is a reference to the Day of Judgment, which is at hand. And in the light of that Day, we ought to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”. The New Living Translation sheds some light on what it means to “put on the armor of light”. It says: “Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light.” Then, turning to John’s first epistle, we learn that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7 ESV). In other words, to live in the light is to live a sin-free life (which we talked about in Chapter 3).

Shoes of the GOSPEL

The Shoes of the Gospel basically speaks of “the readiness to announce the Good News of peace”, according to the Good News Translation. In short, at this stage, the believer is ready and able to put on shoes so that he may go and spread the Good News that gives peace (or shalom).

By now, the believer would have known enough of the Truth, understood the gospel and its benefits to be able to tell someone else about it. It is not rocket science; it is, as they say, one beggar telling another where to find food.

Shield of FAITH

The next two pieces of the armor signals the readiness of the believer for real battle.

The Shield of Faith enables the believer to “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16 ESV). Where would you encounter “flaming darts” or “fiery arrows” (NLT) except in the thick of battle. This indicates that the believer is no longer in the safety of his barrack but has been mobilized and deployed at the frontlines.

In Singapore, every 18-year-old male citizen is conscripted into the military to be trained to defend his country in the event a war breaks out. On the one hand, it is a service every male citizen performs for his nation. On the other hand, it is a rite of passage where boys are transformed into men. Hopefully, it would not take 18 years for a believer to be ready to engage in spiritual warfare.

Judging from the Parable of the Sower, told by the Lord Jesus, the believer can expect to face the “fiery darts” of persecution very soon after receiving the “Word of the kingdom” (see Matt 13:20-21). And if he is not “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17 ESV) and “rooted … and established in the faith” (Col 2:7 ESV), he will wither under the intense trial.

The believers at Thessalonica “received the Word under much affliction” (1 Thes 1:6 ESV). In spite of that, they did not waver in their faith. Paul attributes this to the fact that they “accepted [the word that was preached to them] not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work” in them (1 Thes 2:13 ESV).

Is the Word of God in you? Is it working in you? The Word of God must not only be in you; it must also be working in you.

Helmet of SALVATION

The only two times when a soldier has his helmet on is when he is in training or on the battlefield. The helmet, according Paul, is the helmet of salvation. It does not refer so much to the believer’s assurance of eternal salvation as to his confidence that God is his salvation. And when he is facing the enemy, he knows he does not need to fear; he only needs to keep spiritually focused by seeking the Lord and celebrating His glory (Psa 27:1-6). He knows that the Lord saves the righteous, and He is “their stronghold in the time of trouble” (Psa 37:39 ESV). When he is downcast, he will hope in God and praise him again who is his salvation (Psa 42:5). He will wait in silence for God for “from him comes [his] salvation” (Psa 62:1).

How does he keep up his confidence in the salvation of God? He does what the Psalmist did: sing about it everyday.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations. (Psa 57:9 ESV)

Roaring Lion

I cannot overstate how important it is for a believer to be equipped with the Shield of Faith and properly put on the Helmet of Salvation. That is because, as Peter states, “[our] adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV).

If you know anything about lions, they do not just attack any animal they see. They will first hide in the bushes or among tall grass and observe to see which ones are the weakest. Then, once the right opportunity presents itself, perhaps when one of them is separated from the rest of the herd, they will launch out from their hiding place and pounce on the prey.

Friends, the devil is watching all of us to see who is strong and who is weak. If you have a chink in your armor or, worse still, if you are missing a piece of your armor, or if he sees that you are unable to stand firm, then you have just become his prime target. It would be wise to always be close to the Body of Christ so that you may receive exhortation daily (Heb 3:13).

Sword of the Spirit (the WORD OF GOD)

Finally, the believer is given a sword which is the Word of God. By this, I do not mean that until now the believer has not been exposed to or taught God’s Word. He has. How else would he know the Truth? What is meant here is that the believer now learns to see and use the Word of God as an offensive weapon, the same way Jesus used the Word of God to resist and repel the devil in the wilderness.

It isn’t by accident the Paul associates the sword with the Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and He guides us into all the truth (John 16:13). Not only will the Spirit guide us into the truth, He will also remind us of the truth that matches the situation we are in.

Before this, the believer had probably been reading the Word of God devotionally, to build himself up. Now, as he continues to do that, he is also learning to pray using the Word of God, for himself as well as for “all the saints”. Initially, they will not know how they ought to pray. At times like this, Paul states that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom 8:26 NIV). He is, according Zechariah, “the spirit of grace and supplication” (Zech 12:10 ASV)

[1] N.T. Wright. New Dictionary of Theology: Righteousness. p.590-592

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