The Christian life is a battle. It is warfare on a grand scale. (Cf. Eph 6:12) All Christians need to know how to protect themselves in the heat of battle. Putting on the Full Armour of God, described by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:13-17, helps us stand firm against the devil’s schemes (Cf. Eph 6:11). What is the full armour of God? What are the different parts of the heavenly armour, and what are their intended purposes?
The first element of the armour is truth (verse 14). Truth keeps us secure in Christ and makes effective all the other pieces of the armour. The belt of truth holds the amour in place. We are therefore exhorted to put on truth for our own sanctification and deliverance, as well as for the benefit of those to whom we witness. Let us cry out with the psalmist: “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!” (Psalm 86:11)
Also in verse 14, we are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate shields a warrior’s vital organs from blows that would otherwise be fatal. A soldier with a breastplate goes into battle boldly with confidence. The devil is constantly attacking us with lies, accusations and reminders of past sin. Without the breastplate of righteousness, these will penetrate our hearts. “Let us, then with confidence approach God, the giver of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through his favour, help in due time.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Verse 15 speaks of “zeal as our shoes to propagate the Gospel of peace”. Shoes allow us to step freely and without fear while we turn our full attention to the battle at hand. They aid in our movement and defence. The shoes God gives propel us onward to proclaim the true peace, which is only available in Christ (the living Word of God). We should prepare ourselves to follow the Lord no matter what.
The shield of faith spoken of in verse 16 makes Satan’s sowing of doubt about the faithfulness of God and His Word ineffective. Our faith—of which Christ is “the author and perfecter” (Hebrews 12:2) — is like a shield, solid, reliable and trustworthy. The shield not only defends our whole body but also our armour. The shield of faith has a very specific function, which the Bible makes abundantly clear: repels the flaming arrows of the devil. Satan continually bombards us with the flaming arrows of immorality, hatred, anger, covetousness, pride, doubt, fear, despair, distrust, and other temptations. Every temptation, either directly or indirectly, tries to get us to doubt or distrust God. The purpose of Satan’s missiles is to cause believers to forsake their trust in God, to drive a wedge between the Saviour and the saved. The shield of faith will protect us from such attacks.
The helmet of salvation in verse 17 is protection for the head, keeping viable a critical part of the body. We could say that our way of thinking needs preservation. The head is the seat of the mind, when it has laid hold of the certain hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus (i.e. salvation) it will not accept false doctrine or give way to Satan’s temptations. The unsaved person has no hope of warding off the fatal blows of false doctrine because he is without the helmet of salvation and his mind is incapable of discerning between spiritual truth and spiritual deception. The helmet protects our minds from doubting the truth of God’s redemptive work for us. “Since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armour of faith and love on our chests, and put on a Helmet of the Hope of Salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
St. Paul explicitly states that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (verse 17). The sword is the only weapon of offense in the armour, but it is also a tool for defence. Strongholds, arguments and thoughts are all weapons the enemy uses against us. With the Sword of the Spirit, God’s word, we are equipped to deal with them all. A greater spiritual weapon is not conceivable. We need to trust in the truth and have confidence in the value of God’s Word. We must always hunger and desire for it. In Jesus’ temptations in the desert, the Word of God was always His overpowering response to Satan (Cf. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
The sword of the Spirit is also an offensive weapon, capable of inflicting blows as well as deflecting those of the enemy. Scripture is “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart. All creation is transparent to Him; everything is uncovered and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we render account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The Word of God is so powerful that it transforms men and women from the realm of falsehood to that of truth, from the realm of darkness to that of light, and from the realm of sin and death to that of righteousness and life. It changes sadness into joy, despair into hope, stagnation into growth, childishness into maturity, and failure into success.
In verse 18, we are told to pray at all times as the Spirit inspires us (that is, with the mind of Christ, with His heart and His priorities) in addition to wearing the full armour of God. We cannot neglect prayer, as it is the means by which we draw spiritual strength from God. Without prayer, without reliance upon God, our efforts at spiritual warfare are empty and futile. The full armour of God—truth, righteousness, preparedness and the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer—are the tools God has given us, through which we can be spiritually victorious, overcoming Satan’s attacks and temptations.
Let the song “The Battle Belongs to The Lord” remind us that our own strength is never enough to oppose the devil, but when we put on the full armour of God we will be “strong in the Lord with his energy and strength” (Eph 6: 10) capable of winning any spiritual battle.