Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that the believers there should be prepared for battle. Not just a future battle, but a battle being fought at the present time. It was a battle for the minds and hearts of humans. He wrote, “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Eph 6:11. In this simple command Paul identifies who the enemy is, the fact he has strategies he employs in the battle and he also mentions the resources needed to win the battle.
WE ARE TO REALISE THAT HUMANS ARE IN A SPIRITUAL CONFLICT
There are powers at work in this world besides the power of God, and these are opposed to Christ and to His people. We see that in our baptismal vows in which we promise to “renounce the devil and all his works. ” The Cambridge English Dictionary has a definition for “renounce. It is “to say publicly that you no longer own, support, believe in, or have a connection with something.” The Greek New Testament word is [apotássō ] meaning “to take leave of, bid farewell; to dismiss, forsake, separating oneself from others, places, or things (Mar 6:46; Act 18:18, Act 18:21; 2Cor 2:13).“ [Word Study Bible.] So to renounce the devil is to affirm that you want nothing to do with him or with his purposes in the world. It also means you are affirming that you want to be set free from any lingering influence he has on you.
Jesus spoke of the existence and power of Satan and demons, and delivered people from their power. Peter preached about Jesus saying, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38. [“Oppresssed” here is the Greek word [katadunasteuō] made up of the intensive ‘kata’ and the verb to exercise power. The devil seeks to exercise ongoing control over humans.]
CS Lewis wrote that the great strategy of the enemy is to get people to believe that he doesn’t exist or to have them wrongly focussed on Satan and the powers of evil. Paul knew they still existed but were disarmed, “He [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” Col 2:15. Disarmed but still active!
Paul writes that we need to put on the armour of God in order to know His protection and victory in our lives.
WE ARE TO RECOGNISE WHO IS THE ENEMY AND WHAT ARE HIS STRATEGIES
- There are 18 references to Satan in the Old Testament and 29 in the New Testament. The passage in Eph 6:11 refers to his “schemes”. The Greek word is [methodeia, compare English ‘method’] which Thayer describes as “ cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery.” Satan has strategies in place to deceive and trick humans.
- Some of these strategies have to do with his nature. As the deceiver, he deceives. As diabolos the accuser, he accuses. As the Father of lies He ensures lies are spread.
- He had the power of death as the writer to the Hebrews indicated, but Jesus died to break that power, “Jesus … that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Heb 2:14-15.
- He can afflict people like the afflicted woman in Lk 13:11 “And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.” When Jesus healed her he said, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” Lk 13:16. Jesus released the hold Satan had on her body so that she became free to straighten up.
- He promotes fear, as Peter warned, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet 5:8. Especially the fear of death, “and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Heb 2:14-15.
- He is the tempter who tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He can use people in his temptations. We see how Peter was used when he thought he was acting in love, by trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus replied to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mk 8:31-33.
- We also see how Judas was used when he betrayed Jesus, and how he opened himself to an attack of Satan. John records that during the last Supper “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” Jn 13:2. A short time later, after Judas had taken the morsel from Jesus, John adds, “Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly” Jn 13:27. Judas followed through with his intention to betray Jesus. Satan capitalised on Judas’ desire to bring harm to Jesus.
- Satan blinds people to spiritual realities. Paul wrote about those who were perishing through unbelief and that Satan has blinded them, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor 4:3-4. The tragic thing about spiritual blindness is that people don’t know they are spiritually blind!
Paul goes on in verse12 to show that Satan has, as his helpers, the powers of darkness. He lists them as following, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12. We are not just to identify these powers with the structures or the people involved, but with the evil forces operating behind them.
WE ARE TO PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD. Eph 6:13-17
Eph 6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Paul here uses an analogy showing how God’s people could take hold of the victory God could give them. As a soldier would dress up in armour for the battle, so Christians can avail themselves of the armour God supplies to enable them to win the victory. Paul describes the armour in verses 13 to 17. It is a picture similar to that in Isaiah 59:16-17 where God describes how He will bring victory over His enemies, Isa 59:16 “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.”
It is interesting to note however that these words are followed by a reference to a coming Redeemer who would bring victory to those who turned to Him from their sins, Isa 59:20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.” Not only that but it appears this Redeemer would introduce a new covenant with His repentant people involving God’s Spirit being permanently endowed on them, Isa 59:21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.”
What the does the armour signify? It signifies protection from [and victory over] the enemy. It is important to note that the emphasis in this passage is not on the weapons themselves but on the truths they represent. So we look beyond the armour [belt, breastplate, shoes, helmet and sword] to the following realities which are ours in Christ. I mention this because I have found some believers to be in a state of anxiety or even shame because they had forgotten to put on one aspect of the armour on that particular day. So they felt unnecessarily vulnerable, a situation Satan can use to his advantage!
[Perhaps Paul foresaw that when He expressed the same truths in another way. He wrote in simple terms, Rom 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 armour of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy.” So the armour has been simplified to the “armour of light,” meaning the light and life Christ came to bring, John 1:4. But he followed that with an even simpler command, Rom 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” ] It is Jesus Himself who bring protection and victory rather than the symbols of His reality. These, then, are the realities behind the symbols of the weapons.
- TRUTH. The victory is established and held together by truth, Eph 6:14 “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,” Jesus taught his followers that they would come to know the truth which would set them free. Jn 8:32. “You shall know the truth, and the Truth will set you free.” It is essential to realise that truth is not some vague changeable concept swirling around in space. Rather it is focussed on Jesus. He is the ultimate reality who is the truth about creation [He made it] and the truth about humankind [as the only One who embodied what true humanity should look like]. He is the truth about the way to God, as He affirmed, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jn 14:6. Truth became incarnate in Jesus who came “full of grace and truth” Jn 1:14. The law may have been given through Moses but “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17. Walking in the truth is dependent on following Jesus as the truth, Eph 4:20 “But that is not the way you learned Christ! 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” To look for truth apart from the revelation of Jesus as a person and apart from His teachings is to live in a world of unreality because TRUTH became incarnate in Jesus.
- RIGHTEOUSNESS. It is expressed in righteousness. “and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Paul wrote that Jesus is our righteousness, 1Cor 1:30 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Theologians express the truth that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as believers and that God sees us as being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. In that sense then it means that believers look beyond their own righteousness to live in such a way that the righteousness of Christ is seen in their lives openly, as a breastplate would be seen on their person. In other words, the righteousness of Christ being not only imputed to them but also imparted to them and exhibited through them as they live in a vital living faith-union with Him.
- PEACE. It takes its stand on the fact that peace is available to the people of God. Eph 6:15 “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Such peace is available in and through Jesus who came into the world to bring peace, Eph 2:14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” He established peace in the world as the Prince of peace, and He establishes peace in the hearts of individuals in the world, who open their hearts to Him. He alone has achieved the reconciliation needed to establish peace, Col 1:20 “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
- FAITH. Faith brings victory in difficult situations as the shield of faith is taken up to extinguish the accusations [or the flaming darts] of diabolos, the accuser, the evil one, Eph 6:16 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Again we need to note that Paul is not talking about having faith in faith. Rather it is about having faith in Jesus. Faith in who He is as a person and in what He has done for humans in His death, resurrection, ascension and session at the right hand of God. One of the first books I ever read as a believer I found immensely helpful . It was titled, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” by Professor John Murray. Redemption was accomplished when Jesus won victory by His death on the cross as His triumphant cry rang out, “It is finished!” Redemption is being applied as He continues to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit on those who trust Him for their forgiveness and salvation.
- SALVATION. The helmet symbolises the protection of the head and the mind, Eph 6:17 “and take the helmet of salvation.” Salvation is not just a concept. It is a gift given by the grace of God to those who receive it freely in Jesus. It is in Him and in Him alone, 2Tim 2:10 “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” That was the subject of the early preaching in Acts, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. Having the assurance of the certain hope of salvation equips the people of God for their struggle against the powers of darkness in the world.
- THE WORD OF GOD. It means wielding the sword of the Spirit [the word of God] as a defensive weapon and as a weapon of attack against the powers of darkness. Eph 6:17 “and take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The word of God brings discernment and protects the believer from being deceived and led astray, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4:12. Jesus promised His followers that they would get answers to their prayers as they continued to abide in Him and in His word, Jn 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Being in the centre of God’s will by aligning oneself with Jesus as Lord and by aligning oneself with the truths of His word is the ultimate weapon for achieving victory in spiritual warfare.
- SUPPLICATION. It means looking beyond human resources and praying to God to supply the resources only He can provide for every area of life, including victory in spiritual warfare, Eph 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Praying in the Spirit would certainly include praying in tongues but appears to be wider than that. It is the prayer originated by the Holy Spirit Himself, the sort of prayer envisioned in Rom 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The advantage of such a prayer is that it more in conformity with the will of God, Rom 8:27 “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Therein is victory!
- It involves persevering prayer, not only for God to supply our own personal needs, but also to supply the needs of others in the body of Christ, “To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” That meant for Paul’s Philippian readers that they should continue in their prayer for Paul Himself that he would be bold in presenting the gospel message, Eph 6:19 “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.”
Paul often wrote about the unity of believers such as in 1Cor 12:25 where he instructed that “there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” To be faithful in prayer for other believers was to be in the will of God for His people, for that was what Jesus their Lord and Saviour is doing for His people continually, Heb 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Victory then is not just knowing what the various weapons are. It is trusting in the risen Christ who embodies in Himself all the meaning behind the symbols of the weapons. Indeed believers should be walking in victory, for as Paul indicated it is our Christian [new] birthright, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal 3:27. But he also knew that believers living with a fallen nature in a fallen world needed to consciously maintain their focus on Jesus and become what God had equipped them to become. They had to “… put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:24. That is what victorious Christian living is all about as we recognise and win victories over the methods and strategies of the evil one who would seek to destroy us.
Blog No.283. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 29th August 2018