“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the whiles of the Devil.”
A reader asks that I expound upon “the whole armor of God.” The expression is found in Ephesians chapter six verse eleven. The writer in the verses surrounding this statement explains what he means by this, so, I know of no better way to understand his meaning than to examine it and the context. As is often the case writers of the New Testament borrow from common practice with which the people were acquainted to teach a spiritual lesson. Rome being in power we might say they were under what we call “Martial Law.” Roman soldiers were also peace officers so they were every where and at all times present. Of course there were a few implements of their attire that was worn only in battle situations, yet as the soldier marched off to war the people were aware of these. Paul is addressing Christians (Christian Soldiers), speaking of our armament and the way we are to conduct ourselves in battle, This armament has no application to alien sinners. So, first let’s consider.
ENLISTING IN THE ARMY OF THE LORD
It goes without saying: one must be in the army to be a soldier. We would think it ridiculous for someone to seek out the clothing and armament of a soldier who is not in the army. To be in the army there are certain requirements or procedures to go through. And like the United States Army today there are no draftees. The army of Christ is completely volunteer. However, Jesus does choose the soldiers in His army, therefore, each soldier is to “please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim. 2:4). The Lord chooses us as soldiers by His word. Therefore, just to desire to be a soldier is not enough, requirements must be met. What are the requirements for soldiers in the army of the Lord? They are the same as those required to become a Christian since every Christians is a soldier or, every soldier is a Christian. First, one must be aware of the requirements. Since the Lord has made the requirements known potential soldiers must hear them. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of who they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:13-14). Hearing produces faith, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 1:17). Learning of the goodness of God causes us to repent, “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). We must acknowledge the Lord Jesus by verbally confessing him “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). The final step of induction into the army of Christ is when we are baptized as “we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Being saved we are members of the church—are Christians—have taken upon ourselves the Cause of our Lord and are to fight spiritual battles in the name of Christ. We are thus willing to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3). Jesus extends the call for soldiers from all nations and people, but receiving the call depends on each of us. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30).
SOME REASONS WE NEED ARMOR
The Apostle writing to the Ephesians in chapter six gives a vivid description of the armor a Christian is to wear (put on), the manner it is used and the effect it has on those in opposition to the Cause of Christ. This will serve as a basis of my remarks. We will go through what is written verse by verse beginning at verse 10. This may not be agreeable to our inquirer nor the most picturesque way of proceeding, but with the comments in mind each of you can build upon them.
“Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” After giving instruction to special groups—husbands and wives, parents and children, servants and masters, he proceeds to instruct all of these and everyone else as well. “Be strong in the Lord” means in union with or in relation to the Lord. As we go forward in the work of Christ (the church), we must strengthen ourselves for the task at hand in the same way that Jesus strengthened Himself in Gethsemane for the trial of Calvary. Having obeyed the Gospel we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13,) which means we are now the enemies of the Devil. Contrary to the thinking of some, Satan does not lie down and play dead. He wishes to recover his losses by regaining Christians to his cause. Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves for the battle ahead. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit (behave) like men, be strong.” (I Cor. 16:13).“The power of his might” is something that every soldier is aware because many battles had been won or lost because of their leader. Soldiers who have confidence in their leader will follow him wherever he leads them. We know the power of the Lord + we realize and revel in His promise that no temptation can overtake us. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13). Soldiers may have the best equipment but are still at a disadvantage unless they have “the heart of a soldier.” This is our heart or mindset—we can and will overcome the enemy. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…became obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:5 & 8).
Verse 11. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The Apostle first gives some general admonition regarding warfare. The whole armour is to be put on, which shows two things.
- We are not to put on only the armor that is agreeable to us, but the whole armor, the complete armor. The point: we not only need equipment, we need all the equipment. We will have use of it all to meet our spiritual foe. We must take to ourselves all that God has supplied for living and for overcoming.
- Put on means to hide in, envelope in or to cloth with. This is something each individual is to do—God does not do it for us. It is the same principle as when we were saved from sin, God provided the means, but we were active agents in obtaining forgiveness. To battle Satan we can be the victors only by being active agents, using the armor God has provided. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (I Tim. 6:11-12).“The wiles of the devil” has reference to the trickery of Satan. Wiles means cunning arts, deceit, craft or trickery. The term embraces a plan and then following that strategy. It is easier to encounter open force than trickery or deceit. The devil is never what he appears to be. We need not expect him to appear in a red suit with a pitchfork. On the sly he made his appearance and deceived Eve, through jealously he provoked Cain and in greed he took hold of Judas. There are battles that are to be fought in open spiritual warfare but there is also the subtle battle that can be discounted and easily lost. While we battle false worship and digression openly, we may worship God by doing the right things, yet have wayward hearts (See I Cor. 11:20-34). Our position must firmly be taken against all evil—inward and outward—seen and unseen. Always keep in mind the easily besetting sin of unbelief. (Heb. 11:1-12:2).
Verse 12. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The word wrestle is a Greek athletic term which J. H. Thayer defines as “a contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to press and hold down prostate his antagonist, namely hold him down with his hand upon his neck.” We are all able to visualize such a contest, except, among the Greeks the loser had his eyes gouged out resulting in blindness for the rest of his days. This enables us to form a conception of the reaction of the Ephesians to Paul’s illustration. Ours is a spiritual contest (not physical,) resulting in damnation of the spirit rather than earthly. As subjects of Christ our warfare is not to conqueror earthly kingdoms subduing the bodies of men described as “flesh and blood.” Christ has a spiritual Kingdom demanding of the citizens to seek and capture the hearts of men rather than their bodies (read II Cor. 10:3-6). When we read of the crusades in the past that were called “Christian” we are ashamed. These were the result of power hungry Popes and Kings being the furthest thing from the wish of Christ. And so-called “holy wars” which have brought and now bring terror on multitudes of people is not God’s will. The Moslem’s are not of God. Mohammed is one of the greatest deceivers of all time. Christians despise carnal warfare especially those waged in the name of the Lord. We cannot wage carnal war in the name of God. ”Against principalities and powers.” Principalities are virtually the same as our word “seniority,” while powers means “authority.” These terms had to do with the hierarchy of the ruling Jews—the High Priest being the seniority and the authority referring to the Sanhedrin Court that ruled over the people (see Isa. 28:14). By preaching the Gospel Christians seek to make those trusting in the Law of Moses realize the futility of trying to please God and/or receive the remission of sins by it Rom. 10:1-4, Heb. 10:1-10. “Against the rulers of the darkness of this world” has reference to the heathen religions that the Ephesians were so well acquainted Acts 19:21-41. We cannot escape the idea that it also has reference to the Roman government, which was viciously opposed to Christianity. The governments of the world have no respect for God’s government or His people. Obeying the Gospel transports one from the kingdoms of men, the world, and darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, of Heaven and of light. “Giving thanks unto the Father…Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” (Col. 1:12-13). The Christian has no business participating in the politics of the world. ”Against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
This has reference to things that are evil of themselves. High places can be rendered “heavenly places” showing that these rise up above common people to positions of making and replacing spiritual and moral laws. This was common among the Roman leaders of the senate and Caesar himself. It has become all but too common in the governments of men today, as laws that legalize murder (abortion) and destroy the very foundation and perpetuation of the human race (homosexuality). States have adopted gambling as a source of revenue. Law enforcement officials complain of drunk drivers when it is sold freely in establishments on every hand, liquor stores, restaurants, grocery stores and corner markets. How long will it be until drugs are legal all over the nation as is now true in some states? When will we come to accept the truth that such rulers and lawmakers are servants of Satan and evil. They are interested in themselves rather than the good of the people Jn 8:44, II Cor. 11:14. As Christians we must realize that the kingdoms of the world are ruled by evil people “to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Dan. 4:17). Think of that the “basest” of men are in control of earthly governments! The point of this: Christians are at war with evil. Satan is called “the god of this world” and “the prince of the world,” granting him with powers of marvelous authority. “The world” is the sphere of his influence, having to do with that strange, lawless and godless things called “the spirit of the 21st century.” How profoundly the spirit of our age is dominated by the Devil who has penetrated governments and promotes vicious influence, as every observant Christian perceives. There is scarcely a beneficial invention that has not been perverted into an instrument of evil. With such a foe confronting us Christians need to put on “the whole armor of God.” (Continued next month)
Barney Owens 1611