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“Put on the Full Armor of God”: Applying Ephesians 6:10-18

“Put on the Full Armor of God”: Applying Ephesians 6:10-18 October 2, 2021

Apart from standing firm against malicious forces, we must also put on the armor of God. Ephesians 6:10–18 encourages us to do so. This second study on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 will focus on the armor.

Ephesians 6:10-18 seems to borrow from Jewish Scripture and traditions that depict the Lord as a warrior armed with righteousness, salvation, and vengeance ready to repay his enemies and deliver his people (Isaiah 59:14–19; compare Wisdom of Solomon 5.15–23). In Ephesians, however, Christ’s followers are to put on the metaphoric armor, the panoply (panoplia: the full set of armor and weapons) furnished by God. In Roman warfare, it was the hastati (“armed with a spear”), mature soldiers, who would wear the panoply (Polybius, History of the World 6). And among the Greeks, city-state inhabitants considered it a privilege, not a duty, to engage in military action.[1]

There is no reason why Christians today cannot apply this mindset and these verses from Ephesians 6 when facing trials, temptations, and spiritual challenges. Other passages attributed to Paul the apostle likewise encourage believers to wear spiritual armor and engage is battle: 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 13:12. Paul and his colleagues likewise do so: 1 Timothy 1:18–19; 2 Timothy 2:3–4; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 10:3–6.

The Armor

  1. The belt of truth. As God is true because he declares things as they really are and does not lie (1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 31:5; Hebrews 6:18), so we the believers should be truthful in our words, conduct, and instruction (Ephesians 4:25; 5:9). Thus, the first piece of our armor refers to a moral virtue (compare Isaiah 11:5). Our manner of conduct testifies to who we are and what we believe. When James exhorts his readers to resist the devil, he similarly exhorts the double‑minded ones to purify their hearts (James 4:8). The moral life of God’s soldier has no room for divided allegiances. Hence, Scripture declares that a soldier must avoid worldly entanglements (2 Tim 2:4). They are to stand strong, be alert, and maintain endurance (1 Thess 5:6; 2 Tim 2:1, 3; 1 Cor 16:13).

 

  1. The breastplate of righteousness. Christians become righteous by faith in Christ. Yet as one theologian notes, “One who by faith is declared righteous also by faith seeks to do the deeds of righteousness and to grow in righteousness by God’s grace (Rom 6:12‑18; Eph 4:24; 5:9; Phil 1:11; Heb 11; Jas 2:17‑26; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Jn 2:29).”[2] If we are to do righteous deeds, all of our conduct must be just (Micah 5:8; 2 Cor 6:7). Although we can never achieve perfection in this life (compare 1 John 1:8, 10) we can seek righteousness through self‑surrender and through placing Christ first in our lives. God’s Spirit will empower us. When we do sin, we must confess, and he will forgive us (1 John 1:9; 2:1‑2). Unconfessed sin can open a door of opportunity for the Enemy.

 

  1. Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The Bible speaks of the “feet” of God’s children bringing good news. This implies that they walk and travel to proclaim the gospel that brings peace (Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15; Romans 10:15). In Ephesians the gospel about Christ (the message of the good news of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, as well as the benefits it provides, 1 Cor 15:1–8) restores cosmic harmony to the universe (Eph 1:10; 3:10)[3] and brings peace between humans and God as well as between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14–18). Those who stand firm in the gospel and advance it into enemy territory are in the process of restoring harmony in a cosmos that is confused and damaged by Satan. They are preaching the gospel to “all creation” (Mark 16:15).

 

  1. The shield of faith. Faith in Christ is absolutely essential for salvation (Eph 2:8‑9; Acts 16:31; Rom 10:9‑10; John 3:16; 1 John 5:4‑5), but the shield of faith seems to refer to a continuing trust in the Lord amid adverse circumstances. Through faith we are able withstand the flaming arrows (the temptations and attacks) of Satan. Although Roman shields were often made of wood, they were sometimes covered by leather that was soaked in water. This shield protected the soldiers from flaming arrows shot their way (Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War 2.75.5). The one who has faith overcomes the world, or kosmos, the hostile territory ruled by the Enemy (1 John 5:4‑5, 18‑19; 4:4; compare John 16:33). Through self‑control, alertness, trusting and depending on God, we can successfully resist Satan the “roaring lion,” knowing that others throughout the world face similar trials to the ones we face (cf. 1 Peter 5:8–9). Daniel P. Fuller, former dean of Fuller Theological Seminary, points out that misfortunes should not deprive us of our future hope (1 Thess 3:2–5). God makes all things work for good (Rom 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11).[4] We must therefore fight the good fight of faith amidst adverse circumstances, as the early saints did (1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7). We should also recognize that the decisive point in this spiritual war already turned in our favor when Jesus died and rose again.

 

  1. The helmet of salvation. Christians are not subject to the alienation from God that comes from sin and death (Eph 2:1‑9; Rom 3:23‑26; 6:23). Salvation, however, has a paradoxical aspect of being both “now and not yet.” Christians are saved, but their ultimate redemption awaits them in the future (Eph 1:13‑14; 4:30; 1 Cor 1:18). They must therefore stand fast in the assurance of faith, enduring to the end (Heb 3:12–14; Matthew 24:13). Christians who face severe persecution overcome Satan by loving God more than their own lives (Revelation 12:11). No matter how Satan tries, he cannot snatch us away from God if we continue to trust and remain in the faith. For those of us who love God, we have assurance that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5; John 10:28–30; 1 John 5:13; Rom 8:28).

 

  1. Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God. In Ephesians the phrase “word of God” seems to refer either to the Spirit-inspired word (Scripture) or the gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13; 5:26; compare 1 Pet 1:25). If the former, we are reminded how Jesus quoted Scripture when tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:3–11). If the latter, by proclaiming reconciliation between God and humans, we are enabled to overcome the wicked one.[5] Every time a person testifies about Christ, he or she is reminding the devil and the forces of darkness about their defeat through the cross! The sword from the Spirit supplies the word’s effectiveness or “cutting edge.”[6] The Holy Spirit provides power and penetration whenever one proclaims the gospel message (1 Thess 1:5). Hence, in order to effectively wield the “sword,” we should seek to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Being filled with the Spirit also would seem to enable a person to excel in godly virtues and character (Galatians 5:22-23) and in nurturing and protecting the church through their spiritual gifts.[7] The gifts of powers and discernment would seem to include the ability to cast out demons and discern demonic presences and utterances, respectively (1 Cor 12:8–10). Naturally, to proclaim the gospel message of salvation effectively, we must first understand it ourselves and appropriate it to our own lives. We come to understand that message through continuing the study of biblical scripture.

Finally in Ephesians 6:18 there is:

  1. Prayer. Although prayer is not mentioned as one of the pieces of armor, it is nevertheless mentioned in the context of resisting the devil. Prayer should be done “in the Spirit” (Jude 20). The Spirit‑filled life includes praise, worship and singing (Eph 5:18‑20; 1 Cor 14:15). When David played the harp (perhaps singing spiritual songs), the evil spirit departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14, 23). Spirit‑led prayer, petitions, and intercession for others are a vital part of spiritual discipline (1 Tim 2:1–3). Paul tells the Thessalonian congregation to continue praying (1 Thess 5:17). Christians must develop the habit of prayer (Luke 21:36; Colossians 4:2‑4; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thess 5:17). Jesus says stubborn demonic powers and influences can be broken by prayer (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:21). We resist Satan when we draw near to God and turn away from sin (James 4:7–8; Zechariah 1:3).

* * *

Those who put their faith in Christ overcome Satan through righteous living, advancing God’s kingdom, trusting in God’s provision for and preservation of our lives, knowing and acting on the gospel message and maintaining a consistent, Spirit‑led prayer life. We close with Daniel Fuller’s list of five practical counter‑strategies against the devil:

  1. We must keep ourselves occupied, for idleness leads to sin (1 Tim 5:13–15).
  2. Discipline should never be so severe that it implies perpetual unforgiveness (2 Cor 2:6–11).
  3. Appointed church leaders must have a good reputation (1 Tim 3:2–7).
  4. Married couples should not abstain from sexual relations so long as to allow temptation through a lack of self‑control (1 Cor 7:5).
  5. New religious converts should not be put in positions of leadership, no matter how gifted or talented they might be, for “Satan works to incite the inbred human tendency to self‑exaltation (1 Tim 3:6).”[8]

 


Notes

[1] See respectively, Jo-Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 251–52; Robert Garland, Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks (Westport: Greenwood, 2009), 237.

[2] David W. Diehl, “Righteousness,” in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 953.

[3] Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, 449.

[4] Daniel P. Fuller, “Satan,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4:343.

[5] Lincoln, Ephesians, p. 451.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Perhaps on the first gift would include the ability of certain Spirit‑filled saints to excel in casting out devils (1 Cor 2:4; 2 Cor 12:12; Gal 3:5; 1 Thess 1:5).

[8] Fuller, “Satan,” 4:343. For further aspects related to spiritual warfare, see my book, 99 Answers to Questions about Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare, available on also on Kindle  through amazon.com.

Image 1: Knight Angel Middle Ages at pixabay.com; image 2: Gladiator Rome Roman History Battle at pixabay.com

About B. J. Oropeza
B. J. Oropeza is Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University. His many publications include studies on Paul the Apostle, Romans, Corinthians, and theological topics. You can read more about the author here.

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