Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Whole Armour of God

Today we give you our next teaching on the Armor of God. It is the second in the series. Last week it was a call to battle, today it is being equipped for the battle. We invite your comments

Armor of God
Image courtesy Angelina Diez

Ephesians 6:10-18 
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 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. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints"

Having dealt with the first exhortation – “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” – we now come to the second which emphasizes the importance of “taking” to us and “putting on” the whole armour of God. Note that the Apostle first of all puts this exhortation in general, and then, from verse 14, onwards, he proceeds to deal with it in details, giving us instructions about particular portions of this armour.

In the first exhortation we emphasized that we are in a fight, a conflict, and that we have to do the fighting. “We wrestle”. If this was something that is done for us, then we should not need the armour, we would just look on, as it were, and reap the fruits and benefits of the victory. The very fact that we are told to clothe ourselves in the armour, that we have to put on each piece, and are more or less told how to use each piece, brings home again that part of the teaching which emphasizes that every one of us is engaged in this battle, and that the first thing we have to learn as Christians is how to “fight the good fight of the faith.”

A question we need to consider here is

Why does the Apostle put these two things in this particular order - "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" first, and then "put on the armour" in the second place?

It is not only an interesting but important and vital question. The answer must be that the first thing we have to do is to deal with the whole situation. We start with the whole before we come to the individual parts. In the first exhortation Paul has been dealing with our general resistance to the enemy. Having dealt with that, he is then in a position to deal with the particulars.

But there is another reason for the Apostle’s method; it is the difference between the positive and the negative. In talking about being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might; the Apostle, as we have seen, is dealing with the question of building us up, and making us strong and capable and ready to do everything we have to do in this great fight. That is positive. But in this matter of the armour, the outlook is somewhat more negative. You are waiting for something to happen to you. Or, to use other terms it is the difference between the offensive and defensive. The strength and the power of His might is an ‘offensive’ characteristic, but the armour is almost exclusively concerned with our protection, and the defensive side of our struggling and wrestling with the devil and the principalities and powers.

It is not surprising therefore that the Apostle uses this order. The positive should always come before the negative. In other words, if we enter into this spiritual conflict on the defensive only, and have entirely forgotten the offensive and the positive, we are already defeated. The exhortation in the first principle is to ‘stand’ to ‘resist’; not to be afraid of the enemy though he is a ‘roaring lion’. We are to resist him steadfast in the faith. – if we fail to put the positive before the negative, the offensive spirit before the defensive, we have become defeatist; and that, of course, is always fatal.

But there is a third reason why it is quite inevitable that the first exhortation should come before the second. It is simply that none of us could possibly use this armour if we had not first been given the strength. You need to be strong in order to use the armour. If we clothe the weakling in this kind of armour it makes him quite helpless and useless. He will have to use so much of his energy in trying to handle and to move inside the armour, that he will not have energy left to deal with the enemy. In other words, this armour is of such character that you have to be capable of using it. So you start with the exhortation to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

But why is this armour necessary at all? 

Why is it not sufficient to tell us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might"? There are many who teach just that. They stop at Paul’s first exhortation and never proceed to the second. Their idea is that if you are strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might nothing more is necessary. But the Apostle, having told us to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, goes on to say twice for emphasis: “Take unto you (put on) the whole armour of God” And the reason for this exhortation is that we need protection. The strength alone is not sufficient; wonderful though it is, we still need the protection which is provided by this armour. In other words, we have to realize that, as long as we are in this world, defense against the subtle attacks of the enemy is a constant necessity never to be neglected.

The Bible is full of this particular type of teaching. Take for instance what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore, let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he falls”. He pictures a strong man who thinks he stands. Usually after some particularly high and exalted experience there often comes a period of very great danger. It was so in the life of King David. The principle that this incident illustrates is very important for us as Christians. When you think that you are strong, and probably invincible, when you have had some great victory, the danger is to feel that nothing more is necessary, that you have become such a strong Christian that you imagine that you can easily stand. You forget the exhortation which says “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls” It happened to Sampson. It happened to Paul as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12.

Paul exhorts us to put on the whole armour of God. Put it on and keep it on. Our enemy is not only powerful but is also subtle. He is waiting for our unguarded hour along with his principalities and powers. We must never relax. Wherever we are, whatever the circumstances, whatever we have done, whatever we have to do, there is never a holiday in the spiritual realm. Though we may feel ourselves to be thrilling with power, let us be careful!

As a sports enthusiast, I see a similarity between the Christian life as Paul is exhorting us to live here, with soccer. In Soccer one must not only attack to score but also defend to prevent the opponent from scoring. If we neglect the later the result is usually a defeat. This brings to mind the game between Brazil and Italy (1982 World Cup Second Round). To my mind, this was the undoing of Brazil in that game. We therefore must not only be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, we must also put on the whole armour of God.

Why is it called "the whole armor of God"?

This brings us to another point which is to emphasize that it is called “the armour of God”. Paul called it “the whole armour of God”. He made the emphasis because this is the key to the whole situation. Nothing but “the armour of God” will ever suffice us in this terrible conflict in which we are engaged. There is no protection; there is nothing we can do, that will ultimately protect us against the wily, subtle, powerful enemy but the armour of God Himself. Essentially, it is the armour that is provided by God. This is most comforting and encouraging thought, whatever may come to meet us in the Christian life, God in His infinite wisdom and kindness has already provided for it. Peter in his second Epistle Chapter 1 says that, “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” are already provided for us. We therefore have no excuse when we fail.

We cannot on our own fight the devil or defeat him in our argument. The fact is that any of us who imagines that he can argue with the devil is simply showing that he is yet to start in the spiritual realm. The moment you start engaging the enemy in argument with your own reason and understanding you are already defeated. The only way to obtain real victory is to make use of this “whole armour of God”; which is specially designed to protect us. We are dealing with a foe that is inferior in power only to the blessed Holy Trinity, a foe who is altogether above man in brilliance, and mind and power.

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (3 vols.)
Available at Silaroli Bookstores

The second idea conveyed by this term “the whole armour of God” is that this is a very special type of armour, as the very term used indicates – truth, righteousness, faith, salvation. Clearly there is only one kind of person who can ever put on and use this armour, and that is the Christian. This is the case not only because he is the only kind of person who is strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might; but also because the very nature of the armour makes this quite inevitable.

In other words we are led to this point that this armour consists of an understanding and an application of the truth of the Gospel. The Apostle is only using the physical to illustrate the Spiritual. The Christian’s loins are girt about with truth, he puts on the breastplate of righteousness; his feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; he carries the shield of faith; he dons the helmet of salvation, he wields the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Now as every part and portion of this armour is obviously spiritual in its nature, it means that it can only be used by the spiritual kind of person.

All this can be stated as a question: As we examine ourselves and our experience, what are we actually using in this battle? How do we meet our problems and our trials? Are we meeting them as does the natural man, or are we meeting them as does the spiritual man, the man clothed with “the whole armour of God?” The world has its own methods for dealing with its problems. That is what makes the society possible, and why everything does not collapse. But as the world becomes darker and more difficult and the strain becomes greater the neurosis becomes greater and the need for psychiatrists increases. This is a proof of the inadequacy of the worldly methods. But the question is how do you, Christian, fight? As a Christian, you should always be clad with the armour of God. Our fighting should always be waged in a spiritual manner. The whole armour of God is provided for us.

Notice further, the double emphasis upon the “whole” armour. This again is something of crucial importance. It means that we do not pick and choose in this matter. If you are to be a soldier in this army, if you are to fight victoriously in this crusade, you have to put on the entire equipment given to you. It is God alone who knows your enemy, and He knows exactly the provision that is essential to you if you are to continue standing. Every single part and portion of this armour is absolutely essential, and the first thing you have to learn is that you are not in a position to pick and choose.

This means that we take the whole body of Christian doctrine; we do not concentrate on particular parts of it. This is what is breaking up the Christian Church today. We must take the complete doctrine.

Let us never neglect the details. Each piece put on with prayer. As the enemy is still waiting, and watching in all his subtlety, ingenuity and power, there is only one way to stand. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” Take unto you the whole armour of God which He had provided for you. Put it on piece by piece. Leave no unguarded place in your soul, but avail yourself of the full equipment which God in His infinite grace has provided for you in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His great and glorious salvation.

May the Lord help us!

To continue in the series, visit The War You Must Win

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