STUDIES IN EPHESIANS

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

STUDY NINE: STRONG IN THE ARMOUR OF GOD [6:10-18]

For a more extensive study on the armour of God go to this study.

As part of his instructions to us that we should live worthy of our calling (4:1) and not like the Gentiles (4:17) Paul gives us a description of the complete armour which God has already provided for us to enable us to do so.

The description of this full armour of God is prefaced by this command:

'Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power' - which means 'keep on being strengthened' (passive, continuous), 'in the Lord' (identifying where the source of this strength is) 'and in the power' (that, is, the manifested complete and perfect power) 'of his might' (that is, of his inherent and effective personal power).

This teaches us that the armour of God that Paul is about to describe has nothing to do with us and our ability: it consists of his strength and his mighty power. This verse puts a fence around the way we understand the armour of God.

A. THE FULL ARMOUR 6:11-13:

'Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.'

Here we need to note:

      • It is God's armour.
      • We are to put on all of it.
      • We need it to withstand the spiritual forces of evil that are ranged against us.

Paul uses two words in this passage: stand and stand against. The second is the word used in:

      • 'Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you' (James 4:7).
      • 'Resist him, standing firm in the faith ... ' (1 Peter 5:9).

Here, when he tells us to put on the whole armour of God, he is giving us the means by which we can do what James and Peter both tell us to do.]

B. THE BELT OF TRUTH BUCKLED ROUND YOUR WAIST (6:14)

[The soldier's belt or girdle encircling his loins was the item of armour strapped on first; as well as protecting him, it supported much of his other armour and equipment. It was an indispensable item.]

We must never assume that this item of armour refers to our sincerity or our telling the truth as opposed to telling lies. If we were dependent on these for our protection we would be in real trouble.

No. It refers to God's truth, that is, the sum total of the truth that God has revealed in the written word (John 17:17). This truth is indissolubly and intimately connected with Jesus Christ:

Task #1: Look up these references and note what they teach us about Christ and truth.

John 1:14,17

 

John 8:32,36

 

John 14:6-9

 

Colossians 2:3

 

This truth - God's self-revelation - is what sustains, protects and directs us, and it is this truth that sets us free from the dominion of the evil one.

Task #2: From the references below what do you learn about the protective and liberating power of God's truth?

Psalm 40:11

 

Psalm 43:3

 

Psalm 119:22-32

 

John 8:32

 

John 13:10; 15:3

 

John 17:17

 

2 Thess 2:10,12,13

 

3 Timothy 3:15,16

 

Titus 1:1

 

James 1:18

 

1 Peter 1:22

 
Task #3: Study the verses below, and note what they teach about the ploy of the evil one, and the practice of those he has duped, to suppress or deny the truth of God:

Romans 1:18

 

Romans 1:21-23

 

Romans 1:25

 

Romans 1:28

 

2 Corinthians 4:2-4

 

Galatians 5:1,7,8

 

Ephesians 4:17-19

 

Colossians 2:4,8

 

1 Timothy 6:3-5

 

2 Timothy 3:6-9

 

2 Timothy 4:3-4

 

Titus 1:13,14

 

2 Peter 2:2,3

 

1 John 4:6

 

This first item or God's armour, then is his truth. Satan always seeks to deceive, to subtly or blatantly alter the truth, and so turn us away from, or corrupt, our knowledge of God.

In our society today we can see this undermining and corruption of the truth occurring at a number of significant levels:

      • Denial of the supernatural and exaltation of the human. This is expressed in secular humanism, which denies the existence of any non-physical being. Man is on his own, and his future is in his own hands.
      • Dependence on human reason. In this ideology, which is called rationalism, we are taught that man can discover ultimate truth by the use reason and logic alone.
      • The search for substitute gods. With the successful undermining of belief in the existence of the one true God, mankind is left in a spiritual vacuum, which we seek to fill with god figures of our own making. Our current generation searches for spiritual meaning in the occult and eastern religions.
      • Dependence on the mystical or experiential. Instead of depending on the once-given absolute and objective Word of Truth, truth is sought in one's own experiences including those of a mystical nature. These subjective things are seen to determine what is truth. One's own experience becomes the rule by which one measures truth. Truth becomes open-ended and relative.
      • Absence of absolute values of right and wrong. This results in the reduction of moral standards. 'Right' and 'wrong' become personally defined.
      • The post-modernist belief that there is no absolute truth there to be found so you don't even look for it.
Task #4: Discuss the six bullet points above, giving examples of each that you have noticed either among Christians or in our society.

Against these and other deceptions of the evil one God's truth protects us, and by God's truth we are delivered from them. To seek to live without the protection of God's truth is to make shipwreck of our faith before we even enter the battle.

C. 'WITH THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IN PLACE' [6:14]

[The breastplate covered the soldier's heart and lungs - his vital organs.]

Many commentators understand 'righteousness' to refer to our own personal righteousness or goodness. Again, we must ask the question here: if this personal goodness is what is meant, how strong is our armour? And is that what Paul believes will protect us against the hot and heavy attacks of the evil one? Is that what will deliver us from him? Do we depend on our own righteousness to deliver us from him today, when it took the righteousness of God in Christ to deliver us from him on the day we were saved? What does the Scripture say?

Task #5: Read the verses below. Underline the words or phrases that identify righteousness as God's gift rather than our personal goodness. Discuss the significance of this for 'the breastplate of righteousness' and its effectiveness against the attacks of the devil.

Isaiah 45:24,25

In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength ... in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult'

Isaiah 51:5,6,78

'my righteousness draws near, my salvation is on the way ... my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail ... my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.'

Isaiah 54:17

... no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication (righteousness - KJV) from me, declares the Lord.

Isaiah 61:10

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness ... '

Isaiah 64:6

' ... all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf ... '

Jeremiah 33:16;

23:6

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.

Hosea 2:29

I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice ...

Micah 7:9

'I will see his righteousness. Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame.'

Romans 1:16-17

'the gospel ... is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes ... for in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.' [Note that that which saves us is the Gospel of a righteousness from God. This does not change now that we are believers. It is this alien righteousness, that delivers us from the evil one.]

Romans 5:17

'how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ' [Read 5:17-21].

Romans 8:10

'if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.'

Romans 10:3

'they did not know the righteousness that comes from God, but sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness' [Read 9:30-10:11.]

1 Corinthians 1:30

' ... Jesus Christ, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness ..'

Galatians 3:3

'Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?' [In the context of a discussion of righteousness by faith.]

Philippians 3:9

'and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith' [It is this righteousness that Paul set forth as protection against false teaching.]

Titus 3:5

' he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.'

Gospel righteousness, the righteousness that saves and delivers us, is God's gift of the righteousness of Christ, his declaration of legal acquittal on the basis of Christ's fulfilment of the law's demands on our behalf. It is the justification of which Paul speaks much in the letter to the Romans. There he exalts this righteousness, this justification, this legal acquittal, in the questions 'Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Jesus Christ, who died - more that that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.' (Romans 8:33-23).

Satan can bring his worst accusations and condemnations against the Christian believer, but they are powerless. No accusation can hold water. No condemnation can be legally put forth. Not because they are not true, but because the legal requirements of God's law concerning those accusations and the appropriate condemnations have all been met and fully dealt with by Jesus Christ our substitute. This is the righteousness which protects us and delivers us in the presence of the evil one's attack.

D. WITH YOUR FEET FITTED WITH THE READINESS THAT COMES FROM THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [6:15]

The 'shoes' of the soldier had two purposes: (1) to protect the soles of his feet against injury, and (2) to give him a firm footing. They were 'sandals which were bound by throngs over he instep and around the ankle, and the soles were thickly studded with nails. This would give him a firm footing in case of attack.' (Wuest Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol 1 p 144).

The word translated 'readiness' or 'preparation' was used in Classical Greek for establishment on a firm foundation. It is to this firm foundation that that Ephesians 6:15 directs our attention. The firm foundation, the firm footing that keeps us standing firm under the attack of the evil one is 'the gospel of peace'. This firm footing does not simply come from the Gospel of peace, as the NIV translation infers, but it is the Gospel of peace.

Task #6: Consider these Scriptures. Discuss the way they identify peace with Jesus Christ and his gospel. How does 'the gospel of peace' both protect and stabilize us in the presence of Satan's attacks?

Isaiah 9:6

 

Isaiah 52:7

 

Isaiah 53:5

 

Luke 2:14

 

John 14:27

 

John 16:33

 

Acts 10:36

 

Romans 5:1

 

Ephesians 2:14,17

 

Philippians 4:7

 

Colossians 1:20

 

It is this perfect peace of the Gospel - this peace with God, which stabilizes us when attacked by the evil one. This gospel peace is not rooted in anything we are or do. Nor does it primarily refer to our state of mind. It is the state of peace - of reconciliation, of the removal of enmity and separation - between the believer and God. This is our sure foundation when the evil one tempts us to doubt and fear our salvation. This is our foundation when he pushes, provokes and pressures us to give up on our faith: That we have peace with God. In Christ we have that which the whole religious world is seeking.

Task #7: Christ is our peace; through him we have peace with God. Discuss the significance for you personally of this aspect of the armour that God gives you.

E. TAKE UP THE SHIELD OF FAITH, WITH WHICH YOU CAN EXTINGUISH ALL THE FLAMING ARROWS OF THE EVIL ONE [6:16]

The shield measured about 120cm by 75cm. The 'flaming arrows' were arrows with burning tips. The role of faith is to extinguish these burning arrows fired by the evil one. This 'faith' which extinguishes the enemy's burning arrows should not be seen only or simply as our faith with which we believe, but, as the Greek text says 'the faith' - that is, the content of our faith. It is what we believe, the one in whom we believe, that gives to our act of faith any power or effectiveness. The value of faith is not in itself but in its object.

Task #8: In the references below, who or what is the focus or object of Biblical faith? And what is the effect of that Biblical faith?
Reference
Object or focus of faith [quote direct from text]
Effect of faith [quote direct from text]

John 3:15,16,36

   

John 3:18

   

John 5:24

   

John 11:25,26

   

John 12:46

   

Acts 10:43

   

1 Peter 2:6

   

1 John 5:4,5

   
Task #9: Read these verses. Discuss how 'the faith' and 'faith' act as a shield against the darts of the evil one.

1 Corinthians 16:13

 

Colossians 2:7

 

Hebrews 10:22,23

 

Hebrews 4:3

 

James 1:6

 

1 Peter 1:5

 

1 Peter 5:9

 

Faith that knows that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, and that he did what he did for us, is the kind of faith that will shield us from the enemy's attacks. If we are unsure or uncertain here at this foundational level then we have no real reason not to sin when we are tempted, and no real reason to persist in our faith when the pressure to give it up gets hot.

It is evident that all the items of the armour go together. This sure certain confidence can only be grounded on the truth, the first item of armour mentioned.

The three most important facts of faith that protect us from the evil one are:

    1. Jesus Christ is God.
    2. His substitutionary death deals effectively and completely with sin.
    3. Our relationship with God is by grace alone.

F. TAKE THE HELMET OF SALVATION [6:17]

'Salvation' is a comprehensive word in which all that God has done for us and given us in Christ is included (the Greek word means deliverance, preservation, salvation). It is this salvation, (and the knowledge of this salvation), which protects (and delivers) our heads - our control centre from which all of our lives are directed and governed, from which all attitudes, decisions and choices come. 'Salvation' includes what we have been saved from, who saved us, how we were saved, what we were saved to and why we were and are saved. God's great act of salvation in Christ included a resounding victory over the evil one who had held us captive, and our God-given knowledge and understanding of this comprehensive salvation is one of the key means of present deliverance from the evil one.

Task #10: From the texts below identify and discuss the impact of salvation on our minds - attitudes, thoughts, emotions.

Psalm 13:5

 

Psalm 18:2

 

Psalm 27:1

 

Psalm 69:29

 

Psalm 95:1

 

Psalm 118:14

 

Psalm 132:16

 

Psalm 140:7

 

Isaiah 12:2,3

 

Isaiah 25:9

 

Isaiah 61:10

 

Micah 7:7

 

John 10:28,29

 

Ephesians 1:13

 

Ephesians 1:18

 

Colossians 1:13

 

Colossians 2:15

 
Task #11: Write a brief definition of the 'salvation' words below. All of these are included in the word 'salvation'. Discuss how these facts act as a helmet protecting us from the devil's wiles.

Adoption

 

Atonement

 

Forgiveness

 

Grace

 

Justification

 

Peace

 

Reconciliation

 

Redemption

 

Regeneration

 

Righteousness

 

Sanctification

 

G. THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD [6:17]

Here is the only weapon available to us. The sword referred to here 'is the short sword which the Roman soldier carried. It was used in close combat and was a weapon that had to be used in a very precise manner. Its function was primarily defensive, since it was used to ward off close-range attacks of the enemy. It was not the large broadsword, which would be the weapon of choice in an offensive campaign (Ice and Dean, Overrun by Demons). [In other words, we are not to go out looking for a fight - this weapon was never intended for that - but when the fight comes to us, it is this weapon with which we defend ourselves.]

This is not referring to the totality of God's truth (which is the protective belt of truth) but to the 'individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need' (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words'). So, to use this sword of the Spirit is to counter, resist and rebut the temptations/testings of the evil one, by rejecting them with the Word of God, in the way that Jesus did in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. This obviously necessitates a good knowledge of the totality of God's written Word, the Bible, in order for the Spirit to bring it to our remembrance.

When the Holy Spirit brings a portion of Scripture to our minds he is arming us with his sword, the only weapon we have to defend ourselves against attacks of the evil one (and he expects us to make use of it).

Task #12: Study these verses. Discuss their significance in relation to using the 'sword of the Spirit'.

John 14:26

But the Counsellor, the Holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 16:13, 15

But when he, the Spirit of truth, come, he will guide you into all truth. ... The Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Ephesians 4:30

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God ...

Ephesians 5:17,18

Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is ... be filled with the Spirit ..

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ...

1 Thess. 5:19

Quench not the Spirit (KJV)

Task #13: Recall times when verses from God's word have come to your mind when you were facing a difficult situation, a difficult choice, a situation of guilt, or a temptation to sin or to give up your faith. Discuss how these verses defended you against the devil's accusations, insinuations, solicitations, arguments, etc.

H. PRAY IN THE SPIRIT ON ALL OCCASIONS WITH ALL KINDS OF PRAYERS AND REQUESTS ... [6:18]

If Paul intended this to be part of the full armour of God, then we must also see prayer as a weapon, but it is an unseen, silent weapon, by which we call our God to our aid. To impact us with the extreme necessity of prayer Paul says:

      • On all occasions
      • With all kinds of prayers and requests
      • Be alert
      • Always keep on praying
      • For all the saints.

Here he impresses us with our constant and utter dependence on God. There is no occasion on which we are not vulnerable to Satan's deceptive attacks - so there is no occasion on which we do not need to depend on God and armour he provides. Nor is there any believer who has progressed beyond the reach of the temptations and pressures, the doubts and suggestions, that Satan throws out to deceive us - therefore there is no believer who does not need God's help, and God's armour.

Prayer keeps us in touch with this dependence. It reminds us that it is God who is our salvation, not ourselves, not our supposed progress in sanctification, not our gifts or our talents.

Prayer is the expression of dependence and trust in which a believer takes from the hand of God all of the armour that he has supplied in Christ, and with confidence in that refuge, commits himself and his fellow believers into the hands of God, seeking help from him in whom he trusts.