STUDY 12: THE THIRD CONCERN IN PRAYER - PART FIVE – HOW GOD DELIVERS US FROM THE EVIL ONE – 2

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009

 

When we pray ‘deliver us from the evil one’ we need to remember that God has, in Christ, provided us with all we need for our protection and deliverance from the evil one. Paul tells us:

‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power’ – which means ‘keep on being strengthened’ (passive, continuous), ‘in the Lord’ (identifying the source of this strength) ‘and in the power’ (the manifested complete and perfect power) ‘of his might’ (of his inherent and effective personal power). [Ephesians 6:10 – expanded to identify the meaning of the Greek].

This verse puts a fence around the way we understand the armour of God: The armour of God Paul describes has nothing to do with us or our ability: it consists of God’s strength and God’s mighty power. [Paul has already referred to this in 1:15 -23, where he prayed that his readers understand it.]

[1] the full armour 6:10-13:

‘Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devils 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.’

Because the enemy is so great and we are so small, it is necessary for us, putting aside all confidence in ourselves, to put on all of the armour that God provides. Not just this part, or that part, thinking that we have some strength in ourselves, but all of God’s armour, so that we do not leave one area of our faith and action exposed to Satan’s attack.

[Note: 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.]

[2] 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 simply 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 a sorry spot of bother.

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: Look up John 1:14, 17; 8:32 ,36, 38-47; 14:6-9; 18:37 ; Ephesians 4:21; 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: Psalm 25:4-5; 26:2-3; 40:11; 43:3; 119:28,30, 41-43, 141-144; 8:32; 13:10; 15:3; 17:17; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:10,12,13; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; 3:15,16; Titus 1:1; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 2:24; 3 John 3,4.

It is 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, 21-23, 25, 28; 2 Corinthians 4:2-4; Galatians 4:9, 17; 5:1,7,8; Ephesians 4:17-19; Colossians 2:4, 8, 16,18,20; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:6-9; 4:3-4; Titus 1:13,14; 2 Peter 2:2,3; 1 John 4:6.

This first item of 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, in which we are taught that by our own reason we can discover absolute truth.
  • The search for substitute gods. With the successful undermining of belief in the existence of the one true God, mankind is left in, and with, 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.

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.

[3] ‘with the breastplate of righteousness in place’

[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 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? Check out these Scriptures and learn that the Lord is our righteousness: Isaiah 45:24,25; 51:5,6,78; 54:17; 61:10; 64:6; Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; Hosea 2:29; Micah 7:9; Romans 1:16-17; 5:17; 8:10; 10:3; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:3; Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5.

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.

[4] with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

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 6:14 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. Consider the Scriptures: Isaiah 9:6; 52:7; 53:5; Luke 2:14; John 14:27 ; 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.

[5] take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

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 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.

Check out these Scriptures: John 3:15,16,18,36; 5.24; 6:47; 11:25,26; 12:46; Acts 10:43; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 4:3; 10:22,23; James 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5; 2:6; 5:9; 1 John 5:4,5.

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.

‘ Seeing he has given us his promise that he will always be on our side, and that he is greater than all the world, and that he has put us in good and safe keeping by ordaining our Lord Jesus Christ to be our shepherd, let us gather all these promises together and make a shield of them to set before us at all times, and whenever we are assailed. And let us defy the devil, because we are in the protection of our God, who is of invincible power, and because our Lord Jesus Christ has taken upon him the charge of our salvation (John 17:12 ) and promised to be a faithful keeper of our souls to the end. When we are once at that point, then we shall beat back the darts of the devil. For on the one hand he will labour to make us distrust God’s grace, and on the other hand, he will make us believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is far from us, and even tempt us to murmur against him, or to raise trifling and unprofitable questions, or else blasphemies, and similar things. And all these are darts.’ John Calvin: Sermons on Ephesians, p 672,673

[6] take the helmet of salvation

‘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. Firm up your understanding of your salvation, and the fact that God is our salvation, by reading: Psalm 13:5; 18:2; 27:1; 37:39,40; 62:1,2,5-8; 68:19,20; 69:29; 89:26; 95:1; 116:13; 118:14; 132:16; 140:7; Isaiah 12:2,3; 25:9; 26:1-4; 33:6; 45:17; 51:6,8; 60:11; 61:10; 7:7; John 10:28,29; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ephesians 1:13,18ff; Colossians 1:13; 2:15; Rev 7:10; 19:1.

[7] and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

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. [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 refuse the temptations/testings of the evil one, 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 we are under pressure, and 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): John 14:26; 16:13, 15; Ephesians 4:30; Ephesians 5:17,18; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thess 5:19.

[8] and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests …

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 utter dependence on God.

Thus, the armour of God, is, in its entirety exactly that: the armour of God. It is his gift to us, his provision for us; it is all that we have and are by being saved by him through his Son Jesus Christ. It is not, as some teach, a list of spiritual qualities or a level of spirituality, which we have to supply or achieve. It is all ours already in Christ. Sheer gift. Sheer grace. Perfect protection. But as long as we perceive it as something we have to generate, it, being of necessity imperfect, cannot protect us.