STUDIES IN THE LORD'S PRAYER
Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2002
STUDY THIRTEEN: HOW GOD DELIVERS US - PART B
[A STUDY ON THE ARMOUR OF GOD (Ephesians 6:10-18)]
God has not left us alone and defenceless in the presence of the enemy, the evil one, and his persistent attacks. He has provided us with what is called 'the armour of God', which is described in Ephesians 6:10-18. The description of the 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 is about to be described is 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 6:10-13:
'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.'
A few comments from John Calvin:
' ... God not only promises to succour us by his power, and that in such measure that we prove victorious, but he also puts means into our hands and arms us; and yet we hang up our armour on a hook! And is it any wonder if we are surprised by our enemies, or are unable to resist in time of need, when we disdain to use the means that God offers us and that are so near our hand?' (John Calvin: Sermons on Ephesians p 657).
' ... we cannot serve God at our own ease, as if there were nothing to hinder us, as when a man may go to his work all day long, and it proceeds quietly, because he is not disturbed. But it is not so in the obedience which the faithful should render to their God. And why? The devil does not cease to trouble them, and to prepare for them a thousand stumbling blocks and annoyances. Therefore if we desire to walk in the fear of our God, we must be armed that we may be ready to do battle, for our enemy will never let us rest.' (JC, p 659)
'When we have acknowledged that we can do nothing at all of ourselves, then let us on the other hand consider who is our enemy, and be afraid, not like men paralysed to sink in our own wretchedness, but that the same may awaken us and drive us to seek succour at God's hand by prayers and supplications, and to embrace that which he offers us by promises, in the faith which shall be victorious over all the world.' (JC, p 660).
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.]
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 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:
We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth
... grace and truth came through Jesus Christ
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free ... if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed
I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence ..I tell you the truth ... I am telling the truth (Read all verses)
I am ... the truth ... If you really knew me, you would know my Father ... anyone who has seen me has seen the Father ...
... for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is one the side of truth listens to me.
Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus
In (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge..
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 . Opposing this truth is the strategy of the evil one, and the practice of those he has duped, to suppress, corrupt and/or deny God's truth.
Go to Worksheet 13.1 to study Scriptures relating to these two facts. It is very important that you check out these scriptures.
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 use reason and logic alone to discover ultimate truth ... ' (Thomas Ice & Robert Dean, Jr, Overrun by Demons, p27).
- 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 pure 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'
[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? What does the Scripture say?
In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength ... in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult'
'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.'
... 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.
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 ... '
' ... all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf ... '
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.
I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice ...
'I will see his righteousness. Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame.'
'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.]
'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].
'if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.'
'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 ..'
'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.]
'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.]
' 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 OF 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:
... the prince of peace ...
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation ...
... the punishment that brought us peace was upon him ...
... on earth peace ...
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
... telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ ...
... we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ...
He himself is our peace ... He came and preached peace ...
... and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus ...
... making peace through the blood shed on the cross
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.
E. 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 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.
Read: 3:15,16,18,36; 5.24; 6:47; 11:25,26; 12:46;
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith ...
... rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith ...
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith ... Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ...
... we who have believed enter that rest ...
... he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind ...
1 Peter 1:5
... who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time ...
1 Peter 2:6
... the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame ... (See Romans 9:33; 10:11)
1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, standing firm in the faith ...
1 John 5:4,5
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
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.
A comment from Calvin:
'Now all that is attributed to faith is thereby denied to men. For faith borrows all things needful from God's pure grace and liberality. Therefore let us note carefully that in this passage St Paul meant to humble us and to show us that God must provide us with all things belonging to and requisite to our victory. And therefore those who make themselves shields to repulse Satan of the other bulwarks that can be devised, they shall have but a spider's web (as they say) and Satan will only laugh at their presumption, insomuch that when they imagine they have all the mountains of the world to fortify them, that will profit them nothing at all in their need. Wherefore let us learn to make faith our buckler, that is to say, when we intend to enter into the battle and to persist in it, let us consider that we have God as our Father, because of his own infinite goodness he has chosen and elected us to be his children.
' 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
F. 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.
Go to Worksheet 13.2 to study Scripture texts focusing on salvation and its significance. Some of these texts also identify an intimate connection between salvation and God himself.
G. 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 (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 remembering and/or speaking 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. [Note: I am not talking here of the practice of 'rebuking the devil' but of citing (mentally or orally) portions of God's Word which affirm the wrongness of the attitude or course of action suggested by the evil one.]
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):
Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
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.
And do not grieve the Holy spirit of God ...
Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is ... be filled with the Spirit ..
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ...
1 Thess 5:19
Quench not the Spirit (KJV)
H. 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.