Armed For Battle

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

Believer, we are in a war.  We know this for a fact.  In any given week, we are reminded that we are in a war.  We see the red glare of the rockets and hear the bursting of the bombs.  In case you haven’t in a while, watch the news and you will see.  We are in a war.

Most Christians know that God has provided us with armor for the war.  But if we were to ask how exactly that armor works, how it is useful in a practical sense, we might struggle to answer.  Yet, the armor of God is not theoretical or mystical armor.  God has given us complete armor that will protect us against Satanic attack and enable us both to withstand in the evil day and overcome in the last day. 

Ephesians 5 and 6 offer some of the most practical, helpful advice in the entire book.  As is his custom, Paul begins with the gospel and then narrows his focus until he comes to the believer’s practical duties.  Paul begins Ephesians with a heaven’s-eye view of the world, pointing out God’s purpose in our redemption.  He spends time in the 2nd chapter laying out the wonders of that redemption, focusing especially on the foundation and purpose of the New Testament church.  In Chapter 3, Paul drills into the particular duties we have as members of the church.  He focuses especially on our duty, not to “build” unity, but to endeavor to keep it (3:3).  He points out the special blessings that come to the believer only through the New Testament church, which gives great incentive for us to endeavor to keep that unity (esp 4:12-13).  Then, he calls us to holiness by putting off the old man and putting on the new (4:22-24).  This putting off and putting on requires some very specific reforms (4:25-32).

The 5th chapter focuses even more intently on our duties as followers of Christ, duties that fall under the head of “walk in love.”  Part of this duty involves mutual submission (5:21).  And this mutual submission requires wives to submit to their husbands, husbands to love their wives, children to obey their parents, servants to obey their masters, and masters to treat their servants as Christ.

Having set before us the specific duties God has given us in our calling, Paul issues a final charge, which he introduces with the word “finally” – that is, “in respect of the rest.”  We can take it to mean “henceforward” – “for the remaining time.”  Since the battle will not end until the end of the world, believers must prepare for the long fight.  And since Satan wants to sow discord among brethren, to stir up strife and envy and bitterness in families and in God’s church, we must never let down our guard.  We must be armed and we must be vigilant.

Paul commands the believer to be strengthened and then tells us how: by putting on the whole armor of God.  We find four elements to Paul’s instruction in this passage:

First, The Command (v. 10)

Be strong in the Lord.

Paul uses a present passive here – be continually strengthened.  It is a command, so it is something we must do – we have a duty to be strong.  It is passive, which means that we must receive strength, we must be strengthened in the Lord.  “Find strength in the Lord.”  It is present tense, which means that we must do this continually – day by day.  There is your reminder to be in the Word of God daily.

The command is not simply to be strong.  The command is to be strong in the Lord.  “In the Lord” defines the strengthening and reminds us that to be strong in the Lord requires us to put on Christ.  Paul calls for a strength that can only come from union with Christ and His people.

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Romans 13:14)

The Lord is my strength and my salvation. (Psalm 27:1)

Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. (Psalm 35:1-3)

Paul adds to the command, “Be strong… in the power of Christ’s might.”  He uses three different words for strength in this verse: dunamis, kratos, and ischuos.  Dunamis refers to dynamic power or ability; kratos to “manifested power,” and ischuos to “conferred or bestowed power.” [1]

Believer, God calls us to receive from Christ all the energy, all the enabling, all the strength, all the power, all the might that He has available for us in the Word and through the Holy Spirit.  When we go to the Word and prayer, we are not gathering good luck for the day.  We are gathering strength for the battle.  Treat that power like manna: gather each day for that day, gather all that you will need, and don’t expect yesterday’s manna to feed you today.

Second, The Instruction (v. 11)

Put on the whole armour of God.

Put on, that is, both “at once” and “once for all.”  This is the way we receive strength from the Lord – by putting on the armor of God.  “Put on” is the aorist tense, which makes it a once-for-all putting-on.  You put on the armor of God, and you never take it off.

The Puritan pastor William Gurnall wrote The Christian in Complete Armor where he pointed out that we must wear the armor even when we are sleeping, “or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.”

The saint’s sleeping time is Satan’s tempting time; every fly dares venture to creep on a sleeping lion.

Photo by Maria Pop on

Gurnall points out that Samson’s hair was cut while sleeping, that David stole King Saul’s spear while Saul was sleeping.  Noah was abused by his son while he slept and Eutychus fell out of the window while he was sleeping during the preaching. 

If we would receive strength from Christ, we must wear the “panoply” of God – the full armor of a heavily armed soldier.  We must put on that armor, piece by piece, and we must keep it on from now until we reach heaven.  We must keep it in good repair, making sure it is fitted properly to ourselves so that it will not fail us in battle.

Armitage Robinson points out that the emphasis is on the divinity of the armor rather than on its completeness.[2]  Since the armor we put on is the armor of the Lord, we can be confident that we are protected.  And in fact, this is the strength we must put on – we put on Christ Himself, the way a soldier puts on armor.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Romans 13:12-14)

By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, (2 Corinthians 6:7)

Paul adds purpose to the instruction.  We put on the whole armor for a particular purpose:  “that ye may be able to stand.”  Putting on the armor gives us strength to stand facing the wiles of the devil so we can stand without backing down.

Third, The Reason (v. 12)

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…

We have a dangerous enemy.  But our enemy is not flesh and blood.  That means politicians are not the enemy.  World leaders are not the enemy.  Pundits and late-night comedians are not the enemy.  Tech leaders, academics, and the “elite” are not the enemy.  Your own flesh is not the enemy.  Whomever you might think of, they are not the enemy.  That doesn’t mean the enemy can’t use these things.  But none of these is the enemy.

Over the last 70-80 years, a great skepticism has developed over the true nature of the enemy.  Particularly, people doubt that demons and devils are at work in our world.  After World War 2, theologians began to suggest that the idea of demonic activity in our world was outdated and embarrassing.  I suppose that they found it more “respectable” to suggest that Paul is referring here to social structures and world systems and political organizations.

We cannot deny that Satan uses authority structures to spread tyranny and to fight against the advance of the gospel around the world.  But to say that demons have nothing to do with this, that these principalities and powers are simply the works of evil men gives far too much credit to men.

Paul uses four words in his description of the enemy.  First, he calls them “principalities and powers” – the Greek words are arche and exousia.  Principalities are the first ones, the preeminent demonic leaders in the underworld.  The powers are the authorities – the demons who have been given authority in our world by the prince of the power of the air. [3]

Second, Paul refers to “the rulers of the darkness of this world” – that is, the “world-rulers of this darkness.” [4]  Third, Paul refers to “spiritual wickedness in high places.”  The word “wickedness” translates the Greek word for depravity.  These are “the spiritual hosts of wickedness.” [5] 

We can say three things about these enemies:  First, they are powerful.  They have great power and authority in our world to do damage in the world, especially to the people of God.  There literally is no comparison to be made between the power of men and the power of angels.  The Bible describes a single angel destroying 185,000 soldiers in a single night, without stirring a fuss (2 Kings 19:35).  Certainly, men cannot hold a candle to their power.  And when you combine their power with the authority they have in our world, surely we recognize what a terrible enemy we face.  And added to that, the devil hunts us and desires to devour us.

Second, these enemies are evil.  And their evil is not your run-of-the-mill kind of ordinary evil.  There is the normal kind of evil that does what God forbids.  There is a greater evil that calls evil good and good evil.  But the principalities and powers go a step beyond even that.  They have developed systems and strategies for trapping us, for snaring us, for bringing us into bondage to the evil of this world, for enslaving us by it.  And they are relentless in their efforts to pervert and corrupt the people of God.  These are serious enemies, and we must beware of them – “Be sober, be vigilant…”

Thirdly, and perhaps the most serious reason we need to wear the armor and never take it off: they are cunning.  They are deceitful, and they have had thousands of years to hone their skill, to perfect their craft in assaulting us.

One of the commentaries points out that Satan tries to parody, or imitate in a perverted way, God’s working. [6]

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)

A second reason to put on the whole armor of God is, we must wrestle against these principalities and powers.  But to anyone who has wrestled, putting on armor seems to be a strange instruction.

Keep in mind that Paul isn’t trying to come up with consistent metaphors here.  He stresses the fact that our combat with these principalities is not at a distance, a remote kind of warfare.  We aren’t fighting from a bunker or manning a drone. 

It can be easy to see it that way, especially if you think our main threat comes from a bureaucracy in Washington, DC.  Paul warns us that we can expect close, hand-to-hand combat with demons in this warfare.  And that is why we must wear the armor of God all the time.  What else but a demon has the power to suggest wicked things in your dreams?  What else but a demon knows what tempts you and how to offer it in a tantalizing way?

We must put on the whole armor because we face these enemies at all times.

Fourth, The Summary (v. 13)

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

For this reason – because of the enemy we face – we must put on the whole armor of God.  Paul says “wherefore.”  Because the fight is with such powers as these. [7]  If we wrestled against Washington, we could fight it at the ballot box.  If we wrestled against the tech giants, we could boycott their goods.  If we wrestled against academia, we could open our own schools.  But we wrestle against demonic powers in our world.  Therefore, we must put on the whole armor of God.

So, Paul repeats the command, calling us to take up this armor.  Kenneth Wuest suggests that Paul issues a command with military snap, a command that is to be obeyed immediately, and once for all. 

Thus, the Christian is to take up and put on all the armor of God as a once-for-all act and keep that armor on during the entire course of his life, not relaxing the discipline necessary for the constant use of such protection.[8]

We must do this for two reasons: so we can both withstand in the evil day and so we can stand triumphant in the last day.  To withstand means to resist, to oppose.  Throughout this passage, Paul keeps using the same word, rendered “against.”  The Greek word means “facing.”  We don’t get to maintain a safe distance between ourselves and these principalities and powers.  A lieutenant in the battle of Chickamauga is reported to have said after his commanding officer chastised him for his failure to pursue the enemy: “Sir, I am persuaded that any further display of valor will only serve to bring us into contact with the enemy.” 

God gave us armor because He intends for us to engage the enemy.  We must not turn our back on them or shrink and cower like Saul’s army.  We must stand face-to-face, toe-to-toe, and we must not back down. 

Notice that Paul refers to the evil day – the day of Satan’s special assaults; the day of temptation, the dying hour, the day of special opportunity.  Expositors calls it the day of “violent temptation and assault.” [9]  You will face such a day; of that you can be certain.  God has supplied you with armor so you can withstand in that day, so you won’t be overcome in that day.  And then, having done all, to stand.  That is, having accomplished all things necessary to the fight, stand victorious.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37)


Believer, when we put on Christ, we put on His armor.  So, why does Paul command us to put it on?  Do we not already have it?  Is there more armor to put on?  Did we miss something?

Paul wants us to be mindful of the armor we wear, to keep it in order, well-fitted, in good repair, and never lay it aside.  We must rely on the armor of God every day.  Self-confident saint, you must understand your dependence on it.  Faint-hearted saint, be strong!  You can feel confident in the armor of the Lord.

Let none of us presume that we have enough of Christ.  Our sufficiency is of Him, and He is sufficient.  But we should always hunger for more of Christ.  Gird your armor on, soldier, and prepare to make a stand.  The battle is fierce around us, but God has armed us and equipped us for battle.

[1] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 140). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[2] As quoted in Stott, John R. W. (1979). The Message of Ephesians (p. 275). IVP Academic

[3] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 141). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[4] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Eph 6:12). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[5] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 357). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[6] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 357). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[7] Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 407). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[8] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 142). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[9] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 142). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

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