The Practical Value of the Armor of God, Part 2

God provides us with spiritual armor for a spiritual battle with a spiritual foe.  Dressed in the armor of God, we can enter the fray confidently, knowing that God has provided us with the protection we need against a dangerous enemy. 

And yet, we approach the armor casually, as if these are mere doctrinal theories to be discussed and (perhaps) debated among God’s people.  I don’t deny the need to understand the armor of God on a doctrinal level, nor do I deny that spiritual armor comes from our theology.  But of course, the Christian wants to know how this works, the practical value, “What do I do?” 

A young man in our church joined our local sheriff’s department, and when he started on patrol, he would often come to church straight off his shift – wearing his police uniform and gear.  The kids were most fascinated by his belt, which is like a small armory.  He definitely enjoyed showing them everything he carried and explaining their use.  But before this, he spent time training, learning the use of the things he carried in his belt. 

Think of this little series of articles as training.  We need to know our armor – not because learning about the armor gives us any kind of protection, but because we are soldiers, and a soldier should know his armor.  Knowing how the armor protects us will make us confident as we face our enemy in battle.  The armor does its work whether or not you are aware.  But knowing the armor gives us the courage to stand and fight.

God, by His grace, has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness.  But the most practical gifts of grace are the armor of God.  As we tour the pieces, we are reminded that our protection in battle comes from our relationship with the Lord.  By strengthening that relationship and keeping it in good repair, we ensure that the armor God has provided will do its job in the heat of battle.  Though the armor is spiritual, it consists of concrete spiritual truths – grace in exercise – that provide the protection we need.  Therefore, we must wear the armor and keep it in good repair so that in the day of battle, we will be armed and equipped and not be taken by the enemy or give up ground to him.

Consider then the shoes for the feet and the shield of faith.

Shoes for the Feet

I never feel more unprepared for battle than when I have my shoes off.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get into a fight when I’m barefoot.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t done martial arts.  I want my feet protected.

Leading up to the description of the armor of God, Paul stresses the importance of standing.

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.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (11-14)

You get the idea from Paul that a soldier’s great duty on the battlefield is to “stand.”  There will be times when he must advance and times when he must charge.  But for much of the time, he must stand.  He must not give up ground.  He must hold the ground he has gained, and he must gain ground on the enemy.

A soldier’s footwear must have two qualities: It must allow for mobility – in other words, it must not be cumbersome or clunky and difficult to move; and it must give him sure footing, keeping his feet from sliding.  God has provided the Christian soldier with shoes for his feet – “the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

Paul describes the shoes as “preparation.”  The word literally means preparedness or readiness.  I see this as an apt description – I don’t feel ready until I have my shoes on.  Roman soldiers wore sandals with nails studding the sole like cleats.  The nails gave him sure footing, and he could do significant damage to an adversary when necessary.  The nail studs literally weaponized his feet – you wouldn’t want to go barefoot against a Roman soldier.

A soldier wearing these kinds of sandals was prepared.  But notice what prepares the soldier: a deep spiritual understanding of the gospel of peace gives the believer a sure footing against Satan’s attacks.  And it provides the soldier with an offensive weapon against his adversary.

Battles often take place on rugged terrain.  The gospel of peace prepares you the way a solid pair of hiking boots gives you the courage to advance on hard and stony ground.  And when the world opposes you, when unbelievers despise you, when you encounter resistance from those you would witness to, you will be able to keep advancing.

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Warren Wiersbe points out that a readiness to proclaim the gospel gives the believer sure footing against Satan as it puts us on the offensive.  The most victorious Christian is a witnessing Christian…. Satan has declared war, but you and I are ambassadors of peace (2 Cor. 5:18–21); and, as such, we take the Gospel of peace wherever we go.[1]

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!  (Isaiah 52:7)

And how shall they preach, except they be sent?  as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  (Romans 10:15)

“Readiness” means more than having a tract in your pocket or being ready to go out witnessing or street preaching.  Readiness refers to being spiritually prepared to proclaim the gospel.  You have experienced the saving power of the gospel in your own life.  The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, is keeping your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.  And as a result, you have a zeal to proclaim it to others, looking for opportunities to share the good news.

The feet are not protected by a sturdy pair of shoes on the shoe rack or in the gym bag.  The “preparation” of the gospel of peace – the readiness the Christian has because he has his shoes on and laced up – equips the soldier for battle.

William Gurnall draws a comparison between the foot and the will.

The foot carries the whole body, and the will the soul; yea, the whole man, body and soul also.

We go where our foot carries us, but we should also recognize that our foot moves us wherever our will takes us.  And so, the gospel of peace readies the soul to go wherever God sends us.  We are prepared to take any available opportunity to preach the gospel to anyone God puts in our path.  But we are also prepared to leave the paved road and to navigate rocky and dangerous ground.

The man whose feet are well shod fears no ways, but goes through thick and thin, foul or fair, stones or straws; all are alike to him that is well shod; while the barefooted man, or slenderly shoed, shrinks when he feels the wet, and shrieks when he lights on a sharp stone.  Thus, when the will and heart of a man is prompt, and ready to do any work, the man is, as it were, shod and armed against all trouble and difficulty which he is to go over in the doing of it (Gurnall).

The gospel of peace prepares the will and the heart to go where God sends us and to suffer what God calls us to suffer.  Having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, we are ready to take the field against the enemy.  We are set for battle.

Only, the battle isn’t always what we expected.  Quite often, we find that the most brutal fight comes not from the opposition of those who hate God but from those who fight on our side.  And often, the most dangerous adversary is the ground you stand on, the ground you march on, the ground you seek to gain for Christ.  The gospel of peace prepares you to face these challenging circumstances as you go to war.

A Shield for Your Armor

The shield protects the whole man and serves as armor for your armor.  The Roman soldier’s shield was about four feet tall and about two and a half feet wide.  Two layers of wood were glued together, and the shield was layered first with linen, then overlayed with leather.  Finally, these layers were bound together around the edges with iron.  Before a battle, the soldier would soak the shield in water overnight so that the shield itself would quench any flaming missiles. 

The flaming dart or arrow was a popular weapon in Paul’s day.  Armies would dip their arrows and darts in tar or resin and then light it on fire.  The arrow would flare up as it was launched and do tremendous damage if embedded in a soldier’s armor.  So, the shield protected both the soldier and his armor.  Water-soaked leather was just the ticket for extinguishing those flaming darts.  Keeping up his shield, the soldier could concentrate on the enemy, knowing he was protected.

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So then, what is this shield that quenches the fiery missiles launched by the enemy of our soul?  The Bible calls it the “shield of faith.”  And this faith is justifying faith – for the just shall live by faith.  The breastplate consists of imparted righteousness, not imputed righteousness.  But the shield – the armor for your armor – is the faith that takes hold of God’s promises, takes God at His Word, rests in His promises, believes to the saving of his soul, and appropriates His grace to my need. 

William Gurnall argues that justifying faith is more than historical faith – confidence in the historical facts of the gospel.  It is, of course, good and right that you believe in the gospel as a historical event, something that happened at a particular time and at a particular place.  But this confidence in the historical reality of the gospel won’t quench the fiery darts of the wicked.

Justifying faith is not temporary faith – faith that makes a profession and that endures for a while but soon disappears.  We must be rooted, grounded, and built up in Jesus Christ, or our faith cannot quench those fiery darts.

Justifying faith is not miraculous faith – faith that gives a person certain abilities or powers while he relies on the Lord for them.  Many believers, I think, have been confused by extraordinary answers to prayer, which they interpreted to mean they were born again.  The Bible nowhere suggests that answered prayer is a mark of regeneration.  True, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  But many “answers to prayer” are part of God’s common grace, His goodness and kindness that extends to mankind through God’s providence.  God causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  The same sun that warms the believer warms the unbeliever.  Nobody should think that unbelievers never experience an extraordinary turn of fortune, which they interpret as God smiling on them or even answering prayer.  As Gurnall points out, Judas had the power to cast devils out of others but could not rid himself of the devil of covetousness, hypocrisy, and treason.  We should be far more concerned that our name is written in heaven than we are that we get everything we want. 

Only justifying faith – faith that repents towards God and lays hold on Christ as He is preached in the gospel – can quench the fiery darts of the wicked.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  (I John 5:4)

But then, we need to understand that justifying faith is more than just agreement with or assent to the doctrines of grace.  Judas knew the Scriptures, but they offered him no protection when the wicked one came for him.  Certainly, justifying faith includes agreement with the Word of God, but it must go beyond this. 

Justifying faith “sits in both the understanding and the will” – that is, it moves us both to believe and to do, to embrace Jesus as our Lord and to submit to His Lordship.  If you know the promise and believe it is true but do not embrace it, if you don’t leave all to follow Christ, then you have one part of faith, but not the whole.  It is like seeing the food on the table, recognizing the nutritional value, but never eating.

Justifying faith is not assurance.  Assurance is the fruit of justifying faith.  Justifying faith will eventually bring assurance.  But we can be thankful that God justifies us before we get assurance – otherwise, many of us would be in grave danger.  And this illustrates how faith is a shield to us – because Satan loves to accuse us.  He hurls his darts at us in the form of temptation, and when he lands one of those fiery darts, and we succumb to the temptation, he then parades our sin around as if he were Perry Mason getting a conviction.  Satan is the master of the gotcha game. 

Our shield, the armor for our armor, the armor that protects our entire person from head to toe, is our faith – our confidence in Christ alone to keep His Word, to keep His promise to us.  Justifying faith rests on Christ crucified for pardon and for life.  It takes Christ at His Word, rests on His promise, trusts Him to keep me, trusts my soul to Him for safekeeping, and therefore protects me and all my armor.  The fiery darts may pierce my shield, but they will all be quenched before they can damage my soul.

Isn’t God good to provide us with such sturdy armor?  We feel we can join the fray if our armor protects us.  Nor is this all the armor God has provided.  What a great God we serve!

Believer, dig into the gospel.  Let it dwell in your richly until it can’t be contained, until your bones wax old through your roaring all the day long.  This will prepare you to scale the mountains as your shout the good news.  And know whom you have believed; be persuaded that He is able to keep that which you have committed unto Him against that day.  Then, when Satan hurls his fiery darts, they will be quenched. 

We have two more pieces of armor to consider before looking at the soldier’s readiness for battle.  May God bless you as you war a good warfare!

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 58.