So What’s the Point of the Armor of God?

In writing this, I realize that I might be confessing too much.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been buried under a rock.  How do I miss such important truths for such a long time?  At times, I seem to discover (to my shame) a truth that believers have understood for years.  Nonetheless, when I have that “eureka” moment, I like to share it.

So, here’s my confession: I have never really understood the point of the armor of God.  Pretty sad, huh?  I knew I was to put it on, and I knew what all the pieces were.  But like the guy who shops the bargain bin at the Army surplus store, I had no idea what to do with it.  Should a pastor have a good handle on this, maybe a few years before his ordination?  Probably.  But since I can’t get a do-over on the past 20 years, I’ll have to start where I’m at.  Good for you if you’ve known this. 

So, here’s what I learned: the fiercer the battle rages, the more timid the Christian becomes.  We have this innate sense that if I don’t hit the devil too hard, he’ll leave me alone.  “Don’t rock the boat” becomes the battle plan.  Don’t provoke the enemy.  The enemy will leave me alone if I avoid doing anything too valiant.

I think there is a certain safety in maintaining the status quo within our homes and families.  Remember that the armor of God is set in context with Paul’s instructions related to the family.  When husbands tolerate small insurrections and wives carry on subversive warfare and the children are passively rebellious, we know that any attempt to follow God in our family may result in an all-out war.  If a husband sits down with his wife to discuss a few things where he thinks she is in sin, he expects things to get ugly.  So, he avoids saying anything.  If a parent seeks to correct the kids, he braces for the temper tantrum.  So, we don’t rock the boat. 

We don’t want the fight, so we tolerate the sin.  We make an uneasy truce with disobedience and (sometimes) outright rebellion.  God gives us armor before He sends us out to fight.  But make no mistake: God provides armor because He wants us in the fight. 

And the battle is for holiness.  Three things to consider then…

The Risk of Holiness

Holiness isn’t our default setting.  Nor is it an act of nature.  We fall into sin by the force of gravity, but nobody “falls” into holiness.  Sins grow up like weeds in our life without any special effort; holiness requires careful cultivation.  The way to holiness is the upward way, winding up a steep pass over rocky ground and rugged terrain.  The way to destruction is the pleasing way, a gentle slope, no sudden turns or sharp drops.

Photo by kristen munk on

Maybe that’s why so many Christians have come to terms with their sins and have made an easy truce with them.  Because it seems to me that when you leave a sin alone and don’t try to fix it, it lurks in the background without causing too much of a fuss.  Bad habits and sinful thought patterns pester us without causing us too much disruption.  We can be “at ease in Zion.”  But confronting a sinful pattern in our lives is like poking a smoldering fire.  It is bound to flare up again. 

The Philistines secure their place in the garrison and are pleased to let you come and go.  But if you try to drive them out, they won’t leave without a fight.  And that’s why God gives us armor.  Because you will have to fight; it will cost you something.  You know you can’t drive out an entrenched sin without some pain and suffering and maybe a little embarrassment.  And we are all a little afraid of the damage we might suffer.

God gives us armor so we can confront principalities and powers as they manifest themselves in our own lives.  And we can overcome.  Our armor prevents our being overcome of evil and enables us to overcome evil with good.

When I was a teen, I heard Jack Hyles preach, “You can’t fall from a crawl.”  It rhymed, which made it extra persuasive.  He pointed to some of the great heroes of the faith – Samson, David, even Moses.  And he explained that they fell because they were running.  They were in the fight.  The guy who is doing something is the guy who falls.  You can’t fall from a crawl. 

Continue reading “So What’s the Point of the Armor of God?”

The Practical Value of the Armor of God, part 1

I’ll be honest: I’ve never understood the practical use of the armor of God.  I’ve always considered it pie-in-the-sky, metaphorical not meaningful armor.  If that sounds heretical to you, it does to me as well.  But I took a little truth serum before writing this, so I’m being completely candid with you.  I have known that the armor is there and that God says I am to take it so that I can withstand in the evil day, “and having done all, to stand.”  But I have never understood how, practically speaking, “the helmet of salvation” or the “shield of faith” would help me in the hour of temptation.

Then, I took a good look at it.  I should have looked thirty years ago.  Maybe I did – you forget a lot in thirty years.  But recently, I had the opportunity to preach through the armor of God. In doing so, I was struck with the practicality of it.  Christian armor gives us real-world help in the face of trial and temptation.

Satan is the original Wile E. Coyote.  We are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).  He has had thousands of years to hone his skill at deceiving, has developed an entire system for enslaving, and has wounded many mighty.  We shouldn’t think that anything in our Christian experience – regardless of how long we have been standing or how faithful we have been – will exempt us from his attacks.  We must take unto ourselves the whole armor of God, or we will fail in the day of battle.

But how does the armor of God give us practical help?  What is the use of it?  I hope I can encourage you to consider the value of each piece of the armor of God.  We’ll cover two pieces of armor here.

The Belt for the Armor

The belt is not for you.  The girdle is for the armor.  Maybe that’s why Paul starts with the belt though we would typically dress in a different order.  The practical purpose of the belt is to keep the armor firmly in place – to hold it together.  We don’t want the breastplate riding up or getting twisted in the heat of battle.  And besides, we need a place to keep our swords and tuck our skirts so we might gird up our loins like a man. 

Continue reading “The Practical Value of the Armor of God, part 1”

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. 

Continue reading “Armed For Battle”

Gregory – Gospel Answers to Ultimate Questions

This is a letter I sent a couple of years ago in response to an email inquiry through our church’s website. I have changed the name of the person I was responding to. I did not hear back from this person, and do not know whether their questions were for research or for their own sake. But as this is a gospel message, I thought I would share it. 


I received your list of questions, and I am glad to give an answer. Thank you for including me in your search. Since I don’t know you, I can only assume that you are searching for the truth by investigating the answers of different churches. If so, I understand why you would feel a little confused about the different answers you have heard. I certainly do not want to add to that confusion.

Can we know the truth? Some scientists (ironically) claim that there is no absolute truth – and they are quite absolute about that. They insist that we cannot know the truth, and are troubled by those who claim to know it. I sometimes wonder if those who insist that the truth cannot be known have ever considered the self-contradiction in that claim. If the truth cannot be known, is that the truth? And if so, how can we know that?

Continue reading “Gregory – Gospel Answers to Ultimate Questions”

A Note to My LDS Friends about the Trinity

Dear Friend,

Over the past 21 years of ministry in Utah, I have enjoyed the robust discussion we have on issues surrounding doctrine and the church. More than a few of you have made the attempt to “convert” me, and in fairness, I have not been coy about my desire to see you converted either. So what I am about to say comes out of the numerous conversations about God and the Bible we have had in my living room, in my office, or at a restaurant.

It seems to me that you believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be my Achilles’ heel. You might even believe the Trinity to be the strongest argument against orthodox Christianity. I will admit that I am relying more on anecdotal experience than hard evidence or statistics, but every time a Mormon friend – and over the years I have been blessed to make many friends here in Utah – attempts to convert me, the Trinity is always the starting point of the conversation.

Let me just say that I think I understand why you want to start there. The doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely the most difficult of all the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. You have probably noticed that even those who claim to believe in the Trinity struggle to explain exactly what they believe about the Trinity. I will not deny that the doctrine is difficult or even counterintuitive – you might think it untenable. And along with that, you probably recognize that the doctrine of the Trinity is the sine qua non of the Christian faith, the point on which all other points depend. Unless we know Who God is, we have nothing.

As a friend, I want to offer two things in this short epistle. First, I want to give you a brief sketch of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity held by the historic Christian faith. This doctrine, by the way, was held long before Nicea. The word Trinity itself is found more than 100 times in the writings of the ante-Nicean fathers who date all the way back to Continue reading “A Note to My LDS Friends about the Trinity”

Word of Truth Conference Report, 2017

This year’s Word of Truth Conference was a tremendous week of teaching, preaching, and companionship.  Pastor Kent Brandenburg hosts the conference every year at his church.  He places a premium on God’s Word and insists that the preaching at this conference be expository.  As a result, his conference is not your standard fair of emotionally overwrought sermons sprinkled with a dusting of Scripture.  Pastor Brandenburg always challenges me to think in terms of Scripture, and to bring my own doctrine and practice in line with God’s Word.  The Conference and the fellowship at the conference were a special blessing, but three things in particular blessed me this year.

The Church

Bethel Baptist Church of El Sobrante is a wonderful, Christ-honoring church.  The church really loves God’s Word.  The people demonstrate their love for Christ and each other many times over.  The conversations center on the Word, and long after the service ends, the people gather and enjoy what they heard together.  The conversations often branch out into discussions and applications beyond the sermon itself.  It is always a refreshment and delight to be part of this conference, and the joy of the church is contagious.

Apart from the conference, my son and I dropped in at the church on a random Wednesday night, and we found the same thing to be true then.  This is a church that loves the Word, loves the Savior, and loves each other.

The Lessons

This year, Pastor James Bronsveld taught two powerful lessons on Biblical repentance.  I urge you to listen to these lessons as they go beyond the normal presentation.  In the first discussion, Pastor Bronsveld explained repentance in terms of the second Psalm, “Why do the heathen rage.”  He defined repentance as a change of mind from rage against God to sorrow for my rage against God.  In the second discussion, Pastor Bronsveld answered a claim made in this article by Dr. Rick Flanders (here) about repentance in the Old Testament.  Notice especially this claim, made by Dr. Flanders:

Most Old Testament references to men repenting speak of revival, not salvation, and cannot be used properly to illustrate salvation repentance.

Pastor Bronsveld did an excellent job explaining the difference between the old covenant and the new, and then he showed that Old Testament repentance is still repentance.  The clincher came in the book of Jonah and the repentance of Ninevah.  I won’t steal his thunder.  You really need to watch these sessions.

The second lesson on repentance in the OT is available as well.

Pastor Brandenburg also taught a great lesson on the sinner’s prayer.  Actually, he kept promising all week that he was going to “do” the sinner’s prayer.  But he never did.  I was disappointed, because I wanted to see him do it…

Joking aside, he gave an unforgettable illustration of the problem for those who reject the sinner’s prayer altogether.  He stood at the front with his back to the audience, and he said, “God wants me to turn; I need to turn,” and then he started to turn and said, “Oh, but that’s a work.” You will need to watch the video to get a full appreciation – since you weren’t there.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to locate the video.  Hopefully it will be up soon.  You can monitor the YouTube channel here.  Faith and repentance are the gift of God, and so the “sinner’s prayer,” when it is prayed, is a part of that gift.  When we trust the Lord, we cry out to Him and we come to Him.

Pastor Dave Sutton also taught an excellent message on the Deity of Christ and the necessity of that doctrine to the Gospel.


The Fellowship

I am always sharpened by discussions with Pastors Brandenburg and Sutton, and this year I had the joy of meeting two other faithful preachers: James Bronsveld and Chris Teale.  Pastor Bronsveld, who I discussed earlier, pastors in Toronto, Canada.  Pastor Teale is planting a church in Carson City, Nevada, sent out from Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine, Pastor Bobby Mitchell.  Pastor Teale is an excellent and straightforward preacher, and he preached two tremendous messages on preaching the gospel.  Both his messages are available on YouTube.

You will be challenged to make the gospel the focus rather than your powers of speech or illustration.  Pastor Teale knows what he is talking about – he has gone to a place where few have gone to preach the gospel, and he is seeing slow but steady progress.  His sermons are amazingly short – I say that because he says so much in them.  I lack his gift of brevity.

Overall, we had a wonderful time together in the Word, “breaking bread” at the various meals provided by the church, and sharpening each other.  I am grateful for the opportunity to attend, and I want to encourage all who read to consider taking a few days in early November next year to be a part of this conference.