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?”

When You Strap on the Armor, Be Ready to Fight!

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18)

I have always heard prayer linked to the sword of the Spirit as part of the soldier’s offensive arsenal.  E.M. Bounds famously wrote about the Weapon of Prayer, and I think most Christians would consider prayer a weapon.  No doubt we could make a solid case for this view, and I won’t quibble with it.

However, I don’t believe Paul means to treat prayer as a weapon in his catalog of the panoply of God.  Notice what Paul says between the 17th and 18th verses.  He begins with a command – the only imperative in the register of armor: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.”  He follows this command with “praying always” – clearly descriptive of the way we take the helmet and sword.  The grammar supports this understanding.  The Greek uses a genitive prepositional phrase, literally “through all prayer.”  Prayer is the way we take the helmet and sword. 

The message is simple.  You strap on the armor because you are going to war, so be ready.  And nothing prepares us for battle like watchful prayer.  So when you strap on the armor, you better be praying and watching.  Be alert in prayer; be praying watchfully.

Prayer, then, is the soldier’s readiness.  We want soldiers who not only arm themselves but who are poised to strike.  What good is a soldier who sluffs around in his armor?  For that matter, when a soldier straps on his armor, he better not sit down.  Armor can be heavy: he might not get back up if he sits.  Once the armor is in place (and we put it on when we receive Christ), it is time to go to war. 

So then, prayer and watchfulness aren’t additional pieces of armor, nor are they weapons.  Instead, they refer to the soldier’s attitude when He is armed – He is ready to fight.  He prepares for battle by praying and watching.  Let’s expand this into four elements of “readiness.”

Continue reading “When You Strap on the Armor, Be Ready to Fight!”

The Practical Value of the Armor of God 3

When we think of sanctification, we tend to think of things like resisting the devil, living godly in Christ Jesus, studying to show ourselves approved to God, not being conformed to this world, being transformed by the renewing of our mind.  We give attention to our walk with God, our time in the Word, our time of prayer.  We focus on overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

But we pay little attention to the armor of God.  At least, I haven’t given it much thought.  Yet, God has armed us and equipped us for the battle so Satan cannot ultimately overthrow us.  Of course, he can trip us up and stumble us.  He can catch us in his snares.  He can tempt us and cause us to fall.  But he cannot pluck us out of the Father’s hand.  And this is in part thanks to our armor.

Our Heavenly Father is no helicopter Dad, hovering above us to ensure we never have trouble.  He is no Celestial Snowplow, clearing our lane so we can travel smoothly without disrupting our pilgrim way.  Instead, God gives us legs and teaches us to walk.  He infuses us with the strength of His grace so we might walk upright.  God raises us into maturity so we have the strength to confront principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places.  He declares us “more than conquerors.” 

So, God holds us in His hand but doesn’t hold our hand.  He sets us out to join the battle and confront the enemy while protecting us by His grace.  The panoply of God is His grace surrounding us, protecting us, defending us. 

And this armor is of practical value.  It doesn’t exist merely in doctrinal platitudes.  We should give careful attention to the whole armor of God because of the spiritual protection for the spiritual war it provides. 

We gird on the armor when we maintain our relationship with God in vital spiritual arenas related to the armor itself.  The sincere way we pursue the truth, our growing righteousness, our ever-deepening grasp of the gospel, our vibrant witness, and our taking hold of God’s promises and resting in them.  By looking to Christ in the Word and growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, we keep the armor fitted properly and in good repair.

This might not be all that sexy to a generation accustomed to quick fixes, Jiffy Lubes, and row upon row of self-help books.  But this is what God has provided for His saints so that we are armed for battle and ready to join the fray.  So, we must be attentive to our relationship with God to be armed for war. 

I wish I could write “10 hot tips for spiritual warfare.”  I wish I could tell you practical things, like “Tell yourself NO!  LOUD!” or “Spend 30 minutes in prayer before you read your Bible.”  “Stay off sugar.”  “Don’t watch YouTube after 10:00 at night.”  No doubt, these things could be helpful.  But God wants you to be attentive to His gifts of grace.  Ensure your armor fits right, is all in place, and is in good repair.  Be attentive to your salvation, sanctification, sincerity, and soul-winning.  Not fun, not fluff, but fundamental.

The final two pieces of armor will complete the panoply.  May God teach us to utilize His gifts of grace aimed at protecting us in this conflict.

The Helmet of Salvation

Before we consider the helmet, notice how the grammar changes at Ephesians 6:17.  With the first four pieces of armor, Paul used participles to describe how we stand.  “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness…” “taking the shield of faith.”    But now, Paul uses an imperative: “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.”  He no longer describes the soldier standing, but calls the soldier to action.  Grab your helmet, grab your sword, and let’s go! 

Continue reading “The Practical Value of the Armor of God 3”

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.”

Continue reading “The Practical Value of the Armor of God, Part 2”

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”