I have never fought in a war. I was too young to fight in the Second World War, although both my parents did, or to do National Service, although I do have friends who have served in each of the forces and seen combat in Northern Ireland, in the Falklands and in Afghanistan. But most of us have never fought in a war.
Actually, that’s not correct. Because the Bible tells us that each and every one of us has been in the middle of a war for our whole lives. The Bible tells us that there is a war which has been going on since the beginning of time and will continue until time ends. This war is unseen – but just as real and just as deadly as all the human conflicts we could name. There’s a war on between good and evil, between God on the one hand and the devil and all the powers of evil on the other hand.
Ephesians 6 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Here is the battle which is raging behind the scenes of human history and behind the scenes of our own lives, not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The good news is that Jesus has already won the decisive battle. Through his death on the cross and the triumph of his wonderful resurrection Jesus has defeated the devil and all the powers of evil once and for all. We saw in Ephesians 2 how all people start off dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. God in his amazing grace has set Christians free from that grip of the devil. But the devil still has control of the rest of the world. Although the eventual outcome of the war has already been decided, until Jesus returns in glory we are still caught up in the mopping up operations. Although they have already been defeated, the spiritual forces of evil, the devil and his demons are still fighting to drag Christians down. So the Bible calls us all to put on the armour of God.
Ephesians 6 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then …
This is all that God calls us to do. To stand. To stand our ground. Not to let the devil drag us down. Not to let the devil drag us away from God. To hold firm to our faith. To hang on to the victory which Jesus has won for us. And to keep on standing.
To help Christians to stand firm, God has given us armour to wear. This is a picture from the Roman army of the kind of armour they used to wear. And Paul spiritualises these pieces of armour and says here are six things all Christians need if we are going to stand firm for God in the spiritual battle we are caught up in. Six things which will keep us safe from the attacks of the devil and his minions and which will enable us to live victorious Christian lives.
Ephesians 6 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist,
In a way, truth is not only a piece of our Christian armour but it has also become part of the battleground. The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He deceived Adam and Eve and the devil has been deceiving people ever since. Truth is a great defence and a powerful weapon in our battle against the all lies the devil tells. So it is not surprising that the devil has attacked truth and people’s understanding of what truth is, especially in recent years.
We live in a multi-cultural multifaith world where people no longer all believe the same things. This pluralism has produced a supermarket of beliefs which gives people the impression that it doesn’t matter what you believe – the impression is that all those different ideas are true. That is the lie the devil wants people to believe. But different ideas about God are NOT all true.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, has revealed Himself through his one and only Son Jesus Christ. Other gods are false. We only find the truth in Jesus!
There is also the false idea that truth is not universal for everybody but that truth is personal and private and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We are expected to be tolerant of other people’s opinions. And it is politically incorrect to tell people that you are right and they are wrong.
We are now living in a world of “post-truth”. Objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals. Not “I think, therefore I am,” but “I feel, therefore I am.” Truth is under attack more than ever before. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”We all need to stand up for the truth. We all need to put on the belt of truth which will protect us from the lies the devil is telling.
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
The Old Testament tells us that God Himself puts on a breastplate of righteousness.
Isaiah 59 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head;
In the Old Testament, righteousness refers to the righteous actions of the God who is always holy and just. Isaiah 11 contains a prophecy about the Messiah which we often read at Christmas.
Isaiah 11 3 he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. … 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash round his waist.
God judges the world with righteousness and justice. The Hebrew word for righteousness comes from the word for straightness, in other words actions which conform to the standards which God has revealed in His commandments. English uses the word “upright” in a similar sense. Absolutely everything that God does is always righteous and pure and upright and just and fair. God always does the right thing.
This is the background to the breastplate of righteousness in the armour of God. It means right living – doing the right thing. In our battles with the devil and all the powers of evil, Christians should also put on righteousness as our breastplate. We show we are in a right relationship with God by our righteous actions, by living upright and blameless lives. Ephesians says very similar things elsewhere.
Ephesians 4 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So Christians should take of the old shabby clothes associated with their old sinful lives and put on the new suit which God gives us – the new self, characterized by righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 5 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
As children of light goodness and righteousness should characterize all our actions. The devil likes nothing more than deceiving Christians into committing sin. And there are many more ways of disobeying God beyond breaking the Ten Commandments. In Ephesians we have seen several different warning lists of sins to avoid. Righteousness in all our actions should accompany speaking the truth and rejecting all dishonesty
In his commentary on Ephesians, my old professor Max Turner sums up these first two pieces of the armour of God like this. “The church’s basic equipment in the spiritual battle is integrity and righteous living, and they are effective because these qualities bear the stamp of Jesus and the new creation he brings.”
Integrity and righteous living – because that is what Jesus is like. That’s a very high standard to live up to! The belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Put on the armour of God.
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
For somebody to believe in Jesus, God has to open their eyes so that they can turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan, the devil. Proclaiming the gospel is spiritual warfare – it is always going to be a real spiritual battle.
2 Corinthians 4 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The reason people don’t believe in Jesus is that the devil, the god of this age, has blinded their eyes so they cannot recognise Jesus for who He is, the Son of God and the Image of God. Talking about Jesus is a spiritual battle. This gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s way of bringing His peace to human beings who are lost without Him. It is the only way that lost human beings can find true peace and wholeness. So we need to be a church who bellieve what we preach and who preach what we believe. For this we need gospel shoes.
Ephesians 6 15 with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
The Good News Bible talks about putting on as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace.
But in this case the New Revised Standard Version says it best 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
If you’re climbing mountains you need a good pair of climbing boots. If you are running a race you need a good pair of running shoes. To be ready to share the good news of Jesus, you need to put on whatever helps you be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
The church exists to preach the gospel. Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” God calls every one of us to be prepared to talk about Jesus. We are all Ambassadors for Christ, messengers for the King.
In the winter, playing field sports like soccer or rugby or my own sport lacrosse you get muddy. Perhaps the most important piece of kit is a good pair of boots with studs to keep you from falling over. But studs on football boots are not a new invention. For Roman soldiers, the most important thing about their battle shoes was that they wouldn’t slip when the enemy charged. So they also had nails in the soles of their boots to keep them on their feet in the heat of battle. And that is the picture here. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Christians need our Gospel Shoes to help us to stand our ground and to stop us from slipping and falling over in the middle of sharing the gospel. The best equipment to help us talk about Jesus is to know what the Good News is, inside out, and to have experienced the life-changing gospel of peace in your own life. Knowing the gospel and living the gospel will keep your feet steady. When we are confident that we won’t slip or trip ourselves up when we are talking about Jesus then we will be more wise and bold and effective in sharing the gospel with other people.
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The apostle Peter warns us all in 1 Peter 5 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith.
At every moment we should be on our guard because the devil and the powers of evil are plotting and planning to entice us away from God. We must defend ourselves using the armour God gives us. We all need know how to use the shield which is our faith. Life is full of temptations – the flaming arrows the devil fires at us. Temptations to do wrong. Temptations not to do the right things we should be doing. Temptations to say bad things. Temptations not to speak out for truth and justice. Temptations to stay silent about Jesus. Temptations to doubt God. Whenever we are tempted to give in to sin or selfishness or pride, whenever we are tempted to deny our faith, or to pass by on the other side, that’s when we need the shield of faith.
Faith simply means relying on God. Depending on God. Putting our trust in God. Many people go through life trying to cope by relying on things within themselves. Education, Skills, Experience, Talents, Training. Determination. Hard work. None of these things count for anything in the life of faith. Nor do other things around us which everybody takes for granted and and rely on in times of trouble: things like Money and Possessions and Healthcare. None of these things are any use in the life of faith. When it comes to following Jesus, things we might rely on within ourselves or in the world around us are even less use than a chocolate teapot! We need just one thing – we need faith in God.
Faith means relying on God rather than in anything else. George Washington once wrote that we all need: “a due sense of the dependence we ought to place in that all wise and powerful being on whom alone our success depends.”
Faith means depending on God, stepping out and trusting God to act. Luther called faith “a DARING confidence in God’s grace.” Faith means going out on a limb and relying on God to help us. It means putting ourselves in situations where if God does NOT act, we fall flat on our faces, or worse!
GK Chesterton wrote, “A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr but to be a fool.” Even if nobody else hears God’s voice, if we believe then we hear, and we trust, and we obey. It may make us look foolish to everybody else. But we still rely on God!
Faith means clinging on to God’s promises, even when they seem impossible.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) said “Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will!”
It was that great theologian Cliff Richard who said, “The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find he is.”
Faith means basing your life on things you can’t see. Our materialistic world is full of people who base their lives on possessions or money and things in the here and now which they can touch and feel. Hebrews 11 verse 1 tells us faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
The eternal realities can often seem remote and uncertain. In fact they are MORE certain than anything we can see or touch, because this world is passing away but God and His truth will endure forever!
A.W. Tozer – “What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God. Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away, and we shall have only God.”
What about OUR faith? What do we rely on? Do WE really base our lives on things we can’t see? On the truths of Scripture and the promises of God? Are we really laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth because heaven is more real than earth is! Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to base our lives on things we can’t see!
Faith also means obeying God however much that costs. This is where the rubber hits the road. Faith isn’t just about what we believe in our minds. Faith is about how those beliefs change how we live from day to day. Putting our money where their mouth is. Standing up and being counted for God. TS Eliot wrote, “The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyse his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.” THAT is the shield of faith which will help us to resist all the attacks of the devil.
17 Take the helmet of salvation
1 Peter 1:8-9 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
But where is our inexpressible and glorious joy? Sometimes our joy is lacking because we are in a spiritual battle. Sometimes the devil tries to confuse us and accuse us and deceive us and mislead us about the wonderful salvation we have received. And at that point, we need to put on the helmet of salvation.
Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Every single blessing we possibly could imagine is already ours! Chosen to be holy and blameless – which one day we will be. Adopted as God’s children! Redeemed – with all our sins forgiven! Then in Ephesians 2 Paul tells us that God 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
We were dead – now we are alive. We share the resurrection life of Jesus Christ and we are seated in heaven with Him. In the spiritual battle we all face, we occupy the high ground. All we need to do is stand our ground in the face of the devil’s attacks and remind ourselves of what it means to be saved. To put on the helmet of salvation.
Let’s remember that salvation is a process. Like people in a lifeboat escaping from a sinking ship. They have been saved from drowning. At the same time they are being saved from the raging seas as the lifeboat is sailing away. And beyond that they ultimately will be saved when they get to dry land. They were saved. They are being saved and they will be saved. Salvation is a process.
So there is a PAST TENSE of having been saved. Ephesians 1 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
We have been saved! And we have received God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the seal of our salvation and a guarantee and a first instalment of heaven/ The Holy Spirit assures us that our salvation is certain. Even if we fail, or give in to temptation. Once saved always saved! God’s love will never let us go. As Spurgeon said, “It is not your hold of Christ that saves you, but His hold of you.” Corrie Ten Boom once said, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever … Then God places a sign out there that says No Fishing!” Put on the helmet of salvation. Our salvation is guaranteed.
But as well as having a past sense to our salvation, there is also a future tense. We will be saved. Here is the FUTURE TENSE to our salvation – all the incredible blessings we will experience in glory forever. But just for now, at the moment, our salvation is not yet complete. If we want to experience more of the inexpressible and glorious joy of our salvation, we need to spend more time looking forward to our living hope and about the inheritance which is waiting for us which can never perish, spoil or fade. Our salvation will only be complete when Jesus returns and we are united with Him forever.
The 17th century English pastor Richard Baxter wrote: “Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant contemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven’s delights.”
Paul wrote this in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
In the hardest times and the darkest times in the heat of battle this hope of our future salvation can be the helmet we need. The best is yet to come.
We have been saved. We will be saved. And right now there is a PRESENT TENSE of experiencing and living out our salvation here and now, day by day, moment by moment. Our salvation needs to be continually received. As Philippians 2:12 says, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.
We have to work out our salvation – to work through our salvation. We need to put on the helmet of salvation and press on here and now to receive more and more of all the wonderful blessings God has in store for us. The price is paid! Come let us enter in to all that Jesus died to make our own.
and (take) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
God has given us his Word, the Bible. The sword is the only weapon in the armour of God which is both for defence and for attack. But the devil is not afraid of a Bible that has dust on it.
We need to READ the Bible.
The Bible is meant to be our daily bread, not just cake for special occasions. Different Bible verses give us at least 10 important spiritual activities if the Bible is really going to transform our lives.
We must read it (1 Tim. 4:13); eat it — that is, take it into our very being (Job 23:12; Jer. 15:16); bathe in it for spiritual cleansing (John 15:3); look into it as a mirror to see our true self (James 1:23-25); meditate on it (Psalm 1:2; 1 Tim. /4:15); memorize it (Deut. 11:18; Psalm 119:11); study it (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:12-14); talk about it (Josh. 1:8); teach it to others (Deut. 11:19; Col 3:16) ; and sow its seeds of truth in the field of the world (Matt. 13:3-9; Luke 8:11).
We need to UNDERSTAND the Bible
2 Timothy 3:15 from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We need to LIVE BY the Bible
“The Bible is the only thing that can combat the devil. Quote the Scriptures and the devil will run. . . use the Scriptures like a sword and you’ll drive temptation away.” Billy Graham
“Sin will keep you from this Book or this Book will keep you from sin”. — Dwight L. Moody
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!
So there are the six pieces of the armour of God. Of course, even a whole suit of armour by itself is useless. We need to put the armour on!
Message: Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon.
There’s a war on!
Ephesians 6 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm!