It’s evident that we engage in spiritual battles as Christians. Paul said in Ephesians 6:12 that 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.”
For every battle, there must be preparation. In Luke 14:31-33, Jesus said, “Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”
So, how does one prepare for this spiritual battle? Paul gave us some powerful illustrations that can help us learn to do exactly that. Let’s look at Ephesians 6 and break his advice down.
Six Pieces of Armor
There are six pieces of armor listed here, and each could be found upon the Roman soldier in the day of Paul’s writing. Let’s look at each closely.
1. “…having your loins girt about with truth…”
A Roman solider had a belt, and all the rest of the armor he wore was hooked on it. So, the first thing the soldier would do was to put on his belt. We can see how important this piece was, because everything else hinged on it.
Truth is sincerity. Real Truth, and truthfulness, is rooted in the reality of God’s Word. In this scripture, however, it is the practical reality of openness and honesty in all things, with God and with men. The disposition of our heart should be that of utter truthfulness.
Satan’s intention is to destroy honesty, and cause us to base our relationship with God on deceitfulness. In fact, his first attack on humanity was that of deception in the Garden. It was this dishonesty that brought about man’s shame, hiding from God, denial of responsibility, and shifting blame.
Since the “loins” of a person are the vital internal organs, we can understand that God wants our very life to be protected with truth. That our mind and thoughts and actions would be centered in truthfulness without deceit.
How can we “gird our loins” with truth? The Psalmist said in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
2. “…having on the breastplate of righteousness…”
The Breastplate of the Roman soldier was typically made of bronze, and covered from just below the neck, down to the thighs. For obvious reasons, it was called the “heart protector”. When Paul speaks of righteousness here, he means integrity and righteousness of character. It’s conforming our will to God’s will. It’s the practical application of the truth in our lives. Remember about the belt of truth being first? This is why. Righteousness proceeds from truth.
So, while Satan does attack with deception, he also attacks in accusation. He wants to put us in a place of guilt and condemnation. When we allow the attack and turn ourself away from righteousness, we open ourselves to demonic influence in our lives. In the Old Testament, Saul began disobeying God and soon we see him sitting with a witch, summoning up a spirit. In the New Testament, Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He would soon suffer death on the cross, and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan”. Peter had opened himself up to demonic influence.
How do we have on the breastplate of righteousness? James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Also, 1 John 3:7 says, “Little children, let no man deceive you:he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” The breastplate of righteousness is worn by living righteous. When we do so, we defend ourselves against Satan’s attacks of accusation.
3. “…feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace…”
Soliders wore sandals that came up to the calf of the leg. They often had nails or studs on the bottom to give traction. History shows that Alexander the Great promoted these kind of shoes because they gave “firm foundation” in battle. When you’re fighting, balance is the key… You’ve got to have a firm foundation.
Notice that Paul said the “preparation” of the gospel. Preparation is all about establishment, or laying the foundation. It gives the idea of readiness to share the Gospel, which brings peace between man and God.
Satan not only uses deception and accusation against us, but also casts doubt on the Gospel. Notice what Paul said to the church in Corinth about this very thing…
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” 2 Corinthians 11:3-4. Did you see that? We must be vigilant in our belief and foundation of the Gospel so we will not be swayed.
How can we have the preparation of the Gospel? Know and understand it! (1 Cor. 15:1-5, Eph. 2:1-9) Faith is based on facts, not feelings. One of the most powerful ways to build your faith in the Gospel is to share it! It’s been said that, “the best defense is a good offense!”
4. “…taking the shield of faith…”
At this time in Bible history, there were two main types of shields. One was small and rounded, and the other was a progressive battle shield that was much larger. This second shield was about four feet hight, two and a half feet wide, and was oblong. To the left and right were hooks so that soldiers standing side-by-side could connect them into a long row, much like a moving wall. This shield was made out of iron, and had several layers to it, beginning with wood, then linen, then leather. There would be a space of air between the leather and the wood that would trap the tips of fiery arrows and extinguish them.
So, Paul is saying that when faith is our shield, it protects us. Faith in this context is our absolute confidence in God. Faith in his ability, promises and will for our lives. When we are solidly confident in the God of our salvation, the fiery attacks of the enemy have no affect.
The “fiery darts” Satan uses against us are temptations, lies, and tactics to shift our trust to something other than God. He attempts to plant hateful thoughts, doubt, lust, criticism, discouragement, depression, disbelief, etc.
But, we’re not ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11). His darts of doubt and deception are immediately met with our shield of faith. As soon as we recognize that a “fiery dart” has been cast, we actively apply our faith in the truth to it. We do this by 1) Trusting in God’s character (Psalm 84:11, Rom. 8:32), 2) Trusting in God’s promises and Word (Numbers 23:19, 2 Peter 1:2-4) and 3) Trusting in God’s plan and timing (Jer. 29:11, Isaiah 55:8-13).
5. “…take the helmet of salvation…”
The Roman soldier would have his battle gear on, and right before he goes to battle he puts on his helmet made of bronze and leather. The helmet was so vital because it protected the head from fatal blows that could end the soldier’s life. It’s interesting that Paul would use this in reference to salvation.
Salvation can mean our future, ultimate salvation from sin, but in this case remember it’s referring to present spiritual warfare. For this reason, we consider this salvation to mean the present promise of deliverance from sin, and the protection of our soul in this battle, that was purchased at our New Birth. It’s important that we note the reference to the “helmet” of salvation, because it literally protects the place of our mind. All spiritual battles are first fought in the place of our mind… it’s where satan builds strongholds, influences actions, plants seeds of doubt, etc. We must allow God’s salvation to influence this part of us.
Paul said in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world:but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Don’t forget… the battle will be waged in your mind. 2 Cor. 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
We become transformed in our mind through:
- being taught
- memorizing Scripture
- and godly fellowship.
Don’t underestimate the power of any of these!
In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul calls the helmet our “hope of salvation”. Quite literally, it is our only hope. Christians that do not fill their minds with godly things are like a warrior going to battle without a helmet.
6. “…and take…the sword of the Spirit…the word of God…”
Lastly, we have the sword of the Spirit. The sword the Roman soldier carried wasn’t a long piece of steel, but was about two feet long. It was short because by this time they weren’t fighting from a distance… they were engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Often in the Bible, the sword is used to refer to the “logos” Word of God. But here in this case it is the Greek word, “rhema”, which means the spoken or commanded word of God. This word actively engages the lies and deception of the enemy. When the truth of God’s word is quoted and applied to the specific lie or deception of the enemy, it allows you to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”.
Jesus modeled this for us when he was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. He used the word to refute the temptations of the enemy (Matthew 4:1-11). The sword of the Spirit is two-edged, both an offensive and defensive weapon… “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Let the word of God be a guide to your life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,
and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
While spiritual warfare involves prayer and intercession (Ephesians 6:18) the great majority is accomplished through regularly living out our position of salvation in Christ by faith.
So, 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!