The Full Armor of God
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17
When we picture the armor that Paul is talking about here in his letter to the church at Ephesus is usually the armor worn during Medieval times, but that is not actually what Paul is basing his word picture on. The armor that Paul is looking at is that of the Romans soldiers that he saw on a daily basis during his imprisonment in Rome. Which means that each piece of equipment that Paul describes in our spiritual armor had a basis in a piece of actual armor that was worn by the best military of Paul’s day. And if we look closely at modern military forces we will see that they wear similar pieces of equipment designed to do the same thing as their ancient counter parts.
The Belt of Truth
The first piece of armor that Paul tells us to put on is the belt of truth. It was the balteus (belt) that the Roman solider wore around his waist that helped hold all the other pieces of his armor in place, thus making his job easier. And the Roman soldier’s modern day counter part uses something very similar to hold all of his other pieces of equipment in place, which is now called MOLLE and used to be called ALICE.
If that is what is the physical piece of equipment or armor looks like, then what does the spiritual equivalent look like. The spiritual equivalent of the Roman soldiers belt is the Bible. That is why Paul described it as the belt of truth, because it is the Bible that provides us with God’s truth. And by putting on the belt of truth on a daily basis we are reconfirming our allegiance to God’s truth and our commitment to integrity. And it is this commitment that will win our spiritual battles.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The second piece of armor that Paul tells to put is the breastplate of righteousness. It was the lorica segmentata, which is the segmented armor that covered the Roman soldier’s upper body, that Paul was basing his breastplate of righteousness on. By covering the Roman soldier’s upper body this piece of equipment protected his heart. And the Roman soldier’s modern counter part wears something similar that protects their heart, which is called a bulletproof vest.
If that is what the physical armor looks like, then what does its spiritual counter part look like. The breastplate of righteousness represents our Godly character and a right relationship with with God. Both of which are necessary in protecting our spiritual hearts and allowing us to fight effectively for purity and justice.
Feet Sandaled with Readiness for the Gospel of Peace
The third piece of armor/equipment that Paul tells us to put on is a covering for feet, but not just any covering for our feet. The footwear that Paul is visualizing hear are the caligae of the Roman soldier. These sandals were nail studded to provide the Roman soldier extra traction and were laced up above his ankles to provide stability. The modern day counterpart to this piece of equipment are combat boots, which are designed to provide not only stability and traction but also comfort to the modern warrior.
If this is what the physical armor looks like, then what does its spiritual counterpart look like. It looks like two things. The first thing is your individual faith, because it is your individual faith that allows you to stand firm. And the second thing is believing and boldly proclaiming Christ’s message is a sure way to advance Christ’s cause and overcome the enemy.
The Shield of Faith
These last three pieces of armor/equipment that Paul tells us to put on are probably the most important pieces of all. And the first one is the shield of faith. When you picture a shield you probably either picturing a circular shield, like the ancient Greeks carried, or the triangular shield, carried by Medieval knights. But that is not the shield Paul is picturing here. The shield Paul is picturing is the scutum of the classic Roman soldier, which was covered in leather and often soaked in water to extinguish flame tipped arrows. But more importantly they could be linked together to create an unbreakable barrier that allowed the Roman Legions to either advance in attack or hold their ground in defense. However, the Roman soldier’s modern counterpart is not issued a shield of any kind. What then is the modern warrior’s counterpart to the Roman shield? It is the codes and creeds that they are taught and have become second nature to them, thus allowing them to symbolically link arms even if they are from different branches of service.
What then does the spiritual counterpart look like? It is bold faith, but not just your individual faith. It is collective faith. Which means it is us, as the people of God, putting aside our petty differences based on our own individual beliefs and instead standing firm with our fellow believers no matter the cost. Because this is the way we “extinguish all there flaming arrows of the evil one’.
The Helmet of Salvation
The fifth piece that Paul tells us to put on is the helmet of salvation. What Paul is picturing here is the cassis or galea, which was designed to protect the head of the Roman soldier. And even today modern day warriors will wear a helmet to protect their head. Why, you ask? For the simple reason that if you destroy the head you will destroy the body. Which makes protecting the head vitally important.
And if protecting your physical head is vitally important, then protecting your spiritual head is even more important. And you do that not by “being saved” every day, but by refusing to allow the devil to gain any footholds in your mind on a daily basis. And you do this by renewing your mind and being confident of your relationship with God, which protects you in battle and allows you to follow a God-given strategy of victory.
The Sword of the Spirit
The last piece that Paul tells us to put on is the sword of the spirit. The weapon that Paul is picturing here is not a long broad sword that you will see later in the post-Roman period, but it is the gladius. The gladius was a short double-edged sword used for hand to hand combat. Outside of the Roman shield it is what the Roman military is most famous for. And it was the weapon with which the Roman soldier was most familiar with. What then is the modern equivalent of the Romand sword? It is the rifle. The rifle is the weapon that the modern warrior is most familiar with and is the weapon of choice for engaging any and all targets. And this is embodied in the Rifleman’s Creed:
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will …
My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit …
My rifle is human, even as I [am human], because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will …
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!
If the rifle is the modern warrior’s sword, then what is the spiritual warrior’s sword? The spiritual warrior’s sword is the Bible, which is the very word of God. In fact the word of God is so important that Paul mentions it twice. First as the belt of truth that holds everything together and this is the second time as an offensive weapon.
The “sword of the Spirit”–the Word of God–is our offensive weapon to be used in the war against the powers of evil. Jesus effectively used this weapon against Satan (Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13). We must know God’s Word and be confident of its power and effectiveness. Satan will try to twist God’s Word, as he has from the beginning (cf. Ge 3:1-5), and he will make every effort to undermine or destroy our confidence in God’s Word. The church must hold on to and defend the inspired Word of God against claims and attacks that it is not authentic and accurate in everything it teaches. To abandon the attitude of Christ and the apostles toward God’s inspired Word is to deny its power to expose evil, to correct, to save, to heal, to drive out demons and to overcome all evil. To deny Scripture’s absolute authority and trustworthiness in all it teaches is to surrender ourselves to Satan’s deception, influence, control and final destruction.
All of these pieces of spiritual armor when worn together and put on with prayer on a daily basis, will provide you with spiritual protection from the devil and his schemes. And this all fits in nicely with the Spiritual Warfare Battle Plan that we just finished talking about.