Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be alert with all perseverance and every request for all the saints, and pray in my behalf, that speech may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20
Spiritual Conflict, the Armor of God and Prayer
Must of us do not realize that we said yes to Jesus we, in fact, joined God’s army in a spiritual conflict “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB). That is why Paul wrote the words that we now record as Ephesians 6:10-20 to the people of God in Ephesus and more importantly to us. He wrote those words so that every follower of Christ could understand the schemes of the devil and in knowing the schemes of the devil then be able to take our stand against the devil.
What then are the various schemes that devil uses to knock us course? There are two big schemes that the devil will use: (1) causing division in the church and (2) unbelief in God’s promises. But in order to make these two schemes work the devil employs various strategies that include:
- Giving in to our sinful desires (particularly in those areas where we are weakest).
- Spiritual laziness. (Stamps 2010)
The one key thing that we should notice about this, not all inclusive list, is that they are all things that will entice or draw us to making comprises and distract us from our devotion to Jesus.
How then are we to take our stand if we are fighting against unseen forces in the spiritual realm. Thankfully there are four things that we can do to help us in our stand against the evil unseen spiritual forces that we are doing battle with on a daily basis.
- We can take confidence in the fact that our victory has been secured by Christ through his death on the cross to pay the price for our sins. What that means is that Jesus has disarmed the evil powers and authorities (Colossians 2:15; Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:18 and John 12:31), has led and is leading the captives to freedom (Ephesians 4:8) and is rescuing those who entrust their lives to him (Ephesians 1:7; Acts 26:18; Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:13-14).
- We must realize that at the present time, we are involved in a spiritual warfare through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13). And that this warfare involves doing battle:
- Against our own rebellious desires (1 Peter 2:11 and Galatians 5:17).
- Against our the ungodly pleasures of the world and temptations of every kind (Matthew 13:22; Galatians 1:4; James 1:14-15 and 1 John 2:16).
- Against Satan and his demonic forces.
As God’s people, we are called on to separate ourselves from the ungodly beliefs, behaviors and lifestyles that are common in the present world system. This includes hating, resisting and avoiding the world’s evil (Hebrews 1:9), overcoming and dying to worldly temptations (Galatians 6:14 and 1 John 5:4) and exposing and speaking against sin and evil (John 7:7).
- We must stand in battle against all evil, not in our own power (2 Corinthians 10:3) but with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
- In our warfare of faith, we are called to many things:
- Put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13, more on that later).
- Stand firm (Ephesians 6:14, more on that later).
- Wage war (2 Corinthians 10:3).
- Fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7).
- Persevere in prayer (Ephesians 6:18).
- Endure hardships like good soldiers of Christ (Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 11:23 and 2 Timothy 1:8).
- Defend the message of Christ (Philippians 1:16).
- Contend for the faith (Philippians 1:27 and Jude 1:3).
- Not be frightened by opponents (Philippians 1:28).
- Conquer (Romans 8:37).
- Be victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57).
- Triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14).
- Destroy Satan’s strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).
- Take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- Become powerful in battle (Hebrews 11:34). (Stamps 2010)
Before we move on to dealing with the Armor of God, we must first deal with whom the forces of evil are that we are struggling against. And the key to understanding that is to keep in mind that our primary source of conflict in life is not circumstances or other people who irritate, offend, annoy or hurt us, because these things are not the real enemy. Who then is the real enemy? Satan and a multitude of evil spirits are the real enemy with whom we are at war. While keeping that in mind there are two things that we need to keep in mind about our real enemy:
- These powers of darkness are the spiritual forces of evil (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 1 John 5:19) that energize, influence and control ungodly people (Ephesians 2:2). These dark forces oppose God’s purposes, plans and desires (Genesis 3:1-7; Daniel 10:12-13 and Matthew 13:38-39). They frequently attack people-particularly those who are followers of Christ-using various schemes and strategies (1 Peter 5:8).
- There are multitudes of these evil powers (Revelation 12:4 and 7), and they are highly organized into an empire of evil with rank and order (Ephesians 2:2 and John 14:30). (Stamps 2010)
Armor of God
Know that we know against whom we are struggling we can know move on to determining the “equipment” that we are going to need to effectively struggle against our enemy. And thankful for us Paul in this passage not only tells us against whom we are struggling but he also tells us the equipment that we need to don in order to be effective in our struggle against our enemies.
Contrary to popular opinion the equipment that Paul modeled his spiritual armor on was not Greek or Middle Eastern in nature but was in fact Roman in nature. So the man that Paul would have seen wearing the model for Paul’s spiritual armor would have been a Roman legionary. And the Roman legionary’s weapons and armor were basically these: a spear, a sword, a shield, and a helmet (Wasson 2021).
The sword of the legionary was the gladius hispaniensis or the “Spanish sword” and was their primary thrusting weapon used for close combat. In addition to the gladius the Roman legionary, also, carried a pugioor a dagger. The gladius would be worn on the left hip and the pugio on the right. These two close quarter weapons were held in place by two belts, that also served the dual purpose of gathering the Roman legionary’s long tunic at the waist (Wasson 2021) thus making it easier for the Roman legionary to move and fight (in later periods these two belts were replaced by one that was made broader for more support).
The shield of the Roman legionary by the time Paul was writing was not semi-cylindrical but rather was the rectangular scutum that was made of plywood and covered with calfskin. And the helmet of the Roman legionary could have been one of five different styles:
- Montefortino-an early style with wide cheekpieces, a broader neck guard, and good protection from blows to the head.
- Coolus-similar to the Montefortino but with wider cheekpieces, a neck guard, and a reinforcing peak to the front of the helmet to protect against a possible attack.
- Imperial Gallic-broader, ribbed neck guard for greater strength
- Imperial Italic-differed only slightly from the Gallic, with the main difference being that it was less ornate.
- Intercisa-radically different from all the others with the bowl consisting of two separate pieces joined by a ridge, a small neck guard with no reinforcement to the front or top. (Wasson 2021)
The armor worn by the Roman legionary could be one of three different types:
- Mail Armor (lorica hamata) which would have been made up of interlocking metal rings.
- Scale Armor (lorica squamata) which was made up of small metal plates.
- Plate Armor (lorica segmentate) which was made up of a single piece of metal.
And underneath which ever type of armor the Roman legionary choice or could afford to wear he would, also, wear for protection a padded garment called the thorumachus. (Wasson 2021)
Now that we know what Paul based the spiritual armor that he instructs us to put on, we can turn the actual spiritual armor that we are to put on. The thing that we need to remember about all of this is that we cannot effectively take part in spiritual warfare in our strength and with our own plans and strategies. Why? Because if we do we will surely be defeated, or even destroyed. So in order to be effective in spiritual battle and to come out victorious against the satanic forces of evil, we must use all the tools we have been provided. And one of those is the full armor of God. (Stamps 2010) Which includes:
- The belt which allowed a soldier to fasten clothing around his waist and signifies readiness to engage in battle (Isaiah 11:4-5). This belt represents the truth of God as revealed in the Gospel.
- The breastplate, which covered the chest from blows and arrows, alludes to Isaiah 59:17, where Yahweh or the Lord “put on righteousness as his breastplate.” Righteousness here refers to an ethical quality and involves imitating the righteous character of God himself.
- The shoes for the feet represent “the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Isaiah 52:7). This readiness could mean the preparation that comes from the Gospel or the readiness to proclaim the Gospel.
- The shield of faith was the large door-shaped shield (not the small round shield) that was made of wood overlaid with canvas and leather; it was large enough to protect a soldier’s entire body (4 ft. by 2.5 ft.). When soaked in water, these shields were able to extinguish flaming arrows. This shield represents faith or a believer’s confidence and trust in God, a faith which allows them to repel the attacks of the devil.
- The helmet was a padded bronze bowl with guards to protect the brow, cheeks, and neck. Again, Paul’s language here echoes Isaiah 59:17, where Yahweh put on the “helmet of salvation.” The helmet represents the salvation that believers already possess but must constantly appropriate by faith.
- The sword was a short sword (gladius) used for close combat. Here it is linked with the Holy Spirit, who is the source of the sword, making it powerful and effective. The sword is described as “the word of God,” which is the Gospel. This offensive weapon is the Good News of peace and reconciliation. (Merkle 2021)
Now that we know whom we are fighting against and the equipment that we need to put on in order to fight against our enemy, it is time that we learn how we are to put on the equipment. And we put on the equipment through prayer.
With that being said our warfare against Satan’s spiritual forces calls for serious and continued prayer. This means praying “in the Spirit,” “on all occasions,” “with all kinds of prayers,” “for all the saints,” “and always keep on praying.” Prayer is not to be viewed just as another spiritual weapon, but as the very act of battle itself as we work together with God to gain the victory for ourselves and others. Failing to pray diligently, with all kinds of prayer in all situations, is to surrender to the enemy (Luke 18:1; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17). (Stamps 2010)
To tie all this together let’s take a look something that comes directly from the US military and describes in easy to understand terms exactly what Paul is trying to tell us in Ephesians 6:10-20.
- Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
- Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite Soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other Soldier.
- Never shall I fail my comrades I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.
- Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained Soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
- Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
- Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor. (Department of the Army 2017)
To better understand how this applies to us as followers of Christ let’s make a few changes. Therefore as followers of Christ we must:
- Recognize that on the day we said yes to Jesus we entered into a spiritual battle, knowing full well the dangers that came with that decision.
- Acknowledge the fact our duty is to be an “elite” group that is expected to do things that others cannot do.
- Never fail our fellow believers by keeping ourselves mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight.
- Gallantly show the world that God has specially selected me and that I have been well trained. Showing this by my courtesy to others.
- Energetically meet our enemies on whatever battlefield that they can be found on knowing that we can beat them because we are better trained and better equipped.
- Readily we must show the strength needed to continue on with our God given mission, even if it appears we are the last people on earth to be doing so.
Yesterday’s and Today’s Bible Readings:
Hosea 1-5, 1 John 5:1-2 John 1:13, Psalm 124:1-125:5, Proverbs 29:5-11
Department of the Army. “Ranger Creed.” In Ranger Handbook, xx. 2017.
Merkle, Benjamin L. “Notes on Ephesians.” In The Grace and Truth Study Bible, NIV, by R. Albert Jr. Mohler, 1639. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2021.
Stamps, Donald. “Notes on Ephesians.” In Fire Bible: Global Study Edition: New International Version, by Donald Stamps, & John Wesley Adams. Henderickson Publishers, Inc., 2010.
Wasson, Donald L. Roman Armor & Weapons. February 24, 2021. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1692/roman-armor–weapons/ (accessed December 2022).
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