Oh, and one more thing before I say goodbye, Paul writes, “Put on the full armor of God.” “Put on the armor! Put on the full armor.” Why? We’re going to battle. Literally, “Let the Lord make you strong and put on the full armor.” We are going to battle, today, tomorrow, all week long, and if we don’t have the Lord’s help, we will surely fall in battle. So, what does it mean to Put On the Full Armor.
Our foes? 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.
It may be difficult to fight an enemy you cannot see, but how blessed we are that we cannot see Satan and his soldiers. He’s not only invisible, he’s vastly superior to us. And he’s organized an army of demons who carry out his schemes: rulers, authorities, the world powers of darkness.
How do they fight us? He loves to get us to think that each other is the enemy. Or, if he cannot undermine our doctrinal position, he will try to get us to relax our moral standards. If Satan cannot overthrow our faith, he will try to wear it away, get us to compromise by injecting the leaven of false teaching. If he cannot seduce us into gross sins, he’ll get us to feel comfortable that commit little sins. And committing little sins, we are easily led into Pharisaism.
And we either underestimate our opposition, or overestimate our strength. We are too smart to get taken in. Or we won’t let it happen a second time.
Satan’s been at this for 6,000 years, and look at the immorality and sin and darkness in our world, and I think I can stand firm? I think of the times when my conscience told me to something right, right by God’s Word’s standards, and then Satan counters that with why I should do wrong and then I do wrong. If I rely on my own strength, I’m headed for a fall. He wants every soul in hell with him.
So, Paul says literally, “Let the Lord make you strong and put on the full armor of God.” He knows what a Roman soldier wore. When he lived in Tarsus, studying under the well-known Gamaliel, he saw Roman soldiers all the time. Roman soldiers rescued him from a mob in Ephesus and in Jerusalem. Roman soldiers escorted Paul from Jersualem to Caesarea and then to Rome. While in Rome, he was in the custody of the Praetorian Guard, an elite unit of Roman soldiers who had proven themselves in battle.
There were six essential part of the armor. First the belt. The belt surrounded the lower abdomen and having leather straps suspended to below the knee to protect not only the midsection, but also the upper legs. On the belt there were several loops for attaching scabbards for sword and dagger, rope, rations sack, water skin, tools and whatever else the soldier needed. The belt is mentioned first because it was put on first.
Next, the soldier put on his metal breastplate. It protected the soldier in both front and back and was attached to the belt with loops so that neither would come off. The breastplate protected the vital organs, especially the heart.
Next, the soldier wore sandals with leather straps that wound around the ankle and lower leg. Good footwear was especially important because the Roman Legions were famous for their capacity to march long distances and surprise an enemy who never expected them to be in a
certain place. Sandals were also important for keeping ones feet steady. A Roman soldier’s sandals had thick leather souls and were studded to assure traction in any terrain.
Next, the soldier had a shield, a long, rectangular door-like shield that reached from chin to knees. Sometimes shields had hooks on the sides so that in battle soldiers could hook them together to form a wall. During the part of the battle when the enemy was raining down a shower of fiery arrows they would hold their shields together over their heads to form what they compared to a turtle’s shell. In hand-to-hand combat the soldier would use the shield to protect against both spear and sword.
Next, the soldier’s head was protected by a leather-lined metal helmet that hung down over the neck and protected both head and neck. It was equipped with a chin strap to keep it from coming off in battle.
Finally, there was the offensive weapon, the sword. Romans used a Gladius, an 18 inch sword intended for stabbing rather than slashing. When the enemy would wind up to slash with his sword, the Roman would move in and pierce him under the arm. They practiced this move extensively in their training so that they could make accurate thrusts in battle.
In Paul’s day, this armor was state of the art, but was, and still is, of no use in the Christian’s war against the enemy. But Paul’s point is that our Heavenly Emperor has equipped his army with the armor of God. With that armor of God the Christian can be successful on the spiritual battlefield.
Our warfare is against a spiritual enemy we cannot see, and one we cannot beat alone. So, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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. As the Roman soldier’s armor protected from attack on all sides, so the armor of God can protect us even from this enemy and with the sword of the Spirit we can attack and drive away this enemy.
We too, have a belt around us, a belt of truth. We not only need the truth of God’s Word, that is, we not only need to know the truth as revealed in God’s Word, yes, we need to know every teaching of God’s Word the way God wants us to believe it. The Roman soldier began by surrounding himself with a belt and the Christian soldier surrounds himself with truth, God’s truth.
As the soldier’s breastplate protected the soldier’s heart and life, so we have a breastplate of righteousness that protects us from the father of disobedience. This righteousness is from God because we have no righteousness of our own. Surrounded with the righteousness of Christ and a blameless life that grows out of our faith, the devil cannot accuse us before God or draw us into the corruption of the world.
The Christian soldier must have a good footing. Our sandals are the gospel of peace, the good news that we stand upon. With this solid footing we are able to stand against all the attacks of the devil upon our conscience and our heart. It is what the army is all about. Apart from this Good News we stagger and fall dead before the enemy. But standing on this gospel we have God’s peace and can stand before him. Satan cannot claim or make us fall.
The Christian soldier has the shield of faith. Faith in God is protection against the blows and fiery arrows of the enemy. He can threaten and shout his battle cry, but we have shelter and safety because our God has given us a shield, namely, our faith in his promises and strength. As long as we are behind that shield Satan cannot harm us.
The Christian soldier has the helmet of salvation. Salvation is not a victory we win on the battle field. It was won for us by Christ in his battle throughout life and on the cross. There he defeated Satan in his life of obedience and his death of sacrifice. Both are counted by God as ours. Salvation is not our achievement but God’s gift as Paul wrote in chapter 2: “By grace you are saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works.” The assurance of victory is like a helmet of steel that protects us against all of Satan’s blows.
The Christian soldier has a weapon to attack the enemy, the sword of the Spirit. God’s word drives away Satan. Want to defeat Satan’s temptations, hang around God’s word. James tells us, “Resist him, and he will flee.” God is present where his word is used. It protects against the deception of Satan—while Satan winding up to slash you with his temptations, the Word of God attacks back and wins the skirmish.
Our armor is the same armor our Savior used. Talk about a belt of truth! Jesus said he is “the way, the truth and the life.” The Bible says about Jesus that “there was no deceit found in his mouth, he spoke the truth to those who loved it and those who rejected it, he prayed that his Father would sanctify us with the Word of Truth. No one could ever accuse him of sin. He knew the Word of truth, even as a young boy.
What did Jesus use to take his stand when the days of evil came for him? When tempted to sin in the wilderness with Satan, Jesus used the Word. He said, “It is written.” He defended himself and he fought back with the Word of God. When Satan prompted humans to attack Jesus he defended himself and fought back with the Word of God, restating Biblical truth, calling to repentance. When Peter told Jesus he should not go the way of the cross, he said, “Get behind me Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.”
Jesus came “to destroy the work of the devil.” So he fought temptation with the same defenses we’ve been given. He went to battle Satan with the same word of God we’ve been given. But he won. Though a human being like us, with weaknesses and being fully human, he used the defensive armor and the sword of the Word to defeat Satan in every attack of temptation.
He won all the little skirmishes with Satan, but to really defeat Satan, he paid for the guilt of everyone who has fallen into sin. Taking God the Father’s punishment, paying for the world’s sin, he has defeated Satan. Satan can tempt, but he cannot condemn. Satan can tempt, but he cannot accuse of sin—Jesus paid for it. Satan can lead into sin and win skirmish after skirmish, but he cannot win the war—the war has been won. Jesus marched into hell after he came back to life to proclaim his victory over the devil. This one soldier fought and won for a world led astray. The one soldier lived to die, to defeat evil, Satan, sin, death. And this one soldier reclaimed his life, and having won salvation for a world full of sinners, now assures of our victory in him and equips us for daily battle, by giving us our armor of defense and our weapon of attack.
Put on the full armor of God. A Roman soldier who put on only a few pieces would be in trouble. So he was given a full, complete set of armor. Achilles was the central character and hero of Homer’s Illiad. He was considered semi-immortal, but had one vulnerability, his heel. He died due when a poison arrow struck his heel.
What do we have? We have the belt of truth, that is God’s truth and a life that is true. We have a breastplate of righteousness, that is we are right with God through faith in Jesus. We have the gospel of peace, that is we stand on God’s grace as victory to overcome the enemy. We have the shield of faith which protects us from the attacks and schemes of Satan. We have the helmet of salvation which assures Christ has already won the victory and this helmet will be replaced one day with the crown of life. And we have the sword of the Spirit, with which we defeat Satan when he tempts or attacks our faith.
Put on the full armor of God and not even your heel will be vulnerable. Amen.