“Put on the Whole Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 29, 2021

“Put on the Whole Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

These days many people have taken up a variety of precautions and protections to guard against the Covid virus and its variants. They have put on face masks. They have put on face shields. They sanitize their hands. They keep social distance. They take zinc and an assortment of vitamins. They get injected with a vaccine and maybe now a booster shot as well. All these precautions and protections to guard against a virus.

But friends, there’s something much more dangerous and deadly than a virus going around. As St. Peter puts it, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” That’s the more deadly danger going around. But I don’t think as many people are as concerned about this threat as they are about the virus. Most people are not taking up the protections they need to guard against the danger the devil poses.

But you can. And St. Paul tells us how. In the Epistle reading for today from Ephesians 6, Paul urges us to guard against “the schemes of the devil” and “the spiritual forces of evil.” And we do well to heed this advice and to put on and to take up the protections that God provides. We do so today under the theme, “Put on the Whole Armor of God.”

Our text begins: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Notice, we are called to be strong not in our own strength. That won’t cut it. We won’t be strong enough to resist the devil by relying on our own might. “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.” We win the battle not by drumming up our own inner toughness, nor by gritting our teeth in grim determination.

No, we become strong “in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” “In the Lord,” in Christ–this is where our power lies. The Christian life is lived in Christ, in connection with him. He conquered sin, death, and the devil for us. By his victorious death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, where he now lives and reigns to all eternity–this is how we win the fight. It is in our Lord that we are strong.

Paul then explains how that happens. He says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” The idea of “putting on armor” brings to mind a soldier getting ready for battle. Do you ever think of yourself in that way? That you are a soldier engaged in battle? But that’s who you are as a Christian in this world. We are at war. The enemy is out to get us, and we need to be ready. If we aren’t ready, if we aren’t prepared, if we aren’t equipped, we’re going to be in big trouble. That’s why each one of us needs to put on the armor that God supplies.

Notice, it is the “whole” armor of God we are to put on. Not just a little bit of the armor, a piece or two here or there, but rather the whole thing. The soldier going into battle doesn’t know which piece of equipment will be the one that will save his life. The smart soldier arms himself with all the resources at his disposal. Remember the story of Achilles: Achilles was invulnerable at all points except for one, his heel. Of course, that was exactly the spot where he was hit. So, put on the whole armor. And notice that it is the armor “of God.” This is the armor that God supplies. He is our heavenly quartermaster, who provides us with all that we need, for every situation we face.

What are the dangers we will be facing? According to our text, there’s some pretty stiff opposition: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

First of all, a reality check: Is there really a devil? Yes. Not only in Ephesians, but also throughout the Bible, we read about a very real, personal devil. Satan is the evil one, the tempter, a fallen angel opposed to God and God’s people. Jesus calls the devil “the father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning.” And the devil has other unclean spirits, demons, in league with him, likewise doing their worst to harm us. The fact that our Western rationalistic mindset dismisses the devil’s existence doesn’t make him any less real, any less evil, or any less dangerous.

To not believe in the existence of the devil is a serious error that only serves to lower your guard against his evil attacks. The battle is real, and it is on. It began at your baptism, when you became one of God’s people. The cross traced upon your forehead and upon your heart marks you not only as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, it also marks you as a target for Satan’s attacks. The devil has you in his crosshairs.

“Therefore,” Paul continues, “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” None of us knows when our particular “evil day” may come, that especially dark day when the devil seems like he’s going to knock us off our firm footing. It may come more than once: The day we are assailed by doubt. The day when sickness or misfortune drives us to the brink of despair. Maybe the lure of temptation will seem too strong to resist. Our faith seems ready to topple. It is for evil days like these that we need the armor of God. But with the whole armor that God provides, not only will we be able to withstand the devil’s attacks, at the end of the day we will be the ones left standing as victors.

The whole armor of God: Our text lists the various pieces of this Gospel armor. Let’s take a brief look at them now, piece by piece:

1) “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth.” What is the truth, against all the devil’s lies? The divine reality is that now because of Christ, we are forgiven. Satan’s accusations therefore are powerless. God is for us, not against us. This truth is like a strong belt, girding up our loins for battle.

2) “and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” No righteousness of my own is able to protect me. Only the perfect righteousness of Christ, my sinless Savior, protects my heart and cannot be pierced.

3) “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” The gospel of peace–the good news that in Christ we are at peace with God–this gives us the readiness and the firm footing we need to succeed in battle.

4) “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” The Christian faith is the long-shield we take up to block the fiery darts the devil shoots at us. His flaming arrows will not set us ablaze.

5) “and take the helmet of salvation.” We have been saved from sin and death, and we are being kept safe by God’s power. This salvation is acting as a helmet to guard our head from fatal blows.

6) “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Think of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. How did he cut down the devil? With the word of God. “It is written,” our Lord said in reply to each temptation. God’s word is the offensive weapon we have to wield against the wicked one.

Actually, all of these pieces of armor are simply different ways to describe the same word of God. The difference lies in how the word works for us in battle–whether as a belt, a breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, or sword. But there is another piece of equipment that doesn’t quite lend itself to the armor imagery:

7) “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication,” and so on. Prayer is a vital part of our equipping. To pray is to call upon God’s power for help in the battle. And so we pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation.” “Deliver us from evil” and from the evil one. We pray for ourselves. We pray for our fellow Christians, all our fellow soldiers in God’s army. We pray for all ministers of the gospel, that they may proclaim it boldly, as they should. Prayer completes our gospel armor.

Dear friends, people are taking the precautions they deem best to protect against a virus. But don’t forget to take the protection you need to guard against a far greater threat. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” The devil’s schemes are indeed dangerous. “The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; on earth is not his equal.” But in heaven is the devil’s equal, nay, more than his equal: Christ Jesus, our Lord, our mighty champion and Savior. And he comes to help us. We are weak, but he is strong. And, connected to him, we become strong, too. The devil may have his dread arms in fight, but we have the whole armor of God, which is far greater. Let us put on that gospel armor. And at the end of the battle, when the dust settles and the smoke clears, we shall stand triumphant.

Published in: on August 28, 2021 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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