Putting on the Full Armor of God: Engaging in Spiritual Warfare
by Jimmy Humphrey
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. (Ephesians 6:10-12; NASB)
It is said that the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he does not exist. Like a thief, the devil often prefers to go unseen. The father of all lies, he hides out of view by perpetuating lie after lie. The lies that he and his unseen army reinforce causes men to believe that the problems that exist in their lives are simply the result of various psychological, sociological, economical, political, and natural laws that have run-a-muck. Instead of recognizing the satanic origin for many of the ills that plague our personal lives and society, we turn against one another. Look at what you did to me! is the lie we often believe the most. So, instead of recognizing that many of our problems are satanic in their origin, we believe the lie that the true origin of our problems lie with our children, parents, spouses, employers, government officials, or other foreign nations.
Indeed, the trick of the devil has been so great, that not only has the unsaved world believed the lie, but many within the Church have believed the lie as well. And by saying that, Im not simply talking about those whose theology denies the existence of a literal devil. Rather, I have in mind the average evangelical Christian in America whose mind is still so worldly in nature, that they live their everyday existence as if there were no such creature as the devil. And because of this ignorance, we are unable to engage ourselves in the battle that the satanic forces of this world are constantly engaged in, even if we are not. As a result, we open ourselves to living subpar and defeated lives, and below Gods intention for us.
###The Man Behind the Curtain###
For at the end of the day we live our lives as if our fight was against flesh and blood. Such is ultimately a secular and atheistic mindset, and is the exact mindset Satan would have us to embrace. But here Paul reminds us in this passage that our struggles in this life are not really against flesh and blood, but, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. So, when you see conflicts within your family, experience tensions at work, or feel oppressed by an out of control government and corrupt political leaders, take the blinders off and realize that the problems you are facing are not actually with these things. For these things are simply the flesh and blood that Satan and his forces hide behind. They are merely pawns in his game.
The real problem underlying these conflicts is ultimately spiritual in nature. Underlying these conflicts are demonic influences that operate through the deceived and blinded minds of men. For it is on the battlefield of the mind that these wicked forces gain the opportunity to wreak havoc and destruction in the world. Such is how Satan initially gained a stronghold here. The serpent deceived Eve, and caused her to believe something that was a lie, and contrary to what God had said. As a result, Eve was able to influence Adam to rebel against God. Though Adam was quick to blame Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit, in reality, it was not Eve who led Adam into rebellion, but the serpent who was able to reach into Adams life through Eve.
Such is the nature of the war that began in the garden, and continues on to this day. It is a war we are constantly engaged in, every moment of every day. We live in a war torn world, where violent assault upon violent assault is constantly waged. We live in a world in which God has spoken His word, and for every word God has spoken, the satanic forces at operation in this world seek to speak ten-thousand things that contradict and cast doubt upon what God has said, and to lead men astray from the truth. When God says, Dont eat from the tree
Satan comes along, and running his propaganda machine says, Has God really said?
With such a fierce war being fought, is it no wonder that the apostle Paul encourages us to put on the full armor of God, so that in doing such we will, be able to resist in the evil day. (Ephesians 6:13) This verse implies two things. First, there is no room for being passive in this battle we are in. Putting on the full armor of God is something you must do. Its not an automatic thing that just happens. Secondly, without putting on this full armor of God, you will be in no place to stand firm in this war, and resist the enemy of our souls. Being without the armor you need to wage war, you will lack the godly confidence that comes from the protection such armor brings in the heat of battle, and instead of advancing the kingdom of God in your life, you will constantly give territory back to the devil inch by inch.
Such, in part, is why some Christians know long seasons of back-sliding in their lives. Instead of being active and alert in the spiritual battle that is being waged, they become passive at some point, and not putting on the full armor of God, the devil finds a window of opportunity in which he can pounce on the unsuspecting Christian through some form of temptation. And once that Christian gives an inch, the devil goes for the extra mile. Soon, one sin gives birth to many sins, as sin always takes you further than you want to go, and keeps you longer than you ever want to say. One lie gives birth to another lie, which requires yet another lie, and another lie on top of that.
But such does not have to be our experience if we would only recognize that were are constantly at war with the enemy of our souls, and that we need to actively put on the full armor of God. Drawing inspiration from the Roman soldier who guarded him in his imprisonment, the apostle Paul begins to describe the full armor of God. According to Ephesians 6:14-17, Paul says the full armor of God consists of: Loins girded with the truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.
What, however, exactly is each of these pieces of armor that Paul describes? This may sound all nice and poetical, but what does it mean for us practically? What is the application in our day to day lives? To answer these questions, I would like to examine each piece of armor that Paul mentions.
###Our Spiritual Armor###
-Loins Girded with the Truth:
The belt the ancient Roman soldier wore secured his armor properly against his body, and made it possible for him to engage in battle. Without his belt, the armor he wore would offer him little protection. The belt was an essential component that made his armor complete.
As Christians, we need to wrap ourselves in the truth. Otherwise, the other spiritual armor we wear will offer us little protection. We need to not only be grounded in the truth of Gods word, and understand what He says, but we also need to be truthful people ourselves. For if we are not a people who wrap ourselves in the truth, we will find the rest of our armor will be rendered ineffective when we are assaulted by the enemy.
-The Breastplate of Righteousness:
Another essential part of the armor of a Roman soldier was his breastplate. As you can probably imagine, the breastplate protected all his major vital organs. Most importantly, it would guard his heart.
To be righteous is to be in right relationship. As Christians, when we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we are looking to live our lives in right relation to God and our neighbor. Many things may come our way to attempt to bring us out of our relationship with God, and to destroy our interpersonal relationships. Such is why we need to be careful to put on the breastplate of righteousness, so that we might guard our hearts from being troubled, or led astray. When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we guard or hearts from corrupting influences that would harm our relationship to God and others.
-Feet Shod with the Gospel of Peace:
Every soldier knows that well kept feet are essential to victory. Simply put, if you dont have good foot gear, it is nearly impossible to win a war. If you cannot walk, you cannot fight in a battle.
As Christians, it is not enough for us to simply talk the talk. We also need to walk the walk. Every step we take as Christians ought to be the walking out of the gospel in our lives. Everywhere we go, the gospel ought to accompany us not only in word, but in deed. Just as the peace of Rome accompanied soldiers who served in the Roman army, so also ought the gospel of peace accompany us wherever we go, and in whatever we do.
-The Shield of Faith:
A Roman soldier often carried with him a special shield that not only stopped regular arrows, but was designed to extinguish flaming arrows. Often ancient armies would take arrows, dip them in a tar like substance, light them on fire and shoot. As a result, whenever these arrows hit something, they would explode on contact. But the Romans had developed specialized shields that were flame resistant. Without such a shield, a soldier would have been terrified at the sight of a flaming arrow coming through the sky towards him, as a normal shield would simply not be enough.
Often the devil will shoot arrows our way that are designed to explode on contact. We see them coming, and such arrows are meant to strike great fear into our lives and render us useless. But when we take up the shield of faith, even though we see terrifying arrows flying our way, we know that our faith will extinguish these fiery darts. Instead of being destroyed by fear, by our faith in the Lord we can overcome whatever circumstances come into our lives. Trying circumstances do not have to explode into full blown drama simply because of an accompanying fear that looks to add fuel to the flames. Faith extinguishes fear every time.
-The Helmet of Salvation:
I think it almost goes without saying, but a Roman soldier would have worn a helmet to protect his head. A soldier can be wounded in many places and still live. But without a helmet, a blow to the head will almost always be fatal.
As Christians, it is vital that we put on the helmet of salvation. We need to protect our thought lives above all things. For it is through our thoughts that the demonic forces operating in this world will attempt to bring us down. They will try convince us that something about the gospel simply does not add up. They will try to cause us to doubt what God has said. They will try to fill our heads with angry, jealous, and lustful thoughts.
Instead of our minds being filled with peace and hope, and dwelling on the goodness of God, we will find ourselves full of turmoil and despair. All these things, and then some, come from the enemy attacking our minds. But when we actively put on the helmet of salvation, we can protect our thoughts from every wicked thing that may try to find a home in our head. When we put on the helmet of salvation, we are deciding to think like Jesus would think, instead of thinking like how the devil would have us think.
-The Sword of the Spirit:
So far, every part of the armor of God Paul has described has been protective and defensive in nature. But there is one more thing that a Roman soldier wouldve carried with him, that while having defensive purposes, was ultimately designed for offensive combat. A Roman soldier would not be complete without a sword, by which he could actually wage war against his enemies.
It is important as Christians that we realize we are not merely on the defensive. We arent merely trying to keep the devil from destroying our lives. Rather, far from being merely on the defensive, we are on the offensive. As Christians, all the armor we carry ultimately serves one purpose, and that is to enable us to effectually fight against the schemes of the devil. Through the sword of the Spirit, utilizing the word of God, we are to boldly declare what God says against any thought that contradicts Gods will for our lives. Through the sword of the Spirit, we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
It is my hope that this essay has opened your eyes, in part, to the way the world really is, and how it really operates. The god of this world, (2 Corinthians 4:4) the devil, is the head of a host of wicked forces that constantly seeks to destroy everything that bears the image of God in this world. Lie after lie and trap after trap has been set, in hopes that mankind will take the bait, and be plunged into greater and greater levels of darkness. Such happens anytime these forces can cause men to believe a lie instead of God. This is achieved by always hiding behind a curtain, which causes men to violently turn on one another, with the result that they carry out the will of these satanic forces, serving as their agents of destruction.
Realizing such a war is going on, and that Satan roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), we must determine to actively engage ourselves in the spiritual battle that is being fought. We must put on the whole armor of God, and do everything we can to take a stand for Christ against these wicked forces seated in heavenly places. We must always be on guard, realizing that many of the conflicts that come our way are simply not random incidents, but that our conflicts are traps the devil has set for us, determined to destroy us and those around us. Not only must we be on guard for ambushes, but we must be prepared to fight every step of the way.
Therefore, stay alert in prayer, and soak yourself in the Scriptures. Understand what the will of God is, put on the mind of Christ, and shun every thought that stands in contradiction to that mind. In doing so, you will be a strong Christian soldier who is also capable of leading others into battle, and taking a powerful stand for the gospel, you will become a light in this dark world. Be careful what you watch, what you listen to, and what you believe. Protect yourself from the lies of the devil, and whenever a lie of his is exposed, be prepared to cast it down and to destroy it with all your might. For, if you play with such thoughts and entertain them long enough, you may soon find yourself amongst the wounded and the dead. The devil loves to introduce Trojan horses into our lives. We must do everything we can to identify such, and quickly cast them out of our lives lest we be destroyed.