Much is made of God’s armor when Ephesians 6 is read. Indeed there is a great deal to know about the tools that God equips us with in fighting our spiritual battles. The metaphor of the Roman soldier that Paul used is rich and we can learn some important details by unpacking it. But I want to make some observations around the rest of this passage that, I hope, are not lost on us by focusing too much on the armor. The passage reads:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, 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.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)
- Watch your back at all times. The Devil (that means the very enemy of God, Satan) is against you. (“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him” 1 Peter 5:8-9).
- Satan is smarter than you are. In your watching, recognize that the Devil is crafty and cunning. What seems like a harmless event, relationship, feeling, or finding may very well be the tool of Hell used to hammer you into disobedience or unfaithfulness.
- Know your enemy. Part of Satan’s craftiness is to cloak himself in or stand asymmetrically behind our relationships with others, hence the reminder that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” Yet it is not others with whom we are at war. It is Satan himself. The armor of God is to protect you from and fight with the Devil, not with one another.
- Your power is insufficient to fight the spiritual battles. The first injunction here is to be strong in God’s power. Our strength is “in the Lord” and it is”his mighty power” in which we are find our brawn.
- Prayer is part of the armor. Simply because the metaphor of the Roman soldier’s armor has ended does not mean that prayer is not part of heaven’s toolbox in our fight against hell. Pray before, during, and after every conflict. In doing so, the strength and power of God will be yours!
- Spiritual warfare is real and will come because “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
- We cannot choose how spiritual warfare comes to us. This is part of the craftiness of our Enemy.
- We do not choose when spiritual warfare comes to us. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc 3). This too is part of the craftiness of our Enemy and is what makes life so mysterious at times. There is a cosmic battle raging all around us and it’s too easy to get caught up with the daily business of our busy lives.
- There will be wounds from spiritual warfare. But remember the One who was wounded for our sake was Himself victorious (Isaiah 53:5). So too will we be if we are strong in “his mighty power.” The wounds of warfare are always attended by growth in Christlikeness. And our growth will bring on new challenges.
- The Lord will rescue us from all our battles in his time (see 2 Timothy 3:10-14).
These things be true, we cannot put off preparation. Tozer’s wise words ring just as loudly today as when he wrote them in 1986.
It is amazing to me! There are people within the ranks of Christianity who have been taught and who believe that Christ will shield His followers from wounds of every kind.
If the truth were known, the saints of God in every age were only effective after they had been wounded. They experienced the humbling wounds that brought contrition, compassion and a yearning for the knowledge of God. I could only wish that more among the followers of Christ knew what some of the early saints meant when they spoke of being wounded by the Holy Spirit.
Think for a moment about the apostle Paul. I suppose there is no theologian living or dead who quite knows what Paul meant when he said, “From henceforth let no man make trouble for me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Every commentary has a different idea. I think Paul referred to the wounds he suffered because of his faith and godly life.
–A.W. Tozer (Men Who Met God, p. 59)