I think it’s safe to say that when the topic of spiritual warfare is discussed, Ephesians chapter six is a go-to passage that illustrates how God has equipped the believer to function in a world hostile to righteousness. I’ve heard many perspectives as to its meaning and application, but what I offer in this article has helped me to gain insight and understanding that has effectively increased my faith and helped me to refuse to cower to the threats of dark forces.
Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus to encourage and help them to see that even though they were under fire and faltering, they were more powerful and better equipped than they thought. The Apostle Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting trial and is chained to a Roman soldier. He was allowed the freedom to write a letter to his friends in Ephesus. As he searches for the words to help them, God inspires him to use a word picture. He looks at the soldier chained to him and knows that those in Ephesus are well acquainted with the intimidating power of a Roman soldier decked out in full gear and armor. So, he uses the pieces of armor to paint a picture of the believer hoping to change their perspective, to see themselves in a much different light.
He lists the armor,
Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 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 saints.
The belt held much of the Roman soldier’s gear and weaponry in place. The believer’s belt of truth holds all things as well. We stand and are grounded in truth. We have the “word of truth” in scripture. The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth”, and Jesus is “the truth”. We know the truth because we know God’s word, empowering us to stand without flinching when Satan and the demonic come with lies, slander, and deception. We are unscathed because truth is the bedrock that we are planted in and we will not be moved.
The breastplate was very important for the Roman solider because it protected vital organs, especially the heart. When Satan tries to deal a death blow to the heart by unleashing fiery darts of guilt and shame we are protected by knowing that we do not stand in our own righteousness, but in His, righteousness that cannot be disputed.
Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel calls attention to the shoes of the Roman soldier that were equipped with spikes. In close hand to hand combat, the soldier would dig those spikes into the ground and refuse to be pushed back by the enemy. This would give him footing that would provide leverage to push forward into enemy territory. This perfectly illustrates the strong footing the believer has in the Gospel. When Satan attempts to push us back with lies & slander, the Gospel reminds us that we have been redeemed and are already victorious, already forgiven and that Satan is already defeated, giving us leverage to push forward through his attack and beyond his defenses to move into enemy territory taking the Gospel to those being held captive by the forces of darkness.
The shield of the Roman soldier was a 4×2 piece of wood covered by leather that provided full-body protection from spears, arrows, and fiery darts. The shield of faith covers the believer’s entire life because they know what God’s word says and are sure that God is faithful to fulfill all He has promised making the lies of Satan completely ineffective.
Another interesting aspect of the Roman shield was that it was constructed with metal hooks on the edges so that it could be linked together with other shields forming a powerful line of defense and advancement.
This is a beautiful picture of believers gathered together at a prayer meeting, or Sunday morning worship, or Christian bible study groups, linking their faith together rolling over demonic opposition with great force and power.
The helmet covered another vital target, the head. A blow to the head, if it didn’t cause death, would leave the soldier in a dazed and confused state setting him up for the next blow which certainly would be deadly.
The helmet of salvation is meant to illustrate the security of the believer. When Satanic doubts come and attack a believer’s assurance of salvation, they stand unscathed because they are not dazed and confused about their salvation, they know the power of the cross and the blood of Christ – they know they are saved and have the peace and security of the mind of Christ.
The sword was a universal weapon in the first century and the Roman soldier kept his weapon sharp and was expertly trained in its use. Paul tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The word of God is able to pierce through all the defenses of the enemy. It slices to pieces all the lies of Satan and false teachers. Scripture is the measure of truth and all other supposed truth is validated or rejected based upon the word of God.
Another aspect of the sword of the Spirit is that it also pierces through the defenses of our own fallen heart to expose those things that need to be brought to the light.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Praying in the Spirit is where Paul leaves the metaphor of the Roman soldier’s armor. Paul does not liken prayer to a piece of armor because he wants us to see that we are leaving any earthly symbol and have transcended the metaphor into the area of power that far surpasses the concept of any human weapon.
Prayer is listed at the end because it is the catalyst that empowers all the pieces of our armor and weaponry to a superior level of effectiveness. Envision it like this – when the believer begins to pray, connecting with Christ spirit to Spirit, life and light are transferred. I have this picture in my mind of the armor beginning to glow white-hot, infused with power, as we commune with Christ.
Satan wants us to picture ourselves as powerless ineffective religious people who just need to stand down.
Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit wants us to see ourselves as warriors of Christ wearing the white-hot armor of God sending fear into the hearts of demonic hordes while we move forward over the battlefield taking ground for the kingdom of God.
One last observation from Ephesians chapter six that brings it all together.
This last point is the key to understanding the armor of God and how to put it on. Each piece of the armor points to foundational truths of the Christian walk. Truth, Righteousness, Gospel, Faith, Salvation, The Word of God, and Prayer. Paul had a profound meaning as he compiled this list. The way that we put on the armor of God is by putting on Christ.
Ro 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
He is the Truth. John 14:6
He is our Righteousness. 1 Corinthians 1:30
He is the Gospel. John 3:16
He is the object of our faith. Hebrews 12:2
He is our Salvation. Acts 4:12
He is the Word of God. Revelation 19:13
It is through Christ that our access in prayer is granted. Hebrews 10:19-22
Paul’s meaning? That we put on the armor of God by putting on Christ and completely surrendering to Him.
The believer geared up in this way is a demon’s worst nightmare.