The Full armor of God

by LA UBF   10/04/2003     0 reads




Ephesians 6:10-24

Key Verse: 6:11

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”


Read verses 10-12. What was Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians in verse 10? How can believers be strong? Why must we be? What are the things we are called to fight against? What are the things that we should not fight? What does this mean?


Read verse 13. What can those who put on the armor of God do? Why is this important? When will this be especially important? How is this related to our lives of mission? 


Read verses 14-17. Think about what the full armor of God is. What are the defensive tools that help us stand firm? Why does Paul compare the truth to a belt, righteousness to a breastplate, the gospel message to a pair of good shoes, faith to a shield, salvation to a helmet? How is faith in Jesus like getting dressed?


What are the offensive weapons we have been given? Why so few? Why is the word of God comparable to a sword (Heb. 4:12, 2Tim. 3:16)? What can we learn from this about the nature of the spiritual battle we must fight?


Read v. 18-20. What was Paul’s other source of strength, and what can be ours? What were the prayer topics Paul suggested for us as believers? For himself as a gospel messenger? 


Read v. 21-23. Who was Tychicus? What was his mission? What was Paul’s benediction? (23, 24) What does he mean by “undying love,” and how is this related to the armor of God?





The Full Armor of God


Ephesians 6:10-24

Key Verse 6:11

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."

In this passage we can learn how to fight the Lord's battle and win one victory after another. In Psalm 110:1-3, King David foresaw, in a vision, the Lord Jesus extending his rule through believers, the members of "the church." In this prophetic vision he saw the church surrounded by enemies, and yet he also saw the members of the church volunteering to fight for the Lord. Indeed every believer is a member of the Lord's army and called to fight for him. It is in fact by fighting the Lord's battle(s) that his rule expands in the hearts of men. By God's grace we too have received the Lord's calling to join his army. Hence the next question is, as members of the Lord's army, how are we to fight the Lord's battle? Here at the end of the epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul explains the fundamentals of how to wage the Lord's battle and win. Let us think about the passage in three parts:

I. Be strong in the Lord (10).

The first and most important point for us to secure in fighting the Lord's battle is to be strong. A battle is never for a weak person. If you are weaker than your enemies, you had better not even consider going out to fight them, for a weak person is bound to fail. The great thing with living as a member of the Lord's army is that by default we belong to the winning side. Our Lord Jesus is the supreme commander. And Jesus is stronger than all our enemies. Because Jesus is the strongest of all, it is impossible for any soldier who belongs to Jesus to lose the battle. This already teaches us one thing: in order for us to fight the Lord's battle, we must first make sure that we belong to the Lord. This point is easy and simple enough that even a small child will understand. But the tricky thing is that not all people truly understand what it means to belong to the Lord Jesus and thus be able to invoke his help and power. In order to help the members of God's church to better understand this concept, the Apostle Paul says in v. 1, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." Here, two points stand out for our attention: "in the Lord" and "in his mighty power." 

What does it mean to be "in the Lord"? We already know the answer from studying John 17. There Jesus said in John 17:20-21, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." The expression "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" is what Paul meant by the phrase, "in the Lord." 

In order for us to be strong, we also need to be "in his mighty power." The question then is, how can one be in his mighty power? And, what is it to be in his mighty power? We already know the answer to these questions. To be in the Lord is the key to being in his mighty power. If we are truly in the Lord (as John 17:20 says), then we are already in his mighty power. Why? Because the Lord and his mighty power are inseparable. The CSULB coworkers have put together an "On-campus Monthly Bible Lecture Program" based on Jesus' seven miracles in John's gospel. This is a good decision, for this program will provide all the attendants with an opportunity to tap into God's mighty power. And you know what? If you are really in the Lord, the Lord can perform even greater miracles through you than all the miracles ever recorded in the Bible! You may ask, hey, Missionary Isaac, how do you know? Well, let me share two Bible passages with you. John 5:20 says, "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these." Jesus said this after instantly healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. That is, to be in the Lord or simply to be one with the Lord is to be one with him in love. And love desires to share everything, especially his power. This is what Jesus meant when he used the two words in John 5:20, "love" and "show." God the Father loves Jesus, so he "shows" him everything he does, like the instantaneous healing of the invalid, thus demonstrating God's mighty power in and through Jesus. Lastly, didn't Jesus say to his disciples in John 14:12, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father"? 

"Finally be strong in the Lord and his mighty power!" Sadly, a lot of people who regularly and diligently attend church or even sacrificially involve themselves in church activities remain so weak that unbelieving people say, I don't want to go to church because it is filled with weak people. Why then are the so-called "church-going" people so weak? Is it because the Lord is weak? No. He or she is weak because his or her personal relationship with the Lord is weak. Simon Peter, Jesus' top disciple, serves as a good example. He was involved in numerous activities since he first joined Jesus' ministry. He went out fishing [for men]. He traveled up and down the countryside, and even drove out many demons. But he still had one hidden sin, that is, his secret desire to become successful in this world utilizing his position as a top disciple of Jesus. This later resulted in his denying Jesus three times. Then Simon Peter fell flat and became flatter than a flat tire. But later on, thanks to Jesus' shepherdly love, he repented. Peter made a deep confession of love for Jesus. Then as he groaned and prayed more, he deeply repented of his hidden sin(s) and fully dedicated himself to Jesus and his calling. Thus he gained real power; he was an entirely different man. And he stood up as a strong soldier of Jesus. From that moment on he presented himself to the world as an invincible apostle of apostles. 

Our Fall Bible Conference is fast approaching. The title of the conference is "Follow Me." Are you a weak Christian? Is your relationship with Jesus suffering for any reason? Then remember the Bible conference, for it is a great opportunity for you to reconsider your relationship with the Lord. Then the Lord will make you a strong soldier of Jesus Christ!

II. Put on the full armor of God (11-17).

In vs. 11-17, the Apostle Paul explains that we are surrounded by strong enemies in adopting the expression "the devil's schemes." In this expression, Paul employs a confrontational term: "against." Then he likewise adopts another important concept: "stand your ground." In fact, in Chapter 6, the word "against" is repeated six times and the word "stand" four times. Now with these two ideas in mind, let us read vs. 11-17 altogether. [Here the expression, “our struggle is not against ‘flesh and blood’” means that we are not to struggle against visible people or things, for the arch enemy the devil is a spiritual being. In addition, “the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” all refer to the devil’s subjects: they are not divided, but united working for one boss, the devil.]

When we combine the expression "the devil's schemes," the confrontational term "against," and Paul's exhortation to "stand your ground," we have a better picture of what is going on in our day to day spiritual battles. The devil (also known as Satan) comes up with schemes which are designed to undermine, demolish and destroy your ground, so that you would be entrapped by the devil's schemes, and hence fall for them. The word "schemes" has different meanings including but not limited to: design, method, plan, program, plot, strategy, conspiracy, and intrigue. When we consider the meanings of these words, there is one clear common denominator, that is, they all imply something that is "well-thought out" in advance; in other words everything is pre-meditated. The enemy called the devil or Satan means business in deceiving, distracting, dividing, and ultimately destroying you. In John 8:44 Jesus says that the devil was a murderer from the beginning. The word "murder" is a legal term. The worst form of murder, the kind practiced by the devil, is not mere manslaughter, but murder "in cold blood," that is, murder that is premeditated. Thus in order to destroy you, the devil has already done his homework on you; he has made significant research about you; and he knows you far better than you know yourself. Simply stated, he has come up with schemes which are tremendously well-calculated and individually tailored for the express purpose of murdering your eternal soul. Physical murder is committed when someone kills another person, such as Cain killing Abel.  Cain may have physically killed Abel, but Abel went to be with God.  However, spiritual murder is infinitely worse.  Spiritual murder is committed when someone lies to another person, that other person believes the lie, and he dies, such as someone believing that all religions lead to God.  

Knowing the devil's schemes, the Apostle Paul says that we must take the full armor of God, so that we would stand our ground. Let us note each of these three words in the phrase "stand your ground." Let us say to our neighbor, "Stand 'your' ground," putting special emphasis on the word "your." Why does Paul say "your"? We can understand Paul's reason when we think about who comprises the church. Who is the church? The church is simply "you," the one who professes faith in the Lord. 

What then does "ground" mean? What does Paul mean by "stand your ground"? "Stand your ground" means maintain or keep your position as a Christian. Say, "position." Characteristically, by "ground" the Apostle Paul means "what you believe." In 2 Timothy 2:8 Paul says, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel." The expression "This is my gospel" is as good as saying, "This is my position" or "This is what I believe." In another place, Paul said to his top disciple Timothy, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2Ti 2:2). Here, "the things you have heard me say" describes the sum total of the ground Paul strove hard to defend and to propagate. And in Galatians 2:6 the Apostle Paul also said something else that's interesting: "As for those who seemed to be important--whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance--those men added nothing to my message." Here he said, "my message." The expression "my message," particularly the word "my," indicates that Paul had prayed deeply about his belief, the gospel, and what this "Christianity" was all about, and then he formulated his own position.

The Apostle Peter, who was much more simple-minded than Paul, nevertheless expressed the same concept, yet in a more straightforward, practical manner, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1Pe 3:15b). In short, "stand your ground" means "know for sure what Christianity is all about." We include the phrase "for sure" to stress that we must indeed know what we believe in and be absolutely confident of it, so confident of it that we will be able to defend it "no matter what," not only living according to it, but even to the point of being ready to "die" for it! 

In Christian history, we see many prominent Christians who formulated their firm belief and defended their position even to the point of suffering martyrdom. Polycarp (69-155 A.D.), the bishop of Smyrna, was one example. In his day the persecution of Christians was the order of day. Because Polycarp professed faith in the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, and because he rejected calling Caesar "God" and offering sacrifices to him, he was arrested and tied to a stake, ready to be burned alive. Before executing him, however, the judge gave him last chance to reproach Jesus Christ. Polycarp replied, "80 plus 6 years have I served Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king and my Savior?" So they burned him at the stake. By his statement, "he has done me no wrong", and calling Jesus his King and Savior, Polycarp stood his ground, even to the point of suffering martyrdom. 

Fast forward nearly 1500 years. Martin Luther (1483-1546) came up and set another good example when, on Oct. 31, 1517, he nailed 95 theses to the church door of Wittenberg in protest of the Catholic Church's selling of indulgences. His 95 theses became his own "ground" for which he was greatly persecuted. Until Martin Luther had acquired a deep conviction of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, however, he struggled hard to study the word of God and meditated on it daily. Then as he meditated on Romans 1:16,17, his heart and mind, and in fact his entire person, were changed. Through God's help, he recognized that faith was not a human fabrication or idea, but an experience of the heart. He learned that faith is the work of God in us, that it changes us and causes us to be born anew in God. Then he formulated his own doctrine called "justification by faith alone." Thus, in a sense, the framework he came up with, i.e., the doctrine of "justification by faith alone," became Luther's ground. Of course it had already been formulated by the Apostle Paul. Actually, even before the Apostle Paul expounded upon this way of salvation, in many different places of the Bible, the Holy Spirit who is the true author of the Bible, had already taught this a number of times. But still this truth is not known to all, at least not as a deep-seated, solidly-rooted knowledge and conviction in our heart of hearts. But a man like the Apostle Paul and Dr. Martin Luther made it as their own "ground." And they defended it even though they had to risk their very lives to do so, because it was absolutely real to them; their faith in Jesus Christ as he is revealed in the Word of God was not mere water passing through a pipe, but a foundation stone embedded in their very souls. 

In our generation, here in the United States, there is no substantial physical persecution of believers as in the days of the early Christians. But nowadays the devil has changed his strategy. Instead of physical persecutions, he tempts people to commit sins through all kinds of attractive looking distractions. To go through all of the peer pressures of this society and still be able to keep oneself pure among the youths is as severe a test as Daniel's three friends who were placed in a fiery furnace. Thus in order to protect ourselves from these temptations, we need to come up with our own position as Christians. 

The question then is, “How can we stand our ground?” The Apostle Paul answers this question with one important charge, "put on the full armor of God." This charge is so important that Paul repeats it twice (6:11, 13). Specially, then, what does the full armor of God consist of? In vs. 13-18, Paul describes six items: five of them are for defensive purposes and one is for an offensive purpose. Let us take a brief look at each of them. 

(1) The belt of truth. 

In v. 13, Paul says that we need to wear the belt of truth buckled around the waist. This reminds us of what we are asked to to do when we board an airplane. The first thing we are asked to do before take-off is to buckle our seat belts around our waists. 

Here the belt of truth refers to the word of God. The Hebrew word for truth is "emet" which consists of three Hebrew letters: alef, mem, and taf. Alef is the first letter in the alphabet, taf is the last letter, and mem is the middle letter [of the 27 letters consisting of 22 medial letters and five final letter forms]. This is like A to Z in English alphabet. Just as A to Z references the entire English alphabet, so also alef to taf references the entire Word of God that comes from the mouth of God. It is as if God were saying that his Word stands firm in the beginning, middle, and end. And this is what the truth is all about. Later, in Revelation, by describing Jesus as the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), the Apostle John depicted Jesus as the truth of all truths (Rev 1:8, 21:6; 22:13). Actually in John 14:6, Jesus himself directly said, "I am the truth." 

Practically speaking, it is when we live by "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" that we can keep ourselves straight, steady, stable, and strong all the time. No wonder Paul compared the truth to a belt, for the belt holds the entire suit of armor together, so that nothing would fall off or fall apart, but would be held together, nice and sturdy. 

We can understand this concept very well when we think about the way the Lord God created the universe. In Genesis 1, we see that the Lord God created the heavens and earth with his word. This is consistent with the English word "universe" which means "one verse," which is to say one systematic message, or, if you will, one software program programmed by one supreme programmer, our Lord Jesus. Because it been made and is run by a single operating system designed by a single designer, namely our Lord Jesus, the universe and everything in it moves very smoothly and seamlessly. The same is true of each individual. When we believe in Jesus and accept him as our personal Lord and Savior, and obey his word, then he puts our lives back together again. He perfectly maintains us in spirit, mind, heart, and body, all harmoniously, so that we can possess ourselves as straight and steady vessels for the Lord. Then we will become powerful in him. And at the time, we will remain cool, as cool as our Lord Jesus is. Each time our enemies try to deceive us and confound us in any other way, we can see through their schemes. We can then gently rebuke them. We can bring them back to their senses. But let us not forget that we must wear Jesus our truth just as we buckle up our seat belts before the airplane takes off into the air. 

(2) The breastplate of righteousness.

Functionally speaking, righteousness refers to a right relationship with God. How then can sinners like us maintain a right relationship with God? Once upon a time Martin Luther said, "If I were God, I would destroy all peoples on earth ten times a day." Such is the wicked condition of all men. How then can we possibly be in a "right" relationship with "God"? 

Each time this question comes to mind, I am reminded of the way in which the word "righteousness" is written in Chinese. How is it written? It consists of two words: "lamb" and "self," with the lamb sitting on top of self. This indicates that when Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is put at the throne of our heart, then he who is our righteousness keeps us in a right relationship with God. Speaking of the same truth, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Co 1:30 that Christ is our righteousness. As we are in a relationship with the Father through Jesus, God the Father pours his love into our hearts. And you know what? Our heart feeds on his love, and becomes strong, and even leaps with joy when it is filled with the love of God!

(3) Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Naturally when our hearts rejoice, our feet also respond accordingly. A sad heart makes our feet sad, so we even fall or lie down and become invalids, even though we are physically in perfect shape! This is what the Apostle Paul means by using words and phrases like "feet" or "readiness" or "the gospel of peace." Peace is peace with God. Readiness means as you are in the right relationship with God, the God whose name is Action Unlimited, who causes you to be proactive, first in loving others, then in speaking words of kindness, then in giving generously to others what they need. 

(4) The shield of faith.

Look at v. 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." While righteousness and the gospel of peace transform us from within, and therefore cause blessings to flow from the inside out, the shield of faith protects us externally from the flaming arrows of the evil one (i.e., the devil). Each time our hearts are filled with the blessings of God like joy, peace, etc. our enemy the devil is jealous of us, so without fail he attacks us with flaming arrows. These arrows are dipped in such poisons as doubt, despair, fatalistic thoughts, etc. and so forth. But when we have faith in God who is good all the time, faith like Polycarp and Martin Luther had, we can defend ourselves against the flaming arrows of the devil. 

(5) The helmet of salvation.

In v. 17, Paul says that we need to take the helmet of salvation. Why did he compare salvation to a helmet? It is because the hope of salvation protects us just as a helmet protects our heads. Consider the way the Lord God designed our bodies. Where did he put the head? He put it at the top rather than at the bottom. In addition, unlike any animal, we are able to walk on two feet so that, as we stand, our heads would look up toward that which is above, namely, the kingdom of God. And we are created to be upwardly mobile, not downwardly mobile (or immobile). We are called to look to the Lord God and his plan of salvation. This gives us the right perspective in life. Without this perspective we have no choice but to become either hedonists or nihilists.

(6) The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 

Look at v. 17 again. "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." When we think about it, this sword is the only offensive weapon (other than prayer). Next we wonder, oh man, the devil's schemes are both numerous as well as everywhere. How can we protect ourselves with only a single offensive weapon? But we should not worry about it, for the word of God has all the necessary means to defeat all the possible schemes of our enemies. We see this being the case from the way Jesus defeated the devil's temptations in Matthew 4. Speaking of the same truth, the Apostle Paul says in Hebrews 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." Further, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul speaks regarding the plenary power of God's word saying, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 

III. Pray (18-24).

Lastly, in order to defeat the devil's schemes, keep our ground, and overcome all the evils of this generation, Paul exhorts us to pray. 

Look at vs. 18-20. "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. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Here, we are called to offer prayers for ourselves and for others. For ourselves and for others, we must pray with all kinds of prayers and requests. Here "all" means "all." Once upon a time I kept a dog named "Nelly." But this dog caused our house to become infested with fleas. So I prayed to the Lord to get rid of the fleas. But the Lord did not answer my prayer. So I prayed more. Then I got a bright idea. I got rid of the dog. And the fleas were gone. Anyway, the point is that I try to follow this direction to pray for myself and for others. And certainly we need to pray for our Bible students and missionaries, for them to pass their CPA exams, to receive American citizenship, for a suitable career or job, for their Ph.D. studies, for funding for their school studies, for suitable marriage partners, for 700 1:1's, for America to become a kingdom of priests and holy nation, for Muslim countries, for the North Korean mission, and the list goes on and on. And certainly we need to pray for the messengers at the upcoming Fall Bible Conference. 

Lastly let us read vs. 21-23. "Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Here Paul's benediction consists of three words: "peace," "love," and "faith." Then he concludes his blessed epistle with two words: "undying love." The word "undying" refers to a love that never ceases to exist. This reminds us of what Paul says in 1Co 13:8, "Love never fails." In Genesis 3, the devil took humanity down into the pit by causing the first couple to doubt God's love. But, in Jesus, we have this “reversed”. With the undying love that is found in Jesus we can defeat all the schemes of the enemy, the devil. One word: Undying love.



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