Stay Awake to Spiritual Danger- Wear the Armour of God
Over recent years, there have been many television shows aimed at helping people get properly dressed. Sometimes the premise revolves around experts helping people to pick the right outfit for a wedding. At other times, someone with a woefully poor fashion sense receives a total makeover with the help of fashion gurus and some serious spending. In a similar way, Christianity helps people become properly dressed, although not in the typical sense.
Paul advises the Ephesians that there are certain things Christians must put off and others they must put on. More specifically, he tells them (and us) to put on the Christian armour so we can be properly equipped to stand up to the assaults that inevitably come our way in this spiritually dangerous world.
A lack of watchfulness is perilous to our souls. The apostle Paul knew the perils we would face while following Christ: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13–14)
In the New Testament, “watchful” (1 Peter 5:8) or “awake” (Mark 13:37) or “alert” (Acts 20:31) are terms writers frequently use to urge us not to neglect the significant danger surrounding us.
Many a times during our walks I have seen a rabbit feeding. However the rabbit was the epitome of watchfulness. It never lets down its guard, no matter what it did; it was constantly on the alert. And for good reason. Dogs pass by regularly. A rabbit is vulnerable to dogs; a lack of watchfulness can end its life.
That’s the kind of watchfulness the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is telling us to maintain. “Look out for the dogs” (Philippians 3:2). Beware the “fierce wolves [who] will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). A Christian, like a sheep, is vulnerable to the “dogs” and “wolves” of the evil one. Paul is using a metaphor for the embodiment of the threat, but not of the threat itself. These spiritual threats are greater to us than wolves are to sheep.
According to the Bible, life is not a picnic but a battle, an armed struggle against a powerful adversary. To engage in that battle properly, we need a spiritual makeover in which our flimsy, inadequate natural attire is replaced by suitable armour and weaponry. So Paul concludes his magnificent, gospel-saturated letter to the Ephesians with a final charge to be prepared to engage with the battle of life in the right way, dressed in the armour of God.
Many people assume that, as Wikipedia puts it, "the various pieces (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit)" are correlated to what Paul would have witnessed firsthand as the arms and armour of Roman legionaries during his life in the Roman Empire.
This assumption, however, misses the fact that each of the pieces of armour has a rich background in the Old Testament, where they describe God’s armour — the armour that God himself dons to rescue his people. The Old Testament, not the Roman legionary, provided Paul with his inspiration — and if we miss this background, we may misinterpret and misapply the various pieces of the armour.
The most obvious examples are “the breastplate of righteousness” and “the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:14, 17), both of which are drawn directly from Isaiah 59:17. There the prophet says of God, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.”
Our call is to protect one another, and part of that involves remaining steadfastly watchful in prayer (Colossians 4:2). We all know what that means, because any time we feel real danger, our prayers get real earnest, real quick. A lack of watchfulness in us indicates we don’t believe danger is imminent. And that is a dangerous mindset for the vulnerable to have.
“Stand firm in the faith.” This kind of resolve is no mere good intention or the flimsy New Year’s kind. This is true resolve: a holy, stubborn determination. It is drawing the line in the sand and not backing down. It is a will to hold the ground, come what may.
Paul uses this phrase frequently (2 Corinthians 1:24; Galatians 5:1; Philippians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is warrior language: “Take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).
Spiritual warfare is not a metaphor. It is very real and very dangerous. It is not for the faint of heart, though in the rage of battle every warrior feels the temptation to faint from the fight. Soldiers have to be reminded to stand firm. They must remember that there is a cause and comrades that need defending and an enemy that must be vanquished.
We must steel ourselves against whatever fear the threat provokes and resolve to stand our ground. That is what spiritual strength looks like on the ground. In Paul’s mind, to “be strong” is to choose courageous action in the face of danger only in the strength and with the weaponry God supplies (Ephesians 6:10, 14–17). Faithless strength or weapons are of no use in this battle (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
Jesus Christ is the triumphant warrior over Satan, death, and sin through his faithfulness and righteousness, and his victory is now credited to us as if it were our own. Because he stood firm in his battle, we Christians: weak, fearful, and unprepared as we so often are also will ultimately stand. By faith, his righteousness becomes ours, and in Christ we have a shield of refuge in God, who will never leave us nor forsake us.
This is the good news that we have been given the privilege of heralding far and wide throughout the world, as well as preaching to our own hearts on a daily basis. The armour of God speaks mercy and grace to broken sinners, and a salvation that the combined forces of hell itself can never steal from us, as we rest in him.
Battlefield of the Mind - Joyce Meyer
Spiritual Warfare - Jessie Penn-Lewis
The Bondage Breaker - Neil T. Anderson
They Shall Expel Demons: What You Need to Know about Demons--Your Invisible Enemies - Derek Prince
Spiritual Warfare - Derek Prince
The Armour of God- Priscilla Shirer