Spiritual Warfare and the Christian Part II
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20
In our first message, we saw that Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness and Satan, the prince of the power of the air. The Spirit of God issues a “call to arms” to every Christian.
And, thankfully, God provides spiritual “armor” and spiritual “weapons” to ensure success and victory in this warfare.
However, success is not automatic. The Christian must “put on” the armor God provides; and as we saw in our last message, this armor begins with the belt of truth (Eph. 6:14a).
In this message we continue a description of each piece of a Christian’s armor.
Breastplate of Righteousness (Eph. 6:14b)
This piece of armor protects the back as well as the front and, in addition, gives protection to the neck and the hips. It could easily be described as “a coat of mail” because it was a vest made of small metal plates overlapping one another like shield upon shield (Jowett, Ephesians, pp.45-46).
The breastplate is designed to protect the Christian’s heart, which is the “control panel” for our thoughts, choices, values, goals. We must exercise diligence to guard our hearts from the attacks of the enemy (Prov. 4:23).
It is the “breastplate of righteousness” that enables a Christian to live a devout and holy life, and let’s remember that in this context the word “righteousness” means “measuring up to the standard of God’s Word.”
If our thoughts, attitudes, and actions are not in harmony with the teaching of God’s Word, they are not “righteous.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must evaluate our thoughts, choices, values, and goals. If they do not align with God’s Word, we must repent and seek God’s help to make whatever course changes may be necessary.
Without the breastplate of righteousness, there will be no victory over sin.
Shoes of Gospel Peace (Eph. 6:15)
Why worry about our spiritual “feet”? Our feet control our mobility and balance. Nothing is more important in the Christian life than spiritual balance. The enemy is continually trying to push us off balance.
Someone once said, the surest way to distort the truth is to exaggerate the truth; and someone else said, error comes in pairs: opposite extremes. Why do some Christians find it so hard to get along with other Christians?
Why are some Christians so dogmatic and opinionated? Why do some Christians find it so easy to “unchristianize” other Christians? Could it be that the enemy has pushed them off-balance in their thinking or in their speaking?
Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Peace! The Gospel brings the good news that humankind can have peace with God and can and must pursue peace with their neighbors.
Christians should be known for being peacemakers and for being kind in what they say about others. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God” (Mat. 5:9).
No, not peace at any price! Not peace at the price of compromise with truth. But most of the conflicts Christians have with other Christians are not over what the Bible calls “heresy.” Rather it is the result of not having on the “shoes” of gospel peace!
Shield of Faith (Eph. 6:16)
When the apostle says, “Above all taking the shield of faith,” he is not saying the shield is the most important piece of armor.
Rather, he is saying, “in addition to” the other pieces, don’t forget the shield of faith. Faith is crucial! Borrowing from imagery of the Roman soldier, we are to understand that this shield was large, often four feet in length and two-and-a-half feet wide. It was an excellent means of protection from the attack of the enemy.
For the Christian, the shield is designed to “quench the fiery darts of the wicked.” In this period of history, the fiery darts were like arrows. A material was soaked in some flammable substance and wound around the dart very tightly until it was firmly in position. When soldiers were ready to attack, they lit the substance and shot the fiery dart at their foes.
By application, Paul is telling Christians to be prepared for what the devil will shoot at them. Don’t be surprised and caught off-guard by the fierce and fiery darts of the enemy that come our way.
For example, some of the fiery darts are negative thoughts—negative and critical thoughts about ourselves, about others around us, or about life in general.
Other fiery darts come in the form of “fiery trials.” Such trials include the rejection and criticism thrown at us because we are seeking to please Jesus in everything we do (Col. 1:10). Some of the most hurtful darts are those hurled by our friends or family that we love, or by other Christians who misunderstand us and falsely judge us.
To protect ourselves from these fiery darts, we must learn how to use the shield of faith. The Bible tells us that our faith is strengthened by scripture (Rom. 10:17).
We must read and memorize scriptural promises that speak of God’s provisions for daily victory, and about His grace to enable us to keep sweet under pressure.
Also, we must remember that the ultimate focus of our faith is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Friends may hurt or forsake us, family may misunderstand and reject us, but Jesus will always be faithful, kind, and loving to us. We must keep our spiritual eyes on Him and cry out to Him for help.
The Epistle of John tells us that the secret for overcoming everything the world throws at us is our faith (1 Jn. 5:4)! We must ask God to help us know how better to use the shield of faith.
The Helmet of Salvation (Eph. 6:17a)
The helmet worn by the Roman soldier was a kind of cap that was made of leather; but this leather had been strengthened with plates or bosses of metal to give it protection. In spiritual warfare, the helmet is the piece of armor designed to protect our head (our mind and understanding).
The enemy seeks to corrupt our minds by his craftiness and to lead us away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). To put on the helmet of salvation means we must deliberately guard our minds and be careful of what we accept as “truth.”
The enemy sends people into our lives who appear to be genuine Christians. However, as we all know, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a true Christian. We are told in scripture that spiritual “wolves” come disguised in all types of “sheep” clothing, claiming to be Christians.
Such wolves subtly deny the validity of Biblical teachings on all types of subjects and, if listened to and believed, will lead us off the straight and narrow pathway that takes us to heaven (Mat. 7:13-14).
We are to listen to what other people say, but then we are to search the scriptures diligently to see if the teaching matches God’s Word in its entirety.
Then, and then only, after we have asked for divine help and grace to understand scripture, and have checked our findings with qualified spiritual leaders whom God has placed in our lives for our protection, are we to decide what we are going to believe about a particular teaching or viewpoint.
The Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17b)
The sword of the Spirit is the last piece of armor and differs from all the other pieces of armor in that it is designed for offense, for attacking the enemy, and not just defense. It is identified as “the word of God.”
To wield this sword properly, one must have the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit because it is extremely sharp and powerful and can do a lot of damage to people if used unwisely (Heb. 4:12).
Yes, we must learn how to scripturally defend our faith (1 Pet. 3:15). But we must understand that “winning” a theological debate or argument is not the primary purpose of knowing scripture (using this sword).
It is possible to win a theological argument and at the same time severely wound the person with whom we are debating.
Therefore we must be kind, gentle, loving, and seek graciously and wisely to explain the truth as we see it. We must not be quarrelsome, pugnacious, or arrogant in using the sword of the Spirit (2 Tim. 2:24-25). God provides a sword for all Christians.
We have an open Bible, but we must learn how to use it. We must know the whole of it. We must be soaked in scripture so that when vain philosophies attempt to twist or distort the truth, we can turn to the Bible for knowledge, strength, and guidance.
Then, in our time of need, we will have an appropriate and scriptural answer to give to others, and the enemy will not only be repelled, but we pray that God will open his mind and give understanding of the truth.
Let’s ask God to help each of us to be more aware of our need for the Holy Spirit to help us use this sword carefully and wisely.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.