Learning to StandThursday, February 23, 2012
My recent studies of Ephesians have marked me deeply. It may be that the most important application to my life has been in the awareness of Satan’s work around me and, on that basis, learning how to stand firm. Ephesians 6:1 is a powerful call to be aware of the enemy and his army; it teaches that there is an enemy who devotes his entire existence to the destruction of God’s work and God’s people. Every Christian is engaged in battle against him.
In his grace the Lord gives spiritual armor to equip us to fight this spiritual battle. What is God’s armor? Paul lists six things, six pieces of armor that allow you to stand in this battle.
Stand by arming yourself with truth. You arm yourself by fastening on the belt of truth. You arm yourself with truth by knowing the facts of what is true, by confessing the doctrine of the Bible. Once you know what is true and are growing in your knowledge of it, you practice the truth. You live your life in a way that shows that you actually believe these things and that they really do matter. Truth is not merely abstract facts, but the way we live our lives. If you don’t live like it’s true, you don’t really believe that it’s true! So arm yourself for battle, arm yourself to defeat Satan, by knowing what is true and living out that truth.
Stand by arming yourself with righteousness. You arm yourself by fastening on the breastplate, the body armor, of righteousness. You put on righteousness when you put on your new identity in Christ. You put on righteousness when you know and believe and proclaim that you are no longer a slave to sin, you are no longer dead in sin, but are now alive in Christ. When you became a Christian you were given a whole new identity and now you are now constantly battling to be who you are, to put on this new identity. Satan often calls this identity into question, trying to convince you that you still belong to him. But you can turn back his attacks by embracing and believing the truth that you belong to Christ.
Stand by arming yourself with the gospel. You arm yourself when you put on the gospel like shoes on your feet. You do this by preparing yourself to share the gospel. If you are to share the gospel, you must first know the content of the gospel and you must live out the implications of the gospel. And this, of course, is exactly what Ephesians has been about—how to live a life that has been transformed by being saved by grace through faith. Isn’t it interesting that in the middle of the battle we are to bring a message of peace. We need to remember that as we go into the battle we do not view unbelievers as enemies but as victims. We aren’t trying to kill them but to call them to our side of the battle, to our team. Our fight is with the forces that are blinding these people and calling them to remain true to their identity as Satan’s people. We march into this battle, calling people to peace through the gospel while we do battle with the evil spiritual forces that control them.
Stand by arming yourself with faith. You arm yourself with faith, faith like a shield, when you put your trust and your confidence in the Lord. With faith you are able to extinguish Satan’s arrows. In Paul’s day you would prepare your shield so that when flaming arrows hit it, it wouldn’t burst into flames. The shield was big enough for a soldier to stand behind; it would would protect him from the arrow and from the flame. Faith is like that shield. Faith allows you to grab ahold of all the promises of God, that he is for us, that he loves us, that there is no temptation stronger than we are able to bear, that there is always a way of escape, even the promise of eternal rest. As Satan lobs arrows against us, from this direction or that, we place ourselves behind that shield and allow God’s promises to give us confidence and to block the arrows. Satan says that you are too weak to withstand the temptation he is bringing; faith says, “God will always provide a way of escape; there is no temptation too strong for me to bear.” Satan says “God is so disappointed in you;” faith says, “I am a child of the living God and the Son of God has died for me.” Faith in God, his character, his promises, stands between us and all those arrows Satan sends our way.
Stand by arming yourself with salvation. You arm yourself with the helmet of salvation when you understand and believe that Christ’s death and resurrection has already delivered you from Satan’s ownership and mastership. You are now in Christ which means that you are a participant in his rule over even the evil spiritual realm. This gives you great hope for the future and confidence of a better day to come, but it also gives you hope for today, because you are in Christ even now. So again, Paul is calling us to understand who we are in Christ, to make sure that we arm ourselves with that identity.
Stand by arming yourself with the Word. You arm yourself with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God when you know Scripture, when you know what is true of God as he has revealed himself in the Bible. Like any sword, this one is to be used for offense and defense. You use it to parry the other person’s blows and you use it to deliver your own blows. It is an offensive weapon when it is the truth you take into the world. It is the power of God that accomplishes the salvation of souls, that rescues the lost and causes them to come to your side. It is a defensive weapon that allows you to parry the enemy’s attacks just like Jesus did when he was tempted. How did he face Satan’s temptations? By parrying every thrust with truth from God’s Word. There is no battle that is all offense or all defense; every battle involves both moves and this one is no different. You push forward a little, then consolidate your gains and fight a counter-attack, then move forward again.
These are the six pieces of the spiritual armor we need for this spiritual battle: truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation and the Word of God. This is God’s armor, given to us, so we can put these things on, not outside of us, but inside. This helmet is not something I put on my head but something I put in my head and in my heart. The breastplate isn’t something I strap to my chest, but something I know and believe and apply. This armor is character armor that tells me I have been transformed by this amazing gospel of grace. This armor is God’s gift to each Christian, sufficient to wage and to win this battle.