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Sun, Dec 16, 2007

136 - The Armor of God [c]

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 & Ephesians 6:10-18 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:55 mins 21 secs

The Armor of God: 2 Cor. 10:4-6; Eph. 6:10-18 

It is not immediately evident to us at the moment we trust Christ as saviour that we are drafted into an army that is the army of the Lord made up of believers in this age. We are Christian warriors and it is up to us in the time after our salvation to decide whether we are going to be a casualty or part of that victorious army of the Lord who learns the Word of God, lets it shape our thinking that we might advance to spiritual maturity. Spiritual warfare is a term that describes the conflict that we all get into. It is unseen, invisible, but it is very real.

We now look at the armour that God has provided for the believer in Ephesians 6. Theologians have summarised what the Bible teaches and says that there are three enemies of the believer: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil became our enemy at the time of he originated his enmity with God and his fall when he succumbed to arrogance in his soul, desired to have the authority of God, to rule creation as he wanted to, according to his thinking, thinking the creature could subvert the creator, and he managed to deceive a third of the angels to follow him in that rebellion. There was a trial held, God sentenced them to eternity in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41), but there is a postponement of the execution of that sentence. Satan must have raised some objection to God; that is why he is called Satan, the accuser; that God was not fair, that somehow He would not give the creature opportunity to show that he could function as well as God. He challenged God's integrity and justice and grace. So God in His graciousness decided to deal with this issue by developing a laboratory case study that would entail the creation of two lesser creatures, but they were endowed with similar abilities as the angels—intellectual, volition, responsibility, created in God's image and had a perfect righteousness. But there was a test which had to do with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were prohibited from eating it, and this was the point of the attack. So Satan indwelt one of the creatures of the garden and enticed the woman to question God's goodness, His provision, His revelation. The result was that she succumbed to the temptation, ate of the fruit and gave it to her husband and the human race fell.

So the first enemy was Satan, the second was the introduction of a corrupt nature which we call the sin nature, and that is true of every single human being. The third enemy is the world system. Worldliness really encompasses the thinking of Satan, and we have identified that under two categories: autonomy and antagonism. Autonomy means the creature is asserting his independence from God: that somehow we can find happiness, meaning and stability in life without being one hundred per cent dependent on God in everything that we do. So the creature thinks in deception because the of deceptive quality of the sin nature, because of the attractiveness of the world system that provides the comfort zones and rationalisations that makes us think that we are actually happy, stable and content even though we know in the core of our soul that we are not walking consistently with God, not thinking His thoughts after Him, and so we succumb to worldly thinking. So whenever we are not walking by the Spirit, whenever we are thinking outside of divine viewpoint in human viewpoint we are thinking the devil's thoughts after him, we are taking the devil's way, and whether we want to fully face the harshness of it or not we are under demon influence. Human viewpoint is demon influence.

The first aspect is autonomy, the second is antagonism because when the creature asserts his independence from God eventually things don't work. The Christian life is a battle. It sometimes seems overwhelming but there is always more than enough supply and provision for us from the grace of God. God in His omniscience knew every problem, every difficulty, that the creature would ever face in life and He has supplied us with everything we need in order to be the victorious in this conflict. It is ultimately, though, a conflict of thinking, a battle of the mind. It is an issue of not only what we think but how we think.

Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 that there are ways and means of approaching life's problems and challenges and difficulties that seem very good to us. They feel good to us, they are within our comfort zone, we think they actually work. We find ways to sort of deaden the pain, the challenge of living in a fallen world with disappointing people who are fallen creatures themselves and often the cause of difficulty in our own lives, and so we find ways to handle these things that aren't any different from the unbeliever. We manage our stress when we come up with different problem-solving techniques that range from just trying to escape reality through drugs and alcohol and entertainment to trying to come up with a perfect scheme to explain reality, to give us some sort of intellectual comfort zone. But all of this is nothing more than worldliness, and so we have to learn the difference between living in the flesh, out of the sin nature, and living according to the principles of the spiritual life given in the Scriptures. Even though we are living in the flesh we do not walk according to the flesh. We have to understand the difference between the systems the world devises to somehow make life work and the systems that God has provided for us.        

2 Corinthians 10:4 NASB "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh…" They don't come out from the sin nature, they are not consistent with the thinking of the cosmic system. "…but divinely powerful [Lit. empowered by God]." It is God's power, not our power; God's method, not our method; it is God's Word, not our thinking that is the issue. We see in Ephesians 6:10ff that the battle is focused on whether we will do it God's way with God's weapons and God's tools or whether we will try to somehow merge that and compromise it with various forms of human viewpoint thinking. [5] "{We are} destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God…" So we see a contrast here between thought and thought: speculation versus knowledge of God. There is guesswork ultimately based on empiricism and rationalism because there is always another piece of data that we may discover tomorrow or next week that causes the thinkers of this world to go in and revamp their system because they don't have a starting point that begins with an omniscient God who has revealed to us that which we must know, that which we need know in order to properly interpret all of reality.   

The main idea in Ephesians 6:10ff is that the believer is protected by that which God provides and that the nature of our role in the warfare is defensive, to stand in the truth; not offensive, to go out and try to attack spiritual, unseen forces. We rest in the provision of God and actively trust in Him. The key word that we find in various passages related to this is the Greek word histemi [i(sthmi] or a form of it, anthistemi [a)nqisthmi]. It is a word that has at its core a defensive meaning.

Ephesians 6:13 NASB "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm…"

James 4:7 NASB "James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."   

The only command given to believers for dealing with Satan is to resist the devil, not to attack the devil. It is significant that there are three passages in Scripture that all deal with this principle of resisting the devil. We find the word anthistemi three times in Ephesians 6:10ff. Whenever we find something repeated that much it ought to grab our attention to the fact that God the Holy Spirit is making sure we don't miss the point that it is about resistance, not about attack. In order to stand firm we have to first put on the armour of God. But before we put on the armour of God we have to decide that that is something important that we want to do in life, that we realise that we are in a spiritual battle and that the way to avoid becoming a casualty in the conflict is to orient ourselves to the grace of God and to Bible doctrine.

The word "resist" is a very important word, a word that is often used historically in a military context. It is a word used to describe setting up a defensive posture and not going on the offensive.

Ephesians 6:10 NASB "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.." This principle runs throughout the Scripture. Not only do we find it back in Exodus 14:13, 14 but David said the same thing as he was going out to meet Goliath: "The battle is the Lord's." But the Lord's battle has to be fought the Lord's way. He has a method and specifics so that a right thing done in a wrong way is still wrong. So we not only have to learn how to think the right things but we have to think the right way. Our methodology is as important as what we do. We can't say that the end justifies the means when it comes to the spiritual life, we have to do everything God's way. Since God is omnipotent, when we engage in the battle the way He says to engage in the battle, then His power becomes our power, His strength our strength, and His might our might. Three different words are used by Paul to get the point across that God's power is sufficient for any problem that we face in life.

Ephesians 6:11 NASB "Put on the full armor of God…" This is an aorist imperative. A present imperative is emphasising that this is something that is to be a continuous characteristic in somebody's life at that particular moment. The aorist imperative says that this is something that should be a priority. It still needs to be continuous but under these other circumstances the concern is not to make this a continuous action but to make it a priority. Once we begin to do that then we can shift back to the present tense and talk about making it a continuous action. This is the priority of the believer's life. If we don't learn to put on the full armour of God we will never ever make it anywhere in the spiritual life. So we have to understand what it is and how to put it on. "… so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" – so that we will be able to maintain that defensive posture against the schemes of the devil. 

Eph 6:12 NASB "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.}" The word for struggle is the Greek word pale [palh] which means to wrestle, one seeking leverage over another. Are we being pinned to the ground by cosmic thinking, by our own circumstances, or are we going to use the Word of God and Spirit of God to leverage against the enemy of the believer in order to have victory. It is based on the same root that the rabbis used to translate wrestler in the Old Testament. Who was the wrestler in the Old Testament? Jacob. So we are in a struggle against the various hierarchies within the demonic structure. The Christian live is not lived just on the plain of our experience but in light of the entire angelic conflict. This is why when we get into Revelation 2 & 3 the seven letters are posted to the angel of each church, because it lets us know that the evaluation of our behaviour is being watched by angels and that a record is being kept.

Ephesians 6:13 NASB "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. [14] Stand firm therefore…" This is an aorist active imperative and it is followed by aorist participles. When there are aorist participles like this, preceded by an aorist imperative, the aorist imperative is giving the prerequisite for accomplishing the action of the participle. So we stand firm "HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS." These have to be done before we can stand firm. The "stand firm" gives the mandate; the participles are participles of dependent circumstance that give the prerequisites to be accomplished in order to fulfil the primary command.

The anchor piece of the Roman armour was the six-inch-wide leather belt. Everything the soldier wore anchored to that. So under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul says that it is the belt that is the key element. The Romans wore robes and togas and these would get in the way as they went into battle so they would gird up their loins, which means that they would take up the robe and stuff it into their belt. That means they were getting rid of the distractions or the hindrances in life, and what gets rid of these is truth. Truth is the Word of God. It is the truth of God's Word, Bible doctrine, that is what anchors everything in life. So we start with truth. Jesus prayed to the Father: "Sanctify them by means of truth; your Word is truth." So before we can stand firm we have to make sure that we have removed the distractions in our life by the truth of God's Word, and the truth of God's Word is the anchor point in the thinking of our soul.  

The breastplate of righteousness is something the believer puts on after salvation. It is not imputed righteousness, it experiential righteousness, that righteousness that comes as part of the fruit of the Spirit as the believer grows and matures. To be effective as a believer doesn't come with salvation, it begins with maturity.   

Ephesians 6:15 NASB "and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE." This is the foundation. As every soldier knows there is nothing quite as important as what is on the feet and keeping them comfortable. The footwear that we have is related to the Gospel, that we have peace with God, as Romans 5:1.  

Ephesians 6:16 NASB "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil {one.}" The shield of faith is not salvation faith but the faith-rest drill faith, the trusting in the principles and the promises and the provisions of God that enable us to withstand the assaults of Satan. 

Ephesians 6:17 NASB "And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The helmet of salvation has to do with our personal sense of eternal destiny. The helmet protects the head, the brain, the mind, the thinking. It is not salvation in the sense of gaining eternal life, it is as the word is often used in Scripture with the focus on the realisation of everything that God has given us in the future that we will be saved. As Romans chapter fives says: "Having now been justified by faith [past tense] we shall be saved [future tense]." It is the full realisation at glorification, of all that we have with a view towards our rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. So that helmet of salvation keeps our thinking focused on what God is doing today in preparing us for eternity.

The last element here is the sword of the Spirit. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that this is an offensive weapon, but it is a defensive weapon. In defense there is often counter defensive action. Usually it was the larger broadsword that was used in offensive action; it was the short sword that was used in defensive action in close combat. The sword is described as the Word of God, it is not the Logos of God here but the Rhema of God, the spoken or applied Word of God. The illustration of this is how Jesus handled the temptations in Matthew chapter four. He quoted Scripture and used it to counter the assaults of Satan. 

The bottom line is that having the full armour of God in place we are able to stand.

Ephesians 6:18 NASB "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in [by means of] the Spirit…" What role does prayer have here? Prayer is how the believer communicates with headquarters; it is our communications system. We are to pray by means of the Spirit, which means that we are filled with the Spirit, walking by means of the Spirit, we are not trying to put this armour on according to the principles of the flesh but by walking by means of the Spirit. Conclusion: "and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints"—not just focusing on our own spiritual life but dealing with the spiritual life of the whole body of believers. This embodies what we call the problem-solving devices.

Illustrations