The Christian in Complete Armor | Ephesians 6:10-20
Brian Hedges | January 27, 2019
Turn in your Bibles this morning to Ephesians 6. While you’re turning there, let me remind you of a scene from that great Christian classic by John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s a wonderful story, as you know, of Christian and his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. There’s one scene in that book where Christian comes to House Beautiful (or Palace Beautiful) and the porter of that house, whose name is Watchful. He’s welcomed into Palace Beautiful, which really symbolizes, in Bunyan’s allegory, the church, and there he is met by the porter’s four daughters, who are named Discretion, Piety, Prudence, and Charity.
They ask Christian to share his experience with them, to talk about his journey so far, and then they show him a number of things. They take him into a gallery where he sees trophies of war from the great battles that God’s people, God’s saints have fought through the Old Testament. So he sees the sling that David used to slay Goliath and he sees the jawbone that Samson used to slay the Philistines and he sees Gideon’s pitchers and lamps. He sees all these different trophies of war.
And then, before Christian is sent back on the road, they take him to the armory, and they clothe him from head to foot with the armor of God to prepare him for the battles which are to come. Indeed, in the very next scene in the book Christian finds himself in the Valley of Humiliation, where he has a face-to-face combat with Apollyon.
This morning, we’re doing something similar to that. We want to be equipped with the whole armor of God for the battles that you and I have to face in our Christian lives. We’re in a series together in Ephesians 6. The series is called “Dressing for Battle: Gospel Armor for the Fight of Faith.”
We’re taking ten weeks to look in detail at the spiritual warfare that we’re involved in, to look at the armor of God. Really, these first three weeks have just been introduction, where we’ve looked at the battle itself and our strength for the battle, which is in Jesus Christ, “in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Last week we considered our enemy the devil and his strategies and the way in which we are to stand against him.
This morning we’re going to take a general look at the armor of God, and then next week we start looking piece-by-piece through the armor, one piece at a time. We’ll do that for the next several weeks. But this morning we’re looking again at the whole of this passage and at the armor itself as a whole.
Let me begin by reading Ephesians 6:10-20, and then I want to point out five essential aspects of this armor. Ephesians 6:10-20:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
This is God’s word.
So, there are five essential aspects of the armor of God, speaking about the whole armor, all of the pieces together, that I want us to consider this morning.
1. The Armor Is Essential
The first is simply this: the armor is essential. The armor is essential. Notice the text says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil,” and then in verse 13, “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” The armor of God is essential, and it’s essential because of these three enemies that we face: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Now, we’ve already thought about the devil. In the last couple of weeks I’ve said quite a bit about the devil. Last week we looked at the three primary strategies of our adversary the devil, how he deceives us and tempts us, and then how he accuses thus; his strategies, then, of deception, temptation, and accusation; and our defense against them. Our defense is the armor of God. It’s being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
We also have the world as one of our enemies. We have an enemy, a personal adversary who is opposed to us at every turn, but we are also in enemy territory. Do you remember that hymn from Isaac Watts? He says, “Is this vile world a friend to grace / To help me on to God?” It’s a rhetorical question; the implied answer is no! This vile world is not a friend to grace. We’re in enemy-occupied territory.
Now, ultimately, this world belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,” and there will come a day when Jesus comes back, and he will cleanse this world of wickedness and of sin and evil. He will remake it into a new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell forever. But that hasn’t happened yet, and in the meantime we are marching through enemy-occupied territory. We’re in the world, but we are not to be of the world. The world is against us as believers.
So we have an enemy outside of us, we have an environment that is opposed to us, but then we also have the flesh, what the Bible describes as the flesh. “The flesh” doesn’t refer to our physical bodies so much as it refers to our fallen human nature, our sinful nature which we inherited from our first father, Adam, our fallen nature; and the remnants of that old nature, even in the hearts and in the lives of born-again believers.
The apostle Paul, you remember, said in Romans 7 that “when I would do good, evil is present with me.” He says, “I find that in me, that is, in my flesh, there is no good thing.” There is this contendant within our own hearts against us. You might say it this way, that our adversary the devil has deep undercover operatives that are lurking within our own souls, within our own hearts.
That great 19th-century pastor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon is my hero, the guy that I’m trying to read almost every day. I read a story about Spurgeon; I’d never seen this before, until just this week. There’s this story about Spurgeon in the pastor’s college, this college where he was training ministers. He would often have his students, these young ministers who are coming up to preach the gospel, he would often have students preach at the pastor’s college.
One day one of these students was preaching on the armor of God, putting on the whole armor of God. This guy was a very talented preacher, and he was acting it out, he was dramatic, he had great oratory. You could almost hear the armor as it was clinking and clanking and being fastened onto his body. At the end of his sermon, he stood there with the sword in one hand and the shield in the other, fully armed, and he says, “Now where is the enemy?!”
Spurgeon’s sitting in the back, and he recognizes the vanity and the pride in this young man, so Spurgeon shouts out, “He’s in the armor!” You see, there was something even inside the young man that was evil.
That’s the reality that every one of us contends with, that there is an evil within us. The world, the devil, and the flesh. We just sang it this morning, didn’t we? “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, / Prone to leave the God I love.” Have you recognized that? Do you recognize that there is something in your heart that is prone to wander from God?
We can put it even more strongly than that. Do you recognize that there is something within you that hates God and that hates his ways? There is, and the sooner we recognize that, the better. We have to be on guard not only against the devil and the world, but also against our own flesh.
The armor is absolutely essential for all these reasons; because of the danger that surrounds us, because of the danger that is against us, because of the danger that is within us. One of these old writers - I don’t remember now whether it was Calvin or Owen, but one of them said that “there is within us a burning cinder that is always ready to break out into flame.” That’s what the flesh is like. So we have to be on guard against it.
So, first of all, the armor is essential. If you’re going to stand against the schemes of the devil, if you’re going to withstand in the evil day (and that really is any day, because every day the days are evil); if you’re going to stand and withstand in the evil day, you need the armor; it’s absolutely essential.
2. The Armor Is God’s Armor
Second thing: this is God’s armor. It is called the “armor of God.” The armor of God. Now why is it called the armor of God?
Well, first of all it’s called the armor of God because God provided it. This isn’t a merely human armor; it is divinely provided. It is ours by God’s provision and it is ours by God’s appointment, and therefore we are to take the whole armor of God.
It’s also called God’s armor because God himself has worn this armor. Did you know that there’s actually an Old Testament passage that is supplying the Apostle Paul with the imagery that he uses in this passage? Now, Paul writes this when he’s in prison, and he probably is chained there to a Roman guard. He’s on guard 24 hours a day, and he’s noticing the armor that this guard is wearing, but it reminds him of an Old Testament passage in Isaiah 59. In this passage, the prophet is lamenting the condition of God’s people, how there’s no justice, there’s no righteousness, there are terrible conditions in society, and it’s such that for someone to actually bring about justice and righteousness God himself has to come on the scene and has to come clothed in armor.
Listen to what Isaiah 59:16-17 says, “He saw that there was no man, and wondered [literally, “he was appalled”] that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 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.” God put the armor on! This is the armor of God.
Now, it’s just a metaphor, isn’t it? It’s a visual picture for us of the qualities of God, the character of God, the attributes of God. Theologians often talk about the attributes of God, how there are incommunicable attributes - those are the attributes that cannot be communicated to us. God cannot communicate to us omniscience and omnipresence, there’s never going to be a time where we know everything and we’re present everywhere.
But there are communicable attributes. There are attributes that God can communicate to us, that we are to imitate, that we are to grow in, and by his grace he gives them to us. Righteousness is one of those. Holiness is one of those. Truthfulness is one of those. You look at these various pieces of the armor, and they are virtues and graces that come to us straight from God himself. It is the armor of God.
Now, one of the things this teaches us is that armor is distinct, it is unique. It is not merely a human armor. You know, there are a lot of people in the world today who basically believe this: they believe that all religions teach essentially the same thing. Lots of people say this. You’ll hear this all the time.
They’ll say, “You know, whether you’re a Christian or you’re a Mormon or you’re a Muslim or you’re a Hindu or whatever, they all teach basically the same thing. They all want you to live a basically good life, a moral life, and they want you to observe certain practices like prayer and meditation and so on.”
On the surface, that may seem plausible; but when you really look deeply at what the writers of the New Testament themselves say, you can see that that’s not at all the case, because they’re claiming over and over again that what God has given to us is something that is utterly unique. It’s given to us by divine revelation. It’s not of fleshly human origin; it is of divine origin and of divine power.
This passage is showing us that there is something unique about Christianity. The armor of God that we are to wear, it is the armor that comes from God, and it means that what we’re called to is not merely moral duties and religious practices. We are rather called to appropriate to ourselves all of the divine resources that God has given to us in Christ, and that means there is supernatural power available for us.
This is not a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps religion. It’s not about merely trying to do better and work harder! It’s rather appropriating to ourselves all that God has done for us in Christ, and we do that how? In the Lord, in the power of the Lord, in the strength of his might. We do it in the power of the Spirit! We’re not doing this in our strength and we’re not doing it in fleshly human strength. This passage is not calling us to self-sufficiency. Far from it, it is calling us to rely on the sufficiency of God and Christ. It is the armor of God.
3. The Armor Is Gospel Armor
And then thirdly, it is gospel armor. It is gospel armor. Do you remember the words of that old hymn, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, / Ye soldiers of the cross”? There’s a line that says, “Put on the gospel armor, / Each piece put on with prayer.”
What do we mean when we say it’s a gospel armor? Well, we really just mean that this armor is armor that comes to us in the good news of the gospel. It’s a reference for us of all that God has done for us in Christ that then is to be appropriated in our lives by faith.
I think there’s good biblical ground for calling it a gospel armor in a parallel passage, in Romans 13. Let me read this to you. You can read on the screen. Romans 13:11-14. The apostle Paul is using a slightly different image here. He uses the language of armor, but he begins with a different image. It’s someone who has been asleep and is now waking up at the dawn of the morning and it’s time to get dressed, and he’s telling them, “Throw off the night clothes and get dressed for the day!” He’s using this as a powerful image for the Christian’s responsibility to the salvation that has dawned in Jesus Christ, and then the hope we have of coming salvation when Jesus comes again.
Look at what Paul says. “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
You see the image? Throw off the night clothes and clothe yourselves in the armor of light. “Cast off the works of darkness.” What are those? Well, he names them! It’s drunkenness and sensuality and sexual immorality and so on. It’s our sins. We’re to cast off the sins, take those off, quit living the way you used to live before you became a Christian, and now put on the armor of light, put on this new man, as Paul will put it in other passages.
But then, in verse 14, he actually says this. He says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Right? It’s putting on Christ! This is the appropriation of the gospel. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think the full title there is important. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Put him on as Savior. He is Jesus, the Savior. Take his salvation and apply that to your own heart and to your life. Believe in the salvation that is ours by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but it’s also, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is the Lord. He is the King. Bow the knee to King Jesus and surrender your life to him! He is the Lord Jesus Christ; he is the anointed one, our Prophet, Priest, and King, and we are to respond to him in all of the glory of his threefold office. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
You could really put it this way, that putting on the armor of God is really nothing other than putting on Christ himself. Christ himself is the armor, and when we put on the armor of God we’re putting on Christ.
Listen to what John Bunyan said in another place about the armor. Bunyan said, “Christ himself is the Christian’s armory. When he puts on Christ, he is then completely armed from head to foot. Are his loins gird about with truth? Christ is the truth! Has he put on the breastplate of righteousness? Christ is our righteousness. Are his feet shod with the gospel peace? Christ is our peace. Does he take the shield of faith and helmet of salvation? Christ is that shield and all our salvation. Does he take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God? Christ is the word of God. Thus he puts on the Lord Jesus Christ, by his Spirit fights the fight of faith, and, in spite of men, devils, and of his own evil heart, lays hold of eternal life. Thus Christ is all in all.”
Let me ask you, Christian: Are you clothed with Christ? Are you relying on Christ? When you wake up in the morning, are you thinking, “Gracious Father, would you help me to live like Christ today? Would you help me to trust in Christ today? Would you help me to obey Christ today? Would you help me to imitate Christ today? Would you help me to put on Christ?”
The armor of God is not some mystical thing that we work our way through. It’s not so much that we’re thinking the pieces of the armor. This is a word picture; it’s a metaphor to help us see what it means to live for Christ, to live as those who are joined to Christ and to imitate Christ. It is a gospel armor.
4. The Armor Is Complete
And the number four, the armor is complete. The armor is complete. Notice the text says, “Put on the whole armor of God.”
Now actually, the word “whole” is not there in the Greek, but it’s implied in the Greek word for “armor,” panoplia. That word, the scholars tell us, is a word that refers to the whole equipment that would be a provided to a soldier-at-arms. This shows us, doesn’t it, the absolute sufficiency of God’s provision.
Do you remember how the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1 that God has provided us for “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” The apostle Paul himself in Ephesians 1 says that we’ve been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Every spiritual blessing! The whole armor is given. It’s a complete armor. Everything has been given that we need.
A number of years ago I had a friend who was a state trooper, and I asked him one day to describe his equipment to me. He just went through the entire contents of his squad car. He told me about the 40-caliber, Sig Sauer pistol that he had . . . He said that every state trooper would have a shotgun or a rifle in his trunk, he would have flares, he would have a bullet-proof vest. He went through about ten different things. My favorite thing was the taser; you know, you shoot somebody with a taser and - two darts and 50,000 volts right there. I mean, you drop somebody really fast.
I walked away from that conversation thinking, “These guys are really well equipped! They have everything they need.” Right? They have everything they need for the task they’ve been given. The same is true for us as Christians. The same is true for us as Christians. The problem is that we’re not appropriating it. Sometimes we’re not using the whole armor of God.
Do you remember that old television show, The Andy Griffith Show? You remember Barney Fife? He had one bullet, right? Remember that? There are a lot of one-bullet Barney Fife Christians! Basically they have one gospel bullet in their gun, and that’s it. You know, “I know John 3:16,” but that’s it! They’re not using the whole armor of God, they’re not applying the whole of the Bible to their lives.
Let me ask you (just do a check here): do you know how to use, how to read the book of Hosea or Jeremiah to recall your heart from a backslidden condition? Have you learned the lessons of the book of Daniel, how to live faithfully in a faithless world? Do you know how to use the psalms to encourage your heart with all the varied emotions that you go through in life? When you’re facing anxiety and fear or discouragement and depression, this sense of being abandoned by God, do you know how to cry out with Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?” Or when you’re feeling depressed, do you know how to cry out from Psalm 42, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” Do you know how to use gospel and epistle, narrative and poetry, wisdom and law, the whole counsel of God? Or are you a one-bullet Barney Fife Christian?
You see, we need it all. We need the whole armor. We need the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We need the word. But we also need prayer! There are a lot of people who say, “Well, you know, I don’t like to read. I don’t like to read; I just like to pray.” How do you know you’re praying the right thing if you’re not in your Bible? You need your Bible!
There are other people on the other side of the map, and they’re going to say, “Well, you know, I’m a Bible guy. I just don’t have a great prayer life.” Well, how are you actually going to apply the Bible to your life without prayer? You can’t do it in your own strength; you need the strength of God, you need to ask for it! You need to cry out.
There are some people that fall on the contemplative side of the spectrum. You know, “Lock me alone in a room with a lot of books and with a journal and with a cup of coffee, and I’m happy; but put me on the street and ask me to share my faith and I’m timid, intimidated.” Contemplative, but not very active, not very engaged.
But part of the armor are the readiness of the shoes of the gospel of peace, right? You’re meant to be in motion, you’re meant to be in action as a Christian. I’m telling you: the whole of the Christian life is covered right here, and we need the whole armor of God. All of us, myself included - I know where I fall on this map - all of us tend to one side or the other, but we need the comprehensive armor, we need the whole armor, we need the whole panoply of God, the whole armor of God. We need all of it. Don’t be a one-bullet Christian! Don’t be a Barney Fife Christian! Be well-armed for the battle, and give yourself to the whole armor of God. Apply it all to your life.
5. The Armor Must Be Put On
The armor is complete, and then, number five and finally, the armor must be put on. Notice it says in verse 11, “Put on the whole armor of God,” and in verse 13, “Take up the whole armor of God.”
I’ve already said this multiple times, but let’s just focus on it for a minute. The gospel must be appropriated. The word must be applied. You remember how James says, James 1:22, “But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” If you just hear the word week after week (“Great sermon, pastor!”) but there’s no application, James says you’re deceiving yourself. If there’s no application. “Be doers of the word.” Put it into practice. Obey it.
Someone once said, “If we just obeyed one tenth of what we knew about the Bible, we’d be in the throes of revival.” How much truth do we know that we have not applied? Think through it right now. If there was just one thing that you know right now that God’s word commands, that God’s word requires but you’re not doing, what is it? Probably right now something just came to mind, something immediately that you know needs to be remedied. We need to apply the word.
Let me give you one more Spurgeon quote. Spurgeon said, “A Christian is never safe unless he is protected from head to foot by grace, for in such a world as this you know not behind what bush the assassin may be lurking or from what corner the fatal bolts may fly. Go forth as a mailed knight to the war, for the battle rages on all sides, and you need the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”
An assassin around every corner, a foe that you’re going to face, and you need the whole armor and you need it applied from head to foot, clothed from head to foot, applying the gospel to your life.
Listen, brother and sister. There will be no winning without a warfare. There will be no victory without a fight. There will be no triumph without a battle. The old hymn-writer said,
“Sure, I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain
Supported by your word.”
There’s no victory without the fight, and you can’t fight without armor. So we need the whole armor of God, we need this gospel armor, and we need it appropriated and applied to our lives. Are you wearing the armor this morning?
If you are not a Christian, if you are a Christless person, then the reality is, you’re marching naked through this world, without any defense against the evil one, and what you need is for the first time this morning to put on Christ.
But as Christians, some of us are marching half-naked through the world because we haven’t fully appropriated Christ. We’ve believed, we’ve initially obeyed, we’ve repented of some of our sins, but there’s still work for us to do, there’s still truth for us to apply, there’s still a gospel for us to appropriate, and we need that every day, we need it to be renewed every day. I’m speaking to myself as much as I’m saying it to you: let’s put on the whole armor of God, so that we will be able to stand. Let’s pray together.
Our merciful and gracious God, we thank you for all of the sufficiency of your saving work in Christ. We thank you that you have given us this armor, that you’ve provided it for us, and that nothing is lacking. It is full, it is complete, it has everything that we need for life and godliness. It’s to our shame that we often neglect it, that we fail to apply it, that we fail to appropriate it. How great our sins are when we do that! We pray, Lord, that you would forgive us for our neglect, you’d forgive us for our lack of application, and that you would help us with a sincere and an honest heart to take stock of where we are, that you would put your finger on the specific things in our lives that are lacking, that you would show us what we need, and that you would help us to turn from our sins, to turn to Christ.
Father, I pray this morning for anyone who does not know Christ in a saving way. I pray that you would rescue them, that you would bring them out of darkness into light, from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. I pray that you would clothe them in this armor, that they would put on the armor of light, that they would put on the Lord Jesus Christ today in true repentance and faith.
I pray, Lord, that you would save us from anything that smacks of self-sufficiency, of pride, of relying on ourselves, and instead that we would rely on all that you have done for us in Christ, that we would look to you, that we would remember that “it is not by might, it is not by power, but it is by my Spirit, says the Lord. Some trust in horses and some in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Help us this morning to look to you to be our defense, to be our redeemer, to be our salvation, to be our sanctification, to be everything that we need. Help us look to you, help us see the sufficiency that is ours in Jesus Christ.
As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, may we come with hearts hungry not just for the elements of bread and juice, but hearts hungry for Jesus Christ, the bread of life. May we feast our souls on him. May we by faith in these moments, having heard the gospel, having understood the word, may we by faith lay hold of it, and may what we do with our hands and our mouths in taking these elements, may that be an outward symbol, and outward gesture that shows the inward posture of our hearts, that we are here to take Christ, to receive him. Lord, would you give us hearts of faith this morning? Continue to meet with us as we worship in song and around the table; we pray in Jesus’s name and for his sake, Amen.