Ephesians Meditations No.51
Eph 6:14-17 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Sometimes Christians seem to focus on the functions of armour rather than the actual things Paul is talking about, so let’s identify from the outset the things that Paul says comprise our armour: truth, righteousness, availability in the Gospel, faith, salvation and God’s word.
A belt holds everything else in place so truth is the essential element of the Christian’s life without which everything else is questionable. When the enemy attacks, simply ask, “What is the truth here?” That is important because one of his weapons is lies and he uses them to deceive us into wrong thinking. Thus focusing on the truth in any situation is vital. Watch out for half truths as well. Yes, I am a failure but that’s only half the truth. The other half is that despite that I have been saved by God’s grace and mercy. Yes, I do get it wrong but the other half of the truth here is that when I confess it, I am forgiven and cleansed (1 Jn 1:9). Truth also requires me to me real. If I pretend or put on a face, then I make myself vulnerable to the enemy, but when I am seeking to let God work in me and I am patently honest about who I am, then truth prevails and the enemy is thwarted.
A breastplate covers the heart and so righteousness, and the knowledge of it, protects and reassures my heart. There are two sorts of righteousness we need to be aware of. There is the righteousness that God declares over us because we believe Jesus died for us. Thus we ARE righteous in His sight. The other sort is the practical righteousness that is heralded by a clear conscience, the truth that we are doing all we can to live as God wants us to live.
The third thing produces a variety of suggestions from commentators. Shoes essentially let you walk on any sort of terrain. The ‘shoes’ that Paul has in mind, come in the form of readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. We need to know the truth of the Gospel and that it applies to us and that it is needed by all people. When we are convinced, like Paul, that it is, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” (Rom 1:16) then we can face up to all situations recognizing the needs of those before us, why they act like they do, and what is the answer for them.
A shield is held up before us and protects us and thus faith is the vital defensive weapon in our armoury. Faith is believing and living by the truths that God has spoken to us through His word and through His Spirit, and we have to learn to remain steady and declare to ourselves and to the enemy, “God said…” or as Jesus refuted the enemy, “It is written…” (Mt 4:4,7,10)
A helmet covers the head, the mind, and so my salvation, the truths of it and the facts of it, should cover all of my thinking. Do you notice how many of these things overlap? We’re talking about the truth here, about my state of righteousness, about the gospel that I believe by faith. All of these things protect my mind against the lies that the enemy seeks to bring against me. Oh yes, all the pieces of the so-called armour work together to save me from his attacks.
Finally the sword in my hand is to be God’s word. I should know God’s word and be able to quote it as the truth that cuts through the barrage of lies that he hurls against me. We are what we are because God has brought His word to us and we have believed it. Now we can wield it to counter the untruths spoken against us. The more we know of it the more convinced we can be that we have the truth. The more we learn of it the more we realise that it works, it fits life and it IS the answer to all the needs of the world.
Remember, don’t focus so much on armour so much as what these things are that Paul speaks about. The armour is only a visual aid. It is truth, righteousness, availability in the Gospel, faith, salvation and God’s word that help us stand against the enemy. However, even here there is a danger, that we try to make these things mechanical, whereas they should all come out of our relationship with the Lord. It is Him, and His presence with us, who will save us from the enemy. Yes the ‘armour’ is our activity, our responses to the enemy, if you like, but ultimately our safety, our protection and our security come from the Lord Himself. He is our rock, He is our shield, He is our fortress, as the psalmists tell us.