Ephesians is full of memorable passages and memory-verse favourites. It’s a biblical letter chock-full of the greatness of God and his great plans for Christ’s church.
A common favourite is 6:10-20, in which believers are told to dress in the whole armour of God. Why do we need God’s armour? Because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil. Why struggle at all? So we may stand, firm and unshaken on the foundation of Christ.
It seems to me that each item of armour shows us two things. Firstly, how to be strong in the Lord. Secondly, where our weakness lies.
What follows is a short look at each of the items, and what they say about Christian strength and weakness.
The belt of truth
The devil is a liar through and through, says Jesus (John 8:44). His character is to lie. So to hold to truth is to hold to God. Truth is not only a weapon against evil, truth is victory in itself. The category of truth is wonderfully rich. It includes such joys as: God is the creator of all; Jesus is the saving Son of God; Jesus died and rose again in victory over sin; Jesus is the final judge of all humanity.
Each truth is a strong wrestling grip to defeat the devil. Therefore weakness is to be loose on the truth. To not know what God teaches us of his gospel is to choose weakness and danger. Any Christian unconcerned for doctrine, the teaching, and truth is a Christian in danger.
We can have the belt of truth, or we can be belted without the truth.
The breastplate of righteousness
Righteousness is of God (you can read about the Lord’s armour in Isaiah 59:15-18). Jesus saved his people in order that we share God’s righteousness. For believers, righteousness means saying no to angry sin, to greedy idolatry, and to immorality. Take the example of anger. In Ephesians 4:26-27, we see that we refuse the devil a foothold by refusing to turn anger into sin.
The devil hates righteousness. Therefore we become his prey when we go soft on righteousness. It’s not that (self-)righteousness saves us. It is that unrighteousness kills us.
Shoes of gospel readiness
The shoes that go and share the gospel of Jesus are a double-barrelled weapon in the battle against evil. Barrel one: love for neighbour invites that neighbour to forgiveness and eternal life. Barrel two: every person who then follows Christ is a loss to the devil, and is no longer following the prince of the air (see Ephesians 2:1-3).
In contrast, if we are Christians who refuse to share the gospel of Jesus, we’re like pacifist soldiers – dressed like an army, but refusing to fight. What a crazy waste!
The shield of faith
Faith is our deep personal commitment and pledge to the Lord whose truth we trust. Faith clings to God. God – being the rock – is life’s sure and stable foundation. We’re not pushovers when built onto Christ.
But weak faith is like trying to balance tall on one toe, with eyes closed, in a gale. It’s unstable and precarious.
The helmet of salvation
Salvation is safety. God promises his children protection. Specifically, we will not face punishment for our many sins because Jesus has already taken the punishment. The devil has nothing he can accuse us of.
So it’s a great battle weakness if we fall back from Jesus’ salvation and start to trust our own behaviour. When we choose our own works to save, we actually choose our own sins to condemn.
The sword of the Spirit
This sword is the word of God – God’s attack weapon against evil. Jesus grabbed the sword of the Spirit to defeat the devil in the wilderness, quoting the law of the Lord (Matthew 4:1-11). And when equipping the church, Jesus gave people who speak the word of God (Ephesians 4:11-12).
A Christian weak in the word of God is a soldier without a weapon. Enthusiasm will not cover that weakness. Such a soldier may be physically present, but unable to help the battle.
The armour of God is a wonderful gift from the Father. It is from him, and its power is his – that’s why the description concludes with extended call to prayer (verses 18-20). We accept the items as gifts, take them up, and then ask God to empower us as servants,
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.