VIDEO The Armor of God: The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace and The Shield of Faith

By John MacArthur Nov 16, 2008

Well, we have the opportunity again tonight to open the Word of God to the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and a section that we have come to know as the believer’s armor – the believer’s armor. Ephesians chapter 6 and actually, verses 10 all the way down through verse 18.

There was a time in the life of Martin Luther that his conflict with Satan was so real that he says he picked up his inkwell sitting on his desk and threw it at the devil. The ink stain remained on the wall for years as a reminder of the reality of that conflict. We are all engaged in a conflict with the enemy of God, the enemy of Christ, the enemy of our souls, the enemy of truth.

That conflict is inevitable because we who are part of the kingdom of God, we who are the slaves of Jesus Christ, we who are the soldiers of Christ, as it were, are in enemy territory. Satan is the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world. He and his minions, his demons, which constitute a third of the angels, run their wicked anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-truth, anti-life system through this world. As long as we are here, we are engaged in that battle.

That’s why in verse 10 we read, “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything to stand firm.”

In the opening couple of messages, we addressed these verses and tried to draw out some foundational understanding of the spiritual conflict in which we engage. Understand this, that if you are a believer, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Satan does not dwell within you. In fact, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. And He that is in you is the Holy Spirit. No Christian can be devil possessed or demon possessed. We’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about demon possession, which can only occur in one who does not belong to God, in whom the Spirit does not dwell.

What we’re talking about is the battle that a Spirit-indwelt child of God faces living in Satan’s world. And it isn’t what Satan does in us as if he lived there or what demons do in us as if they lived there, it is what they do outside of us that panders to the fallenness that is in us. We have been redeemed. We have become regenerate. We are new creations, as we heard tonight. We have different affections, different motivations, different loves, different attachments. We value things completely opposite the way we valued them before we came to Christ.

Life is new for us. We are a new creation – however incarcerated in unredeemed flesh. We still possess fallen propensities to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That is what is in us. What is in us is our fallenness, what is in us is sin.

Romans 7, “It is sin that is in me,” Paul says. “That is why I’m still a wretched man. That is why I don’t do what I ought to do and I do what I ought not to do. In fact, I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I actually want to do.” It is sin that is in me. It is a principle still operating in me that wars against the law of God that now dominates my mind, my new creation.

Satan, who is outside of us, works the world system in such a way as to assault us at the points of our fallenness. We live in a hostile world, a world that is filled with manifest promotion of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It dominates our culture – in some ways, more now than ever, at least on the media front. It isn’t that sinners are worse now, although there is some increasing degree as we read in the words of the apostle Paul, “Evil men grow worse and worse.”

But it isn’t so much that there have never been sinners before, or there’s never been sin before. There has always been sin. There has always been vile, wretched sin through all of human history. But the exposure level because of mass media at this part of human history is something beyond anything people in the past had to endure.

It was impossible, for example, to have a full pornographic experience in your room at home. That was not possible before it had direct access to something you hold in your hand wherever you are. It was impossible to have the kind of sexual explosion on your mind that you get by looking at a thirty-foot-high screen that’s sixty feet wide and watching people committing immoral acts. That level of assault is part and parcel of living in this century and the previous one.

That’s what Satan does. Satan works in that system. That’s the wicked side of it. The moral side of it – deceptively moral side of it – is in religion. Satan also operates all false religions in the world. So Satan operates false religions in the world, false forms of Christianity. He wears clerical garb. He runs certain seminaries and colleges that call themselves Christian and call themselves religious. He’s in charge of all of that, and he’s also in charge of the pornographic industry and every form of sin and mixture and admixture in between.

This is the world system that assaults us with false religion and blatant sin and everything that’s in the middle. This is the war. The war for us is to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh. The war for us is to live in the Spirit and not in the flesh. The war for us is to love what is right, holy, and just, and good and not find our affections attached to what is evil because it is so alluringly presented to us.

Now, there is a basic contrast between what God does and what Satan does that can be simply understood. God reveals truth; Satan conceals truth. God tells us the truth; Satan tells us lies. God gives life; Satan takes life – he has the power of death. God produces spiritual works; Satan produces fleshly works. God brings along tests to make us mature; Satan brings along temptations to destroy us. God sets us free; Satan imprisons us – so it goes.

And so we live in this world and, as I said, the world in which we live today has capabilities and capacities to assault us in ways that the worlds of the past didn’t have. The question, then, is how do we deal with this and live a triumphant life? How do we overcome these things that are all around us and in our face and, therefore, in our minds, therefore pandering to our remaining fallenness?

Well, there are some things that we can offer as very important elements to the answer to the question (How do we deal with this?). One way is to remind yourself that Hebrews 2:14 is true. Jesus came to render powerless – that’s what Hebrews 2:14 says, render powerless the devil. Or 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.” Recognize this, then, that Christ has defeated Satan. He is a vanquished foe. He is not the victor – he is the vanquished.

Genesis 3:15, way back there, it said that when the seed of the woman came who was the Messiah, He would crush the serpent’s head. That’s why Romans 16:20 says that Satan will shortly be put under your feet. He is a defeated enemy. So like sin that remains in us, we no longer have to sin. We do not have to lose. He is not a foe who can overpower us.

I think that’s so important to mention because there are people who think that Satan has this kind of invincibility that overpowers God. And certainly if Satan can overpower God and God’s purposes, he can certainly overpower us. But that is not what the Bible teaches. At the cross, he was rendered powerless. His abilities are completely confined and limited by the sovereign purposes of God. He is the victim, not the victor, and “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world,” 1 John 4:4.

The second thing to understand, not only the fact that Satan is a vanquished foe and you do not need to collapse under the weight of his efforts because you have a greater strength within you in the power of the Holy Spirit, but secondly, even saying that, you have to follow that up by saying you have to be alert to his efforts and resist them. First Peter 5, “Be sober.” In other words, get your priorities right, think straight. Be on the alert, for the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you. In James 4:7, it says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

So while we understand he’s a vanquished foe, that in itself does not mean that he’s not going to have an impact on us if we are not alert, sober-minded, thinking clearly, thinking biblically, and doing everything we can to avoid this roaring lion.

Bringing you down a little further, the third thing you need to realize is that you cannot give any room for his entry. Ephesians 4:27 says, “Do not give the devil an opportunity.” Don’t put yourself in a situation where you give him an opportunity. Yes, he is the victim, not the victor. You recognize that. You have a greater power within you. Still, you have to think clearly, maintain spiritual priorities, be alert at all times, resisting him strong in the Christian faith; that is to say, the truth of sound doctrine, never giving room for him to have entry, giving him no opportunity.

Bringing it down further, flee from temptation. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness.” You have to run from the things that give Satan an opportunity. The other side of that, bringing it down even further is to give control of your life to Christ. Second Corinthians 10:5 says “bringing every thought captive to Christ.” First Corinthians 2:16 says we have the mind of Christ. Think like Christ thinks or (Philippians 2) have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Those are things we’re all familiar with as Christians, right? Those are sort of the basics of living a godly life in an ungodly world. But there’s another way to say all of that. There’s another way to grab all of that pull it into one memorable format and it’s this: Put on the whole armor of God. Put on the whole armor of God. And that brings us to our text.

The armor of God is just another way to pull all of those components together in a memorable fashion, in a mental image of a soldier. We have the best outfitted army ever. We have the best Commander in Chief. We are the most powerful force that’s ever walked on the earth. But if you go out without your armor, you’re going to be vulnerable. Put it on and you can handle anything the enemy brings. So let’s look again at the armor. Ephesians 6. First thing we saw – and this will bring you down to where we left off last time in verse 14 to the opening words, “Stand firm.”

That’s what we’re talking about here, standing firm under the assault of Satan in the world system. Stand firm. How? “Having girded your loins with truth.” The belt of truth, we talked about that last time. Since Satan is a liar and the father of lies, it is obvious that you must know the truth. But that’s really not the main issue here. The word alētheia is used in the sense of truthfulness or commitment based on that truth or conviction tied to that truth.

In other words, as a Christian, you must not only understand the truth but you must fully embrace the truth with the kind of conviction that makes you determined to go out and to battle against all lies and deception. In other words, you’re serious about the warfare. This is commitment to the battle. Remember, I told you the first thing a Roman soldier did? He wore a tunic, it was like a dress, put a sash around his waist or a belt around his waist and pulled up his tunic inside so that it became a mini-tunic so he could move rapidly, cinch that belt or sash down so it wasn’t flying around in the breeze when he was in a hand-to-hand combat. Pulled in all the loose ends.

Peter says the same thing, remember? “Gird up your loins,” 1 Peter 1. Tie all the loose ends of your life together, square up with what you know to be true and make a commitment to live according to the truth. That’s where it starts. Bottom line, you’re really not going to win the forays, the battles that come with Satan, if you’re not committed to winning. Get serious about it.

The second thing that we talked about last time was the breastplate of righteousness. This is obvious if you have an image of a soldier in ancient days, they had a breastplate of one kind or another – we talked about the kinds last time – to cover their vital organs. The breastplate that we must wear is that of righteousness. Not talking about forensic righteousness or imputed righteousness that comes to us from Christ but that imparted righteousness, that personal holiness that protects us from sin. The breastplate is holiness, righteous living. Unless you walk in holiness on a daily basis, you’re in trouble.

I mentioned Romans chapter 13. It’s worth another mention and verse 11, which says, “Knowing that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, the day is at hand. Let us, therefore, lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” What does that mean? Don’t behave in carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Make no provision for the flesh, for its lusts. That’s what we’re talking about.

First of all, you know the truth, the truth is your conviction, and you go out to battle, committed to living the truth. Secondly, you protect yourself by putting on holiness and righteousness. What does that look like? Well, he tells you what it doesn’t look like, sensuality and all of those other things, sexual promiscuity, et cetera, et cetera, and he also tells you what it doesn’t look like when he says put on the Lord Jesus Christ, put on Christlikeness.

Now, that brings us to two more for tonight. Two more pieces of armor, if we have time. Look at verse 15 for the first one. “And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” – having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I think in the society in which we live – it’s probably in most societies, even down to the time of our Lord’s life on earth, people understood the importance of having the right shoes, particularly if you happened to be a soldier engaged in a battle.

I never fought in a war. The Lord was gracious to me in that. I was willing, but I was deferred because I had a football injury. But while the military wouldn’t take me, the football coach would. So I played all those years with that injury. And that’s the closest I ever came to mortal combat. As you know, occasionally it can be mortal. And I have some vivid memories of my past in football, which I don’t speak of very often because my wife has heard them all and doesn’t want to hear them again. There were some notable exploits along the way, both in high school and my university days.

But there’s one that stands out in my mind that fits here perfectly. We were playing a football game of some consequence in the famous Pasadena Rose Bowl when I was in college. My responsibility was to receive the opening kickoff, among other things. I was a runner and a pass receiver and so forth, and I returned the punts and the kickoffs. I was back. I had had a debate with the people in the locker room about what kind of shoes I was going to wear because there had been heavy rains in the month of December that year, and in those days they were not sophisticated at how they put grass on the field.

And so rather than re-sodding the field for this event, they just took vegetable dye and painted the dirt green. And by the way, when you played on a field that had been painted green, you were green very quickly everywhere. I was debating whether I wanted my speed shoes or whether I wanted those clunky ones with the long cleats. And I opted out for speed – and it was a big mistake. The opening kickoff came down and I took the kickoff on the five yard line, and I immediately sat down all by myself on the four yard line.

This was not what I had envisioned. What I had envisioned was a 95-yard touchdown. That’s not what happened. Nobody was within 15 yards of me. I had made a fatal mistake: wrong shoes. I took one step, my feet went right out from under me, the dirt went into the air and I inauspiciously landed on my southern hemisphere to the – with a jocular effect, believe me, on the crowd.

Shoes are important. If they’re important in an athletic contest, they’re certainly important in some kind of hand-to-hand mortal combat. Armies have been defeated for lack of shoes. Have you read that in history? You know enough about history? Even in America, in the Revolutionary War, one of the greatest problems in the Revolutionary War (when the Americans were trying to fight against the British) was they were barefoot because their shoes were worn out.

You know the old adage, for the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. You know what that’s about. For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for the want of the horse, the soldier was lost; for the want of the soldier, the kingdom was lost.

How you shod yourself is very important. The Romans understood that. The Romans understood that it was essential to make sure that the soldier – with everything else that he had and particularly because what he was carrying and wearing was relatively heavy – that he could stabilize himself. And remember now, what we’re talking about – please, if you go back to the beginning of verse 14 – is standing firm. Standing firm. Slipping is not good in hand-to-hand combat.

In Roman times, there are historical accounts of long marches. The Roman army amazingly had long marches over terrible terrain, wearing out the leather in their shoes. Historians tell us that took the toll in thousands and thousands of lives in the battles. Proper shoes were essential because if you’re not firm on the ground, doesn’t matter what you can do. Your whole body will be immediately debilitated. Shoes are vital.

Now, the Roman soldiers generally wore a very tough sandal, very, very tough leather, with straps holding it firmly on. And what they did was they pounded nails from the inside through the bottom, thick hobnails, studs, like a football shoe or a baseball shoe or soccer shoe. And that gave the soldier the ability to stand firm in his footing as he was engaged in the fight, to run up a hill and to run down a hill without slipping and sliding.

Also, a familiar device in ancient warfare was to place traps in the ground. These are the precursors to mines. We know about that, don’t we? People crossing minefields in the wars in our history and even in the Middle East today are blown up. Well, before there were minefields, in the ancient times, they would take sticks and they would sharpen the points of those sticks, and then they would bury them in the ground with the points sticking up. Invariably, the points sticking up out of the ground would rip up a barefoot soldier or penetrate readily through a weak piece of leather.

These hidden traps were great dangers because if you had your foot injured, you were done. Slashes, bleeding, infection, meant debilitation. And Paul sees a spiritual parallel to this very familiar part of a soldier’s uniform or armor. So he says in verse 15, “Have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” The idea here is made ready, equipped. The feet are to be prepared. The feet are to be equipped for the battle like all the other vital parts.

Now, through the years, most commentators have said what this means is that you have a symbolic call to evangelism here. And they borrow it from that idea, from Romans 10:15. “Blessed are the feet of those who preach the good news,” which is a quote from Isaiah 52:7. But Romans 10:15 (and the feet of those who preach the good news) is not a verse to explain this. In the first place, that has nothing to do with warfare. That has nothing to do with shoes. That’s just saying that the people who hear the gospel will bless the people who brought it to them.

Paul is not talking about going anywhere. He’s not talking about traversing any place. He’s not talking about taking the gospel to anyone. He’s talking about standing, not going. The issue is not evangelism. The issue is taking a firm stand in a battle against the devil as he assaults our lives. It’s like 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Stand fast in the faith.” The idea here is that our feet need to be equipped to stand firmly when the attacking blows come.

What is it that can allow the believer to stand unflinching, take his stand, never slip, never slide, never fall under attack? What is it that gives us a firm footing? It is having your feet prepared with the gospel of peace. The gospel of peace – what does that mean? Well, the gospel of peace is the gospel. It’s sometimes called the gospel of Christ, it’s sometimes called the gospel of God, like in Romans 1, and here it’s called the gospel of peace. What is the gospel of peace? It is the good news that you have made peace with God.

That’s essentially the theme of the opening verses of Romans 5. Look at this, Romans 5, verse 1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be at peace with God? Simply, it means that God is not our enemy but God is our strength. And it takes you right back to Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” It means He’s on our side. We stand firm because we know that we are, in reality, invincible.

Satan may come at us, tempting us one way or another, we are firm in the great truth that we are at peace with God; therefore, God is on our side. I think that’s what was in Peter’s mind when he grabbed a sword in the garden and whacked off the first available ear and was going to go through the whole crowd. What made him feel so strong, this man who could so easily be a coward? Well, Jesus was standing beside him, right there, and what had Jesus just done? He had declared His identity, and the entire crowd of hundreds of people fell over flat when He spoke.

Now, that would leave Peter with the impression that he was pretty safe. Pulled out his sword because he knew who was on his side, and he knew what kind of power He had. All we need is Christ, and we can stand against everything Satan has to bring. You go into the battle with Satan, and if you’re not sure where you stand with Christ, if you’ve got doubts, you’re very vulnerable.

You have nothing to fear. People have asked me that through the years. “Don’t you fear what the devil can do to you?” No. Because I know who’s on my side and whose side I’m on. I have made peace with God. God is on my side with the full power that He brings to bear on behalf of His own in defending us. And that’s what we heard in the testimony a little earlier. Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, right? Nothing, Romans 8. Nothing. In fact, that passage is so powerful it’s worth reading. “If God is for us” – what’s the rest? – “who’s against us?” Verse 31.

“If He didn’t spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” If He gave up His Son for us when we were sinners, what would He withhold from us now that we’re saints? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, those are all things Paul personally experienced and they didn’t separate him. No. Even when we were put to death, as it were, all day long, even when we’re considered as sheep to be slaughtered, in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth or any other created thing is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is this kind of realization that gives us the security to hold our ground. I don’t feel like I need to become a monk. I don’t feel like I need to have my eyes plucked out so I can’t see anything. I don’t think I need to flagellate my body and wound it and injure it and harm it somehow to push down the flesh, otherwise I’m going to end up in hell.

I am secure in my salvation. I take the Word of God at face value as the truth. “I know that whoever the Father chooses, He gives to the Son. Whoever He gives to the Son, the Son receives. Whoever the Son receives, the Son keeps and raises them all at the last day,” John 6. I have no fear of that. Therefore, I have no fear of Satan. I stand firm in the truth. I stand firm against the onslaught of Satan in the confidence that God is on my side, and His strength is fully available to me.

We had a group of people come to this church years ago from another church, and I said, “What was it that brought you here?” They said, “We all visited this church on a Sunday when you preached that God is sovereign, and we never went back. Because up to that point, we lived under teaching that Satan was sovereign, and we could no longer stand the sovereignty-of-Satan idea. He’ll kill your children. He’ll give you diseases. He’ll fill your house with demons. And you’ve got to pray him out of every room and out of your baby’s crib,” and on and on and on and on.

You’re not ready to engage in the war if you’re not confident of the strength of the Lord. And if you don’t know it well, remember Judges 7, the host of Midian came against God’s people and Israel gathered an army of 32 thousand total. And God said, “I don’t need 32 thousand, just give me 300.” Remember? “Just give me 300.” And they won. And they won. We were all born in rebellion against God, but while we were enemies, God loved us; and while we were enemies, Christ died for us. And we have made peace with God, and God is on our side, and all the power is ours.

You know, I’ve taught the Christian’s armor for many, many years. It’s always new, it’s always fresh, and I always say different things. But I never come to this particular point and I don’t think of an incident that happened when I was in junior high. And most of my junior high is long forgotten, only several things that I remember. One of them was – I was a preacher’s kid, and I wouldn’t dance, so I got an F in algebra. I’ll never forget that, that was not fair. It’s not worth telling you the story. I had to take it all over again. I hated it both times.

But there’s another thing I remember from my junior high. It was a public junior high school in Downey, California, where my dad was a pastor. I had a friend named Roger, and Roger was just the kind of kid you want to tease, smaller than everybody else and rounder than everybody else, with a boyish little smile and rosy cheeks. Just the kind of kid bullies pick on. And they did, and sometimes they hurt him. Sometimes they hurt him. And I was his friend, and sometimes they hurt me – one day, they basically split my head from front to back in wood shop.

And Roger got weary of it. So I said, “Roger, what are you going to do about it?” And he said, “I’m going to tell my brother.” Ho-ho. His brother was the middle linebacker for Cal State Long Beach football team – huge. From a junior high perspective, really huge. I remember Roger telling me that his brother drove a bread truck as a job and drove it into a wall and walked away. So he could take a hit, I’ll put it that way.

One day, Roger came to school and I was there. He said, “Come, come early, and come to the gym.” And Roger walked up to the ringleader of this (who, by the way, now is dead, died in a barroom fight) and Roger said something like, “I’m tired of the way you treat me,” and they just laughed at him. And then Steve came around the corner and he said, “Which one is it, Roger?”

“That one.” I’m telling you, it was something to behold. That young man lost all his front teeth – shot. Picked him up, threw him over the hedge against the gym. Turned to the others and said, “Leave Roger alone.” I will tell you this, in our junior high from then on, Roger ruled.

You know, it has to do with who’s behind you, right? Where your strength comes from. It’s so wonderful to know that you can go into this world, we can penetrate this world, folks, we don’t have to become monks, we don’t have to go hide somewhere to find safe ground. We can penetrate the world. We have to penetrate the world, don’t we? In that sense, it is – we have to carry the gospel of peace, but we can be firm and take our stand because we know where the power is, behind us, and it is the absolutely sufficient power provided by the Lord Jesus Christ.

So you want to be triumphant in your Christian life. We’ve looked at three pieces of armor that help us to understand what that means. Ask yourself, first of all, with regard to the belt, do you really want to win? How much does it matter? That’s the first issue. If you’re content to live in the low ground, if you’re content to live with your petty sins, if you’re content with your marginal commitment to worship, with your indifference to the things of God, you’ll lose. You’ll lose repeatedly and you’ll lose severely.

You’re not going to lose your salvation, but you’re going to render yourself virtually useless to the purposes of God; therefore, you’ll forfeit an eternal reward and you’ll wind up under divine chastening instead of enjoying the benefits of blessing. So ask yourself. Are you pulling in the loose ends of your life? Do you really want to go into this battle? Are you committed to the truth? Do you have convictions about the truth? And are you willing to go to war for those convictions?

Secondly, do you seek to support that with a holy life? Or are you content with your sin? Really, another way to look at the same thing. Thirdly, do you have the kind of confidence that it takes to march into the den of the roaring lion? It’s a wonderful thing. Yeah, I think back – people have asked me so many times – when I go on television and I talk to these people in very, very adversarial environments, where I don’t even know what they’re going to say, and the whole world is watching and all that, on CNN or whatever – do I have confidence.

And I just remember what Jesus said to His disciples. “Don’t worry about what you’re going to say. When you get there, I’ll tell you what to say.” And while I’m not an apostle and don’t get divine revelation, it is amazing what comes out of my mouth that I haven’t planned to say. I don’t have any fear of what they’re going to do to me. I don’t have any fear they’re going to destroy my faith, no matter what arguments they make. I’m confident in the One who supports me. If God is for me, who can be against me?

So, do I really want to win? Do I seek to live a holy life? And am I bold in the battle, confident in the strength that is provided for me?

That brings us to the fourth part of our armor. I don’t think I can go through all of it, but I can introduce it to you. Shield of faith – the shield of faith. Now, obviously, if you have any familiarity whatsoever with ancient armor, you’re very familiar with the idea of a shield. So verse 16 says, “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” Now, what are we talking about? Well, we’ve got to make the image clear because that helps us to understand the analogy.

There’s several kinds of shields that were used by different armies and by different branches of the same Roman army. For example, if you were a gladiator – you’ve probably seen depictions of this. If you were a gladiator, if you were among the Greeks, for example, you would use a shield that was very small, very round, and you would hold it in your hand, and it would wrap around your wrist, and it would be easy to move the shield around to parry the blows that were coming at you in that kind of environment.

If you were right-handed, of course, it would be strapped to your opposite arm and then with this one, you would make the thrust with your own dagger. With the other one, you would use the shield to parry the thrusts that were coming from your mortal enemy. This is a small, lightweight, usually pounded metal, pounded very thin, designed for the free movement of the soldier in this kind of hand-to-hand combat.

That’s not the word here, that’s a different word. The word here, thureon, is not a small shield. It’s probably around four feet in height and about two or two-and-a-half feet in width. The design of this shield was to put it in the ground and be able to put your entire body behind it. This is a large, oblong shield like a small door, designed for full protection. You wouldn’t be holding it when you got into hand-to-hand combat. It was designed for full protection in the initial phases of ancient battles.

Now, you know how ancient armies used to fight in a line called a phalanx? They would come like a side-winding snake across the ground like this, all shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder. You see that even in the Revolutionary War. The British were still doing that, getting picked off like sitting ducks as they marched shoulder-to-shoulder. Well, the ancient armies did that, and they first put the soldiers with these thureon shields, these whole shields that gave the front line complete protection.

There would be many rows of those, and the bodies would be able to hide behind them so they couldn’t be hit by anything flying in the air, and behind them were the archers who would be shooting their arrows over the rows and rows of shielded soldiers out front. And they would move, eventually, that way across the land, a solid line of protection, until they engaged the enemy in the hand-to-hand combat, when those shields would be laid aside because they were useless and you would go to battle with, if you had another one, a smaller shield or if not, you just fought with your sword.

What is this? Well, please notice some very important components. In addition to all, the NAS says. I think the old Authorized said above all. Doesn’t mean it’s more important, it simply means on top of everything else. You have to have our belt on, pull all the loose ends in, you have to have your breastplate on, protect your vital organs, you have to have your shoes on to be able to stand firm. And above that, on top of that, in addition to that, you need to get a shield. This provides double protection – really does.

We’re going to talk about a minute – your helmet, which you already have to cover your head, your breastplate, which you already have to cover your vital organs, and this is double protection. That’s what “above all” means. Above the shield, above the shoes, and above the sash or the belt and above the breastplate, you need to have the shield. But it’s not only that. In addition to those three, you take three more: the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, verses 16 and 17. Shield of faith, verse 16. Verse 17, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.

So you have three pieces that are fixed, then you have three pieces that are added. A soldier has his belt on, the soldier has the preparation, the readiness to go to battle. He’s got his breastplate on. He’s got his shoes on. Perhaps he’s still at rest. But once the battle starts, picks up his shield, puts on his helmet, and takes up his sword. This is immediate readiness. So you not only have sort of a long-range, staple routine, constant protection, but when the battle gets hot, there are some things you grab.

So when there’s a little bit of a lull in the battle, the soldier may lay his sword down, he may lay his helmet down, he may put his heavy shield down, but at all times he keeps his feet shod and he keeps his breastplate covered and he keeps his belt on so that when the call to battle is given, he can pick up the pieces in addition and go to war.

Well, the first of these additional “above all” components in verse 16 is the shield of faith – the shield of faith. And what’s it for? Well, it is so that you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one – or if you have an old version, the fiery darts might come to mind, flaming missiles from the wicked one. Who is the wicked one? Ho ponēros, Satan, he’s the source of the attack. We do not just fight evil in the world, we fight the evil one. That’s what we’ve been learning.

It is not an abstract, impersonal thing, evil is not some kind of floating force, it is not just the reality of negativity in the universe, it is a personal devil. And 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the lap of the evil one.”

Now, in the battles in those days, there were ways in which you attacked those men who had shields. They made arrows, arrows that would have a metal tip. And they would put around those metal tips (or behind those metal tips) pitch, a kind of tar. Just before shooting them, they would light the tar, which is high in oil content, and they would become flaming arrows. You’ve seen pictures of that, images of that. And they would fire those arrows.

Shields, at the same time, were often covered in leather, and the leather would be thick, and sometimes the leather would be saturated with a kind of oil that would extinguish the fiery arrow. A soldier without a shield in the front lines would be powerless to protect himself. Even if he was able to keep something from hitting him in a vital area, if he got hit by a fiery arrow, it would set his clothes on fire and he would be a torch in no time. So the shield was very important as that front-line protection.

I believe that these fiery darts that this is depicting are symbols of seducing temptation, shafts of impurity, of lustfulness, of greed, of vanity, of materialism, of pride, of anger, of impatience, of covetousness – all these things. And they come at us in this world system, and they come at us all the time. We’re never to be content with anything. We’re to lust after everything we don’t have, whether it’s a material thing or another person, we’re never to be satisfied.

See, the heart of all sin is dissatisfaction. Not only dissatisfaction with what you have but dissatisfaction with what God says you should have or gives you. That’s what was going on the garden, wasn’t it? When Satan came to Eve, what did he say? Well, the implication of what he said is, “Guess what, Eve, God is not who you think He is. You think God is so wonderful and so good, but the truth of the matter is there’s that tree over there (tree of the knowledge of good and evil), which has beautiful fruit, good to eat, and He told you no.

“There’s something wrong with God. I’m the good guy, I’m telling you it’s beautiful to eat, it’s a delight to eat, you ought to have a right to eat it. And the fact that God doesn’t allow you to eat that tells you there’s a flaw in God because He’s withholding something beautiful and something good.”

I read a letter on my desk this morning from a young man who used to go to our church who is now, after 47 years of singleness, decided to jump into homosexuality. And he has become the partner of a minister, a homosexual minister. In fact, at the end of his letter, he signed his name and the sign of a fish with a rainbow in it. Just really revolting to me because I care about him, and Patricia and I know his mother so very, very well. But his letter said basically this: “For all these years, I have been cheated. I now am free to enjoy the best of life and this, I think, is what God had for me all along.”

Well, there is a god who does have that for you, it’s the god of this world. And his conclusion is that the restraints that were on him in the past were unacceptable. He doesn’t want anything to do with a God who puts those kinds of restraints on. Well, that’s what Satan was doing with Eve. “Come on, what kind of god is going to restrict you from what’s beautiful and good?” Those are the fiery darts. And what extinguishes them? I’ll tell you what – faith. What does that mean? Believing that God does have the best for you, right? That’s the faith.

So when you sin, who do you believe? Satan. “But you deserve this, you have a right to this, you should enjoy this, you should do this. You don’t need to be restrained. You don’t need to be limited. Jump in.” That’s the fiery dart. And you have the remaining sin, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, and the system comes at that with a viciousness, and you either say, “You know, you’re right, Satan” or you say, “I’m going to trust God that His commandments are best, that His commandments are true, that His commandments produce the greatest fulfillment, the greatest satisfaction, and the greatest joy.”

It comes down to that, folk. If you sin, you believe the lie. When you do what is right, you believe God. When you look, for example, at the temptation of Christ, you can see that. Because Satan comes to Christ, you remember, let me close with this, Matthew 4, because this is such a good illustration of it. Satan comes to Christ. Tempter comes to Him, He hasn’t eaten in 40 days and 40 nights, He’s hungry, He’s been led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of letting the devil after Him. Why? Because God wants Him to pass the test and vindicate His holiness.

Tempter comes in verse 3, says, “If you’re the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” Do you understand that temptation? “What kind of a deal is this? You are the Son of God, you’re hungry. That’s ridiculous. What is your Father doing to you? You are the perfect, sinless, holy, beloved Son of God, you should never want for anything. You should never lack for anything, and God is somehow warped if He withholds anything from you.” That’s the temptation. Distrust God. “I am for you,” Satan is saying. “I don’t want you to be hungry, I want you to have what you deserve, you’re the Son of God, make some bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” And He says, in a sense, “I will not distrust God. I feed not on bread to satisfy me, but on the Word of God.” The devil takes Him into the holy city, Jerusalem, has Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, probably the southeast corner, which had about a 400-foot drop or three-hundred-and-some-odd feet.

Said to Him, “If you’re the Son of God, throw yourself down. What is this? You’re the Son of God, and nobody knows it. You’re the Son of God, and you’re out in the wilderness, and you’re hungry, and nobody knows you’re the Son of God. What in the world are you doing? Why don’t you just do a dive off this precipice, come down to a soft landing, and ‘Oh,’ everybody will believe in you.” In other words, claim what you have a right to. Claim what you think satisfies you. Claim what you want.

If you’re – verse 6 – the Son of God, throw yourself down. Doesn’t the Old Testament say He’ll give His angels charge concerning you and on their hands they’ll bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone? Believe me, Satan can quote Scripture with the best of them. Jesus said, “On the other hand, it’s written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” I’m not going to do something that God has not willed for me to do and thus test Him. I’m going to trust God. He’ll feed me when it’s time to feed me, and He’ll proclaim my Messiahship when it’s time.”

Then the devil took Him to a high mountain. Starts with a simple thing, food. Gives Him a little bigger thing, convince the Jews that you’re the Messiah. To the whole world, takes Him to a high mountain, shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. This tells you who’s in charge of the world system. He says, “All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me.” Did He have a right to them? Did Jesus have a right to all the kingdoms of the world? Of course He did – of course He did.

Satan is saying the same thing. “What kind of a God have you got? Something’s wrong with God, He’s flawed. You’re hungry and you’re His Son. You’re His Messiah and nobody knows it and nobody believes it. You’re supposed to be the King of the world, look at you. You have nothing. I’ll give it all to you, just fall down and worship me.” Now, that’s exactly what you do when you sin. You decide “Satan will be my god for this experience, Satan will be my god for this moment. I’m believing him and not God.”

But that wasn’t Jesus’ response. He said, “Be gone, Satan, for it’s written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” And the devil left Him and the angels came and ministered to Him.

So, you know, whenever Satan comes at us in the world system and panders to our fallenness, it is to make us believe him instead of believing God, that our real satisfaction, our real happiness, our real fun, our real fulfillment is going to be found in the things he tells us to do rather than the things that God tells us to do, and when you sin, you believe Satan, and when you don’t, you believe God. That’s why the shield that protects you from temptation is faith, faith in God.

Well, I’m going to leave it there because I do want to say a few more things, but that’s the way I always feel. And I will say a few more things next time about this, and then we’ll look into the helmet and we’ll probably have one whole session just on the sword of the Spirit, okay? All right, let’s pray.

It’s been a wonderful day for us, Father. We have thoroughly been blessed to be with those of like precious faith. We’ve been so encouraged in the worship, in the fellowship, and the instruction that comes out of Holy Scripture. We thank you, Lord, for the clarity with which your Word speaks to us. It’s such a blessing and a benediction. We know exactly what you’re saying and we thank you for it. And may we live it to your great glory and our own good. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-366

VIDEO The Armor of God: The Belt of Truthfulness and the Breastplate of Righteousness

By John McArthur Nov 9, 2008

Let’s open the Word of God, then, to the sixth chapter of Ephesians in our series on the believer’s armor, and let me read the text for you so that you have in mind the sweep of thought that Paul gives us in this matter. Starting in verse 10, Ephesians 6:10. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil; 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. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything to stand firm.

“Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to distinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, with all prayer and petition. Pray at all times in the Spirit; and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

Clearly, a simple reading of that text lets us know that we are engaged in a serious battle. The whole world is a battleground between God and Satan, good angels and fallen angels, holy men and unholy men. For us, as Christians, while all is well in an eternal sense, as long as we remain in this world, we are engaged in a very serious battle, a warfare. It is in some ways a life-and-death struggle, a struggle with the unseen hordes of wickedness behind the visible evil in the world, and these are demonic forces that control the minds of men and the cultures of the world to activate the purposes of their leader, who is none other than Satan himself.

We, then, contend (as Paul says) not with flesh and blood, our enemy is much more formidable than just human. We contend with spiritual beings, demons, who are behind all that is bad and all that is against God in the thinking of our world. Consequently, every child of God must also view himself or herself as a soldier. We have all been called to battle. We have all been drafted by the King of kings – and we cannot dodge the draft and there are no deferments. We battle with enemies we can’t see, enemies we can’t touch, enemies we can’t outwit. We need protection and we need strength and we need wisdom beyond ourselves.

You can take all that is ours in Christ, all that is listed for us in chapter 1, all the blessings that are ours in the heavenlies in Christ, which are delineated in the first three chapters, we can talk about the wonderful gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have also been given the revelation of God in the Word of God, and still with all the blessings, with the presence of the Holy Spirit and with the resource that the Word of God is, we still cannot stand in our own strength. In fact, we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 10 that whoever thinks he stands should take heed lest he fall.

We have to recognize that as Christians we live in a very dangerous place; namely, this world. There is danger all around us, and it is masked with all kinds of deception. Now, we’re not saying that we’re so vulnerable that we can lose our salvation, we can lose our promised eternal life. But we certainly can lose the battle for usefulness, the opportunity for joy and blessedness, if we don’t learn how to fight effectively.

Just a reminder along that line. In John 10:29, Jesus said this, that anybody who belongs to Him, no one can snatch them out of His hand. Snatch is harpazein. We cannot be snatched away from the hand of God or the hand of Christ. Satan cannot overpower God and yet we can fall into sin that renders us useless, joyless, and brings us under divine discipline. We will not lose the war but we can lose battles along the way and live in the doldrums of defeat. That is why we are told in verse 11 to put on the full armor of God in order that we might be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

We want victory, we want blessing, we want usefulness, we want joy, we want the freedom of the fullness of Christian fellowship and worship that a life armed against Satan will produce.

Now, just a little bit more by way of introduction, taking you a little deeper into verse 12 for a moment. We’re reminded there that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, simply not against humans, but against – and then notice the rulers, the powers, the world forces of this darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies. These are all statements that identify for us a hierarchy, and this hierarchy is frankly not new to us because clearly there is a hierarchy among angels even before the fall of Satan and his demons.

The way God organized the angels and the way He created the angels was not like they were all rubberstamped and identical to each other, that is a misconception. All angels are not equal. There are angels and then there are different kinds of angels. There are cherubim and there are seraphim. There are angels and there are archangels and that would be those who are above the regular angels. And then there are super angels or super archangels who even have names, like Michael and Gabriel and Lucifer.

So there is a structure, there is a hierarchy, when God creates the angels and God dispatches His will to the archangels who disseminate that will to the angels who carry it out so that when Satan fell and took a third of the angels with him, according to Revelation chapter 12, a third of them, they fell with the same variation of abilities and powers that were in the original creation only now in a fallen condition, but still there is order among the demons. There is hierarchy among the demons.

And the angel over all of them (who is not by nature different than them but more powerful than them) is Satan himself. He, too, is an angel like all other angels. He is a fallen angel like all other fallen angels. He is a demon like all other demons, only he was not created like them all, he was created to be above them all with superior powers. So in battling against the demon world, we are not battling, you might say, a sort of random operation by a whole lot of equally empowered and equally gifted angels who were sort of independently doing whatever they do.

We are warring against a very sophisticated hierarchy that operates in some degree from the top down, although because angels are fallen, they are by nature in a fallen condition and a fallen condition would be a condition of pride and rebellion and, therefore, it must be very difficult for Satan to coordinate all the work. Holy angels (in the hierarchy in the structure in which they operate) operate perfectly in a holy manner. Fallen angels operate imperfectly because being imperfect themselves, they are by nature rebellious and wicked and resist the very structure of their own system.

But nonetheless it is sophisticated, and Satan does get what he wants done as the architect of schemes through the hierarchy of these archangels and angels, sometimes called principalities and powers and rulers. They are placed in a strategic location. Sometimes Satan places certain of these very powerful demons in positions behind governments, such as Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, Daniel 9 and 10. You see these hierarchical powers, these elevated kinds of demons with powers above the rest of the demons put in very strategic positions to effect the purposes of Satan through certain nations, always at the end to work against the purposes of God.

They are also identified by the word “darkness” which would be parallel to the word “wickedness.” Darkness represents the character of this domain. Remember Colossians 1, “We have been delivered out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Darkness describes a couple of things: ignorance and immorality. In the Bible, you’ll find darkness used as a metaphor for ignorance and you will find it used as a metaphor for wickedness. So the kingdom of darkness is both ignorant and wicked.

Spiritual wickedness in high places, in heavenly places, is how verse 12 ends, high places meaning the spiritual dimension, above and beyond us, outside the dimensions of our world. So we need to be aware of the fact that we are dealing with a very, very powerful spiritual system run (or at least attempted to be run) by the most powerful of all fallen angels, Lucifer himself, who was formerly the son of the morning, the anointed cherub. You might have called him the worship leader of heaven. We should not think that we can resist this kind of power in our own flesh.

Pitted against the powers of darkness in high places, in heavenly places, pitted against this hierarchy of wicked demons who ply their trade by crafting a world culture that is anti-God, it is not always blatantly anti-God, it may be religiously anti-God. It may be, if I can coin a word, Christianly anti-God. It may talk about Jesus and it may talk about the Bible in a positive way, but it is still anti-God. Or it may damn Jesus and damn the Bible and it is still the same system. Satan is crafty – the Bible refers to the wiles of the devil, it refers to the schemes of the devil as we have read in verse 11 here in Ephesians 6.

It strikes me as beyond comprehension in one sense that understanding this, the church can act as if this does not even exist. There is a certain frivolity in the church. There is a certain superficiality in the church. There’s a certain silliness in the church. Pastors are turned in to standup comics more times than I would like to think. This must be approached with a great deal of seriousness. This is a grim power. And in order for us to deal with it, verse 13 gets us into the discussion that we’re going to look at in the armor. We have to take up the full armor of God.

Now, we already said that in verse 11, “Put on the full armor of God.” Like the soldier who got up every morning and put it on to go to battle, you get up every morning to put it on again. You take it up, you take it up, you take it up, you keep taking it up because it is the only way that you will be able to resist in the evil day. What is the evil day? The day that evil dominates the world. What day is that? This day, and this day lasts until Christ takes over the world, until the millennial kingdom. We want to be able in this era of dominating satanic evil to be able to – resist is the NAS in the evil day and, having done everything, to stand firm.

The word “resist” is in the NAS. Some translations have the word “stand” there. Either way, in fact, it is the exact same Greek word as used in, for example, James 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It is the exact same verb used in 1 Peter 5:9, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” So here’s the third time that verse is used, to resist Satan. And the only way that we can resist – that is, stop his advances into our lives through the system in which we live, the world system, the ordered evil, wicked kosmos – is to have the armor on.

And if we have the armor on, we will be able to resist in the evil day and we will be able, everything said and done, to stand firm, to be strong. This is what we’re talking about. Obviously, this is serious to the writer. This is serious to the author behind the writer who is none other than the Holy Spirit, and it needs to be taken very seriously to us. It is why we are told, for example, in 1 Corinthians, a very simple command is given in chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians, verse 13, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men” – how do men act? – “be strong.”

Be strong. Do all of it in love, but be strong, be firm, act like men, which – if you borrow that concept and take it back in the Old Testament – would be translated “be courageous.” This is a time to take a stand against a very sophisticated evil system. We have to be strong to be victorious.

We are warned by Peter several times, and Peter is a good one to warn us, isn’t he? Because if I remember right, he lost the battle a lot – a lot. On one night, on three separate occasions – and if you total them up, maybe as many as six times – he lost the battle and denied Jesus Christ. Maybe that’s why he reminds us so very often that we need to stand firm, that we need to resist the onslaught of Satan. Listen to his words in 1 Peter 1:13, “Gird your minds for action. Keep sober in spirit. Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves, also in all your behavior.” Chapter 2 he says, “Putting aside all evil, all guile, all hypocrisy, all envy.” He repeats these injunctions even in his second epistle, warning us in what I think is one that we all would take to heart, 2 Peter 3:17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard, lest being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness.” Boy, he knew that, he lived that. He lived that.

The real reward eternally is earned by those who stand, who resist. The real testimony to the honor of Christ is given by those who stand, who resist. The real usefulness belongs to those who stand and who resist.

When I was a student many years ago, I was part of a small group of men who went out to preach. There were five of us. At least three of them were better preachers than I was, but the three that were better preachers that I was (that I would far rather have listened to than listened to me) didn’t resist and in a terrible moral collapse went out of the ministry, many years ago. Are they Christians? Sure. Are they useful? No.

So Paul is telling us that we have to be on the defense. Okay? That’s the main thrust here. We have to be on the defense. There is, however, an offensive side to it and it is this: The reason we have to be on the defense is because we’re also on the offense. What do I mean by that? I mean if you’re not doing anything, you’re not going to have a big battle on your hands, if you live every day for yourself. But if you are engaged in assaulting the kingdom of darkness, you’re going to have to go on defense because you’re essentially on offense. And the more effective your offense, the more necessary your defense.

Paul understood that he was invading the territory which is the devil’s. He was snatching brands out of the burning, to borrow the words of Jude. He made these incursions every single day of his life into hostile enemy territory which, of course, made his enemy furious and his enemy ramped up the opposition. Why did he do this? Why did the apostle Paul go on offense and, therefore, have to resist? Because he cared about the souls of those who were captive to Satan.

He understood what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 10 about storming fortresses to rescue the prisoners, smashing fortresses which he describes as ideologies, any idea raised up against the knowledge of God, any ungodly idea, any untrue idea, any satanic idea, whether it’s a religious idea or an irreligious idea. Paul is storming the fortresses, the ideological fortresses that hold people prisoner for the sake of freeing them (as he puts it in 2 Corinthians 10) and leading everyone captive to Christ. Paul wanted them for God, yearned for them to be rescued out of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

So while the armor is defensive so that we can stand and resist, the battle is formidable because we are on the offense. I would dare say if you’re doing absolutely nothing, you might be scratching your head, saying, “What is he talking about?” But if you’re at all engaged in the battle, you understand what it means to have to stand against the onslaught that comes as you make the incursions into the darkness.

Well, having said that, we get a little bit of an idea what we’re talking about in general, but let’s go to the specifics and look at the first element in the armor. Verse 14 again begins the way verse 13 ended, reiterating that this is about standing firm and not being left in the dust. To borrow the language, I might add here as a footnote, of 1 Corinthians 9, what was Paul’s great fear? That in preaching to others – verse 27 – I myself might be adokimos. My great fear is that in preaching to others, I might become disqualified by some sin. And so he says I beat my body to bring it into subjection so that in preaching to others, I’m not disqualified. So stand firm, having girded your loins with truth.

The devil is a liar from the beginning. His whole system is a system of lies. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie or a half-truth and, therefore, we would understand that the first line of defense is the truth. Let me dig a little deeper into this. It’s very likely that Paul was familiar – very familiar – with the Roman soldier. They were everywhere. They were everywhere in Israel when he was there. They were everywhere in his hometown when he was there, Tarsus. The Romans dominated the world at that time, that world.

They were everywhere that Paul traveled, and he would see Roman soldiers all the time. And he would take note of how they were dressed. And the first thing that you would notice about a Roman soldier when he prepared for battle is that he put on a belt or a sash. The idea was this: A Roman soldier wore a tunic. A tunic was a dress for men, basically. Had two holes for arms and a hole for the head. You put it on and it went down around your knees. If you were going to go to battle, you would pull your tunic together with a sash. Typically, they wore an undergarment, so they would pull up the corners of the tunic, the long hem of the tunic, and tuck it into the sash, pull it as tight as they could.

Now remember, you’re going into hand-to-hand combat. You don’t want your dress blowing around in the breeze – somebody grabs it, pulls it over your head, “Ya-ha,” and it’s over. You can’t get into hand-to-hand mortal combat with your dress blowing around, catching the bushes, getting in the way of – my sword out of this thing – not going to work. They need to run fast. They need to move with alacrity, dexterity, speed, had to pull in all the loose ends or they would be an easy mark for the enemy. This speaks of preparedness. This speaks of readiness. This speaks of alertness.

A soldier needed a sash. Might be made of leather on some occasions or some kind of material to pull everything together, pull up the robe if it was at all long, tuck it in so that he could move with speed and no one would get an advantage of him. Also, that sash would be a place to which he might attach his weapons, supporting a sword or a bow, some arrows. That sash would also have some identification marks on it, maybe indicating what battles he had fought, what battles he had won, whether or not he had been awarded a decoration of honor for his heroism.

So it became, really, the emblem of battle. When you put your sash on, you were going to battle. It marked you for battle. It’s where your weapons were, it’s where your medals were. More importantly, it’s where you declared that you were pulling in all your loose ends because you were headed for mortal combat. It’s a fitting combination of things because that’s exactly what the apostle Paul wants us to understand, that you’re never going to win the spiritual battle unless you really get ready for it. This is preparedness. This is what I read you earlier, 1 Peter 1:13 and 14, gird up your loins, pull in all the loose ends of your life.

Now, the identification of this is it is the belt of truth, or alētheia. You could say that’s content and you would be true, you would be right. Alētheia can refer to truth, and surely that’s an important element of it. We need to be committed to the truth. But it’s more than just the content because later on, there’s another piece of armor called the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. So we’re not so much talking about the fact that we go to war wielding the Word of God here as we are talking about alētheia – not as truth, content, but as truthfulness, attitude.

In other words, it is that we are seriously committed to the battle. Because we believe the truth, because we love the truth, we go to war for the truth. We pull in all the loose ends. This is sincerity, if you will, truthfulness, integrity, true dedication. It is not so much content as it is commitment. Attitude is the real issue here. We have a heart for the battle. We’re not out there unprepared. We’ve got all the loose ends pulled together. We’ve put on the sash that holds our weapons and marks us as soldiers. We have a heart for battle.

We’ve counted the cost. Like Jesus said, you don’t go to war unless you count the cost. The true Christian loves the truth and is ready to fight for the truth. We will earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We’ll go to battle for the truth, but we’ll go to battle truly for our own spiritual protection. We’re not talking so much – remember now – about advancing the gospel here as we are about defending ourselves against Satan. And you will never, my friend, you will never win the spiritual battles that come day by day against your formidable enemy unless you are seriously committed to that victory.

If you’re just going to flop your way through your Christian experience, you will be a consistent loser. If you’re content with all the loose ends of your life, all the little sins, if you’re content with your infrequent interest in prayer, your infrequent interest in worship, your indifference toward great spiritual truth, if you’re content with your small understanding of the greatness of God, if you’re content with the sins in your life, you are an encumbered soldier, ill prepared for the battle – get ready to be defeated.

To borrow the language of Hebrews 12 (another metaphor altogether), if you’re going to run the race, you have to lay aside the weights that encumber you. You don’t see somebody going to run the hundred-meter sprint with an overcoat. You get rid of what encumbers you. That’s exactly what the apostle Paul is saying. He’s looking for that sincere kind of commitment.

Sinecerae is a Latin term, without wax – that’s what it means, without wax. Where does that come from? When they made pots in those days – they would bake a pot – sometimes when you bake a pot, it cracks. A pot cracked couldn’t be sold, but unscrupulous people would take wax and they would fill the crack, cover the crack, paint over the wax, sell the pot. The first time somebody put it on the stove, put something in it, the wax melted and everything ran out the crack. But somebody who is sincere has no covered cracks. They don’t melt and become useless when the heat is on.

And, of course, Jesus is a perfect model of this, and Paul follows His example. And Paul is such a great model of going to battle in a mode of a soldier ready to resist whatever comes his way. He says to the Corinthians this: “My conscience is clear,” 2 Corinthians 1:12. “I know that in godly sincerity and spiritual integrity, I’ve lived before you.” That’s so important. He says, “I have renounced a hidden life of shame.” Same book, fourth chapter.

How badly do you want to win? That’s the question. I’m convinced, actually, that most Christians lose the spiritual battles as they go through life because they really don’t care that much about winning them. Doesn’t matter to them that much.

When I think about this, even many, many years ago – and I’ve rehearsed it a number of times through the years, I remember when I was running in a track meet. When I was a university student, I basically was a football player and other things, baseball and anything I could like that, I enjoyed. But I had enough speed, they put me on the track team. And one time we were running in what was called the Orange County Invitational Relays. Thirty-five universities were there, and I was set to run the hundred and the two-hundred in those days, a hundred and 220, and do a couple of the jump events and then run in the four-by-four-hundred relay.

And I had one of the great experiences of my life. I ran second man because first man gets the lead, second man can lose it, and you have two to make it up. So they put the weakest guy in the second place. I was a baseball player dragged out to the track meet. But I will never forget a teammate. I ran the best leg. The first guy had the lead, we came in, we’re running against eight different universities in the finals. Came in with the lead, perfect baton pass, I kept the lead, came back, passed it to my friend. We had a good chance to win that last event of the day. All he had to do was stay close to the front and we had a blur for an anchor and we’d win.

He went halfway around the track, running his leg. First two of us had run or best legs, our anchor was waiting. Halfway around the track, he stopped, walked off, sat on the grass. I’ll never forget it. In fact, I saw him a few years ago and I just got angry looking at him, you know – had to ask for forgiveness. I remembered that moment and it was just beyond belief. And I ran across the grass, I thought he might have spiked himself or pulled a hamstring or something. And I’ll never forget, I said to him, “Ted, what happened?” He said, “I don’t know. Just didn’t feel like running.” Really?

I had strong impulses at that moment which I greatly resisted. I think there are a lot of people like that. Oh, by the way, I found out later that he was in a broad jump event and crow-hopped on every jump – it was a bad day all the way – which means he disqualified himself on every jump because he went too far into the bar.

For some people, life is just like that. “Aw, just didn’t feel like running.” If you’re indifferent about the spiritual battle, believe me, you’re going to lose it. And you’re going to live in the doldrums, and you’re going to waste the opportunity for an eternal reward for usefulness, for joy and blessedness. When a believer is committed to being a soldier, to borrow the words of Paul – wonderful words, you will remember them – 2 Timothy chapter 2. Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. See your whole life as a soldier. You know, when you go into the military you don’t come and say, “Look, we want you to come and be a soldier for the United States Army. Could you work it into your week? You know, if you could, we’d like you to be here every day for a while.” Are you kidding me? “And by the way, when you come, we’d like you to wear the uniform we give you. Would that be okay?” Are you kidding?

When you go into the military, they own you twenty-four hours a day for the duration of your involvement. You are a soldier and you are nothing but a soldier. That’s all you are and you are nothing more and you are nothing less. And that’s how it is in this spiritual struggle. You strap it on, you gird it up, you pull it together. You go to battle because that’s who you are. You are a soldier and you are engaged in a war. Committed to obedience, committed to fight the enemy in the power of Christ. Commitment at any cost.

Let me talk about a second piece of armor here, and that would be in verse 14 as well. “And having put on the breastplate of righteousness” – the breastplate of righteousness. Dedication is important. Dedication is essential, commitment is vital, it is necessary, but it has to be backed up by the breastplate of righteousness. It would be nice if you were a Roman soldier and you got your belt on and you pulled all the corners up and you got your mini-tunic going, and there’s no loose ends, you’re serious, you’re committed, but you just can’t run into battle unless you put one other thing on for sure and that’s the breastplate.

It’s hard to distinguish relative importance of these various pieces of armor, so I don’t even want to do that. We may be seeing them simply in the order that a soldier would put them on, but maybe that’s not even necessarily true because it would be hard if you already had your breastplate on to put your sandals on. So it would seem to me that probably your sandals went on after you got your tunic organized or even maybe before. So we’re not looking at priorities or sequences, these are all essentially and equally necessary.

But there’s something about the breastplate of righteousness that is really, really important because the breastplate covers the most vulnerable part of the soldier’s body. Sometimes a Roman soldier had a breastplate made of very heavy linen to which were attached overlapping pieces, sometimes of iron and sometimes of shell or horn, but more often it was apparently made of metal, sometimes woven chain metal, which would be very, very heavy.

Sometimes the woven chain metal was linked together with rings of metal and sometimes it was a thin pounded plate of metal. And we’ve seen that, haven’t we? We really don’t know what kind of man is behind that big molded-metal Roman breastplate. No Roman soldier would have thought of going into battle without his vital organs protected. You can take a shot in the thigh, you can take a shot in the arm, you can take a shot in the shoulder, but you get one here and that’s serious. Protects your vital organs.

And what is the breastplate? Righteousness. That’s what protects us from the arrows and the spears and the swords and the crushing blows of the hammers that were wielded in battle. We’re protected by righteousness in our vital areas.

What are we talking about here? What kind of righteousness are we talking about? Well, what kind of righteousness is there? There’s only one kind of righteousness because righteousness is righteousness. And the only righteousness that will protect us is true righteousness, and the only true righteousness belongs to Christ. So are we talking, then, about imputed righteousness? Are we talking about that righteousness which is imputed to us by faith in Christ that Paul talks about, for example, in Philippians 3 when he says he found a righteousness not his own but that righteousness of God which is given to him through faith in Christ?

Are we talking about that forensic righteousness statement by God that declares us just and righteous before God? Is that what we’re talking about? Are we talking about, again, imputed righteousness that covers all our righteousness which is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)? I don’t think so. I don’t think so; otherwise, we wouldn’t have to put it on, right? Because we’d already have it on. We have imputed righteousness already. We have a righteousness granted us by God that makes us blameless beyond condemnation, that righteousness is Christ’s. It becomes ours by faith and grace. It is a gift from God.

I love that Count Zinzendorf – the Moravian hymn (translated by Wesley, by the way), “Jesus, thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress, midst flaming worlds in these arrayed with joy shall I lift up my head.” And then he wrote, “Bold shall I stand in thy great day for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully through thee absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame. O let the dead now hear thy voice, now bid thy vanished ones rejoice. Their beauty this, their glorious dress, Jesus, thy blood and righteousness.”

Yes, we have that. We have that imputed righteousness credited to our account. That’s not what he’s talking about. You don’t put that on, God put that on you when you were saved. But theologians used to talk about imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness. Imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness. Yes, we are covered by declaration of God with a righteousness that is not our own but belongs to Christ. But we also are commanded to demonstrate righteous behavior.

Philippians 2, verse 12, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

So now God has given you an imparted righteousness, and with that imparted righteousness at salvation He has also given you the Spirit of God, He has given you new life in regeneration, and now you are both capable and responsible to work out the righteousness that has been given to you. Regeneration, new birth, salvation, conversion makes possible, makes real, the impartation of a practical righteousness in the matter of day-to-day living. That’s what he’s talking about.

He’s saying if you expect to go into the battle, you have to be ready, you have to be committed, you have to be dedicated and devoted and understanding that you’re a soldier, get the loose ends pulled together, but don’t go there unless you are living in obedience to God. That’s the bottom line. Holy living is the breastplate of righteousness. If there’s a weakness in your armor – used to talk about a chink in your armor, sins, acts of disobedience, wrong attitudes.

If there are sins unconfessed, unrepented, you’re vulnerable. If you’re courting sins in your life and you get aggressive and you go into the spiritual fray and you go on the offense to rescue souls from the kingdom of darkness and you’ve got some issues in your life that are undealt with, believe me, you are going without a breastplate of righteousness. That’s what happened to my friends.

I had a friend in high school, he was the youth leader in his church. We played football together and we worked together. And his first year in college – I knew him well. His first year in college he collapsed morally because there were issues that I could see in his life as a high school student that weren’t being dealt with. I went away to college. I had a friend, my dad had a friend, they were pastor buddies, his son and I became friends, we ran tandem in the same backfield in football.

We were in that kind of mortal combat together, and you get to know somebody pretty well. He said he wanted to be a pastor. He was a youth pastor in those days and so was I, and we used to compare notes and talk about what we were teaching. And I went off to seminary. He went off to university, got a Ph.D., basically fell into horrendous iniquity, disappeared. I don’t even know where he is. I went to seminary. I was a friend with the son of the dean of the seminary who fell into iniquity and was lost to the advancement of the kingdom.

You can say, “I want to go into the ministry,” but if you want to invade the kingdom of darkness and get aggressive, you’d better make sure you are protected or you are really vulnerable. It’s not sufficient just to be aggressive, it’s not sufficient just to be committed, you need to make sure that you are following this very clear and simple instruction.

It is not hard to miss what Paul means in 2 Corinthians chapter 7. Listen to his words. Verse 1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” It’s important for us – in the prior passage, by the way, he talked about not having unholy alliances, not being unequally yoked.

When Satan sees sin, he moves into that crack. You become vulnerable as the world system appeals to that crack in your armor. And the smallest crack can be exploited in a very fatal way. Put on the armor. It starts with commitment and it demands righteousness.

I want to close by reading you Romans 13:11 because here is another way to say what I just said. Romans 13:11, “And this do knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” He’s saying, “Look, we’re closer to the end than we’ve ever been. They were and we are. It’s time to wake up, it’s time to put your belt on and go to battle. The night is almost gone. The day is at hand. Let us, therefore, lay aside the deeds of darkness, put on the armor of light.

The armor of light, putting aside the deeds of darkness, is another way to describe the breastplate of righteousness. What does it mean? Behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. And when I say put on the armor of light or when I say put on the breastplate of righteousness, what I mean is – verse 14 – put on whom? The Lord Jesus Christ. Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

You may have the commitment, you may have the eagerness, you may even say, “I want to go to seminary, I want to train, I want to serve the Lord,” but the breastplate has to be on. And it’s amazing how hard it is to keep it hooked. It falls off so easily. We go through life picking up the breastplate and trying to get it on before the next attack. Put it on, put it on. It is the armor of light against the darkness. Essentially, what it means is put on the Lord Jesus Christ in that He is the example of perfect righteousness.

Next time, we’ll talk about how your feet are prepared.

Our Father, we know that the battle is great. We have lived long enough to see casualties everywhere. Some known, some unknown. We know there are lots of people, too, who never even try to advance into the kingdom of darkness and are asleep in indifference. Awaken them. The night has almost passed, the day is near. It’s time to awaken from sleep and put on the armor of light, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and get into the battle for souls. Go on the offense and be prepared to defend yourself against the enemy.

Lord, we thank you for the faithful. We thank you that this church is filled with the faithful who are committed to the battle and to the breastplate of righteousness. Lord, we don’t live in fear, we live in obedience, and obedience is our joy. We heard it again tonight in the testimonies of baptism. These folks who love to obey, who from the heart desire to obey. It’s not an alien desire for us, it’s the most normal thing for a believer with a new nature, recreated and regenerated, to long to obey.

It’s a joyous obedience. It’s a loving obedience that we render. It’s not grievous. But it’s important that we be reminded of the protection that our obedience provides so that we might be useful, so that we might be joyful, so that we might be blessed and be a blessing, so that we might penetrate the kingdom of darkness, assaulting the fortresses where people are captive and leading them out and bringing them as captives to Christ, and that we might enjoy the blessings and the rewards of that in your presence forever.

Help us, Lord, to be faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ. We pray in His name. Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-365