The Armor of God: Your Defense Against Satan
When a pastor looks out over his congregation, he should see not only sheep who follow their shepherd but also soldiers who follow their captain. The devil, though, wants the preacher to see his people merely through his physical eyes. He wants the preacher to see what he know so well: a congregation of sinners, a church full of problems, people who are prone to grumble and murmur as in the wilderness, people who lack confidence in God against the devil. But as we turn again to Ephesians 6, Paul wants the pastor to see by faith what God sees in his people. And he wants you, the people, to see yourselves for what you truly are: soldiers who have been enlisted in Christ’s army.
Ephesians 6 exhorts us on our duty of dealing with the devil by “fight[ing] against sin and the devil in this life” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 32). Ephesians 6 is the field manual for this war. In verses 14–17 especially, Paul begins to speak of the armor of God that the army of God are to wear. Here he first speaks of our defensive armor piece by piece: the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield, and the helmet. Here is your defense against the devil.
Paul calls us to stand and fight “having fastened on the belt of truth” (v. 14). What seems to us an insignificant piece of clothing was for the Roman legionnaire what held everything in place: his undergarments, his breastplate, and his leg armor. So it is with our belt, which is truth. What is the truth? As our Lord Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
We are to know the truth of the days we live in. They are “evil” (v. 14). Paul says in Galatians 1:4 that we live in a present evil age and in Romans 13:12 that these days are darkened by sin.
We are to know the truth of the devil: he is our enemy. No matter how alluring and appealing he and his schemes may look to us, we have to remember that he often disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
We are to know the truth about ourselves. We were once dead in sin, children of wrath, separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:1–3, 12). Yet through the work of the Spirit we have been made alive and have been given hope in Christ.
We are to know the deep truths about God, who in his great love has made us alive, who in his love predestined us to adoption (Eph. 1:3–5).
We are to know the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the one who has redeemed us by his blood (Eph. 1:7).
Brothers and sisters, the great concern for you in this spiritual warfare is to be saturated with the truth of God’s Word to hold everything you are have in the fight against Satan together.
Paul goes on to call us to stand and fight Satan “having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14). The breastplate was another key piece of Roman armor because it protected the legionnaire’s vital organs. In a similar way our spiritual breastplate protects our souls.
So, what is the breastplate? As we read the New Testament we learn that the breastplate stands for two things. First, it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us through faith alone. All that he accomplished for us is ours. He who was sinless became sin for us on the cross so that by faith we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). Second, it is the righteousness of the Holy Spirit imparted to us that we might be more and more holy. Every day we are “being transformed into the same image [of Jesus Christ] from one degree of glory to another” and “this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Again Paul calls us to stand and fight the devil “having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace . . . as shoes for your feet” (v. 15). The shoes Roman soldiers wore had nails or spikes on the bottom to gave them an advantage against their enemies. So it is with the gospel that is like a pair of spiritual cleats. It’s the gospel or good news that Jesus Christ saves sinners like us that gives us stability and traction amid all the shifting sands beneath us in the world.
How does the gospel give us such traction against the devil? By its great effect in our relationship with God: peace. “Having been justified by faith we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).
The apostle then calls us to stand and fight by “tak[ing] up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (v. 16). The shield, of course, was the chief defensive weapon of the Roman soldier. Here Paul says faith is our shield and that it protects us from the devil’s fiery darts.
The devil is like an enemy archer constantly shooting his arrows at us. He wants to wound our faith, he wants to wound our families, he wants to wound our marriages, he wants to wound our consciences, and everything else about us. Hold your shield up high!
Finally, Paul calls us to stand and fight by “tak[ing] the helmet of salvation” (v. 17). Obviously, the helmet protected the head while our spiritual helmet protects our minds. We must be meditating upon our salvation constantly. Meditate on the sin you have been redeemed from. Meditate on the love of God that moved him to save you. Meditate upon God’s provision in Christ to save. Meditate upon the work of the Holy Spirit to apply that salvation.
Christian, you are named after your Captain Jesus Christ. No matter what your enemy throws at you, stand firm in your strong defense. What’s really amazing about Paul’s description here is that in the Old Testament the coming Messiah was described as wearing each and every piece of armor that you are called to wear. He wore a belt of truth (Isa. 11:5), he wore a breastplate of righteousness (Isa. 59:17), he wore shoes of the gospel (Isa. 52:7), he wore a helmet of salvation (Isa. 59:17), and what is more, the shield in the Old Testament was God himself (Gen. 15; Deut. 33:29; Ps. 3:3). What does this mean? Your defense is Jesus Christ. Apply him. Embrace him. Cling to him in the battle at hand against the serpent, and crush his head! “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde is the pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church in Carlsbad/Oceanside, CA.