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The Armor of God

September 4, 2006

Next weekend I’m preaching at a retreat for a campus ministry at Cornell University.  I’m preaching four sermons on the Armor of God from Ephesians 6.  So for the next four days I’ll post excerpts from each of these messages.  Here’s the first one:

I want to recommend a book to you that I found very helpful in studying this passage.  It’s called The Embattled Christian by Bryan Zacharias who studied the Puritan view of spiritual warfare under the supervision of J.I. Packer.  You can get this inexpensive little paperback from Banner of Truth.  In it he says that for the Puritans, demonology was a subset of sanctification.   That’s a great sentence, “demonology is a subset of sanctification” We need to unpack that and see what it means.  It means that the Puritans had little interest in studying Satan and demons as an end in itself, to satisfy some curiosity.  The only reason why demons should be worthy of any more of our attention than centipedes is that when we are pursuing holiness (sanctification) they oppose us.  So as a subset of the doctrine of sanctification, as a subset of the teaching that we are to become Christlike and holy, we must become aware of the schemes of Satan against our sanctification.  Otherwise, we would be completely uninterested in the devil.

            Here’s another assumption that undergirds my handling of this chapter.  It’s really just another way of saying that demonology is a subset of sanctification.  The struggle against sin and the struggle against Satan are practically indistinguishable.  Jesus calls unbelievers in John 8 two things: children of the devil and slaves of sin.  They go hand in hand.  People are born into this world children of the devil, which of course doesn’t mean they are literally spawned by Satan, but it simply a way of saying that they bear Satan’s likeness, they bear his image.  Why?  Because they are slaves of sin.  And the reason why Satan is called the god of this world is that the world is full of people who are slaves to sin and so he can lead them around by the nose and use them to tempt God’s people or even persecute God’s people.   Now we who have been united with Christ by faith are no longer slaves of sin.  We no longer are compelled to do the devil’s will, but we still have indwelling sin in our flesh.  We are still habituated to obeying the desires of our sinful flesh, and so Satan can use deception and temptation to influence us to go on in sin, even though we are no longer bound to it.  This means that in order to resist Satan, you don’t need any kind of magical incantation, you need simply to resist sin.  Resisting sin is resisting Satan. 

The armor of God is just an extended metaphor for our being in Christ.  To put on the armor of God is to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.  To put on the armor of God is to meditate on the fact that we are in Christ.  Each part of the armor of God is a different way of considering the fact that we are in Christ and by meditating on our union with Christ, we are strengthened in the Lord to stand against the devil’s schemes.  Now I’ve been saying that to put on the armor of God is the same things as putting on Christ.  In other words, Jesus is the armor of God.  I’ll make three arguments for this, and they get progressively stronger, so if you’re not buying it after the first two, stay with me because the third one is irrefutable.   1) Paul didn’t invent this armor of God imagery.  When he speaks of the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation he is quoting Isaiah 59:17 Now the LORD saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head In Ephesians we are to put on the armor, but in Isaiah it is clearly God in Christ who wears the armor.  How is it that we can be wearing the armor that Christ himself is wearing?  Answer: We are clothed in the armor of God because we are in Christ.  We put on the armor of God by putting on Christ.  

2) Let’s look at the only other place in Ephesians where Paul uses this same verb “to put on” read Ep 4:20-24.  Now to put on the new self means the same thing as to put on Christ because the new self is created to be like God, it is created for Christlikeness, and because in Galatians 3:27 Paul says that all who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  You say, wait a minute have I already put on Christ or am I now supposed to put on Christ? And the answer is yes!  You must become what you already are!  That’s the way Paul reasons over and over again.  Just as he says in Romans 6 that your old self is already crucified in Christ and yet now in Ephesians 4 you must put off the old self, so in Galatians 3:27 you have already put on Christ, and yet here you must put on the new self.  You must become practically what you already are positionally.  You must become on earth what you already are in the heavenly realms.   

3) Now look with me at Romans 13:12-14.  Listen carefully to these verses because it was in reading this text back in February of 2002 that the lights came on for me.

Romans 13:12-14 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Did you see it?  Circle it in your Bible.  verse 12 – Put on the armor of light  = verse 14 – Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.  To put on the armor of God is to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

How do we put it on?

 Many of the commentators suggest that we put on the armor of God by prayer, but I believe this is misleading.  Paul does call us to pray in verse 18, but before this he calls us to put on the armor.  It seems that we need to first put on the armor in order to pray in the Spirit.  And there is a practical danger to trying to put on the armor of God in prayer.  It feeds the mistaken notion that spiritual warfare is pursuing some kind of mystical moment with God where you introspect and discover where you are vulnerable and then say the right kind of magic prayer that appropriates the right piece of armor for this particular attack of Satan.  I find that too subjective.  And besides, Paul doesn’t say that putting on the armor is something you ask God to do for you.  He says you have to put it on. So the practical instruction about putting on the armor of God should be in the way of meditation before prayer.   As in Romans 6 where Paul tells us that we are already dead to sin and alive to God in Christ and then he commands us to consider ourselves, reckon ourselves, think about ourselves that way, as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.  So here in Ephesians we are already in Christ, but putting on the armor of God means thinking about yourself as in Christ, clad in divine armor, blessed with every spiritual blessing, chosen from the foundation of the world, seated in the heavenly realms.  We need to lay hold of these things with our minds.  We need to apprehend and appropriate these great truths. To put on the armor of God is to meditate on the fact that we are in Christ. It’s really just understanding and applying the truth of the gospel.  Each part of the armor of God is a different way of considering the fact that we are in Christ and by meditating on our union with Christ, we are strengthened in the Lord to stand against the devil’s schemes. 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2006 11:17 am

    ok, it’s day two, where’s the next part:) I’m finding that right now in my life I need reminded of this. I think today I’ll re-listen to your sermons from Eph 6 online.

  2. September 5, 2006 1:07 pm

    I like this, particularly after having to reconsider this passage because of the Armor of God PJs… It’s awfully difficult to just appropriate these things, though. How would you suggest doing that- is Scripture meditation any more helpful than prayer on that account?

  3. September 5, 2006 1:48 pm


    your last two comments got flagged as spam. Not sure why. Let me know if your comments do not appear in the future and I’ll check the spam box.

  4. September 5, 2006 1:51 pm


    Yes, I do think that study/meditation is better than prayer when it comes to laying hold of our identity in Christ. By hearing the word with faith we are able to take our stand and then begin to pray as we ought. Ephesians is a great place to seek this.

  5. September 6, 2006 12:00 am

    Amen. Our pastor in NM went through sermon series on Ephesians and Colossians and they changed my life . . . and sometimes I am *so* frustrated by the fact that I need to be reminded of these simple truths so frequently . . . but I do.

    The beginning of my understanding of this resulted in my baptism a couple of years after my initial profession of faith but it really sunk in anew about the time I began to be a stay-at-home mom . . . it is *amazing* how many people assume you must be incapable of tying your own shoes if stay at home (can’t do anything else, dumb as a post) and, particularly as a graduate of a women’s college with an advanced degree in science, some saw me as a ‘sell-out to all women have worked to achieve’. It was so heartening to really grasp mentally and in my heart that all the definitions by which I may be described — wife, mom, chemist, historian, spinner, weaver, baker — those were just interesting little facets, fun adjectives, but pale in comparison to knowing that I am a child of God, adopted by His good grace, and that my identity in Christ is all that *really* matters.

    When I forget that, I become grumbly and dissatisfied with life but when I remember it, it fills me with a wonderful warm glow. The best way for me to remember it is to think about who God is . . . so I go back to Ephesians 1 (and just let those ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’ repeats wash over me and sink in) and I do topical studies on His attributes and memorize verses. Being focused on who God is allows me to remember who I am in Him, trying to do it an the opposite order will always have unsatisfactory results.

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