Unless otherwise stated, all quotations are taken from the NKJV
It is time for a reality check. Time to face the fact that, for the Christian, the world is in a state of war! The sun may be shining and the birds may be chirping. You may think that you live in a land of peace. But this is not peacetime; it is wartime. And you, as a Christian, are not merely a spectator. You are a soldier enlisted in an army and stationed behind enemy lines. You have a mission to complete in enemy territory, surrounded by hostile forces. For the Christian, it has always been this way. It was this way for Christians in 1st century Ephesus. It hasn’t changed for Christians in the 21st century. And the sooner we face it, the more successful we will be in the battle.
Paul gave this reality check to the Christians in Ephesus. He was in jail and they were losing heart. Being a Christian wasn’t an easy life. In fact, being a Christian was extremely painful. Their environment was affecting these people! They were constantly surrounded by people and circumstances that were against them! They were seeking to do what was right, and were being punished for it! Over time this can be wearing! They didn’t seem to understand the reason for their suffering, or the point of it. So Paul makes this request of them:
‘Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory’, Eph. 3.13.
Have you had anything go wrong in your Christian life? Have you found that it is not easy or popular at school or university to be a Christian? Then you are not alone. This is normal for all Christians at all times. And the reason is simple: we are at war! Pain and conflict are normal in wartime. Paul wants us to know that there is only one way to stay in the fight. We must ‘be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might’, Eph. 6. 10, because we cannot survive in our own strength. Paul was chained between two Roman soldiers while in prison. He would have had a lot of time to compare the soldier’s armour with God’s equipment for the Christians in Ephesus. Being strong in the Lord is like arming ourselves for battle. Instead of losing heart and giving up, we need to face the reality of battle, put on the armour and take our stand against the enemy.
But why does it have to be the armour of God? Why can’t I use my own armour? Isn’t it good enough? Can’t I use my own wisdom and charm to say the right things? Don’t I have enough courage already? Can’t I figure out how to fight through the struggles with my own positive attitude? In a word: NO! The same gospel that exposes our helplessness to be forgiven also teaches us how helpless we are to be victorious. God must save us, and God must keep us. At no time can we leave the gospel behind and get back to handling things by ourselves. This is a dangerous battle, and we have a deadly enemy. God Himself must provide the armour we need in order to survive. And that’s the ongoing glory of the gospel: God doesn’t just save us in a once-for-all moment of time, but, in Christ, He continues to provide all we need for daily victory.
Paul is deadly serious about making use of the armour. Armour is not optional for a soldier! Neither is living in ‘the strength of the Lord and in the power of His might’ optional for the Christian. God’s armour is a basic necessity and we cannot afford to neglect it.
When we forget we are soldiers behind enemy lines we will forget we need this armour. It is also possible to ignore our need for armour because we have underestimated our enemy. He is far more cunning and powerful than we think, and He doesn’t give up easily! We are also far more helpless than we realize! Paul describes all the devil’s strengths in plural terms, because his army is great and his tactics are varied. The ‘spiritual hosts of wickedness’ are great in their strength and power. They lurk in every shadow. They are both in our world and also occupy ‘heavenly places’. They are not ‘flesh and blood’ and, therefore, are not limited by human strengths or weaknesses. We hardly recognize them as the true enemy behind our pain and temptations. We rarely think about the size of their strength, or tremble at the thought of their terror.
But we are told to stand ‘against’ the enemy. Paul repeats the word ‘against’ five times in verse 12. He is making a crucial point here – we not only must stand against the armies of darkness, but we can stand against them with the proper armour. This is where God’s provision meets us in our warfare against the powers of darkness. God has provided a piece of armour to equip us against the ‘wiles of the devil’! The devil may be able to outsmart our limited minds, but he cannot outsmart an all-knowing and all-wise God!
God has provided this armour for us by the conquering work of His Son on the cross. Paul could have been thinking about Isaiah’s picture of the Messiah as a mighty warrior dressed in armour, Isa. 59. The Lord Jesus fought and won the battle for us and now He dresses us to stand in battle. He doesn’t merely give us the armour we need, but He Himself is the armour that we need. It is only in His strength that we can stand against such a terrifying enemy.
Although the armour is prepared and provided, we still must take it up and put it on. The focus is not only upon protecting our physical body but also our minds from attack. We ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ when we immerse ourselves in His word – the Bible. Paul uses each piece of the Roman armour to refer to different ways we can use scripture to guard our hearts and minds from the enemy. It is through the Holy Scriptures that we see Jesus Christ for who He really is. It is only when we live in His presence and might that we are truly safe.
Arm yourself with Jesus who is your Saviour and Lord! Live in His strength and power! With Him, you will be able to stand tall against anything the enemy may throw at you.