Knight of the Temple by artist Fredrik Alfredsson. You can buy prints of this painting at http://alfredsson.deviantart.com/ Typical helmet. He has his shield slung over his back. Full-body chain mail. Typical knight's sword. Notice his heavy belt, from which hangs a sheath. His shins are covered with shin guards, or greaves. He's wearing leather boots or shoes, with spurs. This is a Templar Knight, whose order carried the same insignia on cloak and shield as Sir Galahad - red cross on white field.
Medieval Knight's Sword - battle-ready reproduction in tempered steel
Three Knights - 12" Figures
Diagram of God's Armor
Diagram of Primary Virtues
Key to Unleashing His Power and Grace in Our Lives
This past summer, I began a series of articles on knighthood, chivalry and the twelve virtues of Christianity. We're halfway through the series now, and halfway through the virtues; so I want to take this opportunity to talk about the Armor of God, which relates to those first six virtues. These virtues and God's armor parallel each other, as demonstrated in the two charts above.
I told you early on that there was a reason for the order of the twelve virtues and how a clock face can help you remember that order. You'll notice in the first chart above that the six pieces of armor, as they're listed in Ephesians 6, fall on the even numbers of a clock face. Those are the same positions as the first six virtues, and there's a reason for this: the six pieces of armor protect the first six virtues.
A lot of people, pastors included, think of the six pieces of God's armor as just an abstract metaphor that really has no specific, practical application. I don't believe that. I believe God's armor is not only one of the most practical things given in Scripture, but the key to unleashing His power and grace in our lives. Mastering God's armor is as important to us as Christians as mastering Roman armor was to a Roman soldier, or mastering Medieval armor was to a knight in the Middle Ages. But do we take our armor as seriously as those fighting men did theirs, as if our lives depended on it? I don't believe so. If we did, we would be far more effective as individuals, and the Church would be far more effective as a body. So, it is metaphorical, but it is also very practical. Plus, it's a command. This article is designed to help you apply this scripture to your life.
Armor is a technical thing that takes technical know-how to master. By understanding how it works, you can see the corollary between physical and spiritual armor and thereby begin to use it as God intended. After that, it is only a matter of practicing day and night to get good at using it. Then, when an emergency arises so that you need to use that armor - say, every moment of every day - you'll be ready.
So, let's settle back in a nice, comfy armchair with our favorite beverage in hand, and let's take a casual stroll through the Armor of God. No! Let's sit on a hard, wooden floor with our armor laid out in front of us and realize that every piece of this armor has been designed by the Master Himself and given to us for one reason: to save our lives!
Okay, got the right mindset now? Then let's begin... Grasshopper.
Imagine that you are a soldier in the Roman army. Every day, you go out to battle the barbarian hordes in rain and mud, heat and mosquitoes, ice and snow, and all you have to protect yourself is a belt, a breastplate, a pair of boots, a shield, a helmet and a sword. If you are a knight in the Crusades, you have a belt, chain mail, boots, shield, helmet and sword - same equipment. If you're a Christian, you have the same six pieces, only spiritual. (I know, warriors also had spears, knives, bows and arrows, etc.; but these six were the basic ones in most pre-modern cultures.) In hand-to-hand combat, these six pieces are the only protection you have. You cannot recite some magic words or wave a magic wand like Harry Potter and expect to defeat your enemies, who, by the way, are bearing down upon you with horses' hooves pounding, swords flashing, blood in their eyes, and only one thought on their minds - to kill you.
Yet, most Christians take the Harry Potter approach: they say a little prayer, as if it were a magic formula, and hope for the best. Interestingly, their lives don't indicate they're having much luck with that. As a matter of fact, they don't act like they're in a war at all, with enemies out there that want them dead more than anything in the world. I know they've heard of the devil. I know they've heard of fallen angels, devil spirits, principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, wicked spirits in high places - because they're all mentioned in Ephesians 6 along with the armor of God. I think they've just seen too many TV shows and movies that make the devil a joke and those who believe in him superstitious idiots. Take my word for it: the devil is no joke - he has a vendetta on you, his gang of devils is coming after you, and you're going to end up under a tombstone somewhere with a platitude carved across the face and an urn of plastic flowers sitting on top that somebody changes twice a year... unless you learn to master your spiritual armor.
Please believe me when I say to you that we live on a spiritual battleground, and we have only six pieces of equipment with which to fight and survive. Now, don't get me wrong: prayer is vital and it is God who does the fighting for us; but you will notice that prayer comes after the six pieces of armor in Ephesians 6, and that God has purposefully limited Himself to this armor. You can pray all you want, but if you don't have on your armor when the enemy attacks, you'll go down praying. It's happened throughout history, it's happening all around us right now, and chances are pretty good that it's happening in your own life.
Okay, back to the physical allegory. Here I am, a warrior out in the field, and I have these six pieces of armor. They're made of wood, leather and metal, and each has been constructed by an armorer, or black smith that specializes in armaments. The belt is made of leather; the breastplate is made of leather and the chain mail of metal; the boots are made of leather; the shield is made of wood with leather stretched over it and painted with an insignia; the helmet is made of metal; and the sword is made of metal with a wooden handle, which is covered in leather in the case of a knight.
Now, here is where some theologians and I disagree. A soldier or knight takes off his armor at night to sleep, and puts it back on in the morning. Thus, Ephesians 6 says, "Put on the full armor of God." Some of my friends say you should never take it off. But if you never took it off, pretty soon you'd stop thinking about it. A soldier should never stop thinking about his armor, because armor gets damaged and has to be repaired. At the end of every battle, the armorers would be working late into the night, their forges aglow, as they repaired swords, helmets and other damaged equipment. Don't tell me you should never take your armor off!
So, every morning, you have to put it back on. Usually that requires help. Roman soldiers had slaves to assist them. Knights had squires. We need help with our armor as well, which usually comes in the form of an accountability partner. None of us can maintain our spiritual armor alone. The person who helps us with our armor will probably be the first to notice a chink in it. Our fellow soldiers may also notice weaknesses in our armor while fighting along side us... and that could save our life! No warrior goes it alone.
"Oh, stop it, Waitsel! Stop telling us that our lives depend upon some metaphorical armor! God is bigger than that!" Okay. Well, you know the condition of your life better than I do. Does it seem like things are going the way they're supposed to? Let's not kid ourselves: many of us have been losing battles, taken captive and assumed dead for a long time now. The only ones that don't realize it are us. I just want us to see where we've been missing it. Unless you're one of a very small percentage of Christians who are actually aware of their spiritual armor, you probably haven't been wearing yours, and the devil has been having a field day with your life.
When God placed us here on earth, He dropped us into the middle of a battlefield. Doesn't it make sense that He would have equipped us for it? If He had placed us in the middle of the ocean, wouldn't He have given us diving gear? Or on the moon, wouldn't He have given us a space suit? And wouldn't we consider our diving gear or space suit to be vital to our survival? So, how come we don't feel that way about our spiritual armor? Once we realize just how wonderful each piece is, I think we will.
The first piece of armor is the Belt of Truth. We gird our loins, or midsection, with it. Why? Not to hold our pants up, because Romans didn't wear pants; neither did Hebrews. Ancient, Classical and Medieval warriors girded themselves with a belt for strength, because the loins are the center of strength for the body. A weight lifter will wear a weight belt, and a warehouse worker will wear a safety belt, to protect their backs, but also to give themselves more strength for lifting. Truth is what we gird ourselves with in order to give us strength for the day's battles - God's strength.
That's why the second virtue is Courage or Strength. Truth protects that virtue. We put Truth on by spending time in God's Word each day. It's the first thing we should do in the morning. It is the foundation of our entire armor. If we don't give quality time to reading and meditating on God's Word each morning, we're walking out onto the battlefield without a belt, so our strength will be minimized. No Roman soldier or Medieval knight would think of doing such a thing, so why do we?
Our second piece of armor is the Breastplate of Righteousness. A breastplate is used to protect the heart and other vital organs. Why Righteousness? Righteousness is our right relationship with God. If that's not healthy, our heart will be unprotected. We want pure hearts, which means a heart free from any conflicting desires. When we go out to fight, we want to know that everything is right at home - no cheating, no other loves in our life than the One we've given our heart to. We want to be free to fight with all our heart, just as we have loved with all our heart. A heart divided is an unsure, untrue thing. We need to be totally committed to God with no distracting, conflicting relationships.
Purity, the fourth virtue, should be the quality of our heart, and that is what Righteousness protects. "Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23) There's nothing more powerful than a pure heart, and there's nothing more wretched than an impure one. Lust is what makes a heart impure. Lust destroys our relationship with God and those we love. Lust is the enemy the Breastplate of Righteousness is designed to protect us against. "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." (Leviticus 19:2b)
Next are the Boots of Peace. Ephesians says, "...shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace." Boots prepare us to go out and do something - in this case, share the Gospel. It's interesting that peace is used in the context of warfare, but that is the purpose for warfare - to bring peace. The Gospel brings peace. It brings it when we go out and share it. Conflict may result initially, as it often did in the book of Acts. But the end result for the individual called by God is peace. That's why God gave us boots. If we're not going out and sharing the Gospel with people each day, we're neglecting the Boots of Peace.
So, how do we do that? It begins with prayer for the people God will bring across out path that day, and continues with looking for opportunities to "love our neighbor." God honors those kinds of prayers and that kind of intent by opening doors, which the Bible calls "doors of utterance" (Colossians 4:3). God will open these doors, but we must open our mouths. But first, we must go forth wearing, not the boots of envy, jealousy, discontent, dissension, disagreement and all the other "dis-'s" in the world; but the Boots of Peace. Thus, the sixth virtue is Charity, which puts feet on our Christianity, and that's what the Boots of Peace protect.
The fourth piece of armor is the Shield of Faith. Why a shield and why Faith? A shield has one purpose, and that's to protect against arrows. It is the only protection against arrows. Some translations of Ephesians 6:16 call the projectiles being launched by the evil one, "fiery darts;" but they're really flaming arrows. Warriors would light their arrows to shoot at the enemy, not only to terrify them, but also to burn their shields. As I mentioned earlier, shields were made of wood covered with leather, so they burned easily.
Our shield is a Shield of Faith, and yet faith is what it is supposed to protect, since Faith is the eighth virtue. How does faith protect faith? It's kind of like the old adage, "Nothing succeeds like success." The more faith you have, the more you'll get. Faith builds on itself. Since faith is a verb and a verb requires action, the best way to prove your faith is to act. "Show me your faith by your works," James says. That's what it means to prove yourself. Anybody can talk. But if you say you love the Lord, you should prove it. If you say you trust Him, prove it. If you say the Lord can move a mountain or make you walk on water, get out of the boat and start walking.
George Mueller said that God could do anything He promised in Scripture; and he proved it by going out and, without any money and without sharing his needs with anyone but God, started the five largest orphanages in England. William Wilberforce said that God cared about all living things; and he proved it by bringing about the end of slavery throughout the British Empire, and by starting many charities to care for people and animals alike. Billy Graham believed that the lost should be reached with the Gospel; and he proved it by forming the largest evangelistic organization in the world. History is full of thousands of stories like these. What's yours?
Yes, it's never easy. There is always opposition. David had his Saul; Jesus had his Pharisees; Paul had his thorn in the flesh; Wilberforce had his enemies in Parliament and his poor health. People oppose those that are trying to do good because we live in a fallen world. They oppose the very people that are trying to help them most. So, if you have an idea that you believe is from God, fasten your seat belt and strap on the Shield of Faith, because the fiery arrows are going to start pouring down on you.
Next is the Helmet of Salvation. It protects your mind and the wisdom it holds. Wisdom is the tenth virtue. Think of this: what cleaves a helmet? A sword. So, what cleaves a mind? Words. In the Bible, words are equated with swords. (Psalm 55:21) Words are coming at us all the time: from television, radio, the internet, our cell phone. Little swords are constantly coming out of people's mouths and piercing our minds. When the right words hit our minds at the right time, they can cleave them asunder: like, "I want a divorce," or, "You're fired," or, "You've not been a good father."
I said that last one to my dad, long ago, when we weren't getting along. God forgive me. Guess what my dad's comeback was? "You haven't been a good son, either." Both our minds were cleaved asunder and our hearts broken by that exchange. That's the power of words. That's why we need a helmet to protect our minds, and that helmet is called "Salvation." Salvation means "wholeness," so this is talking about maintaining whole thoughts in our minds, which can only come from one source, ultimately. Then, when those mind-cleaving words come at us, like, "You're fired," we'll be protected by thoughts like, "Yes, but I'm not my job, and God is still on the throne. He will take care of me." Or, when we hear, "I'm leaving you, I want a divorce," we can think, "I hate that; but if he (she) does leave, I won't be alone - I'll still have God." Or, "You just lost everything in the Stock Market," we can think, "It wasn't my money anyway. It was God's. I was just stewarding it. If He wants to move His money somewhere else, that's His business."
Naive, isn't it? Pollyannaish? Not really. When your money is your life and suddenly it's gone, you have no protection. You may be thinking, "I just lost my life;" and some actually finish that thought by taking their lives. But our money isn't our life. When we lose everything financially, we haven't lost anything that's eternal. Or, when your life is wrapped up in another person, and that person walks out the door, you'll be tempted to drown your sorrows in pornography and alchohol. That's not wisdom, it's foolishness that leads to death. If we're going to survive and prosper, our minds need protection, and only the whole thoughts of God's Word, which are words of salvation, can do that. "Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (II Corinthians 10:5b) "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)
The last piece of armor is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Have you noticed how much of this equipment is based on God's Word? It is the red thread running throughout. As I pointed out, words are equated with swords in Scripture, but the word sword can also be translated scalpel. A sword can cleave something in two, but a scalpel can do a delicate piece of cutting in an operation. Words of condemnation, like those spoken between my father and me, can destroy; but words of encouragement can heal. God gave us mouths to heal the broken hearted and proclaim liberty to the captive, not to break hearts and put people in mental prisons.
In the book of Revelation, the Sword of the Spirit is coming out of the mouth of Christ as He rides onto the battlefield at Armageddon as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19). In the meantime, we have that same sword coming out of our mouths. It is the only offensive weapon among all our equipment. It is the reason for the rest of our spiritual gear. If all we're doing is sitting at home, watching TV and playing video games, why do we need a belt, breastplate, boots, shield or helmet. But if we're out in the world wielding the Sword of the Spirit, declaring the Word of God as Christ did, then we need the rest of the armor for protection. Words are our only weapon. They're why we're here.
This is God's Armor. We should take it to heart by putting it on. This allegory in Ephesians 6 gives a clear picture of what we're supposed to be doing here as we wait for Christ to return. Before the Apostle Paul lists the six pieces that make up our spiritual armor, he says "Be strong in the Lord in the power of His might... Put on the full armor of God... Stand firm..." (Ephesians 6:10a,11a,14a). Then he says, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit... and pray on my behalf..." (Ephesians 6:18a,19a) We need to trust in God's strength, not our own; we need to put on His armor; we need to stand firm, together. And we need to pray.
One last word: I've been calling God's armor, "our armor." When someone gives you his armor in which to fight, he gives you his strength and power to go with it. That's what happened when King Saul offered the shepherd boy David his armor in which to fight the giant Goliath. But David refused Saul's armor, because he knew it lacked the strength and power he needed to do the job. Instead, he chose to wear God's armor. That is the armor God offers us, and it comes with all His strength and power. Let's wear it faithfully.
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