Sermon for Sunday August 26th, 2018,

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Text: Ephesians 6:10-20

Topic: The whole armor of God

INTRODUCTION

The only way to ship fresh North Atlantic cod from Boston to San Francisco during the nineteenth century was to sail around the South American continent. That trip took months, so, as you can imagine, the first attempts to dress the cod in Boston and pack it in ice failed miserably. The fish was inedible when it got to California.

In the next attempt, the cod were placed in holding tanks full of water, shipped to California alive, and dressed there. The results were also less than satisfactory. The fish didn’t get much exercise during the trip, so they were pasty and relatively tasteless.

Finally, someone suggested, “Why don’t we put some catfish in with the cod?” That wasn’t such a wild idea, since catfish are the natural enemy of cod.

Sure enough, when a few catfish were placed in the tanks with them, the cod kept swimming to stay out of eating range. When they reached San Francisco, they were in perfect shape. [1]

EPHESIANS 6:10-20: SPIRITUAL ARMOR

We might not relish the demonic opposition and trials we face as Christians, but God intends us to be in perfect spiritual shape by facing and enduring them.

The most important part of readiness for spiritual warfare is spiritual and mental strength. No soldier should enter battle without strength of resolve, as well as determination to endure and to win the victory. This is an essential part of every soldier’s basic training. Therefore St. Paul begins the exhortation on spiritual armor by commanding Christians “to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” [2] This could also mean “strengthen yourselves in the Lord and in the power of his might.” The initiative lies with us! We must do all we can through prayer, Bible reading and study, obedience to God, faith in Him, and the offering of ourselves to Him to be transformed and used by Him. This is how we strengthen ourselves in spirit to fight the battles at hand.

Secondly, we must put on the whole armor of God so that we may be able “to stand against the wiles of the devil.” [3] This means that we must use all the spiritual means God has given us to resist the devil, who wages war against us with extreme cunning. The picture here is of an infantryman in hand to hand combat with his foe, but always in danger also of being shot at by archers. If we are spiritually and mentally unprepared for battle, or if we have neglected part of our armor, we are as good as defeated by the enemy.

How does our spiritual battle differ from all other battles? Against whom are we fighting? Many Christians mistake the nature of their conflict and underestimate their enemy’s power. First of all, our conflict is not against human beings, for St. Paul writes, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.” [4] Against whom or what do we fight then? We fight against the “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [5] These are demons and human rulers controlled or motivated by demons, and just as there are orders and ranks among the angels, so, no doubt, there are among the demons, since demons were once angels before they were expelled from heaven.

While we should not underestimate the power these demonic principalities have, we must also acknowledge the far greater power of the Lord Jesus Christ “to whom all power in heaven and earth has been given.” [6] It is in His power alone that Christians can defeat all demons. So necessary is it that we arm ourselves with the full armor of God, that St. Paul repeats his command: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” [7] Does any of us know when “the evil day” will come? No-one does! Therefore we must be fully armed at all times, every day of our lives, ready to face the enemy at any time, because he may wage war through any means, sabotage, subversion or infiltration. The “evil day” can come at any time, and only God can forewarn us, but even if he doesn’t, we must still be ready.

The first part of the armor is the girdle, or belt, keeping the clothes and body armor in place. It is called the girdle of truth. Truth and sincerity characterize a pure and righteous life. The opposites of truth and sincerity are falsehood and hypocrisy. We see that the lives and ministries even of church leaders fall apart without truth and sincerity. If we take truth to mean the doctrinal truths of our faith, then they, too, should be fastened closely to us.

The second part of the armor is the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness must guard our heart from every attack of the devil. This righteousness is the righteousness of Christ which is ours by faith, since we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and have received His righteousness as a free gift. [8] Yet it must be applied to our motives, our thoughts, our innermost life, and all that we think, say or do.

Thirdly, our footwear is the shoes of “the preparation of the Gospel of peace.” [9] Wherever we go, part of our armor is the preparedness and willingness to share the Gospel of peace, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is an essential part of our armor, since the soldier cannot move effectively without it. Today’s soldier wears military boots. If we don’t know the essence of the Gospel by which we are saved, how can we help others and make inroads into Satan’s territory?

The shield referred to here was the long Roman shield which could protect his whole body. It is for us the shield of faith, to which St. Paul gives special emphasis. Why is the shield of faith so important? It is the means by which to quench the flaming arrows of Satan. Flaming arrows, of course, can set fire to things and cause a lot of damage. These attacks by Satan can severely damage our own lives and the lives of others, if we do not repel them with the shield of faith. Examples of such attacks could be gossip and false rumor, which can cause so much damage, or doubt in God and in the truth of his promises and commands.

The helmet of salvation [10] is the knowledge and assurance that we have been saved through the cross of Christ, and are being saved and will be saved by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying grace. Without this assurance of salvation, our mind is extremely vulnerable to all the doubts Satan may place there. Every Christian must be sure of his own salvation, or he will lose the will to even fight the battle.

The sword of the Spirit which we take up both to defend ourselves and to attack the enemy is the word of God, the Bible. What use would the Roman soldier have been without a weapon like a sword or a spear? But many Christians are prepared to let their sword get dusty or rusty, by not reading, studying and applying the truths of the Bible to their lives. If we are to use this sword properly and skillfully in defeating the devil, we must know our sword, just as the modern day soldier must know how to clean his rifle, load his rifle and fire his rifle only at the enemy.

Finally, we must all pray always, as St. Paul commands us, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” [11] We all need to be watchful, praying always, and persevering in prayer for all God’s people.

CONCLUSION

Will you persevere in prayer, be watchful and always armed and ready to fight against Satan, your spiritual enemy?



[1] Bill Myers and David Wimbish, The Dark Side of the Supernatural. Bethany, 1999, p. 159, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

[2] Ephesians 6:10

[3] Eph. 6:11

[4] Eph. 6:12

[5] ibidem

[6] Matthew 28:18

[7] Eph. 6:13

[8] Romans 3:21-24; Galatians 3:8

[9] Eph. 6:15

[10] Eph. 6:17

[11] Eph. 6:18

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