Isaiah says it is Christ’s armor. Paul says it is our armor. What does this mean? Further, are the rulers and authorities people?; or are the rulers and authorities ethereal spirit-beings?
What Does it Mean for Me to be Strong in the Lord?
Pastor Kerry Kinchen, Bridgeway Bible Church
Please turn to Ephesians 6 in your Bible. We are learning from Ephesians 6:10-17 this morning. As you are turning there, I want to ask you something; When you think of yourself, do you consider yourself to be strong in the Lord, and the strength of His might? As you are thinking about this, don't give yourself the very quickly self assured answer that I know that I even want to give when I first hear this kind of question. I'm talking about the kind of quick answer where we say,
Yeah, I'm a Christian, and so because I am a Christian, then I necessarily must be strong in the Lord.
Being in the Lord comes by a miracle of God's hand. Being strong in the Lord comes by personally and intentionally doing certain things that God has provided to make us strong in Him. This morning, we are going to look at those things from our text under study. Please read along with me now in Ephesians 6, starting in verse 10, Paul says
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:10-17
Please prepare your hearts to go verse by verse with me in this expository sermon titled,
What Does it Mean for Me to be Strong in the Lord? [prayer]
This passage has some important principles that we need to glean to help us to live out our Christian walk. But, before we look at the applicable principles, we need to look at some things that I strongly encourage us to try not to be too dogmatic about when approaching these same scriptures. We need to look at some overarching theological systems that come into play with various folks to form presuppositions concerning this passage. Our presuppositions tend to drive our interpretations, and so we all must be careful. Keeping that in mind,
the first thing that I strongly suggest we try not to be too dogmatic about with this passage, has to do with what is typically the popular emphasis that many teachers go to when looking at this passage. Oftentimes, what takes place, is that these particular armor pieces, and the other things that they are associated with, are looked at too narrowly when interpreted as being exclusive kinds of illustrations that God never meant. What I mean, is that Paul has made a list of battle gear. He calls it the full armor of God, right? And so we see this, and we know that we need this armor, but we have to be careful, because it is easy to push an overly exclusive view of Paul's terminology. He talks about standing firm, having already girded our loins with truth, having the breastplate on of righteousness, having on the shoes of the preparation of the good news of peace, the shield of faith to deflect and destroy the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Contextually, this is complete armor for the Ephesians to be able to resist in the evil day. We all want this. We all need this, but, to demonstrate my point, we also need to recognize that Paul is somewhat loose in quoting from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah concerning Christ who will take vengeance on His enemies.
How many of you knew that Paul is quoting ancient prophecies about Christ in this armor list?
We need to know this. It is a very important point. When we look at Ephesians with Isaiah, we see that
14... HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH," Ephesians 6:14
is an allusion to Isaiah 11:5, where we read the prophecy of Christ,
"5 And He [Christ] shall have His loins girded with righteousness, and His sides clothed with truth." Isaiah 11:5 LXX
So, we see that this is a prophecy of Christ. We also see that the wording is mostly the same, but it's not quite exactly the same, but we also see that the same essential thought is conveyed by Paul, in the Spirit, to members of the body of Christ. When we look at the next thing listed in our Ephesians 6:14 passage,
"and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS," Ephesians 6:14
we see that it is an allusion to the prophecy of Christ in Isaiah 59:17
"17 And He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and placed the helmet of salvation on His head; and He clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with His cloak," Isaiah 59:17 LXX
This one is more of a word for word quotation, but then we see the added clothing of the garment of vengeance that Christ clothed himself with. This is an important point, and we will get to it in a moment. But for now, I want us to just keep in mind that you and I are not told anywhere in the New Covenant to seek vengeance for ourselves. We are not told to seek vengeance on other Christians, or for Christ, but in the meantime, when we look at,
"15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;" Ephesians 6:15
We see that it is an allusion to Isaiah 52:7,where we read of the New Covenant prophesied in Christ,
"7 like beauty on the mountains--like the feet of one preaching glad tidings of peace, like one preaching gospel. For I will proclaim your salvation, saying, 'O Zion, your God shall reign.'" Isaiah 52:7 LXX
Obviously, this part is also more of a word for word quotation. In my research, I could not find an allusion to Isaiah's prophecies from Ephesians 6:16, where Paul says
"16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Ephesians 6:16
I personally think Paul adds this by way of special revelation from God. But, when we take a look at what Paul says next, in verse 17,
"17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION," Ephesians 6:17
we find that it is an intimation of the prophecy of Christ in Isaiah 59:17 again,
"17 And He [Christ] put on righteousness as a breastplate, and placed the helmet of salvation on His head; and He clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with His cloak," Isaiah 59:17
And then finally, Paul says,
"and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17
This alludes to prophecies of Christ in Isaiah 49:2, and 59:20-21, which is a couple verses down from the quote in 59:17, where we read,
"2 and He has made my mouth as a sharp sword, and He has hid me under the shadow of His hand; He has made me as a choice arrow, and He has hid me in His quiver;" Isaiah 49:2 LXX
"20 And the deliverer [Christ] shall come for Zion's sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 21 'And this shall be My covenant with them,' said the Lord: 'My Spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never fail from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, for the Lord has spoken it, from this time and forevermore!" Isaiah 59:20-21 LXX AB
The point that I am bringing out here by going to Isaiah, is that Paul is using quoted terminology from the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah,
a) for a reason,
and further, they are,
b) loose quotes that are somewhat different in a few small ways.
So think about this so far. This demonstrates that we've got to be careful not to read something else into what Paul is talking about. We must stick with Paul's own clear revelation that Paul is intending to impart. This is what I mean in this first point in encouraging us to try not to be too dogmatic in approaching these scriptures, where the particular armor pieces, and the other things that they are associated with, are looked at too narrowly when interpreted as being exclusive to certain kinds of illustrations. Let me give you an example of this that can be found in Paul's allusions to the same Messianic prophecies out of Isaiah when he wrote to the Thessalonians. It comes as a surprise to a lot of folks to find out that Paul changes metaphors around a little bit for God's revelation to the Thessalonians. Paul is getting the same point across, but it seems like he is mixing up the language of Ephesians 6, and Isaiah. Years ago, I remember talking to the director of a missions organization. The organization is a para-church missionary sending organization. It is named after the shield of faith in Ephesians 6:16. The director was talking to me about how the organization's name was derived from Ephesians. He was telling the story behind it, and as we were talking, I mentioned the other armor list found in Thessalonians. He asked what I meant, so I opened my Bible and read it to him. The passage clearly took him off guard, but God never meant the passage to take anyone off guard. Let's all go there now. It is in 1 Thessalonians 5. I want us to recognize that there, Paul mentions a certain day again that his audience needs to be ready for. Remember, Paul also did this in Ephesians. Here Paul is warning the Thessalonians to be ready so that the day of the Lord will not overtake them like a thief, and so Paul says,
"2... you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. ..." 1 Thessalonians 5:2
[The why the Thessalonians know this is because they had been discipled in Christ's words concerning His coming again, where Christ told His pre-cross students that He was going to come with the same kind of surprise as a thief,
"35 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." Luke 12:35-50So, Paul reminds the Thessalonians, saying, you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. Continuing with what Paul says in Thessalonians;]
"... 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, ...
[and now here comes the critical verse]
... let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation." 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8
By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul blends various metaphors, but we notice that he quotes some from Isaiah, and he does it to make this specific point to the Thessalonians. Paul even adds language that is not found in Isaiah. So, in considering these things we recognize some elements that dictate to us some of the reasons why we must be careful in how we approach Ephesians 6:10-17.
This leads to the second thing that I strongly suggest we try not to be too dogmatic about. We should not be too dogmatic about relegating this only to the mystical ethereal realm of Satan, demons, evil spirits, curses, and all that kind of thing, even though some of that is in the passage. And we must be careful about not being too dogmatic about relegating this warning to exclusively be persecution coming from earthly rulers of that generation. I say this, because this is a favorite spiritual warfare passage among many teachers, and it is also a passage that is used to explain the persecution that apostate Jewish leaders were doing to the church, and then the subsequent day of vengeance of the Lord at the destruction of Israel in AD 70. Those who tend to relegate this only to the mystical ethereal realm of Satan, demons, evil spirits, curses, and all that kind of thing, do so because of the big emphasis in our generation, upon those things. It picked up in the last 50 years or so through the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic interests in the unbiblical practice of deliverance ministries on Christians, where exorcisms are supposedly performed on saved people, and the further unbiblical activity of breaking mystical curses over Christians; of breaking something called inner vows, and all those kinds of mystical hex things that are supposedly clinging to, enveloping, indwelling, or possessing Christians--even forcefully manipulating their thoughts. It is understandably an easy task for people to focus upon the dark mystical aspect of the realm of the devil and demonic entities when it comes to this passage. After all, Paul mentions standing firm against the wiles of the devil. Paul says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. But the other view is just as understandable. Concerning the immediate persecution from apostate Jews at that time, the people who take this exclusively to apply to that generation concerning attacks upon the church, see that the day of evil is the vengeance of Christ on apostate Jews in AD 70. They interpret the rulers, powers, and world forces, to be human leadership in the persecution of Christians. I'll tell you what I think. I think there is some merit to certain aspects in both views, but we have got to be careful. So, let's stay cautious, and let's look at some more of this to see what I mean. Contextually, we must look at the full scope of what Paul is saying. He says,
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:10-12
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Those of us who are not familiar with this kind of spiritual warfare language need to recognize this; but there is also a struggle going on that does involve flesh and blood and so all of us need to pay attention to the historical, contextual details to understand this fact too. In our passage, the powers are described as being the spiritual government that rules the realm of the lost world. It is the lost world of the futility of the Gentile mind, of Ephesians 4:17. also called the domain of darkness in Colossians 1:13. Paul knows this; we need to know this too, and so we can not miss both the spiritual involvement, and the flesh and blood involvement of the struggle. Paul explains what I am talking about a little earlier when he said,
"1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." Ephesians 2:1-3
What we notice is that Paul is talking about an evil spirit that is at work. Keep this in mind. He is called the prince of the power of the air. This evil spirit works according to deadness outside of Christ. This spirit works according to trespassing against God. This spirit works according to sin. This spirit works according to the indulgence of desires. So, what do we see? We see that this is language that is very much like what Paul says a few chapters later in our verses under study. But here is what I want us to notice. There is a real spirit that works, and yet at the same time, the sons of disobedience, (who are flesh and blood), are the ones who walk the actual walk of disobedience. Do you understand this? In other words, the spirit works evil in flesh and blood people who are evil, where they live in the lusts of their flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind in their walk. The question is,
Why is this so important to what Paul means in our passage under study?
It is really easy to understand. Listen to me; The sense is that because the devil is behind all of this, and the battle is spiritual, mental, and historical, then the Ephesians are not to try and fight the domain of darkness with real swords, and real shields, and real arrows, and all of that kind of thing; like in some kind of crusader attack upon the heathen, like the Roman Catholics did in the middle ages, like the zealots of their own age, or like some other kind of militant group of Christians, who take up arms to fight off the persecutors of the church. In all the armor quotes concerning Christ in Isaiah, and more particularly Isaiah 59, we need to remember a very important fact. I briefly mentioned it already. Paul did not mention the armor where Christ is clothed with His garment of vengeance, as we read in Isaiah 59:17,
"17 ... and He clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with His cloak," Isaiah 59:17 LXX AB
Paul never tells us that we wear that clothing. That clothing is reserved for Christ Himself in His day of vengeance that Jesus said was coming, when Jesus said of this people,
"22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people;" Luke 21:22-23
Rather, what Paul is saying is that he and all the Christians, are to resist the persecution by being strong in the Lord, verse 10. They are to be strong, but not in their own flesh and blood strength against flesh and blood strength that is persecuting them. But they are to be strong in the strength of the Lord's might, verse 10. Because, though the Ephesian Christians are flesh and blood, (because all Christians are flesh and blood)-- and because they are the ones in the battle that are getting hit by the fist of life--our power is spiritual, and our battle is really ultimately spiritual. So, the instruction is that the Ephesians are to put on the full armor of God, and rather than go and physically attack people, they are to do what?
In other words, we are to stand our ground. But it is not a flesh and blood standing kind of stand. It is a spiritual standing firm that people who are made up of flesh and blood do, shic. It is to be standing firm in your fortitude as a solid, immovable, mature Christian who has been equipped in the discipleship that Paul has been urging in this whole epistle. This is why discipleship is so important folks. This is why doctrine is so important. This is why recognizing the fact that doctrine drives your actions is not a clever cliche'. It is the essence of the stand. This is the whole point of this passage. Paul says, stand firm. Standing firm is the answer to the question which is the title of the sermon this morning,
What Does it Mean for Me to be Strong in the Lord?
So we see, dear Christians, that the way we are going to be able to stand firm spiritually against the spiritual attacks, being strong in the Lord, is to have on the full armor of Christ in the prophecies of Him, where Paul says that it is doctrinal armor for the body of Christ, where you are the body of Christ living out your position in Him where He is your life, and where your identification is with Him as your righteousness. Paul says that the Ephesians are to take it up, and put it on. They are to do everything to stand firm. And Paul says that after doing everything to stand firm, then they should already have some of their armor on. They already have the truth, verse 14. They already have righteousness, same verse. They already have the Gospel of peace. They have been seeking to know the truth. They have been learning the truth. They are the righteousness of Christ, and they are saved through the Gospel--Just like you. But, in addition to these, they need to take up and protect themselves with their faith. This is how they will conquer the flaming arrows of the evil one that will come against them in the form of persecution. We all have faith in Christ in salvation, but when it comes to intense persecution like what Paul is talking about, you need to draw upon your faith in all that you know to be the truth. It will keep you standing firm, solid, and immovable--even through the pain and relentless wearing down that occurs for any Christian who lives among people who are bent on destroying you. The bent to destroy, is the work of the evil spirit, and yet it is accomplished in the world by those flesh and blood people who walk in opposition to Christ and His body, which is His church, which is you. Further the saints need to protect their heads with the fact of their eternal spiritual salvation. So they need to take this up and keep it constantly in mind. They may get killed, but they have an eternal weight of glory awaiting them in the afterlife. False teachers say that you can lose your eternal salvation, but they are wrong. Our salvation is our great hope. Taking up our hope in our salvation is our encouragement in the midst of persecution. It is the preparation of the gospel of peace--not the gospel of anxiety. Along with that, they need to take the one big offensive weapon. It is also used as a defensive weapon. It is God's word, and they need to be using it to battle the spirit that is at work in the sons of disobedience. They need to use God's word in evangelizing the sons of disobedience, in defending the faith in apologetics against the sons of disobedience, and in personal discipleship for edification while they stand firm. In other words, you better be using what you learn. The main point is that in expressing the posture of standing firm, Paul is demonstrating that lost people of lost flesh and blood, are constantly in attack mode against the body of Christ where the struggle of the lost is against Christ. We need to realize, that our struggle is not against the lost. Our struggle is against the spiritual darkness that drives the lost. The lost are merely minions--puppets. When lost people struggle against the people of God, they are really struggling against God. This is the irony. They persecute the church as part of the ancient scheme of the devil. So we see that there are both spiritual and physical aspects.
This leads us to think about scriptures where the rulers and authorities can be viewed as spiritual, and also can be viewed as physical. The Ephesians need to be equipped to stand against the rulers of the present darkness that was in that age. Paul talks about persecuting rulers in 1 Corinthians,
"6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, ...
[And I want you to notice that Paul quotes Isaiah again. He quotes Isaiah 64:4, and 65:17, saying]
- ... 'THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.'" 1 Corinthians 2:6-9
The rulers of that age were passing away, which means they were dying. This is a reference to people. Further, these people are the ones who did the actual crucifying of Christ. This passage describes physical rulers, but they had the evil spirit working in them as sons of disobedience. They were persecutors of Christ, and they are persecutors of Christians. In Paul's first recorded sermon preached at Pisidian Antioch, he identifies them, and the darkness that they were in, which is the same darkness that he writes about in his epistles, saying,
"27 For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him." Acts 13:27
Paul is talking about the Isaiah prophecies he quotes in Ephesians, and so many other prophecies. Paul is talking about the physical rulers doing the work of their spiritual father the devil, John 8:44. Paul is talking about condemning Christ, where we read in Luke 24:20,
"20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him." Luke 24:20
What we are seeing is the language that describes persecution by physical rulers. Finally, in the parallel epistle of Colossians we find an important truth that we need to realize,
"13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God] made you alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He [God] made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him [Christ]." Colossians 2:12-17
There are some folks who see that the rulers and authorities in Colossians 2:12-17, and 1:16 are referring to the Jewish rulers who sat in the seat of Moses, but were apostates who rejected the Messiah. It is said that Christ disarmed them from their power over God's people through the Mosaic Law decrees against us. But then there is the other more spiritualized view. The spiritual authority reference is seen here by other folks as referring to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies, like for example the prince of the power of the air, that is working in the sons of disobedience. The prior verse of Colossians 1:16 is pointed to in reference to this point,
"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him." Colossians 1:16
The invisible thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities have been created for God in His sovereign determination. Those who see that Christ is speaking of invisible spiritual rulers and powers, connect this passage to the world forces of darkness according to Ephesians 6:12. The Greek verb that Paul uses for "disarmed," when he says that Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities, expresses the image of an antagonist in respect to the dark powers that crucified Christ. Historically, this is the same language that was used to describe the Roman practice where an antagonist is being stripped of his armor and put on public display as the one who has been conquered. A Greek word built on the same root as this word is used in the Septuagint, of the "stripping" of enemies that are conquered in war. The English Standard Version words this meaning well with,
"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." Colossians 2:15
This imagery was familiar in the Roman world of that time. Generals would usually lead in a parade of victory over their enemies. The conqueror would ride at the front in his chariot, leading his troops through the streets of the city. Behind them would be a defeated and shamed group of disarmed kings, officers, and soldiers. Such defeated people were holders of the throne, the governing powers, the rulers, and the authorities. Messiah, in this picture, is the conquering general; the powers and authorities are the defeated and disarmed enemy displayed as the spoils of battle before the entire universe. In Paul's description, the cross represents Christ's chariot of victory over sin, and the initiation of the New Covenant in His blood spilled from the wounds of his triumphant battle. The cross is not a symbol of defeat as was supposed by rulers and authorities. As a spiritual interpretation, the cross is a symbol of victory over Satan who has been judged and defeated. To the physical and spiritual interpretation, it is a symbol of victory over sin and death that comes trough the Old Covenant Law.
Keeping everything in mind that we have covered so far, my urging to all of us in this second consideration is that we try not be too dogmatic about relegating this only to the mystical ethereal realm of Satan, demons, evil spirits, curses, and all that kind of thing, though spiritual warfare is in the passage. And we also must be careful about not being too dogmatic about relegating this warning to be exclusively persecution coming from earthly rulers of that generation. This leads me to press forward with what should be dogmatically recognized in these passages, and that is that there really is a spiritual war going on, and there is a principle here for us to glean in our stand against the spiritual forces of darkness. The fact that there really is a spiritual war going on is made evident in the fact that the prince of the power of the air is at work in the lost. It is made evident in the fact that Paul says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but it is against the wiles of the devil. This is a fact, so how do we battle it? Well, we already know that the first thing that we are supposed to do is stand firm. You stand in your full armor, but what you and I need to really get from this passage is what Paul starts out with. Remember, he says,
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."
Our strength is in the Lord. We don't have enough strength in our flesh to fight spiritual battles. This is what you and I need to realize. Our strength is the strength of His might. This is why Paul quotes Isaiah about Christ's armor. This, by the way, is a proclamation of the deity of Christ. Paul constantly wants us to recognize that we are the body of Christ. Christ is our all in all. Christ is in us as our hope of glory. We are to be filled with His power. The big point is that you and I are only going to lead the victorious Christian life in this world of spiritual darkness when we put on the full armor of Christ, which is the full armor of God Himself. The schemes of the devil are all around us in opposition to Christ, His church, and the things we believe. Even our morals are attacked by the world. So the question is; are you taking up the full armor of God? If you aren't then you are being defeated every day. You are being defeated spiritually at work. You are being defeated spiritually in the cultural war, and you will continue to be defeated as long as you read passages such as these, then turn your head, and leave the armor closed tight in the pages of your Bible.
How are you going to be strong in the strength of His might when you neglect His battle gear that He made for Himself, and yet, it is made to be worn by you as a member of His body?
A lot of Christians act like civilians, and so they are not able to resist. They are pacifists for Christ, and so they are defeated by the schemes of the Devil each and every day. They try to live the Christian life in nakedness where they sit down in front of the marching enemy. Or they try to run, but because they are not equipped, they don't know what they are running from, or what they are running to. Or they try to conquer life by the arm of the flesh. They are always failing because their strategy, or their lack of strategy, always falls short. They try to stand firm on mediocre Christianity, or they try to stand firm on religious philosophies that they think are what God wants, but they are really wrong beliefs. Bridgeway,
How are you going to stand if you are ignorant of God's truth?
How are you going to stand firm if you are not continuously learning the truth, loving it, and living it as if it is as important as breathing oxygen into every breath?
You need to hunger for the truth and keep yourself guarded from the lies that come at you every day from the futility of the Gentile mind of Ephesians 4:17. This takes wisdom--godly wisdom. The lies are everywhere. God says to pay attention to the public reading of scripture and to preaching. Paying attention, means more than just showing up on Sunday morning to be seen. It is to show up on Sunday morning to learn from God's minister what God has to say to you in Spirit led exhortation that speaks to the needs of our cultural context in respect to our lives. People say that another tomb has been found in Israel. Big deal. But, they go on to say that it is the so called, real tomb of Jesus; and guess what? They go on to say that Jesus never rose from the dead. It's all a lie. It is persecution. But are you ready to defend the truth by understanding why it is a lie? People say that there are many ways to be saved. They say that Muslims, Mormons, and modern day Jews who reject Christ, all worship the same God that we Christians worship. But that is a lie. Paul says that having done everything already, then you need to stand firm with the truth. The command is that you need to gird your loins with truth. Don't settle for anything less.
Do you realize that you are the very righteousness of God in Christ Who is our all in all?
His righteousness, which is His own armor, is your breastplate. You are made righteous by Christ for Christ. What this means is that you don't act righteous to be saved, but rather you are saved to act righteous.
Are you trying to make God happy with you so that He will accept you enough to save you, or keep you saved?
If so, then your core is exposed. You don't have armor over your heart. You are seeking to be justified by works, and that is a lie of the Devil. In seeking to be justified by works, then you are involved in a false religion. You are a legalist. You are a self righteous casualty in a war that you are not even able to stand firm in. Give your life to Christ in repenting from your works, and turn to Christ as your all in all. Confess Christ as your Lord and Savior, rather than yourself as a co-lord, and a co-savior with Him. Believe in Him completely for salvation, by His grace, through faith in His finished work, and you will be saved. This is the Gospel of peace. Without your feet being covered with the Gospel of peace, then you are really on the other side fighting against God in your sins and your false religion. But if you are saved, you need to know how to present the Gospel of peace. You need to know what it means to be saved. You need to know that salvation is eternal. You need to know what all you are saved from. You need to know that your are secure in Christ. Christ came to save sinners. All have sinned, and do sin, and in sin, fall short of God's glory. He died on the cross as a sin covering, wrath absorbing, people purchasing sacrifice. He rose from the dead three days later. He reigns at the Father's right hand. Those who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior are saved from eternal damnation. Those who do not, are damned forever. The gospel is easy, and it means peace for all of us who actually embrace it.
Are you meditating on the promises of God?
This is the shield of faith that you need to have. Don't focus on the circumstances that sway your mind to the temporal earthly realm. Focus on your shield of faith rather than the crumbling shell of philosophy. Quit getting so into culture, that you start putting church on the shelf. Quit it. Get out of the enemies camp and stand firm on the Father's ground, so when the enemy comes with the hard hits, you will be in your Lord's territory, and you will be ready. Put away faith destroyers, like movies made by liberal writers, directors, producers, and actors. Put away books written by people who are driven by the futility of the Gentile mind. Immerse yourself in songs, and people, and things that are driven by the faith of the eternal mind of God. This is your shield to fend off the faith destroying influences of the world. Put it in your hand and protect yourself. Then there is the helmet of your salvation. You are a child of God, and so don't ever forget your great privilege. It is your great blessing. The world is lost. They really are the sons of disobedience, and they really do have an evil spirit who is at work in them.
How are you going to stand against the world, if you don't recognize this stark difference?
You need to recognize your salvation as being the most precious thing you have. Instead of fellowshipping with the world, which James calls fellowship that is enmity against God, you need to recognize that the world is walking in enmity against Christ, and His true church. Are you swallowing the great lie of the Devil of our age, where your goal as a saved person is to exist in your salvation thinking,
How much like the world culture can I look and act like, to be acceptable to the unsaved world, so I can show the world that Christians are really more like them than they probably think?
If so, then you don't have the helmet of your salvation on your head for all the world to see for what it really is. We really need to understand that our salvation means that we really are different. We really are pilgrims passing through this temporal place. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. So what you should be doing is taking up the helmet of your salvation and saying,
How much like the intense Christian culture of the heavenly kingdom of Christ can I look like, and act like, to be unacceptable to the world, so I can show the world that I am really not as much like them as they probably think? In which case, I will repel those who don't care about Christ, and will draw those who God is truly drawing to Himself.
You wear the armor, and I guarantee, you will look different.
Finally, you aren't going to do any of this if you have a low view of Scripture. You need the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. God's words are his conversation with us. The Bible is His message for you to live by. You need this sword to evangelize the sons of disobedience. You need the word of God to defend the faith in apologetics against the sons of disobedience, you need the word of God for personal discipleship and edification while you stand firm. Brothers, and sisters, I urge you to heed Paul's words. In this way, you won't be asking what it means to be strong in the Lord, but rather, you will be demonstrating what it means to be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might--amen?