What is the Armor of God?
the armor of god
Putting on the weapons of warfare
If you’ve read the New Testament, heard at least a year of Biblical preaching, or have some spiritual friends, you’ve probably heard of the Armor of God. But do you know what it means to put on the whole armor of God? Have you fully come to understand that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual, not carnal? Does it seem like you’ve been through some battles and came out on the other side weaker and worse for wear? If we’re honest, I think we can all nod our heads to that one. If you’re here to find out how to never have anymore battles, you’re in the wrong place. I, for one, will not lie to you about this: More battles are coming. If you’re here to learn how to wage a good warfare, I hope I can help you.
*Note: I am using the American spelling of the word, “armor” in this post. Some people get offended when this spelling is used because they see it written as the armour of God. Notice the “u” in that word. That’s just the British spelling of the word. You’ll see the same thing for the word, “Savior.” In America, we write savior without the u, but the British spelling is, “saviour.” So when you read the Authorized King James Version, you will see “the armour of God,” and if I directly quote from that, I use that spelling because I am quoting. Other than that, I tend to spell things using American conventions because, you know, I’m an American.
But before we get started, let’s make sure we understand the enemies we, as followers of Christ, fight against.
The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
It may seem strange and even overboard to say that the world is the enemy of the Christian, but let’s look at what the Bible has to say:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
Remember that Adam sinned in the garden in Eden. God therefore cursed the ground. It’s not like the curse has been lifted. In fact, things got worse. God destroyed the inhabitants of the earth with a flood, sparing only one family and enough animals to sustain that family, provide sacrifices, and replenish the earth. At the time, God saw that man was “only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). A few chapters after the flood, and mankind was trying to work its way into heaven at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).
This world is in opposition to God. It’s filled with lust and sin. Diseases are rampant as a result of a fallen creation. Pride and greed lead the way to war after war. How many people have been murdered for money, power, jealousy, or for no reason at all? Mothers, fathers, and children with no love for one another. Drug and other addictions abound. No, this world is no friend of God, and it should be no friend of his disciples. We are told not to love the world for a reason.
Of course, to say that the world is an enemy crouched in a dark alley, waiting to leap out and attack you with a gun would be foolish. It’s not that kind of enemy. No, the world is on a course, a collision course of destruction. Thankfully, God sent his son to deliver us from this course, one set in motion by Satan himself (Ephesians 2:2). Never forget, he is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Interestingly enough, when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he took Jesus on a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world, then offered them to the Lord if he would worship Satan. You know what the Lord didn’t say? He didn’t look at the devil and say, “Those kingdoms aren’t yours to give, buddy.” Why? Because God has allowed Satan to rule. Do I understand all that? Not even kind of, but I do know that Satan had free reign to walk to and fro in the earth in the book of Job, and he also had access to speaking with God...among the sons of God (Job 1:6-7). Don’t fool yourself into believing you know everything there is to know. When I say the enemy is powerful, I say it with respect and fear, just like the archangel Michael when he was in the presence of Satan (Jude 1:9). This is the devil’s world, and it is filthy, vile, and wicked. Enjoy the creation, but don’t love this world.
How many times have you heard some variation of, “the devil made me do it?” How many times have you said it? None? You sure? Have you ever thought that, maybe, the devil “got in your head?” Have you ever heard Christians talk like this? Is it possible? Oh yes. He entered Judas before he betrayed the Lord. He filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3). But the reality is that Satan is not as powerful as The God. He’s not omnipresent or omnipotent. Apparently not, if he had to walk to and fro in the earth. Besides, I don’t think he really needs to do much to cause us to sin. Why?
Our flesh is the enemy of God, making it our enemy. But, Chad, how can my body be my enemy? Let’s ask God:
“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:22-25).
The Apostle Paul, a man who saw the resurrected Christ, a man who performed the same miracles as the other apostles, said his flesh was at war with his mind. He wanted to serve the Lord, but his flesh wanted to serve sin. I think it would be wise to not consider ourselves above Paul. Another apostle, John, was the disciple known for being very close to the Lord (leaning on his breast during the final passover meal). He said that we are deceiving ourselves if we say we have no sin (1 John 1:8). Yes, that was written to people who believed in the Lord. There’s a difference between being saved and forgiven from your sin and being free from the temptation to sin.
You can work out that body of yours all you want. Put as much makeup and designer clothing on it as you can manage. Primp it, tan it, stare at it day and night; it’s still corrupt. It will go in the ground and rot after you die. Paul said there was no good thing in his flesh. He said we will shed this corruptible body, one day, and put on an incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:53).
If that doesn’t confirm the fact that this flesh is against God and responsible for the majority of the sins we commit, here’s the smoking gun:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:13-14).
That verse says that we are tempted by our own lusts. What did John say about those lusts? The ones that are in the world? There are two kinds: the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Where did Jesus say sin could be committed? In the heart, just with the thought of it. Man, that’s rough. I’m not sure why Christians argue this one. We’re fooling ourselves and no one else if we act like these fleshly bodies, minds, and hearts don’t want to go against God. The Bible is clear: Men love darkness (John 3:19).
So take care of your body. It’s the only one you have until the Lord returns, and you should try to stay in good health (3 John 1:2). Just don’t obsess over it. Give it an inch, and it’ll...well, you get it.
No need to argue here...at least you would think so. Unfortunately, the devil has done a wonderful job of convincing many people that he doesn’t exist. And I’m not talking about unbelievers; I’m talking about professing, Bible-believing Christians. These are the people that, somehow, don’t believe hell is real and that Satan is a myth. Please, someone kindly encourage them to read the Bible for themselves and not take the so-called preacher’s word for it. In fact, please run if your “pastor” tells you hell and the devil are made up or symbolic. To read about Satan’s ministers posing as God’s ministers, read my post on angels or Satan’s Mighty Men.
I shouldn’t have to do this, but here’s the undeniable proof:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Let’s look at the short list, shall we?
Man was created by God and set in a perfect creation...enter the serpent. Results? Cursed man, cursed woman, cursed earth.
Job was living the good life and was one of the richest and wisest men in the east...here comes Satan to challenge God. Results? Ten dead children, loss of his livelihood, a bitter wife telling him to curse God and die, and boils all over his body.
Moses dies, and the archangel comes to take his body...enter the devil to try and take it. Results? The Bible isn’t clear how this one went down. We do know a couple of things: That body was taken into heaven, so Michael was the victor, but he was obviously intimidated, according to the book of Jude.
David is thriving in his kingdom, ready to gather the materials for the temple his son, Solomon, would build...Satan stirs him up to number the people. Results? Thousands killed.
Jesus is manifested as the Son of God to the nation of Israel and is then led into the wilderness...enter the tempter. Results? Well, Jesus won, but it took a toll on him. (Yes, Jesus could have killed him, but he was subject to his human body. It required food and rest, and he’d been fasting forty days and nights).
And the pièce de ré·sis·tance? Paul prefaces the need for the Armor of God by saying it’s so we can withstand the “wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). We’ve spent a lot of time establishing the reality of the enemy, so you may have forgotten that this is a posting about the Armor of God.
The Command and the Danger
That title isn’t a typo. We’re commanded to put on the armor. Like it or not, when we became disciples of Christ we joined an army. We’re in a fight with “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). This is no easy battle. Sadly, most of us drift back into the course of this world and live for the flesh. We are far too often carnal, rather than spiritual. That’s how subtle the enemy is. We didn’t even realize living a normal life was losing the battle.
That’s the danger. The enemy isn’t some red-skinned guy with horns and a pitchfork. He got Adam to sin by asking his wife a question. He managed to get thousands of Israelites wiped out by convincing David to count the people. His tactic for Jesus? He tried to get him to do something well within his power and take care of his hungry belly. He’s subtle. He knows how to bait the hook, and he’s not going to come at you the same way he comes at me. Sure, some of his basic tactics are the same, but he’s really good at this. He’s been doing this for thousands of years.
The Offensive Nature of the Armor
I spent ten years in the army, and I went to combat twice. Before that, I was a martial arts instructor. One thing I learned was the principal of fight or flight. When you are faced with confrontation, you have instincts that kick in. Those instincts either tell you to run or face the conflict. Ask any police officer what happens to the person who runs in a fire fight: They get shot in the back. It’s dangerous either way, but you can’t protect yourself when you’re running.
It’s interesting to me that God tells us to flee certain things. He tells us to flee from fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18). He tells us to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). He tells us to flee from temptation and a lack of contentment (1 Timothy 6:11). He tells us to flee youthful lusts and follow after righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22). But, when it comes to the devil, he tells us to resist, and the devil will flee from us (James 4:7).
The lesson is to run from obvious temptation. Remove yourself from the situation, just like Joseph did (Genesis 39:12). But to be able to stand against the devil’s tricks (wiles), you need to be able to see him and what he’s doing. It’s confusing, I know, but the idea is that you need to know when to let the separate instincts of fight and flight kick in. Which is why God says to stand. It’s also why none of the pieces of the armor are for the back.
Understanding the Purpose of the Armor of God
The key to understanding the Armor of God is to realize that it is really an admonition to be in a close walk with Christ through his word. Ephesians isn’t the only place where the armor is mentioned, but every reference points to Jesus Christ. Paul tells us to put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5), and the Bible is a lamp to your path (Psalm 119:105). Paul said he was a minister by many things, among them by the armor of righteousness (2 Corinthians 6:7). The fruits of righteousness are by Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:11), and the word of God is righteous (Romans 7:12).
The “Stand” Pieces of the Armor of God
I, personally, think that the pieces of the armor can be divided into two sections. Paul first says to stand “having” certain things already in our possession. “Having” our loins gird with truth and “having on” the breastplate of righteousness. It is stated that our feet are already shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. These are the pieces we need in order to stand against the wiles of the devil, and we’ll see why.
Belt of Truth
The Bible says to have your loins gird about with truth. But what is truth? Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said the word of God is truth (John 17:17). Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote Ephesians, and he very possibly was using Roman armor as an illustration. These soldiers didn’t wear pants; they wore tunics, and they would gird those tunics with a belt around their waists. It’s difficult to fight with a tunic flapping around your legs. Similarly, not knowing truth will cause you to stumble. Do you know how to spot a counterfeit dollar? You don’t study counterfeit strategies; you study the real dollar. That way, when something false comes along, you can spot it right away.
Satan will come with his lies. He is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is a lying spirit. He lied to Eve, twisting what God said, and he has done that ever since. He took the Bible out of the hands of the people for over a thousand years and hid it in the hands of false ministers, ministers that twisted it to their own means until the time of the reformation. Even then, Satan played all sides, continuing to twist the word of God. Hundreds, thousands, were martyred for trying to translate the true word of God and live out its truths. Because of these acts, in the eyes of many, the Bible is nothing more than a book of lies or a collection of fables. People commit gross acts of sin and declare that Jesus wouldn’t judge them as they quote some liar and believe it to be the word of God.
God is not the author of confusion. Neither is he the God of hate so many make him out to be. Neither is he the sin-loving, accept everyone and leave everyone the way they are God of Hollywood and so many false preachers. He is the God of truth. He is the only source of absolute truth in this universe and the only defense against lies and deception. People want the darkness, want the deception, but we are to be sanctified through the truth and thirst after righteousness! Truth helps us to stand against the devil because it exposes the lies.
Breastplate of Righteousness
Paul says to have on a breastplate of righteousness. The admonition here is to protect your heart with righteousness. Our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but through the faith of Jesus Christ, we have his righteousness (Romans 3:22). A clean heart is the greatest weapon against the unrighteousness of this world. Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself (Philippians 4:11). But how? He chose to think on righteous things (Philippians 4:8), die to his own desires (1 Corinthians 15:31), and to fill his heart with the word of God (Colossians 3:16). David said he had hid God’s word in his heart that he might not sin against the Lord (Psalm 119:11).
Where do we find this righteousness? Psalm 119 continuously declares that the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments of the Lord are right or righteous. Those testimonies are faithful (Psalm 119:138) and everlasting (Psalm 119:144). God says that he speaks righteousness in Isaiah 45:19. Remember when Jesus told a group of people that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart? If it’s inside you, it will come out. God is righteous, and righteousness comes out of him. This is further proof that the corruption in this world is not of God because he spoke the world into existence, and he speaks righteousness.
Remember what God said after he had finished each stage of the creation? He saw it and said it was good. If he created you as a new creature in Christ, then you’re righteous, but your righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. If you remember this the next time the accuser, or your flesh, or this world tries to convince you that you’re nothing or that you can’t overcome your past; you can have victory in knowing that you are dead to sin and alive through Jesus Christ! Righteousness helps us stand against the devil because it deflects the works of unrighteousness.
Greaves and Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace
What follows (or is supposed to follow) war? Peace, right? The only thing that ceases a battle is when both sides declare a truce, cease fire, or a peace treaty. Of course we understand that many wars are fought over money, position, and power. The impetus for war may be an attack that “warrants” retaliation, but there is usually, if not always, a motive for power. This is as old as The Iliad, Homer’s ancient tale of The Trojan War. No one cared about the wife of a king being in an adulterous relationship; Agamemnon wanted power and to expand his empire. Just look at the history of kingdoms, and you’ll see this truth born out. A war is fought, a nation is conquered, a king becomes the subject of the conquering king. Hence the term, “king of kings” attributed to so many, including Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:37).
But nations won’t rise against one another if they have no reason to. They won’t fight if they are at peace and not jockeying for positions of power. When the Lord Jesus was still walking the earth, his disciples fought over whom would be the greatest in his kingdom. He showed them all how wrong they were and told them the least was the greatest. Even the King had come to be a servant. No jockeying for power. Give God the glory and serve others. People who have received Christ as their Savior understand this. It is not of God for people to politic to become the leaders in the church. No, people serve, and God raises up faithful people to be leaders. These are people who are prepared with the gospel of peace.
One day the world will know true peace because the Prince of Peace will have eliminated all of the nations and people who have rejected the gospel. The only people and nations left will be those who are filled with that peace. The Bible says a soft answer turneth away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Only by pride cometh contention (Proverbs 13:10). Wherever God’s people go, we are to take his peace with us and spread it. We are armed with peace through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not war. Not fighting. Not contentions. Put God first, love and serve others, and let go of pride. Is this easy? No, and that’s why so many churches split or are filled with in-fighting. The gospel of peace helps us stand against the devil because it extinguishes the fires of war.
The Combative Pieces of the Armor of God
The pieces of the armor of God we’re told to take have the same characteristics of the pieces of the armor we are already supposed to be wearing, but there is also a clear distinction. Like the other pieces, the shield, helmet, and sword are all admonitions to walk closely with the Lord through his word, but these are pieces that require action. Truth helps us see the enemy. Righteousness exposes the nature of the enemy. Peace keeps us from fighting battles of pride. However, faith requires action. Salvation is not of works, but it should provoke us to good works once we have been saved. The word is like a sword we must exercise with, daily. These are action pieces, which is why we are told to “take” them.
The Shield of Faith
Faith. Could we ever exhaust this word? Is it possible to understand all the Bible has to say about it? We’re told to take the shield of faith so that we can quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:16). It shouldn’t take much to convince us that the devil is shooting at us. Crime and war increase while churches pews empty by the thousands. More and more Christians confess suicidal thoughts and take prescription drugs for depression. More and more Christian marriages are torn apart. The number of prodigal children is astounding. The devil's darts are flying. Of that, there is no question.
So how do we avoid the bombardment when it seems never-ending and hopeless? What is faith? It is the hope in the midst of all this. It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of the things we can’t see (Hebrews 11:1). We’re not blind in this battle. There is substance to our faith, the faith authored by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). We were powerless over sin until we trusted in Christ, and then we became conquerors. The redeemed life is substance. The restored marriage is substance. The prodigal returning for one is substance for the others still watching in the fields for theirs to come home. The murderer turned evangelist is the evidence that there is a God in heaven who sent his son to suffer, die, and then rise again that we might be saved!
But this faith must be taken. You must believe, and then you must endure trials so that your faith can be increased. A typical shield becomes weakened after being hit many times, but the shield of faith grows stronger with every blow. When we are at our weakest, God is at his strongest in our lives, standing between us and the enemy. Paul learned where true power lies after being beaten, imprisoned, tortured, shipwrecked, and alone. There, in those moments of weakness, he was left with nothing but his God, and his God gave him strength beyond measure. This is why he could tell others to pray with confidence, knowing that the cries of the saints were not blowing away in the wind, drifting into the skies; those calls are heard by the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our rescuer, our healer, our confidence. But you must take him as your own.
The Helmet of Salvation
Listen, it’s a free country, and if the laws in a state permit a person to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, so be it. I still think it’s crazy. Fall off a motorcycle at seventy miles per hour, and hit your head; there’s nothing there to protect you. Boom. Done. Life over. I went to combat twice. You couldn’t have paid me to take my helmet off when we were in downtown Baghdad. Would that helmet have stopped a bullet to my face? No. Of course not, but it would deflect many deadly things, including shrapnel.
Helmets exist for a reason, and every soldier in any war from any time period would tell you that. You don’t go to war without protection. In the spiritual battle, you will be assaulted by the lusts of this world. You will be assaulted by the desires of your own flesh, and you will be assaulted by the lies of the accuser of the brethren. Without a clear head to deflect these attacks, your thoughts will ruin you. Exhibit A: King Saul. He thought David was after his kingdom and wasted his life in pursuit of killing his most loyal warrior.
Are you saved? Have you been washed by the blood of the Lamb? Have you been redeemed? Act like it. Think like it. You have not been given “the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). You have a new life. The former life is passed away. Don’t just acknowledge that once; think about it and rejoice in it. It’s difficult to wallow in guilt when you’re rejoicing in being forgiven. It’s difficult to be sad over finances when you realize your father owns the cattle upon a thousand hills and paves his streets with gold! Deflect the negative shrapnel of this world and the crushing blows of Satan’s sword with the helmet forged in your salvation. Don’t just be saved. Take that powerful piece of armor, put it on, and walk with your head high!
The Sword of the Spirit
I don’t need to define this one for you; the Bible makes it clear. What is the sword? The word of God. Let’s just look at just some of the characteristics of this sword:
It’s pure (Proverbs 30:5). This isn’t a sword made up bronze that will bend. It’s not tainted iron that can rust and never be pulled from the scabbard. It’s not badly mixed metal that can be broken by a stronger blade. There is no stronger blade because this one is pure.
It’s sure (2 Peter 1:19). You can rely on it. The word of God is the only absolute truth. Hundreds of prophecies and references to Christ’s coming were fulfilled, an impossible number for multiple writers on different continents in different times, unless God was the overseer. And he is. His word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89). It will not pass away (Matthew 24:35). You can rely on it. He has preserved it through thousands of years of Satan’s efforts to eradicate it.
It’s strong and sharp (Hebrews 4:12). It’s powerful and cuts what needs to be cut. There is nothing more powerful than the word of God. Jesus was given a name above every name (Philippians 2:9), but God has magnified his word above all his name (Psalm 138:2). The world will be consumed, but the word will stand. Our flesh will rot and decay, but the word will be preserved for all eternity. The devil has and will try to destroy it, but he cannot stand against the power of the word of God.
The Final Word
Remember, you have an enemy. He is seeking to devour you. He wants you to fall prey to the traps he has set in the course of this world. He wants you to yield to the lusts of your flesh. He wants to hide the word of God from you because he knows that it will arm you, and once you are fully in that armor of God and wielding the sword of the Spirit, he has to flee. Remember that you are a new creature, created in Christ Jesus. You are a conqueror through him. Do not flee the enemy, but when you are presented with temptation, get away and don’t look back. Stand. Above all things, stand. Walk circumspectly because your adversary is subtle and cunning. Train with your sword daily, and go in peace.