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PUT ON THE GOSPEL ARMOUR

By Stephen Green

First published in Christian Voice March 2012

 

Eph. 6:13 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.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

There is a spiritual war going on and Christian Voice members are in the midst of it.  It may be more of a guerrilla war than a pitched battle.  In this present darkness the enemy has taken most if mot all of the political ground and we are reduced to harrying and disrupting him as he advances.  We know our Lord has the victory, and if it feels at times as if we are only hanging in there, we have a duty to proclaim his crown rights nevertheless.  Our aim should be to bring every thought into the obedience of Christ and that is not just our own thoughts, but every thought of every sphere of government.

Now if we are in a war we need protection from the enemy’s assaults and we need a weapon to fight with.  By the grace of God, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul was able to describe the Christian’s armour in his letter to the church atEphesus.

THE ISAIAH CONNECTION

Undoubtedly Paul had observed Roman soldiers going about their business, not least in escorting him to Rome, and it is plain he drew on a passage in Isaiah about the Lord’s own armour:

Isa. 59:14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

Isa. 59:15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.

Isa. 59:16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

Isa. 59:17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Paul leaves out the cloak of zeal and expands the other two pieces of armour, the breastplate and helmet, into four, adding a belt and shoes.  These also, incredibly, are found in Isaiah:

Isa 11:5  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

Isa 52:7  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Paul’s analogies, as we should expect from a very clever and learned Gamaliel-trained rabbi filled with the Holy Spirit, are faultless, built as they are on the Old Testament witness.

THE GIRDLE OF TRUTH

The girdle, a wide leather belt, becomes a metaphor for truth, and is consequently the first spiritual ‘garment’ we should put on.  I have always taken it for granted that the ‘truth’ spoken of is the truth of our own walk.  We should be true men as Joseph’s brothers protested (Gen 42:11ff) and not given to guile or falsehood, people upon whose word others can rely.

I have seen a teaching which states that the ‘truth’ being spoken of is the truth of the word of God.  We should be girded with God’s truth in his word.  I do not have a problem with that, if it does not become an alternative to our own verity.  We must be true ourselves to be properly girt with truth.  It is illogical to be a liar and simultaneously to protest, ‘But I have the truth of Christ’s word in me.’

Similarly, I have seen the breastplate of righteousness explained away as Christ’s righteousness alone.  In this line of thinking, only Christ is righteous, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, we can do nothing to please or displease the Lord and any righteousness we might have is only Christ’s imputed righteousness.

PRESS TOWARD THE MARK

Now I agree that at his crucifixion the Lord Jesus took upon his righteous self our sins and that those who believe in him are clothed in his righteousness.  Of course that is right and fundamental Christian doctrine.

But at the same time, the Apostle Paul spends a lot of time in his letters explaining basic Christian morality and conduct to the early believers.  If our conduct did not matter, if Christ’s righteousness were all we needed, he would say (as some Christians do today): ‘Don’t bother trying to be righteous because you will never manage it.  Just be satisfied that Christ is your righteousness.’  But he doesn’t.  He says, ‘Flee fornication’ (1Cor 6:18).  He says, ‘Steal no more’ (Eph 4:28). He says, ‘I press toward the mark’ (Php 3:14).  He says, ‘Lie not to one another’ (Col 3:9).  He says, ‘Walk honestly toward them that are without’ (1Thess 4:12) and that no-one is to ‘defraud his brother’ (vs 6).

And at the end of his life, the Apostle Paul is able to say:

2Tim 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

There is not a hint there that Paul feels he is still unworthy of heaven.  His early sins have been washed away, and he has walked in the way of the Lord ever since, finishing his course and keeping the faith.  When the people asked for a king, the prophet Samuel posed a question:

1Sam 12:3 Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.  4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.

UPRIGHT BEFORE HIM

King David was responsible for adultery and murder.  He was, we read, a man of blood who was not allowed his aspiration of building the temple of the Lord.  He humbled himself before the Lord in Psalm 51 and was forgiven.  He became a man after the Lord’s own heart.  Towards the end of his life, he penned these words:

Psalm 18:20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. 23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. 24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

David speaks of his righteousness and the cleanness of his hands.  He can not be speaking of imputed righteousness because he says clearly: ‘I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God’ and ‘I kept myself from mine iniquity’.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, if David did it, then so can we.

The sense of Ephesians 6 must be that we have to form a breastplate of our own righteousness before the Lord.  And it is in keeping his commands that we form a plate of brass which protects our heart from being pierced through by Satan’s darts.  It is in speaking only what is right and true, being men and women of our word, avoiding situations of possible temptation and guarding ourselves against sin that we clasp the tough leather belt of truth about our loins.

In a similar vein I have read that since all wisdom is in Christ, and we are in Christ, then we have all the wisdom we need and we just need to realise it, declare it and seize it in faith.  Yet the Apostle James says:

Jas 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Surely if it were simply a matter of believing you have it already, James would say so.  It has been rightly said that there are no short cuts to the Throne-Room, and there are no short cuts to having the protection of the Gospel armour either.  Anyone going into spiritual battle with sin or hypocrisy or disobedience in his life will suffer the same fate as the Israelite army at the first battle of Ai (Josh 7:5).

THE HELMET OF SALVATION

The helmet of salvation is, I think, rather more straightforward.  A blow to the arm might be survived; the same assault to the head could be terminal.  The salvation of the Lord protects the head, which contains the brain, the centre of our intellect and reasoning.  The hope of salvation, which is another view of the helmet (in 1Thess 5:8) protects from discouragement, despair and  temptation. The Psalmist says:

Psalm 119:81  My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.

Interestingly, the word ‘salvation’ can describe the justification which our Lord Jesus bought for us by his once-for-all gracious and brave sacrifice on the cross.  Our sins were wiped clean and our debt paid by what he did for us.  But salvation can also describe the process of becoming holy as God is holy (1Pet 1:15).  The Apostle Paul writes:

Romans 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

When we read, study, meditate and pray into God’s word, we aim to have God’s laws written in our hearts and minds and become like the Psalmist who could say: ‘O, how love I thy law; it is my meditation all the day.’ (Psalm 119:97). God expects us to obey His commandments and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Php 2:12).

The more the word of God enters deep inside us, the more we have the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16, Php 2:5) and the more our mind can think as his does, rather than as the world does.

THE SHOES OF THE GOSPEL

Isaiah paints a lovely picture of the beautiful feet of the one who brings the Gospel of peace and salvation.  That Paul picks it up and turns it into a pair of shoes is truly inspired on every level.  When we go into battle, we must put on the Gospel footwear and publish salvation.  Our message carries a strong theocratic call of triumph: ‘Thy God reigneth!’

Christian Voice started going onto the streets with leaflets in May 2004, to protest against a blasphemy printed in the Sunday Mirror.  The series of witness events we ran there was blessed by the Lord with victory; the Sunday Mirror printed an apology.  From the very first we have presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every leaflet of witness we have ever printed.

The ground gets hard and the going is tough, but a good pair of Gospel shoes will keep our feet from getting sore.  Who can be tired when he is taking out a message of salvation and forgiveness, even a prophetic plea to flee from the wrath to come?  We can step out without fear when our feet are protected with the Gospel of Christ who overcame the world and turn our full attention to the battle in which he and the angels of heaven stand beside us.

THE SHIELD OF FAITH

If the helmet was our hope and the shoes our charity, the shield is our faith.  The Roman shield  was large and curved.  It could deflect arrows and fiery darts for that matter.  This is an item not worn on the body.  Instead we have to pick up the shield of faith.  There are 44 verses with the word ‘shield’ in them in the Bible.  Sixteen are in the Psalms, nearly all conveying the same message as here:

Psalm 115:11  Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.

The Lord is our shield if we will only trust him, so that is where faith comes in. 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed‑Nego came under attack in Babylon for their belief in the God of heaven, but they went into the fiery furnace undaunted simply because of their faith. They told the king that what he had in store for them held no fear:

Dan 3:17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

I have gone through tough times in my life, but I have never stopped believing that God is in control.  He is doing everything for my good and for the good of all that love him, those called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).  He is, as the hymn says, ‘working his purpose out’:

Numb 14:21  But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

Hab 2:14  For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Faith is our first line of defense.  In the picture we have of the Gospel armour, Satan has to penetrate our faith before he can attack our salvation or our personal integrity.

Mark 11:22  And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

Let us pray that our faith never wavers.

THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT IS THE WORD OF GOD

It was with some surprise that I realised that our only offensive weapon is the word of God.  Some think of prayers as weapons, but I see prayers as our battlefield communications.  They are vital to the cause, because through them we send intelligence of the enemy’s movements and plead for reinforcements and the use of what we might describe as God’s artillery – the miraculous. Through prayer, if we are listening, we shall receive orders and  tactics, even a strategy.

So the communication of prayer, like footwear, is essential, but it is not a weapon.  And if anyone wishes to quote 2Cor 10:4 to prove a plurality of weapons, the Greek word ‘hoplon’ is singular, and actually means military equipment as a whole.

And that equipment, the whole armour of God, with the sword of the spirit which is the word of God as its offensive weapon, is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds, and we see plenty of those about.  The letter to the Hebrews says:

Heb 4:12  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

And we read in Isaiah:

Isa 55:11  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

In the Revelation of John, the analogy Paul makes between the word and a sword is used literally. The Lord Jesus is pictured with a sword coming out of his mouth:

Rev 1:16  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

It is a privilege indeed to wield a weapon used by the Lord himself.  But equally, if it is good enough for the Lord, it has to be good enough for us.  We just need to realise the power of the  word of God in any situation.  That should give us added incentive to study and pray into the Bible, in order to have a sharpened, polished, oiled sword always at the ready.

That is why, in the current debate over changing the definition of marriage, we need to rely on the word of God.  We don’t want to be part of any campaign which does not ‘do God’.  God, not man, must have the victory, and his word will accomplish it.  We should get so used to using the word as our sword that we become like Eleazor who was so committed to the battle, his sword became so stuck, it seemed to be part of his hand (2Sam 23:10).

So let us put our spiritual armour on, wearing the belt, breastplate, helmet and shoes, hold our shield aloft and pick up our sword.  In fact, once we have that armour all in place it might be a good idea never to take it off.

(The use of the lower case ‘him’, ‘his’, ‘he’ for God and Christ follows similar usage in the KJV)

 

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5 comments

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  1. Norman Atterbury

    Praise God, you are a blessing to the body of Christ. Yes it is essential that we put on our armour and use the word of God as a double edged sword, coming out of our mouth. We can’t think it, we have to say it. Satan is no match for us, Jesus defeated him and he is crushed under our feet. It is our duty to speak to the mountain, believing what we say, and it will come to pass. It is also good to pray in the Spirit, because some times we don’t know what to pray.
    Keep up the excellent work.
    Norman.

  2. Bernard W. Nowakowski

    Greetings in the most precious name which is above every name – the name of Jesus.
    “Put On The Gospel Armour” gave me much encouragement which I needed desperately. Thank you for explaining the Word of God so clearly.
    I used to get messages from another evangelist who lives in Britain and his name is Jacob Prasch and who also has the right understanding of the Word of God.
    You are in my prayers. May the Lord continue to mightily use you in your so much needed ministry.
    Shalom in the name of Yeshua,

    Ben W. Nowakowski

    ( I go by the name of Ben.)

  3. eva

    Really good – thanks for that Stephen
    The Lord bless you!
    Thanks also for all your hard work to
    protest any redefining of marriage.
    It is appreciated.

  4. Chris Powell

    I have been blessed by this article.
    Thank You.

  5. eileen whitaker

    Such an encouragement! Shadrach etc was spoken to me in my Spirit just an hour ago by God in answer to a prayer.

    Thank you very much and God Bless You mightily!

    Eileen

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