September 18, 2022, at Beersheba Springs Assembly
For some of you this might be a very familiar text and the depiction of the armor of God from the sixth chapter of Ephesians. For others maybe you have never heard it. And of those who have heard it, it never hurts to have a good refresher on being armored for God. Paul is calling for us as Christians to be active in our faith 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Paul has already prayed that the readers may be strengthened with God’s power (3:16) but also recognizes the “power at work within us” (3:20). But now Ephesians 6:10-11 extends this idea to suggest that the community itself acts to take up God’s power, at least partially through its own initiative. This letter, then, was written for the Ephesians for whom their allegiance to Christ set them at conspicuous odds with the allegiances of others in their families and cities who worshipped the emperor as the Son of God.
12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. For the Ephesians, no matter what hostility is displayed by their fellow friends and families, they were to understand that hostility towards them as coming from larger, darker, spiritual forces. Such forces cannot be fought by the believers themselves, but are rather to be resisted. Spiritual hosts of wickedness guide and manipulate world rulers of this present age, but the battle is not with other people. Something we all need to remember. Faithfulness to God places one in the midst of a battle one is unable to fight aggressively on earth but instead be Armored.
But maybe we need to re-think the metaphor of armor here since we don’t walk around wearing armor in our day and age. And there aren’t many professions in our twenty-first-century world that require armor except to protect our law enforcement and military from harm. And of course, our front-line medical folks who have to armor up for 12 hrs or more every day. And we all have though learned what it is like to wear protective gear of all sorts that the pandemic brought into play in a powerful way. Instead of the helmet of salvation, maybe it is the facemask more aptly that brings us a sense of peace and protection.
And maybe being armored sounds as though we are doing battle instead of trying to live our lives in a way that reflects our faith and the love that God has placed within us. But if we look closer at what we are being asked to put on -- do you notice something? Everything that all that is offered here is defensive, designed to protect the wearer and the faith we live. The only offensive “weapon” is not our own, but God’s Word.
So, we can see this as the security we need to continue to live our faith in a complicated and sometimes threatening world. We are not alone, not left to our own strength and wisdom, but we can call upon the wisdom and the strength of God as it is expressed and lived out in the community of faith. This is a call to be united and to look after one another as we journey together.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, The armor of God that the church takes up relates to the message that Paul has already laid out in the message of Ephesians 1-3 and is now preparing for a spiritual battle in which believers engage in through their actions. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist,
First, says Paul, you need a belt. Now a belt is not just for keeping your pants up, as important as that is. And believe me it is. But in that day and time, the belt was also used, by those going into battle, to tie up all those loose bits of clothing that would flap about and could be taken hold of by an opponent when least expected. With a belt you can avoid being caught. So, fasten around your waist the belt of truth.
Paul says that truth can keep us from being caught out by the loose ends of our lies. As Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, “No one has a good enough memory to be a really effective liar.” We’re going to get caught if we try. But belted in truth, having made the decision to live honestly and openly to the truth of Christ, we won’t get caught with our pants down. Literally. By girding ourselves with the “belt of truth” we prepare ourselves for the work to which we have already been called: we are to “speak the truth in love” to one another
and put on the breastplate of righteousness. Next, says Paul, you’re going to need a breastplate. That is hardly something we see on every chest these days except those in harm’s way. Yet we all need something to protect those vital organs, so that we don’t get hit in the gut, so that we don’t suffer from a wounded heart. So, we need a chest protector to strap on to keep our heart in one piece –
Righteousness, it has been said, is being faithful in our relationships. God is righteous because God always keeps faith with us, because God keeps God’s part of the covenant. The “breastplate of righteousness” relates to the “new self” with which we are to clothe ourselves, as beings “created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).So, we try to be like God; we try to be righteous and keep faithful in all our relationships. First, our relationship with God, of course, as we try to live our lives in response to the grace we have received. But also, in our relationships with one another: we work to keep faith between husbands and wives, parents and children, teachers and students, neighbors, brothers and sisters, and all. We wear our righteousness like a chest protector so that we avoid the sinking feeling in our gut when we have broken faith with a loved one, so that we avoid receiving a broken heart.
15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Paul has earlier explained the “gospel of peace”, for which we should ready ourselves by putting on shoes. In reconciling Jews and Gentiles into one body, Christ “is our peace” (2:14). The removal of hostility through Jesus’ death on the cross is central to what is at the heart of Paul’s understanding of the gospel message. It is this message of reconciliation that should lead the church to behave and act like what the rest of Ephesians 4-6 has told us over the last couple of weeks.
So we gotta have shoes. Shoes that let us move. On our feet, we need the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace. These shoes are made for walkin’. They are not for sitting back, for putting our feet up, in our homes and saying, “Oh, well, if anyone wants to know, if they come to me and ask, and really look interested and if I’m not too busy then I just might tell them what I know about faith and church and Christ.” These shoes are for going where the action is. They are shoes in best Nike fashion to Just do it. On your feet, the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace.
16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, Well, proclaims Paul, as he admires his creation, we’re not done yet. In addition to these, we are exhorted to take up “the shield of faith”. According to Ephesians, faith activates the power of God. Salvation is God’s gift, yet it also comes through the believer’s faith (3:12). It is “through faith” that Christ dwells in the believer’s heart (3:17). Taking up the shield of faith connects to the protection that faith brings. The salvation that comes as God’s gift through faith is represented as the ability with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
We need a shield. Well, we really don’t use shields these days unless there is a riot. So how about an umbrella? You ever been in that sudden rainstorm? And you wished you had something to hold over you, to go before you, to protect you from the elements, to keep you dry? Something to hold out and to hold on to, something that will remind you that it isn’t always a bright sunny day when all is right with the world. Sometimes the skies do grow dark; sometimes the winds will blow; sometimes rain will fall. So you need something to keep you from drowning in your own despair.
Take instead the umbrella of faith and hold on tight. One author says it this way: When the weather gets rough, when the questions fall like rain, when the tears form puddles at your feet, when the clouds of doubt rumble overhead, then hold tight to your faith. Hold on to that knowledge that you are a child of God, to the experience of being pulled up from off your knees by the hand of one much stronger than you, to that feeling of being made clean again and given a fresh start. Hold on to that; and though the rain may fall, and you may get wet along the way, the center is dry and strong and still remembers that the sun still shines behind the clouds. Carry faith as your shield.
17 Take the helmet of salvation, And now, the crowning glory, accept salvation as a helmet. Wear your salvation on top of everything else. Wear it right up there where everyone can see it. Salvation, like faith, is not a golden ticket that stands ready to be scanned when you get on your heavenly bound flight. Or a memento wistfully thinking I’ll need that one day. No, it is something you wear every day, something that shapes your vision, guides your feet, broadens your understanding. When we were kids our parents when we were riding our bikes told us to wear what? Our helmet. Get on a motorcycle hopefully you are wearing a helmet. It is assurance that can protect you from all sorts of blows that might otherwise knock you senseless. Accept salvation as a helmet.
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And a sword. A sword? Well, yes. But not just any old sword with which you can go hacking away at the undergrowth of our society. This sword has a specific function, and it is a function that you don’t ultimately control. It is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Perhaps we should be carrying a pen (you know mightier than the sword) or a phone with unlimited texting. This sword is about words.
This sword is not about taking away life but about giving life meaning. It’s about communicating God’s word. It is God who wields the power here, not us. It is God whose word cuts to the quick, where soul and Spirit meet. Our job is to be faithful to that word, to proclaim it with our whole life, with all our collective lives as the body of Christ, the word made flesh. This means, of course, that we know what God’s word is. To take up this sword, to wield this pen, takes a lifetime of study.
Put on the whole gear. Why? Simple. To stand. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
To stand, that’s what this is about. The armor is designed to help folks stand fast: it is not armor for aggressive action. It’s a shaky world out there, and it needs people with balance, people who are armored enough to stand. Standing fast does not require a person to hurt a neighbor in any way. The armor is to empower believers to withstand the evils that surround and threaten them.
And what is the final thing we need to stand firm? Prayer. Prayer is an activity that is connected to the taking up of God’s armor. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.
Paul also prays on behalf of the church for their strength and understanding. The church is instructed to pray for all of the saints and for the author as well. The imagery of God taking up God’s armor to seek justice was related in first century culture to the notion of the day of the Lord.
So Paul is telling us that the battle with cosmic forces is not simply a battle delayed for a future day of God’s judgment, but is a present battle believers must engage on a regular basis. The church’s struggle and our struggle as Christians is a heavenly one against spiritual powers, but it is acted out every day on a more mundane ordinary routine level as we are called to be Armored.
But The armor of God does not mean that the church will not encounter difficulties, then, but enables Christians to encounter such difficulties. Through perseverance and prayer, the church may boldly proclaim the gospel even in the midst of persecution and hardship. And that is what it means to be Geared Up for Life.