Into the Armory
Stand therefore, having girded your loins
The goal of the Devil is always to produce discouragement, confusion, or indifference. Wherever we find ourselves victims of a state of confusion and uncertain discouragement and defeat, or an indifferent and an attitude toward life or others, we have already become prey to the wiles of the Devil. But this need not be so. The Ephesians passage we are studying describes God's adequate defense against the Devil's tactics, and we are urged and encouraged to use it. "Be strong in the Lord," the Apostle says, "and in the strength of his might." It is possible to stand; it is possible to overcome.
But although this word is very encouraging to us, it alone is not enough. It tells us there is an answer, but it does not tell us exactly what it is. Our question always is, "How do you do this?" How, exactly, do you become strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might?"
The Armor Is Christ
The answer is, "Put on the whole armor of God." That is how to become strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Paul says,
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17).
You can see this is highly figurative language. These are not entities in themselves but symbols of something real. In order to understand them we must look behind the figures to the reality. The armor is the way to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. The armor is nothing more than a symbolic description of the Lord himself. The armor is Christ and what he is prepared to be and to do in each one of us. When Paul speaks of these various pieces of armor, he is speaking of Christ and how we are to regard him--lay hold of him as our defense against the stratagems of the Devil. It is not merely Christ available to us, but Christ is actually appropriated.
In Romans Paul clearly declares this concept. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh." (Romans 13:14) Also, writing to his son in the faith, the Apostle says to Timothy, "You then my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). That is the source of our armor. Christ is our defense. Therefore we need to study this armor in order how to lay hold of Christ in a practical way.
General truth, I have discovered, does not help us very much. It is easy to speak in empty generalities about Christian living. Sometimes we pick a phrase out of Scripture and employ it almost as an incantation or some kind of defense. But that is a grossly improper use of the Bible.
It is easy for us to say glibly to some Christian who is struggling through a difficult time, "Christ is the answer!" Well yes, Christ is the answer, but how is he the answer? That is what we need to know, and this is what the armor in our text describes. Jesus Christ is the answer as a specific defense against specific things.
Before we look at the armor more precisely, there are two things we must note which are brought out in this text. First, there are two general divisions or classifications of the pieces of armor, and these are indicated by the tenses of the verbs which are used. The first division, covering the first three pieces, is something we have already done in the past if we are Christians: "having girded your loins with truth"; "having put on the breastplate of righteousness"; "having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace." The second division includes those things which are to be put on or taken up at the present moment: "taking the shield of faith"; "take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit." We are to take up these aspects of Christ which we take up again and again whenever we feel under attack.
The second thing to note about this armor as it is described in the text is the order in which these pieces are given to us. You cannot alter the order in any way. For example, the reason many Christians fail to exercise the sword of the Spirit is that they have never first girded UP their loins with truth. You cannot do it in reverse order. Scripture is very exact in this.
Tuck Up the Tunic
Now we want to look at the first three item which constitute the first division of this armor: "Having girded your loins with truth"--that is always the place to start whenever you are under attack. Whenever you feel discouraged, defeated, uncertain, confused, downcast, depressed, or indifferent, this is the place to start: "Gird up your loins with truth.''
The officers in the Roman army wore short skirts very much like Scottish kilts. Over them they had a cloak or tunic which was secured at the waist with a girdle. When they were about to enter battle they would tuck the tunic up under the girdle so as to leave their legs free and unimpeded for the fight. Girding the loins was always a symbol of readiness to fight. That is why this is first. You cannot do battle until you first gird up the loins with truth,
When you are threatened by discouragement, coldness, and similar moods, how do you fight back? You are to remember that when you became a Christian you girded up your loins with truth. What does that mean,
It means to remind yourself that in coming to Jesus Christ you found the truth behind all things, you found him who is in himself the truth, the key to life, the secret of the universe, final reality! You find the truth used in that sense earlier in this same letter: "You did not so learn Christ! [that is, in uncleanness and licentiousness, etc.]--assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Ephesians 4:20-21).
He is the truth, he is reality, he is the key to life, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:3). 'Well," someone says, "how do YOU that? You say you believe in Jesus, but you have accepted him as the authority without any evidence to support it. That's blind faith." But everyone begins with an act of faith, accepting some principle or person as the final authority in life. It is either another religious leader or a principle such as the scientific method or perhaps nothing more than "what at I feel is right."
The distinctive thing about Christianity is that Jesus Christ has more clearly demonstrated the right to be accepted as that authority than anyone else or any other principle. The Christian, therefore, bets his life, in a sense, that Jesus Christ is the real authority, the true revelation of things as they really are. He has objectively demonstrated it and subjectively confirmed it to you as a Christian.
How did he demonstrate that he was the truth? First, by what he said. Read the things he said--incomparable things! He gave the clearest insights ever offered in the hearing of men as to what human life is all about. Even his enemies say so. No one ever saw so clearly as he, no one ever probed so deeply, or put his finger so precisely upon, the elements which make up human rife and thinking. it is clear in what Jesus said that he spoke the truth.
But beyond that, he demonstrated the truth by what he did. This New Testament record is an amazing account Of mighty deeds and historic events. Miracles? Yes, there are evidences of the intrusion of the spiritual kingdom-that invisible realm of reality--into the visible realm. And he capped it all, of course, by showing that he had solved the one problem which is insoluble to every other man--the problem of death. He rose from the dead! Who else has ever done anything like that? That is why I know Jesus Christ is the he solved the problem of death.
This, by the way, is why the enemies of the Scriptures fight so fiercely to destroy the historicity of these. events. They want us to think it does not matter whether these were historically true. Of course they are historically I true, and of course it greatly matters, for these events clearly demonstrate that Jesus is the truth.
But it is not only by what he said and by what he did that we can know he is the truth. We can know by what he is now, in this present day. What has he What has he been to others? Look back at your Christian life and its beginnings. Did he deliver you? Has he set you free? Has he broken any chains in your life? Has he been your friend? Has he brought you back into balance and harmony?
It has been pointed out that through the centuries men have been calling on others for help. You may lack courage and say, "John F. Kennedy, help me!" but nothing happens. You may lack wisdom and ask, 'Winston Churchill, help me! Perhaps, lacking eloquence, you may cry, "Shakespeare, help me!" But no help comes. Yet for twenty centuries men and women in desperate plight have been calling out, "'Lord Jesus Christ, help me!"--and help is given! Deliverance comes! That is how we know he is the truth.
Remember that all conflicting systems and philosophies must be tested at all points, not at just one. Many philosophies can do something; many systems which basically are wrong can still help in a limited area. They can help somewhere and accomplish some good. But this is never the mark of truth. Truth is a complete entity. Truth is reality--the way things really are. Therefore, it is the explanation of all things. You know you have found the truth when you find something which is wide enough and deep enough and high enough to encompass all things. And that is what Jesus Christ does.
Further, ultimate reality never changes. Here is another mark. Truth never requires updating, never needs to be modernized. If something was true ten thousand years ago, it is still true today. If it is true today, it was true a hundred thousand years ago.
I delight in the story of the man who came to his old friend, a music teacher, and said to him in that flippant way we moderns use, 'What's the good news today?" The old man never said a word. He walked across the room, picked up a hammer, and struck a tuning fork. As the note sounded out through the room, he said, "That is 'A.' It is 'A' today, it was 'A' five thousand years ago and it will be 'N ten thousand years from now. The soprano upstairs sings off-key, the tenor across the hall flats his high notes, and the piano downstairs is out of tune." He struck the note again and said, "That is 'A,' my friend, and that's the good news for today!"
Jesus Christ is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That is how you know you have truth. Remember that, when you feel defeated, when you are under attack, when doubts come flooding into your mind. Remember that you have girded up your loins with truth; you have found him who the solid rock. "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."
Now look at the second piece of armor--the breastplate of righteousness. Have you put that on? "Having put on the breastplate of righteousness!--what does that mean? Well, that is Christ as the ground of your righteous standing before God, your acceptance before him. if you have the breastplate of righteousness on, you can rest secure that your heart and your emotions are perfectly guarded and adequately protected against attack.
Christians, through one circumstance or another, often lack assurance; they feel unworthy of God. They feel they are a failure in the Christian life and that God, therefore is certain to reject them, that he is no longer interested in them. Christians are so aware of their failures and shortcomings. Growth has been so slow. The first joy of faith has Wed, and they feel God is angry with them or that he is distant. There is a constant sense of guilt. Their conscience is always stabbing them, making them unhappy and miserable. They feel God blames them. This is simply a satanic attack, a means of opposing and destroying what God intends to do.
How do you answer an attack like this? You are to remember that you have put on the breastplate of righteousness. In other words, you do not stand on your own merits You never did. You never had anything worthwhile in yourself to offer to God. You gave all that up when you came to Christ. You quit trying to be good enough to please God. You came on his merits. You came on the ground of his imputed righteousness--that which he gives to you. You began your Christian life like that, and there is no change now. You are still on that basis.
This is why Paul begins his great eighth chapter to the Romans with the words, 'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8: 1). No condemnation! You are believing a he when you believe that God is angry with you and that he rejects you. Remember, you stand on Christ's merits, "accepted in the Beloved." Further on in that chapter Paul asks, "Who can accuse us?" It is God who justifies, Christ, who died for us, is the only one who has the right to accuse us, and he loves us. Therefore, there is no separation. 'Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?" Who can do this?
This does not mean, of course, that God puts his hand on the thing we know are wrong in our lives and says, "Oh well, these things do not matter. Don't worry about them." But it means he sees them and says, "Oh, yes, but he hasn't learned yet all that I intend to teach him." And he deals with us as a father in love and patient discipline--as a father, not as a judge.
See how the Apostle Paul, himself, used this breastplate of righteousness when be was under pressure to be discouraged and defeated. Have you ever thought of the struggles he personally had in this realm? Here was a man who was small of stature, unimpressive in his personal appearance. In fact, there is very good evidence to at he was even repulsive to many. He had a disfiguring physical ailment which made him unpleasant to look at. The last thing he had was what is called a commanding presence.
Paul's background was anti-Christian, and he could never get completely away from that. "He had been the most hostile, brutal persecutor of the church they had known. He must have constantly run across families with loved ones whom he bad put to death. And he was often reminded by many people that he was not one of the original twelve apostles, that his calling was suspect, that perhaps he really was not an apostle at all. Writing to the Corinthians about these very matters, he says of Himself, "I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9).
What grounds for discouragement! How easy it would have been for him to say to himself, "What's the use? Here I am working my fingers to the bone, making tents and trying to preach the gospel to these people, and look at the blessing God has brought them, but they don't care. They hurl recriminations back into my face. What's the use? Why try any more?"
But that is not what he does. The very next verse says, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15: 10). There he is using the breastplate of righteousness. I don't care, he says, what I have been. I don't defend what I am. I simply say that by the grace of God I am what I am. What I am is what Christ has made me. I'm not standing on my righteousness, I'm standing on his. I am by grace, and my personal situation does not make any difference at all.
So his heart was kept from discouragement. He could say, "Sure, all these things are true, but that does not change the fact that I am Christ's man, and I have -his power. He is in me and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Thus he reminded himself that when he became a Christian he bad put on the breastplate of righteousness, and he never allowed himself to be discouraged, for he never looked back for anything. He looked to Christ.
A Stout Pair of Shoes
Now let us look at this third piece of armor--"Having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace." Shoes are absolutely essential to fighting. Imagine a soldier clad in armor from head to foot out with shoes on--a barefoot soldier. Imagine how quickly the rough ground would tear and bruise his feet. Soon, despite the fact that he had all the equipment he needed otherwise, he would be out of combat. His feet would render him unfit to fight. But with a stout pair of shoes he would be ready and equipped, able to fight.
That is what this phrase means. "Equipment"' here is really the word "readiness" in Greek. "Your feet shod with the readiness produced by the good news of peace." It is peace in the heart that makes you able to fight. What does this mean? Well, again it is Christ, but this time it is Christ our peace, our source of calm, the one who provides a sense of well-being.
Now notice the relation of one piece of armor to another and the importance of the order that I stressed earlier. The first piece tells us that Christ is the truth, the ultimate secret of reality. We have come home; we have touched the key to life in Jesus Christ. That is something for the mind to understand and grasp and believe. And then what? Well, we know Christ then. We stand on his merits. We put on the breastplate of his righteousness. We come on the basis of what he has done and not what we do. And what is the result of that? Our hearts are at peace! Paul says, "Since, we are justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5: 1). Calmness, courage! To use a modem term and, I think, the most accurate, we have good "morale." Our morale is high. We are ready for anything. No ground can be too rough for Christ and we have Christ. Therefore, we have good morale.
In the dark days in England during the blitz, with bombs raining down all the time, the situation was truly desperate, Then Winston Churchill would come on the radio an speak to the English people when their hearts were filled with defeat and discouragement. At times they would be almost ready to quit. But that one man's voice would ring out and the nation would take heart again their morale would be strong. That is what Christ does. He is able to speak peace to our hearts.
You see, it is not a battle against people at all, is it? It is an inner fight, a battle in the realm of the thought life and attitudes. It is a battle in the realm of your outlook u the situation in which you find yourself. This is the place to start. Gird up your loins with truth. Remember that in Jesus Christ you have a demonstration which no man can equal anywhere in the world. Here is the key to life, the one who is worth listening to. Believe him, Christian people, believe him! If you are Christians at all, if you have accepted Christ as the one who has the explanation for life believe what he says. Act on it. That is the girdle of truth.
The breastplate of righteousness protects the emotions. You do not need to be discouraged of course you have failed--I fail, we all fail. The One who has come understands all this. He knows we are going to fail, and he knows we are going to struggle. He knows it will be an up-and-down experience an a time of battles-and we will lose some of them. But he says, "I have taken care of all that. You do not have to stand on your merits. You stand on mine. Do not be discouraged, do not be defeated, we will win! I know what I am doing I know how to lead you, I know what circumstances to ring you into and I will bring you through."
The third requisite is to have the feet shod with the preparation--the readiness--of a sense of peace. And the place to start is to remember who you are, what you are, and above all else, whom you have. Be strong in his strength and for his sake. Remember you belong to Christ's family. The Scripture says he is not ashamed to call us brothers. God is not ashamed to be called our God. Be strong for his sake. Let us get away from this subjectiveness all the time--what is going to happen to me, and how do I feel?"--remembering that he has vested his honor in us. And remember, by putting on these three pieces of armor the battle is almost won. You will have very little difficulty overcoming evil if you start right there.
Our Father, make these words dear, plain, practical, and helpful to us. May they meet us right where we are and help us right in the conflict in which we are engaged. May our hearts be lifted up by the consciousness that the one who it in us is adequate for all things. In Christ's name, Amen.
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