By Elizabeth Prata
You know the paragraph at the end of Ephesians, right? The Spiritual Armor section from chapter 6. Here it is in case you’re not familiar-
The Whole Armor of God
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
**The Spiritual Armor section has usually been taught that we, the believer, possess various pieces of armor which we put on (as verse 11 says). Each piece corresponds to a different aspect of the believer’s life. It is not only defensive. Spiritual warfare is actually offensive, too.
In verse 11 where Paul says to put on the “full armor” the Greek word is panoplia. It means “the full resources the Lord gives to the believer so they can successfully wage spiritual warfare.” (Strong’s word studies). You might know the word in English as panoply. But the images Paul delivers in this section does not come from the outfitting of a Roman soldier, as is often taught. The images come from scripture! Scripture interprets scripture and this section of Ephesians on spiritual warfare is no different.
“Spiritual warfare is about taking the battle to the darkness, with the Lord as our strength and protection.” ~David Powlison, Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14a)
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. (Isaiah 11:5)
having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14b)
He put on righteousness as a breastplate (Isaiah 59:17a)
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace (Isaiah 52:7a)
The shield is the one piece of armor Paul didn’t pull from Isaiah. It is the one piece that is actually defensive, repelling the darts of the evil one. Notice what the shield is. Or rather Who. The shield IS Jesus himself, who is our shield when pursued by any and all enemies.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16)
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3)
and take the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a)
and a helmet of salvation on his head; (Isaiah 59:17b)
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:17b)
He made my mouth like a sharp sword; (Isaiah 49:2a)
Proclaiming the truths of Jesus with our mouths is the sharpest sword of all. What did the writer say in Hebrews 4:12?
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Paul isn’t introducing a new topic when we get to the end of Ephesians. He is continuing his thoughts from the entire chapter. He began this section, after all, saying “Finally”. The main idea is that Jesus IS our armor. We fight by taking the battle into the darkness, offensively (offense as in opposite of defense, not meaning crassly). Whenever we proclaim His truths it is an offensive maneuver, a dart of our own against the mounted-up hard heart of the Gentile. The non-believer writhes and chafes under the truths we expound.
I’d encourage you to search the above scriptures to flesh out these ideas more and more. Ponder them, let your heart be infiltrated with the ideas that Jesus is our armor, completely (panoplia). When the Bible says Jesus is our all in all, He really is. The notion of a full and complete armor that IS Christ extends back to Ephesians chapter 1:22-23, where Paul says
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
**The bulk of the concepts in this essay come from Powlison’s book, Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles, chapter 3. I recommend the book.