Ephesians 6:13-14, 16-17 “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, …with the breastplate of righteousness in place…In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
All these pieces of armor God gives for our spiritual battles relate to his own saving work. Some of them may be hard to distinguish from each other. Paul lists them in the order a Roman soldier would put them on, and much of the armor is defensive. Fewer pieces apply to the Christian soldier on the attack.
So we have God’s righteousness over our heart. What is it that steals the heart out of your faith and Christian life most easily? Isn’t it feelings of guilt? Isn’t it the burden of some sin? Look at Adam and Eve. Their guilt cut right to the heart out of their relationship with God. They no longer run to him as the Father who loves them. They are afraid, and they hide. Adam makes God out to be the enemy and blames God for giving him a wife and making him sin. The beating heart of faith has been cut out of him.
Righteousness covers the heart–not a righteousness that is full of holes, produced by sinners. It is the righteousness of Romans chapter 3. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” God sets the righteousness of Jesus Christ–his perfect life and his innocent death–over our hearts. Then the devil can’t turn us against God or make us feel afraid anymore.
Faith, too, acts as a shield. This faith is not so much my act or my virtue in trusting God. It is the wonderful truths of God’s love and mercy my faith takes hold of. These put out the little fires of temptation, doubt, or fear the devil tries to light in my soul, and do so before there is real damage.
For my head there is a helmet. Maybe I will never be so wise and intelligent that I can win a battle of wits with the devil. But if I can just keep salvation in front of me–I know my Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep; I know that my Redeemer lives–then I have a helmet to protect my mind from Satan’s deceptions.
At last, we have one weapon to go on the attack, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The devil must laugh his pants off when some Christians come after him with rubber and wooden swords, like “the sword of man-made wisdom and scholarship” or “the sword of feel-good messages” or “the sword of empty-emotionalism” or “the sword of political correctness.” Those swords do nothing but give him a nice massage, or a good back scratch. But take the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, out of its sheath and start swinging, and the devil will start running, just like he did when Jesus chased him away at his temptation in the wilderness.
Every once in a while someone invents a product so powerful, so clever, so revolutionary the maker can claim, “It does all the work.” God’s armor for our spiritual battles works that way. Just use it. It will do all the work.