Satan has his schemes by which he and his demons attempt to discredit us. So what can we, as Christians, do to stop him? How can we protect ourselves? Ephesians 6 gives us the answer.
“Dressed Up To Kneel Down”
In the first century when the Apostle Paul lived and preached, the belief in the demonic world was rampant among the Jews. It was largely superstitious and fearful. They believed the air was thickly populated by demons and the demons could even enter a person by eating or drinking.
The Egyptians, prior to Paul’s day had already adopted the view that the human body was made of 36 parts and a demon could enter and control any one of those parts. They believed that all illnesses were caused by demons. They were constantly configuring incantations to exorcise the demon of deafness, the demon of dumbness, the demon of paralysis, the demons of all sorts of internal aches and pains. They also believed a demon could take away a person’s sanity. They developed the extensive medical practice (or malpractice, to be more correct) of drilling holes in peoples’ skulls – I remember watching a documentary where skulls, dating back to the time of Christ were discovered, and there were holes in them.
The ancient world believed that in order to get rid of some demon, you needed to bore a hole in someone’s skull.
Even the pagan world intuitively knows of and believes in an unseen world. Tribesmen today along the Amazon river worship evil spirits.
The Bible pulls back the curtain and reveals that unseen world.
Thus far we have seen glimpses in the Bible of tens of millions of angels worshipping around the throne of God. We have learned that a believer does not have just one angel at work on his behalf, but the entire host of angelic beings at the beck and call of God for the believer’s well being.
We’ve seen the highest cherub become the fallen angel of light who leads millions of angels to rebel against God and defect from heaven. We’ve read of Satan’s proud intelligence and corrupted beauty.
Is the believer helpless? Is it up to us to listen for the shadows of demon wings – are we to discover some secret incantation to keep them and their curses from our lives?
We have learned that the believer is safe in Christ – Satan can not have our souls, he cannot inhabit us – he cannot curse us or inhabit objects that bring curses against us for we are the sanctuary of God.
But we have been warned. Satan has his schemes and snares by which he and his demons attempt to distract the church and discredit the believer.
The world, the flesh and the devil are the trinity of evil that wars against the trinity of our Holy God. They cannot have your soul but they can have your testimony. They will gladly have your purity – they will delight in the loss of your integrity and the collapse of your intimacy. They will welcome your half-hearted worship and service toward the God they hate.
What is the believer to do? Has God left us in the open? Are we sitting ducks? God’s Spirit inhabits us, but is there something for us to do or do we stand idly by and hope for the best?
Ephesians 6 answers those questions by commanding the believer to dress in special clothing that will protect our minds and our hearts and our testimony and our effective walk with Christ against the lures of the world, the flesh and the devil.
In Ephesians 6:14 we are told to dress as Christian warriors. And we are to begin dressing, verse 14 tells us, by strapping on the belt of truth.
The tense of the verb means you strap it on and you leave it on. The Christian warrior submits to and looks to the authority of scripture.
On the face of this pulpit are the Latin words, “sola scriptura” which was the battle cry of the 16th century as reformers Calvin and Luther and Zwingli attempted to reform the corrupted Roman church. Sola scriptura became one of their distinctives and it means “the scriptures alone”. Sola scriptura means that the scriptures alone determined doctrine and lifestyle. Not church councils or church fathers or church customs. It is the God inspired word that should form the basis for faith and practice.
It was a result of the Reformation that the altar was put to the side and the pulpit placed in the center – it would be the declaration and explanation of the Scriptures that would find center stage.
Every Sunday when I mount this platform I remind myself that what I have to say is meaningless – what God has to say means everything. One of the reasons I have committed my life to teaching through the Bible, is because when I explain what the Bible says, I am, in fact merely delivering what God has already said. It is the word of God which is alive and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword.
I agree with the words of that reformer, Martin Luther who once said 450 some years ago, “The Bible is like a lion, you don’t need to defend it, you just need to let it loose.” My passion, from this pulpit is to let it loose.
The Christian and the Christian church that holds to sola scriptura has strapped around its waist the belt of truth.
Without it, that believer and that church is open and vulnerable to the deceitful doctrines of demons and the snares of Satan.
Paul goes on in verse 14 to tell the believer to put on the breastplate of righteousness.
This righteousness is first of all 1) a gift from God through Christ. We call that the imputed righteousness of Christ that a believer receives at the moment of salvation.
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
The Romans soldier had a breastplate that covered from the base of his neck to his upper thighs. It was often made of heavy strips of linen – pieces of metal or bone were sewn or hooked to the linen strips. The wealthier, higher ranking soldier would have a breastplate made of molded metal.
In addition to other vital organs, the breastplate covered and protected the heart.
The believer’s heart is covered then, as it were by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our hearts, though deceitful and wicked have been covered by the blood of Christ.
Now follow me here - we are to fight the enemy, not only on the eternal basis of perfected righteousness, but on the daily basis of practical righteousness through obedience.
Perfected righteousness comes through Christ – practical righteousness comes through obedience to Christ.
In other words, as one man wrote, as it relates to the breastplate of righteousness, “Spiritual warfare is [literally] an inner struggle [of the heart] for personal holiness.”
John MacArthur Jr. How To Meet The Enemy, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1992; p. 95.
Solomon wrote, “Guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
You want to know what true spiritual warfare is? It isn’t binding a demon. It is resisting temptation. That’s the battle!
When Jesus Christ began his ministry, he didn’t go out into the wilderness and bind the territorial demon of Jerusalem – he didn’t rebuke Satan by the authority of His name – he went out into the wilderness and resisted temptation.
Paul wrote in Romans 13:12. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
How do you defend yourself in this spiritual warfare? How do you protect yourself? Not by identifying and rebuking demons but by holy living. Shunning evil, refusing to justify sin, refusing to explain away sexual immorality.
You want to enter the battle? Then commit to living a life of holiness and you’ll see what spiritual warfare is all about!
For those of you who will pursue holy living, Paul goes on now in verse 15 to say you need a good pair of shoes.
He wrote, “Having shod your feet with the preparation (etoimasia – readiness or, in this context, firmness) of the gospel of peace.”
In other words, “Have your feet laced up with the firm, solid truth of the gospel of peace.
The Roman soldier’s shoes were important – they were considered part of the armor.
They were necessary for at least 2 things: first of all, for balance – for providing a solid footing. So also, the gospel balances us firmly upon the foundation of truth.
Someone sent in a question that I thought was very perceptive. He wrote, “Since we’re supposed to test the spirits, and since Satan is a deceiving angel of light, how will we tell a false teacher or false spirit if they look and sound like the truth?”
The truth of the matter is, eventually with any doctrine of demons or false teacher – eventually, they stray from the gospel. They add something to it or they take something away from it. They cannot bear the thought that the gospel is Christ crucified, buried and resurrected.
There are religions that want to keep Christ on the cross – there are religions that like to keep him in Mary’s lap as a little baby boy – there are religions that make Christ equal with other prophets who came and went . . . but the gospel has Christ no longer on the cross; no longer a little baby, but equal with God, sovereign over all things, majestic and enthroned in his glorified state.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.” (1 Corinthians 15:1)
The gospel is a pair of shoes that gives you balance as you stand on the truth.
The shoes are also necessary, not only for balance, but for progress.
The Romans had embedded in their leather soles, knobs of metal which acted like cleats. They could charge a hill or keep their footing on uneven terrain; they could advance forward against enemy attack during hand to hand combat.
The soldier didn’t need cleats if he was retreating. He needed them because he was climbing, advancing – he needed traction. Like a football player out on the gridiron; cleats help him move the ball down field against opposing forces.
In case you’ve never noticed, you don’t need cleats if your sitting in the stands. Nobody wears cleats in the bleachers. I’ve seen fans where football helmets; they fork over 150 bucks for a jersey – I’ve seen them paint their faces. But, no matter how fanatical or bizzare, I have never seen any fan wearing cleats in the stands . . . not once!
You don’t wear cleats in the stands; only the players on the field wear them – that’s where the action is; that’s where the contest is being waged – they’re the ones who need the proper shoes for balance and progress.
For the believer in the battle, gospel shoes are an imperative.
Paul next draws our attention to one of the most fascinating pieces of armor the Romans used in battle. Paul refers to the shield of faith in verse 16, “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.”
This explicitly now states that Satan is an aggressor. He fires flaming missilse – you could translate that, “the flaming arrows,” “the fiery darts,” “the blazing missiles.”
Paul here is referring to common practice during his day. When an army came against a city in ancient days, they would tip their arrows in pitch, light them, and then shoot them over the city walls. As soon as those arrows would hit the rooftops of buildings, the pitch would splatter and little fires would be started.
There were two kinds of shields in the Roman army. One was a small round shield, worn on the arm of a soldier in hand to hand combat. There was another kind of shield – a “thureos,” which was four feet tall and two feet wide. It was called “the wall”. That’s the word Paul used here.
This shield was not for hand to hand combat. It was a shield that the Roman soldier used for three different things:
First of all, the shield protected the soldier.
You see, when they were advancing, there were times that the flaming arrows came with such great thickness that they would plant their shields into the ground and they would get down behind it and wait until the attack was over.
So also, in the believer’s life there are times when all we can do is plant the shield of faith and hide behind it. Faith in God’s person, his promises, His providence.
2) This shield not only protected the soldier, but secondly, it united the soldiers.
The shield literally unified the army. The Roman army had this interesting concept and that’s why they were so victorious. The edges of these shields were beveled so that they could be locked into place. You could actually have a row of men that made up a wall of metal, advancing against the army.
3) It does something else, it not only protects the soldier and united the soldiers but it reflected the sun.
This “thureos” was made, basically, out a large plank of would. And they would overlay it with strips of leather and they would soak the leather in water. So before they went into battle, if an flaming arrow hit it, the water would extinguish the missile. But, in the center of the shield the soldier attached a round piece of brass and before going into battle, he would polish that brass so that it shone with the brilliance of a mirror. As the soldier walked into battle, he would reflect the light of the sun into the eyes of their enemies and so distract them.
How wonderful that with this shield we reflect the light of God’s Son, who is the light of the world, into the world around us – and into the eyes, so to speak of our enemy.
Now, in verse 17 says, “And take the helmet of salvation”. Now, this doesn’t refer to being saved. Paul is not saying that after you put on the shoes, after you put on the belt, after you put on the breastplate, now get saved. That can’t be what he’s talking about. You wouldn’t have that armor, if you weren’t saved. In fact, you wouldn’t be in the army as a soldier of Christ, if you weren’t saved.
A soldiers helmet protected his head – his mind – his thoughts.
Salvation is that propositional truth that we believe,
And there are three parts to salvation. There is a past salvation, a past work. We call that justification. That has been accomplished. You were saved when you invited Christ, when you received that gift of eternal life, when He called you to Himself. You were saved. You never need to doubt it – it’s accomplished and finished.
There’s a present work of salvation – we call that sanctification. That’s continuous. And let me say this, for every ten people who doubt the past work, whether or not they really are saved, there are a thousand believers who doubt the fact that God is working continuously in their lives right now.
Then there is a future salvation. That is glorification. And that is guaranteed.
This is the three-fold work of salvation. Put this truth on to protect your mind.
Finally, Paul says, to “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The text tells us that we have an offensive weapon. It isn’t our cleverness; it isn’t our methods; it isn’t our incantations or bindings or rebukings. It is the word of God.
When Jesus Christ went into the wilderness to be tempted, he didn’t cast anybody down or bind the devil – three times he was tempted and all three times the first words out of His mouth were, “It is written.” He encountered the enemy and used the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
Now, the Roman sword was two feet long. It was sharpened on both sides and pointed at the end. The writer of Hebrews refers to this when he says that, “the word of God is . . . sharper than any two-edged sword”. That writer was thinking of the atomic bomb of ancient warfare. That was the most powerful thing he could think of. And he said the word is like that, “sharper than any two-edged sword”. It is not only the only piece of armor that is offensive, secondly, it is the only piece of armor that comes in contact with the enemy.
Remember that. It is the only thing capable of advancing against the enemy. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Remember when Jesus Christ was tempted? He responded three ways by saying what? “It is written”.
Several years ago, according to my notes, when my boys were around 6 years old, we were at the airport picking up my mother-in-law, who was coming to spend the holidays with us. As we were there soldiers, dressed in fatigues, disembarked from that same plane she was on. Incredible sight, wearing their full uniforms, their boots, their leaders with their guns strapped to their sides. And we were standing there, right by the door, as these men filed past us, getting off that plane. My boys were awestruck. They just stood there watching these soldiers. And, one of my boys goes, “Dad, there’s those army men.” One of those men stopped, looked down at him and said, “Boy, we’re not army, we’re marines.” I said, “I don’t know whose kid this is. Go find your parents son. . . ”
These men were prepared for battle. Imagine them trying to fight a war; they’ve got the best tanks, they’ve got the fastest planes; they’ve got the finest weapons. Only one problem – nothing’s loaded – no bullets and no bombs. They’re just going to be a defensive force. Ladies and gentlemen, no matter how capable we are, the best defensive force will eventually break down unless there is advancement, unless there is ground gained.
So likewise in the Christian army, Paul is implying that the army of Jesus Christ is advancing, it is gaining ground. We have an offensive strategy and weapon. And what is it? It is, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
So now, having covered all of this ground with the believer, Paul says, we are, in effect, all dressed up for war – and what do we do
Let’s look back at the text and notice verse 18, “With all prayer” - that is, by means of prayer - “and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints”.
Imagine a soldier getting all dressed up in his armor – he gets out on the battlefield and kneels down to pray.
1) First of all, because we’re getting all dressed up to fight some things we can’t see by ourselves.
2) Secondly, because we’re getting all dressed up to fight things we can’t defeat by ourselves.
Paul says, it’s possible to fight the battle without the right armor. In fact, it’s possible to be a believer and not have the full armor of God. He says to the believer, “Take it up! Put it on !”
But it’s as if Paul tells us, “On your mark, get set, kneel – you get all dressed up to pray!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to say something to every Christian here; something that is backed by this text: The battle is won or lost in private, before it is ever fought in public.
No Christian is exempt from danger – temptation is the enemy of every one of us.
It’s possible to face Satan and his attacks ill-equipped and not be able to resist. God intends the sword to swing, the church to advance. And it will only be done by people who will put on the armor and then do it by means of prayer.
Gary Richmond tells the story in one of his books about a young zookeeper named Julie. The zoo had purchased a baby raccoon and it was among her duties to care for him. Playful, cuddly, puppy like in it’s antics, it soon won Julie’s heart - and every one else in that division. Julie could often be seen doing her duties with her cute little raccoon perched on her shoulder. She even named him Bandit. But Gary’s experience caused him to worry for Julie - He told her that raccoons go through a glandular change at about 24 months of age. After that they will often, unexplainably, viciously attack their owners. And a 30-pound raccoon can do the same kind of damage as a large dog. Over and over again, Gary warned his young friend about her growing pet. She would always listen politely as he explained the coming danger. Richmond wrote, “I will never forget her answer; it was always the same. "It will be different for me...” And she smile as she added, 'Bandit wouldn't hurt me. He just wouldn't. Then Richmond wrote, "Three months after my last warning Julie underwent plastic surgery for severe facial lacerations sustained when her adult raccoon attacked her for no apparent reason. Bandit was released into the wild." Sin, too, often comes dressed in an adorable guise, and as we play with it, how easy it is to say, "It will be different for me."
When the Lord taught his disciples to pray, that prayer included the words, “Keep us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)
In other words, “Lord, I can handle anything but temptation; I’ll adopt sin and say it really won’t hurt me . . . I’ll justify compromise and say it’s alright for me: I can’t take care of myself – please protect me from the tempter.”
The church at large has gone off on a journey into warfare that lacks Biblical justification – they’re binding and rebuking and laying hold and sending to the abyss all sorts of demonic beings which only reveals their lack of spiritual understanding according to Jude 10 and 2 Peter 2:12.
And what’s happened to the church? The church is more immoral and non-distinctive and confused and ineffective than ever before. The church has become distracted by the enemy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, true spiritual warfare is that daily battle for purity and integrity and compassion and holiness and spiritual fruit and character and love.
You’re gonna fight it every day and every hour of the day.
So get dressed – kneel down and pray for God’s spirit to so dominate your thinking and acting; pray that His word will fill you and flow through you.
That’s living with your armor on – that’s what James meant when he said, “Draw near to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Pray in groups
14. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15. and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16. in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
Solomon wrote, “Guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life.”
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
I Corinthians 15:1
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.” (1 Corinthians 15:1)
The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.