Paul wrote this to the believers in Christ living in Ephesus
”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For 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. Therefore 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.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish 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, praying 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,”
There is a lot of teaching material concerning the armor of God. Books written in fiction as well as deep theological expositions by well known speakers and teachers. I have tried to test different kinds of teachings in real life to see if I can live as a human being here on earth as well as a soldier. Shall we replace what we can see and understand with powers and principles or do we live in a double reality? If so – how do I relate to that. Only in this letter and in this chapter Paul uses the description of the armor as something very touchable. Shall I consciously put on each invisible piece? Shall I take it of at night? Am I always in the frontline of the battle? What will that do to my life here on earth? Won’t I then always live in combat zone? How will I then look at the visible things around me? You understand- the questions I ask are detailed and practical. For me it’s all about how to relate to Paul’s very visible picture.
The other day I listened to a woman that described it as putting on one piece at a time. What I saw in front of me was the picture above showing me how the light hit me. I stopped and paused the program. Bible verse upon bible verse came scrolling down in my head. Before anything was possible for his followers to understand Jesus had begun explaining. In chapter 14-17 in the gospel of John we can read about the last talk Jesus had with his disciples. In that passage He talks about the root of the wine and the branches and the impossibility for us to do anything without Him.
What happens if we read the whole letter to the believers in Ephesus and not just the last chapter? What Paul actually declares in the end is what he has spoken about throughout the letter. He emphasizes again and again where we are located – in Christ – and the impact that has for us. In everything Paul writes he comes back to that one thing, but in different ways depending on who he is writing to and also to the environment they can relate to. He focuses only on the people receiving what he is writing so they can understand. If he had lived today he would have used our situations and everyday life to reach us and to help us understand that which is extremely abstract. To the people in Ephesus he uses the picture of the armor to show us our strength and how protected we are in Christ.
How do I become strong in the Lord?
I am strong in Him. Without Him I have to rely on my own knowledge about good and evil. Does God say anything to us about this? In Isaiah it is written ”For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,”
Does the devil and dark forces exist?
Paul prays for the believers that they might understand what God has given to them through their union with Jesus. He prays that their inner eyes will see the riches of the gifts He has given us and the love He has for us. In that lies the possibility for God to share His wisdom with us when we need it.
I am really limited as a human. I cannot see in the unseen. I am tempted to look behind what I can perceive and try to find explanations there. This has been the reason for my search in eastern religions, but also in mysticism within other religions and in different psychological explanations and theories. The same applies to this as for other situations in life – I can choose how I want to interpret that which I see and hear. One interpretation is that this is a description of how they explained different deceases and syndromes we now know about. Another way is to say all things we don’t understand is the devil and evil forces and we have to fight against that. We can stumble into many pitfalls along the way due to our human limitations. God has given us a warning not to seek within the unseen. The reason is simple – we can’t see there so we can easily fall into deception.
What belt do I put on that I can call truth?
The truth is Christ. Who He is, what He has done and what He has said. The more I learn to trust Him when He says it is finished the tighter I fasten the belt.
What righteousness do I have?
Jesus is my righteousness. I was far away from God even when I really thought I knew who He was. Science has proven to us that we can alter our minds. Paul knew this 2000 years ago. Paul also could distinguish the different between us doing the alteration ourselves and the result of Gods intervention in our lives. Here is the big challenge for us as we want to seek knowledge for ourselves and do it on our own instead of asking for wisdom from God to do it His way. My pride was the stumbling block hindering me. I can never claim a righteousness based on what I have accomplished when it comes to God. Jesus chose to walk in righteousness before Him and carry the punishment for the unrighteousness of the whole world. Only in His righteousness I walk free.
What shoes do I walk in?
Paul speaks about the gospel of peace. Those are the shoes he wants me to put on. Before I stumbled in the dark, but I can start over and learn to walk in light. The more I get to know God the bolder I will be in telling people about Him when an opportunity occurs. Being safe generates peace. The gospel of peace transforms us and also how we perceive things around us. Safety and peace are not demanding. They are gifts,
Putting a shield of faith in front of me, what does that mean?
I cannot always choose what I encounter, but how I respond is a choice. I can respond with anxiety, defense, positive words, solutions, expectations or some other reaction or together with Christ – secure in Him. Problems, anxiety, depression, darkness will always be there, but He has overcome it.
Is my head protected by the helmet of salvation?
My thoughts are what is most under attack. Day and night in fact. The more I understand what He has done for me the tighter the helmet is fastened. I will absolutely want to remove it. It is uncomfortable, scary to realize that I am forgiven by God. How could He forgive me? Receiving undeserved grace is letting the pride inside me moulder away. When the intensity of the battle almost makes me throw up, that’s when I admit I am powerless and that’s when I turn to the cross. If I always keep the helmet on it will stop hurting.
How do I use Gods word so that it becomes a sword?
Lies can only be defeated by truth. For example – people can condemn me whether there is a reason for it or not. God has redeemed me. I can choose to listen to people or turn to God and receive grace. It is my responsibility to admit if I have done something I know is wrong, but I don’t have the power to redeem me – there is nothing I can claim in my name. That is the difference between my words and Gods word.
How do I pray in the spirit always?
The more I get to know God the more I will turn to Him. If I really know in whom I believe and whom I belong to I will talk to Him about everything. When there is to much happening around me I loose myself and my life becomes confusing and I hide. For me prayer is equal to breathing. When I hide I tend to try to hide from God as well. That’s a dark place to be even if He says He is with me there as well. In that place I forget to breathe.
Instead of referring to an armor Paul could have written “Stand still! Learn to listen to what Jesus already has given to you. Trust that He has won the battle. You are His. Nothing can move you as He has bought you with His blood. Think about what He has done. Be still. Trust God. He’s got you. Talk to Him about everything and everybody and don’t forget to always give thanks.”