The Seven-fold Armor of God—Part Two
© C. O. Bishop 7/8/14 (THCF 8/3/14)
Ephesians 6: 10-18 (read it.)
Introduction: The Primacy of the Word
Last time we discussed the first five parts of the Christian’s Armor, as laid out in Ephesians 6:10-18. We saw that the first five items are all primarily defensive in nature. We saw that all of the armor is ultimately dependent on the truth of God’s Word. No part of our experience with God can stand, apart from that central concept.
Indeed, Jesus is identified in John 1:1, 14 as being the Word. And again, in Revelation 19:13, it says that “His name is called ‘The Word of God’….” The centrality of Christ throughout the Scripture is no accident. He is the embodiment of God, and the Scripture is the embodiment of Christ. The Scripture is a “black and white portrait of the King”, if it helps to think of it that way. We are assured of its importance all through the Bible. Psalm 119:9 tells us that it is the only way God can change our lives. Hebrews 4:12 states that it is “alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
2nd Timothy 3:16, 17 assures us that it is all inspired by God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, and that it is sufficient to thoroughly furnish the believer for all good works, and, in fact, to make us mature and complete in Him.
But one of the things the Word tells us to do is to Pray. Philosophers argue whether prayer can change anything, reasoning that. if God is all-wise and all-knowing, and has predetermined the future from the beginning, then why should He listen to humans? Why indeed? All we have for a reply is that God has commanded us to pray without ceasing, and that he says “the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. You will have to decide who to believe: man or God?
In light of this, let us consider the rest of the weaponry offered to the believer.
Offensive Weapons: The Sword and Prayer
The Sword of the Spirit
This is frequently billed as the “only offensive weapon” in the Christian Armor.” And, from a hasty reading, it might seem so, as it is the only one that directly correlates to a part of the Roman armor. God’s Word is frequently compared to a sword. It does not need to be “loaded” as does a firearm…the Word itself is the weapon, as is a Sword.
We are to use the Word both defensively and offensively, just as did the Roman soldiers. It can be used to parry a thrust by an enemy, or to pierce the defenses of a human agent of the enemy. We are to bear in mind at all times that humans are not our enemies in spite of the fact that they act the part, and may actively serve our enemies. Every single one of them is a precious soul for whom our Savior shed His blood. So, when we use the Sword of the Spirit, we are not using it to damage them, but to demolish their defense against God. Another way to see this is that Jesus said “upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Gates don’t attack anyone…but besieging soldiers can storm the gates of a city. We are to be the army of God, rescuing the prisoners of Hell. How do we do it? By the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer. Bear in mind that the Gospel itself is the central theme of the Word of God. When we share the Gospel of God’s Grace; The Good News of the Blood of Christ and his resurrection, then we are using the Sword of the Spirit to attack the gates of Hell, to offer rescue to the lost.
Please take seriously the term “sword”: like any weapon, it is made to be used, not argued about. If a mugger stops you on the street, pointing a gun, and you say, “Well, I don’t believe that’s a gun!” the robber will not argue the merits of his gun, nor enter into apologetics to “prove” it is a gun…he will simply pull the trigger. Likewise, when using God’s Word, you do not have to waste time defending its pedigree (though it is matchless); just cite the passage, quote the verse, and allow the Spirit to convict the hearer. The nice thing is that it always will have some effect; not necessarily the one you intended. On the other hand, if you use it unwisely, and cause an unnecessary offense, then you will have damaged another believer, or turned away a person who, momentarily, at least, was willing to hear. Use the Word wisely, but use it!
Use it to defend against attacks of Satan, the World, or the Flesh. Think back: what was Jesus’ response to the temptations in the wilderness? He responded with God’s Word! He defended against Satan’s attacks with God’s Word. I can defend against verbal attacks by the World in the same way. I recall a man I once worked for, asking me whether Jesus believed in reincarnation. I was a new believer, and taken somewhat off-guard, but immediately answered “No!” He triumphantly demanded, “Then why did he say that John the Baptist was Elijah?” I knew very little of God’s Word, as a new believer, and didn’t even know Hebrews 9:27, that says we die once, and then are judged. I thought a moment, praying for wisdom, and then asked, “To be reincarnated requires that one dies and comes back in another body, doesn’t it?” He agreed that it did. I cited the only thing I knew of God’s Word that seemed applicable: “Well, the Bible says Elijah never died!” His face went blank, and he went back to whatever he was doing, without another word. I don’t think he changed his mind, but God’s Word did defend me.
Another time the same man claimed that Edgar Cayce was a prophet. I had never heard of the man, but I had read just enough to know that God demanded 100% accuracy of his prophets, and I cautioned the fellow that this was the case. He stated with certainty, “Edgar Cayce never missed!” I thought for a bit, and really had no answers, but as I prayed for wisdom, God brought to my mind another idea: I asked “Did Edgar Cayce ever have a vision of Christ?” He said “Yes!” I asked, “Did he happen to notice his hair color?” He grinned and said, “Yes! It was red!” I said, “Well, that’s funny, because the only two visions of Christ given in the Bible, before his birth or after his death, he had pure white hair…snow-white!” The man again was silenced. That was not really my intent, and I was actively praying for the man’s salvation, but he saw me as a nineteen-year-old “pup”, and deliberately tried to confuse me and disturb my newfound faith. He was not looking for answers at all.
I don’t know what became of that man, as I never saw him again, after I left his employment. But it was a very valuable training experience: I learned to use the two offensive weapons of the Armor of God, though in defensive mode: I prayed for wisdom, and I used the written Word.
So, what about an offensive use? I recall hearing about a man who, when confronted by a fairly aggressive and argumentative unbeliever, kept saying, “Well; all I know is that ‘…it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment!’ ” He made no attempt to “out-maneuver, out-argue, out-think, or out-fight” his opponent. He made no attacks on him, nor did he try to “shut him up” He simply kept reiterating the fact that death was the inevitable end of every man’s life, and that judgment, just as inevitably, would follow. The quiet repeating of that fact eventually got the unbeliever’s attention, and he quit attacking and began asking for answers. The result was that he was further convicted by God’s Word, and was saved. I don’t know what happened after that; I hope he eventually became just as aggressive for God, but I don’t know.
There was another time when I thought I was using God’s Word as food, and a healing balm, but the person I was talking to was not a new believer as I had mistakenly thought, but an unbeliever coming to grips with the claim of God on her life, and her need for a savior. While I thought I was offering assurance of salvation, the Holy Spirit was leading her to Christ with the same verses I was offering as assurance. She finally prayed with me, thanking God for assurance, and went home. It was two weeks later she told me that that was when she was born again. I was too blind to know what was really happening (spiritual things are largely invisible), but I was faithful to share the Word, and God used it to His own purpose. She kept coming to church, and we had Bible Study with her and her husband at their apartment for many months. They have been actively involved in their church since then. I can take no credit at all—I didn’t even know what was going on. All I could do was to hold out the light. God used it to draw her to himself.
God says “My Word …shall not return unto me void, but will accomplish the purpose to which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) We don’t always even know that purpose…but we can offer His Word, and allow His Spirit to use it.
So: how can you use a weapon you have never learned to handle? God says “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2nd Timothy 2:15). If you haven’t deliberately engaged in “sword-training, and sword-drills” just as modern soldiers spend countless hours in weapons-training, exercise, and drills, then how can you realistically hope to use that “sword” effectively when the time comes …and the moment is now?
We offer several opportunities for Bible training every week, here at True Hope. There are numerous training books available, as well as online Bible schools—good ones—that you can attend, if you so desire. Richard and I (and others) were blessed at a fairly early age to have the opportunity to get some formal training. That is fine, but the honest truth is, every single thing we got in those schools is available to every other believer in this country as well, if they are willing to seek it. Proverbs 2:3-6 states that if you make God’s wisdom your treasure—the thing you earnestly seek, as if it were hidden treasure—then He will see to it that you find it. But he clearly states that it comes from His mouth—His Word (what a surprise!)
So, if I want God’s wisdom I first ask for it (James 1:5), and then search His Word daily (Acts 17:11), to find it. And He will be found (Jeremiah 29:13, 14).
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “bring to your remembrance all things whatsoever He has taught you”. If that is so, then we need to be in the Word, if for no other reason, so that the Holy Spirit has something to work with. Had I not “just happened” to have read those passages about Elijah, and the passages with visions of the glorified Christ, I would have had no answers for the verbal attack made by a servant of the Enemy. If I am not in the Word on a regular basis, then I will be weak when the day of the battle arrives. And we get no warning at all, most times…it just is suddenly upon us, and we are either prepared or we are not. The Holy Spirit can’t bring to your remembrance something you have never learned. You will either be prepared or you won’t.
So, What about Prayer?
If we do not read carefully enough, it may seem that Paul includes prayer almost as an afterthought. But the fact is, he has already brought up his own dependence on prayer a number of times earlier in this book, as he prayed for the Ephesian believers: giving thanks for them, praying that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened, that they would know what is the exceeding greatness of the Power of God toward the believers, that God would grant that they would be strengthened with might, by the Spirit, that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith, and many other things.
Now he continues the sentence about the “…Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God”, with the command to pray at all times with all Prayer and Supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. That is not an afterthought—it is a continuation of the command that we clothe ourselves in the armor of God. This is both a defensive and an offensive weapon just as is the Word of God.
God says prayer matters. He cites many examples throughout the Old and New Testaments where people brought their daily lives to God in prayer, and, as a result, when a crisis came, they were already at home in His presence…they prayed confidently, knowing His power and His goodness, and they received what they asked for because they had been daily conscious of His working in their lives, and were asking in accordance with his observed will and direction.
We can pray for intervention; we can pray for relief; we can pray for provision. We can offer confession of Sin, so as to clear the way for real intercessory prayer, as priests in the Body of Christ. We can offer Worship and adoration as the joyful recipients of His Grace. We can offer supplication, praying for other people’s needs as well as our own. We can offer Thanksgiving, as we recognize that reality of answered prayer and constant provision. We can offer thanksgiving for prayers that were denied, as they probably protected us from an unseen hazard, or provided for some better thing, later on. We can thank God for hard times, knowing that they strengthen us for the battles yet to come.
We can use God’s Word in prayer, recalling His promises. This is not “trying to twist God’s arm”, so to speak …don’t bother trying…it can’t be done. He is God…we are His creation. We do not command God. He commands us, and we either obey or fail to obey.
The Armor, then—all of it—depends on the Truth of God’s Word, and demands that we place our faith very deliberately and specifically on His provision for our safety and strength.
- We gird our loins with Truth as we continually place our dependence on His Word.
- We prepare ourselves in the Gospel, as a continuing training, so that we will be in readiness for sure-footed service.
- We protect our hearts with the Breastplate of Righteousness, as we rest in His righteousness, not our own.
- We constantly are on guard with the Shield of Faith, actively believing God for his presence and guidance.
- We protect our minds with the Helmet of Salvation; knowingwe have eternal Life, and knowing we are kept by His power, not our own.
- We take up daily the Sword of the Spirit, as we actively seek to master the use of God’s Word for every need in our lives. Finally,
- We earnestly seek God’s face as our Commander in Chief, in daily, moment by moment Prayer, for ourselves and for others; in Confession, Adoration, Supplication and Thanksgiving.
How is your armor fitting? Does it feel heavy? It really shouldn’t. That is a great thing about the armor of God…it is uplifting. If you are wearing it, and wearing it faithfully, all your other burdens become lighter.
Make the armor of God a daily priority in your life, by feeding daily on His Word, and consciously clothing yourself in His protection every day.
Lord Jesus, draw us deeper into your Written Word, so that we may be drawn deeper into a living relationship with yourself, the Living Word. Arm us against our enemies, for the sake of your Name. Amen.