The Glory of Christ and His Church: Spiritual Armor
Spiritual Armor (Ephesians 6:10-20)
Paul concludes this letter with a command to the Ephesian church. He tells them “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10 NKJV).
This phrase could be translated, “Strengthen yourself in the Lord.…”
Paul—who sees himself and believers as God’s warriors fighting against demonic realms—commands the Church to be strong in the Lord and wage an effective warfare.
How? By knowing your position in Christ and wearing God’s armor.
Foremost, understand that your strength is found in Christ, in His power and might. You are in Christ, united with Him. The key is in the phrase “in the Lord.” The power is “located in” or “contained” in Jesus Christ (nine times Paul uses words in Ephesians 1 to describe this reality).
Paul writes from a Roman prison about 60 AD, and he understood the Roman soldier’s armor. Why did Paul command the Church to put on the full armor of God?
Paul uses the imagery of a disciplined Roman soldier for the Church to understand how we are to be engaged in the Spiritual realms.
Paul is casting a vision to the Ephesian church of the battle they (we) are engaged in—we are God’s soldiers. The Holy Spirit instructs all believers to put on the armor of God… to not only prepare for battle, but to advance the Kingdom.
Our fight is not with human enemies, but unseen spiritual forces. Therefore, our weapons are spiritual in nature and we must learn how to use them effectively.
The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is a “legalist” and looks for ways to establish strategies against us, our families, our churches, and society.
Our focus shouldn’t be on the enemy, but rather on the glory and majesty of Christ. However, spiritual warfare is unavoidable; we can’t ignore this. We must learn how to combat the enemy with Kingdom authority.
C. S. Lewis, twentieth-century author of Chronicles of Narnia and other works, states in the introduction to his famous Screwtape Letters,
“The general public prefers either to ignore the forces of evil altogether (to pretend they don’t exist), or to use cartoon images of a ‘devil’ with horns and hoofs as an argument to that effect (‘You can’t believe in that nonsense, so you can’t believe in a devil at all, can you?’)—or to take an unhealthy interest in everything demonic to extreme.” 
In my early 20s, I had a conversation with an attorney about spiritual warfare. He was an elder in his church, and when I mentioned to him about the spiritual battles we all face, he asked me, “You don’t believe in a literal devil do you?!” To that I responded, “Yes, I do.” I then said to him, “If Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness (see Matt. 4 and Luke 4), why would it be any different for us? Or what about all the other passages in Scripture that reveal the spiritual conflict humanity is in?”
Church, we are in a real spiritual war—not just a metaphor—it’s taking place in the spiritual realms around us and is emphasized repeatedly in scripture.
Consider what occurred with Elisha and his servant:
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:16-17 NIV)
Elisha surrounded and protected by the army of the Lord, as the Syrian army tries to take him captive.
Spiritual Powers We Battle Against
“Put on the whole armor of God … For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11-12 NKJV)
In verse 12, he reminds us that our struggle is not with people, but with these defeated powers (Eph. 1:20-22). They can operate through human agents or entire populations of people, but ultimately, our fight is against unseen spiritual powers that oppose God’s Kingdom and mission.
The term ‘wrestle’ is from the Greek ‘Pale’ and refers to a physical competition where the victor forces the loser to the ground, placing his hand around the neck. Therefore, we are involved in spiritual struggles against demonic powers; their goal is to force us to the ground, gaining control over our lives.
BUT Jesus is the victor, and we fight from His victory! Consider what Paul describes in detail in Colossians:
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15 NLT)
Christ’s victory over Satan is complete. His victory is now our victory; we carry His authority over the powers of darkness! For “…greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NKJV)!
But also know that, although the enemy is defeated by Christ, he is still at play in our world. He “roams about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8 NKJV).
He ultimately will be subdued at the second coming of Christ. Because Jesus has defeated him, followers of Christ have His authority to stand against the schemes of the enemy through prayer, reliance on God’s Word, and following the Holy Spirit’s leading. However, we must exercise this authority and not relinquish it to demonic powers.
The enemy has authority over your life when you agree with his lies. He wants to make you “unstable in your footing.” For example, inner wounds, unforgiveness, and habitual sin can create entry points for the enemy to have a foothold in your life.
Paul defines our struggle as being against non-physical entities; he calls them principalities, powers, rulers, and hosts.
Take terrorism, for example; many in the secular world see it as clash of cultures: the culture of Islam versus Western culture. No, it’s spiritual. The same could be said of Communism or Marxism. Communism is not merely another form of national government, but a demonically inspired system that oppresses humanity. Millions have died at the hands of Communist leaders throughout the centuries.
Ephesians defines these conflicts as spiritual—spiritual realms at war. The Greek word for ‘principality’ is Arche, literally meaning ‘origins’ or ‘beginning’. Kingdoms are called principalities because they were identified with a specific point where the power originated. The ruler of a principality was as a prince, or in the Greek an Archon. Paul wants the believer to understand that there are spiritual kingdoms, or principalities, opposed to God’s Kingdom. They are just as real as physical kingdoms, but they exist in spiritual realms.
For example, in Daniel 10, we read of Daniel receiving a vision from the Lord. He is trying to understand it. So, he begins to pray and fast for over three weeks when he has an amazing encounter with an angel.
The angel, brilliant in appearance and powerful in essence, explains to Daniel that he was sent to him from the first day he started praying to help him understand the vision, but the angel was hindered for those three weeks, fighting with a principality over Persia, the Prince of Persia. He explains to Daniel that he eventually prevailed when the angel, Michael, arrived to help him in the conflict.
This passage is perhaps the clearest in the Bible revealing the reality of principalities over regions and the spiritual warfare that occurs to oppress, harass, and attempt to destroy humanity and stop God’s Kingdom from advancing.
The second force Paul describes, ‘powers’, is from the Greek word Exousía, also translated as ‘authority’. The war is also against areas of power and authority. Demonic forces exercise authority over areas of choice.
This would include issues which plague the world and the Church, such as sexual sin, adultery, pornography, drug addiction, racial prejudice, violence, and more. In these areas, demonic forces exist; they exercise authority over these realms if you agree with them and participate in these behaviors!
Jesus declared in Matthew’s gospel, “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church” (Matt. 16:18 NKJV).
The phrase “the gates of hell” means “the power of death”, and it will not stop the advancement of God’s Kingdom nor prevail against God’s people.
The Church of Jesus Christ is glorious; she is the most powerful entity on earth. The Church is not on the defensive, but rather it is on the offensive. Satan and the hordes of hell fear a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, worshipping and praying Church. From His victory and authority, you prevail!
Don’t fall prey to principalities and demonic powers that are warring over nations to deceive humanity on cultural and moral issues which are contrary to God’s Word and truth!
Walking in the Victory of Christ
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11 NKJV)
To put on the whole armor of God means to sink into, or to clothe oneself in, God’s armor.
We are to be complete in God’s armor, as opposed to being strong in one aspect and weak in others. We are not meant to just learn the shield and not the sword. We are to sink completely into God’s armor.
Why? To stand firm against the enemy’s schemes!
Satan, the devil, wants to exploit your weakness; he looks for areas to knock you off your firm footing. A legionnaire might have a sword and be very good at it, but without his shield and helmet, he is open to the darts and arrows which will stop him from standing. The enemy knows your weaknesses.
You need to wear the full armor of God to stand against the wiles or schemes of Satan. The Greek word for ‘wiles’ is Methodei, which means ‘cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery’. Satan has methods—his goal is to keep those who are lost, lost, and secondly, his goal is to rob believers of their authority in Christ by getting them to agree with lies and bondage.
A weakened saint is one less soldier he must worry about. If we fail to put on the spiritual armor, Satan will exploit our weakness, looking for our holes, setting a trap. Satan walks about like a lion, looking for prey.
The Whole Armor
“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.” (Eph. 6:13 NKJV)
Again, Paul writes to take the whole armor, being partially armed is not enough. Every piece of God’s armor is required to stand against Satan’s methods.
Without the full armor of God, our ability to stand is at great risk. The Greek for ‘able’ is Dunamai, means having the strength or power. From the same root, we get the word dynamite or power. The whole armor of God gives us the power to stand against Satan.
‘To stand against’ means ‘to withstand in the evil day, having done all we can’. We must walk alert for Satan’s devices. His goal is to disable the believer and keep the lost, lost.
God has given us the ability to choose, to make the stand. If we do not make the choice to stand, we may fall. Satan is not just content with the saint lying on the ground; his goal is choke off the life out of the believer. Remember, the term for wrestle is defined as a victory when the opponent has his hand around your neck.
Verse 14: having girded your waist with truth: The first piece of equipment Paul describes is the belt of truth. The Roman Legion belt was distinctive – fastened to the belt was the gladius or sword. The belt also kept the tunic and armor in place. Truth keeps everything in place!
The primary thing about the Christian message is that it is true, as opposed to cultural norms that appear to be true but are deceptive and often contrary to the truth of Christ and God’s word.
The NT rests on the reality of Jesus, who is truth. Jesus makes this point very clear in John, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6 NKJV)
Verse 14: having put on the breastplate of righteousness: Its design was to protect the vital organs of the legionnaire. The metal was designed to deflect an arrow or sword attack, which the shield or sword failed to stop. Christ is our righteousness, must wear him! When we live a righteous life, our vital organs are protected from enemy attack.
For example, the Christian who knows the Word of God (Sword of the spirit) and has great faith (shield of faith), but lives an unrighteous life, is open to enemy attack, regardless how well they can use other pieces.
The Gospel of Peace
Verse 15: having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace: As a believer we have authority given to us by Jesus Christ (see Matt. 28:18-20). Our feet are the method we move in this physical world to advance the Kingdom of God.
The Roman boot was designed to stand ground in battle—fitted with metal studs, like the cleats of football player. The enemy will do all he can to knock you off your feet. Hold firm to the message of peace; it helps you maintain your footing. Jesus is the Prince of Peace—exude His peace!
Shield of Faith
Verse 16: above all, taking the shield of faith with which, you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one: What did Paul think the most important piece of equipment was for the Spiritual warrior? Right, the shield!
Faith is a shield, which allows us to put an immediate end to many of Satan’s attacks. For the Romans the shield was not just a defensive weapon, it was also an offensive weapon. The metal boss in the center, designed to hit the enemy at impact, allowed the legionnaire to follow up with his sword, to subdue the opponent.
How do you take up the shield of faith? Faith operates in another realm, anchored in the truth of Christ and the truth of God’s Word, written and Spirit-inspired. Raising the shield gives us power or abilities against Satan’s attacks. Faith is a revelation to the heart!
“To quench all the fiery darts”: A fiery dart in Roman times was a flaming arrow shot at opposing forces. Paul uses the imagery of two warring factions facing each other; he describes Satan’s attacks as fiery arrows, which the shield was able to deflect. The Roman shield was designed and curved to allow the force of the sword or arrow to be deflected to the sides.
Faith in Jesus as the risen Lord—and utter loyalty to Him—will protect you when the enemy hurls flaming arrows at you. The arrows may take the form of doubt or despair; of adverse circumstances; of sharp temptation that will burn you up if you let it hit you; of personal tragedy; or of success that tempts you to arrogance and pride. Sincere faith will quench them all.
ASK yourself: What fiery arrows give me problems? You need to learn how to ward them off.
Helmet of Salvation
Verse 17: take the helmet of salvation: Where does the spiritual battle rage? Satan works on making the mind captive. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Satan has blinded the minds. The thoughts and actions of the body proceed from the mind. (I’ll share more on this subject next week in my sermon and online.)
The head was and is a prime target in warfare, because an opponent knows a direct hit would finish the enemy. Therefore, the legions were equipped with helmets to protect the head from enemy swords or arrows.
Knowing that you already belong to the family of the risen Messiah, and that you have therefore already been rescued from the ultimate enemy, enables you to face all secondary enemies. Wear this helmet always.
Sword of the Spirit
Verse 17: and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: We are God’s warriors, representing His Kingdom in this fallen world. We have authority and power through Christ; we also have a sword beyond any comparison in the physical world.
The sword used by the Roman legions was to become an extension of the arm; the legionnaire goal was for the sword to become second nature. Paul would have seen the legions training for hours on end, perfecting their skills in combat.
Paul envisioned the same for the Church at Ephesus in spiritual warfare. As the legions were proficient in handling the sword, Paul wanted the Church to be proficient in the Word. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is sharper than any sword.
Paul is referring to various Old Testament passages, including Isaiah 11:4–5; 49:2 and 52:7. He is taking passages about the Messiah (clothed with righteousness and faithfulness, striking the earth with His words, with a mouth like a sharp sword, coming to announce the gospel of peace). This, then, is what he means by being strong ‘in the Lord’: it is because all these things are true of Jesus himself, and because we, His people, find ourselves ‘in’ Him, that they can be true of us, too.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18 NKJV)
Notice how Paul continues his thought on the armor with prayer. Prayer becomes the means in which we engage the enemy effectively – defended by armor (virtue).
We wear the armor, but the battle is fought by standing on God’s Word, remaining in faith, and praying without ceasing! Prayer is the primary avenue we fight the schemes of the enemy.
Take a moment and ask the Lord if there are areas of doubt or despair; of adverse circumstances; of sharp temptation; of personal tragedy; or of arrogance and pride that you have allowed to affect you. Repent, and determine today to stay in God’s armor and pray with perseverance!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Spiritual Armor”:
 Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 73.