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“The Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:12-18) In Its Original Context

by Dr. Eitan Bar
10 minutes read

Let’s jump right into it!

Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against authorities, powers, the rulers of this world’s darkness, and evil spiritual forces in the heavens.

Ephesians 6:12

Paul’s assertion that we do not fight against flesh and blood doesn’t imply we never confront people. Indeed, Paul himself endured persecution from individuals who stoned, imprisoned, whipped, and robbed him. However, the root of the conflict is not physical.

Numerous researchers have sought to understand the human evil evident in the Soviet gulags or the Holocaust. Yet, what my people faced in the Holocaust, or the evil manifested by ISIS and Hamas, represents merely a physical manifestation of much deeper, darker, and spiritual wickedness beyond mere human capacity.

The term ‘authorities and powers’ indicates that the adversary isn’t just a single being like Satan. Instead, there is an entire spectrum of ranks and hierarchy in the spiritual realm, filled with demons and evil spirits, akin to a military structure.

The phrase ‘rulers of this world’s darkness’ refers to a variety of deities, such as Artemis, Isis, Attis, Serapis, Bendis, Mithras, and others, venerated in the temples of Ephesus. These are part of the demonic forces at play.

In contemporary times, when encountering fortune-tellers and mediums, it’s not mere trickery but a genuine engagement with the spiritual realm. However, the entities they interact with are not deceased family members or long-lost friends but demons and spirits pushing a specific spiritual agenda.

It is not necessary to seek out demons and spirits for them to influence us. Their pursuit of humanity doesn’t aim to merely frighten, as portrayed in films. Rather, their objective is more insidious: to instill false beliefs about ourselves, the world, and God and to divert our focus from anything related to God.

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.

Ephesians 6:13

To resist and combat Satan’s forces, we must utilize the weapons provided by God. The Greek word “analabete,” translated as “take,” implies arming oneself in anticipation of an attack. “The evil day” isn’t just a specific, isolated future event; as Paul elaborated in the previous chapter, it represents an ongoing, daily reality. Essentially, Paul is advising the Ephesians that the absence of a visible, physical army doesn’t negate the presence of a spiritual one. Therefore, if you are not yet armed, it’s time to prepare for the battle already underway.

Standing guard is crucial in this context. A soldier doesn’t simply relax after defeating an immediate enemy; they remain vigilant, ready for the next challenge. Similarly, we must be perpetually prepared to face and overcome upcoming assaults. This readiness involves not only defending ourselves but also progressively reclaiming and restoring aspects of our lives that we’ve previously surrendered.

The specifics of these weapons and their application are detailed in the ensuing verses. Paul’s message underscores the importance of spiritual readiness and vigilance, urging believers to consistently equip themselves with God-given spiritual tools to face and triumph over the forces of evil.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.

Ephesians 6:14

The command to stand, as repeated by Paul, emphasizes the importance of readiness and alertness in spiritual warfare. Warriors do not rest in a state of passivity; instead, they remain upright, vigilant, and prepared for imminent challenges, ensuring they are never caught off guard.

The first of the six spiritual weapons is truth, symbolized by a belt. This belt serves as a foundation, supporting other armaments. Truth represents the believer’s genuine identity in the Messiah and their assurance in God’s redemptive love. This stands in stark contrast to Satan’s deceptive narratives. As John 8:44 highlights, “He is a liar and the father of lies.” Satan endeavors to infuse our minds with doubts about our worth, God’s love, and the fear of exclusion from His army if we fail to meet certain standards.

However, the manner of our spiritual combat does not alter God’s unwavering love for us. Our struggle is not to earn His affection but to enhance the quality of our own lives. Our salvation and the promise of eternal life are not rewards for our achievements or prowess in spiritual battles but manifestations of God’s inherent goodness.

Our engagement in this spiritual warfare does not influence our standing with God but enriches the quality of our spiritual life. This extends to all truths, particularly moral truths, as Ephesians 4:25 advises: “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.” This verse underscores the necessity of embodying truth in all aspects of life, fostering honesty and integrity in our interactions and within ourselves.

And put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Ephesians 6:14

The second weapon in our spiritual arsenal is righteousness, symbolized by a breastplate. Embracing righteousness involves leading a life marked by holiness, purity, integrity, fairness, and moral rectitude. It’s a commitment to maintaining ethical standards, even when surrounded by injustice, deception, and malpractice.

The breastplate, while protective, is heavy and cumbersome, potentially slowing down the wearer. This metaphorically reflects the challenges of living a righteous life. In a world where ethical shortcuts and self-serving behavior are common, it’s tempting to abandon the weighty demands of righteousness for a seemingly easier path. However, many succumb to this temptation, disregarding fairness and exploiting others for personal gain.

In contrast, a Christian is called to don the breastplate of righteousness. This commitment, though demanding, offers protection. It shields one from the troubles that often accompany unethical choices. Just as a physical breastplate guards the vital organs of a soldier, righteousness safeguards the spiritual well-being of a believer, ensuring they remain aligned with God’s will and insulated from moral compromise.

And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Ephesians 6:15

The third element of our spiritual armament is the gospel of peace, symbolized by shoes. These aren’t modern closed shoes, but rather resemble the sandals worn by Roman soldiers. These sandals had nails protruding from their soles, similar to the studs on soccer shoes, designed to provide stable grip even on slippery surfaces. This design underlines the sense of security and stability these shoes imparted to the soldier.

The gospel of peace speaks of God’s desire for reconciliation with every individual. God has already played His part in this peace-making process. All that’s left is for us to believe, accept, and thereby enter the realm of God’s eternal peace. It’s a profound realization that the gospel of peace didn’t come to humanity through impersonal channels like a letter or a radio broadcast. Instead, it came directly from the God of love, through God incarnated in the Messiah, who lived among His creation to embody and spread this message of peace. As the prophet Isaiah beautifully puts it, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” (Isaiah 52:7).

In contrast to Satan’s endeavors to incite conflict and division, fostering hatred and warfare, the gospel of the Messiah is a clarion call for peace, urging forgiveness and reconciliation. This approach presents a striking contrast – as Paul implies, the response to hate should be love, and to warfare should be peace. This notion is echoed in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Our Gospel does not convey a vengeful, wrathful deity eager to punish. Rather, it’s about a loving God who, in His immense love, bore our due punishments to forge peace and pave our way to Him. This gospel of peace, then, isn’t just a message; it’s an active force in spiritual warfare, encouraging us to counter hate with love and conflict with reconciliation.

With all these, take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

Ephesians 6:16

The fourth weapon in our spiritual arsenal is faith, represented as a shield. In Genesis 15:1, God reassures Abraham, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield,” highlighting the protective nature of faith.

According to the Greek historian Polybius, the shield of that era was a large wooden construction, covering the entire body and coated with leather. This design had a significant advantage over smaller shields, as it could withstand multiple arrows simultaneously, including the perilous burning arrows commonly depicted in historical dramas. These burning arrows are notably hazardous as they can cause burns in addition to wounds. However, the Roman shield’s leather covering effectively prevented it from igniting.

Carrying such a heavy shield presents its challenges, paralleling the weight of maintaining faith in difficult times. Faith, akin to weight lifting in a spiritual gym, requires effort and resilience.

Early biblical interpreters like Origen and Jerome viewed Satan’s arrows as malevolent thoughts he attempts to implant in our minds. These arrows, however, could represent a variety of adversities or negative influences.

Faith is more than mere belief; it involves trust. To believe in something is to place trust in it. For example, trusting in a religious figure like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for blessings and protection equates to placing faith in him. However, the shield of faith in a spiritual context is about trusting in the Messiah, in God. Regardless of the intensity and direction of the attacks we face, our faith in God – our trust in Him – serves as a protective shield. This is echoed in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Just as food fuels our physical strength, faith fortifies our spiritual resilience.

And take the helmet of salvation.

Ephesians 6:17

The fifth weapon in our spiritual battle is salvation, symbolized as a helmet. Paul’s message to the Thessalonians, “Put on for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8), emphasizes the protective nature of salvation.

The helmet, vital in combat, safeguards the head—the control center of our being. It’s where thoughts are formed, logic resides, knowledge is stored, and consciousness lies. The helmet of salvation, therefore, is not just a physical defense but a spiritual safeguard for our most critical asset—our mind and its thoughts.

Paul explains to the Ephesians the essence of salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is depicted as a past event, a gift from God, not reliant on human deeds or achievements. This understanding provides immense mental tranquility.

Contrast this with someone uncertain about their standing with God, living in a state of constant fear and anxiety. In contrast, a believer assured of their eternal salvation, secured by the Messiah’s sacrifice, operates from a place of peace, not fear. Their actions are motivated by love and kindness, mirroring the grace and love received from God.

Paul’s foundational belief is that salvation hinges on initial faith, not subsequent actions. However, the spiritual weapons we wield and how we use them are influenced by our choices and actions. They might not impact our salvation, but they significantly affect the quality of our spiritual lives. The certainty of our salvation acts as a helmet for our minds, rendering Satan’s attempts to plant doubts or negative thoughts ineffective. In knowing we possess salvation, we shield our minds from spiritual attacks, maintaining focus on our eternal security.

And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

The sixth and final weapon in our spiritual arsenal is the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, symbolized as a sword. This metaphor emphasizes the active, penetrating power of Scripture in spiritual warfare.

Paul views the Holy Scriptures as a spiritual sword because their writing was divinely inspired, making them eternal and powerful. This is echoed in Isaiah’s proclamation: “The word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The Scriptures are not mere words; they are imbued with divine authority and enduring truth.

Yeshua’s encounter in the wilderness exemplifies the effective use of this weapon. He repelled Satan’s temptations not through physical force or argument but by quoting Scripture. This highlights the power of the Scriptures to counter falsehood and deception.

Understanding and deeply studying the Scriptures fortify us theologically. They provide a firm foundation for our faith, akin to building a house on a rock. This solid grounding enables us to not only withstand spiritual assaults but also to actively challenge and dismantle attacks against our faith.

Therefore, the word of God is more than a defensive tool; it’s an offensive weapon in our spiritual battles. Its proper use requires knowledge, understanding, and the wisdom to apply it correctly. Just as a sword in the hands of a skilled warrior can decisively turn the tide of battle, so too can the Scriptures in the hands of a believer who knows how to wield them with faith and discernment.

With all prayer and supplication, pray at all times in the Spirit. Be watchful in your prayers and persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:18

The central element of spiritual warfare, as emphasized by Paul, is prayer. Prayer, according to Paul, is not just another weapon in our spiritual armory; it is the foundation upon which all others rest.

Prayer should be a constant practice, an ever-present part of our lives. Just as we engage in conversation with people whenever we see them, our inner dialogue with God should be ongoing and unceasing. This continuous connection with God keeps our spiritual focus sharp and our hearts aligned with His will.

Praying in the Spirit means to pray guided by the Spirit of God, contrasting the idolatrous prayers familiar to the Ephesian believers. This type of prayer is aligned with God’s desires and purposes, not just our own.

Being watchful in prayer signifies praying with dedication and perseverance. It’s not a passive or occasional activity but an active, continuous engagement. As Yeshua instructed His disciples to “watch and pray” to avoid temptation, we too must be vigilant in our prayers, aware of our spiritual surroundings, and steadfast in our communion with God.

Praying for all the saints is a call to extend our prayers beyond our personal needs, to include the wider community of believers. This reflects a recognition that we are all engaged in the same spiritual struggle and that our prayers can support and strengthen one another.

Satan’s strategy often involves undermining our confidence and unity. He plants seeds of doubt, guilt, fear, and division, aiming to isolate and weaken us. But prayer counters these tactics by reinforcing our connection to God and to each other. It fosters unity, mutual support, and shared strength.

In summary, prayer is a powerful and indispensable tool in spiritual warfare. It is through prayer that we maintain our focus on God, resist Satan’s attacks, and build a strong, supportive community of faith. Prayer is where our spiritual strength is renewed, and our commitment to God and each other is affirmed.

Conclusions

In conclusion, spiritual warfare is fundamentally about our identity and thoughts. It’s a struggle designed to silence and immobilize us. However, we are now aware that we possess the necessary spiritual tools to confront and handle any spiritual attack. This awareness also allows us to recognize potential threats before they even materialize.

Just as in a war movie, there are moments of fear and despair where all seems lost. Yet, in our scenario, we are like viewers in a cinema who have already read the book. This foreknowledge gives us an advantage. In the most challenging moments, we can reassure ourselves that there is no real cause for concern because, ultimately, the forces of good triumph.

Satan, aware that he cannot rob us of our soul’s salvation, instead aims to debilitate us with negative thoughts, such as guilt, confusion, depression, self-condemnation, and even physical illness. His tactics are designed to undermine our sense of identity and purpose.

Therefore, our spiritual battle is not merely a defensive stance but an active engagement using the armor and weapons God has provided—truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God—along with the foundational practice of prayer. This approach not only equips us to withstand Satan’s assaults but also empowers us to advance and reclaim lost ground in our lives.

In this spiritual conflict, we are reminded of the importance of unity, support, and mutual encouragement among believers. By standing together in faith, prayer, and trust in God’s promises, we become stronger and more resilient, embodying the very principles of God’s kingdom that we are called to uphold. In the end, despite the challenges and trials, our faith assures us of the ultimate victory of good over evil.

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist