Paul’s passion heats up in the closing chapter of Ephesians. He is about to end his letter and must make one last strong attempt to convey his message. What image will best explain the Christian’s duty in God’s divine plan?
The chain that binds Paul to the guard is cumbersome, allowing the prisoner to take only a few short strides in either direction. Perhaps he pauses at the end of the chain’s reach and gives the soldier a penetrating glance. There it is, the metaphor that will clinch his argument: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).
Paul describes two distinct spheres: first, the dark world, malevolent forces on the attack from within. These could include the temptations of money, sex and power. The second realm is a heavenly one. Paul implies that Satan himself would war against the Christian. He alludes to the devil’s ability to dwell beyond the confines of this world. Either sphere portends danger and calls for the Christian’s full protection. The full armor of God is not for special occasions only; it is an everyday necessity.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,” (Ephesians 6:14) Paul writes. He likely lists it first to underscore that we need the truth because our enemy is a liar and the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
The breastplate reminds us that Christ’s righteousness can guard our hearts from all evil. Paul’s metaphor leaves out any protective gear for the soldier’s back. There can be no retreating from the war, only steady advance, shielded by faith. “Take the shield of faith,” writes Paul, “with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
Training his gaze on the soldier’s gear, Paul calls his readers to stand firm “with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”
(Ephesians 6:15). The “helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17) referred to reminds us that salvation provides not only forgiveness for past sins but also strength to deal with all future attacks of sin.
Now Paul comes to the greatest weapon of all, prayer. Paul makes it clear that the twin disciplines of prayer and Bible study will enable the Christian to advance into the battle for righteousness and to be protected in enemy attack.
“Take the… sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Ephesians 6:17-18). Let God’s armor protect you in the fight!
Marlene Chase, The War Cry