Sunday November 26, 2017 | Greg Boyd
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
In this segment of the Overcome series we continue exploring the nature of temptation from a spiritual warfare perspective. Satan’s primary weapon he uses against us is deception, therefore as followers of Jesus our primary defense is to saturate ourselves in the truth revealed in the crucified Christ about who God is, who we are, and what our relationship to others is to be. In this message Greg looks at each of the pieces of armor of God that Paul lays out in Ephesians 6.
In chapter 6 of Ephesians, Paul uses the various garments of a roman soldier’s attire and equipment to explain how we can prepare ourselves against the attacks of our spiritual enemy. Paul begins by specifying to be strong in the Lord and be aware of the schemes of the devil. This is an important distinction that evil is a personal being with a mind because it influences how we see God and interact with the world. If we don’t represent evil as being a distinct being other than God then we’re left with the problem of explaining how an all good God would have so much suffering and tragedy in His creation. We put on the armor of God because of our awareness of the intentional targeted attacks of the enemy.
There are at least 13 different names given to cosmic agents and powers in the New Testament. These agents were assumed to have authority over a specific area of reality such as weather, other aspects of nature, or parts of society. After the rebellion these agents began using their authority at cross purposes with God. These are cosmic powers that are in principle behind all of the systemic evils we encounter in the world such as racism, natural disasters, sexism, classism, etc. In Ephesians 6 we learn that every time we identity flesh and blood as enemy we are being played by these cosmic powers. If it has flesh and blood it’s someone to be fighting for, not against. In Mt 5:45 Jesus makes showing love for our earthly enemies a pre-condition to being considered a child of God.
The first piece of armor mentioned is the belt of truth. The belt is the garment that holds the rest of the outfit together. So also, the truth is foundational and what holds us together. Satan essentially has one weapon and that is deception. So our one weapon we need to fight back against him is the truth revealed in the crucified Christ about who God is, who we are, and what our relationship to others is to be. We are to see everyone around us, no matter to what degree they might want to do us harm, as having unsurpassable worth based on the price Jesus paid for them. Our lives will be as together as we are grounded in the truth of God revealed in Christ.
The breastplate of righteousness is a covenantal concept describing right relatedness with God and others. Jesus made a way for us to be right related to God, but bitterness, hatred, and anger can be sewn in our hearts when we’re not right related to others. There is no coasting in the Kingdom of God. We have to be vigilant and intentional about where our energies are spent. When issues arise we need to address them quickly, and forgive quickly where applicable. To have our feet fitted with the gospel of peace means we are bringing shalom wherever we go and to whomever we meet. If our purpose for our lives is only for ourselves and loved ones, we are being deceived. The safest place to live for follower of Jesus is on the front lines of advancing the purpose of the Kingdom of God in to the darkness around us.
The shield of faith, which is essentially expanding the belt of truth to a substantiated reality in our minds by envisioning and imagining it as such, has the ability to extinguish the flaming arrows of our enemy. We know God loves us as the truth, but we also need to experience God loving us through our imagination. We envision what we’d look like when we’re living out who we actually are. This propels us forward in the Kingdom. And lastly the helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit refer to the guarding of our minds and hearts. Our salvation is the past, present, and future marriage covenant like relationship with God that sets us free from the darkness that entangles us and keeps us from living a Kingdom life. The word of God has great power to free us from these strongholds and should be used accordingly spoken over our lives to slice up the deception.