Today, we’re wrapping up the series, “If I Am in Christ.” We’ve been digging through the book of Ephesians, really only pulling out the highlights, the amazing blessings that come to us when we place our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus Christ (when we are in Christ as the apostle Paul calls it). On the first week, we learned there are spiritual blessings that have been given to us based on Jesus’ work on the cross. We are chosen, adopted, redeemed, purposed, and sealed. The second week, we found that in Christ we are given a whole lot of grace that should make us extremely grateful.
Since we have only touched parts of the book of Ephesians, I encourage you to read the entire book because there is still so much more wisdom to explore. It’s only 6 chapters, yet consist of so much good information. For instance, in chapter three, Paul writes about God’s mysterious plan to bring Christ to earth and the church’s purpose in that plan. Listen carefully.
10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
In chapter four, Paul writes that if we are in Christ we are not on our own. Instead, we become united with others who trust in Jesus and become the church. It’s just like how the human body has many parts, so does the body of Christ. He also gets into details of how to live in the light of Christ, throwing off our sinful ways and carefully doing what pleases the Lord. He even gets into how wives and husbands should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and how children should obey their parents – which is the first of the 10 commandments to come with a blessing – “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” (5:33)
The book of Ephesians, even though it’s short, is full of wisdom and the blessings we receive when we are in Christ. Today, we’re going to close this series, jumping to chapter six, with one of the most amazing results of being found in Christ: When we are in Christ, we are given armor to protect us from the evil that exists in the world.
My oldest son played football his senior year in high school, and I know several of our young boys in here have played as well. If I’m honest and not just a mom, it’s a pretty rough sport which requires you to wear protective gear. Players wear knee and thigh pads, shoulder pads with a rib guard, and most importantly a strong padded helmet. Each piece of armor a football player wears is meant to protect the most vulnerable places on the body. Covering the joints, organs, and the head are vital to being able to play such a great sport and remain safe as you do it. My oldest also played basketball which was almost just as rough, but with no protective gear. After years of playing, concussions, a broken collarbone, bumps and bruises, I’m surprised he came out as well as he did.
Life is also full of collisions and crashes. Evil in this world is very real and can cause us so much pain and many challenges. We suffer from temptation and disappointment that can break our hearts and our lives. However, through God’s grace and mercy, He has given us protective spiritual armor through our connection to Jesus. Something we need to know and remember…
POINT #1 – OUR BATTLE IS NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD
Paul saved this piece of wisdom and instruction for the very end of his letter to the Ephesians perhaps because he knew his listeners would need God’s defense to live out everything he had introduced to them in the previous chapters. Here Paul speaks of a battle that his readers then and us today are right in the midst of, which is not something many people are even aware of.
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
(Look back at Ephesians 3:10.) How are we strong in God’s mighty power? Put on ALL of God’s armor. Not just a piece or two. You may have salvation, but you need the belt of truth with that. You want the shoes of peace? Ok, but you’ve got to have the breastplate of righteousness on. You want the shield of faith to protect you, then you need the sword of the Word to go with it. Then you can stand firm against ALL of the devil’s strategies.
Paul wanted to make it very clear that what often feels like battles and struggles against people around us can actually be misplaced tension. Behind the arguments and disagreements may actually be rulers, authorities, and powers in the spiritual realm. We may find ourselves labeling that person as the enemy. We may find ourselves fighting against that neighbor, family member, or politician when all along the devil may be the one egging it all on. He’s the instigator. The devil is a schemer, and he is really good at what he does. He is always looking for ways to trip us up and disrupt our relationship with Christ.
In our culture today, we need to hear Paul’s words and let them sink in. Your battle is not against flesh and blood. Don’t look to blame those people or grow bitter against that group. Rather, focus your attention on the spiritual battle that is raging behind the scenes. How might the devil be using the situation you’re in to drive a wedge in your relationship with Christ and disrupt God’s work?
This understanding is so crucial! If we don’t believe we are in the middle of a spiritual battle right now, we will never do the hard work of growing spiritually healthy and strong. We will never understand the magnitude of our work to share the Gospel and the desperation to get the word out now! The key is developing a relationship with God that is ready to stand against the devil’s schemes whenever they come.
Since we are in hunting season around here, maybe this will relate with you. During the fall rut, male deer battle for dominance literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers—their only weapon—are broken. That ensures defeat. The heftiest deer with the largest and strongest antlers triumphs. But the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer months when the deer eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight with the strongest antlers.
There is a lesson here for all of us. Spiritual battles will come without warning. Satan will choose a season of our lives to attack, and it’s often when we are least expecting it. Weather we will be victorious or fall depends on what we do now before the war begins. So…
POINT #2 – PUT ON YOUR ARMOR
Put on the full armor of God, the armor God has given us to protected us. Paul often uses the word therefore as a transition in the book of Ephesians. This time, it leads us to the answer given to us because of the battle we are in the middle of.
13 Therefore, (because you are in a battle or are preparing for one) put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The Greek word used here for “put on” means is to take up, to pick up, to choose. Meaning the tools Paul offers are not mandatory. You can choose to utilize them or choose to ignore them. Your choice. Let’s take a look at each tool.
Belt of Truth – The belt was the first piece of equipment a warrior put on, and it literally held everything together. It held the warrior’s tunic close so it wouldn’t be snagged. It gave a place to carry weapons like a dagger and sword.
The symbolism of the belt of truth is so crucial to the success of the Christian mission. Truth in Greek means reality, the divine insight revealed by God. The belt of truth is the reality that God is indeed real and in charge. Paul uses this as a symbol of truth because God’s truth should surround us just like a belt. The truth of His existence and power is wrapped around us to make every other piece of armor effective. Knowing God’s truth is the surefire antidote to Satan’s lies and deception. The truth always holds us together and makes us ready for battle.
Breastplate of Righteousness – The second piece we should choose to pick up is the breastplate of righteousness. This piece of armor was a crucial addition to any warrior’s gear. You did not want to go into battle without a breastplate. The breastplate was worn over the torso and was made from leather, bronze, or iron. The reason this piece of armor was so crucial was because it protected the most vital organs from being harmed, especially the heart. Though in a physical sense protecting the heart from injury is very important, from a Jewish perspective, the heart was much more than an organ that pumps blood to the extremities. When the readers of this text originally thought about the breastplate protecting the heart, they believed the heart of every person was where all thoughts, words, actions, and desires originated. The heart was the essence of who they were. Physically, without a heart beating, we are dead. So spiritually, without a protected heart, we cannot hope to survive either. The breastplate was made of righteousness—right action—which means a person would protect themselves by doing the right things.
To be righteous is to repent and be forgiven of our sins, and then to do what is right in God’s eyes. Psalm 119:172 tells us that God’s commandments are righteousness. So to be righteous is to obey God’s laws. The enemy wants to attack you not only with lies, but also with impurity. He wants you to watch immoral movies, to have too much to drink where you’re too weak to make the right decision, he wants to engage you in all temptations of the flesh. The bottom line is that Satan wants to get into your heart and mind. He’s looking for a crack in your armor. And don’t be fooled. Satan knows where the crack is. He knows where your weaknesses are. Sin is the opposite of righteousness, so when we sin without repenting, we are removing our breastplate and leaving ourselves wide open to more of Satan’s attacks.
Shoes of Peace – Shoes might not be the most exciting piece of armor, but they are so very important. The shoes were made from leather and would have hobnails on the sole, much like football cleats. A hobnail is a short nail with a thick head that stuck out, that was used to increase the durability of the sole and gave the warrior strong footing to stand their ground when they were fighting.
Being able to stand our ground comes from knowing God’s peace, and peace comes from knowing the Good News of Jesus Christ. That way when Satan throws out the stones and daggers of doubts and discouragement, we won’t move. We know who we are and whose we are! Just as shoes provide protection and stability for the feet, the shoes of peace enable Christians to stand firm and navigate the challenges of life with a firm foundation on Christ. The shoes also remind believers to actively spread the gospel message of Jesus Christ. So be the hands and feet of God and advance the kingdom of God by bringing hope and salvation to a broken world, spreading peace.
Shield of Faith – The warrior’s shield measured about 2 feet by 4 feet and was made of wood covered with leather, up to 6 layers of leather. In that day, arrows were dipped in oil, lit on fire and shot. The shield was vital to protect the warrior from getting shot and burned. Having faith means having a steadfast trust and confidence in God’s promises and who He is. Just as a physical shield protects against incoming arrows or blows, the shield of faith safeguards those who are in Christ from the devil’s fiery darts of doubt and fear. It’s through unwavering faith in God’s faithfulness, power, and goodness that the flaming arrows of temptation, deception, and discouragement can be extinguished. Faith in God’s provision and guidance protects us and strengthens us. Think about Daniel in the lion’s den. Faith was like a force field to protect Daniel from those vicious teeth! Same way with spiritual temptations and dangers.
Now just think if we would join our shields together like the warriors did – meaning we would strengthen each other with our faith – we would be able to take on any challenge. This is why we need to be in and a part of a church. Strength comes in numbers.
Helmet of Salvation – The most important thing to have at all times is the assurance of your salvation. The helmet of salvation is a very significant defensive piece of the spiritual armor. The helmet guards our minds and thoughts. It serves as a constant reminder of our identity as a forgiven child of God who is secure in our eternal destiny and protects us from doubting and believing lies about who we are and whose we are. If your head was wounded at war, you’d likely die. As so, what happens to us without salvation? Death.
Sword of the Spirit – When a warrior drew his sword, he used it to push the enemy back. The sword of the spirit is the only offensive weapon in the armor of God. It represents the power and authority of the Word of God. And in the hands of a follower of Christ, it’s used to attack and dispel the works and schemes of the devil. Jesus modeled how to do this during His temptation in the wilderness.
When the devil tried temptation after temptation against Him, Jesus spoke the Word of God to Satan. In other words, He threw the book at him! And we can do that too. Read scripture, memorize it, and use the Word of God to defeat Satan’s lies and attacks. And know that our sword won’t stay sharp on its own. We must continually sharpen it with regular and focused Bible reading and study. The scriptures have been given to us to strengthen us. Use them.
Notice that all of these pieces of spiritual armor are to protect the front of the warrior. Why? Because they are meant to advance against the enemy. There is no retreat. No turning your back. The devil is at work in our midst, every day. But you are NOT fighting this battle alone.
POINT #3 – JESUS CAME TO DEFEAT THE DEVIL
I think many of us forget that one of the clearest reasons for Jesus’ coming to earth was not to just save us, to bring justice, or to make all things right. One of the clearest expressions of Jesus’ mission is found in 1 John.
1 John 3:8
8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.
The reason Jesus Christ came to earth was to save us by destroying the works of the devil. Paul understood this and that’s why he equipped us with all of the necessary tools to join Jesus on His mission of freeing the world from sin, evil, and death. It’s a high calling and can even feel scary, however, by God’s mighty power, we can stand firm. Jesus has already won the victory on the cross, and one day He will return to eliminate sin once and for all.
This morning I hope you know and understand you are in a battle, yes, and it may not be against who you think it is. But God has given you all you need through the spiritual armor mentioned in Ephesians 6 and through Jesus Christ to be victorious. But you do have to chose to put the armor on.
And one last thing Paul tells us to do is to pray.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Prayer is our way of communicating with the source of hope. Every morning we wake up, we’d be wise to prayerfully ask God to cover each part of our physical and spiritual bodies by these affective pieces of armor.
Let us pray.
Gracious and loving God, we humbly seek your presence and guidance. We come to you, acknowledging that we are in need of your divine protection and strength. We desire to put on the full armor that you have provided for us, so that we may face the challenges and temptations of this world with confidence and faith.
We pray that you would help us secure around our waists the belt of truth. May your truth be our foundation, anchoring us in your Word and guiding our thoughts, words, and actions. Give us discernment to recognize falsehood and the courage to live in integrity.
Help us put on the breastplate of righteousness. Clothe us with your righteousness so we may live a life of holiness and stand against the schemes of the evil one. Fill our hearts with compassion, kindness, and love so we may reflect your character in all that we do.
Give us the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Equip us with the shoes of peace so we may walk confidently in the path of righteousness, bringing the message of your grace and reconciliation to a broken world. May our lives be a testament to your peace.
We lift up the shield of faith, knowing it extinguishes all the fiery darts of the enemy. Strengthen our faith that we may trust you wholeheartedly and resist the doubts and fears that come against us. Help us to hold fast to your promises and to believe in your goodness, even in the midst of trials.
Place on our heads the helmet of salvation. Guard our minds against the enemy’s lies and deceptions. May the assurance of your salvation be our constant source of hope and joy, reminding us of our identity as your beloved children and securing our eternal future in you.
And finally, Lord, we take up the sword of the Spirit, your Word. Grant us wisdom and understanding as we study and meditate on it. Guide us in using your Word effectively, that we may boldly proclaim truth and bring glory to your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.