Ephesians 6:14-18a (ESV)
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
For some people, nothing is more fascinating than the concept of spiritual warfare. Some folks have mental pictures of angels and demons grappling in some sort of MMA octagon, each trying to make the other side tap. And they all want to know what the secret weapon is that they need to use to really have victory over the spiritual forces.
Of course, when this topic is discussed, one of the most commonly cited passages of Scripture is the one above. There, Paul get’s into the spiritual beat-down metaphor as well. Paul talks about our defense against spiritual enemies, and he does so in very real terms that would have been known to the people of his day. Those terms that Paul uses are warfare terms, as Paul lists out pieces of a Roman soldier’s armor.
What I think many people forget, however, is that this passage is a big metaphor. The picture is apt, as God wants us to envision our spiritual struggle against the enemy as a battle. However, it is possible to take any metaphor, even a biblical metaphor, and get so lost in the metaphor that you miss the spiritual point.
What does it look like when a person misses the point in the metaphor? Well, look at a person or group that spends time “praying on the armor of God.” They might even hold out their hands as if they are holding an invisible helmet before sliding it into place on their heads. They might pretend to buckle the belt of truth around their waists. Whatever they do, those who are lost in the metaphor think more about armor pieces than they do about the things that are being depicted as armor. They will spend hours discussing what all the armor pieces do, and not focus on the things that Paul is really commanding.
So, let’s take just a second to remember what our armor really is. It is a simple list:
· readiness in the gospel
· the word of God
Look at that list, and see for yourself what it is that will give us victory in the spiritual battle that is raging around us. None of those things are mysterious. None of those things require a special spiritual armor seminar. If you just looked at that list of things and were not thinking Ephesians 6, you wouldn’t even come close to thinking of a soldier on a battlefield or an angel putting a chokehold on a demon.
Why would the above list not stir you to images of battle? That list would not make you put on imaginary armor because it is quite simply a list of godly Christian attributes. These are not secret armor; they are simple summaries of how we are to live in our day-to-day, moment-to-moment lives. We are to be people of truth, because lying dishonors God. We are to be people of righteousness, because sin dishonors God. We are to be ready in the gospel, because God has commanded us to be ready, and because the gospel gives us great joy and courage. We are to have faith, because without faith, it is impossible to please God. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling as God works in us to will and to act according to his good purposes. We are to hold fast to the word of God, because God’s word is the treasure that is the revelation of God to us. We are to pray, because that is what God’s people do, and it honors him when we do it.
Do you see the point? Paul draws this glorious soldierly picture, but the armor is not some sort of secret spiritual stuff. What Paul is saying to you is this: Do you want to win the spiritual war? If so, live as a Christian. Don’t spend all your time pondering demons. Instead, obey God. Follow his commands. Take the gospel to the nations. Trust in his word. These are the keys to spiritual victory, and they are not often found through spiritual warfare conferences. These keys to spiritual victory are found in regularly, faithfully walking the day-to-day Christian life.