The Full Armor, Not an Exercise, But A Way of Life

db6990f53da4480d112fd1333a3dbe3aAs a believer for forty years, I’ve heard many interpretations and teachings on the full armor of God. It is a subject that many are familiar with. The main passage of Scripture that speaks of it is found in Ephesians 6:10-17. Most have turned it into a mental exercise where one visualizes “putting on” each piece of armor every day. The reason being, this is supposed to keep one safe from enemy attacks, almost like a magic charm or something. Frankly, this is a labor of futility. Not only does it not work, but it also misleads people into believing that going through the motions of this operation can protect them, rather than how they choose to live each day. I do not believe this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote this passage, as inspired by the Spirit of God.

When taken at face value, the meaning seems really simple to me. Each piece of the armor is symbolic of one aspect of Jesus’ nature or ministry. There are two different words translated “put on” used, the first is in Ephesians 6:11, the second, in 6:13. The first one means, to sink into clothing, to clothe one’s self, to envelop in, to hide in, to clothe with a garment. The second one means, to take up, to take in (to one’s self), to raise. The word used in 6:11 is the same word used in Romans 13:12, …“put on the armor of light,” and in Ephesians 4:24, “…put on the new self.” In fact, the whole verse of Ephesians 4:22-24, to me, is a precursor to the passage in chapter 6, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When interpreted in context, as all interpretations should be, the armor of God is, in essence, the nature of Christ. The first piece, the belt of truth, speaks of Jesus who said He was, “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) This means that we should walk in truth in every area of our lives. Since satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), truth will always defeat him. The second piece, the breastplate of righteousness, speaks of Christ’s righteousness which is credited to us at salvation (Phil. 3:9), He, Himself, is our righteousness. The third piece, the shoes of peace, speak of being a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9, James 3:18), and also walking in the peace of God. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), the gospel is to restore peace between God and man (Luke 2:14, Col. 1:20). The fourth piece, the shield of faith, speaks of our faith in Christ which helps us overcome (1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:4). The fifth piece, the helmet of salvation, speaks of the protection of our soul (mind, will, emotions) that comes from the hope and meditation of our salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). The sixth, and last piece, the sword of the Spirit, speaks of the Word of God, which we use to refute the lies of the enemy (Heb. 4:12, Rev. 2:12, 2:16, 19:15). Jesus used the Word to defeat the enemy in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-10). It is our offensive weapon.

Finally, it is striking that Paul uses the word “stand” four times in verses 11, 13, and 14. This word literally means, be kept intact, to escape in safety; to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything; to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm; to be of a steadfast mind; of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver.” This describes what our position should be when faced with the enemy. We do not fight, but rather stand, clothed with the nature of Jesus, in His authority which is above all authorities. We remain immovable and unshakeable for greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. 

When we clothe ourselves in Christ, taking on and standing in our new self made in His likeness, we have the greatest protection possible against the attacks of the enemy. This requires us to die to our flesh, surrender our ways, deny ourselves, and walk in obedience to the Lord, by His grace. It doesn’t mean we will never be assaulted by the enemy. It means we will continue to stand, and we will overcome him because Jesus did and He now lives in us. “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.” (Eph. 6:13)

Overcoming Temptation

No one is immune to temptation. It is familiar to us all. It entered the human temptationexperience at the beginning of time and is one of the three most common ways the enemy attacks us. The Scriptures give many examples of the temptations of the saints and provide wisdom to help us if we will heed it.

The first instance is found in Genesis 3, the story of the fall of man. No doubt, we are all familiar with the details, however; there are a couple of things I want to point out. First, the enemy lies to Adam and Eve, telling them that God has lied to, and withheld something valuable from them. (v. 4-5) At that moment, a seed of doubt was sown into their minds about the trustworthiness of their Creator. This seed of doubt, this thought, was the impetus for the temptation.

The thought, when dwelled upon, caused the first couple to consider their options. If God couldn’t be trusted and was withholding something of value from them, what was it? Eve looked at the fruit, turning her focus away from the One who had freely given them everything their hearts could long for. She chose to turn her attention to that which He had not given them, and had actually forbidden them to have. In doing so, she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (v. 6)

There are three main areas the enemy targeted – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The lust of the flesh involves satisfying our appetites. The lust of the eyes speaks of greed, envy, and coveting that which we do not have. The pride of life includes that which we can achieve or accomplish. 1 John 2:16 further confirms this, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Jesus was tempted in the same ways during His time in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We, too, have been or will be, tempted in these areas. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is a part of life in this fallen world and will be until Jesus returns. Many years ago, a former pastor said to me, “Temptation is about fulfilling a legitimate, God-given need, in an illegitimate way.” God has given us valid needs and desires that we cannot deny. He has promised to meet every need and longing of our heart when we seek Him first. Our part is to trust Him. Every temptation we face is another opportunity to trust Him.

When those seeds of doubt come and the devil whispers in our ear, “Did God really say…?” we must keep our eyes fixed on Him and remember, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15) The One who overcame all temptation lives within us that we also might overcome!

Shame – The Identity Thief

One of the most powerful and destructive tools of the enemy used to keep shamepeople trapped in bondage is shame. Shame has been around since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2:25, an interesting statement is made: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Interesting, because it is the first mention of shame in Scripture. It seems evident that God clearly wanted to highlight this fact to us. Not only does nakedness refer to their physical state of being without clothes, but I believe it can also refer to their total emotional vulnerability. There were no barriers to intimacy between them, or in their relationship to their Creator. They had nothing to hide, no fear of being exposed, no reason to withdraw or withhold themselves from one another. What a contrast to our lives today!

By the time we get to Chapter 3, verse 7, things have changed dramatically. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the first of many results occurred immediately: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Although both verses contain the word “naked” in English, in the Hebrew, two different words are used. The first one, found in 2:25, means to be without clothes. The second one, in 3:7, comes from a root word meaning crafty, subtle, or shrewd. I believe this is referring to their sense of wrongdoing, not just their physical state. Suddenly, they went from a state of perfect bliss, joy, and peace with one another and with God, to feeling something completely foreign to them – shame – that arose from their disobedience. In an instant, everything was distorted, corrupted, and perverted. Today, the enemy still uses this powerful weapon against God’s people.

Shame lies to us and tells us we are defective, flawed, evil, and shameful. There must be something wrong with us, it whispers in our ear. No matter how much we feel we are living to please God, one perceived wrong word, thought, or deed, and it rears its ugly head again to beat us down. Not only does it lie to us to try to steal our identity, it also convinces us that we must hide the so-called “truth” of our shamefulness from others, or we will surely be rejected, abandoned, criticized, judged, etc. Those who fall for the lies, therefore, are afraid to share their struggles with those who could help them get free. Instead, we turn to control to protect us from further pain, by wearing a mask, withdrawing, isolating, putting up walls, and other ungodly behaviors rather than taking that risk.

The truth is, we have all sinned and fallen short of what God intended us to be. We’ve all made mistakes, done stupid things we’re ashamed of, and made choices we now regret. We are all equally in need of Jesus’ blood, shed at the cross. No one sin is greater or worse than another. God knew all of this before any of us were ever created. He could have chosen not to go through with His plans. He could have decided to create beings that were programmed to obey Him perfectly. He could have elected to exist for all eternity within His own triune nature, with perfect love and harmony between Father, Son, and Spirit. But He didn’t!

Knowing all that mankind would do, He chose to make us His very own sons and daughters. He willingly agreed to pay the highest price possible to deliver us from all shame, guilt, and condemnation – and every other work of the devil! If you struggle with sin and shame, how much longer will you allow the enemy to torment and steal from you? Help is available, and freedom is your inheritance as a beloved son or daughter. Jesus already paid the price, and He deserves to receive the reward of His suffering – you!