Summary: Paul describes the armor God which helps us in our fight against Satan.
So did you notice anything unusual about what I am wearing this morning? Yep. It’s the shoes. How could you miss these neon green beauties! When do you suppose I would normally wear these shoes? That’s right. They’re running shoes so I would wear them when I want to go for a run or for a long walk. They have a nice grip on the bottom and a cushioned heal to protect my feet from the pounding they would otherwise take. But are these shoes appropriate for preaching? Is there anything in the Bible that tells us what kind of shoes Christians should wear? There is! In fact our text from Ephesians today speaks about what we ought to wear from head to toe. But there aren’t any running shoes on the list, no baseball caps, jeans or t-shirts. Nor are there any dresses or suits. The Apostle Paul lists only battle armor. Why? Let’s find out as we get a God’s-eye view of a Christian’s proper uniform. (Read the text.)
The BBC news service recently filed several reports from the Syrian city of Aleppo. It was documenting the extensive damage done to this ancient city because of the ongoing civil war. A city that was once a playground is now a battlefield. People who still live there have to take appropriate caution when moving about the city lest they get picked off by a sniper. St. Albert and Edmonton don’t look anything like Aleppo, not outwardly, but there is a spiritual battle taking place here and everywhere that demands we take the appropriate caution or we’ll quickly become casualties.
This battle, explains Paul, is not against flesh and blood. Your struggle is not with your difficult boss, or crabby co-worker. It’s not with the sibling or classmate you haven’t spoken to in days because you’re upset at each other. Your battle is against Satan and his minions. That’s so important to remember when someone hurts us with their unloving words and actions. It’s easy to treat that individual as the enemy when in reality Satan is using that person as his pawn. He wants us to react in such a way that would harm our relationship with God and with that other person. But we won’t let that happen if we’re wearing the appropriate uniform for a Christian.
You already heard that the uniform Paul prescribes is battle armor. But let’s be clear on where this armor comes from. It’s not something you have to scrape together yourself. No, this armor is something that God gives. Trying to survive this fight with Satan dressed on our own is like going into a firefight with a homemade “bullet-proof” vest made out of cardboard. It might look like the real thing, but the first bullet to tear through its flimsy exterior will prove otherwise. Likewise Paul urges us to put on the armor that God himself provides for this fight.
So what does this armor work? Well, Paul compares it to the armor that a Roman soldier would have worn. Paul first urges us to put on the belt of truth. Just as a belt holds your pants up so that they don’t fall down around your ankles where they will be a tripping hazard, the truth of God’s Word keeps us from stumbling over Satan’s lies. Satan says that there is no god. He says that this world was came into existence on its own. And therefore you’re really nothing more than an intelligent animal and not a moral being who will have to answer for your deeds someday. When you die, that’s it, says Satan. There’s no heaven, no hell. So you might as well squeeze the most out of life that you can. Do whatever feels right to you. Take whatever you think you deserve to have. That’s what everyone else is doing. Why should you miss out?
But along with this belt of truth we have been given the sword of the Spirit, says Paul—God’s Word that tells us how it really is—that God created this world and mankind. And he didn’t make us to be his slaves, rather he wanted us to enjoy the blessings of living with him. But sin ruined that relationship so that now, people think that if there is a God, he’s nothing more than a demanding boss. But he isn’t! He is our loving heavenly Father. That’s what the Bible tells us and when we study the Word it keeps Satan’s lies at bay.
But Satan won’t cease his attacks because you hold and use the Sword of the Spirit. If anything he will increase them! That’s perhaps why Paul also said to take up the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Satan is going to do his best to burn his way through your faith. He might do that by getting you to fall into a particular sin, or get you to go through the motions of being a Christian. That’s why it might be worth remembering that before Roman soldiers went into battle, they would soak their wooden shields in water. This made it a lot more difficult for the enemy’s flaming arrows to cause damage. Likewise wouldn’t it be helpful for us to remember that we have been soaked in the waters of baptism? Satan’s arrows will come and they will find it’s mark, but when I remember that I am a forgiven child of God, when I remember that I can say no to Satan’s temptations, those arrows aren’t going to continue to burn and do permanent damage.