“Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation 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 the last verse, Paul has told the church to take up their armor, and having prepared everything, to stand. I love how he ties everything together here. Earlier in his letter, he used the analogy of taking off the old self and putting on the new. Now, we are to put on the armor for protection. He also warned the church about being “…tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit” (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, in our armor, we are to take our stand.
Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, and he was likely chained to a Roman guard. He would be very familiar with the armor that the guards wore. He was also a former pharisee and knew the scriptures. He would have known the passage in Isaiah that says, “He put on righteousness as body armor, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and he wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak” (Isaiah 59:17). John Stott, in his commentary, says, “In the Old Testament it is God himself, the Lord of Hosts, who is depicted as a warrior fighting to vindicate his people… Today, the armor and weapons are still his, but now he shares them with us.” Let’s look at each piece of the armor.
We are told to stand with truth like a belt around our waist. The belt on a Roman guard’s uniform gathered the tunic together and held his sword. One website I checked said that the belt was perhaps the most important symbol for the Roman soldier because it was the one thing used every day. How fitting for today, when truth has become such a difficult thing for people to accept. We hear phrases like “That may be true for you, but…” We see groups such as progressivechristianity.org who teach “that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life.” Paul warned against these kinds of teachings. We know that Jesus is the truth. In John 14:6 we see “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We can know the truth. Something is not true for one person and not for someone else. Truth is not subjective.
Next, we are to put on righteousness like armor on your chest. In other translations this is a breast plate of righteousness. Stott writes, “To have been justified by his grace through simple faith in Christ crucified, to be clothed with righteousness, which is not one’s own but Christ’s, to stand before God not condemned but accepted- this is an essential defense against the slanderous attacks of the evil one, whose Hebrew name (Satan) means ‘adversary’ and whose Greek title (diablos, devil) means ‘slanderer’.” Paul writes of “weapons of righteousness for the right hand and left” in 2 Corinthians 6:7 and we are told to put on the new self “the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” in Ephesians 4. While it is not our righteousness that has saved us, we need to live our lives in such a way as to resist the devil and his temptations.
Our feet are sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. The Roman soldier’s sandals were a half boot made of leather which left the toes free. They had studded soles and were tide at the ankle. They were made for long marches but kept his feet from slipping. In Luke 1: 78-79, we read Zechariah’s prophecy about Jesus. “Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”” We have the Good News! We need to bring it to people!
The first three pieces of armor, Paul says to have on. The next three, he says to take up. First, he says to take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. This shield on the Roman soldier’s armor would have been long and would cover his whole body. It was two layers of wood glued together, which was then covered by linen and then by hide. It was bound by iron above and below. The enemy would dip arrows in pitch, light them, and then shoot them. These shields were designed to put them out. Satan throws arrows of doubt, fear, rebellion, whatever he can. Romans 5:1-2 reminds us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” This is such a great reminder! Ephesians 2:8 says that we are saved by grace through faith. So when the devil shoots those arrows at us, we need to remember that it is God who has saved us. We are his!
Next, we put on the helmet of salvation. The Roman soldier’s helmet protected the head, neck, and cheeks. Remember the verse in Isaiah? It said that God put on a helmet of salvation. Now, we get it! Our ultimate defense is knowledge that we are saved. We have full salvation on the last day. Earlier in the letter, Paul said that we were sealed with the Holy Spirit when we first believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment for our inheritance! Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” When we believe in Jesus as our savior, ask for the forgiveness of our sins, we have the assurance of salvation. David Guzik writes in his commentary, “The helmet of salvation protects us against discouragement, against the desire to give up, giving us hope, not only in knowing that we are saved, but that we will be saved. It is the assurance that God will triumph.”
The last weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Notice that this is our only offensive weapon. The word that is used for this in the original language is the one for the short sword. This is for up close and personal battle. The word of God is the inspired word. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” How are we to use this? We read in the Gospel accounts how Jesus used it to resist Satan in the Judean wilderness. Satan twisted the Scriptures, but Jesus knew and was able to resist by quoting it correctly back. We can also use the Word for evangelism. And often, verses and passages that we have learned come back to help us when we need them. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe.” But here’s the thing. It is so important to spend time learning and studying God’s word. It is not a magic tool where you can just open the Bible and point to a verse hoping to get a message just for you. That’s not how it works! As we spend time learning about God’s character as it is revealed over the entire Bible, the over-arching story of his redemption plan through the entire Bible, and the way he wants us to live, then we begin to grow. We will stop reading verses out of context, begin seeing what he wants us to see. And we do this because we have the Holy Spirit in us to help us and guide us. The Bible Recap (thebiblerecap.com) is an excellent resource if you are looking for a daily Bible reading plan. You can start at any time, and she has multiple years. I think she is on Year 4, but my husband and I are on Year 2. It has really helped us understand the overall big picture of the Bible.
I’m going to end with these verses. It’s another reason that I have been spending so much time reading the Bible and delving into apologetics. I know I put it in one of my first blogposts and it’s one of my favorites.
“…but in your hearts regardChrist the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
Grace be with you!