The Armor of God
I have been a fan of comic books and superheroes since I was a child. My father would bring home comic books for me when he returned from business trips, and when I got to high school my best friends and I would go to our local comic book shop every Wednesday for the latest releases. This was long before the comic book culture boom and long before being into superheroes was popular. It could be argued that Marvel is currently winning the cinematic battle of the heroes, and one of the major reasons for that is Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man.
What makes this character so appealing is that he has no super powers; he is just a man in a suit who survives on his drive and his intellect. As the character has progressed over the last 11 years, Tony has gone from needing giant robot arms to help him get into his Iron Man armor, to having the entire suit stored on his chest. He simply cannot be without his armor because the threats are too real. We could stand to learn a lesson from Tony Stark. We too face real threats and we too have an armor, one that is not fictional, one that is necessary for a very real battle. Paul describes the armor of God in Ephesians 6.
"Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17)
The first piece of the armor that Paul describes is the belt of truth. What does a belt do? It holds everything in place, and Paul equates this piece of the armor to truth, for it is truth that holds everything else in place. The second piece of the armor is for the entire body, and Paul describes it as God's righteousness. Paul is no stranger to calling us to pursue righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22) and here Paul says that the armor that covers our entire body should be the righteousness of God, that we should be covered in His righteousness. Paul describes the shoes as shoes of peace. What good would you be in a battle without shoes? You wouldn't last long at all because you wouldn't be able to stand after too long. Shoes are necessary because they protect our foundation. Paul tells us that it is the peace that comes from the Good News that will protect our foundation and keep us standing.
Next we are given a shield that Paul says is the shield of faith to stop the arrows of the devil. It is our faith that keeps the attacks of the devil at bay; it won’t stop the attacks, it won’t stop the arrows from flying, but our faith will shield us from being pierced by these fiery arrows. Salvation is to be worn as a helmet on our heads. We must always remember and keep in mind our salvation. Just as we could not stand without shoes, we could not last long without a helmet. We might be able to fight for awhile without one, like a football player who keeps running after his helmet has been knocked off, but we would not be able to go the distance in the fight without a helmet. Without our salvation, there is no going the distance; it is our salvation that grants us entry into heaven and it defines the Christian life.
Everything up to this point has been a protective, defensive piece of equipment. We are only given one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit which Paul says is the word of God. God's commands, His instructions, the Holy Bible—that is our offensive weapon in this fight. And when we come to this piece of equipment, it is crucial to remember who this fight is against.
"Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 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. Therefore, 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." (Ephesians 6:11-13)
Paul spends the first three verses before he describes the armor explaining who the enemy is. We are not fighting against other people. This is a spiritual battle. It is the fight between our sinful nature and the nature of the Holy Spirit, the fight between us and the strategies of the devil, the fight against rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against the powers of darkness. This is so crucial to remember because for too long people have been fighting not against the proper enemy, but against their fellow man. People have used the Bible as a weapon to wound and hurt, to condemn and cast out, to judge and shame. Paul is very clear about who this fight is against. When we armor up and use the Bible as the sword, we should use it against the true enemy, the exact way Jesus used it when the enemy attacked him.
“But Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’ (...) Jesus responded, ‘The Scriptures also say, “You must not test the Lord your God.”’ (...) ‘Get out of here, Satan,’ Jesus told him. ‘For the Scriptures say, “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”’” (Matthew 6:4, 7, 10)
The Spirit leads Jesus out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After 40 days of fasting, when Jesus is incredibly physically weak, the devil strikes. Three times he tempts Jesus and three times Jesus responds with the sword. Jesus quotes Scripture to combat Satan and his attacks.
"So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
Jesus resisted the devil and the devil fled from him. We are promised the same result if we resist the devil too. And we have been given the tools to use against him. So when temptation comes, grab your sword, armor up, and fight the true enemy with the tools God has given to us. Always remember that our fight is not against flesh and blood; these tools God has given us are to be used in the fight against the true Enemy.
“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.