January 13, 2020 • Life for Leaders
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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.
Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)
The Bible contains good news: the best news of all, the news of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, the news that we are saved by God’s grace, not by anything we do. Yet the Bible also conveys bad news: the bad news of our sin and guilt, the bad news of our hopelessness apart from God.
As we have seen, Ephesians 6:10-13 reveals more bad news. We are in a battle against the devil and his schemes (Ephesians 6:11). Our struggle is really not against human opponents, but rather “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:13). This certainly feels like bad news to me. How in the world are we going to do battle against powerful evil forces we can’t even see?
Against the backdrop of this bad news, our passage has good news for us. We do not have to fight in our own strength. Rather, we can “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). How do we do this? Twice our passage gives the same answer: “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 6:13).
Of course our next question would be: What is this armor? And how do we put it on? Today I’ll say a few words about the nature of God’s armor. In the days to come we’ll think together about how we put it on.
Paul’s use of armor imagery was inspired by the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 59:17 where the Lord “put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head.” Both of these pieces of armor appear with the same imagery in Ephesians 6, which shows clearly Paul’s dependence on Isaiah. Yet in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul writes about “putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” The variations in the meaning of the armor indicate that Paul does not have one fixed schema whereby one piece of armor always has the same meaning. Rather, his use of armor imagery is fluid.
What is conveyed by this imagery? In Isaiah God’s armor consists of righteousness and salvation (Isaiah 59:17). In Ephesians the divine armor includes truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God (Ephesians 6:13-17). We might say, therefore, that the armor of God comprises those things that are essential to God’s nature, God’s work, and our response. The armor of God is composed of those realities that are absolutely central to Christian faith and life.
I’ll have a bit more to say about this tomorrow. For now, you may want to consider the following questions.
Something to Think About:
When you hear the phrase, “the armor of God,” what comes to mind? What do you think? What do you picture? How do you feel?
Ephesians says you are to put on the armor of God. How do you think you are to do this?
Something to Do:
As you begin this day, ask the Lord to help you put on the armor of God today.
Gracious God, thank you for revealing the truth to us even when it is unsettling. We’re not pleased to be doing battle with the spiritual forces of evil. But we are relieved and encouraged to know that we fight, not in our own strength, but in yours. Ephesians invites us to put on your armor, to fight protected by you and with your weapons. Help us to understand what this means and how we can do this. Teach us through your Word so that we might fight in your way, with your strength, sharing in your victory through Christ. Amen.
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Servant at Work (Isaiah 40ff.)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.