The Whole Armor of God (Pt. 2)(Ephesians 6:16, 17)
Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 6:16–6:17
This Means War
The Whole Armor of God (Part 2)
Ephesians 6:16, 17
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
February 16th, 2014
I. Protected by Armor
Sgt. Joseph Morrissey of the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was on patrol in Afghanistan on August 9th, 2012. When he got out of his truck to warn some children about playing with barbed wire, he was shot by a 7.62mm round in a five-round burst from 30 meters away.
Amazingly, after the incident, Sgt. Morrissey continued patrolling for 48 more hours. How is that possible? Because the bullet was blocked by his interceptor body armor. At a ceremony this past September, Morrissey received the body armor as commemorative gift. After the attack, Morrissey went on to marry his fiancée, who is now seven months pregnant. Think about it: without that body armor, this man might not now be a husband and a father. The article I read about Sgt. Morrissey went on to make this statement:
“Morrissey will display the body armor in his home and it will be a family heirloom.”
As most of you know, being protected by armor is the very thing we've been talking about over the past couple of weeks. But we've been looking at a far greater threat than bullets or human weapons. Let's look once again at Ephesians 6. If you look at verse 12, Paul reminds us there about the daily threat we face from “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.
Who or what are these spiritual forces? They are evil spirits, fallen angels, who are now commanded by the devil, also know as Satan. And they are bent on our spiritual destruction. So how can we protect ourselves from this kind spiritual threat? We find the answer in verses 11 and 13: Paul tells his readers to “put on” or “take up the whole armor of God”. What is the armor of God? Well, that's exactly what we began exploring last time.
In Ephesians 6:14-17, Paul describes six pieces of spiritual armor. Last week we looked at the first three pieces. Let's finish up this morning by talking about the final three pieces.
II. The Passage: “In All Circumstances” (6:16, 17)
Look with me at verses 16 and 17. Paul writes...
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...
So before we look at the final three pieces of this “armor of God”, I want to remind you that the whole point of this armor is spiritual protection. Protection in what sense?
Well, as we've already seen, Paul, in verses 11, 13, and 14 makes it clear to the Ephesians that the goal of the armor is that these believers might be able to “stand” their ground spiritually; that is, that they remain committed to Christ, faithful to His gospel, and obedient to His word.
A. Protected in All Circumstances (6:16a)
But notice the first three words of verse 16: “In all circumstances...” I think the difference between the first three pieces of armor, and these final three is highlighted by this phrase “in all circumstances”. As you may recall, the first three pieces, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes or sandals of the gospel, these pieces are the ones that a soldier might wear not only in battle, but on the sidelines as well.
But when a soldier was about to meet the enemy, he would take up the three pieces we find in verses 16 and 17: his shield, his helmet, and his sword. In the same way, Paul is reminding his readers that 'wearing' the belt, the breastplate, and the sandals he described in verses 14 and 15 only prepares you for the specific attacks that are sure to come; those “circumstances” in which we are tempted to not stand firm.
B. Protected by God's Armor (6:16b-17)
In the midst of those battles, when you find yourself in those circumstances, you also need the final three pieces Paul describes in verses 16 and 17. Let's look at each of those and try to understand how we can utilize this armor “in all circumstances”. I think one way to think about these final three pieces is by thinking about the “how” of our protection, the “what” of our protection, and the “why” of protection.
1. The How of Our Protection (v. 16b)
As you can see from the rest of verse 16, the “how” of our protection is what Paul calls “the shield of faith”.
Now Paul has already talked quite a bit about faith thoughout this letter. He 1:15, he reminds them, “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus”. In 2:8 he points out the amazing truth that they have been “saved through faith”, and as a result, “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” (3:12) Wonderfully, God himself had given them power “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (3:17).
And so here in chapter 6, as Paul warns them about the danger of these “spiritual forces of evil”, he points them toward the importance of faith when they are under attack. We cannot underestimate how critical this is. The rest of 16 confirms this: In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one...
Do you see that? In ALL circumstances in which we are being spiritually assaulted, faith can “extinguish” ALL of the “flaming darts” of the devil, who is referred to here as the “evil one”, a title used over 10 times throughout the New Testament.
In one sense, the power of faith should not be surprising. Throughout His ministry, Jesus affirmed the importance of faith. In Mark 9:23 he reminded a desperate father, “All things are possible for one who believes.”
But the power of faith does not come from the “how” of our protection. It comes from the “what”.
2. The What of Our Protection (v. 17a)
We don't have to search far for an answer because right away in verse 17, Paul gives us the “what” of our spiritual protection: and take the helmet of salvation. I believe what Paul means when he writes about this “helmet of salvation” can be understood by two related verses.
In another letter, Paul reminded the Thessalonian disciples about how they had “put on...for a helmet the hope of salvation.” (I Thessalonians 5:8) And I think that this image of the helmet in Ephesians 6 and I Thessalonians 5 comes from Isaiah 59:17 in the Old Testament. That verses speaks about God himself putting “a helmet of salvation on his head”. Why did the prophet use that language? Because was going out to fight for His people. And according to chapter 2, God had done that very thing for the Ephesians. They had been rescued...delivered...saved by grace, through faith.
And so for Paul, the idea of salvation is both an 'already' and a 'not yet' reality. We have “been saved”. But we are also “being saved”. We can look back on what God has done with thankfulness, and look forward to what God will do, with hope! You see, if we are protected by faith, then we have to connect that faith with an object. We would be right to say God is the object of our faith. But God himself calls us to a more specific faith if we are to be saved.
And if had started in Ephesians 1 this morning, and worked all the way up to chapter 6, we would have already talked about the specifics of this salvation:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace… (1:7)
Wonderfully, the blood of Jesus Christ has redeemed us, and forgiven us. But to what end?
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace… (2:13-14)
In chapter 5, Paul goes on to remind the Ephesians about what they believe concerning the work of Jesus. He writes,
…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (5:25-27)
The faith that protects us is faith in Jesus Christ as Sacrifice, Savior, Deliverer, Redeemer, and as Sanctifier, both now and forever. This is the “helmet of salvation”.
3. The Why of Our Protection (v. 17b)
But that leaves us asking the question “Why?” Why is it that we are protected by the selfless love, by the incomparable sacrifice of Jesus on that Roman cross 2000 years ago? How is it that Jesus could pay a debt He did not owe, that debt we owed, but could not pay? How is it that His life could be traded for our life? How is that the Innocent One could stand for the guilty? How could we possibly be washed, cleansed from the stain of pride, selfishness, indifference, greed, lust, rebellion, hate, and unforgiveness?
There is only one possible answer to that question: we can be because God said so.
You see, the “why” of our protection is the word of God; or as Paul puts it in the second half of verse 17: and take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...
Just as it was at the beginning of the universe, when God created all things, God spoke, God decreed that we should and could be rescued by Jesus in this way, and it was so. Therefore, the word or message of Christ’s victory is what we are called to believe.
And what empowers that word? Well, again, just like we read in Genesis 1 about the creation of the world, both the word and the Spirit are active in re-creating us by grace, through faith. That’s why Paul calls it “the sword of the Spirit”. The Spirit not only “made us alive with Christ” (2:5), not only can we be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in [our] inner being, (3:16), but He also gives substance to the hope of our salvation:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
You see, again, given the context, I believe the sword of the word is thought of more as a defensive weapon. It is to be used as Jesus used it when He, according to Matthew 4 and Luke 4, was tempted by in the desert by the “evil one”. Every attack of the devil was rebuffed by Jesus using the word of God. For as Jesus reminded Satan, as well as us, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
III. Standing YOUR Ground
Are you protected by this armor this morning? The belt of truth. The breastplate of righteousness. The sandals of the gospel. The shield of faith. The helmet of salvation. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. What are all of these things if not pictures for the gospel, the Good News about Jesus? If that’s true, then Paul began talking about the armor long before chapter 6. Listen to Ephesians 1:13 and 14…
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Even the “breastplate of righteousness” is a broader concept than I described for you last week. Yes, I believe it is connected with a call to live righteously by faith. But I think the term “righteousness” must also be connected to passages like Philippians 3:8 and 9…
Paul writes…Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith...
Isn’t that the gospel? To be given, to stand, to be protected, not by my own righteousness, but by the righteousness that comes from God through faith? Again, what is ‘the whole of armor of God”? It is simply the gospel of grace. I like how Milton Vincent expressed this in his excellent book, “A Gospel Primer”…
As long as I am inside the gospel, I experience all the protection I need from the powers of evil that rage against me. It is for this reason that the Bible tells me to “take up” and “put on” continually the whole armor of God; and the pieces of armor it tells me to put on are all merely synonyms for the gospel. Translated literally from the Greek, they are: “. . . the salvation . . . the justification . . . truth . . . the gospel of peace . . . the faith . . . [and the] . . . word of God.” What are all these expressions but various ways of describing the gospel?...That God would tell me to “take up” and “put on” this gospel armor alerts me to the fact that I do not automatically come into each day protected by the gospel. In fact, these commands imply that I am vulnerable to defeat and injury unless I seize upon the gospel and arm myself with it from head to toe. And what better way is there to do this than to preach the gospel to myself and to make it the obsession of my heart throughout each day? (Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer)
Let’s make this super practical, in terms of your everyday. Every single day, there are “spiritual forces of evil”, there is an “evil one”, the devil who launching flaming arrows, burning missiles at your heart and your mind. What are these darts? Here are some examples:
The evil one says, “You are nothing but a dirty sinner. Remember what you did? Remember what you said?” How are you protected against that attack? By remembering that you have been washed and cleansed, forgiven by the blood of Christ. That’s the armor of God.
The evil one says, “If you just said this, or took that, or ignored what you should do in order to indulge in what they say is ‘off limits’, then you will fill up that emptiness you feel inside.” How are you protected against that kind of attack? By remembering that you lack for nothing because of Jesus. In Him you have been given, 1:3, “EVERY spiritual blessing”, now and forever. That’s the armor of God.
The evil one says, “God cannot be pleased with you. Don’t you remember how you acted yesterday? Can’t you feel that He’s keeping you at arm’s length? Can’t you feel that he is upset with you?” How are you protected against that attack? By remembering that Jesus Christ is our peace (2:14). That we have been brought near (2:13). That it isn’t about what have done or can do, but about what Jesus did. That’s the armor of God.
The evil one says, “You are doing so well. Yeah, you’ve got this whole obedience thing down. Don’t you feel how God is patting you on the back? Rest assured, my friend, you’re good to go.” So is that an attack? You bet it is. How are you protected? Against, by remembering that it isn’t about what have done or can do, but about what Jesus did. We are saved by grace, through faith, “so that no one can boast”. (2:8, 9) That’s the armor of God.
The evil one says, “You’re not going to make it. You’re barely making it now. You are going to crash and burn. You are going to fail. Just accept it. Give up!” How are you protected against that attack? By remembering that God has given His Spirit to you; that He has filled you and “sealed” you with the Holy Spirit (4:30), and that the Spirit is the down payment, the pledge, the guarantee (1:14) that God will finish what He began in you; that He will bring you all the way home. That’s the armor of God.
Somewhere, right now, as I speak, Sgt. Joseph Morrissey is displaying the piece of armor that protected him a year and a half ago. And we learned earlier, it is his intention to pass that piece of armor down to his children, and his children’s children.
What about us? Is the armor of God on display in our home, in our lives? Is it there, each day, as a reminder, not only of what God has done, but what He will do through Christ? And are we passing it on, passing it down?
If you have never taken up and put on the armor of God, that is, if you have never embraced the gospel, the Good News about Jesus, through faith, then today is the day. And if you have, then brothers and sisters, take it up and put it on. Accept that you are under attack each day from spiritual forces that are far more powerful than you. If you do that, then you will be driven back to the protection that only God can give us.