Since I need to begin my vacation tomorrow I had better wrap up our sermon series today, which means Paul had better be wrapping up his letter also! He is doing just that:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10, 11 NIV)
We are encouraged to be “strong in The Lord” with the warning that the devil is out to destroy God’s Kingdom work, which means he is also out to destroy God’s Kingdom workers. We will need to stand our ground, and to do so, we will want to put on the “armour of God.” While we can imagine the armour of a Roman soldier is in view here, we also should be aware that Paul also has in mind references in the Old Testament to God wearing armour. For example,
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:5 NIV) He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Isaiah 59:17 NIV)
The idea, then, is for us to imitate God, striving to be like Him as we were encouraged to do in 5:1, something which is far more likely if we are filled with His fullness, as Paul prays in 3:19. So putting on the armour of God involves both our will and his work in us.
We are to put on the armour to help us stand against the devil’s schemes. I think it is worthwhile to think on those schemes and how the armour can help.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist (Ephesians 6:14 NIV)
The devil’s schemes include using deceit to keep us weak. Indeed the first time we hear of him in Genesis, deceit is employed as his first weapon against God’s Kingdom. We, however, are to imitate God, who is the prime exemplar of integrity and honesty. When we walk with integrity and honesty, we stand firm against the devil’s schemes.
Stand firm then, . . .with the breastplate of righteousness in place (Ephesians 6:14 NIV)
The devil’s schemes include enticement to sin, to do the wrong thing, as Adam and Eve were quick to do. But God is just and righteous, so to put on his armour is to walk with justice and righteousness. When we do that we stand firm against the devil’s schemes.
Stand firm then, . . . with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15 NIV)
The devil’s schemes include using offence to destroy us. When we take offence or give offence, we are an offence to God’s Kingdom work. Having “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” means that we are ready, like God is with us in Jesus Christ, to forgive and declare the offer of reconciliation and peace. When we forgive and seek forgiveness we stand firm against the devil’s schemes.
Stand firm then, . . . . take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16 NIV)
The devil’s schemes include creating doubt about God’s power over evil. If we doubt a shield’s power to stop an arrow, we may well throw it away and try instead to dodge the arrows, trusting in our own abilities. But God is able, no matter what the devil, your enemies, or life itself throws at you, God is able. When trust that God is powerful, we stand firm against the devils schemes.
Stand firm then, . . . .Take the helmet of salvation. (Ephesians 6:17 NIV)
The devil’s schemes include creating doubt about God’s love. We can trust God is powerful, but we are weakened when we fail to trust that He will use that power for our benefit, out of His love for us. To put on the “helmet of salvation” means to trust in His salvation, to trust that saving you, from hell, from sin, from brokenness, from anything that will destroy you, is precisely what He intends to do, and indeed has already done at the cross. When we trust that God loves us, we stand firm against the devil’s schemes.
Stand firm then, . . . .and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 NIV)
The devil’s schemes include diverting our worship, replacing a true vision of God with a false one, blinding us to His revelation so that we commit idolatry. But God has revealed Himself to us, supremely through His Word, Jesus Christ, and sublimely through His Word, the Bible. When our vision of God and all reality is tuned and fine tuned through His Word, we are rescued from idolatry and our worship is in Spirit and in truth. When we worship in Spirit and in truth we stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Stand firm then, . . . .And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)
Though prayer is not associated with a weapon there can be no doubt that the devil’s schemes include nurturing a disconnect between ourselves and God. Prayer done well connects and reconnects us to God. The devil hates that. When we connect with God, we are changed. The devil hates that too. When we are changed, God’s Kingdom work advances. The devil also hates that. Expect the simple act of prayer to become difficult! When we pray we stand firm against the devil’s schemes.
Stand firm then! And “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”