Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Armor of God

Put on the whole armor of God….  Therefore take up the whole armor of God… (Eph 6:11-13)

Near the end of his epistle to Ephesus, Paul spends time admonishing the believers to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” and put on the armor of God.  I have enjoyed much good teaching on this section, but just recently a question popped into my head.  Why does Paul pull these together and refer to them as the armor of God?  Does he do so because they are derived or received from the Lord (and it is), or is something else also involved?  Take note of this table comparing the armor pieces with Old Testament passages:

Belt of truth Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt of his loins.  (Is 11:5)
Breastplate of righteousness He put on righteousness as a breastplate  (Is 59:17)
Feet shod with the preparation
    of the gospel of peace
How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  (Is 52:7)
Shield of faith I will say to the Lᴏʀᴅ, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  (Ps 91:2-4)
Helmet of salvation He put…a helmet of salvation on his head  (Is 59:17)
Sword of the Spirit He made my mouth like a sharp sword  (Is 49:2)

Paul drew heavily from the prophet Isaiah to complete his list and for good reason: all these passages deal with the Servant of the Lord (i.e., Messiah).*  The place where this is most clearly portrayed is the description John gives of the One riding a white horse:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!  The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.  He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev 19:11-16)
Jesus is described as great warrior-king dressed in battle regalia for a war which he himself will lead and win.  The final battle will completely conquer all who are opposed to God.

Christians are called to stand against spiritual foes.  The armor that we are to put on is same type which the Lord Jesus takes for Himself: no other will suffice.  Many teachers have attempted to convince the naïve that types of protection are needed through self-perseverance, but the above demonstrates that the believer puts on Christ in baptism (Gal 3:27) and subsequently continues to put on “the armor of light” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:12, 14) as he or she would “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).  It is this continual return to the place of cleansing by which we, though certainly washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, we go for the cleansing that occurs when we confess our sins (Jas 5:16; 1 Jo 1:9) and forgive one another (Col 3:12-13).

One article of clothing Jesus wears on the white horse is His alone—the robe.  Isaiah 59:17-18 reads:
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
    and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
    and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, so will he repay,
    wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
    to the coastlands he will render repayment.
The robe or cloak is not meant for the Christian to take for himself.  The Lord Jesus alone is the one who uniquely exercises both vengeance and zeal (John 2:17).  Christians are called to stand firm.  Jesus has won our salvation, and He clothes us for what lies ahead.  We are called to stand in Him dressed in what He has provided and  to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:18).  There the daily skirmish is fought.  There we “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim 6:12).

*  Psalm 91 is widely regarded as Messianic because a portion was used by Satan in the wilderness as if it was directly applicable to Jesus (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).  A reading of the complete psalm seems to support this.

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