Recently I began preaching a series teaching what each element of the armour of God which is described in Ephesians 6 is. Many of us know the various elements of the armour that Paul told the church to put on. The series began just before the covid lockdown here in the UK and was supposed to be delivered by the church's preaching team. Unfortunately only two of the team got to share their message and another later delivered there's when we had a lull in the requirements of lockdown, so I delivered the rest.
The only message I was supposed to bring in the series was an overview of Ephesians chapter 6 explaining the context of Paul's statement. The context is clear. Ephesians as a work was a circular letter discussing the doctrine of what the church (as a people not as buildings or meeting schedules) is. That doctrine is the church is a body of people designed to work together as Ephesians 4 teaches, in order that we may grow up and be Spiritual adults not blown around by different winds of society. The church is a steadfast rock in a world which is full of contradictions and constantly chases it's tail. So when we come to Ephesians chapter 6 we see two very different things. The first half of the chapter teaches us to be humble, patient and a willingness to serve and not fight in order to keep the peace. The second half tells us, in fact commands us, to put on the armour of God and fight. IF that seems like a contradiction then you understand why I needed to teach on the context. For one is in the world we live teaching us that the people of this world who may put us down for our faith are not our enemy, so we should not fight, for the sake of the gospel. The other teaches us in the Spiritual we must fight and be prepared daily to for our real enemy is Spiritual and his weapon is doubt and despair and his death blow is to get you to quit.
The reason we live in peace in this world and don't fight back is for the sake of the gospel. We read in Hebrews 12:14
Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord; Hebrews 12:14
that without acting in peace, no one will see the Lord in us. It doesn't matter if our cause is just or right, the challenge is to put the message of salvation before our right to justice and retribution. If you think thats a little unfair or to much to ask remember that we sinned against the Lord and He did not take retribution. Instead the Lord decided to save us, the guilty ones, so that we might go free. Yet it is Jesus who is the victim and we who are the perpetrator of the crime
Similarly we must fight in the Spiritual because of the attack our enemy is bringing. However, what we must realise in the armour description that Paul is giving to the Ephesians is that the soldier he is describing is the Roman soldier. Which of course makes absolute sense because they were everywhere, they were the strength of Rome and they were greatly feared. The Roman army conquered much of the world and the reason was not just because of their equipment. The reason for the victories and spread across the known world was because of how the army used that equipment to fight together. The strength of the legion lay in its numbers. As such when we draw the Spiritual lessons from the armour of God then we understand that it is a message to the individual to protect the whole. This message also fits in with the context of the book. Which if you remember is a message to the church as a body of believers helping one another Spiritual grow up and not be blown about by the winds of social change. When looked like in this way then each individual armour piece should be studied as a explanation of what you put on in order to fight side by side with your fellow Christian. Yet it must importantly tells us that the armour is not something we symbolically put on to get through the trials of the day; a difficult work situation or troublesome boss; through illnesses and the trials of illness in yourself or family members; it is for confronting the devil.
However let us be clear this isn't a quasi spiritual thing where we rebuke the devil for causing issues, financial troubles or illnesses. The weapons of doubt and discouragement are what we are defending against. To which the death blow of giving up on your faith and uttering the words 'i do not believe Jesus can save' are the wound they are trying to inflict in you and in others.
Friends we so often have the spiritual battle that is raging on in such a wrong light. Yet when we understand the devil's plan then we know how to prepare to fight it. More importantly when we know the strength is in the unit not the individual then we understand were not and never were meant to be a Christian on our own. Remember these important truths. You are not the body of Christ we, who have accepted Christ as Saviour, are the body of Christ. You are not the bride of Christ we, who have accepted Christ as Saviour, are the bride of Christ.
Now having said all that, let us get on to what thelittlescroll is all about and that's a relationship with Christ.
In the synagogue teaching days of Christ when teachers spoke from a scripture they would often connect it with one from another part of scripture. When Jesus asks the lawyer what he thinks the most important law is the reply the young lawyer gives is one of those. He says 'love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself'. These are two laws but they aren't even in the same books. Yet he is quite right to put them together and Jesus tells him that he isn't far from the kingdom for doing so. This kind of teaching is called a Chuprah, or the stringing together of pearls. When you are doing this then you must be careful what you put together. There must be a reason or connection with them which justifies putting them together. the most important rule being that they cant be the basis of a doctrinal understanding it must just enhance or support what the text already says.
That being said let's make a Chuprah.
For as I was studying this today in order to write this blog post and help you develop you passionate relationship with the Lord through His word something jumped out at me.
Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Now I don't know why that has passed me by but today it spoke out to me very clearly. The strength of the legion may be in it's numbers even it's willingness to fight for one another but what makes the church strong is that it's strength comes from the Lord. You may be looking at that saying 'I am not really sure that is a revelation'. Yes of course your right. It is something we could trace to childrens church and the teaching of Jesus being our strength or our strong tower that we run into. What stands out to me about that understanding of the strength of the Lord is it is truly a protective source surrounding us and keeping us safe inside. What stands out to me from this scripture is that the outward is ourselves and this time the Lord is the power on the inside. If we were to look at it any other typological way, then its describing vessels or jars which are being filled up. Yet on to that outward jar is layered the armour of God. Now I feel like a biscuit.
The truth is that what is being described is a symbiotic situation and all of it is from the place of choice. Paul is telling us to do something but we decide if we will.
Firstly he asks us to be strong in the Lord. Paul is showing us something which Jude also teaches us in Jude 1:9. Even the archangel does not confront the devil in his own authority and power but in the power and might of the Lord. We have no authority within ourselves to rebuke or battle the enemy. Jesus taught the disciples that He gave them the authority. Therefore we must not assume to get into the Spiritual battle with our great words or poetic prayers. Only the Lord can defeat the enemy and so it is only in His name we do. Now this is where relationship comes into it. For read in Acts 19 of the seven sons of Sceva. They tried to use Jesus name to cast out the demonic (this is not fighting in the Spiritual though, i am using it as an example of misusing the name of Jesus). The sons of Sceva did not know Jesus they just had heard of Him and not even directly. They had heard of Paul using Jesus name to do miracles and they saw it as a magic phrase which opened doors. What we read is that it does not. For we cannot put on the strength of the Lord by using incantations. What we see in this narrative is that the strength of the Lord is found in relationship with Him. That is our first Chuprah
That leads on to our second pearl. For it is relationship with Jesus that we then know what we are fighting and why we are fighting. As I considered the armour of God the very name of it popped out. This is not my armour. It is armour which belongs to the Lord. Few people know this about the Roman army but the legions were originally under the great Roman houses. It would be for these lords of Rome to equip their military's and pay for its equipment. This was very different to the rest of the world where a mans arms and armour were his own. It was believed this form of free enterprise would cause a man to give himself the best as a form of self preservation. Yet in that spirit of self preservation not going to war was preferential. It was also in that self preservation that most people neither had the means to pay for such weapons of war when food was more important However, it was the equipping of a professional army which actually caused men to fight harder. The self preservation was still there but now the best equipment was bought buy the great houses in order to further their plans. The Lord gives us armour which is not his to wear but was made for us because as Hebrews 13:21 tells us, God equips those He calls. This is the love and relationship of the Lord. Like those houses it is at His cost that we have been equipped.
What has Lord the called us to do with this armour though? and that is the bit which has also stood out to me and is our final pearl. Ephesian's 6:11 tells us to put on the whole armour but so that we might stand the wiles of the enemy. In other words this is not to go to the enemies camp and take back what he stole from us. this armour is for when the enemy comes at us. Even though both the shield and sword would be used offensively it is only to drive back the enemy. As James says, resist the devil, submit to God and He will flee. Why aren't we taking the fight to the enemy then? why have we been given the gear but not told to take ground? well i found the answer in someone else who was given a suit of armour, only he didnt wear it. That was David when he face Goliath. The armour belonged to King Saul. Now many think David didn't wear it because it wasn't made for him and didn't fit but this wasn't well fitted medieval armour. David didn’t go out as a soldier because He declares I come to you in the Name of Jehovah. In other words he is there as a messenger, a herald sent at the bidding of the king to deliver a message. Not a message to Goliath, but to all mankind, to all the world, to you to me, the battle belongs to the Lord. And He doesn’t use sword or spear. What does he use,
And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, so that with it He should strike the nations. And He will shepherd them with a rod of iron. And He treads the winepress of the wine of the anger and of the wrath of Almighty God. Revelation 19:15
the word of the Lord. David didn’t go out as a soldier, not because the armour didn’t fit, as some suggest, but as it says in 1Samuel 17:39, he had never fought in such things and had not tested them. David went out in what he did know as a shepherd, using the weapons of a shepherd. The reason we don't fight the Devil in our armour is because he wont be defeated by a soldier. You see Jesus didn’t defeat the Devil as a soldier or even as the king, but coming on a donkey. As a sign of this David tells Goliath and the assembled a sign,
Jehovah will deliver you into my hand today, and I will strike you and take your head from you and give the bodies of the army of the Philistines to the birds of the air today, and to the wild beasts of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
1 Samuel 17:46
And at the second coming of Christ, the same sign is given of the victory,
And I saw one angel standing in the sun. And he cried with a great voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come and gather together to the supper of the great God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of commanders, and the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses, and those sitting on them, and the flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great. Revelation 19:17-18
one not won with sword of shield but by a rock, the rock, Christ Jesus, just as Nebuchadnezzar saw the rock that strikes at the kingdom of ten toes, and grows into a mountain, an unshakable eternal kingdom. As the devil crucified Christ, he lost, because now the pre requisite to opening the seven sealed scroll, the deeds to the earth and the salvation of us all, was done, the lamb was slain. We don't take the ground because the Lord and He alone fights the battle. Our armour is to protect one another from a Spiritual enemy that wants to see us quit.
In all of this i see not just the mighty hand of the Lord to defeat the enemy and win the battle but i see the hand of Love. If it was just about defeating the devil then we don't need any armour. Now we see the truth of what the Lord is doing. It isn't about defeating sin; it isn't about defeating the devil; it is about restoring us into relationship with Him. So much so that the Lord is our strength within, our protection without and the one who fights the battle for us.
without relationship with Jesus all of that will pass us by but in an intense relationship with Christ we will see such perfect passionate love bestowed on the ones He loves.