The other day I was watching the NBA Finals and an Army commercial came on that made the Army look like so much fun. There were guys jumping out of planes, repelling out of Blackhawks, and dudes floating through the water at night in their CRRC boats with night vision goggles on. Part of me thought, “I really miss those days.” But then I remembered what it was like to put on all the clothes, the load bearing equipment with 210 rounds of 5.56 and two full canteens of water, draped in a vest with 40 pound steel plates, along with a 60-100 pound ruck sack. This wasn’t all of the things I had to carry but stopping there and factoring in the heat and humidity, the treacherous treks on foot, and all the other “fun stuff” the commercial failed to mention, I am thankful to not have to carry such weight.
However, the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20 looks very spiritual and not as physically heavy at first glance. In fact, opposite of the Army commercial, I would say it looks light at first until you contemplate exactly all that Paul is calling the Christian to in his/her defensive position against the Evil one. When you weigh all the spiritual components of each piece of the armor, you figure out really quickly that we don’t have the ability within ourselves to put up a fight. But the great news, as we have seen throughout this series, is that by putting our faith in Christ we are putting on the armor of God. Each and every piece (except one, which I will deal with below) is an allusion to an Old Testament allusion describing Christ our King and Victor.
The Helmet/Literal Armor
In Ephesians 6:17, Paul mentioned the “helmet of salvation.” As far as I can find, the only Old Testament text with the helmet is one we looked at with the breastplate of righteousness. We see this in Isaiah 59:17,
“He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head;…”
The reason I saved this one for the conclusion is the sheer force of what it is telling us as believers. The breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation being tied together is emptying man of the responsibility to win on his own. In the midst of a tumultuous battle, Isaiah is proclaiming that salvation belongs to the Lord alone. Although Paul is picking up this imagery and commanding us to put on this armor, salvation (past, presents and future) belongs to the Lord. Our righteousness is completely tied up in our union with Christ. This means that even when we fail to stand against the Evil one and fall in temptation and sin, we are still righteous because salvation belongs to the Lord. Bottom line is that we cannot supply ourselves with salvation, but our God can. Praise God for giving us his beloved Son to be the one who lived the life of a perfect Warrior, always defeating the temptations of Satan. And praise God for giving us his beloved Son who lovingly laid down his life to forgive all the times we trusted Satan rather than our God.
Applying the Armor
As I began this series by showing that Jesus is the armor of God and that Paul doesn’t necessarily have the soldier he is chained to in mind, there are some who would argue otherwise. One major proponent of this opposing view writes, “The armor itself also includes both shield and sword, neither of which is found in Isaiah (Frank Thielman, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale, 832.).” I hope I have shown in the previous blogs that those pieces of armor actually are in Isaiah and that Paul absolutely has Jesus in mind when describing the armor of God.
When we rightly see that the armor of God is Christ himself, we rightly come under the weight of the warfare we are in against spiritual evil. Yet, not only are we called to put on Christ by faith, but we are being called to imitate our Divine Warrior as we follow him with everything we have. And we do this with prayers of desperation, like a soldier on the battlefield calling his commanders for air support. So even though the reality of spiritual warfare is heavy, we have the help of our God and King, with the word of the Spirit, that will bring about perseverance (Eph. 6:18) until our Great King brings us home.