Ah yes, the famous passage on the armor of God, a passage many know by heart, a favorite sermon passage and a favorite devotional passage rich with metaphor and meaning; a wonderful passage. I thought that I’d approach it a little differently this time. Accordingly, I’ll not really comment on the metaphoric aspect, but focus on the underlying strategic circumstances that all of us face every day.
The whole armor metaphor is a way of communicating an important issue that for most of us is not easy to understand, the issue of spiritual warfare. Over the centuries, people have understood this in various ways and many legends and ballads have been the result, both in literature and other art forms. There have been times when people in superstitious cultures have gone to bizarre lengths, burning witches, so called heretics and almost anyone who incurred disfavor in high councils; history is full of such insanity. I can’t help but wonder how otherwise good people couldn’t see where the evil one was really operating, but then maybe they forgot to put on their armor!
In our day, the idea of spiritual warfare is often limited to the oddball fringe, “nuters” as our British friends might say; you might hear a lot on the subject on radio talk shows that air in the wee hours, along with spacemen and such. Oh my, how clever our adversary can be!
The truth, as Paul points out, is that we are very much involved in a spiritual war; in a sense we are on the front lines. Yet as physical beings, we can’t always see the action, even though we might discern the result. Putting on the armor of God is a series of metaphors that are telling us that we need to be centered on our relationship with Christ, who is the source of truth. In a close and vibrant relationship with Him, we are not likely to be fooled or sucked into things we have no business getting into, as well as being protected from spiritual attack. This requires maturity to understand… and maturity is attained through relationship with Him, so we must not neglect that relationship.
Spiritual discernment is something that all of us should have, but not so many actually attain. Spiritual discernment is not a matter of seeing spooks in the dark, but rather the comprehension of the source of certain things. There is also a spiritual gift of discernment which some have; a person with the spiritual gift of discernment can discern the source of a teaching or the source of a person’s personal issues. Yet, we don’t need the spiritual gift of discernment to be discerning, the gifted person may understand more and more easily, but any of us can be discerning enough to stay out of trouble.
Look at the world situation today; consider cultural trends, trends in families, homes and personal habits of people. Include values, morality and motivations. Also consider items in the news, and our various institutions…
God is at work in our midst, and so is the other guy. Ask yourself where God is working, and where the Adversary is working; can you see the difference? I’ll offer a hint, one that I mention quite often here:
Nothing in this world is quite what it appears to be at first.
This is Paul’s message in our passage, and is the reason that he concludes it with an appeal for us to be in prayer. Verses 18-20 deal with this: Pray for each other, pray for Paul, and others who spread the gospel, pray for the gospel, for many to receive it, for others to grow in their relationships, for God’s Kingdom and will to be done: Grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
That dear reader is the summation of the armor of God, that we grow in our relationships with Him and remain in His presence, and that is also the summation of the entire letter to the Ephesians:
Have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.