Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 6:14 in our series through Ephesians on Sunday mornings. As Paul is coming to the close of his letter to the church in Ephesus and the surrounding cities, he points out the reality that the Christian life is a war—and this war is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual beings surrounding us on a regular basis.
It is extremely important to know your enemy—in any type of war situation. In modern warfare, before engaging in combat, the leaders teach soldiers about the enemy in order to gain as much knowledge before entering the battlefield. Since our enemy is not flesh and blood, Paul points out the devil and the demonic band as our spiritual enemies. Paul says that we should beware of the schemes “μεθοδεία” of the devil. This particular word is from which we derive the English word methods. It means cunning and craftiness. Satan’s schemes are real:
- Satan blinds spiritual eyes so people can’t see the gospel – 2 Corinthians 4:4.
- Satan hinders God’s children – 2 Thessalonians 2.
- Satan deceives the nations – Daniel.
- Satan opposes the holy angels of God – we see this as he fights with Michael.
- Satan influences the whole world – 1 John 5.
Satan is a real unique personal being – not a force.
- Satan is called the anointed cherub.
- Satan is referred to as the prince of the world.
- Satan is called the prince of the power of the air.
- Satan is called the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience.
This is why Paul describes the former lifestyle of the Christians in Ephesus in Ephesians 2:2 by saying, “in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”
- Satan is referred to as the prince of the demons – Luke 11:15.
- Satan is called “Satan” – meaning adversary – 52 times in the Bible.
- Satan is called “the devil” – meaning slanderer or one who slanders.
- Satan is called the “old serpent.”
- Satan is called the “great dragon.”
- Satan is depicted as a “roaring lion” – alluding to his power.
- Satan is called the “Evil one” in John 17:15.
- Satan is called the destroyer in Revelation 9.
- Satan is the tempter in Matthew 4.
- Satan is the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12.
This is why Paul said earlier in Ephesians 4:27, “give no opportunity to the devil.” Moving on from knowing your enemy, Paul points out that it’s essential to clothe yourself for battle by putting on the whole armor of God. Putting on some of the armor will not be sufficient. The entire armor is needed for protection on the battlefield.
The first two pieces of the armor Paul addresses are the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. First, it’s essential to remember that Paul was writing this letter from a prison in Rome—not a hotel beach resort. As he penned this letter, he was chained to a Roman soldier. He understood what soldiers looked like and how they were clothed for battle. He employs this language with imagery to prove his point about the necessity of being prepared for the ongoing spiritual struggle that all Christians face.
In the culture of Paul’s day, everyone wore a long robe (tunic) as a typical outer garment. Men dressed in this manner which provided for comfort and protection against the dry and often windy climate since almost everyone worked outdoors exposed to the sun and elements.
Soldiers would pull up their robe – pulling up and folding their garments and holding everything together with a belt. They would fasten their belt around their waste and it would not only hold in place the outer garment, but it would also hold other pieces of the soldier’s gear.
Consider the purpose of a belt. It secures. It holds everything in place. In this particular scene, Paul is using great imagery. He is pointing to the necessary attitude of a Christian. The follower of Christ must have a mind and heart that is prepared, ready, sober, and fully committed for battle. A half dressed, loosely dressed, casually dressed, solider would never return from the battlefield. Everything has to be in place, secured, fastened, ready, and held tight for the heat of battle.
The word truth “ἀλήθεια” means, “truth; the quality of being in accord with what is true, truthfulness, dependability, uprightness; the context of what is true.” The Christian is to be a person of truth, one who embraces the truth, one who teaches the truth, one who loves the truth, one who clings to the truth. The idea here is that the Christian must be convinced of the truth of the gospel and living it out without hypocrisy as he goes off into the spiritual war. There is no room for passive or loose Christians related to truth.
Paul moves on from the belt of truth to point to another piece of the armor, a very important piece indeed—the breastplate of righteousness. The solider would go out to war and engage in battle with a breastplate covering his chest area. This plate would be made of metal often having a cloth or leather underside to add comfort and prevent any arrows from penetrating the plate and puncturing the solider in the vital areas of the heart and lungs. In fact this plate would cover the solider from neck to his thighs. It would cover both front and back of the solider.
Paul’s imagery here is key—before you go out to war and engage in battle on the battle field, you must first have on the breastplate of righteousness. The word righteousness “δικαιοσύνη” actually has a focus on redemptive action or upright behavior. In this case—both are in view here in Paul’s imagery. The point Paul is driving home is that a life of holiness is essential to the Christian life.
The call to holiness is seen in places such as Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:16. Without holiness, no person will see the Lord. Without the breastplate of righteousness, no solider will survive intense spiritual struggle of the battlefield. It’s essential to prepare yourself as a follower of Christ for war. The Christian life is not an easy path to the Celestial City. It’s a hard path full of many of the devil’s schemes. Will you be prepared for battle? Arm yourself. Clothe yourself for war.