Soldiers Arise And Put Your Armour On!
Reading Ephesians Ch.6v13-17.
When the Spartans marched into battle they advanced with cheerful songs, willing to fight. But when the Persians entered the conflict, you could hear, as the regiments came on, the crack of the whips by which the officers drove the cowards to the fray. You need not wonder that a few Spartans were more than a match for thousands of Persians that in fact they were like lions in the midst of sheep. So let it be with the church. Never should she need to be forced to reluctant action, but full of irrepressible life, she should long for conflict against everything, which is contrary to God. If we were enthusiastic soldiers of the cross we would be like lions in the midst of hoards of enemies, and through God's help nothing would be able to stand against us. - Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
Paul began his description of the Christian's uniform and weapons with a characteristic statement about determination and courage. He writes, "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Ephesians Ch. 6v13.
You see the Christian's task is not necessarily to win the battle, but to preserve that which has already been won by the Saviour. 2 Chronicles Ch. 20v15b "Thus saith the Lord unto you, be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's."
To be able to stand against the wiles of the devil would be their greatest achievement. God's nearness is their guarantee of safety; He ever stands between His children and the enemy. That's why when Christians deviate from their appointed place of duty and turn away from it, they become easy targets for "the fiery darts of the wicked one." They become like putty in his hand.
When their enemies attacked, Roman soldiers formed themselves into human squares with men facing in every direction. If one soldier fell, another from inside the formation took his fallen comrade's place. Their greatest duty was not always to attack and advance but to stand and hold the ground already conquered. More often than not, the attacks of the enemies were defeated because defenders refused to retreat.
I believe that was the picture the Apostle Paul had in his mind when he called the soldiers of the cross to stand together. Each faithful Christian was to support and strengthen his comrades, and such a unified purpose of the entire company would guarantee victory.
1. There Is Protection For When You Stand! vv13-14a.
"Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth"
Beloved, the least we can do is to take our stand. We can take our stand for God, as Martin Luther did when he announced that he was going to the fateful confrontation with Rome at Worms. When facing all the power of earth and hell he said: "On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me."
We are living in a day when evil is on the rampage and Paul has been reminding us of that very thing in this epistle. The days were evil then and I assure the days are evil now. And we, as soldiers of the cross are to withstand this tide of evil that would surge through our town and countryside; we are to give no ground to Satan.
In 2 Samuel Ch. 23vv11-12 we note that Shammah, who stood for God in the place of discouragement. One might expect to see valour blaze forth in defence of a strategic pass, or even a bridge or maybe a gate. Shammah, however, saw value in "a piece of ground full of lentils." He stood against the Philistines and fought over that ground. Look how the Holy Spirit records his victory. "The people fled from the Philistines. But he stood…and the Lord wrought a great victory" (2 Samuel Ch. 23vv11-12). Like Shammah we are to stand firm against the enemy come what may or what must!
We are to stand fast against the enemy that would destroy humanity and society. We are to stand up against principalities, powers, and the rulers of this world's darkness and wicked spirits in high places and especially in the Church. Taking a stand might well mean following in the footsteps of others who have gone before. We need to be active in the fight against perversion, pornography, abortion, drugs, alcohol, vice, and error. But remember beloved we need also to keep our guard up in the Church of Jesus Christ. That's why Paul now describes the armour and what to do with it.
The Roman soldier's belt or girdle held in place the armour, which protected the lower part of his body, if you like the seat of his vital organs and the organs of life-creating force. You see beloved, we need protection at the source of spiritual procreative power so that Satan cannot tamper with the seed we sow. Truth is vital and we must always be sure we sow only the pure Word of God no matter what people may ask of us. If I am not preaching the very truth of God I am simply giving you my own opinions and they may not be worth a whole lot.
See the preacher must master the principles of hermeneutics, study the Word of God seriously and sincerely, he must endeavour at all times to know the mind of God through the Word of God. Why? To preserve the good seed of the Word of God and present it pure and true at all times. We must all be very careful what we sow. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3v6). Sincerity is not enough; we must also be right!
2. There Is Protection For When You Are Steadfast: v14b.
"The Breastplate Of Righteousness"
The Roman soldier's breastplate was protection for his upper vital organs, particularly his lungs and his heart. Proverbs Ch.4v32 presses upon us the need to protect our hearts: "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them. Let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings, only the iron in God's sand is gold! Henry Ward Beecher, Leadership-Vol. 7, no. 2.
Satan tries to corrupt the heart of the believer that they may display ugly passions instead of the love of Christ and the only way to protect the heart is by putting on the breastplate of righteousness. The Greek word translated "righteousness" in Ephesians Ch.6v14, is "dikaiosune" it is to be found some ninety-two times in all of the New Testament including, some thirty times in the book of Romans. Paul first uses the word "dikaiosune" in Romans in a wonderfully instructive way. He told us in Romans Chapter1 that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for, "therein is the righteousness of God revealed" (Romans Ch.1v17).
You see the theme of Romans is righteousness. Paul speaks of Righteousness Revealed Ch.1v17: Righteousness Required Ch.1v18: + Ch. 3v10-16: Righteousness Received Ch.4v5: Righteousness Reproduced Ch.6v12-23. Dr. John Phillips Exploring Ephesians.
The Epistle of Romans declares that God is Righteous and He always does what is right. He does what He does because He is who He is. Just as God does what He does because of who He is, we do what we do because of who we are.
Since we are sinners by birth, by nature, by practice, and by choice, we do what is unrighteous and wrong. Sin has tainted even our most noble thoughts, our most generous deeds, and our highest aspirations.
The genius of the gospel is that God does not ask us to imitate His righteousness, for not one of mankind could do that. Instead God gives us His righteous nature by means of regeneration. He gives us His Holy Spirit to live within us and to reproduce Christ's righteousness in us and through us. Christians are to show the righteousness of God to the world. The world is waiting to see men and women behaving like Jesus Christ. How?
If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in character. If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. Chinese proverb: - As quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1993), p. 275.
J. D. Jones, a preacher, said, "We are morally responsible for every wrong we have the power to prevent." - Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
Satan attacks the heart, protect it! Robert Pirsig, in his book, which has become a classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, says that the place to change the world is to begin with one's heart and work outward from there. He was saying we should begin at the centre. That's a good way to understand how the Bible uses the term heart. In Hebrew psychology, the heart is the centre of the person--the seat of personal wills, feeling, and thinking. "Blessed are the pure in heart," Jesus said. Blessed are those who are pure at the centre of their beings. - Donald McCullough, "Blessed Are the Pure in Heart," Preaching Today, Tape No. 83.
3. There Is Protection For When You Are Sure: v15.
"Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace"
We should always be prepared to go, but there are some place Christians should not go. There are some doors a Christian must refuse to go through until completely clad with God's armour and especially having our feet shod with the gospel of peace. This is truly an age when we desperately to be sure footed.
We have our marching orders: Matthew Ch.28v19-20.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Surely there is yet someone to whom you, my dear friend, can go with the gospel of peace or indeed someone you can bring to hear the gospel of God.
Lost men and women in our town and community held fast in the vice like grip of Satan needing set free and only the gospel of the grace of God can do such a thing. Would you allow people to be cast into hell for all eternity when all the while you have the secret that opens the jail of eternal misery?
The often forgotten word in Ephesians Ch. 6v15 is preparation. We need to be prepared. And we need to be prepared to go across the street or across the sea.
And we go knowing, their protection for us as we go!
4. There Is Protection For When You Are Serious: v16.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
You know of course full well, Satan has such an amazing assortment of poisonous darts to launch like missiles at the children of God. He may launch one at you which would not affect me; he may launch one at me which will not affect you, but dear believer, he has such an array of these weapons we desperately need to be deadly serious about keeping up our shields. For notice, it is only the shield of faith which is able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. The battle of the saints is a real one and is no pretend and must be taken seriously.
Do you know the shields of the Roman soldiers were made so that a row of soldiers could lock shields, forming a wall of steal? Such a wall of course would be difficult to penetrate. Each individual shield was long enough and broad enough to cover the soldiers body, whatever the enemy threw at them would simply bounce off doing no harm.
How we need those shields of faith working amongst believers today.
In Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1876, a train went off the tracks and over the bridge, and many people were killed. One of those who died was Reverend P. P. Bliss, a hymn writer and great evangelist. One of his most famous hymns was "Hold the Fort for I am coming." It was written after the occasion when Atlanta had been besieged and General Hood, for the Southern armies, came up and tried to draw away Sherman's army. Hood wasn't successful, but he did have a couple of victories. One of them was at Altoona Pass, where he attacked. At that point Sherman was on Kennesaw Mountain, a distance away. He looked down and could see that they were losing it. So Sherman heliographed to his beleaguered troops, "Hold the fort, I am coming.'' Major Whittle, a member of Sherman's army, later recounted the tale to Bliss, who used it as the inspiration for his famous hymn:
'Hold the fort, for I am coming,' Jesus signals still.
Wave the answer back to heaven, 'By thy grace we will.'
R. Geoffrey Brown, "Look! A Great White Horse!" Preaching Today, Tape No. 3.
Faith like Job's cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken! Abraham Heschel, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.
5. There Is Protection For When You Are Shielded: v17a.
"The helmet of salvation"
Without the use of a limb, a determined soldier may continue to fight. A wound may hinder the defence, but not make resistance impossible. Yet, without his head, a warrior becomes motionless and dead. The battle for the mind is the most crucial of all the struggles of life. When a Christian is defeated by the wiles of the devil, it is the result of Satan's ability to infiltrate his mind.
It is true to say, the devil can penetrate the mind and make a real mess of our thinking, so that even when we are doing wrong we think we are doing right.
It is therefore necessary for the believer's mind to be full of the Word and full of the Lord.
The Word of God has taken my conscience captive, and to go against conscience or Scripture is neither right nor safe. Martin Luther, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 2.
Spiritual success is always dependent upon the battle of the mind.
A displayed helmet may stimulate conversation in the home or a museum, but it will never save the life of an endangered soldier unless it is worn. Helmets remember, were designed to protect in the heat of the battle.
Our human reasoning alone isn't enough to discern truth from error. The best protection against deception is to know God's revealed truth, the Bible. - Ruth E. Van Reken, Christian Reader, Vol. 35, no. 2.
6. There Is Protection When You Use Your Sword! v17b.
“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”
To date, every piece of the armour for the believer, named by the Apostle you will notice has been for our defence, now though he names a piece of armour with which we employ the offence. It was Napoleon who once said, “The best form of defence is attack.”
The unknown penman in the book of Hebrews Ch. 4v12 likens God’s Word to a sword. “For the Word Of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and morrow, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
There can be no doubt at all, after these many years, that the Word of God is the greatest weapon the Christian can become skilled in using, the world, the flesh and the devil are no match for the power of the Word of God therefore it behoves all of us who claim the name of Christ to become proficient users of the precious word of truth and that this wonderful Word of God become the man of our counsel at all times and in all situations.
“The Best answer to secular humanism is the Word of God. The best answer to dialectical materialism is the Word of God. The best answer to behavioural psychology, liberal theology, cults, and false religions of the world is the Word of God.” John Phillips: Exploring Ephesians.
This sixth point I will take further in the next message!