The Armor of God (Living Stones – Part VII)

Sermon Title: The Armor of God

Good News Statement: God provides us with armor

Preached: Sunday, November 13, 2022 at Dogwood Prairie UMC & Seed Chapel UMC

Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.

 

Scripture (NKJV): Ephesians 6:13-20 Today’s scripture reading comes from the words of Paul from his epistle to the people of Ephesus. We will be reading from Ephesians chapter six verses thirteen thru twenty. Listen to the words of Paul and God’s promise of newness…

 

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

This is the Word of God for the People of God; And all God’s people said, “Thanks be to God.”

 

Introduction:

In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. This site, on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River and the city of Washington, D.C., became the focal point of reverence for America’s veterans today. Five years later, in 1926, Armistice Day was recognized as the day that would universally commemorate the end of World War I. Armistice Day became a national holiday twelve years later under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.[1] In 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed proclaiming November 11th as Veterans Day.[2] However, prior to 1954, it has been reported that the first celebration using the term “Veterans Day” occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947.

To honor the significance of Veterans Day at 11:00AM on November 11th every year, a combined color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. The nation’s tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath. “Taps” echoes throughout the cemetery, and the rest of the ceremony takes place in the amphitheater. To quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower from Proclamation 3367 concerning Veterans Day 1960,

“Let us celebrate that day with appropriate ceremonies not only in tribute to our veterans but also in rededication to the cause of peace with honor throughout the world.”[3]

As Christians we are called to honor Veterans Day, as we, too, are sent into battle for the sake of preserving and proclaiming the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are called to be Christians Soldiers who “are marching as to war with the cross of Jesus Christ going before us.” We are called to administer honor and peace throughout the world. But, like the many Veterans before us, we must be equipped for the battle ahead: we must put on the whole armor of God, “so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).  We all need to put on the armor of God.

Opening Prayer:

Let us pray… Dear God of Protection, equip us for the battles that lay ahead. O God, encourage us, from this message, to realize that we have been cloaked with your armor: that we are protected by your word, love, and mercy, and your grace is what shields us from the wiles of the devil. May my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In Your name we pray, Amen.

 

Body:

Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having prevailed against everything, to stand firm.” This verse is followed by descriptions of various pieces of armor that God has given to you and me. But what is this armor, and how do we make us of it? In Greek, the phrase “full armor” is the word panoplia, which is similar to the word panoply—meaning to have all kinds of stuff. So the full armor is a combination of many different pieces—a panoply of pieces—coming together to represent the wholeness or fullness of God. However, why would the average Christian need armor?

Before Jesus is taken to be crucified, while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, soldiers—both of the High Priests and the Roman Military—came to arrest him. While taking Jesus away, we read that one of Jesus’ disciples, a person of faith, love, and peace, pulls out his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave. John wrote in chapter eighteen of his gospel, “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath…” (John 18:10-11). Maybe we need armor because we want to be more like Simon Peter? Or maybe we need armor to protect Jesus? Or maybe we need armor for our own protection against the wicked forces that surround us? Or even worse, maybe we need armor becomes there is war, a battle of darkness and pain, going on in our own life that we haven’t recognized yet?

Picture this: It’s June 1944. After a 24-hour weather delay, the largest military operation in the history of warfare was about to begin. Preceded by an aerial bombardment of coastal defenses and 13 thousand paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines, five thousand ships and 156 thousand soldiers are about to storm the beaches of Normandy, France. D-Day has arrived.

Just before the invasion of Normandy, General Eisenhower issued a now-famous letter which he, with devastation in his heart, states “[You are] about to embark upon the great crusade [to] bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world… Your task will not be an easy one.”

The General wanted his troops to understand the grim reality of the battle that awaited them. Failure to do so would only lead to greater causalities. Imagine the carnage if the soldiers got off the landing craft at Omaha beach and didn’t realize that they were going to be shot at. But that is how it often is regarding our spiritual enemy, Satan. Christians do not give much thought to the reality of our spiritual enemy, and neglect taking up the whole armor of God because we think that we can handle things on our own.

The Bible speaks of the devil more than 100 times. Not once is he a short, red, goat-man with a pitchfork. Scripture makes it clear that Satan is very real and that he is always working against God and His kingdom. Jesus refers to Satan as the “ruler of this world.” In 2 Corinthians 4, he is called the “god of this world” who blinds the minds of unbelievers and keeps them from seeing the light of the gospel. 1 John 5:19 tells us that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Scripture tells us He lays snares for believers and attempts to lead them astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. There is a real spiritual war being waged against God, and every believer finds themselves in this spiritual battle.

Are any of you in a spiritual battle? Satan is telling you to do one thing but is God is calling you to do this other thing? Life has been tough or even unfair, so you have pushed God to the side? Your prayers haven’t been answered quick enough, so you have given up on communicating with Jesus? Someone in your life keeps causing you stress so you don’t seek the forgiveness and grace of the Holy Spirit? Whether you realize it or not, you are dealing with a spiritual battle every day of your life. And every day, God is giving you the opportunity, inviting you, to put on the “full armor of God.” But are you accepting His invitation?

This is where Paul’s illustration in Ephesians 6 comes in. He uses the Roman soldiers’ armor to describe what he calls “the whole armor of God.” Paul could also be drawing from his knowledge of Scripture: In Isaiah 59:17, the prophet wrote, “He put on righteousness like a breastplate and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.” Being a prisoner of the Roman Empire, Paul would have had close interactions with Roman soldiers. It is in the soldier’s armor that the Apostle finds a fitting metaphor for how God has equipped us with protection from a powerful spiritual enemy.

But why do we need protection from this spiritual enemy, Satan, if Christ defeated Satan? Just as an army that has been dealt a decisive blow can still inflict casualties on individual soldiers, Christians can become casualties on the spiritual battlefield. Though we can never lose our salvation—nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-38)—we can nevertheless be gravely wounded in our spiritual life. Each of us must take up the armor of God.

First, we must put on the belt of truth (6:14). A soldier’s belt wasn’t a final accessory to hold their pants up. It was an important piece of the armor, which other pieces fastened onto and which also held his sword. Just as the belt was the foundational element of the Roman soldier’s armor, truth is at the center of the armor of God. Christians must hold to what is true because the truth gives us a firm foundation on which to stand for Jesus Christ. What is truth? Scripture is. When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17 he said, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” If only Pontius Pilate had realized this when he asked Jesus “What is truth?” (John 18:38), then maybe history would have been changed. We must be willing to live out the truth—alethia—of Christ’s word.

Second, we must put on the breastplate of righteousness (6:14). The author of 1 Thessalonians wrote, “let us be sober and put on the breastplate of faith and love” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). We are to live righteously through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:9). When we are made righteous through faith in Christ, we are forever made right with God. So many of Satan’s attacks are deflected by knowing that we are righteous in the eyes of God, that we have been called worthy enough to live out His will here on earth. Horatio G. Spafford wrote, in his hymn titled “It Is Well With My Soul,” “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blessed assurance control; That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.” Through righteousness in Christ we live boldly in the presence of worthiness and salvation. Not even Satan can take those things away from us.

Third, we must put on the gospel of peace (6:15). The “gospel of peace” is what carries us through life. We don’t give much thought to footwear, but the Roman army’s shoes were an innovation that allowed them to travel further and faster than their enemies. These boots, called caligae, had heavy soles with hobnails in them to provide traction for the wearer. The Roman soldier’s footwear is what enabled him to travel through any terrain he may encounter along his journey. Similarly, the peace of the gospel is what equips us to travel over rough roads as we carry this same gospel to others.

Fourth, we must carry the shield of faith (6:16). A typical Roman shield was oblong in shape—about 2 1/2 feet by 4 feet. It was about the size of a refrigerator door. Darts are an especially helpful illustration as a weapon of Satan. This is not one of hand to hand combat; it is a projectile. By nature, it is launched from a distance to strike its mark unexpectedly. Like a dart, strong temptations and sinful thoughts come upon us suddenly. Sin seeks to pierce your defenses and inflame lust, pride, anger, contempt, or any number of sinful reactions. This is why we must use the shield of faith, which can extinguish these fiery darts. When temptations come, are we going to believe what the devil says, or are we going to believe God in faith? The shield of faith extinguishes the fiery darts when we trust the promises of God, when we know that He is exceedingly more precious than anything that may be sacrificed in His service.

Fifth, we must put on the helmet of salvation (6:17). Again, the author of 1 Thessalonians states, “for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Like a helmet covering our head, our salvation protects us from being dealt a deathblow. Those who are in Christ cannot ultimately be defeated by Satan. In Romans 8:38-39 we read: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our “helmet of salvation” gives us confidence, knowing we will emerge victorious. As has been said by others, Christians do not fight for victory, we fight from a position of victory. And so we see that the “whole armor of God” leaves the Christian well protected against the dangers of the battlefield, and we need every part of it. But we have not been equipped only for defense but for offense.

Lastly, Ephesians 17-18 states, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” First, the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. To wield the sword of the Spirit is to use Scripture to defend against attacks on truth and to “destroy strongholds” of false beliefs.

Second, we must pray in the Spirit at all times. What are we doing when we pray? We are approaching the very throne of the holy, almighty, Triune God – the Creator of all things. The God who spoke the universe into existence. The God who made the mountains and the seas. The God who created man from the dust of the earth; the God who parted the Red Sea; God whose sent His Son to deliver us from sin and death. We pray because through prayer we have access to the throne of grace, where we speak to the One who sustains us. We are to pray at all times. Not just in hard times, when trouble surrounds us and courage fails us. We are to be people of prayer, in both good times and in bad. Take everything to God in prayer. Pray that our churches may shine as beacons of truth even as the world around them grows darker. Pray for those in the world who are under the siege of persecution and oppression. Pray for those on the front lines of God’s advancing army, bringing the gospel to the lost. Pray for those who have been wounded by the schemes of the devil. Pray for your loved ones, that they may take up the armor of God. Pray. Pray. Pray.

Conclusion:

Our duty is clear: Under the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are to: “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Like the many Veterans before us today, who have put on the armor of God, we are called to do the same as we seek to stand firm against Satan and proclaim the word of God and pray for strength to face tomorrow. Are you ready to put on the “whole armor of God,” to be equipped to do what God has called you to do? Remember you are worthy, so put on your belt, breastplate, shoes, helmet, and grab your shield because God is calling you, Christian soldiers, to march with cross going before you.

 

Closing Prayer/Veterans Day Poem by Cheryl Dyson:

On Veterans Day we honor all,

Who answered to a service call.

Soldiers young, and soldiers old,

Fought for freedom, brave and bold.

Some have lived, while others died,

And all of them deserve our pride.

We’re proud of all the soldiers who,

Kept thinking of red, white, and blue.

They fought for us and all our rights,

They fought through many days and nights.

And though we may not know each name,

We thank ALL Veterans just the same.

 

Thank you Warren Parker, Ron Smith, George Piersall, Byron Gullett, and Doug Jones for your service and dedication to our country. Thank you for being brave and wearing the Armor of God for all of us here today. And thank you for being brave and true to the red, white, and blue.

 

Benediction:

As you go about this week, take a moment to thank a Veteran: let them know that you are proud of them, that you honor them, that you are thankful for their service. And let God bless you, like He did with the Veterans, with His whole armor. May you be blessed this week until we meet again. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit go transforming lives as you live well and wisely in God’s world. And all God’s people said, Amen. Amen. Amen.

 

[1] …who boldly advocated for “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” which means “A New Order of the Ages.” This new order of the ages was to ensure that wars would seize and that those who fought to “to end all wars” would be rightly and justly recognized for their braveness. However, a few years later after Armistice Day became a national holiday, to honor World War I Veterans and the end of wars, a war broke out in Europe, killing 407,000 people in service.

[2] Fourteen years after President Eisenhower signed the bill renaming Armistice Day to Veterans Day, a law was passed to move Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. This law was overturned in 1978.

[3] President Dwight D. Eisenhower begins this quote by stating the following: “Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon all of our citizens to observe Friday, November 11, 1960, as Veterans Day.”


Comments

  1. Thank you for posting. I am thankful for the full armor God provides.

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