Over the last few weeks we’ve been thinking, praying and dreaming about how we can be ‘living for God’s Kingdom in our community’ but now it’s time to take a reality check.  If we are extending the boundaries of the Kingdom of God we have a spiritual battle on our hands and the following verses will help us prepare for it and be victorious in it.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:10–18 (NIV – Anglicised)

How can we be ready for the spiritual battle that lies ahead?

Know our Enemy

Paul says, ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood’. Although we may be opposed by people they will never be our real problem, we have a very different kind of enemy. Paul cites him as ‘the devil’ (11). The Greek word means ‘slanderer’ and the Bible tells us that he was once the Chief Angel who rebelled against God and was cast down to earth (Isaiah 14:12-17). He took the form of a serpent to tempt Eve (Genesis 3:1f) and he seeks to destroy all that God is doing (John 8:44).

There are also spiritual powers opposing us, described as ‘rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world’. They are Satan’s subordinates, sometimes known as demons (who opposed Jesus during his ministry and the Apostles in the book of Acts). And they are the driving force behind the world’s rebellion against God.

Paul warns us to be aware of ‘the devil’s schemes’ (11). The word he uses speaks of craft, it often described the way a wild animal would stalk its prey. However the purpose of this reality check is to encourage us to ‘stand firm’ because he is defeated. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus has ‘disarmed the powers and authorities, he has made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.’ We are in conflict with Satan and his forces because we are pushing the boundaries of his dominion back! He will do all he can to try to prevent this.

Paul uses the image of a Roman Soldier – which would have been very familiar to the Christians in Ephesus – to show us how we can go forward in victory. He describes six pieces of armour, the first three (in the original language) are items to ‘put on’ – to prepare for battle and the others are things to ‘take up’ – to engage in the fight.

 

Gather our Equipment

Let’s think about the items we need to ‘take up’ so we are battle ready.

A Belt

‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist’ (14). A belt was essential to a Roman soldier, it would gather up his long garments so they wouldn’t get in the way or trip him. Although ‘truth’ is often used to describe God’s Word (John 17:17) in this context it is probably describing faithfulness and integrity – living in a way that is consistent with the message we are proclaiming. In the same way that a soldier’s belt would keep him from tripping this will enable us to be consistent and effective and will not give the enemy an opportunity to discredit the good news.

A breastplate

This was one of the most visible and important pieces of equipment, because it protected the vital organs. We are to wear ‘the breastplate of righteousness’ (14) which will protect the core of our Christian life. Righteousness describes a life that is consistent with God and the New Testament tells us that Jesus has made us righteous before God (2 Cor 5:21, Rom 3 ) and that the Holy Spirit has given us a new nature so that we can live in a righteous way (Eph 4:22-24).

Footwear

It is so important to have good footwear for battle! A Romans soldier wore spiked shoes that were laced up past his ankles; they helped him stand his ground and move forward. Paul links this to the ‘gospel of peace’ and so pictures why communicating and living the good news is so important for the spiritual battle we have been enlisted in.

 

Get into battle

 Now we come to the second set of items in our kit bag’. These are things we need to ‘take up’ and the word used is a military term describing what a soldier does immediately prior to engaging his enemy.

A shield

‘In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one’ (16).

 

Arrows, dipped in pitch and set on fire were deadly but the Romans constructed huge shields which were coated in leather to protect their solders. Immediately prior to an attack they would dip them in water so they could extinguish those deadly arrows. Satan is described as ‘the accuser’ and he will try to make us feel as if God doesn’t care for us or that we have let God down and are complete failures. When things go wrong in our lives he will whisper in our minds ‘does your God really care for you?’ Faith – trusting God and believing his Word is going to protect us from this.

A helmet

Head protection is vital in warfare. No Roman soldier would go into battle without his helmet. It also gave him confidence as he headed into battle. Our headwear is called ‘the helmet of salvation’, which basically means ‘rescue’. The New Testament tells us that God has ‘rescued us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved son’ (Col 1:13). This is three dimensional: we were saved when we first committed our lives to Christ, we are living out our salvation and it will come into completion when we stand before God and are welcomed into the fullness of his eternal Kingdom.

A Sword

The final piece of equipment is ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’ (17).  A Roman soldier’s sword was six foot long and was used with skill. He needed to be ready to deploy it at a moment’s notice. We need to be ready to use the Bible against Satan’s attacks at all times. This is exactly what Jesus did when he faced Satan in the wilderness, each time Satan tried to tempt him he quoted the Bible (Luke 4:1-12). It is interesting that this weapon is linked with the Holy Spirit, this means we do not just read and learn God’s Word but we need the Spirit to apply it to our lives and help us to put it into practice. We must be a ‘Word and Spirit’ church!

 

Be Given to Prayer

Since we will be thinking about prayer in a few weeks’ time I’ll just draw your attention to the way we are urged to pray.

At all times – consistency

In the Spirit – our prayers being led and inspired by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:26-27).

With all perseverance – prayer is hard going we need to stick at it.

For all the Saints – we must pray for one another as we engage in this battle.

 

It’s great to be part of God’s Kingdom. It is a Kingdom on the advance, that means we have been enlisted into a spiritual battle – but we’re on the winning side!

 

Think it Through

  1. What are the forces opposing us? Talk about how to get the balance between being aware of our enemy and not being fearful and giving the enemy too much attention.
  2. In what ways can our conduct trip us up and how can ‘the belt of truth’ prevent this?
  3. Talk about how we’ve been made righteous with Christ. How will this protect us in the battle?
  4. Think about how we can take the gospel into everyday life.
  5. How can faith protect us from doubts and fears that Satan may put in our minds and hearts?
  6. How will our understanding of salvation enable us to engage in the battle?
  7. How much do we see the Word of God as a weapon? What should we be doing to make it more effective in our lives?

 

Pray it in

Share about things you have been struggling with and pray for one another.