My present journey in God’s word is through Paul’s teaching on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6. It has me considering how this requires us to understand why these instructions come at the end of his letter rather than at the beginning. It is like the roof on the house; it absolutely requires the foundation that holds everything else secure.
Ephesians is probably the clearest example of how Paul would begin his letters by teaching and reminding us of what is true and finish his letters by teaching and reminding us how to live worthy of what is true. In this case, to live worthy of who we are in Christ, we must know the truth of who we are and what God has done for us, and stand firm against the devil’s efforts to “steal and kill and destroy.”
Here is Paul’s introduction to how we use the whole armor of God to stand for Christ while standing against the devil:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 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 firm. Stand therefore, having…
Churches are always called to “test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” If everyone in the church did this, we would have agreement in the Lord, unity in the Spirit, and strength in numbers, so to speak.
My summary of God speaking to me this morning is that:
- Paul has established in the preceding chapters of Ephesians one of the most clear and concise declarations of who we are “in Christ”, meaning, “in the Lord”
- Before we get to this somewhat negative focus on the spiritual battle, standing up to what is against us, Paul has called us to the positive focus of how to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”
- Now Paul is calling us to stand firm in everything he has already taught, our determination to live worthy of our Savior and his calling on our lives, while dealing head-on with the spiritual attacks that come from the evil one
- And he shows the church how to put on the whole armor of God around the one body of Christ so we are all standing firm and strong together.
I know how easy it is to think that our battles are against “flesh and blood”. Isn’t that the pattern Satan keeps using against churches, to get our focus off the word and the Spirit and onto personal grievances with people?
Let me tell you about one of the most real and personal experiences of God drawing people into his word and prayer, and the devil stealing, killing and destroying a church that would not put on the whole armor of God.
I was in a congregation where the people had been together for 20+ years. However, they had never progressed beyond reading a daily devotional booklet that gave them a verse or two of scripture and told them what to think about it. No one had ever learned to simply read the word, talk to God about what he was saying to them, and put into practice whatever Jesus instructed.
In that context, I had the privilege of watching people fall in love with God’s word as they simply started reading it for themselves and letting the Spirit teach them. People would come to prayer meetings almost trembling with excitement to get to the sharing time where they could praise God for what they were learning.
It took no time at all for everyone to be surprised that, no matter where people were reading, and no matter what was going on in those scriptures, not only did each person have something that felt very real and personal to them, but the sharing of these things showed that God was speaking in almost identical ways to everyone. It was literally transforming. We were feeling like the one body of Christ led by our one head, Jesus himself.
After some time, as is God’s way of doing things, we discovered that he was leading people deeper into themselves at the same time as he was leading them deeper into his word. It was clear that God was showing people where they needed healing and freedom in Christ in order to continue growing to know God in the real and personal ways we were all experiencing.
Then the tragic thing happened: the deeper things triggered self-protection, and people began listening to the voices of fear from within instead of the voice of love from the word. And when that happened, everyone became convinced that personal grievances and perceived hurts were the ultimate reality and nothing God said in his word mattered.
That church no longer exists.
I present this invitation and warning from my encouragement that God has given his children time to be tested, to see what is “good” and hold on to it, and to admit and confess what is “evil” and repent, renounce, and forsake these things so we can abstain from them. Any church can get back to letting the word of Christ once again dwell in them richly for the building up of the body of Christ. And any church can fall away when we are unwilling to repent.
If any of us have read this, and struggle to obey Jesus and his word in faith, it is a problem of Satan’s schemes no matter how much it feels like a valid issue of personal justification. If we can’t do Jesus’ will about it, we are doing the devil’s will about it. No other options.
I invite everyone to do what God’s word says is the solution: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love," be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If we will unite with other believers to do this, no matter how weak or hurting we feel, the whole armor of God will enable all who are willing to stand firm in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Oh yes, there is a reason that the first piece of the whole armor of God is called, “the belt of truth”. Start by putting on truth, abstaining from lies, and you will have the strength to unite with Jesus’ church in the Spirit to do all the rest.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)
 Paul gives a very clear and brilliant transition is in Ephesians 4:1, leading from what is true about who we are in Christ, to how we live worthy of that calling.
 John 10:10
 Ephesians 6:10-14
 I Thessalonians 5:21-22
 Ephesians 4:1
 The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 make this clear.
 Ephesians 4:2-3