THE ARMOUR OF GOD
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
War to-day is won by ‘mechanized troops’ that is, masses of soldiery made irresistible by the weight of armour-tanks, planes, fire from the skies: beyond all past experience, armour can now only be met by armour: the man is not enough he must be armed in every limb if he is to stand unconquered. So Paul says with passionate insistence "Put on* the whole armour" - the entire armour - "of God" (Eph. 6: 11); and twice the command is given, and twice the object stated - "Take up the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand." An unarmed soldiery is a mob, not an army; it is bound to fall; it is food for massacre.
[* Having had the practical experience of working within two establishments where armour and weaponry were deemed necessary for use, I have never known anyone, whose life was in imminent danger, who refused body-armour for their personal protection. How strikingly apparent it seems at times, that the majority of regenerate believers who are presently engaged in a spiritual warfare against an unseen enemy, disregard the command to put armour on! It is not surprising therefore to see so many regenerate believers easily overcome by the enemy. We must learn to put God’s armour on at the beginning of each day.]
Our armour, as disciples of Christ, is carefully defined.
The weapons of "our warfare are not carnal, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds" (2 Cor. 10: 4). So far from having fleshly weapons, Paul was actually in chains - a prisoner chained to a soldier - when he wrote this appeal to the whole Church: yet he himself was in the centre of the battle, clad in the whole armour of God: the only danger to his captor was lest that soldier should lose his unbelief. "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Our supreme foe is an air force, hovering literally in the heavens: not merely occasional evil spirits Paul’s words imply bands, hosts, armies; Satan’s angels are ‘world-rulers’ of ‘this darkness’ - ‘spiritual hosts of wickedness, in the heavenly places.’ And the armour which Paul defines is not for massed troops, such armour as tanks or machine-guns: it is armour for each believer, not armour for the Church: each one, of us can face all Hell, alone, and be a complete conqueror.
In our epoch simply black with lies - broken contracts, studied deceits, falsehood on principle - our first weapon is a thrilling proof of Heaven. "Stand therefore" - three times we are commanded to hold our ground, to stand immovable - "having girded your loins with truth."* The girt loin is the braced personality, and the whole being of the regenerate man is to stand for truth. Do not so much embrace the truth, as let the truth embrace you; be encased in the truth; live in the truth; live within the covers of the Book: we are to be men wrapt up in the truth. Christ said, "I am the Truth," and we are in Christ: so the first thing to do is to take our stand definitely within the circle of revealed truth; braced and girded by truth, we stand. Error produces looseness and laxness: if truth is wanting, everything is wanting. Our first arming is a conscious and wholehearted stand taken upon the revealed truth of Holy Scripture.
[* It has been pointed out that it is a daring act on the part of a regenerate Christian teacher, to change a conditional promise of God into an unconditional one. Here is a untruth which will have a devastating effect upon the teacher and all his followers.]
Our second weapon is a covering for the heart. "Having Put on the breastplate of righteousness." Here again is struck a deep chord of Heaven. A soldier without a breast-plate is naked and exposed to attack at the most vital point. The breast-plate, generally made of plates of horn, or metal scales, or bronze, guards the heart: the righteousness of Christ covers the once vile heart; I oppose to Satan, not my bare breast, but the very righteousness of God Himself, the perfect Life of Christ imputed to me once for all; and not one taunt at my old crime and guilt can ever pierce that Divine breast-plate. One likes to think of it as a double breast-plate: inwardly, guarding the body’s most vital part for ever, the heart, the imputed righteousness of Christ; outwardly, where men can see it, the active righteousness of a godly life.*
[* There is no doubt in my mind that it is the "active righteousness of a godly life," which the disciple is to ‘put on’; it is God who furnishes us in the former righteousness of Christ. How seldom we hear of the importance of a disciple’s personal righteousness, and of what can be lost if we neglect to use it or let it go!]
The third piece of armour is for our walk. "Having shod your feet with the preparation" - the preparedness, the promptitude, the alacrity, the swiftness - "of the gospel of peace."* Here is a remarkable hint of military tactics. One of the priceless stratagems in war is initiative, the forcing an enemy to act on the defensive; an advancing army is nearly always a winning army: so we also are to seize the initiative to be swift with the Gospel, for delivering the prisoners of war cooped up behind the enemy’s lines. Swiftness of attack is a priceless weapon: all the time, if we would stand, we must be propagating the truth, pressing the Gospel, scattering the Word, saving and sanctifying. These sandals are to take us round the world. We stand upon the Gospel; it steadies us, and keeps us from all fear and flutter; and perhaps we are never so safe as when our chief concern is the safety of others.
[* All over the world today, we see people crying for peace, working for peace, compromising with terrorists for peace, hoping for peace, praying for peace, pleading for peace, policing for peace: it is a futile human effort to establish what Christ will accomplish at His return - a lasting world peace: "And He shall judge between the nations, and shall reprove many peoples: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more ... the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isa. 2:4, 17). This is the message “of the gospel of peace" which we Christians so need to believe during this day of apostasy, and have a burning desire to disclose it to others. “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Matt. 24: 46) cf Matt. 24: 14.]
The fourth piece of armour is to cover the person at any point. -"Withal" - in addition to all, for a protection over all - "taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one." Satan’s fiery darts refer to an ancient missile, hammer-shaped, and thrown by hand, combustible at the head - bombs in modern warfare doubts, lusts, angers, fears, errors, hatreds, unbeliefs, despairs all the myriad evil suggestions, falling on us combustible material, hurled at us by Satan, as incendiary bombs, or as poison gas. For the ‘wiles’ of the Devil - the rush of a sudden ambuscade - God supplies an impenetrable bomb-shelter. The word implies a shield "like a door," four feet by two-and-a-half, which, by quick action, could cover any threatened part of the body. You notice how a shield is used: it is used to protect the person anywhere. Satan attacked Christ by three recorded temptations, one levelled at the body, one at the soul, and one at the spirit; and our Lord plants the shield exactly where needed: "Satan, It is written, It is written, It is written." It is our belief in Holy Scripture, interposed just where the attack is: not only the Faith as a whole, but the special truth for the occasion. The shield of the faith once for all delivered is to be flashed wherever the person is threatened.
The next weapon guards the mind: "and take the helmet of salvation." Steel helmets are once more freely used in war; and salvation, the assurance of ultimate safety, is to be our helmet also. The glorious truth that we are saved; that though great and blessed things may be lost by disobedience, eternal life cannot; that victory must be ours in the eternal ages beyond: this is an enormous incentive in the day of battle. Assurance is the armour of the mind: the helmet binds the forehead, the seat of the mind: so the helmeted soldier sees everything through the Scriptures of salvation, which forever rise before his mental vision. Assurance of salvation garrisons the mind, balances the judgment, and puts the whole undivided and undisturbed intellect at the disposal of Christ.
Our one offensive weapon, the only sword ever put into our hands by the Holy Ghost, comes next. "Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The Bible is the sword with which we cleave the ranks of the foe; for it is Scripture, and Scripture alone, which exposes error, pierces hypocrisy, unmasks hearts, and routs Satan: "the Word of God is active, and sharper than any two edged-sword, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4: 12). We do not argue with Satan: we quote Scripture.* Our Lord’s quotations from Scripture alone, without a single argument, were Satan’s complete defeat in the wilderness. Satan’s hosts are bent on the death of all mankind: the Word of God - and it alone - regenerates the dead; therefore it is the one mighty weapon which turns the whole battle from defeat to victory. Every soul that doubts Scripture has had his sword wrested out of his hand, and is powerless in the day of battle. "All Scripture is given that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely" (2 Tim. 3: 17), and armed from head to foot.
[* "The expression used means detached portions of Scripture, bearing on the point in hand, and settling it. When Scripture as a whole is meant, another Greek word is used" (Govett).]
Our last weapon is wireless communication with the home base. "With all prayer at all seasons in all perseverance for all the saints:" every kind of prayer, constant prayer, undoubting prayer, each of us praying for all. In the former Great War a field telegraphist was put out of action by a shrapnel bullet and was unable to aid the comparatively small force that held the advanced position behind which he lay. There was imminent prospect that the defenders would be annihilated; but the telegraphist crawled painfully half a mile to the rear, where he was able to tap a cut wire and send rapidly along it appeal after appeal for instant help. It came: reinforcements were rushed up and disaster averted. Get in touch with God and you command His invincible legions.
Now we see our critical need. This whole armour of God must be put on, if we are to stand in the evil day: "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand;" and if we put on all, we shall stand; "having done all" - having done your all, having put it all on - "to stand." No armour is provided for the back: the soldier who flees is shot, either by the enemy or by his own commanding officer. True believers (though not true overcomers) are falling on every hand: all sin is defeat, - it is impossible to stand without utilizing God's provisions for standing. "Put on the whole armour"; for every part of us needs to be protected, and Satan assaults every portion of our nature; and if we leave any part exposed, Satan finds it: just as Achilles was said to be vulnerable only in his heel, and there he was killed. "Nothing is done," said Napoleon, "if anything is left undone." But if we keep all this armour steadily between us and the foe, including the prayer-weapon, our stand in the fiercest battle-shock is certain, and the Overcomer will have won the most wonderful victory of the ages. Napoleon’s words are true of our war:- "A Field Marshal’s baton slumbers in every soldier’s knapsack." Ours also is a war of attrition: he who stands, wins ; by standing firm we conquer; and "he that overcometh, I will make him a Pillar in the temple of my God" (Rev. 3: 12). Immovability in battle will be rewarded with immovability in glory.