As a boy, I would sometimes slip into my dad’s dress shoes and put on a pair of his glasses when I found them lying around the house. Perhaps this was merely an act of admiration; however, I suspect that it was also an act of imitation, a longing to grow up to be like my father. Now, as a father of three boys, a subtle, sublime joy wells up in my heart when one of my sons comes into the living room wearing a pair of my shoes or my glasses.
In Ephesians 6:10–20, the Apostle Paul teaches us that a vital aspect of having the image of God renewed in us is that we wear the same armor that Christ wore in the days of His flesh. The armor is first and foremost God’s armor, worn by the eternal Son during the days of His incarnate, earthly ministry. Therefore, we may rightly refer to the armor as “the armor of Christ.” As the children of God—in union with the Son—we must wear the armor He wore when He made war against and conquered the evil one.
It is vital for us to wear the armor of Christ if we are to endure the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. Scripture commands us to put on Christ Himself. In his incomparable exposition of Ephesians 6:10–20—The Christian in Complete Armour—William Gurnall explained the connection between the armor of God and the Lord Jesus Christ:
What is this armour? First, By armour is meant Christ; we read of putting on the Lord Jesus, Rom. xiii. 14, where Christ is set forth under the notion of armour . . . The apostle . . . bids, put on the Lord Jesus Christ; implying thus much, till Christ is put on, the creature is unarmed. It is not a man’s morality and philosophical virtues that will repel a temptation, sent with a full charge from Satan’s cannon. . . . Again, the graces of Christ, these are armour, as the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness and the rest. Hence we are bid also to ‘put on the new man,’ Eph. iv. 24.1
If a man or woman is not in Christ by faith, he or she has joined forces with the evil one and is ultimately on the losing side of the battle. In order to fight against the wiles of the devil, we must first be redeemed by Christ and brought into the kingdom of God. Only those who are regenerated by and reconciled to God in Christ can wear this armor and advance in this battle. Only those who are united to Christ will want to wear the armor of God—they, and only they, can put on Christ.
As those who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, if we are not actively seeking to wear the armor of God, we will inevitably fall as victims on the battlefield. It is far too easy to move our spiritual eyes off of Christ in order to fixate on our circumstances, sins, successes, failures, gifts, family, friends, and enemies, and even a desire for victory. When we do so, we rush into the battle unarmed. This is not to say that it is unimportant for believers to be aware of Satan’s tactics. That is, of course, vital if we are to stand firm in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. However, to focus chiefly on the tactics of the evil one will land us in a place of either fleshly self-confidence or spiritual fear and paralysis. To be subject to either of these two extremes is to be losing the battle against the evil one. As Martin Luther once expressively put it, “Were not the right man on our side, our striving would be losing.”
Among the many titles that the writer of Hebrews uses to highlight various aspects of Jesus’ mediatorial accomplishments, the “captain of our salvation” (Heb. 2:10, KJV) is the most suggestive in regard to His relation to us in the spiritual battle against the hosts of spiritual evil. The Son of God came into the world to overcome the evil one by His perfect life and atoning death. He took on flesh and blood to destroy him who had the power of death—the one who holds all men in bondage to the fear of death (vv. 14–15).
When Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He was fully clothed in spiritual armor. When He won the ultimate victory on the cross, He was wearing the armor of God. Christ held forth the shield of faith each and every time Satan shot fiery darts of temptation at Him. He wielded the sword of the Spirit throughout the entirety of His ministry—constantly speaking, teaching, and living the Word of God. Isaiah gave this description of the Savior:
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isa. 59:17)
Consider the following ways in which Christ wore the armor of God in His battle with the evil one and how believers are to wear it in light of His person and work:
The belt of truth belongs to Him who said, “I am the truth.” Jesus always lived and spoke the truth. He is truth incarnate. He came into a world of lies to deliver a people so that they may be lovers of what is true. He unites to Himself a people whose mouths will be full of the truth of God’s Word. The belt enabled a soldier to move quickly and unhindered. In the same way, the truth of God’s Word enables believers to fight against the wiles of the devil unhindered. Every step that Jesus took was a step forward in the defense and propagation of the truth.
The helmet of salvation signifies the finished work of redemption that Christ accomplished for His people. Jesus wore the helmet of salvation when He received the testimony of His Father: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). This word from His Father carried the Son of God through all of the fierce temptations of the evil one, from the wilderness to the cross. Jesus wore this helmet when He prayed, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4), and then, on the cross, “It is finished” (19:30). Believers now wear the helmet of salvation as they rest in the quiet assurance of all that Christ has done for them and is doing for them. It is the assurance of God’s promises, guaranteed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The helmet of salvation protects the minds of God’s people from the accusations of the evil one, just as the word of the Father to the Son at His baptism protected Him from the attacks of the evil one.
The breastplate of righteousness is Christ’s legal righteousness, which He merited by living a perfectly sinless life of conformity to the law of God. Jesus’ practical righteousness formed the basis of His legal standing as the representative of His people. The believer now wears the breastplate of righteousness as he lives in light of the truth of the legal righteousness of Christ that is imputed to him by faith alone. The believer also wears this righteousness by living in light of the practical righteousness that Christ continually imparts to the believer by the Holy Spirit.
The preparation of the gospel of peace around the feet symbolizes the swift and constant proclamation of the gospel. Throughout His ministry, Jesus preached a message of good news to hell-deserving sinners. Nothing moved Him from His firm resolve to proclaim the good news to sinful men and women. Jesus proclaimed a message of peace and reconciliation to God to those who were formerly at enmity with God. Jesus girded His feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, as do those who are united to Him by faith. Believers should be zealous to spread the good news and to be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in them (see 1 Peter 3:15) to all those whom the Lord brings across their paths.
The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, with which Jesus made war against the evil one. Whether it was His asking and answering questions about Scripture as a boy in the temple or praying Scripture back to the Father on the cross, the entire life and ministry of Jesus was founded on the written Word of God. This is exemplified in His temptation in the wilderness. When the devil attacked the Son of God in His moment of weakness, Jesus took up various portions of Deuteronomy, which God had given to His other son, Israel, during the wilderness wandering. Jesus wielded the Word of God with precision and skill as He was attacked as the true Israel in the wilderness. In all of His disputations with the Pharisees, scribes, and chief priests, Jesus constantly appealed to the Word of God—introducing each defense with “it is written . . .” and “The Scriptures say . . .” Believers now follow the example of the Savior by hiding God’s Word in their hearts and knowing how to make use of it in times of temptation and conflict.
The shield of faith is the front guard in the defense against the forces of darkness. When Satan shot fiery darts of temptation at Christ in the wilderness—prefacing each temptation with the words “if you are the Son of God . . .”—Jesus took up this shield by trusting His Father. When He was on the cross, Satan shot fiery darts of doubt at Him through the accusations of the chief priests, “If you are the Son of God. . . .” Believers now hold up the shield of faith when Satan shoots accusations and doubts at them, trusting in the God of promise who has called them sons and daughters.
As we seek to obey the command to “take up the whole armor of God” in the warfare in which we are engaged, we must always remember that the armor we wear is the same armor Christ wore in the battle in which He was engaged. Jesus conquered the evil one for us in this armor and has so secured the victory. We now simply need to put on the armor of Christ as we fight against the wiles of the devil.
1. William Gurnall, https://www.wtsbooks.com/products/christian-in-complete-armour-paperback-set-volumes-william-gurnall-9780851515687?variant=9996039356463?utm_source=nbatzig&utm_medium=blogpartners>The Christian in Complete Armour (London: William Tegg, 1862), 26. ↩︎
*This is the second part of a three part series that was originally published at Tabletalk Magazine Online in May of 2019.