The Armour of God

If you are like me, you are a night person and you struggle to wake up in the morning. It takes a bowl of muesli and a cup of tea before I feel even remotely human. The last thing I can think about is what I am about to wear. It is just as well I can switch on the ‘auto-pilot’, otherwise even the muesli and tea would not be forthcoming.  

Possibly to make it easier for people on ‘auto-pilot’, the Bible makes certain recommendations regarding what we should wear. Obviously these are metaphorical images of mental and spiritual processes Paul suggests we should go through before we face a day of temptation:


“Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the full armour of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. 

Therefore take up the full armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with the truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness;  And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition, pray always in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  
(Ephesians 6:10-18)


Yes, we are in a battle against forces in the spiritual realm.  It is important to understand that these forces have already been defeated, but not in the worldly sense. When Jesus died on the cross, He overcame the powers of darkness, He conquered death, He reversed the effects of the curse of sin and death. 

If this complete and triumphant victory had been achieved in a war between countries on earth, the conquered nation would now submit to a new rule. But in the spiritual realm, the victory applies only in so far as we appropriate it. Satan still has power over those who have not given their lives to Jesus.  And he still has power over those areas of our lives we as Christians have not surrendered to Jesus. It explains why Christians still sin.  It explains why Christians still struggle daily against addictions of all sorts. And it explains why we all are still so vulnerable to temptation.

Ephesians likens the daily struggle to fighting off ‘flaming missiles of the evil one’ and ‘schemes of the devil.’  The ‘flaming missiles’ often are accusations to make us feel guilty. The ‘schemes’ usually come in the form of subtle distortions of Truth, making us doubt the Word of God, as well as temptations in areas of weakness.  Right from the start, Satan made Adam and Eve doubt God’s word: “Has God really said …?” (Genesis 3:1-5)  He is still using this strategy, knowing how successful it has been throughout the ages.  And knowing our human weaknesses, he throws ‘flaming missiles’ at us, because he knows guilt feelings take us out of that place of faith, assurance and safety. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6), so guilt draws us further away from Him, ashamed to come into His presence (Genesis 3:8), thereby making us even more vulnerable to his accusations.  Be not mistaken, Satan accuses us day and night(Revelation 12:10), slandering our name in God’s presence.


Romans 8:1-2 reassures us: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

And herein lies the answer most of us are looking for, yet struggling to come to grips with: - God knows we are sinners! His primary objective is not for us to become sinless, but transparent. He hates hypocrisy.  He wants us to abandon all pretences and enter a relationship of total, unashamed honesty with Him, especially regarding our weaknesses and shortcomings.  He wants us to accept without reservation that He, personally, paid the penalty for our sin, and to enter a mindset of total trust and faith in His forgiveness.

In order for us to achieve a better understanding of these spiritual principles, Paul compared the effective way to resist the devil to putting on armour, each metaphorical piece representing a particular attitude or mindset, allowing us to ‘stand firm’.


In Romans 13:12, Paul calls Satan’s efforts ‘works of darkness’, and likens our battle to putting on ‘armour of light’.  James, in his letter to all the displaced Jews, confirms that if we resist the devil, he will flee. (James 4:7)

Remember that these pieces of armour are analogies, and always you must be careful how far you go, drawing out the symbolism of any analogy.  It would be very easy to stretch the metaphor too far and come up with another (incorrect) doctrine.

Girding our loins
Having recently joined a gym, I am aware how large a part is played by the mid-section to help us stand erect.  A personal trainer explained about outer and inner stomach muscles. I said I didn’t think I had any stomach muscles at all, because no matter what exercise I tried, I couldn’t feel them. (I’ve never had a six-pack and it is unlikely I ever will. She said, if I had none, I wouldn’t be able to stand upright!)  A Pilates class showed how neglected my stomach muscles really were.  Recently, I bent over and did something to my back. The pain was not excruciating, but I was constantly aware there was something wrong, and I had to be careful all the time not to aggravate the injury. Real back pain, I am led to understand, is absolutely crippling and may call for the wearing of a special girdle to alleviate the pain.

Paul talks about girding our groin with Truth.  It is like putting on a belt, a wide belt, to support our weak mid-section and help us stand upright. I believe this is where the analogy is pointing. Girding our loins with Truth refers to adopting uprightness (honesty, sincerity, honour and integrity) into all areas of our life.   

The Breastplate of righteousness
The breastplate of righteousness protects the chest, and consequently the heart. The righteousness we put on is that of Jesus.  Our own ‘righteousness’ is mere hypocrisy. Romans 4 explains how righteousness is imputed to us through faithand how it covers our sin. It is the blood shed by Jesus that covers our sin. So I believe the image of a breastplate is showing us how to remain faithful to Jesus and not give our heart to other things.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the breastplate is related to faith and love.  We put on the breastplate when we give our heart to Jesus. If we give only part of our heart, only that part is covered, and God can tell when He examines our heart.  Do we love Jesus with everything we’ve got?  Have we surrendered every area of weakness to His control? Is He 
our first love, or are there still other gods before Him in our heart?

It is all about believing in Jesus, not in the intellectual sense, but as someone wedesire to be with.  We are dealing with the heart, the part of man God searches, the seat of our desires, the part that determines what is most important to us.  Faith starts in our mind, planting a head knowledge of the Truth. But true commitment comes from the heart, where the facts as we know them often have little bearing on the case.

Shodding our feet
We are entering an age where wars will be fought by computers, over the internet, and using robotic infantry and remote-control aircraft.  Human casualties will be collateral damage incurred by increasingly more powerful bombs, set off by software responses prompted by information technology. The age of man-to-man combat is only just now on the way out.  However, in Biblical times, foot soldiers had to be very careful where they trod.  The tracks were likely to be booby-trapped with sharp sticks and other devices. It was very important to wear foot protection. Even today, buried land mines remain a great worry to innocent civilians in many countries, long after the conflict is over.

Paul recommends protecting our feet with the Gospel of peace. Jesus told us, blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" 
(Romans 10:15, quoting Isaiah 52:7)


God desires peace, particularly peace between Him and mankind. He delivered the Gospel to tell us how He has made it possible for that peace to become a reality.  It is on His terms, not ours.  But that is why He is God and we mere mortals.

He made us His mailmen.  It is a wonderful message we are privileged to deliver. The Gospel protects our feet, it allows us to keep going, it enables us to fulfill the great commission.  It gives us a reason for living, for reaching out to others, for continuing the ‘battle’ to bring peace.  Without the Gospel, the true Gospel as brought to us by Jesus Himself, we could tell people about God, but there would be no way to bring them hope.

The Shield of faith
The difference between the breastplate and the shield is that the shield can be directed.  It is more versatile in the sense that it can be more specifically applied. For instance, let’s take a case of a Christian dying of cancer.  The church may call all the congregation to prayer, to seek God’s will.  If healing is His will, they may pray for the ‘gift of faith’.  If it is His will, Satan will still fire his darts and missiles and accusations, trying to undermine and subvert God’s intentions. He will try to sow doubt, and make us believe we don’t deserve a healing, arouse feelings of guilt over the way we handled the lead-up to the situation.  Alternatively, Satan will tell us it has to be God’s will that the person be healed, so we will presume to know God’s will and try to over-ride it, loudly claiming healing in Jesus’ name. Usually it is Satan’s goal, not to stop the healing, but to prevent us from entering the realm of faith.  He is threatened far more by our trust in Jesus, than he is by the occasional miraculous healing. 

True faith will shield us from those assaults. True faith is about quietly submitting to His will, allowing Him to reveal His purpose to us. Then we enter into a whole new realm of wondrous modus operandi:


“Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)

Faith allows us to walk in confidence, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God is in charge.  Even if things totally fall apart, or work out in a way not expected, (e.g. the Christian with cancer dies), nothing will shake the faith authored by God Himself. Conflict only arises when we are unwilling to accept His will.

The Helmet of salvation
The helmet protects the head.  It may be useful here to read my essay entitled “The Mind of Christ”.  Head knowledge and heart knowledge are two different things.  Accordingly, they need to be protected in different ways. Head knowledge is based on understanding. Heart knowledge is based on feelings.  Usually Satan starts off attacking our thoughts, and this is why it is so important to adopt the mind of Jesus in all our reasoning. The devil is very good at subversive debate. He can plant a thought that sows doubt, without actually making a declaration: “Has God really said….?” 

To protect our mind, it is important to have a personal, revealed, knowledge of the Truth. Jesus promised that He would teach us the Truth. He told us He is the Truth. The Holy Spirit is our means of learning the Truth.  All we have to do is seek Him for answers.  If we get into the habit of taking our Bible reading to the Lord in prayer, (nothing formal, just read His word and chat to Him as you read), He is certain to show you what it means. It is the sure, God-designed and sanctioned way to stop us from being hood-winked by false doctrine and conned by smooth talkers.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 refers to a helmet as the hope of salvation. I believe hope is a product of both the heart and the mind.  It starts off as head knowledge – you give your life to Jesus and the Bible tells us that you’ve now been saved. It is a wonderful promise. It is a reassuring knowledge.  It is a life-sustaining hope. Then, as you grow in Him and experience the spiritual, you may even forget where it says you’ve been saved, but its assurance becomes an integral part of your heart. Primarily, hope is intricately interwoven with that enigmatic thing called ‘faith’ – the substance of things hoped for.

The Sword of the Spirit
Paul makes it clear right there that the sword is the word of God.  Often Satan will adopt a strategy of telling straight out lies. He will tell you things that openly contradict scripture.  Jesus made him go away, simply by quoting God’s word to him. “It is written ….,” Jesus would tell him in the desert. There are other biblical images linking the Word of God and the Sword of the Spirit. In the OT, the tongueis often likened to a sword which can do untold damage. In Revelation 1:16, Jesus speaks to John in a vision. Out of His mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword. Seven churches are like lamp-stands all around Him, and He speaks out injudgment of these seven churches (Revelation 2-3). There is little doubt that the sword will be used in the final judgment.


“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” 
Hebrews 4:12)


The Word of God is immutable.  He cannot lie (Titus 1:2).  Just by speaking, He brought the Universe into existence. (Quoting T.D. Jakes), if God were to say, “black is white”, from then on it would be so! Jesus Himself is identified as the Word of God in John 1:1.
In the battle against principalities and powers, forces in the spiritual realm, only the Name of Jesus can be a more powerful a weapon than quoting the Word of God. For us to use it, requires in depth knowledge of the Bible.  If you have trouble remembering scripture, (I generally remember the quote, but forget where to find it), try thinking of the Bible as love-letters from God. The more your relationship grows in intimacy, honesty and love, the more readily He can bring appropriate scriptures to your remembrance.

Everything is brought together by prayer, in this case specifically ‘prayer in the Spirit’. Among Pentecostal believers this is often considered to mean prayer in tongues. I am not convinced.  I believe prayer in the Spirit here is probably referring more to where you are as you pray, especially seeing Paul is encouraging prayer for very specific things, like boldness to share the Gospel and eloquence in explaining the mystery of it.  Prayer in tongues bypasses understanding. 

The Ephesians could have made mention in their prayers of Paul and his needs, just reading out a list of requests for God’s attention. But our prayers are more likely to be effective if we are immersed in the Holy Spirit as we pray.  It is not that God isn’t listening when you read out your list, but, when you are immersed in the Spirit, you will be more likely to pray according to His will. 

Constantly be in contact with the Spirit, Paul pleads (“pray at all times” v.18).  He recognized the importance of holding up each other in prayer.  We don’t tend to pray for those we don’t love, or causes we don’t support.  So prayer is evidence that we care about those we pray for and the motives we live for.


In our daily Christian walk we must expect to be attacked by Satan.  If he saw fit to try his luck on Jesus, how could we possibly be immune? Knowing your enemy is an accepted war strategy, and we certainly have lots of Biblical examples of how Satan operates.  Usually it is through subtle whispering, sowing doubt.  Often it is taking advantage of our lack of knowledge, or tempting us with things he knows we haven’t surrendered to Jesus yet. Less frequently, he strikes us with disaster or illness or misfortune.

There are many ways to fight off the devil.  We have to protect our heart, our mind and our feet in different ways and finally, when he resorts to straight out lies, we have to cut him down with scripture.  Our most powerful defence is unqualified surrender to Jesus in all areas of our life. It gives us impenetrable shielding, but for most of us that involves a journey and much time. Resisting Satan in the name of Jesus works absolute miracles to achieve God’s will.  Putting on the full armour of God is a mental and spiritual process to help us fight the good fight.


Let us never be reluctant to learn new ways, and if the Bible recommends a strategy to get us through, let’s take full advantage of it. Put on the full armour of God, to ward off the flaming missiles of the devil. Be filled with confidence and faith, knowing God is on your side and you cannot lose!  

However, the metaphors of armour are revealed, primarily, to enhance our understanding of scriptural principles:


  • To maintain our honesty and integrity (loins), we must assimilate God’s Truth as part of our being.
  • To remain faithful to Jesus (heart), we must put on His righteousness by growing in intimacy with Him.
  • To keep going in our Christian walk (feet), we must continue to bring the Gospel message to the world.
  • To shield our stand in specific spiritual battles, we need the gift of faith authored by God Himself.
  • To remain totally secure in the knowledge (helmet) of our salvation, we need revelation of God’s Word (the Bible) and place our hope in His promises.
  • To rebuke Satan’s lies, we need to know God’s Word (sword) in depth.
  • To appropriate victory in our lives, we constantly need to be conscious of His presence (prayer).

In many ways, the battle is what makes us strong and turns us into the kind of people God wants in His camp!

Satan, bring it on!!