In all the years I’ve been around the church, I’ve heard many sermons and been part of many Bible studies talking about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. We learned of truth-girded loins, the breastplate of righteousness, the footwear of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. We had plastic child-size armor to teach the principles in children’s church. We talked of being warriors, headed out to conquer the enemy, out to defeat the crafty wiles of the enemy.
Last week, I read a similar passage featuring breastplates and helmets:
First Thessalonians 5:8 says,
“Since we belong to the day, let us be sober,
putting on faith and love as a breastplate,
and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
This passage isn’t really talking about heading out into battle like Ephesians 5 is. There is no offensive armor, no mention of battling our Satanic enemy. There is a description of the end that will come, but an assurance that those who have a relationship with Jesus need not fear.
Because of Jesus, we have what we need even as the end (of the world, but also of our earthly lives) comes.
We have a breastplate, a garment that protects our hearts. It’s a garment woven of two threads: faith and love. We believe that Jesus is who he says he is and that he is the one who saves. We have faith he will carry us through. And we have his love, a love that guides, a love that holds us tight, a love that invades our hearts and spreads to our world. We don’t need to allow fear or hatred or anxiety or despair to damage our hearts. We are protected by the faith and love we’ve been gifted by our loving heavenly Father.
We also have a helmet, a firm covering to protect our head. We have a great salvation through our Savior, Jesus Christ. That salvation is our hope, our hope for a future enveloped in the love of God, lived in his presence. But it is a hope for the present, as well. It protects us from falling prey to foolish ideas, to the lies of the outrage machine that says we are under imminent threat. Our future is secure.
And so we have faith, hope and love protecting our heads and hearts. Think of it like protective gear for football. It’s our protection while we play the game of life, and the outcome of the game is settled already. Our future is secure Paul says because “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (v 10). No matter what happens in the days ahead, God is with us and we will be with him.
We can give up the fear that says we need to fight earthly enemies. The Ephesians 6 passage tells us we are not armoring up to fight battles with fellow humans, with people we disagree with or think are vile sinners. No, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this [Satan’s unearthly] dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We “put on the full armor of God, so that [we] can take [our] stand against the devil’s schemes.” It’s Satan’s schemes—his desires to devour us (I Peter 5:8)—by destroying our hearts and minds, that we stand against
How does Satan seek to destroy us?
- He uses the tool of temptation—temptations like those he used on Jesus, the desire for “more.” He offered Jesus (and offers us) more power, more stuff for our pleasure (greed), more prestige (satisfying our pride).
- He also works to quench the Spirit of God within us who wants to produce his fruit in our lives—”love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Satan’s goal is that we instead produce his natural fruit—”sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19–20). It’s easy for us to focus on the things in those verses that we don’t do but “those” other people do, like sexual immorality, witchcraft and orgies. But we should take note of the Satanic fruit too often present in our own lives, things like hatred, discord, selfish ambition, dissensions, envy, and idolatry. There are so many things we Christians choose to idolize, things we make more important than the faith, hope and love of Jesus.
- The devil wants to trap us in unforgiveness, says Paul in I Corinthians 2:10–11.
- He encourages us to lie in order to get what we want or to win a religious argument because he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44, see context in 31–47 ).
- He leads us to ignore God’s greatest commandment—to love God and love our neighbor (I John 3:10).
The good news is, he doesn’t have to win. We are protected with our helmet and our breastplate of faith, hope and love. Paul says we have a secure future, no matter what comes, and so we can “therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11). We can be each other’s cheerleaders for a life lived in Christ.