Clothed in Christ (Ephesians 6:10-20)
Paul, in his letter to Christians in Ephesus – probably a circular letter to churches in Asia Minor, modern Turkey – is a helpful overview of Paul's thinking. It covers many major themes before coming to the familiar text about the armour of God.
Paul begins by reminding faithful Christians that we are “blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Verses one to fourteen of chapter one are one sentence in Greek and form a doxology, an expression of praise to God for his many and generous blessings, first through the Father (v 3) then through the Son (vv 4-13a) and finally through the Spirit (vv13b-15)
The Christian, we are told, is chosen (4,11), predestined (5,11), redeemed and forgiven (7), made wise in God's purposes (vv8-9), included in Christ and sealed to him (13), and has the Spirit as a guarantee of future inheritance in Christ (13,14)
Paul's prayer is that we understand, “the hope to which he has called you, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” He is anxious to impress upon us the eternal significance of his message for us (1:15-23 cf 3:14-21) a message of:
- Spiritual resurrection 2:1-10
- Cultural and religious reconciliation 2:11-22
- Entry into God's eternal truth 3:1-13
- A place with Christ in heavenly places 2:4-10
He encourages us in how we are to live in light of these great truths:
- In the church in unity and maturity 4:1-16
- In the world in love and as light 4:17-5:21
- In the home in love, kindness and mutual submission 5:22-6:9
We have every reason, then, to “be strong in the Lord” as Paul writes in 6:10, because our strength is in God's “mighty power” and the armour he now writes about is, “the armour of God.” It is only so armed that “you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.” Indeed, it is because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against...the spiritual forces of the evil one...” that we must put on the armour of God's providing.
The belt of truth indicates that we are settled and firm in our conviction and character, not force, is is what wins the battle. Jesus said “I am truth” (John 14:6) When we understand the truth of Christ there is no lie that can bind us.
The breastplate of righteousness reminds us we are not righteous in ourselves but because we are in Christ we are justified, God pronounces us righteous and treats us as such. There is no condemnation in Christ (Ro.8:1); this breastplate protects us against all the accusations of Satan
The shoes of the gospel represent a readiness to tell the good news of Jesus and equip us to stand firm in the gospel. Our feet are protected by the gospel of peace (Ro.5:1)
The shield of faith is utilised by trusting on God's promises that protect us from our enemy. The shield of faith is the only movable part of the armour and can cover any area to protect us from the fiery darts the enemy sends. Faith in the finished and complete work of Christ (Ro.10:9).
The helmet of salvation is vital because our minds need to be renewed from the way of the world to the way of Christ (Ro.12:2). The helmet guards our minds, reminding us of God's promises for our future.
The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God by which we can destroy every false argument. But this is not a blunt instrument to hit people over the head with. The Spirit makes real the word of Christ in us and we share from that reality, bringing a life changing word to others (John 16:13).
This is not literal armour, each piece is an aspect of the completed work of Jesus Christ; to know the armour we are to know Him. We do not seek the armour but we seek the Christ and realise what is ours because of the complete work of Christ. This is the fully equipped Christian standing firm in the armour of God, clothed in Christ.