Christians need to arm themselves with “the whole armour of God” for their “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Our enemies are more than flesh and blood. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The devil has set against Christians a great many demonic forces, worldly and fleshly lusts, unbelieving people, etc. All these are constantly trying to bring down Christians through Satanic devices.
This being a spiritual warfare, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” (2 Cor. 10:4a). Christians are provided with the “armour of God”, which is “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Cor. 10:4b). The Christian soldier’s armour is wholly spiritual. The spiritual armaments provided by God are best suited for defeating the device of Satan. No better armoury can a man find for spiritual victory than that which God has provided for him.
Christians must always be ready with the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:14–17) – that is an absolute necessity to fight the good fight. It is very foolish for a soldier to enter the battlefield without his armour, yet many Christians do this every day; being utterly defenceless, they become easy prey. We are recommended to put on the divine armour.
Christians are also called to stand firm in the evil day – when is “the evil day”? Though every day can be said to be an “evil day”, it is a reference to a day when the relentless forces of the devil pounce on a believer. It is the day of test! It can be today or tomorrow. Hence, having done all things in preparation for the battle, we must stand our ground. Christians must not become indolent or lazy. Neither should they become fearful. Even when they have gained victory over a certain satanic assault, they must brace themselves for the next battle. Fight for Christ to the end of your life!
The first piece of the armour of God that a Christian is presented with, is the belt of truth. Our chief adversary, the devil, is a liar and master deceiver (cf. Jn. 8:44b; Acts 13:10; 2 Cor. 11:3, 13–15; 2 Thess. 2:9–10; Rev. 20:2–3). He uses his lies as a lethal weapon against God’s people, and because of this, the Apostle Paul expressed his concern to the Corinthians about the real danger of their being beguiled by Satan (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3).
What does Paul mean by “having your loins girt about”? In the apostolic period, the Roman soldiers wore loose robes. These soldiers would not go into a battle with their tunics impeding their movements. It was dangerous to be entangled in their own robes while the enemy closed in on them for the kill. So what they did was to gather up their clothing and tuck it under their belt, as they prepared to fight the battle. This is what Paul referred to as “having your loins girt about”. This act of girding up the loins was a picture of preparedness or readiness. Thus, having one’s “loins girt about with truth” implies wearing the truth as a tight lash to gird up one’s thoughts, desires and actions. Just as a Roman soldier girds his loins to prevent his tunic from obstructing his movements, the Christian must also tuck his life under the belt of God’s truth, even His Word. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4).
God has given to Christians for their spiritual battle is “the breastplate of righteousness”. The breastplate protects the soldier’s vital organs like the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys from being pierced by the enemies’ weaponry. For the Christian soldier, the breastplate of righteousness is the vital protection against the deadly pierce of sin. A believer who lives unrepentantly in his sins will become the target of Satan’s attack. He will try to discourage and even prevent such a one from making spiritual advancements. The only defence against the devil’s deadly blow precipitated by our sinfulness, is the imputed righteousness of Christ upon the believer. When we trust Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, God justifies and sanctifies us as He imputes His righteousness upon us. Being clothed with the righteousness of Christ, believers ought to live in His righteous ways to leave no room at all for harassment from Satan.
The third piece of armour that God has given to Christians for their spiritual battle is very crucial: the shoes of the Gospel of peace.
A Roman soldier would not go to battle wearing ordinary shoes with slick or worn-out soles. If he did, he would not get a firm foothold while marching through various kinds of ground. Roman soldiers were equipped with shoes that would last for long journeys, for they would often march over vast expanses of rugged terrain. Many battles had been lost just because soldiers were not fitted with shoes that were thick and durable enough. A firm footing was necessary for the soldier to charge forward in the battle. It would help him to hold his ground and make quick moves without slipping, sliding or falling.
Herein Paul employs an unusual expression that speaks of having our feet fitted with the “preparation of the gospel of peace”. The word “preparation” signifies “a prepared base” or “a foundation”, which has already been laid. In other words, the firm foundation of the Gospel of peace enables the Christian soldier to stand firm, and not slip and fall.
“The Gospel of peace” is the Gospel of Christ that brings peace to us. The Gospel of Christ reconciles us to God and thus helps us to be at peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). What great steadfastness of soul characterises one who can say, “Christ is mine! The enmity is gone! I am forgiven.” A Christian needs to have a strong assurance, so that he will not fear though Satan may be hard on his heels in hot pursuit. He who is shod with the Gospel of peace will be able to tread firmly on his feet.
The Christian with feet well shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace will not only be able to stand his ground in the day of evil, he can even go forth to battle under Christ’s banner with a readiness to publish the Gospel of good tidings (cf. Isa. 52:7, Rom. 10:15).
The fourth piece of armour that God has given to Christians for their spiritual battle is “the shield of faith”. The type of shield mentioned here is thureon in Greek. This shield, measuring 4½ feet by 2½ feet, was made of a thick and hard wooden plank, covered with either metal or leather. The metal would deflect the enemies’ arrows, while the leather was treated with some oil to extinguish the fiery pitch on the arrows. This shield was designed for maximum protection and deployed for a specific strategy in a major battle.
Verse 16 opens with the two words, “Above all”, to convey to the readers that over and above the already mentioned armour components in the preceding verses, here is another vital piece that the Christian soldier should also bring with him to battle. It simply means that in addition to the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the gospel shoes, the believer must take up the shield of faith.
Every soldier who has already taken up these pieces of armour, as mentioned in verses 14 and 15, will have the shield of faith as an added protection. “Faith” mentioned here is the faith that we place in Christ as we come to Him, knowing that He will give us full salvation. It expresses a strong confidence in the Saviour and His promises to forgive, save and secure forever. Such faith will persevere amidst sufferings, we having been persuaded that our Lord is faithful to keep all His promises (2 Tim. 1:12).
The very same shield of faith protects us from Satan’s fiery darts. The “fiery darts of the wicked” refer to the devil’s fearsome attacks on the believer to destroy his faith. These fiery darts hurled at the believer may vary in frequency and intensity. He often sends fiery trials (1 Pet. 4:12) and fiery temptations of lust (1 Cor. 7:9). But if we stand with the shield of faith, we can overcome the enemy and emerge victorious.
The fifth piece of armour that God has given to Christians for their spiritual battle is “the helmet of salvation”. The helmet protected the head, the most vital and most often targeted part of the soldier’s body. Scarcely would a warrior rush off to battle without taking his helmet with him. Even modern troops today always have their helmets on when they report for duty, which is all the more needful when in the thick of battle.
But what is the helmet of salvation? It means being assured of one’s salvation. In order to grasp the significance of “the helmet of salvation”, one must understand the three aspects of salvation as found in the Scriptures; i.e. those who are justified will be sanctified and ultimately, glorified. When Satan harasses and confronts us with much trials, let us look forward to the day when we shall be with our Lord Jesus forever. The day is coming for believers when sin and Satan can no longer molest us. So let us never quit, no matter how malicious the devil’s threat is. We must fight on as we continue to don this helmet of salvation until the day of glorification.
The sixth piece of armour that God has given to Christians for their spiritual battle is “the sword of the Spirit”. The first five components of God’s armour that Paul has enumerated thus far have been primarily for defensive purposes. This one last piece, however, gives both defensive and offensive might to those who carry it to battle. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit because it is the Holy Spirit who handed this sword over to God’s people for their use. Because the Word of God wields the omnipotent power of the Spirit, it helps us to put our enemy, the devil, to flight. That was what happened to Satan who came to tempt the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–11). Jesus merely brandished the Spirit’s sword by saying, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). Then the devil fled and the battle ended, just like that.