Friday, November 14, 2008

the armour of God: standing firm in the day of Satan's fury

I recently listened - for the second time, it was so good! - to Don Carson's The Christian in Complete Armour, a talk on Ephesians 6:10-20.

We hear a lot about "spiritual warfare" these days, much of it unhelpful, so we sometimes avoid thinking about the subject at all. Which is a great pity, for it's always been an important evangelical (and Bible) theme: you only have to read the Puritans to see that. I've been thinking of writing a seminar on spiritual warfare, so I thought I'd see what "the Don" has to say.

Here's what I learned:

1. God is a warrior

The Old Testament often pictures God as a warrior (Isa. 32:14; Hab. 3; Ps. 35), and his servants as his troops in need of his strength (Ps. 18, 28, 39).

I've never thought of God as a warrior. How did I miss this important Bible theme? God is the warrior who defeated the enemies of Israel, who overcame Satan through Jesus' death, and who will one day bring all earthly and heavenly powers under his Son.

2. Know your enemy, for the war you are in is vast and subtle

The battles we fight often seem trivial: a hurtful comment from someone at church, an argumentative child, a besetting sin. But behind them lies a greater Enemy, who loves to sew division, bitterness, and division.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12)
Jesus has already won the victory over Satan through his death (Lk. 10:18; Eph. 1:18-23, 3:10-11), but we wait for his victory to be complete (1 Cor. 15:25). The ugliest fighting in any war happens between D-day and V-day, after it's clear who's going to win. Satan has beeen cast out of heaven, yet this is the time of his fury, when the fiercest battles are fought (Rev. 12:12). Our job is to stand our ground until the final blow is struck.

3. Know your equipment, for the weapons you use are astonishing and effective

Here's something I didn't know: almost every bit of the armour in Ephesians 6 is worn by Messiah-King in the Old Testament (Isa. 11:4b-5; 59:17; 52:7). You'll understand the armour better if you're familiar with its Old Testament background, and the armour worn by Roman soldiers when Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians.

  • The belt of truth (Isa. 11:5)
    The belt held up the lower garments of the Roman soldier, so they were ready to run and fight. "Truth" here means "faithfulness". Without a faithful, true and reliable character, our ministry will be undermined: you only have to look at some of the tele-evangelists to see that.

  • The breastplate of righteousness (Isa. 11:5)
    The breastplate protects the vital organs. We will die on the battlefield if we don't live lives of righteousness. Like Joseph, we should say of every sin, "How can I do this great evil?" (Gen. 39:9). This attitude will protect us against all kinds of temptations.

  • Feet fitted with the gospel of peace
    We're like the messenger who ran across the mountains, bringing news of God's victory and peace to Jerusalem (Isa. 52:7-10), but we carry a far greater message of peace. We overcome Satan by "the word of our testimony" (Rev. 12:11). Are we ready to answer questions about our faith? Don says, "If you've got through a whole year and never once explained the gospel - God help you!" Ouch.

  • The shield of faith
    This was a full-body wooden shield, covered in thick hide soaked in water, so that the shield wouldn't catch fire when arrows with lighted pitch-bags were shot at it. Satan is overcome by the "blood of the lamb" (Rev. 12:11). When Satan accuses us, we must be ready to appeal, not to the greatness of our faith, but to its object, Jesus. And we must come to know God so well, that we are prepared to trust him in the day of suffering.

  • The helmet of salvation
    The salvation Jesus won on the cross is the source and foundation of our protection against Satan.

  • The sword of the Spirit
    Our only offensive weapon is the Bible, made effective by the Spirit. Which is why I'm never going to stop encouraging you to read, memorise and meditate on the Bible!
images are from stock.xchng and flickr


Jess Green said...

Happy Birthday, Jean! Em told me it's a big one. I hope you have a nice day and feel appreciated.
I've been thinking about birthdays recently. I love birthdays. But I think mostly my thoughts are very selfish on my own birthday. They can be a good opportunity to be reminded to voice your appreciation of someone. But I don't think I've got it right.
Do you think you could write a post on godliness in birthdays?
Love Jess

mattnbec said...

Happy Birthday, Jean! I think you've been outed!

One of the lecturers at college preached on this passage as we began college as first years. It was such a good passage for us to hear. We shouldn't be surprised if as we're being better equipped to serve, Satan attempts to undermine that, often via those close to us. Our fight is not with our spouse or whoever but a spiritual one.

I also remember him really emphasising the 'stand firm' parts. There is often an emphasis on the 'fight' part and less on the 'defend' part. As you note, only the sword of the Spirit is offensive. The words 'stand firm' are repeated so often in the passage. It really helped me to see how fight is not so much a battle as a struggle to just keep standing firm because the battle is really won.

Jean said...

Thanks, Bec, that was a very helpful reminder of the main emphasis of our battle - you're absolutely right - Jesus has overcome; we stand firm in his victory. Thanks for reminding me of this.

Jean said...

p.s. yes, I turned 40 on Friday - I would have written something about it if I wasn't so overwhelmed by everything at the moment! I was planning to out myself today i.e. Sunday, when my (very small family) party is.