Why Should We Put on the Armor of God?
Paul instructs believers, “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes….so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground (lit. able to resist in the evil day)…”. (Ephesians 6:11, 13 NIV) Why are we called to put on the full armor of God? What does it mean to resist in the evil day? In order to answer that, let’s examine some of the Old Testament background to Paul’s instruction.
15 … The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak…. “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing [or, injustice]…. (Isaiah 59:15b-17; 61:8 NIV)
Why are we called to put on the full armor of God? What does it mean to resist in the evil day? In a word, to bring justice and put a stop to injustice. Paul was drawing from Isaiah when he described the armor of God. Isaiah speaks of the armor which the coming Messiah will put on (future tense in Isaiah’s day). Why will the coming Messiah put this armor on? Because the Lord was displeased that there was no justice. In Isaiah 11:4-5, the root that shall come up out of the stump of Jesse [Jesus] will bring justice for the needy by using the rod of his mouth, the breath of His lips, which will slay the wicked. This may be Paul’s source for speaking of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”. Then Isaiah declares that the Messiah shall bring justice with righteousness and truth as the belt and sash around His waste.
If one were to travel across the United States for the first time, from the sub-tropical climate and flat terrain of south Florida to one of the arid and mountainous cities of Utah or Colorado, by plane, they might miss out on understanding much about the transitions and details of how one gets from one kind of terrain to the other. Assuming they had never driven the same route, it would be unwise for them to think that just because they had traveled from Florida to Utah they understood the contours and changes which occur between Florida and Utah.
However, I think that, as believers, we are often prone to make a similar mistake when we read our New Testaments. We see the fulfillment of verses. We know that the Messiah came to bring justice, and the first thing He did was to pay the price for our sin in order that God could remain just in forgiving our sin. However, too often we reduce the justice that He came to bring, down to that one aspect of justice, and may miss a lot of the terrain in between—the contours of justice which are a part of His work.
We must not forget that Jesus had to pay for our sin because God hates sin; God hates oppression of the poor, trampling on the rights of the needy, and failing to love our neighbors as ourselves. When Jesus paid the price for our sin, He did not stop hating the effect of our sin on others, or the effect of others’ sins on one another. God hates injustice, and loves justice (Isaiah 61:8).
When Paul told the Ephesian church to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes….so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground (lit. able to resist in the evil day),” he had just finished giving instructions to slaves and masters, parents and children, and husbands and wives. These were the first theater of operation in which issues of justice and injustice occurred in that day and culture. Paul is not speaking exclusively of only these spheres, but illustratively of what the Christian life looks like. To resist in the evil day involves resisting temptation to sin against others, temptation to strike out in violence, temptation to usurp authority and cease trusting God, or temptation to live for pleasures rather than the will of God.
Why should we put on the armor of God? In order to do real spiritual warfare in the sphere of human relationships, to bring about real change as we love our neighbor, as we submit to God’s ways of faith and not man’s ways of vengeance. We must put on this armor and pray that God will work through us and in our midst to bring about justice and help for those in need.
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