MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 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. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
ARMOR OF GOD
We can see from this lesson that there are two kingdoms only, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. They are the only superpowers. There are no others. One cannot be partly in one kingdom and partly in another. That is impossible. The Bible only teaches us about believers in Christ and unbelievers. Believers belong to the Kingdom of God. Unbelievers belong to Satan.
God constantly works through the Word and His appointed servants to claim people from the Kingdom of Satan. We are conceived as unbelievers and born as unbelievers. Baptism makes a child a member of the Kingdom of God. Our heavenly Father first claims us for His Kingdom, then nurtures us in faith through the Word. Just as ministers are appointed to preach and teach the Word of God and administer the Sacraments, so are parents appointed to teach the child the Word in the home and apply it day by day.
Unfortunately, Satan also works hard to convert people. He does not tempt his own. Unbelievers do whatever they wish and find a certain amount of peace, security, and prosperity in doing so. But Satan never stops tempting believers, not in this way or that way, but in any way necessary for a particular person.
We should feel very much intimidated by the warfare that goes on because of our immortal souls. We are like the tiny countries fought over by the superpowers, significant in one way, but overwhelmed by the power on each side.
Paul’s exhortation to us is to be strong in Lord and in the power of His might. Unlike the gurus around us, he does not order us to trust in our own powers or to find resources within ourselves. Instead, the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul to put on the whole armor of God.
Children can learn the armor of God very easily, because each part represents the armor used by soldiers of that time (and ours). It is vivid and easy to picture in our minds. You can count up the six parts of the armor. As I have mentioned many times before, God’s work is done or described in groups of three (faith, hope, and love; 9 fruits of the Spirit).
The six pieces of armor are:
1. The belt of truth.
2. The breastplate of righteousness.
3. Shoes – preparation of the Gospel of peace.
4. The shield of the faith.
5. The helmet of salvation.
6. The Sword of the Spirit, the Word.
Those who know Greek will note that the these are middle verbs, emphasizing the self. Gird yourself with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness… English uses the reflexive pronoun. God chose the eloquence of Greek for a reason. Robertson and Lenski say, “There are sermons in tenses.” (Ephesians, p. 663)
1. Wear the Belt of Truth
The belt of truth stands for the truth of God’s revelation. Knowing that God’s Word is truth and trustworthy guards us against all kinds of daily assaults. If I make science and technology “truth,” then I must judge the Bible by science and technology. Doubts creep in right away, because the standard has changed, and the standard itself changes every day.
Assurance of God’s truth makes other claims funny or petty. Whenever we tour a wonder of Creation, the guide tells us, “This happened exactly 300 million years ago.” They fret over the disappearance of the dinosaurs – some but not all. An asteroid hit the earth exactly 65 million years ago, right where Iceland is. No, right off the coast of Mexico.
At the Phoenix Zoo we learned that animals take care of the environment because they know that is the only environment they have. This puzzles me, because I have never met an animal that thinks. A few of us laughed, but not enough.
No scientist can answer the question of purpose. Animals and plants clean the environment because they were created by God to do so. Their relationships with each other represents complexities within complexities. Within each animal, even the simplest, such as a lowly slug, one little thing wrong will end its little life. The slug to a Michigan gardener is terrible predator, marring the crop, leaving its slime trail, but one little nick in its skin ends his life.
So man, blinded by doubts, creates a phony explanation for what God has done in His infinite wisdom, power, and might. When we gird ourselves with the truth, the Holy Spirit reveals these things to us through the Word.
Human reason, used to prove God’s truth, is more dangerous than secular doubts. If man’s wisdom is needed to prop up the Bible, God’s Word is very weak indeed. But God urges us through Paul to gird ourselves with His truth, not with man’s truth.
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness
Once it was a metal plate over the chest to protect the heart and lungs. Now the US Army uses Kevlar for the same purpose. The breastplate of righteousness is not our righteousness that we earn or created, but the righteousness of Christ.
How does this forgiveness of sin, received from the crucifixion of Jesus, protect our vital organs? If we think forgiveness is based upon our own works or merit, then we are unprotected against Satan’s mortal attacks. He drives some to despair over their worthiness, others to incredible hardness of heart. Satan can destroy people with anxiety or arrogance.
As we sang last Sunday, “clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” TLH, #370.
3. Shoes – Preparation for the Gospel of Peace
No one needs to ask about shoes in Phoenix. There are many reasons to wear them. On a pleasant sunny day in July, the sidewalks are so burning hot that a barefooted person is tempted to jump into the grass for relief. There dozens of goats-head thorns wait to imbed themselves into bare feet.
In the spiritual battle we all face daily, the Gospel of peace gives us a sure footing. The Gospel of peace makes eager to go to battle. That peace, the peace that passes all understanding, is the peace of God from salvation.
In the Battle of the Bulge, toward the end of WWII, the American soldiers simply could not go on because of constantly wet, cold feet, leading to gangrene. Once they got the proper boots, one soldier said, “We could fight all day and not feel cold.”
How many people have been ready to stand up for the truth and said, “I got cold feet.” I went to the meeting and I got cold feet. One pastor got 10 ministers lined up to support him at a ministerial meeting on a doctrinal issue. They all got cold feet, he said.
Why do we get cold feet? Because we step out without the Gospel of peace. The Gospel belongs to God and His power, not to man. Apparent losses are often victories in retrospect. Apparent victories are often long-term losses. When Luther was in danger of burning at the stake, year after year, and locked in a castle, he seemed to be the tiniest person in the world. He was. He experienced the terrors of Hell, virtually alone with his doubts in the Wartburg Castle. But he used the time to translate the New Testament into German in a few months.
4. The Shield of the Faith
Faith can be used in different ways in Greek, just as it is in English. When James says that faith without works is dead, he means that faith without works is not faith at all, just knowledge. God creates faith, and it is a living, active faith that never stops to wonder what is God’s will but does it. The Gospel bears fruit in good works, so faith is active in love.
Faith is also used in the sense of trust in God. When the Holy Spirit proclaims, “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ,” faith is trust in the merits of Christ.
The New Testament also speaks of The Faith, as we do, all the doctrines of the Bible. The grammar of the passage helps us understand what is meant. Here Lenski argues for The Faith, and it makes sense in the context. The Faith is a shield against the weapons of Satan, his fiery darts. When we know and believe what the Word of God teaches, and we are sure from many trials, the Christian faith is a shield to protect us.
The blessings of the Christian faith become apparent to us over time, when we see that grounding our lives upon the Word of God and the forgiveness of Christ will give us blessings beyond our imagination, as God has promised.
5. The Helmet of Salvation
When the US Army improved its body armor through the laboratory at Natick, Mass, they designed a new helmet to protect the head. Football helmets became so safe and comfortable that for a time the players were using their heads as weapons, until it was called “spearing the opponent.”
God Himself puts on a helmet of salvation in Isaiah.
Isaiah 59:17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.
No one would arm himself for battle and omit one article protection. So we are urged to put on the whole armor of God, to be able to stand in battle. Salvation is the result of having our sins forgiven through Christ.
6. The Sword of the Spirit, the Word
The Word of God is compared to a sword in several places. In this passage it is the only weapon, but of course it is both an offensive and defensive weapon. The other parts of armor are passive in nature, protecting the body.
The Sword of the Spirit is wielded to smash the weapons of Satan and to kill diabolical opponents. Whenever someone uses the Word of God, he is brandishing God’s only method means for accomplishing His will.
Whenever man’s word is used, God’s will cannot be accomplished. So people build larger church buildings, thinking a building converts people. They build larger parking lots, and brag about them, although parking lots are the Means of Grace. They air-condition and increase social events. It is possible that people who join a church because of social events are there for the wrong reasons.
We also see that people win in church disputes with threats, appeals to loyalty, or citations of blue-blood (synodical in-breeding, which often produces idiots).
Luther’s crime, in the eyes of the Church of Rome, was not that he proclaimed the Gospel. Others had done that for centuries. Luther’s terrible sin, and it has not been forgiven, was that he identified false doctrine and contrasted it with the whole counsel of God.
For instance, any pagan will agree in various ways with the concept that Jesus is the Son of God. So we can have peace and unity if we all say, God is love; Jesus is the Son of God. But if we say that Jesus is the only source of salvation, that we cannot be saved by works, then no false teacher will agree. In fact, they will scream while covering their ears (Acts; stoning of Stephan) and kill us.
Stephan was stoned to death, but he proclaimed the Word of God before he died. It must have seemed to be a waste of time, especially to Saul, who held the cloaks of others while people stoned to death the first Christian martyr. The opponents of Christ seemed to win at that moment, but soon after, Saul was converted to Christ by the risen Lord Himself, and became the greatest and most productive apostle.