Having introduced this series as a guide to staving off those pesky demons, we continue by noting the divine reconnaissance we have from Ephesians 6:11-13.
It may be surprising to note that the first thing Paul explains in Ephesians 6 is that we are at war. It is dangerous to enter into combat without knowing the enemy, but God reveals everything that we need to know about the enemy in Scripture. The Apostle Paul begins his explanation of Spiritual warfare by giving a command to put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11, 13). Verses 11-12 give the warrant for this command. The reason we need to put on God’s armor is because we are in a war with Satan and demonic powers whether we acknowledge it or not.
The Devil is chief among the demonic powers in the universe (Eph. 6:11). He is described in Scripture as the ruler of the world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). “[T]he whole world lies in the power of the evil one,” notes the apostle John (1 John 5:19). He rules over the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13), being the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). In the beginning, he led a rebellion in heaven, taking with him one-third of the angelic beings God had created (Rev. 12:4, 7-10). At the end of the rebellion he was cast down to earth (cf. Luke 10:17-18). Like the angels who fell with him, Satan deceived the human race so that the human race would follow him in rebellion (Gen 3). Now, he runs like a roaring lion to destroy God’s people (1 Pet 5:9; cf. Job 1-2). Because of this, it is reasonable to conclude that Satan is a powerful being who garners respect and authority over the fallen angels.
Scripture also teaches that even Archangels like Michael, who battled Satan over the body of Moses, knows well enough his power (Jude 9). Satan clearly has authority over demons. Paul describes the demonic horde as rulers, authorities and cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). These powers rule over the “this present darkness” (12). The world lies in darkness, being full of evil (Eph. 5:8, 16). This is why Paul says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). One need not underestimate the powers of Satan.
For these reasons it is important to put on the armor of God. Paul reaffirms this in verse 13 after giving the warrant for this action in verses 11-12. It cannot be said enough times to our age’s lethargic and careless believers. The armor of God must be worn because we are in a war with Satan and the demonic hordes. This divine reconnaissance is an impetus for the saints to arm themselves for battle.
The divine armor
In Ephesians 6:14-16, Paul encourages the saints to stand firm while wearing God’s armor (14). The theme of “standing” firm is picked up throughout this passage (Eph. 6:11, 13, 14). Paul employs a word picture of a warrior standing in full armor ready to combat the attack of the enemy. Far from being a distant analogy, the battlefield scene is a present reality in every Christian’s life.
The armor of God is varied and is characterized by Christian virtue. Paul describes four pieces of armor in these verses, each of which is defensive in nature. First, Christians should gird themselves with the belt of truth (Eph. 6:14). In other words, believers should possess and speak the truth (cf. Eph 4:15, 24). Second, believers should put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14).1 Third, the saints need to tie tightly the shoes that make one ready to comprehend the gospel, yielding peace (Eph. 6:15).2 Fourth, Paul instructs the faithful to take up the shield which is faith (Eph. 6:16). This will douse the flaming arrows of the evil one. The shield that Paul describes was shaped like a large rectangle and was able to cover an entire body. Roman soldiers would soak the shields in water before battle to douse flaming arrows.3
We may be tempted to think it is doubtful that Christian virtue protects us from the evil one. However, it is not simply that this armor is Christian virtue, but that it is the armor of God; and God is the source of virtue. Paul self-consciously picks up the language of God as the warrior-king in Isaiah: “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak” (Isa. 59:17; cf. Isa. 11:4-5; 52:7). Given this connection and the fact that Paul previously told the Ephesians “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24), it seems appropriate to equate the armor of God with putting on the new self.
However, the text explains more than that. Christians have not only put on the new man that is becoming more like God (cf. Eph 5:1) but also wear his divine armor. Since God’s armor belongs to believers, the saints do not have to fear the schemes of Satan. We have the best protection in the universe; and when worn, Satan cannot penetrate our defenses.
The schemes of Satan and demons are manifold. They will try to weaken the saints’ defenses at every turn. Earlier Paul noted that anger amongst one another in the community of believers opens up opportunity for Satan to break through the church’s defense (Eph 4:26-27). While individual saints have God’s armor, Paul views the church as a whole as the bearer of it.4 If Satan can cause hatred, depression, discouragement and a varied range of other negative emotions, then the saints have taken off their armor—since it is characterized by Christian virtue. When this happens, Satan has an opening and de-armored saints have no defense against his schemes.
1 The breastplate is in apposition to righteousness. In other words, Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to take up righteousness. This has strong thematic links back to Ephesians 4:24: “And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Thus, Paul is echoing what he has said before. To paraphrase Paul, “Take up righteousness which is like a breastplate on a soldier. Remember that you have put off the old man and put on the new man so live the life you have positionally.” See Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 472-4.
2 This appears to be a genitive of origin. So it is the preparation given by the Gospel of peace that allows the believer to stand firm.
3 O’Brien, Ephesians, 480. For a more detailed description of the shield that Paul describes, see Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 844-6.
4 Neufeld notes that Paul exploits his ecclesiology by making the body of Christ wear the armor of Christ and fight through him. While his language may be disturbing, his point is taken. As the body of Christ, we wear divine armor as Christ fights in our stead. See Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld, ‘Put on the Armour of God’: The Divine Warrior from Isaiah to Ephesians (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 124.