Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). This phrase is usually interpreted as a word picture of Christ’s Church under attack (i.e. on the defensive, like a mighty fortress being besieged by the powers of hell, the “powers and principalities of darkness”, also identified by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12 as “the spiritual forces of evil” arrayed against Christ and his Church). However, these words of Jesus can also be interpreted as an image of his Church on the offensive, the Church Militant battering at the very “gates of hell”, which will not be able to “prevail against it. Of course, both images are true; it is not “either or” but “both and”. For in warfare, there are both defensive and offensive campaigns and there are resources, equipment, supplies, and weapons designed for use in different kinds of battles.
As identified in my previous post, there are many biblical passages that use militant metaphors to describe “the good fight of the faith” we Christians are engaged in, a mighty spiritual conflict in which we are involved as soldiers of Christ ( I Timothy 6:12, II Timothy 4:7; Jude, vs. 3). This is also the faith we sing, our faith set to music:
“Soldiers of Christ, arise and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength whichGod supplies
Through His eternal Son.”
Are you aware of the fact that when you said “Yes” to the claims of Christ, when you publicly professed your belief and trust in Him as your Savior and promised to submit to His authority as the Lord of your life, that you enlisted in His army to fight as a soldier of Christ, to join in the struggle against “…the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12)? So many Christians have absolutely no clue, no awareness, no understanding of the fact that they are called to be “soldiers of Christ” and need “…the whole armor of God” to win in this spiritual war that is going on between the forces of righteousness and the organized forces of malevolent spiritual beings (see Romans 8:38, Revelation12:7-9), the armor that God wears (Isaiah 11:5, 59:17) and supplies (Ephesians 6:11- 17). No wonder so many believers are A.W.O.L., for this truth has never been grasped. They do not even know there is a spiritual war going on in this world, and also in their own minds (i.e. their thought life) and their own hearts (i.e. their emotions, their feelings). Therefore, they are living defeated lives. They are anxious and troubled about so many things. They are burdened by the memory of past sins, living with a heavy sense of guilt and shame in the present, and are afraid of what the future holds for them. They have never really experienced victory, freedom in Christ (John 8:32; Romans 6:23; II Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1). They have never taken God’s call to battle seriously. They have not put on the “whole” armor of God, but have settled for one or two pieces of the armor God supplies. They have little or no real understanding of what those pieces of “the armor of God” represent and require. Furthermore, they do not even know what the “weapons” of this warfare are!
The purpose of this series of posts during the season of Pentecost is to interpret for your understanding and application what Paul is saying in Ephesians 6:10-17). This is absolutely necessary if we are going to be successful in battle, if we want to “…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power” (vs. 10), if we hope to “…stand against the wiles of the devil” (vs. 11). Once again, it is “…through God’s eternal Son” (the hymn we sing) that we are made “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). In fact, to “put on the whole armor of God” is another way of saying “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). It is to “…lay aside the works of darkness and to put on the armor light” (vs. 12) and “…put away your former way of life…to be renewed in the spirit of your minds…to clothe yourselves with the new self, according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24; Galatians 3:27). It means being so committed to Jesus Christ that you want to be clothed in his nature, conformed to his image, outfitted with all the provisions of God that will equip you to be an “overcomer” (Romans 12:21; I John 2:14) in all the conflicts with evil in all its forms in this world, where we are always contending for the faith entrusted to us (Jude 1:3). These biblical admonitions tell us plainly that to “put on the whole armor of God” is volitional (i.e. an act of the will) — this is something we choose to do because we want to live our lives in a manner that will be pleasing to God, in a way that honors our Lord Jesus Christ.
In his Letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul uses two very small but very strong Greek verbs,“seek” and “set”, and the tense of both of these words implies continuous action. Furthermore, both require specific choices, decision-making, a particular mindset — a disciplined mind: “…seek the things that are above”, and “set your mind on those things that are above” (i.e heavenly things, the things of the Spirit, “not on the things that are earthly” (i.e. “of the earth”, worldly things). The great apostle also returns to the same metaphor he has used before, the image of changing clothes: He says “…clothe yourselves” (Colossians 3:1-2, and 12), listing all those qualities or attributes believers are to “put on”, using the same expression he uses in Ephesians 6 when he admonishes all followers of Jesus to “put on” everything needed as a soldiers of Christ, “…the whole armor of God”, listing the various pieces of the “armor of God” we are to “clothe ourselves with”, and the weapons we are going to need when fighting against all the forces of evil seeking to divide, destroy, and devour “God’s own people”, all the earthly forces of this world that “wage war against the soul” (I Peter 2:9-11). The Apostle Peter uses the same kind of militant language and references to disciplined discipleship that Paul uses in his letters to the young churches, such as “keep alert”, “resist the devil”, and be “steadfast in your faith.” (read I Peter 5:8-9).
Suffice it to say, the Church Mortal is called to become the Church Militant! We are the Church, for the Church is not a denomination, the Church is not a building, the Church is not a man-made institution. It is the people of God, the people God has chosen in Christ and called to be the Body of Christ, with each member of the Body empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit with gifts to be used for the building up of Christ’s Church, for ministry in the world, and also provided with all the heavenly resources needed to be victorious in the conflicts of life.
The first piece of equipment Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 is “the belt of truth around your waist” (vs. 11). We need to understand that Paul had in mind the image of the soldiers of his day, who wore a belt that was supplied to be the central item in his armor. For without his belt holding everything else tightly and secure together, any soldier would find his freedom of movement severely restricted. Therefore, his ability to respond effectively to any attacks would be greatly inhibited, with the other pieces of his armor awkwardly shifting on his body. The belt was the unifying item in a soldier’s equipment in Paul’s day, keeping all of the other pieces together and secure.
Therefore, when Paul adopted this piece of the soldier’s equipment to use in speaking of the “equipping of the saints” (Ephesians 4:12) for their work of ministry, for their enlistment in Christ’s “service” in the battles between good and evil, between truth and falsehood, between God’s enemies in both the visible and invisible worlds, he refers to the “belt of truth.” He has already told us that the adversaries of Christ are not only evil human beings (vs. 11), but the evil spiritual powers of the unseen world that so often hold sway over the minds and affairs of humans in this material world. So often those in positions of power and influence are unable to distinguish between truth and lies, good and evil, even calling evil good and good evil.
So Paul identifies the belt in the Christians armor as the “belt of truth.” I have already explained from scripture that to “put on the armor of God” is really to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14), so let me pause here to say that “the belt of truth” is nothing less than the Lord Jesus Christ himself, for he is the unifying factor in our lives, the One who “holds everything together” (Colossians 1:17) for all believers for all time. But he must be given the central place in our lives! Jesus said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). In him the truth was both visible and audible. In him witnesses saw the truth and heard the truth. The truth was all Jesus could proclaim. He could not lie, for he was the truth incarnated, the Word of God “…made flesh, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In him and through him the truth about God is manifested, revealed to the world, for in him “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” in the form of One who was both fully God and fully man (Colossians 1:11-20).
So, the truth is not just found in a book (i.e. in print); it is found in a person! In him and through him we learn the truth about God, God’s nature, God’s character, the attributes of God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus and listen to Jesus! Because of the truth revealed in and through him we know that God is good, God is gracious, God is merciful, God is righteous, God is holy, God is just, God is forgiving, for God is love!
Furthermore, as Christians we can also affirm with absolute certainty that God cares about us, God wants to have an intimate relationship with us. God “…so loved the world” (a world of sinful human beings) that he sent his “only begotten Son” into the world (John 3:16; I John 4:9-10) to suffer death upon the cross that we might be “saved” — saved from the power and penalty of sin and saved for a personal relationship with our Creator, and for “everlasting life” in the kingdom of God.
That is by no means the “whole truth.” There is so much more that could be said, including the fact that in and through Jesus we learn the truth about the absolute sovereignty and unlimited power of God, and God’s purpose for us as his adopted children, and for the whole of creation — the truth about ultimate reality. Through Jesus, God “… has made known to us the mystery of his will… his plan set forth in Christ… a plan for the fullness of time… his plan to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph.1: 3-13; Romans 8:18-25) — the truth about our destiny, the “inheritance laid up for us in heaven”, an inheritance that is “imperishable”, and “being kept for us, who are being protected by the power of God” (I Peter 1:3-5).
The great truth about God’s omnipotence and victory has been made known to us in Christ. God’s power is so much greater than the power of Satan, who is a formidable enemy with great power, but he is not omnipotent. His power is limited, and he is a defeated foe, for on the cross “God disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public spectacle of them by triumphing over them in Christ” (Colossians 2:15).
These are only some of the great truths revealed to us in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, truths that provide a belt of confidence, safety, and security for us, and will make all the children of God ultimately invincible. Therefore, Christians, put your armor on! “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with the belt of truth.”