The Armor of God: What It Is and How to Use It

Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” This verse is followed by descriptions of various pieces of armor that God has given the Christian.

But what is this armor, and how do we make us of it?

Some may even wonder at the relevance of the metaphor. Why would the average Christian need armor?

Throughout Scripture, we see that Christians are engaged in a spiritual battle. We are often warned against underestimating our enemy, Satan (1 Peter 5:8).

Even worse than underestimating our enemy would be not even realizing that there is a war going on.

But even worse than underestimating our enemy would be not even realizing that there is a war going on.

Think of it like this:

D-Day

It’s June 1944. After a 24-hour weather delay, the largest military operation in the history of warfare was about to begin.

Preceded by an aerial bombardment of coastal defenses and 13 thousand paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines, five thousand ships and 156 thousand soldiers are about to storm the beaches of Normandy, France.

D-Day has arrived.

Just before the invasion of Normandy, General Eisenhower issued a now-famous letter to the “Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.”

In it he let them know that they were “about to embark upon the great crusade” to “bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

In instilling confidence in the invasion force, General Eisenhower did not in any way suggest that the task would be easy or that the enemy would be defeated quickly .

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.”

Instead, Eisenhower wrote these words: “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.”

The General wanted his troops to understand the grim reality of the battle that awaited them. Failure to do so would only lead to greater causalities.

Imagine the carnage if the soldiers got off the landing craft at Omaha beach and didn’t realize that they were going to be shot at.

But that is how it often is regarding our spiritual enemy, Satan. Christians do not give much thought to the reality of our spiritual enemy, and neglect taking up the whole armor of God.

Some feel uncertain about statements about spiritual warfare and Satan. Modern eyebrows rise at the thought the devil at work in our world, but this is only because we have in mind a caricature of Satan.

We’re not getting our information from Scripture.

The Bible speaks of the devil more than 100 times. Not once is he a short, red, goat-man with a pitchfork. Not once does he enter into fiddling contests down in Georgia.

CS Lewis said it well:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Scripture makes it clear that Satan is real and is always working against God and His kingdom. Tweet That

Scripture makes it clear that Satan is very real and that he is always working against God and His kingdom.

Jesus refers to Satan as the “ruler of this world.” In 2 Corinthians 4, he is called the “god of this world” who blinds the minds of unbelievers and keeps them from seeing the light of the gospel. 1 John 5:19 tells us that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Scripture tells us He lays snares for believers and attempts to lead them astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

There is a real spiritual war being waged against God, and every believer finds themselves in this spiritual battle.

When we understand that we are in a battle, our first thought is “How can I keep from becoming a casualty on the spiritual battlefield?”

This is where Paul’s illustration in Ephesians 6 comes in. He uses the Roman soldiers’ armor to describe what he calls “the whole armor of God.”

The Armor of God

In Ephesians, the apostle Paul is writing to the church from prison. Up to this point, he has been discussing the truth of the gospel and explaining how believers are to live in light of that truth.

Being a prisoner of the Roman Empire, Paul would have had close interactions with Roman soldiers. It is in the soldier’s armor that the apostle finds a fitting metaphor for how God has equipped us with protection from a powerful spiritual enemy.

In Ephesians 6:13-18 we see that we are in a spiritual war, and that we have been given both armor and weapons for the day of battle:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

So yes, Christian. Satan is real and he is active. But why do we still need armor if Satan was defeated on the cross?

Just as an army that has been dealt a decisive blow can still inflict casualties on individual soldiers, Christians can become casualties on the spiritual battlefield.

It is true that Christ defeated Satan. But just as an army that has been dealt a decisive blow can still inflict casualties on individual soldiers, Christians can become casualties on the spiritual battlefield.

Though we can never lose our salvation—nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord—we can nevertheless be gravely wounded in our spiritual life.

That’s why verse 13 tells us to “take up the whole armor of God.” Each of us—every Christian—is told to “take up” his or her armor.

There are no Christian mercenaries to fight on our behalf. Each of us must take up the armor of God.
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But know this: There are no Christian mercenaries to fight on our behalf. Each of us must take up the armor of God.

This is not a task reserved for the super-spiritual among us. All who bear the name of Christ are to be soldiers in His cause, and we require armor to be protected from the battle that wages around us.

Examining the Armor of God

We are to take up the whole armor of God — a phrase meant to suggest that it provides complete protection from every angle of attack. It is after having put on all the armor that a believer is equipped to stand firm.

There is much that can be said about this armor, and you can find a great deal of resources on this passage. For our purpose, we will focus on the more principle aspects of how the Christian is protected from the schemes of the devil.

The Belt of Truth (Eph 6:14a)

Belt of Truth — Armor of God

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…  |  Image Credit

A soldier’s belt wasn’t a final accessory to hold their pants up. It was an important piece of the armor, which other pieces fastened onto and which also held his sword.

Just as the belt was the foundational element of the Roman soldier’s armor, truth is at the center of the armor of God.

Christians must hold to what is true because the truth gives us a firm foundation on which to stand for Jesus Christ.

Christians must hold to what is true because the truth gives us a firm foundation on which to stand for Jesus Christ.

What is truth? Scripture is. When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17 he said, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.”

God’s Word is inerrant and unchanging, and so we continue to uphold the truth of Scripture regardless of how the culture changes.

Scripture should have an effect on the way we live, raise our kids, do business, vote, and engage our communities. We are trying to rescue those who have been ensnared by false teaching, theological or otherwise.

We must be loving yet uncompromising when it comes to truth. To do anything less would be to chip away at our own foundation, the result of which could only be our downfall.

The Breastplate of Righteousness (Eph 6:14b)

Breastplate of Righteousness - Armor of God

…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…  |  Image Credit

Faithfully living out the truth is part of what it means to put on the “breastplate of righteousness.”

To be a Christian and walk in a way unworthy of the calling to which we have been called is to march into battle with a chink in your armor.

We are to live righteously. To be a Christian and walk in a way unworthy of the calling to which we have been called is to march into battle with a chink in your armor.

But there is another sense in which the Christian puts on this piece of armor. Philippians 3:9 say our righteousness “is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”

When we are made righteous through faith in Christ, we are forever made right with God. So many of Satan’s attacks are deflected by knowing that we are righteous in the eyes of God.

This is why “it is well with my soul.” This is how the hymn writer is able to write:

Though Satan should buffet,
though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control;
That Christ has regarded
my helpless estate,
and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

The Gospel of Peace (Eph. 6:15)

Roman Sandles - Armor of God

…and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  |  Image Credit

This righteousness that becomes our breastplate is a rightness with God which can only be obtained through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This righteousness brings us peace.

That is this “gospel of peace” which carries us through life.

We don’t give much thought to footwear, but the Roman army’s shoes were an innovation that allowed them to travel further and faster than their enemies. These boots, called caligae, had heavy soles with hobnails in them to provide traction for the wearer.

The Roman soldier’s footwear is what enabled him to travel through any terrain he may encounter along his journey.

Similarly, the peace of the gospel is what equips us to travel over rough roads as we carry this same gospel to others.

The Shield of Faith (Eph. 6:16)

Shield of Faith - Armor of God

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one |  Image Credit

We also have with us the “shield of faith.” The Roman shield alluded to here is a large, oblong shield — about 2 1/2 feet by 4 feet. It was about the size of a refrigerator door.

This was at a time when average height was just over 5 feet, so this was a large shield that gave a great deal of protection. Similarly, faith shields believers from many troubles.

These troubles are compared to darts. Darts are an especially helpful illustration as a weapon of Satan. This is not one of hand to hand combat; it is a projectile. By nature, it is launched from a distance to strike its mark unexpectedly.

Like a dart, strong temptations and sinful thoughts come upon us suddenly. Sin seeks to pierce your defenses and inflame lust, pride, anger, contempt, or any number of sinful reactions.

But the Roman soldier was not only up against darts, but these darts were often set on fire before being sent out–making them even more dangerous. These were not quite darts as we think of them, nor were they simply lit arrows. They were more like specially prepared spears that were lit before being launched and designed to spread flamable liquid on the enemy.

To combat these flaming darts, shields were wet down before battle.  If they were not, the shields would be set ablaze.

When temptations to sin hit their mark, they can set our minds and hearts ablaze with wicked thoughts and desires.

Similarly, when temptations to sin hit their mark, they can set our minds and hearts ablaze with wicked thoughts and desires.

This is why we must use the shield of faith, which can extinguish these fiery darts. When temptations come, are we going to believe what the devil says, or are we going to believe God in faith?

This is what took place in the garden. Would Eve believe what the serpent told her—that God was withholding something good from her—or would she believe God?

Are we going to believe that sin—any sin—will be more satisfying to us than obedience to God?

Are we going to believe that sin—any sin—will be more satisfying to us than obedience to God?

The shield of faith extinguishes the fiery darts when we trust the promises of God, when we know that He is exceedingly more precious than anything that may be sacrificed in His service.

The Helmet of Salvation (Eph. 6:17a)

Helmet of Salvation — The Armor of God

…and take the helmet of salvation  |  Image Credit

So you can start to see how well we are protected by our armor. And we have not only a shield but a helmet also: The “helmet of salvation.”

Like a helmet covering our head, our salvation protects us from being dealt a deathblow. Those who are in Christ cannot ultimately be defeated by Satan.

In Romans 8:38-39 we read:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christians do not fight for victory, we fight from a position of victory.
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Our “helmet of salvation” gives us confidence, knowing we will emerge victorious. As has been said by others, Christians do not fight for victory, we fight from a position of victory.

And so we see that the “whole armor of God” leaves the Christian well protected against the dangers of the battlefield, and we need every part of it. But we have not been equipped only for defense but for offense.

Lastly, let’s examine the weaponry we have to fight the spiritual war.

The Weapons of Our Warfare

The Christian soldier is not called to be defensive only, but offensive.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

So what are the weapons that we have? Ephesians 6:17-18:

…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

The weapons of our warfare are the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God), and prayer.

Weapon 1: The Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit - Armor of God

…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God  |  Image Credit

Let’s start by examining the sword of the Spirit. We are told that the sword is the very Word of God, given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Just as every Roman soldier would be equipped with a gladius (that’s Latin for sword), every believer is equipped with the Word of God.

A sword is a weapon used both for offense and defense. So is Scripture.Tweet That

This is an especially helpful illustration because a sword is a weapon used both for offense and defense. So is Scripture.

To wield the sword of the Spirit is to use Scripture to defend against attacks on truth and to “destroy strongholds” of false beliefs.

We must not be afraid to use Scripture against any opinion, ideology, or worldview which would place itself in contention with the Word of God.

Of course, in any movie you’ve ever watched that involves any sort of sword fight (or light saber battle) you’ll notice that they are constantly deflecting blows from the enemy—as often as they are attacking with their own sword.

https://66.media.tumblr.com/0f0e9c8b6c4f2493d17e27db449435b5/tumblr_n2n0kqb5e71qk0z6co1_500.gif

And so it is with the Sword of the Spirit. We use it to defend ourselves against error and outright attacks on the truth of God by knowing and wielding Scripture.

Is this not exactly what we saw Jesus do when tempted by Satan in the wilderness? In Matthew 4, Satan tries to tempt Jesus with allurements of food, pride, and power.

How does the Lord respond to each of Satan’s temptations? “It is written…”

How does the Lord respond to each of Satan’s temptations? “It is written…”

When we are tempted to doubt who God is, compromise the gospel, neglect our spiritual duties, or to decide for ourselves what is and is not immoral, our response must also be, “it is written.”

Can you see how vitally important it is to guard your time in the Word? To intentionally set apart a portion of your day to reading Scripture?

We can’t effectively wield Scripture to defend ourselves from error if we are not intimately familiar with truth.

This is why we must read our Bibles. We must study the Word. We must conform our lives to its truth. We need to be memorizing Scripture so that it will be readily available when attacks come. We should meditate on it day and night.

No wonder there are a hundred other distractions that get in the way of our time in the Word! No wonder the Bible is attacked as an ancient book with little relevance today. No wonder those promoting unbiblical worldviews insist arguments from Scripture don’t count.

We must start seeing these things for what they are: calls for us to drop our sword. But we must not do this. What soldier gives up his weapon in the midst of a battle?

We cannot put aside our Bible as we engage with others. To do so is to set aside that which God has given for defending truth and liberating others from deception.

Weapon 2: Prayer

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  |  Image Credit

Our other offensive weapon, or tactic, is prayer:

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

What are we doing when we pray? We are approaching the very throne of the holy, almighty, Triune God – the Creator of all things. The God who spoke the universe into existence. The God who made the mountains and the seas. The God who created man from the dust of the earth; the God who parted the Red Sea; God whose sent His Son to deliver us from sin and death.

God is eternal, unchanging, all-powerful, all-holy, and sovereign over all things. And we get to approach his throne in prayer!

We pray because through prayer we have access to the throne of grace, where we speak to the One who sustains us.

We pray because through prayer we have access to the throne of grace, where we speak to the One who sustains us. Remember, we rely on His strength.

And so we are to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” We are to pray at all times. Not just in hard times, when trouble surrounds us and courage fails us. We are to be people of prayer, in both good times and in bad.

So we must pray, and we must keep alert, the text says, “with all perseverance.” Our enemy will not rest, so prayer must be continual, unceasing.

Our enemy will not rest, so prayer must be continual, unceasing.

We are to be in prayer not only for ourselves but for our fellow soldiers of the cross all over the world. The text says at the end of verse 18 “-making supplication for all the saints.”

This tells us that we should pray for other Christians, our fellow warriors on the battlefield.

Pray that our churches may shine as beacons of truth even as the world around them grows darker. Pray for those in the world who are under the siege of persecution and oppression. Pray for those on the front lines of God’s advancing army, bringing the gospel to the lost. Pray for those who have been wounded by the schemes of the devil. Pray for your loved ones, that they may take up the armor of God. Pray. Pray. Pray.

Prayer and Scripture. These are the weapons of our warfare.

We are in a war. How can you keep from becoming a causality on the spiritual battlefield? Familiarize yourselves with the weapons of our warfare.

Make prayer and Scripture a daily priority in your life.

Put on the whole armor God and make use of the spiritual weapons you have been given.

Conclusion

We recognize that as believers we are in the midst of a spiritual battle. We thank God that we are well-equipped to stand in the evil day. No matter what may happen our eternity is secure and Christ’s ultimate victory is certain.

The Christian life is not a vow to never lose a battle, but it is a commitment to always fight.Tweet That

To those here who have been greatly wounded in the battle—take heart! You may be wounded, but you are not defeated. The Christian life is not a vow to never lose a battle, but it is a commitment to always fight.

Rely on the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, take up the armor of God, and press on.

To those here who are weary, under a constant barrage of fiery darts—take courage. We are not asked to rely on our own strength, but to rely on the strength of Christ. He is never outmatched and never grows weary.

To those who are distressed at the state of our nation and our world—take comfort. We know that although darkness creeps in from every side, God has equipped us to stand firm in the evil day and against the schemes of the devil.

Our duty is clear: Under the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are to:

“Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”


This article is based on a sermon I preached at Grace Baptist Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota. You can listen to the audio of this sermon below:

Clayton Kraby
Written by Clayton Kraby
I'm a full-time M.Div. student and created ReasonableTheology.org to help make theology accessible for the everyday Christian. You can find me on Twitter @ClayKraby. Help me attend seminary.