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7. Armed for Spiritual Warfare

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Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NET)

How can we stand against Satan’s schemes and methods? He is more powerful than us, wiser than us, and has vastly more experience since he has lived since the creation of the heavens and earth. How can we stand against him and his demons? In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul told the believers that God had equipped them to stand; however, they had a role to play. They needed to put on God’s armor to stand in the evil day.

What is the armor of God and how do we put it in on to stand in spiritual warfare? We will consider the various pieces of armor and their practical applications.

The Belt of Truth

Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth… Ephesians 6:14

A Roman soldier wore a tunic under his armor, and a large leather belt “was used to gather his garments together as well as hold his sword.”1 The belt was the first part of the armor put on, and it held everything else together. It was crucial. Similarly, truth is a crucial component for every believer in this spiritual battle—without it, believers are not prepared to stand and fight.

What does the belt of truth represent, how do we put it on, and how does it protect us from the enemy?

1. The belt of truth represents knowing the content of truth as revealed in Scripture.

Jesus said this in John 17:17: “Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.” The Word of God is truth, and it is through knowing and applying this truth that we are sanctified—daily made holy and righteous. Satan is a liar, and the more we know the truth, the more likely we’ll defeat him.

2. The belt of truth represents living a life of honesty and integrity.

The belt of truth does not just represent knowing the content of the truth, but also living out the truth practically in our daily lives. Ephesians 4:25-27 says:

Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.

Practicing falsehood and hypocrisy opens the door to the devil in our lives—it gives him a foothold.

3. The belt of truth represents total commitment and zeal for Christ.

The metaphor of buckling or girding is often used in Scripture to describe the preparatory action of gathering one’s flowing garments in order to work, run a race, or fight a battle.2 Luke 12:35 says, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (KJV). First Peter 1:13 says, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind” (KJV). These texts both refer metaphorically to the action of tightening one’s belt so as not to hinder action.

Since buckling or girding is often used to describe preparation, some commentators think the belt of truth refers to serving the Lord wholeheartedly, with total commitment, as a soldier going into battle. John MacArthur says this:

I believe that being girded … with truth primarily has to do with the self–discipline of total commitment. It is the committed Christian, just as it is the committed soldier and the committed athlete, who is prepared. Winning in war and in sports is often said to be the direct result of desire that leads to careful preparation and maximum effort. It is the army or the team who wants most to win who is most likely to do so—even against great odds…To be content with mediocrity, lethargy, indifference, and half–heartedness is to fail to be armored with the belt of God’s truth and to leave oneself exposed to Satan’s schemes.3

To stand in spiritual warfare, we must know the truth of God’s Word to recognize Satan’s lies. We must practice honesty and not deception, and we must be wholehearted in our commitment to God instead of half-hearted. The believer missing his belt is vulnerable to the devil’s attacks.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

Stand firm therefore … by putting on the breastplate of righteousness,

Ephesians 6:14

The Roman soldier wore a tough, sleeveless piece of armor that covered the whole torso, front and back, from neck to waist. It was often made of leather, metal, or chains. The primary purpose of the armor was “to protect the heart, lungs, intestines, and other vital organs.” 4

What does the breastplate of righteousness represent, how do we put it on, and how does it protect us from the enemy?

1. The breastplate of righteousness represents recognition of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” Essentially, Christ took our sin at the cross and gave us his righteousness. This is the very reason we can come into the presence of God and worship him. When he sees us, he sees the righteousness of Christ. This is probably symbolized in Zechariah 3:1-7 where Joshua, the high priest, comes into God’s presence wearing filthy clothes. Satan stands by Joshua’s side to accuse him—and no doubt to declare him unfit to be in God’s presence. However, God rebukes Satan and places clean clothes on Joshua, which probably represents imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. The Angel of the Lord says, “Remove his filthy clothes.” Then he says to Joshua, “I have freely forgiven your iniquity and will dress you in fine clothing” (v.4).

It’s the same for us. Our clothes—representing our character and works—are unclean to God. Even our righteousness is like filthy rags to him (Is 64:6). Even our best works are full of bad intentions—to be known, exalted, etc. However, God rebukes the devil and gives us clean clothes—the righteousness of Christ. This is the only reason we can stand in the presence of God.

Because the imputation of Christ’s righteousness happens at salvation, many commentators say the breastplate of righteousness cannot represent Christ’s work. How can we put it on if we are already wearing it positionally? However, we still need to recognize this work in order to stand against the accusations and condemnation of the devil.

Many believers, though they assent to salvation by grace, think it is their daily works that continue to justify them before God. When they fail to fully satisfy God’s righteous requirements, the enemy quickly comes to condemn them and pull them away from God. By not recognizing Christ’s work, they essentially agree with the devil. “You are right, Satan. I should not go to church; I should not read my Bible—that would be hypocritical.” They agree with the devil’s lies—opening the door for him into their hearts and minds.

However, we must not do that. We must continually declare the righteousness of Christ. “I am justified by grace—the unmerited favor of God—through Christ’s righteousness. I can do nothing to justify myself before God. Every day I must throw myself upon God’s gracious provisions. He provided the perfect Lamb that was slain so I could come into his presence.”

2. The breastplate of righteousness represents our practical righteousness.

But the breastplate is not just imputed righteousness; it is also practical righteousness. When we are living a righteous life, we are protected from Satan. However, when we fall into sin, we give Satan an open door to attack and defeat us. Again, Ephesians 4:26-27 indicates this, as it says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.” By practicing righteousness and shunning sin, we close the door on the enemy.

3. The breastplate of righteousness represents guarding our mind and emotions.

As mentioned, the Roman soldier’s breastplate was used to protect the vital organs such as the heart and intestines. In the Hebrew mindset, the heart represented the mind and will. The bowels, or intestines, represented emotions and feelings (cf. Col 3:12, KJV).5 Therefore, the breastplate probably represents guarding our mind and emotions. Solomon says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life” (Prov 4:23).

Satan realizes that if he can get our minds and emotions, that will affect our worship and our obedience to God. That’s why he always works to implant wrong teachings and lies into our minds through books, music, TV, and conversation. Our minds affect our walk—how we live. But he also wants to get our emotions. Many Christians are emotionally all over the place, and part of that is a result of spiritual warfare. Satan stirs up people to criticize and condemn. He stirs up little romances with the opposite sex to distract us from focusing on God. He works to make believers worry and fret about the future so that they lose their joy. The enemy is cunning and keen. Therefore, we must guard our hearts above all else. We guard our hearts by recognizing wrong thoughts, confessing them as sinful to Christ, and turning away from them. We also guard our hearts by filling our minds with Scripture. When we do this, the enemy has no room to fill our minds with anything else.

To stand in spiritual warfare, we must put on the breastplate of righteousness. This includes recognizing Christ’s imputed righteousness, so we will not be vulnerable to Satan’s condemnation when we or others stumble (Rom 8:1). It includes living a righteous life, which doesn’t allow Satan to gain a foothold in our lives through sin (Eph 4:26-27). Finally, it includes guarding our mind and emotions, which the enemy is always trying to attack (Prov 4:23, Phil 4:8-10).

The Footwear of Peace

By fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace

Ephesians 6:15

When Paul talks about “fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,” he is picturing the footwear of a Roman soldier. They typically wore a half-boot with the toes uncovered and spikes coming out of the soles. The boots allowed “the soldier to be ready to march, climb, fight, or do whatever else is necessary.”6 The spikes specifically helped when hiking or on slippery surfaces.

Without the right shoes, the soldier’s feet were prone to blisters, cuts, and other problems which put him at a disadvantage in battle. The soldier’s shoes were very important—without them, he wasn’t ready to fight.

Similarly, there is appropriate footwear for believers to wear in spiritual battles. It is the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. As with the other pieces of armor, commentators are not unanimous on what this represents. It could represent several things, as outlined below.

What does ones’ feet being fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represent?

1. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents appropriating the believer’s peace with God.

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is important because the enemy always aims to separate believers from God. It is God who gives believers the strength to put on God’s armor and the power to conquer the devil. Therefore, the enemy always seeks to separate Christians from the source of all that is good. Sometimes he uses lies to foster anger at God. He often begins by cultivating a wrong view of God. Believers start to believe that God doesn’t love them or want what’s best for them—that he just doesn’t care. Satan creates a caricature of God—a God of wrath but not a God of love, a God of judgment but not a God of mercy. However, God is all of these.

We must put on the gospel of peace by remembering that Christ died to bridge the chasm between us and God. He paid the penalty for our sins and gave us his righteousness so that we could know God and come into his presence. Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life–that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent” (John 17:3). Christ died so we could come near God and have an intimate relationship with him.

2. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents having the peace of God.

Not only has God given each of us peace with himself, but we also have the peace of God. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” The peace Christ had while asleep in the boat during the storm and the peace that enabled him to go to the cross, he has given to us. It is not God’s will for us to live in anxiety, fear, and worry. Scripture commonly says, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not worry,” and “Do not be anxious about anything.” Christ has given us the promise of his peace.

If we are worried, anxious, and fearful, we have the wrong footwear for this battle. Our enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). The lion roars to incite fear in his prey. Some believers are fearful about their future; others are fearful about what others think or say. Others are afraid of failure. These fears undermine the footing of Christians—our readiness for battle comes from God’s peace.

Therefore, God commands us to put on his peace. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful.” Paul also refers to the peace of Christ as clothing to be worn (cf. Col 3:12). As believers, we must let God’s peace rule in our hearts—not fear of failure, losing our jobs, or rejection. Satan wants to lead us as slaves through fear, but God guides us as children through his peace (cf. Rom 8:15).

How can we put on the peace of God instead of fear and anxiety? Philippians 4:6-7 says,

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

  • If we are going to have God’s peace, we must reject anxiety and fear. They are not God’s will for us, and they are sinful. They say, “God, you are not to be trusted,” or “You are not in control.”
  • If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to pray about everything. Prayer must become the atmosphere we live in. When we are not living in prayer (i.e. God’s presence), the storms of life will constantly frighten and overwhelm us.
  • If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to give thanks in everything. When we complain, murmur, and criticize, we lose the peace of God.

3. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents spreading the gospel.

The association of feet with the gospel is not uncommon in Scripture. Isaiah 52:7 says, “How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains the feet of a messenger who announces peace, a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” In Romans 10:15 (ESV), Paul says, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” One of our responsibilities in this war is to share the gospel with others. It is each person’s assignment. Second Corinthians 5:18-20 says:

And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!”

In hand to hand combat, if one side is only playing defense, he will eventually be defeated. He must also attack. Our battle as believers is not just defensive; it is, in fact, primarily offensive. We are called to advance the kingdom of God by spreading the gospel everywhere in the name of Jesus. If we are not doing so, we won’t stand firm. The enemy’s offensive will eventually swallow us up.

4. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents peace in our relationships with others.

This is one of the major themes of Ephesians. Paul teaches the mystery of the gospel that God makes the Jew and Gentile one in Christ. Consider Ephesians 2:12-14:

that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility

Animosity between Jews and Gentiles was a major issue for the early church. In Acts 6, the Jews neglected the Greek widows in the daily distribution while providing for the Hebrew widows. However, Paul said Christ is our peace—he has made us one.

Surely disunity is one of the major weapons the enemy uses against our churches. Sometimes he brings disunity through racism, as seen with the Jews and Gentiles in the early church. Sometimes he uses doctrine. What God intends to equip and strengthen us, the enemy uses to bring division and discord. Sometimes, he uses national politics. Most times, he just uses pride. Pride says, “My way is the only way, and it can’t be done any other way.” Churches divide over changing the color of the carpet, the music, the flow of worship services, and any other thing. The root of this is pride—“my way is the only way.”

In attacking the church, Satan seeks to bring division. Remember, Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27 not to let the sun go down while we are angry, and not to give the devil a foothold. Christ is our peace.

To stand in spiritual warfare, we must put on the footwear of peace. We must remember Satan tries to separate us from God through condemnation and lies; however, Christ has given us peace with God (Rom 5:1). In addition, since Satan is always trying to attack our hearts—inciting fear and anxiety—we must aim to always walk in the peace of God (Phil 4:7). God’s peace should be ruling in our hearts, not fear (Col 3:15). Also, we put on the footwear of peace by continually sharing the gospel (Rom 10:15). An army that is only defensive will most likely lose. We must also be on the offensive—threatening the gates of hades by sharing the gospel with others and setting people free from darkness. Finally, the footwear of peace is put on by walking in peace with others. Satan is always trying to divide, but as much as depends on us, we must live in peace with all people (Rom 12:18).

Taking Up the Shield of Faith

and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Ephesians 6:16

The Greek word “thureos,” translated as “shield,” referred to a large shield about two and a half feet wide and four and a half feet high. It was designed to protect the entire body of a soldier. The shield was like a door—made of solid wood and covered with metal or leather. It was often dipped in water to extinguish the fiery arrows of the enemy.7

Armies often wrapped pieces of cloth around arrows, soaked them in pitch, set them on fire, and then shot them at the enemy. Upon contact, an arrow would often “spatter burning bits for several feet, igniting anything flammable it touched.”8

Our enemy also shoots flaming arrows at us. He shoots the arrows of criticism, fear, covetousness, anger, depression, doubt, lust, and every other temptation. In order to stand firm, we must take up the shield of faith.

What is the shield of faith and how can believers take it up?

1. The shield of faith refers to trust in God’s person.

When Abram was struggling with fear, God said to him, “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance” (Gen 15:1). Essentially, God said, “Trust me. I will protect you and reward you.” Our protection is God himself and we must trust in him.

Putting on the shield of faith means running to God when life is difficult, when life is good, and when life is mundane. Believers without the shield of faith will run to everything else before God. When in a trial, they will run to coffee, to cigarettes, to relationships, to pity parties, etc. However, when we’re wearing the shield of faith, we’ll run to God. He is our shield—therefore we must trust him.

How do believers grow in trusting God more? We learn to trust God more by knowing his character. When we know God is good, wise, and sovereign (over all things including evil), we will be able to stand against Satan’s attacks. We learn to trust God more by knowing his promises. God has given us many promises in his Word to help us stand (cf. Phil 4:6-7, 8-9, Ps 1, 1 John 1:8, Rom 8:1, 10:9-10, John 10:27-30, etc.).

2. The shield of faith refers to dependence on the body of Christ.

In ancient times, the edges of this shield were “so constructed that an entire line of soldiers could interlock shields and march into the enemy like a solid wall. This suggests that we Christians are not in the battle alone.”9

The enemy attacks from every direction, and we need one another to stand firm. Yes, doing so is a struggle since the church is not perfect, as God is. However, it is the means through which God chooses to impart his grace. He works through an imperfect body. If we don’t avail ourselves of the body’s resources, we leave ourselves more vulnerable to the devil’s attacks.

3. The shield of faith refers to living a life of faith—a life of serving God.

In ancient Roman armies, the people holding the thureos—the large shields—were always at the front of the army. They were the front line. When they lifted their shields, they protected those behind them. This also allowed the archers to shoot arrows while under their protection. Therefore, to put on the shield of faith means to live a life of faith—serving God.

It means stepping out of our comfort zone to serve in a ministry. It means using our gifts to serve the church. When we do so, we’ll be criticized by others, and we’ll be attacked emotionally, physically, and spiritually by the enemy. But as we stand firm against these attacks with the shield of faith, we protect others and help them grow as they benefit from our faith. To never get involved, use our spiritual gifts, or build others up means to not use the shield of faith.

To stand in our war, we must put on the shield of faith by trusting in God’s person, as he is our protector, by depending on the body of Christ, since the isolated believer is the most vulnerable, and by living a life of faith through serving on the frontline.

The Helmet of Salvation

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

Here, Paul pictures the Roman soldier’s helmet. James Boice’s comments are helpful:

The helmet had a band to protect the forehead and plates for the cheeks, and extended down in back to protect the neck. When the helmet was strapped in place, it exposed little besides the eyes, nose, and mouth. The metal helmets, due to their weight, were lined with sponge or felt. Virtually the only weapons which could penetrate a metal helmet were hammers or axes.3

In warfare, the enemy commonly attacked the head since the soldier’s mind controlled his decisions and reactions in a fight. To harm the head was to gain an advantage in combat. Our enemy, Satan, does the same.

What does the helmet of salvation represent?

1. The helmet of salvation represents assurance of salvation.

As with every other piece of armor, the helmet of salvation shows us how the enemy attacks. Here we see how he attacks the believer’s assurance of salvation. Satan’s attack on assurance is two-pronged. He seeks to assure professed believers who are not truly saved that they are, in fact, “safe,” and he plants seeds of doubt in those who are truly saved, leading to discouragement and depression. Personally, I’ve noticed it is often the Christians who are walking faithfully with God who struggle the most with assurance. And those not walking faithfully with him are not very concerned about their salvation at all, even though they should be.

When true believers are constantly worried about their salvation, they are not much use to the kingdom of God. They typically don’t evangelize or serve. They essentially stop growing because they are too concerned with themselves. This is why attacking the head is a common tactic of Satan—it makes a Christian unprofitable. One particular book that helps believers gain assurance is the book of 1 John. The main theme of 1 John is found in Chapter 5:13. It says, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Therefore, throughout the book are many tests of true faith, so we can be assured God has saved and changed us. We must drink deeply from these when doubting our salvation (cf. 1 John 2:3-5; 2:15; 2:19; 3:6,9; 3:12-13; 3:14-15; 4:15, etc.). For example, 1 John 2:3-5 says,

Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him.

Faithful obedience to God and his Word is the primary proof that we have been truly saved. In fact, in John 8:31 (ESV), Christ said, “If you abide in my words, then you are truly my disciples.” If we don’t love his Word and continually follow it, we have no reason to call ourselves disciples of Christ in the first place.

2. The helmet of salvation represents anticipation of our future salvation.

First Thessalonians 5:8 says, “But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation.” Paul calls the helmet the hope of salvation. James Boice’s comments are helpful here:

If that is what he is thinking of here, then he is looking to our destiny rather than our present state. He is saying that our anticipation of that end will protect our heads in the heat (and often confusion) of the battle.10

Therefore, if we have lost the hope of our future salvation, we will not be able to stand in this spiritual battle. The luxuries of the world will draw us into idolatry and spiritual lethargy; the trials and persecutions in this world will draw our hearts away from God and our heavenly home. However, when believers hope in their salvation, that hope keeps them from living for the world and/or fearing persecution by the world.

To stand in spiritual warfare, we must put on the helmet of salvation. We must have assurance of salvation. Those who are born again are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), and there will be noticeable fruits that demonstrate Christ’s lordship in their lives (cf. 2 Cor 13:5, Matt 7:21-23, 5:3-10, 2 Peter 1:5-10, 1 John 2:3-5; 2:15; 2:19; 3:6,9; 3:12-13; 3:14-15; 4:15, 5:13, etc.). In addition, we put on the helmet by hoping in our future salvation. This will deliver us from living lives that are focused only on the temporary. By hoping in eternity, we will live profitable lives for the kingdom (cf. Col 3:1-4).

The Sword of the Spirit

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17

The sword Paul refers to is not the broadsword (rhomphaia), but the dagger (machaira), which varied in length from six to eighteen inches. It was the common sword used by Roman soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and was carried in a sheath attached to the belt.11

A skillful soldier used it to deflect the blows of his enemy, and the Word of God must be used in this fashion. We get a picture of this when Satan attacked Christ in the wilderness (Matt 4). To each of Satan’s temptations, Christ responded with Scripture. Therefore, the Christian who does not know the Word of God well will have problems defending against the attacks of the devil.

What’s interesting about Paul’s description of the sword as the “word” of God is the Greek term used. John MacArthur says:

The term Paul uses here for word is not logos, which refers to general statements or messages, but is rhēma, which refers to individual words or particular statements. The apostle is therefore not talking here about general knowledge of Scripture, but is emphasizing again the precision that comes by knowledge and understanding of specific truths.12

James Boice adds:

While logos embraces nearly everything, rhēma has a slighter weight. It really means “a saying,” in this case, a particular, specific portion of God’s written revelation. John 3:16 is a rhēma. Romans 3:23 is a rhēma, and so on for all the other specific portions of the written “Word of God.” It is important to see this, as I said, because according to Paul’s teaching we are to overcome Satan by the particular words or portions of Scripture.13

This emphasizes the extreme power of each Scripture verse. Christ said that man shall not live by bread alone but by “EVERY” word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4). Scripture is God-inspired and powerful. It can translate a person from darkness to light and defeat the attacks of the devil. Therefore, we must know and love God’s Word.

How do we take up the sword of the Spirit?

The word “take” is a command. If we are going to fight this spiritual battle, we must take the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—by reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it, studying it, and proclaiming it.

Praying in the Spirit

With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:18-20

In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul details the believer’s need to be filled with the power of God, and also to put on the full armor of God in order to stand against the devil’s attacks. The armor of God represents attitudes and actions that believers must practice to win on the spiritual battlefield. It includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the footwear of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. No Christian soldier can win without them; however, even these are not enough. We must pray in the Spirit.

We can see Paul’s emphasis on the importance of prayer in two ways. First, he writes more about prayer than about any other piece of armor. He uses three verses to teach on prayer in the Spirit. Also, praying in the Spirit is the seventh piece of armor. In Scripture, seven is the number of completion. This means that one can be suited up with every other piece of armor and yet still lose the battle. Praying in the Spirit is a necessity.

Prayer is the energy and atmosphere in which we wage war. Believers must live in prayer at all times in order to win this spiritual battle. It is how we are strengthened in the power of God, and it is how we put on the full armor (cf. Eph 6:10-11).

I think we can discern the importance of prayer by considering the battle between Israel and the Amalekites in Exodus 17. Joshua led Israel’s army into battle, but they only won while Moses lifted his hands in prayer. When Moses became tired of lifting his hands in prayer, Israel began to lose. And this is true for us as well. We can read the Word, preach, evangelize, and live a moral life, but if we are not praying, we will be defeated.

Similarly, when Peter was going to be tempted by Satan right before Christ’s death, the Lord told him that he needed to pray in order not to fall into temptation (Matt 26:41). Peter fell asleep and therefore did not stand in the evil day. We are often like this as well. We sleep when we should be praying. We fight when we should be waiting on the Lord. Prayer is essential. “Edward Payson said: ‘Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to minister. Pray, therefore, my dear brother, pray, pray, pray.’”14

Again, Paul doesn’t call us to just any type of prayer, but specifically prayer in the Spirit. What is prayer in the Spirit? Praying in the Spirit does not refer to speaking in tongues or any other charismatic experience. It simply means to pray according to God’s Word and according to his promptings. Jude also commands us to do this in Jude 1:20. He says, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit.”

To stand in spiritual warfare, we can put on every other piece of God’s armor, but without also praying according to the Spirit, we will fail. By praying, we recognize our weakness, rely on God, and are empowered by him. Therefore, in fighting the devil, we must pray, pray, and pray more!


Believers are engaged in spiritual warfare with the enemy of their souls. Satan and his demons are bent on destroying God’s works and his people. Our enemy’s attacks are varied—he tempts, persecutes, and deceives. How can we stand firm in this spiritual war? We must put on the belt of truth by knowing the truth, speaking the truth, and living the truth; the breastplate of righteousness by living a righteous life and guarding our mind and emotions; the footwear of peace by sharing the gospel and living gospel-centered lives in relation to God and others; the helmet of salvation by having assurance of salvation and hoping in our future salvation; the shield of faith by trusting God and his promises amidst various attacks; the sword of the Spirit by believing, speaking, and living by God’s Word; and prayer in the Spirit by praying in everything. Only by putting on the full armor of God can we stand against and conquer the devil and his demons. Being partially armored will not do.


  1. Which piece of armor stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. How can we put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the footwear of peace to protect us in spiritual warfare?
  3. How does a person gain assurance of salvation as represented by the helmet of salvation?
  4. What are some disciplines to help us become more competent with the sword of the Spirit?
  5. What are some disciplines to help us pray in the Spirit?
  6. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

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1 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 244–245). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

2 Foulkes, F. (1989). Ephesians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 10, p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 350–351). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 351). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 351). Chicago: Moody Press.

6 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 354). Chicago: Moody Press.

7 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 358–359). Chicago: Moody Press.

8 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 358–359). Chicago: Moody Press.

9 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 58). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

10 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 248). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

11 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 367–368). Chicago: Moody Press.

12 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 370). Chicago: Moody Press.

13 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 252). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

14 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (pp. 247–250). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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