I’ve always found the “armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6 a rich vein of Scripture. Specifically, how we can stand strong in our faith in the face of enormous, ferocious opposition to stand at all.
Our spiritual lives are not pursued in a vacuum. Our lives are part of a vast spiritual realm, and not all of it is benevolent.
There is open war.
At stake are God's purposes in your life, and through your life, in the world.
Many of you will be familiar with the text:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:10-13, NIV)
And then comes the armor itself: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation,
…and finally “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17, NIV).
It is that final piece of armor that has always stood out to me. No matter how much I pull from the passage’s depth, I am continually reminded of one simple truth:
We only have one offensive weapon at our disposal.
Have you ever noticed that?
Everything else is for defense. Only a sword - the Scriptures - has been given to us for offense. And the Greek word used by Paul for sword referred to a fighting dagger, the kind used in close, hand-to-hand combat.
Which is how it was used by Jesus.
Do you recall how Jesus resisted Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness during a forty-day ordeal?
Over and over again, to whatever the temptation, whatever the lie, whatever the enticement, Jesus responded the same each and every time:
"It is written..."
In the end, noting the unyielding power of Jesus’ use of Scripture, Satan tried to use a terrible twisting of Scripture to tempt Jesus. Satan himself began by saying, "It is written," and then proceeded to quote a verse ripped terribly from its context that had nothing to do with what he was suggesting.
And how did Jesus respond?
To Satan's twisting of Scripture, Jesus rebuked him with a correct understanding of what Scripture really did say. The tense of the verb Jesus used was an intensive perfect which has an interesting connotation to it within the Greek language. It indicates that what has been written in the past has an abiding, ongoing value.
In other words, Jesus said that what has been written in the Scriptures remains written. They are an unchanging, constant guide to life and therefore speak to anyone or anything that challenges their truth.
So have you ever wondered why the Bible is so attacked in our world?
Why people are tempted to not read it, much less meditate on it, or even worse, apply it?
Why pastors and teachers are tempted to twist it and water it down to make it more popular or less challenging?
Why secular media are tempted to ridicule it and dismiss it as little more than the feeble, fallible musings from the distant, uneducated, pre-scientific, unsophisticated past?
It’s because Satan knows that it is our primary offensive weapon.
He knows it from Ephesians. But even more, he knows it from experience. He gave Jesus his best shot, but it was Jesus who drew blood.
Satan knows, first hand, how the Scriptures are the dagger that can rip holes in his schemes, shred his attacks, and pierce his lies.
It’s the one weapon that can cause him to flee, because it’s how we fight back.
As the author of Hebrews writes, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow…” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)
As Ephesians reminds us, it’s a serious struggle that we’re in. We need to know our true enemy, and put on the full armor of God. It would be foolish to enter into it unprepared.
And while there’s an old line that says you should never bring a knife to a gun fight, let’s add just one disclaimer:
...unless that knife is the word of God.
James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.