January 1, 2023. Sermon Title: A Resolution : Putting on the Full Armor of God

First Mennonite Church

January 1, 2023

A Resolution: Putting On the Full Armor of God

Text: Ephesians 6:10-20

At the start of a New Year, many people resolve to do something beneficial to themselves or to others. A “resolution,” it is called. And although there has been much skepticism about the long-term sustainability of many of the resolutions taken up on at the beginning of the year, any idea and attempt of doing something for our wellbeing or that of others are noble and worthy. So, if you have decided on one, do not get discouraged if others have failed trying it. Do your very best.

But, could there be a comprehensive or ultimate resolution from a spiritual perspective that we can take on at the start of this New Year? What can we do that could thoroughly prepare us to live worthy of our calling, each day of this New Year?

At the closing of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he urges the church to do something, which in Paul’s definition, would guarantee the Ephesian church to achieve the goals he has outlined for them. These goals are spread throughout his letter. Paul says the church has been called to “be holy and blameless in the sight of God (1:4), that the church should be for the praise of God’s glory (1:12). And ultimately, the church should “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:13).

As we can see, these goals are also ours to achieve. We are called to be holy and blameless in the sight of God. We have been called to shine the light and be the salt of the world so “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” as Jesus says (Matthew 5:16). We have been called to grow in faith, unity, and the knowledge of Jesus with the purpose of becoming like him in his character.

Paul declares that God’s love, grace, purposes have been revealed through the work of Jesus Christ, but now, his “intent is that through the church, his manifold wisdom and grace should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (3:10). That means that the church is the place and people where the beauty, presence, and power of God are to be revealed to everyone.

But how can we achieve this? What does Paul say can make this possible?  Let us read Ephesians 6:10-20.

In order to begin to understand what Paul is asking the Ephesians, we need to know a little bit about the context of the Ephesian church when Paul wrote this letter. For the Christians in Ephesus, their very being followers of Christ made them completely different from the rest of their society. While the rest worshipped idols and the emperor, the Ephesian Christians were giving thanks to God for his saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They were rejoicing for being rescued from darkness of sin and seated with Christ. They were celebrating their new identity as the body of Christ every time they ate the Lord’s Supper. And, while others plunged into licentious living and revelry, the Ephesian church strove towards godliness and sought please only Christ. As they pursued to please their Lord, they stayed away from the activities and imperial celebrations their fellow citizens freely enjoyed. In chapter five, Paul reminds the Ephesians believers that they were once, not only in darkness, but darkness itself. The Ephesian church knew that every aspect of life within the culture and religion was a constant threat to them if they did not hold fast to the New Way they had found in the Gospel.

Therefore, Paul admonishes them: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. The strength and power to be holy, blameless and always pleasing God does not dwell in us, but in the Lord. Thus, Paul invites his readers to rely on the Lord’s strength and power. If we try to resist sin through our own strength, strategies, or wisdom we will certainly fail. In the Lord is our strength and power to conform our thoughts, speech, and acts according to his good will.

But then Paul commands: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. There is something we always need to remember: Even when Jesus has been victorious, not only over sin, but even over death, we, his followers need to do our part. And that is, to put on the full armor of God, so we can stand against the schemes of the devil. While Jesus has the victory and power to overcome sin, it is incumbent on us to take every resource of protection God gives us to be able to live for him. Paul calls this, putting on the full armor of God.

Let us remember that we are not called to defeat the spiritual forces that are against us. Jesus has done that. In Colossians 2:15 Paul says that Christ “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them on the cross.” Yes, we are not called to defeat them, first because Christ has done that, and second, because we simply cannot. We, however, are called to put on the armor of God to stand our ground in Christ. We are called to put on the armor of God so that we may not be moved from the position Christ has given us. Let us once again remember what Paul says Christ has done for the believer.

In Christ, God has:

Separated us for himself, out of the pure pleasure of his good will (1:5).

Raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly places (1:20)

Shown us the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness (2:6).

Saved us through grace; not through anything good we can do or have done (2:8).

Brought us near to himself (2:13).

He has given us a living hope

And more.

However, the forces that keep the world living as it does and from which Christ has freed us, continue trying to pull us under its grip, through our natural inclination or by acting according to the way the world operates.

If we look closely at this passage, we will see that Paul does not ask for putting on the armor of God for the purpose of doing battle against the spiritual enemies, but to withstand them. The armor is intended for defensive purposes and not offensive in nature.

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 (6:13).

The first piece is the belt of truth around us. Although the belt was not part of the armor itself, without it no other part of the armor could be put on by the Roman soldier. The breastplate and sword were fastened securely on the belt.

Similarly, truth gives credibility to everything we confess. If integrity fails on our part, either in words or in deeds, we could scream out loud the word of God, but it would have no power. Truth must be conveyed in love, says Paul.

Then comes the breastplate of righteousness. Here Paul is not referring to the righteousness of God gives to us in Christ, but the upright living we ought to have out of obedience to Christ our Lord. Neglecting an upright living is equivalent to leaving a dangerous gap in the armor God wants us to wear. The breastplate protects the vital organs—the heart especially. Righteousness should keep our hearts only for God.

Third comes the shoes of the gospel of peace. Paul says, it should be fitted with readiness to proclaim the gospel. Whatever, helps to share the Gospel of peace, use it. If it’s doing an act of kindness, do it. If it’s giving a word of comfort to someone, speak it. If it’s telling the story of God’s salvation in Christ, tell it. If it is through being patient, hold your peace and bear the other.

Fourth is the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Paul uses one of two words for shield. Aspis was the small round shield commonly carried around by roman soldiers. But there is another kind, and this is the kind Paul mentions here: Thyreos. These are the full-length shields used to cover the whole body during a fight.[1] The purpose of carrying this full-length shield is to stop the fiery darts or flaming arrows. In Proverbs 26:18, flaming arrows is the metaphor for blasphemous words the wicked speak against God. Therefore, without the shield, we can become easy targets of what is spoken against the gospel. Forsaking God’s shield of protection, we are exposed and injured by the negative speech that surround us. Many Christians fall victims of the flaming arrows of the enemies of Christ. Some get discouraged by what they hear, while other are misled or go “tit for tat.” We must remember that our enemies are not of flesh and blood, but spiritual. Paul knew that by trusting God only, by having faith in him, we can withstand the negative impact of evil speech and or words of discouragement and doubt hurled at us.

And fifth, Paul urges: Take the helmet of salvation. God is the giver of salvation through faith in Jesus. But it is something, just as any other part of the full armor of God, that we must take, that we must hold on to and seize, along with the word of God, as the sword.

The Paul turns to the theme of prayer. We are to prayerfully put on the full armor of God. We are called to pray for our sisters and brothers, who along with us are called to withstand the forces that are against us. Through prayer we keep our eyes and ears attentive to One who has already won this battle. Jesus is our Victor, and we follow on his footsteps as we put on the whole armor of God.

We are mindful of the turbulent times we are living in. We know how powerful are the forces of evil out there. As we begin this new year, let us determine to put on the full armor God, so that we may withstand every evil scheme of the devil. So let us go with the words of the apostle John: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] Ephesians: The New Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. XI, Abington Press. Nashville. 2000. p. 461