In the first year of my pastoral ministry, one of the congregation members asked me to visit his home to pray for his wife. She had been sick for some time and he didn’t understand this because, as he explained to me, they had been putting on the armour of God every morning. I asked him what he meant by that and he demonstrated how, at the start of each day, he and his wife symbolically and invisibly dressed themselves in the armour described in Ephesians chapter six. So, he complained, how could she still be sick when they were spiritually protected against the devil’s attack?
Now where did the dear man get this strange and literalistic notion? At that time a book called ‘He came to set the captives free’ was doing the rounds. The author promoted this sort of cultic behaviour amongst other strange and delusional notions. There was also a lot of interest in ‘Spiritual Warfare’ at that time. A novel called ‘This present darkness’ was very popular, and it portrayed angels fighting demons with the spiritual equivalent of Luke Skywalker laser swords. Dear me! Other authors were jumping on the band wagon with concepts of Spiritual Mapping, interceding until there was an ‘open heaven’, and so on. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was by my congregant’s behaviour.
Hopefully, few people would be as naive as that couple. However, it seems to me that many still have a strange and worldly view of spiritual warfare. I wonder if the devil laughs when he sees Christians spending so much time in binding, loosing, and berating him, when they could be conducting the real war with witnessing, ministering, healing, delivering, and teaching the ways of God?
The film industry doesn’t help at all. The first of the ‘Chronicles of Narrnia’ movies depicted the sort of materialistic view of spiritual warfare I believe is so off the mark. I had a hard time distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys. Both the army of evil and the army of Aslan were made up of weird looking beasts that seemed to be crossbreeds of wild animals and demons. What is more, the good army fought in the same way as the bad army. Both sides slaughtered each other with swords, spears, and clubs. At the end of the battle scene, Aslan the lion, the Christ figure, pounced on the wicked witch queen and dispatched her with a swift bite to the jugular!
This brutality with brutality, force with force, warfare is not what the Bible presents in passages like 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, which reads; ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.’
We are instructed to fight error and lies with Truth. We combat corruption and wickedness with Righteousness. We counter discord and unrest with Peace. Faith is the weapon we apply to doubt and disbelief. And this concept of spiritual warfare leads us to an understanding of the Armour of God described in Ephesians 6:10-18.
When he wrote Ephesians, Paul probably encountered Roman soldiers on a daily basis. What a wonderful visual aid for describing the ways in which we are to protect ourselves from the devil’s attack. He did not mean us to buckle on an invisible belt of truth. Instead, we are to live by the truth. Jesus is The Truth and the Bible is the written chronicle of truth. We are to live truthfully, speak truthfully, and embody the Gospel Truth. This is a vital part of our spiritual armour. Also, as a breastplate protects a soldier’s heart, so righteousness protects our spiritual vitality. Right standing with God the Father, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, and righteous living is our breastplate. As a Roman soldier wore sturdy sandals, so we march out into the world with the Gospel of Peace. We fight discord and unrest with the Good News that in Christ all humanity can be at peace with God and one another. Faith in God and His Word is our shield against the enemy’s flaming arrows of destruction. Knowledge of our salvation protects our minds, the Word of God is our defensive sword, and prayer is our lifeline.
Many years ago I had what I can only describe as a waking vision. I saw the Earth curving at the horizon as if I was somewhere in the stratosphere. As I watched, the ground started to shake as though some colossus were marching just over the horizon. Great earthquake-like shudders followed after each other like massive footfalls. Then I saw a gargantuan figure coming over the horizon towards me. It was big beyond belief and it wore dazzlingly bright golden armour. As it approached I could see dark demonic figures running for their lives, looking fearfully over their shoulders at the heavenly soldier. “Surely this is you Lord Jesus, dressed in the full Armour of God?” I said. “No”, came the reply, “This is my church!”
Every one who is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, a member of His church, is exhorted to ‘put on the full armour of God’. We ‘put it on’ by thinking, speaking, and acting in truth, righteousness, and faith; by obeying the Word of God as those who are saved through grace; by taking the Gospel to the world; and by praying in the Spirit.