I have heard lots of people teach about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Do a search for this topic and you will find analogies and comparisons with Roman soldiers and their armor along with insights that there is no armor protecting the back to show that we never retreat and on and on it goes. But I think these teachings miss a couple of key points.
We stumbled onto this in a God way a few weeks ago when my wife was making plans to teach about the armor of God for a council time at AWANA. That week I was listening to the weekly podcasts from El Shaddai ministries and heard a reference to the priestly garments as the armor of God. If you click on the link above it is the podcast for 3/16 that contains some of the seeds of these ideas for me. In any case, here is the Ephesians 6 passage on the armor of God:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore 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. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying 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,
Since our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, our armor can’t be worldly armor. The armor of God isn’t the armor of a Roman soldier, it is the covering of the people of God. As Christians, we are God’s priesthood. 1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
The armor of God is better understood as priestly garments of God. It is our spiritual covering and it was present in the Old Testament. All of the pieces of “armor” that Paul describes have as much basis in the Old Testament that Paul studied his entire life as they do anything. The following is a brief description of the High Priest’s garments
7 And he put the coat on him and tied the sash around his waist and clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him and tied the skillfully woven band of the ephod around him, binding it to him with the band. 8And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. 9And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD commanded Moses.(Leviticus 8:7-9)
Now look at the pieces of the believer’s armor as explained by Paul as they were revealed by God in the Old Testament:
- Isaiah 59:17a He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head;
- Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news [Gospel] of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
- Deuteronomy 33:29 – Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD ? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places.
- God is our shield when we have faith in Him. – Psalm 18:2, 30; 28:7; 33:20; 115:9-11; 119:114;
- God’s word is a sword – Hebrews 4:12
One other fascinating connection that makes me think Paul was thinking about priests more than soldiers is his constant admonition to stand. If you remember the book of Hebrews, it makes a big deal out of the fact that all priests in the temple had to stand while performing their duties. Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that we don’t have permission to sit around all day as a child of God. Since we are a royal priesthood, we are to be in the Lord’s service. Standing firm in His love and grace and ministering to all He brings us into contact with each day. 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.