The Armor of God
March 10th, 1957 @ 7:30 PM
THE ARMOR OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-10-57 7:30 p.m.
Now let us read again our passage, the last chapter of the letter to Ephesus. Ephesians 6, beginning at the tenth verse, and reading to the end of the chapter, all of us read it together. Ephesians 6, the last chapter of Ephesians, beginning at the tenth verse, and we read to the end of the chapter. The message tonight is The Armor of God. “Put on the whole armor of God” [Ephesians 6:11], then it names it. All right, let us read it together, Ephesians 6, beginning at the tenth verse, everyone:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:
Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know my affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
And the text, Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the whole armor of God”; and 13:
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Paul, for the most part of his ministry, was in the jailhouse, in Ephesus, in Philippi, in Caesarea, in Rome; not for days or months, but for years Paul spent time in the jailhouse. In Rome he was chained to a soldier, a quaternion of soldiers [Acts 28:16, 20]. They were changed every six hours. So around the clock, he had in the daytime and in the nighttime a chain on his arm, and the other part of it fastened to a Roman soldier. That soldier was a close companion of the apostle Paul; so much so that the entire Praetorian Guard, he says, Paul says, came to hear the gospel [Philippians 1:13], because one by one they were all chained to Paul. Can you imagine that, being chained to this apostle? We’d think that a privilege; maybe some of those Roman soldiers did. Paul speaks of them who are of the household of faith in Caesar’s palace and throughout the Praetorian Guard [Philippians 1:13]. So I say a Roman soldier was an intimate with the apostle. And Paul looked at him. How many times did he observe him? There were those steel guards for his feet and his shins; and there was that breastplate; and there was the helmet; and there was the girdle, the strong belt to hold it all in place, there was the shield; there was the sword; made an impression upon the apostle. So he took that, and he applied it and made it a part of the equipment of the soldier of the cross.
It may insult some pacifists that Paul would use language and imagery like this; but what a pacifist doesn’t realize, Christianity is a fighting faith. It was born in turmoil and battle and conflict. It lived through bitter and stark persecution. And you don’t need to fear for the household of God today. In the days of the fascist leaders, God’s people were greatly persecuted. In these present days, behind iron curtains and behind walls of tyranny and oppression, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ again is fearfully persecuted. In the rising tides of nationalism, in the Muslim world and in the Hindu world, the Christian missionary is a social and unwelcomed and ostracized outcast. Don’t you be afraid for the ark of the Lord: it standeth unfailingly, loyally, triumphantly sure. Christianity was born in blood, it was born in battle, it was born in persecution, it was born in death, it was born in all of those conflicts that the child of God faces today anywhere in this earth. And it lives, the blood of the martyr, still the seed of the church. If you are a Christian, you are a soldier. You’re like a Spartan: you’re born into the conflict. The only thing is “our weapons are not carnal, but they are mighty under God to the pulling down of strongholds” [2 Corinthians 10:4]. When Goliath blasphemed and challenged the Jehovah of Israel, David came and said to him, “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the Lord God of the hosts of Israel, whom thou hast defied” [1 Samuel 17:45]. So it is with the Christian, says Paul: he’s a soldier, he’s born into the profession, he’s enrolled in the army of God. And Paul says as such we are to have “our loins girt about with the belt, the girdle of truth; our breastplate, righteousness; our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; taking the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” [Ephesians 6:14-17]. That’s the way Jesus was panoplied. That’s the Greek word here: “Wherefore take unto you the whole panoplia, the whole panoply of God” [Ephesians 6:13]. Our Lord Jesus used that sword of the Spirit when He faced Satan: three times in the bitter trial did He use the sword of the Spirit of God. What an authoritative thing for a man to have in his heart and in his soul and in his hand, the sword of God [Matthew 4:3-10]. Always definite, always certain, never philosophical and equivocal; always bold and courageous, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” [Ephesians 6:17].
Now, we haven’t time for all of these, so I am picking out one: “Above all” [Ephesians 6:16], doesn’t mean above everything else in the sense it’s so more important than everything else, just [en] pasin, “on top of” all this, do not forget, the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” And I’m taking that because Paul especially seems to point it out: “Above all, taking the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:16]. Now those ancient people back there had many different kinds of shields. If you look it up in some of your encyclopedias and other sources of information, you’ll see pictures of those ancient shields, like the Persians had, like the Egyptians had, like the Greeks had, like the Romans had, many, many different forms, many different fashions, many, many different sizes. But this shield here that Paul is talking about is of a certain kind, it’s of a certain make, it’s of a certain description, it’s of a certain size. In reading this thing in the Greek, I came across that word for the shield here, thureos, thureos. Well, it looked familiar to me, the formation of the word, the look of the word. The Greek word for “a door” is thura. The Greek word for “a little door, little window,” would be thuris, “little door.” The Greek word for “a big door” is a thureos which is the Greek word for “shield.” So the Greek word that he’s using here for “the shield of faith” is not one of those small ones that a man might easily and deftly hang on his arm, just a big round plate; but the shield he’s talking about here is one of those big shields that a warrior used to cover and protect his entire body.
Let me give you another illustration of that kind of a shield. Do you remember the famous story, when a Spartan mother sent her boy into the battle? She said to him, “And son, you are to return with your shield, or on it.” In other words, the shield was big enough to be a bearer for a fallen soldier; his body could be carried upon it. If it was big enough then, for the soldier to be carried upon it dead and slain, then it was big enough in his war and in his conflict to be the protective covering for his whole body. And that’s the kind of a thing a thureos, big as a door, that’s the kind of a thing Paul is talking about here: “Above all, taking the shield of faith” [Ephesians 6:16], the protection for the whole armor and the whole fighting soldier. You need it, you need it, you need that shield to protect the whole body, to protect the helmet, to protect the breastplate, to protect the whole panoply of the warrior for God.
Do you remember the story in the Old Testament, when Elijah said to Ahab, “And in that place, and in that place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, in that place shall the [dogs] lick up yours, thine” [1 Kings 21:19]; remember that? Ahab, upon a day, went out into the war. And in his chariot, he carefully placed his armor and covered it over with the clothes of a civilian, completely protected, Ahab thought [1 Kings 22:30]. But the Bible says that a soldier drew back his arrow at a venture, that is, just blindly, and he let it fly; and the Scriptures say that that arrow pierced between the joints of the armor of Ahab, and he fell down dead in his chariot, and his blood spilled out onto the floor of the warring chariot. And they brought him back to the fountain at Jezreel, and washed out the chariot. And the dogs came and licked his blood where they licked the blood of Naboth [1 Kings 22:34-38]. Do you remember that story? And the soldier drew back his arrow at a venture, and shot with his bow, and Ahab had not the shield of faith, and the arrow pierced between the joints of his armor, and he died [1 Kings 22:34-35]. To be panoplied for the war is not enough: we need the whole shield, the whole body; we need to be protected from the helmet of our salvation down to the sole of our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace [Ephesians 6:13-15].
Now you look at that shield. That shield of faith is to protect the helmet of salvation of the man, to protect his head, the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16-17]. I see a group of you young theologues here tonight. Man, man, what stuff, what inane stuff, what doubting stuff, what poisonous stuff do you get in your head when you prepare for the gospel ministry. Those books that you read, those higher critical authors that you study, all of those things to which you are subjected, man, man, how a fellow can get wrong in his head. He can look back there in the old Bible, and there’ll be “J-E-D-P.” Does that mean anything to you kids? Look back there and there’ll be all of those “J-E-D-P’s.” And by the time they get through with you, you’re so theologically mixed up you just look like a scrambled egg. That’s what happens to you. In your head, in your head, man, you can get mixed up. But that’s why you need the shield of faith: to protect your head! [Ephesians 6:16]. As long as a man is anchored on the Word of God [Ephesians 6:17], as long as a fellow’s heart is dedicated to the revelation in Christ Jesus, I don’t care what books he reads, and I don’t care what he studies, and I don’t care what higher critic, his head will be just clear as a bell, and his faith will ring like a clarion trumpet. You need the faith though, to protect your head [Ephesians 6:16].
Look at that shield: and it protects the breastplate, the heart, the shield of faith, the entire body [Ephesians 6:14-16]. And you need it to protect your heart. How easy it is, how easy it is for a man to be drawn off into the love and blandishments of the world, easiest thing in the world. Get to the place where you love ease and luxuries and want and pant after the places of size and fame and reward. I tell you, there’s not anything that is as vitiating to the ministry of today as the ease and emoluments that accompany the modern successful minister. So much so that the preacher thinks, “If I’m not called to a famous pulpit or a big church, and if I don’t have a big mansion in which to live, and if I don’t have two swanky cars to drive, I haven’t arrived, I haven’t got there.” Consequently, there’s a panting on the part of a minister after these luxurious places and after these high pulpits. If I were out there in Podunk still and say things like this, I’d say, “Well, he’s just mad and sour and all kinds of complexes in his inferiorities because he doesn’t have a big church; that’s what’s the matter with him, and that’s why he’s talking about that.” Well sir, I got the best church in the world, best church in the world. I got the best people in the world, you; you good-for-nothin’ folks, I got the best people in the world, you. I got the best church in the world, the best people in the world. I have as fine a life as anybody could enjoy in the world, that’s right. And I can tell you truly, that when I look upon my fellow ministers and see them pant after those things, do you know what I do? I try to work harder than ever, “O God, anything but to get luxury loving, and to get soft, and to long for and to pant after those things.” I’d love to think—and I may be the most self-deceived critter you ever heard in your life—but I’d love to think that if I had to go back, to go back to that day when I was preaching for twenty dollars a month, I’d love to think that I’d be just as true, and just as faithful, and try as hard as I do now to minister to whoever would listen to the glorious message of the gospel of the Son of God. This thing of the ministry is not a matter of loving salary, and loving homes and houses and cars and big emoluments; the Lord deliver us, God spare us. Wherever a man is, if he’s a true servant of Christ, that’s a great place; wherever a preacher is, that’s a grand pulpit; and wherever a man’s lost, that’s a wonderful congregation; keep our hearts from panting after the luxuries, and the softness, and the emoluments, and the stipends, and the rewards of the world—the shield of faith covering us [Ephesians 6:16].
Shield of faith covering his knees, covering his knees. Those knees, how important those knees! I said not long ago here, “We don’t go any further than we go on our knees.” We may get all kinds of plans, and all kinds of steamed-up programs, and all kinds of outlines, “These things are we going to do”; no, we don’t go any further than we go on our knees. That’s why that Saturday all day prayer meeting is important, and that’s why for us to pray here is important, and that’s why for us to pray at home is important. That’s why for us to pray by ourselves is important; to protect our knees, the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16].
Bless her heart, I listened to a dear, dear somebody today. And oh the storms of life that blow, and oh the sorrows that overwhelm; sometimes illness, that a preacher say, “These are just the disciplines and chastisements of the Lord,” sometimes they’re nothing but agony and torment. Sometimes everything we’ve saved and gathered in our lives, the fruit of the life of toil and labor, is swept away and destroyed. Sometimes every hope turns to dust and ashes. You kneel down and pray, my soul how you need that shield of faith to protect those knees. O God, have You forgotten me? O God, is there no God to listen to me? And in the agony of life, cry and cry; you need that faith, that shield, to protect those knees.
You need that shield of faith to protect those feet, to protect those feet where you’re going. The great avenues and the destinies and the paths and the labyrinths of life, how many ways can a man go, and you need the shield of faith to protect you, to protect your feet [Ephesians 6:16].
Another thing about that shield of faith, not only to protect us, but that shield of faith is an instrument of conquest and of victory. Here girded about with a strong belt, having on a breastplate, and our feet shod, and the helmet, and the sword in our hand, and the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:13-17], brother, you’re marching for God, you’re on the way. You’re a soldier now; you’re in the kingdom’s army. Well, isn’t that a strange thing as I mentioned while ago, that Paul would liken us to that? Here we are with the idea that for a man to be a preacher and for a man to be a Christian is to be soft and willowy. And how many of us are that? No backbone; or if you have one, like a grapevine. No convictions, don’t stand up for Christ, don’t stand up for a great confession, don’t stand up for anything, just going along, bowing like a reed in the wind, not like a great cedar of Lebanon standing in the storm. Whatever the company, take its hue; wherever the sentiment goes, there you ride the bandwagon; just going along, just being nice and soft and sweet and everybody’s friend, everybody’s friend. Yeah, wouldn’t say a word for Jesus, wouldn’t say a word for a great conviction, wouldn’t stand up for anything, just being the best pale fellow, well meant and just agreeable and just go along with everybody. How much do people interpret the Christian faith like that? The preacher, and he above all, there he is just saying the sweetest little dewdrop things, just talking about the most pusillanimous inoffensive platitudes, just up there a mild mannered man, talking to a mild mannered congregation on how to be more mild mannered; he wouldn’t offend the devil. I one time heard of a fellow that came up to his preacher, who had just resigned, and said, “How I’ve been blessed by your ministry, Reverend so and so. Why, before you came,” he says, “I was against the world, the flesh, and the devil; but after your fine sermons I’ve come to love all three.”
I one time heard of a preacher so willowy and so sissy that the fellow walking out the back door shook his hands and asked him what was his maiden name. Oh, we’re not to be like that. Brother, you’re a soldier! And you’re on a side; you are definitely on a side! You’re not neutral, you’re not on the fence, you’re not playing both ends against the middle. Man, you’re on a side; we’ve chosen sides! We’re for Christ, and we’re for His great church, and we’re for His people, and we’re for what Christ stands for; in the army, panoplied for God [Ephesians 6:11].
What does it say here in the Good Book? “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” [Ephesians 6:16]. What it’s referring to back there is this: in that long ago ancient day, those archers would take their arrows and dip those steel pointed tips in poison; and when that soldier of the opposition shot it, it wasn’t just a matter of it striking you in the jugular vein or in the heart and you fall down dead, but it was a matter of the slightest touch, and you were dead! That’s the way Paris killed Achilles. When his mother dipped him in the River Styx, he was absolutely invulnerable, except where she held him by the heel. And when Paris shot his arrow, it hit Achilles in the heel, and he died because it was dipped in poison. And that’s one of those arrows, “the fiery darts.” And the other thing is this: sometimes in those ancient days, when an arrow had spent its course, it was still the most dangerous thing that could be shot into the city over the wall, or into the house, or into the fortress, because it was dipped in inflammable material, some kind of concoction that would burn furiously, like phosphorous will burn. And when that thing came over into the fortification, there its force may have been spent, but it burns. And sometimes a whole city has been set on fire, and the people destroyed. That’s what he means when he refers to “the fiery darts of the devil and of the wicked” [Ephesians 6:16].
How are you going to war against the poisons that are shot toward your head and your heart and your soul? And what are you going to do with those things that flame, even though their energy is spent, over which you stumble, things that can set your life and your house on fire, can destroy the very fortifications of God, what do you do? This is what you do: with that shield of faith, ward them off. “Having the shield of faith, to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” [Ephesians 6:16], and they fall harmlessly there, and there can they be swept away and destroyed; their potency obliterated, vitiated, nullified by the protecting shield of faith in God.
Now this last: in those old and ancient days, on a field of battle or in a gladiatorial contest, those men fighting for country and for home and for king—when a man fought, his opponent in every way possible sought to brush aside and thrust away the shield in order that with his sword he might inflict a mortal wound beneath the armor of his antagonist. As long as that shield was there, the man was invulnerable. Only by thrusting it aside could an opponent, an antagonist, reach through to thrust his sword through that armor into a vital place. But as long as the shield is there, the soldier can stand. Thus Paul would say to us, “As long as a man has faith in God, he can stand” [Ephesians 6:13-14, 16], stand anything.
And they came to Job and said, “Everything is gone; your house is burned down, and your barns are destroyed, and your oxen and your cattle, all have been swept away, everything is gone” [Job 1:13-17]. But Job said, “The Lord gave, the Lord took away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]; the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16]. And upon a day, they came to Job and said, “Job, your seven boys all lie dead. And your three daughters, they lie dead. Job, all, all is gone” [Job 1:18-19]. And Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. And Satan came and afflicted him with boils sore, from the top of his head to the sole of his foot, all of him [Job 2:7]. And he sat in an ash heap [Job 2:8], and he was outcast, and so forgotten, and so cast aside, that when the dogs came and licked his sores, they were welcomed friends. And Job bowed his head to die in his agony. And when he bowed his head and thought he was to die, he said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth . . . and though through this skin worms destroy this body, in my flesh shall I see God” [Job 19:25-26]; the shield of faith. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me” [Psalm 23:4].
“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” [2 Timothy 1:12]. If a man has his shield of faith, he can stand; misfortune, and storm, and death, and sorrow, and age, and what awaits for me, O Lord. What awaits you? Oh, my soul! This one falls by cancer, this one falls by leukemia, this one falls by paralysis, this one falls by an enumerable unceasing plague; all of our people. And what do you do? O Lord, with the shield of faith [Ephesians 6:16], we can walk through any valley; and with the shield of faith, we can stand in any storm; and with the shield of faith, we can approach that last and final enemy, death, and vanquish him in the power and in the name and in the strength of the Lord God. My brethren, “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand” [Ephesians 6:11].
Well, God bless to our souls the encouragement of an appeal such as Paul makes to his fellow soldiers in the Christian faith [Ephesians 6:13-17]. Now while we sing our song, somebody you, down this aisle and to the front, give his heart to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life with us in the church. Should you come tonight? Come. Some of you here, I’ve been looking for to come a long time. Wouldn’t you make it now? Into the aisle and down here to the front, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? Maybe to put your home together in the Lord, maybe to put your home together here in the church, I do not say these words, God says them; I’m just an echo, just a voice. The Lord calls; He knocks at the door of your heart. I always have this assurance, that when I stand here to make an appeal, God works for me, and the Spirit is on my side. He is out there whispering into your very soul. The pastor is saying words of God. He says, “Come”; and the Holy Spirit says, “Go.” That’s the Lord; and He appeals to your heart. Would you listen to His voice, and make it now? “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.” Give me your hand. “Pastor, I’ve given my heart to God, and here I come. I have those days to face, I know it. Age comes, death comes, eternity comes, and I’m not equal for the conflict; I need God and the panoply of the Lord.” Would you come? Would you come? By a confession of faith, or putting your life into the church, a whole family of you, or just one somebody you; while we sing the song, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
A. Paul chained to
Roman soldier many years(Philippians 1:13)
acquainted with equipment of the soldier
B. Christianity a
1. Born in
turmoil and conflict – need not fear persecution
are not carnal, but mighty through God(2
Corinthians 10:4, 1 Samuel 17:45)
D. The equipment of the
soldier of the cross(Ephesians 6:10, 13-17)
1. The way Jesus
was panoplied – the whole armor of God(Matthew
II. Epi pas – added to all, the
shield of faith(Ephesians 6:16)
A. Protects and covers
the whole man
is needed – the armor not enough(1 Kings 21:19,
the head from intellectual doubt (Hebrews 11:6,
Genesis 1:1, Psalm 35:1, John 6:44, Habakkuk 1:13, 2:4)
against waywardness of the heart (James 4:4,
Matthew 6:24, 2 Timothy 4:10)
the knees bent in prayer
the feet, where you are going
B. Instrument of
conquest and victory
Put on the armor to fight
Some a soft religion – no convictions; don’t stand up for Christ
C. Victory over Satan(Ephesians 6:16)
ancients used small, poisoned arrows; also flammable
small fiery darts of the evil one
Shield of faith can quench them all
In gladiatorial combat, the enemy sought to thrust away shield
a. So Satan seeks to knock
aside our faith(Job 1:21, 13:15, 19:25-27)
a man has his shield of faith, he can stand(Psalm
23:4, 2 Timothy 1:12, Ephesians 6:11)