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The Battle Belongs to the Lord, Pt 2
Part 2 - The Armor of God
The next piece of the soldier’s armor is “uprightness [as] a breastplate.” This piece of armor is what protects the soldier’s vital organs in the body. It is the most defensive, and chief piece of the armor.
“In the picture drawn in 1 Thessalonians v8, the breastplate is made of ‘faith and love’. In this more detailed representation, faith becomes the outlying defensive ‘shield’, while righteousness serves for the innermost defense, the rampart of the heart. But, in truth, the Christian righteousness is compounded of faith and love.” – taken from Nicoll’s “The Expositor’s Bible”
The breastplate was the most beautiful part of the arsenal of the soldier, righteousness being the first thing that the enemy sees in the war. Christ’s righteousness shines forth. When a soldier marches, he represents Christ on earth, and we are to be examples to all the unbelieving nations. Walking in God’s righteousness of the breastplate is the weapon of defense against all those false and slanderous accusations, and trickeries of the devil. Each and every part of the armor of God is essential to the survival of the Christian. The next piece is what keeps our footing secure.
“Wearing for shoes on your feet, the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace.” In the military, taking care of the feet is an essential task. In order to march or stand strong, a soldier must take good care of his feet. Also, the soldier must have appropriate shoes to stand firm on all kinds of terrain, because one never knows when and where war can break out. The Roman soldiers’ shoes were special shoes for being kept secure, to hold their ground and not slip. The shoes… had 1 to 3 inch long spikes on the bottom, so that the soldier could keep his balance during confrontation and stand his ground. He also could use them to stomp on his enemy if necessary. The soldier’s shoes had o be secure so he could be confident when he was in battle, or when he was on expedition to a foreign land. In a spiritual context, the gospel of peace will help the Christian soldier stand firm against the evil and corrupt world. One must keep firmly planted in the Word of God, so not to slip back into sin and temptation.
The next piece of weaponry is the shield. The shield to St. Paul, was coupled together with faith. This is always to be with the soldier. “And, always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the evil one.” The shield that the Roman soldier carried was not a small round shield, but a large door-sized shield that covered the soldier entirely. The Roman soldiers’ shields were made of thick, multi-layered, animal hides, which could quench flaming arrows launched by the enemy. But, just like a Christian’s faith, it needed maintenance every day. It needs to be kept oiled in order not to dry out and crack. Each soldier was issued a shield, as each Christian is issued a certain amount of faith. “And, through the grace that I have been given, I say to every one of you, never pride yourself on being better than you really are, but think of yourself dispassionately, recognizing that God has given to each one his measure of faith.” God gives each man a measure of faith, and together, each individual makes up the army of God. Each person should strengthen the next person. It is said, “together we stand, divided we fall”, so too, no one can stand alone, we are strong together. So, also the Roman soldier, when in combat had to rely on the man next to him for survival.
When joined together, the large shields formed a wall. Each individual shield had hinges on the each side so that the soldier could couple his shield to the man on the left and the right. Then the body of soldiers could hide themselves from the rain of the enemy’s missiles. This is the same idea as the Christian conflicts of life. The soldier’s main defense is the common bulwark of the Church. The shield of the Roman soldier broke off the tips of the flaming arrows and extinguished its flames. The same happens with the Christian soldier. The shield of faith breaks off the tips of the spiritual arrows of Satan and extinguishes the temptations. The Roman soldier’s shield, alongside the many other shields, could have great defense against the enemy. However, the shield was not the soldier’s only defense. The head of the soldier often rose above the shield and was open to attack, so too does the Christian soldier need guarding against attacks on the mind.
The helmet of the Roman soldier was beautiful, ornate, but strong, piece of weaponry. After the soldier puts on the breastplate, takes on the shield, and puts on the gospel of peace, “you must take salvation as your helmet.” The soldier wore his helmet at all times, so the Christian must wear salvation, and remember it always keeps our heads on our shoulders. The word ‘take” in the scripture means that the soldier is accepting what is offered by the hand of God. The Christian needs to take salvation from the One who can give it, and wear salvation about their heads, because Satan constantly attacks the mind. Salvation’s benefits are often forgotten. It is freely given to the faithful. The helmet of salvation is worn by the Lord Himself, as is depicted by the prophet Isaiah coming to the succor of his people. The helmet becomes the crown of protection for the people of God and becomes the crest of the Divine Champion, Christ our Lord. Now that the soldier of God is fully protected, the next infinitely powerful piece of the soldier’s arsenal is his sword.
Into the hand of the warrior of light is given the sword of divine power. After taking on the helmet of salvation, one must take on the “sword of the spirit that is the word of God”. The sword of the Roman soldier was a two edged sword. The tip of the sword was turned upward in the shape of a hook to inflict internal damage of the enemy. So, too the Word of God is used to inflict wounds on the heart and the body of the enemies of the Church. When the word of God penetrates the hearts and the minds of the wicked and evil it “wounds” their hearts and mind. The very word to them will be either redemption or blight in their minds. The sword was used for close combat and only had to penetrate the enemy a couple of inches to inflict mortal wounds. In the book of Hebrews, Saint Paul shares with the reader just how powerful the Sword of the Spirit is: "The Word of God is something that is alive and active. It cuts more incisively than any two edged sword, it can seek out the place where soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from marrow; it can pass judgment on secret emotions and thought. No created thing is hidden from him; everything is uncovered and stretched, fully open to eyes the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.”
These verses are powerful words in themselves. It states that the Word of God is “living and active” and can penetrate any defense that the enemy puts in opposition of the Church. The Word of God is the truth from the heart of God and breaks down the strongholds of demonic powers that are erected. The Christian warrior must always and at all times have the Word of God on their lips, and be contemplating it in their hearts. Even Jesus, when Satan came to Him and tempted him with riches and power, used nothing else than the scriptures in opposition against His enemy. Christ, being the Word Himself, did what He instructed His people to do. God told Joshua how important the Word of God is when he told him: “Do not swerve from this [the Word of God] either to the right or to the left and you will succeed where ever you go. Have [it] always on your lips; meditate on it day and night…Then your undertakings will prosper…Have I not told you; be strong and stand firm? Be fearless and undaunted, for go where you may, the Lord your God is with you.”
It is plain to see, the Sword of the Lord is a decisive and final word weapon that will never break or go dull. Every warrior of light must carry it and use it so as to be able to stand on that “evil day” Paul tells us of in Ephesians. Now that the soldier is gird and ready for battle, Paul tells about one final important aspect of the Christian arsenal: Prayer.
In the scriptures we see the faithful of God in all different kinds of intercessions to God. There are prayers of faith, courage, strength, guidance and whatever else one can think of to petition to the Almighty. Saint Paul writes of the importance of prayer toward the end of the chapter in Ephesians: "In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for God’s holy people, and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as fearlessly as I ought to."
Saint Paul was bound to God, when he said that he was an ambassador in chains for the gospel. He lived for the Word, and he died for the Word. Every good soldier should be willing to die for their county, just as every warrior of light should be willing to die for Christ. Prayer is what links us to God and gives us strength to carry on. God gives us the ability to be somewhat in control in prayer. Prayer is what connects the Christian to the strength of the Lord. The word prayer is a universal word that is a reverent address to the Creator Himself. Prayer is even powerful enough to change the mind of God. An excellent example of this is in the book of Exodus. The Lord is ready to destroy the disobedient people because they worshiped the golden calf instead of being faithful to the One who brought them out of bondage. Moses interceded and pacified the wrath of God; a mere mortal had changed the mind of God. With a weapon as powerful as this and the full armor of God no Christian should be lacking. But, there is one final weapon that God gives his people: praise.
In the Psalms, many of them are songs of praise. God throughout the scriptures is filled with joy to hear the praises of the people. Praise is described in Psalm 149 as follows: “Let the high praises of God be in their mouths, and a two edged sword in their hand…praise ye the Lord.” Praise is described as an offensive weapon used against the powers of darkness. Yet another example of praise being a powerful weapon when coupled with prayer is when Paul and Silas prayed and sang songs of praises in the prison. They looked to God and a great earthquake opened the gates and loosed the prisoners. As they praised, the Lord fought in their stead. As anyone can clearly see, God supplies all of our spiritual needs in their spiritual war we fight. We must allow God to fight for us and God will help us when we enter into combat against the evil one. We alone can do nothing.
The Lord strengthens all of His people and gives them the weapons of our warfare and supplies what is needed to defeat the enemy. The battle is ultimately against the unseen foes of the spiritual realm. The battle is fought in the minds of all the people of this world. One must allow God to strengthen the spirit as David did. David, as-well-as many other examples of heroes and great men of faith throughout the scriptures allowed the Lord to strengthen their resolve and they were mighty men in the faith. All of the saints of the Orthodox Church went into battle and ground and prepared to do battle with the enemies of Heaven. When one starts to live according to His Words, one can begin to understand why Moses came and smashed off the mountain and smashed the Tablets of the Law. Moses was frustrated at the lack of the people’s lack of patients to follow God. Moses knew the truth and it grieved him that the people strayed. We as Christians must be patient and must prepare by applying Christ’s Words in their lives and living according to His Commandments.