Ready for Battle, #1
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 6:14-15
One of the privileges of preaching God's word is knowing that he will use it in the lives of those who hear; that what comes from Scripture to your hearts, to your ears especially for those of you who believe and who know the Lord Jesus Christ, is precisely what God has appointed for you to hear in that particular time and place and what we have today, I had to restrain myself from running onto the platform because I'm so eager to share what I have to give to you here today from God's word: this is what you need today. Period. End of paragraph. End of chapter. End of story. What we're going to look at today is what you need for what goes ahead of you in life and what you're dealing with today. As I have said in my prayer, for some of you it's joy, for some of you it's struggle, all of that to say that you need what is about to be said because what is about to be said is going to come to you from God's word and is going to be about God for the children of God in order to strengthen them in the battle that God has placed you in and for some of you, I know that the battle is fierce right now but this is what quips you, this is what makes you ready for battle.
We return to the book of Ephesians this morning in chapter 6 and I invite you to turn to Ephesians 6 with me for our text. For those of you that maybe are first time, second time, third time here, we've been preaching through the book of Ephesians and we are now coming to Ephesians 6 in the ordinary course of our exposition. One of the things that I love about verse by verse teaching is that you should know that I cannot possibly come to you on any given Sunday with an agenda simply because we're going verse by verse through Scripture and so God sets the agenda for us, not the cleverness of the pastor, and you just kind of go with whatever the Scripture says and say, "Okay, this is what God has for us this morning."
Let me just give you a little bit of review to bring those of you who are new up to speed with us and to remind those of us where we have been. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 has described us Christians as soldiers in the midst of a battle; that there is an unseen battle that Christians are engaging against spiritual forces and we need to be strong in the Lord in order to succeed in the battle. Look at Ephesians 6:10. This is review at this point. The Apostle Paul said, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." Beloved, I want you to notice and to remember some of the things that we looked at. Paul here is giving you a clarion call to be strong; that there is a battle going on and when a soldier is engaged in conflict, he must be strong and courageous in order to meet the foe; that there is a duty, there is a responsibility upon the soldier to engage the battle even when there is danger and to succeed and prevail in the conflict. That's the call of God on your life as a Christian, to be strong, and the question is where does that conflict engage itself? What's the realm of the battle?
Well, we saw last time that the battle is found against false righteousness and false teaching, false revelation; that one of the primary schemes of Satan is to produce, to proclaim, to offer a false righteousness, either that you can be righteous in the things that you do or you can be righteous by the things that you avoid. Either by legalism or by asceticism, if you just do the right things or avoid the wrong things, that you can be righteous and that teaches you to trust in yourself for your own salvation, in your own spiritual growth. We saw that last time and said that's not true. We need to stand our ground against false righteousness. We need to stand our ground against false revelation because there is one revelation that has been given to man in this age and that is the 66 books of the Bible. We do not find revelation in God speaking to us. We don't find revelation in God giving visions or prophetic words that are outside or in addition to Scripture, even though that is the prevalent mindset of the church today, the so-called church, that God speaks to us in visions or has given additional books like in the books of Mormon or in Catholic tradition or the teachings of other so-called prophets and you're just swept in a wave of these kinds of assertions. And what we saw last time is that Scripture tells us to be strong against that; to stand firm against that; to not be sucked into the vortex of false righteousness or false teaching, false revelation. Stand against that in your own personal life when temptation comes to draw you away from Christ, to draw you into sin, to tempt you to be unfaithful in your marriage whether through your computer screen or in a relationship at work, when struggles and difficulties come and you feel like you're going to stagger and collapse beneath the burden as we all go through, and you struggle with doubts about your salvation. Scripture calls you, God calls you to stand firm, to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
As we sort our way through all of those different things, we realize that the reason that it's difficult, the reason why there are sometimes struggles in the Christian life, is because we're fighting a spiritual battle; that there is an unseen realm of demonic forces that are designed and actively trying to resist your ability to grow and develop in Christ. That's exactly what Paul says. Look at verse 12, he says, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood," it's not merely a human battle, "but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Paul says you are in an intense wrestling match with evil, supernatural forces that are bent on your destruction and he says you be strong in the midst of that. You be strong in the Lord against that. And in verse 13 he says, "take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
Beloved, I want you to take note of that phrase there in verse 13. This is all by way of introduction. Take note of that phrase in verse 13 that says, "take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able," you will have the capacity to be the person that God has called you to be; you will have the capacity to resist Satan and his demonic forces and to be strong in the Lord in the midst of the struggle that you're going through, whatever that struggle may be. We are to be firm, to stand firm, to manifest spiritual stability, not be tossed about by every wave of doctrine that comes or to follow after the latest silly book that comes from so-called Christian publishers, the latest vision, the latest charismatic guy on TBN has proclaimed to you. You are to have the discernment, the strength, the maturity, the stability that says, "That's not it. I'm not going after it. I'm standing and I'm staying right where I'm at on what God has made clear in Scripture." That's the kind of Christian you're supposed to be. Not everything is true. Scripture says that many false prophets have gone into the world, 1 John 4.
So the question is: how do we have the discernment to stand firm against false righteousness and false revelation? How is it that you can be strong? Because do you know what the problem is, part of the problem is? It's that you're just like me, you're sometimes inconsistent, aren't you? Your passion rises and falls. Sometimes you're doing well and sometimes you're faithful in the word and in prayer and other times you drift into indifference and people start to recognize it by the cynical nature that starts to take over your spirit or the fact that you just kind of start to withdraw from relationships. It's evident when people are not being strong in the Lord. The question is, the question for this morning is: how is it that we can be strong? Scripture says be strong in the Lord in the strength of his might, put on the full armor of God, stand, resist, how is it that you do that? That's the question and that brings us to our text for today, verses 14 and 15. Paul, having introduced the idea of a struggle and armor now builds on the military imagery and shows us the path to success, how it is that you can be ready for battle.
Look at verses 14 and 15 with me. He says,
14 stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Next week, I trust, we'll look at verse 16 and 17 which says, "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." So Paul gives a comprehensive view of the armor that God has given us to be strong, to stand firm. We're going to have to split it in two weeks because of the amount of material that is here.
Beloved, basic observation here as we start. In this passage, verses 14 through 17, I just want to make a very simple observation for you. Paul is giving us an extended metaphor. He's giving us a word picture. He's illustrating unseen spiritual realities with physical pictures to help us understand and to grasp and to assimilate what he is saying. He does this so that you would be able to receive this truth and be anchored in it and so he uses a picture like you do with your children, you'll illustrate things, you'll say, "Well, this is like this, honey," and you'll illustrate things so that your child can compare something that is inside his experience with something that is outside his experience in order to be able to grow. Here in this passage, this is so basic but it's so really important, the physical pieces of armor, the description of physical armor that Paul uses here is pointing to a truth that strengthens you to stand firm in the Christian life. He's obviously not telling us to literally put on physical armor, he's using the picture of armor to show you the spiritual resources that are yours in Christ. And why does he do that? So that you could stand firm. So that you could be strong in the strength in the strength of the Lord and in the strength of his might. God, beloved, here's the thing, here's the thing: God has already given to you as a Christian everything that is necessary for you to stand firm. You don't need standards of righteousness that go outside the Bible. You don't need revelation in addition to Scripture in order to stand firm. God has already given everything to you.
Look at Ephesians 1:3. Let me remind you of that and to realize the position of strength with which God has endowed you. Ephesians 1:3, a simple point here, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." God has already given to you everything that is necessary for the battle. You're not lacking anything. There is not a second blessing out there that some people get and that other Christians have to live without because God doesn't deal with his family that way. Every child of God has the fullness of the blessing that God gives to his family, gives to his children. It is found in what we're going to see here today. Here's the point in the context of Ephesians 6, beloved: God has already given to you the spiritual protection that is necessary for you to resist Satan. You already have it. There is not some secret knowledge out there that's the key to success. There is not a hidden prayer language that you need someone to teach you in order that you can gain extra spiritual power. There is not another book besides the Bible that unlocks it for you. That's just not true. God has already given you – notice that Paul could say, speaking to all Christians of all times in Ephesians 1:3, God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. The things that came after, all of this so-called revelation and visions and prophecies, that's not part of it. It's just a distraction at best. So Paul here in this extended metaphor, explains to you what it is that God has given you. This is vital to you. You can't live a Christian life without this.
Now, there's an interpretive issue that we need to address up front. This may surprise a few of you but we need to address it. Notice in verse 14 and in 15 that Paul speaks about truth, righteousness and peace. Do you see that, verses 14 and 15? He says, "girded your loins with truth, the breastplate of righteousness, preparation of the gospel of peace." Those spiritual virtues of truth, righteousness, and peace. It's a difficult issue in understanding the course of this passage about the armor of God. It's not immediately just obvious that Paul is talking about one thing in particular, and some very good teachers think that as Paul talks about the armor of God – follow me here – that Paul is talking about the practical righteousness that a believer needs to take up to resist the devil and so they'll describe this passage in the sense that Paul means the individual Christian's character, that you must live truthfully, live righteously and faithfully preach the Gospel in order to fight the battle against a supernatural foe. Now look, that's not an unreasonable interpretation and there is a certain level of ambiguity in the passage if you just look at verses 14 through 17 with blinders on, that makes that an appealing interpretation. And let me say this up front real clear: it is vital for Christians to be truthful, to live righteously and to faithfully preach the Gospel. That's essential in order to fight the battle. Careless, lazy, indifferent Christians will not resist the devil successfully. They won't. You won't.
But here's the question. There is a different question that we need to ask. It's not whether those virtues are important and indispensable to Christian living, the question for us today is this, understanding, remembering what Paul said, there are supernatural, unseen, evil forces operating against you in your Christian life. That's verse 12. The question is this: is your practical righteousness your defense against Satan? Does your success in the Christian life depend ultimately on the level of your sanctification? Let's approach it from a different perspective: isn't your problem in your spiritual life ultimately the problem of your own inconsistency? In Romans 7, Paul said, "I do the things I don't want to do and I don't do the things that I should do." Paul felt the struggle. You can speak to that from your own experience, can't you? You wake up in the morning and you're indifferent to God. Your Bible has been closed the past seven days since you last came to Truth Community Church. I want to tell you something, beloved, and speaking for myself as well: if my defense against Satan, a supernatural destructive deceitful foe, depends on my level of commitment, I'm not confident. I'm concerned about how this comes out if that's the ultimate ground of defense; if that's the bulwark, if that's the fortress and it depends on my truthfulness and my evangelistic efforts, my practical righteousness, I don't like the direction that's going. I'm not that confident in myself. Maybe you've been taught this passage this way. Well, I want to show you that there's a different way to consider these things and when you see them by comparison, I believe that you'll see the armor of God is something that is much more than the practical level of the sanctification of you.
So we're going to look at it this way and I want to set this up a little bit. Let's start with the immediate context, that's how we'll do it for now. Notice something really simple. It's amazing reading different commentaries how often the simplest and plainest and most obvious things, at least in my judgment, are overlooked and not mentioned, things that you can see by simply reading the text. Notice this, what has Paul been talking about? Well, in verse 13, he said, "take up the full armor of God." Take up God's armor. Is God's armor limited to my practical sanctification? I sure hope not. That wouldn't be good. He says in verse 11, he says it there, he says, "take up the full armor of God." Verse 10, you see, we're just looking at the context here. He says, "You be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might." He's pointing us not to ourselves, he's pointing to something that is in the realm of God as that which would be our bulwark and fortress and defense against Satan. Stay with me here, I'm just laying the groundwork here.
Notice something else, verse 12, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood." This is not a human battle that we are fighting. Paul is evidently and obviously pointing us to something that is outside of a merely human realm that would be our armor and our strength against Satan. What is he talking about? Let's extend the context out a little bit more. Paul said – I'm repeating myself so often. Do you know why I do that? It's because repetition is the key to learning and because these things are not necessarily immediately obvious and I repeat them so that you won't miss them. Why? Because I want you to succeed in the Christian life. I want you to live a life that glorifies God. I want you to know the fullness of his true blessing and not be sucked into false righteousness and false revelation that would lead you astray and would be destructive of your soul. That's why we repeat things again and again.
Well, let's consider the broader context of Ephesians, a passage that we've pointed to a number of times. When Paul opened up the book of Ephesians after he had praised God for his gift of salvation in verses 3 to 14, do you remember what he did? What did he do? He prayed. He prayed for believers. He prayed for people just like you. And what was his prayer at that time? In verse 18, he says, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so," chapter 1, verse 18. I'll give you a moment to turn there. I know where I'm at but I don't always make it obvious for you to know where I'm at so sometimes I have to stop and say, "Oh yeah, chapter 1, verse 18." This is really crucial in my opinion. Paul says, chapter 1, verse 18, what is his prayer? What is on the heart of this apostle appointed by Jesus Christ for the good and upbuilding of the church, what's on his heart as he begins to unfold to them what the church should be? He says in verse 18, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and," watch this, we've seen it 10,000 times here at Truth Community Church, I pray that you would know "what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ." What? What is this power like? What's the measure of this power? It's "when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places," notice this, verse 21, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion."
Okay, let's take a breath. Paul opens the letter saying, "I pray to God that he would open your eyes to help you understand that the supernatural power at work in your Christian life is the very power of the resurrection and it is that resurrection power that elevated Christ above all rule and authority and dominion." In other words, resurrection power, supernatural power that goes beyond anything that you have in your native human abilities, has elevated Christ above the demonic realm and if you are in Christ, then you're in a position where demonic powers are inferior to the power that is at work in your salvation. He's pointing to something supernatural in chapter 1, and now as we come back around to chapter 6, he's picking back up on the supernatural realities of Christian salvation. He's talking about something that goes beyond your personal efforts at sanctification. This is so important. This is so vitally important. Beloved, here's the question: what is the armor of God that protects you from Satan? What is it that gives you immovable strength in the Christian life? You should know, if you have any level of self-awareness as a Christian at all, you should realize that to be able to stand firm, to be immovable against supernatural forces, must be something that's outside of you, something that transcends you and your own level of commitment and I believe that that's exactly what Paul is pointing us to.
What is the armor of God that he calls us to? What is the armor of God that protects us from Satan? Here we go. I'm going to give you three this morning and when you lay it all out you're going to say, "Of course, that has to be it." Point 1, what is the armor of God that protects us from Satan? You should do this, number 1: remember God's revelation. Remember God's revelation. Beloved, what is it that ultimately gives you certainty of truth and gives you discernment between that which is true and that which is false? It's not your own subjective opinion. That can't be it. If it's your opinion and my opinion and we disagree, then we have no means of being able to solve the issue. That's not the armor of God. The armor of God is found in what? The truth of God.
Look at verse 14, chapter 6, verse 14 here. Paul says, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth." Now, notice something, a little grammatical observation: the primary command, the main verb in this text is that imperative right at the start of verse 14 that says, "Stand firm." Be strong. Don't move off of what has been delivered to you and that is in keeping with what Paul has been saying all along. Verse 10, "be strong in the Lord." Verse 11, "you need to be able to stand firm." Chapter 6, verse 13, "having done everything, stand firm." So in verse 14, he picks that up and he says it one more time, he says, "Stand firm." So what you need to understand as you're going through this and this is vital to the health of your soul, it really is, that the central idea here is stand firm, and then what Paul does after giving that imperative, picture that stand firm as being at the center and undergirding that command are four pillars of participles that show what it is that equips you for spiritual stability. Let me say that again: having said stand firm, Paul now gives us a series of participles that show what it is that enables you to stand firm. So the participles you look at, verse 14, "having girded your loins with truth; having put on the breastplate of righteousness; having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel"; verse 16, "taking up the shield of faith." Do you see the structure of the passage? Stand firm. Be a man. How do I do that? Well, you should have done this, you should have girded yourself, put on the breastplate, shod your feet, taken up the shield of faith. Don't miss the central idea, stand firm, now we see what it is that helps us to stand firm.
Now, Paul says in verse 14, we can stand firm after "having girded your loins with truth." Look at verse 14 there with me, "Stand firm therefore," therefore, as a result of everything that I've been saying, take up the full armor of God, therefore stand firm, and then he gets into detail about what that looks like and he says, "Stand firm, having girded your loins with truth." This is what enables you to be firm is to gird your loins with the truth. A Roman soldier, Paul was in prison, he probably had a Roman soldier right next to him as this letter was being written, a Roman soldier as part of his equipment had a belt that would gather his clothing close to his body instead of the robe being loose and flowing, maybe hindering his motion, maybe an enemy could grab a hold of his loose robe and pull him forward and put him at a disadvantage. There was a belt that they tied up the robes and gathered them together so that there would be no hindrance in the battle as he engaged in the close conflict that a soldier at that time would be engaged in. Paul says that's a picture of what you need to do with truth; it's a picture of the centrality of truth in the Christian battle.
Martin Luther in the hymn that we sometimes sing, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," says that God has willed his truth to triumph through us. Notice this and notice the distinction: you could understand this and some men do as saying Paul is talking about the truthfulness and integrity of your own character. You need to be truthful and have integrity. Okay, that's not the point here. But by contrast, beloved, do you understand the foundation, the bulwark, the unconquerable strength of the word of God by comparison? He's pointing us to God's truth. What is it that makes you strong against all of the deception of the devil? It's not your own integrity. What makes you strong against the devil is the certain, final, infallible revelation of God found in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and in his inerrant word. That's where the strength is. That's the armor that brings you in and being committed to the truth leaves you with little in the way of loose garments, vulnerable points where Satan can attack you. Here's the thing, beloved. What's the armor of God as it relates to the belt of truth? We are committed to the revelation of God in Scripture. We are committed to the revelation of God in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. That infallible word, that unconquerable Son is that which Satan cannot prevail against.
Think about what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18. Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said, in a manner of speaking, "Bingo. Peter, it's on that confession that I will build My church and," what? "The gates of hell won't be able to prevail against it." Satan cannot prevail against God's truth revealed in Scripture and in Christ and what Paul is saying is, "You take that truth, you embrace it. You give yourself to it. You trust it. You submit to it. And in that realm of truth that God has established, there is your protection. God protects his people when they are under the umbrella of his word and under the Lordship of Jesus Christ." That's where your protection is. Not in your integrity. By comparison, you see the great difference. You know, I mean, look, you guys fib from time to time. I know because you tell me I look good today. That just can't be. No, our truth is not a certain infallible defense in the same way that Christ and Scripture are, is it? That's why we go and we gather ourselves in. You remind yourself, the way that you stand firm is you remember this and if it helps to close your eyes and sometimes it does to me, you close your eyes to block out the distractions so that the foundational things sink deep into your soul. In the midst of a world that is hostile to Christianity and is plunging deeper and deeper into darkness like we are today, in the midst of a so-called church that has lost its bearings on Scripture and truth and people speculate supposedly in the name of Christ about whether there is even a hell or whether certain things are sin or not anymore and you're just surrounded by all of this darkness and confusion, what is it that helps you to stand firm and to not get sucked away into it? You focus. You say, "No. No. God has made his truth known in the word of God. God has revealed himself finally and certainly in the Lord Jesus Christ and that is my strength against it. That commitment, those truths are that which enables a solitary man to stand against the world if he needs to. Why? Because he's strong in the strength of the revelation that God has given." That's why in the fourth century a man could say, "If the world is against me, I'm against the world." Athanasius defending the doctrine of the Trinity. Somebody came to him and said, "The world is against you." He said, "Okay, if the world is against me, I'm against the world." Why? Why could he be that way? Not because of his internal integrity although that is a secondary outworking of it. It was because he was convinced of the truth of God in Scripture and in Christ. That's the armor. That's what helps you to be unmovable because now it's something that is outside of you that you stand on.
So, beloved, especially you young people at the early stages of establishing the foundational convictions that will determine the direction of your life, understand this: when the world opposes Christ, when the world declares Christianity to be illegal, when friends go against you and family rejects you because of your conviction to Christ, your commitment to Christ, you put on the armor of God and say, "No. I know the word. I know Christ. I don't need to move." You see, when the world opposes Christ or when false teachers promote appealing doctrines contrary to what you have heard, here's the thing: truth brings clarity in the smoke of battle and it's only that truth that can give you the clarity of mind to stand firm and so you gird yourself up. Every one of you in here, you must do this. You must say, "Ah, yes, the truth of God in Scripture, the truth of God in Christ, I stand there. I'm not moving." And when people come and try to contradict that, you say, "No."
That's how you stand firm. It's when you remember God's revelation and you remember this as well, beloved, you remember this: God honors his truth. You know that in the first three centuries after Christ, that there were 10 waves of Roman persecution that tried to exterminate the church and extinguish it, right? Roman Emperor after Roman Emperor either sanctioned or stood by as Christians were put to death for the sake of Christ. Their Scriptures would be gathered up and burned every opportunity they got and the most powerful men in the world were arrayed against it and what happened? We're here, right? God's truth prevailed. Do you know what? That's what always happens. God's truth always prevails even though there might seem to be ebbs and flows in the battle from a human perspective, and when you believe that about God's truth, do you know what you do? You stand firm.
So, let's make it personal here. Look, this is life and death conflict that we're talking about here, spiritual forces and Paul says God's truth is the protection against that. Well, let's ask a real personal question for each one of you: do you read your Bible? When did you last read your Bible? Do you have a life pattern of giving yourself over to Scripture? Do you understand doctrine? Do you even care about biblical doctrine? I know many of you do and that's why you're here and I love you for it, but don't make the mistake of just thinking that your outward association week by week with a church like ours that preaches Scripture, don't make the mistake that thinking that that outward association is sufficient for you to be protected in your battle against Satan. You must love Scripture for yourself. You must be reading Scripture for yourself, intaking it. And if you are and you're growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, do you know what? You're going to stand firm. You're going to stand firm against a supernatural enemy. Why? Because that is the life-giving, supernatural power of the revelation that God has made in Scripture and in Christ. You're going to stand firm.
Secondly. You remember God's revelation, secondly, what do you do? I like this point. I love this text. What can I say? Secondly, what do you remember? You remember Christ's righteousness. Christ's righteousness is what you remember. Verse 14, Paul says, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth," okay, I'm committed to God's revelation, "and having put on the breastplate of righteousness." The Roman breastplate for a soldier was a major piece of armor that protected his vital organs in battle and the question is, as we've asked already, what is this righteousness that acts as that which vitally protects us? Well, you'll notice, some of you will notice in your Scripture that the major portions of this verse are in all capital letters indicating that it's a quotation from the Old Testament. Go back, if you would, to the book of Isaiah. Paul had more than a Roman soldier in mind here. He had the truth of Scripture, prior revelation in his mind as well and look at Isaiah 11 and notice who's righteousness it is that he is drawing upon as he quotes from the Old Testament. Isaiah 11:5, speaking prophetically about Christ, he says, "righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist." He's not talking about a human righteousness that would mark the conquering Messiah, he was talking about a righteousness that was inherent in the Messiah himself and that that would be that which geared him up for battle.
Look over at Isaiah 59:17, Paul says, again speaking about Christ, "He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle." Paul points back to prophetic passages talking about Christ and his righteousness when he tells us about the armor of God in Ephesians 6 and he tells us, "You put on that same breastplate of righteousness." In other words, the righteousness that marked the conquering Messiah is the same righteousness that protects you in battle.
How does this work out? What are we seeing here? Acknowledging that some men try to make this a matter of the practical righteousness of the believer, I don't think that's Paul's primary point. Our best practical righteousness as a Christian is still imperfect and vulnerable, isn't it? No, I think what Paul is saying here as he tells you to put on the breastplate of righteousness is to remember this: that in your salvation God imputed to you the perfect righteousness of Christ and that that righteousness is the basis upon which you have access to God; that that righteousness is that which protects you. When you die and stand before a holy God, will you stand before him in the rags of your own righteousness? Those of you who haven't trusted Christ, that's your answer and I'm going to tell you, that ain't gonna go well for you. Those of us who know Christ, we stand before a holy God in a perfect position because God has assigned the righteousness of Christ to our account. That perfect, impeccable, never failed, never violated righteousness of Christ, that is what gives you your confidence before God you are in Christ, and in Christ, God accepts that as your basis for a right standing with him.
Now, to work this out in the way that we framed it three weeks ago, remember, we talked about the problem of legalistic righteousness, not a true righteousness; false righteousness of self-denial as if self-denial, denying things of earth would set us in right standing with a holy God. Oh, beloved, what is it that protects you? What is it that anchors you against that kind of false teaching? What is it that will enable you to say, "No, that's not right. That's not what I'm going to do. That's not what I'm going to put my trust in." How is it that you are protected when false teachers come and say, "You need to do this, this and this, and not do this, this, and this," and try to suck you into their realm of false religion which usually comes at the same time that they're saying, "You need to give more"? What is it that protects you against that? What is it that keeps you from being seduced, deceived, and brought into it? It's this: it's the righteousness of Christ. It says, "No. No, my hope, my confidence, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. That's what gives me righteousness in the presence of God and I wouldn't trade the perfect righteousness of Christ for some man-made religion that tells me to do this, this and this, and maybe then I can be righteous before God. No, my righteousness is as of filthy rags. There is no righteousness in me that can commend me to God. I rest on a righteousness of Christ. I rest on a righteousness that is outside of me, that is given to me, that I did not earn." And beloved, that becomes a breastplate that protects you from false doctrine; that protects you from pride and saying, "Oh, I did this." That's not what I boast in, I boast in the cross of Christ. I boast in his righteousness. That's my hope. Nothing that I did, nothing that human teachers give me outside of God's word to tempt me into righteousness.
Think about it from another direction, beloved, those of you that get discouraged, those of you that doubt your salvation: when you have fallen, you have failed, you stumbled and you realize that there is no excuse, you can't blame anyone else, it's solely you and you have sinned against God even in your Christian life, you say, "Oh," and you're discouraged, what is it that gives you the strength to stand firm even then? It's the same answer, beloved: it's the righteousness of Christ. You look outside of yourself to a righteousness that was perfect, a righteousness that was given to you and you received by faith. It's a righteousness that God accepts and you say, "Do you know what? I can continue on here. I don't have to fall down in doubt and discouragement here. I can rise even now because what makes me stand is not my own righteousness, it's the perfect righteousness of Christ which God has fully accepted as shown by the resurrection of his Son." That's what gives you supernatural strength against the devil. You're tempted by doubts and accusations and you call yourself a Christian, look at what you did and, how can you be a Christian if you did that? You look over and you see somebody who seems to be doing better spiritually than you are and you just start to feel the weight of all of that and your shoulders start to sag and your countenance drops and your head starts to hang. You know what that's like, don't you? You have fallen short. Well, what is it then that lifts your head back up? What is it that gives strength to your soul? What is it that refreshes you? You say, "Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I remember now. I had forgotten for a moment. I drifted away but I have come back to this armor. It's the righteousness of Christ that secures my standing with God and now I'm strong again. God accepts me because he accepted his Son and I'm in his Son." That's what answers doubt.
Beloved, the righteousness of Christ answers, puts away every accusation that Satan or your accusing conscience could ever make against you. I don't stand before God on my own merit, "I stand before God on a merit that is not my own, the righteousness of Christ," and in that you can confident and you can stand firm because, beloved, that is what God has graciously given to you in Christ, the righteousness of Christ that you did not earn, given to you as a gift, received by faith. That's what makes you strong. So we ask this question: what is it that you trust in? Is it your righteousness or Christ's? One will let you stand firm. The other makes you vulnerable in battle. These things need to be clear in your mind. We resist Satan in the strength of the revelation of God, in the word and in Christ, and in the righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift.
There is a final thing. I am tempted to cut it off here but I'm going to finish my notes. The third thing for this morning, I love this: remember your reconciliation. Remember your reconciliation. Paul moves to a third element of the armor of God that protects a Christian and alluding to Isaiah 52:7 which talks about the glad tidings of him who brings good news, he says in verse 15, "having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace." Your mind is prepared for the battle when you remember the Gospel of peace; when you draw upon that. Paul says, "having shod your feet." Roman soldiers wore footwear that was thickly studded with sharp nails and it gave them traction, it gave them firmness, it gave them mobility so that if they came under attack they didn't slide back and fall back. They had an anchor. They had a foundation in the very soles of their footwear that enabled them to stand in the battle and to be strong and footwear is important. If you have ever tried to walk with a pebble in your shoe, a little tiny rock, you know what this is like. It's uncomfortable. You can't stand like that when there's something poking up against your foot. I'm making you uncomfortable just by talking about this, aren't I? And you have to get your shoe off and shake it out and get rid of that so that it's secure and firm and there's not something poking up against you in your foot. You know how debilitating and restricting that can be. Well, what Paul is doing here as he talks about the armor that enables you to stand firm against Satan, is he is reminding you of the peace that Christ has purchased for you with his shed blood that has fully reconciled you to God. I say this with sympathy to those of you that struggle with doubts in your spiritual life, you struggle with a lack of assurance. I know that's difficult. I know it weighs on you. I know it's hard to move beyond that and that actually just makes the point. You need to have a clarity and a certainty of your mind that God accepts you, that God is with you, so that you are able to stand firm. If you think the battle is against Satan and, "Maybe God is torqued against me too," you're defenseless. You can't move forward. You can't stand firm in battle if you think God is against you also and the whole point of the Gospel is that God has reconciled us to Christ and we now have full access to him. Paul here is telling you to rest in your reconciliation with God just like he did earlier in Ephesians 2.
Go back to Ephesians 2. I'm almost done now. What we're doing here interpretively, we're letting the broader context inform our understanding of something in a more remote context. Ephesians 2:13. Notice what he had been talking about earlier in the letter before he talks about the Gospel of peace in Ephesians 6. Verse 13, he says, "now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He Himself," notice, Christ Himself, "is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." Verse 16, no, I can't skip it, verse 15, "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace," saying that Jews and Gentiles are reconciled in the church through faith in Christ. Verse 16, "and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." Now watch this, verse 17, "and He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father." Christ came and established peace through his death on the cross. Through his apostles, he proclaimed peace to Jews and Gentiles alike, that you can have full unhindered access to God through faith in Christ. There is a reconciliation. We who were separate from God, alienated from him and under his judgment, now by a great act of mercy, have been reconciled, made at peace, and now have, look at verse 18, we have access in one Spirit to the Father. Confidence.
Look over in chapter 3, verse 11, "This was in accordance," chapter 3, verse 11. I'll slow down. "This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him." What is it that protects you against Satan? God's truth protects you. Christ's righteousness protects you. And now here as he talks about the Gospel of peace, it's the Gospel which has brought you peace, you are at peace with God not simply having internal feelings of peace, this is an objective reality. God has accepted you in Christ and if God is for you, who can be against you? God has forgiven your sin in Christ, beloved. The Gospel gave you peace with God.
Now, let's bring all of this together, two more minutes. How does that help you in the midst of the Christian struggle? How does that give you strength against a supernatural evil, wicked foe? You remember God's revelation in Christ. You remember Christ's righteousness. You remember your reconciliation to God in Christ and you realize this: that Satan cannot bring down God's word. Satan cannot bring down Christ's righteousness. Satan cannot break the reconciliation that God has given to you in Christ. And from that position of spiritual strength, when you're called to unity in the church and the development of your own Christian character, from that position of strength, you can stand firm because nothing can break down the revelation of God, the righteousness of Christ, the reconciliation that has been given to you. When that is the source of your hope and confidence, when that is saturating your mind, when that is what you are seeking to live out in your daily life, you can stand firm. Are you standing firm?
Our Father, thank you that in Scripture you have given us a perfect revelation of yourself. Thank you that in Christ you have made yourself known. Thank you that in the righteousness of Christ we have a standing with you that could never be compromised. Thank you that you have reconciled us to yourself through your Son. Father, these truths give us courage, they give us clarity, they give us strength, they give us gratitude. And from those positions, Father, with the fullness of the spiritual resources that you have bestowed upon us in Christ, O God, help us that we might go forth and stand firm. We pray these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.