Sunday, March 07, 2010

The whole armor of God

The Apostle Paul wrote:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For 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. 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.

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying 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, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:11-20).
I always thought of this as a list of things that I had to do: I had to be more truthful ("fasten the belt of truth"), I had to be more righteous ("put on the breastplate of righteousness"), I had to have more faith ("take up the shield of faith"), I had to somehow be saved ("take the helmet of salvation"), I had to pray more and better ("praying at all times in the Spirit").

And isn't that what you hear from all variety of Christians? You've got to "walk the walk" and "make a decision for Christ" and "give your heart to Jesus." And if you still have a nagging suspicion that you're not good enough, if you're still sinning, then you need to "give your life over to Jesus completely." (Even years in a church that actually teaches that we can do nothing to save ourselves, I have never, ever heard a pastor say anything about this passage to disabuse me of this understanding.)

But I was wrong.

The Apostle is not telling me, a sinner, to "put on the whole armor of God" by depending on my truthfulness; Christ is the truth ("I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me," John 14:6). I can never be righteous enough, but Christ is our righteousness ("Christ Jesus . . . became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption," 1 Corinthians 1:30). I can never be faithful enough, but Christ is faithful ("Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war," Revelation 19:11). And Christ is our salvation: ". . . Jesus . . . became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:7-9). As for prayer? "if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

We "put on the whole armor of God" by "putting on Christ;" that is, by faith in Him:
"for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).
Or rather, we have been clothed with Christ.  And that is the Good News ("gospel") which Paul declared. Christ was crucified for us sinners, giving to the whole world the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Through Him we have peace with God.