No Christian is immune to spiritual warfare. We're targets of fierce attacks simply because we follow Jesus.
Today on Truth for Life weekend, we'll learn how to suit up for the continual and irreconcilable war with the evil one. Alistair Begg is teaching a message titled The Full Armor of God. We're in Ephesians chapter 6 verses 13 through 18. Now, you will notice that Paul's concern is that we would be wearing the full armor of God, that to be a member of the army is not to be a casual dresser, not to be haphazard in the pieces that we take in going out, as it were, for the day. We must wear it all, the whole panoplya of it, which is where we get from the Greek word. The full armor of God is the word panoplya, from which you get in the hymn, Soldiers of Christ Arise, and take to arm you for the fight the panoplya of God. For those of you who are wondering what in the world is the panoplya of God, it comes there from that adjective in front of armor, and it means the whole shooting match. And we're supposed to be wearing it all.
We need to remember as well that Paul is writing to a church, and that there is a very realistic and necessary corporate dimension to what he's saying here. While it is true that as individuals we need to be armed, we need to see ourselves not living in isolation, but living in the family and fellowship of one another, so that if you think in terms, for example, of taking up the shield of faith, we think of it not just in individual terms, but rather that as we took it up as a great company of people, there was just a solid phalanx of protection all around the family of God. We need the armor in order to be able to deal with the constant skirmishes of combat. And we ought not to assume that we can have one of these battles, win it, and then go to heaven, as it were, flying to the skies on flowery beds of ease, but rather, as the Westminster Confession of Faith says, the Christian is involved in a continual and irreconcilable war. So if, as you continue through your Christian life, you're saying to yourself, I wonder when I'm going to get over this, I wonder when it'll be a thing of the past, I want you to know that will be in heaven, and until then, the armor is here for our constant consideration.
Now then, let's go to it and just look at it in part as time allows. First of all, he says, I want you to make sure that you stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist. This is the first and primary and foundational element of Christian armor. It would be a belt that would be wrapped around and tightened up in the way that a man might tighten an exercise belt, or the way in which you talk about buckling up for the task, and the picture here is represented in all of that. All of the other pieces, or significant other pieces at least, namely the breastplate and the sword, would be attaching to that belt. And so if we were to leave off the belt, then we would not be able to tighten, as it were, the breastplate and hold it in place around us, and it would flap and would be a dangerous proposition, especially in close combat, because you need that thing buckled in so that there are no places under which the dagger thrust can come.
It needs to be tightened down. And so says Paul, Stand your ground, stand firm with the belt of truth buckled round your waist. Now, how are we to understand this idea of truth? Is it truth in an objective sense, i.e., Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life? Is it a knowledge of the truth which would guard and keep us? Or is it truthfulness in the subjective sense, i.e., in light of what we were considering this morning, that we would not be liars but we would be truth-tellers? In reading the commentaries, it's interesting.
It falls out about 50-50. Some people make a great fuss about the fact that it is truth in an objective sense, and others that it is truth in a subjective sense. Following the example of William Gurnell, who wrote a fat book on the subject as well, I'm going to take the path of least resistance and say that for us to buckle the belt of truth around us in order that we might be able to stand is to recognize the importance of truth in an objective sense. The truth represented in the great declaration of Martin Luther, Here I stand, I can do no other. In other words, he was taking his stand on an issue of truth. And that was not truth in terms of his own subjective truth-telling, but it was truth in terms of once delivered to the saints. That, of course, is in keeping with Paul's great concern in Ephesians 1. He mentions truth in this way. In verse 13, he says, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, namely, the gospel of your salvation. Now, loved ones, this may seem just so straightforward that we could pass over it quickly.
And indeed, I'm tempted to do as I was thinking about it in preparation for tonight. Even as I was driving here this morning, I alternated between two of my radio programs, as I usually do, and one of them I tune into in the morning is of a church service somewhere in the city here. And this pastor, at the end of his sermon, said to his congregation, And so you see, my dear friends, words to this effect, There is no reason for us to propound the priority or the superiority of our Presbyterianism. I said, That's good. But then he went on to say, Or the exclusivity and superiority of Christianity. Because God, at this point in history, is making himself known, and I'm not quoting him now, but he said, savingly and fully in all the religions and ideas of the world. What he said to his congregation was, It doesn't matter what you believe. It doesn't matter. The issue of truth is totally relativistic.
It is on a sliding scale. And, loved ones, it's going to get much worse than right now. I really believe this. I don't want to be a prophet of doom. But I do believe that God has to fashion and form in us deep convictions about these things for the sake of a coming generation. So, we want to labor hard here as pastors and elders, as Sunday School teachers, from the tiniest all the way through, to ensure that the army is buckling on the authority and the priority of the belt of truth in this most objective way.
But it also has a subjective element to it, does it not? Insofar as Paul, also still in Ephesians, in verse 9 of chapter 5, mentioned this whole idea of truth-telling, For you were one's darkness, but now your light and the Lord live as children of the light. And then he gives a little exposé of what that means. He says, For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Therefore, for the Christian to buckle on the belt of truth is not simply to be convinced that the truth of the Scriptures is revealed to us, but also is to be committed to truth-telling at the core of our being.
And we said a little of this this morning. Do not tell lies to one another, says Paul in Colossians 3. Make it an absolute commitment of your life. To say, you know, the Lord Jesus being my helper, whatever I become in life, God helping me, I will not become a liar. I'm going to tell the truth no matter what it means. I'm going to tell the truth even when I get a detention. I am going to be known as a boy or a girl of absolute integrity. Buckle it up.
Wrap it tight. Do you think God is concerned about the truth? Turn for a moment to Acts. Acts chapter 5. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.
Fine. With his wife's full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold and after it was sold? Wasn't the money at your disposal?
What made you think of doing such a thing? You've not lied to men, but to God. It was okay for him to sell it for whatever he wanted, and it was okay for him to bring whatever he chose. But it was not okay for him to create a spirit of deception in front of the church about what he was doing. And when Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard.
And then the young men came forward and wrapped up his body and carried him out and buried him. And about three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened, and Peter asked her, Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias received for the land? Not, is this the amount you brought?
Is this the price you received for the land? Yes, she said, that's the price. Peter said to her, How could you agree to test the spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also. And at that moment, she fell down and she died. And the young men came in, and finding her dad, looked at one another and said, Oh, here we go again, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came on the whole church on account of this.
And what was the issue? Truth. The army can never get any further than the weakest link in the chain. And right at the very heart of it all in taking the armor to ourselves is this matter of truth, both objectively as revealed in Scripture and embodied in Christ, and subjectively as it is worked out in our lives. Now, the second aspect is the breastplate of righteousness. We're not only to have this truth belt buckled round our waist, but we're to wear the breastplate of righteousness.
And again, quite frankly, this can be taken in both an objective and a subjective sense. For example, in 1 Corinthians and in chapter 1, Paul speaks of righteousness in this very objective way. In 1 Corinthians 1 and verse 30, it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God. That is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. The same thing in Colossians 3. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. In other words, it is by virtue of our union with Christ that we've been given a standing before God. It is the breastplate of righteousness which covers my heart and declares me justified before him.
And that in an objective sense. Now, when I have been placed in a righteous position before God on account of what Jesus has done, I am then to live out that righteousness. Subjectively, righteous living is to be part of all of my days and all of my decisions.
And earlier, commentator G.G. Findley said, The completeness of pardon for past offense and the integrity of character that belong to the justified life are woven together in an impenetrable male. And you see, that's absolutely true. The person who has a false profession of faith and declares themselves truly in Christ and lives an unrighteous life is vulnerable to every attack and is susceptible to every temptation. It is when I realize that I have been given the breastplate of righteousness to protect me from all the attacks of the evil one, and that the wonder of the fact that God has done that for me in Jesus, it enables me and quickens me to live a life that is pleasing to him. That's why you see, when you come on a man who is living in absolute denial of a Christian testimony, then it calls in question whether the profession of faith is a real profession of faith. The man is either deceived and deceiving, or he is in the worst of backslidden states. You understand this.
Let's move on. Just hit the shoes. The shoes of peace, with your feet fitted with a readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Shoes. I was in Nike Town this week, just for a wee while, and was struck again by the amazing array of shoes. They have found a way to make shoes for everything, you know. And what they're saying is, shoes are really important.
And actually, shoes are important. Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that part of the success of the military prowess of Caesar's armies had to do with the footwear that he issued to his troops, because he gave them such good footwear that they were able to march for longer distances than their enemies. And their enemies, who were wearing inferior shoes, assumed that the armies of Caesar would only be able to go so far in a certain time, and therefore they were okay, because they won't be able to show up for a while, because we never can.
And then they showed up. And the reason they showed up was because of the thickly studded boots they wore with sharp nails, which made it possible for them, said Josephus, to cover long distances in such short periods that the enemies were caught off guard. With our feet shod with the shoes of the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. You know, what a wonderful thing is that we're told that the feet of the messengers are lovely.
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news. Have you had your shoes on this week? You got on your gospel shoes? I don't say this to induce guilt. I say it to myself to ask the question. In all of our encounters and all of our opportunities, have we taken the opportunity to speak a word for the gospel, to speak a word for Christ? We had the shoes on?
It's not an option. For, as I said at the beginning, the armor is the full armor. It's to be worn in its totality.
So we can't say, well, you know, someone else has the shoes, and I've got the breastplate, and another fellow, he has the helmet, and we'll cover it between us. No, it's each of us taking all of the armor so that we may stand side by side for the cause of the gospel. And how about a shield? The shield of faith in verse 16. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
What a wonderful picture this is. The historians tell us that there were two kinds of shields. There was one that was almost like a kind of large bread plate, like a Frisbee that you held, and it was circular, and you kept it close to you, and you used it for immediate combat. And then there was another shield that was issued to the armies, and it was a big shield. It was like walking around with a door.
It was 1.2 meters by three-quarters of a meter. Historians tell us that it was two layers of wood glued together and covered first with linen and then with hide, with leather, and it was bound with iron above and below. And the people would take these big shields, and they would hold them up to protect them from the flaming darts of the evil one. If you've seen any movies, you may have seen these flaming darts coming over, dipped in pitch and set alight, and they would sink into the shield and be extinguished. Tonight, it is the most naive of us who believe somehow or another that we can wander around and that we're immune to these flaming darts. The evil one fires them with frequency, with rapidity, and with great skill.
The arrow of disobedience, of rebellion, of lust or fear or malice. Remember that ultimately God himself, says solemn, is a shield to those who take refuge in him. And then finally, you will notice that we're to take the helmet of salvation. Take the helmet of salvation. That is actually the last part of the armor because the sword is a weapon. It's not strictly part of the armor. So we'll finish with the helmet, protection for the head and therefore for the mind. These helmets were made of bronze or of iron, usually. Imagine wearing an iron helmet.
Most of us don't even have the neck muscles to hold it up. The helmet would probably kill us before we got into the battle. And so they would place inside the helmets linings of felt or of a spongy substance to try and make the weight bearable. And the historians again say that nothing short of an axe or a hammer could pierce a heavy helmet, and in some cases there was a hinged visor that was added for the protection of the face. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in addressing this, suggests that the key to understanding the helmet of salvation is found in a verse that we considered a wee while ago in 1 Thessalonians, and in 5 and 8, where you're told, "'But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet.'"
Let me just quote a wee bit of Lloyd-Jones, and that takes us through it swiftly. So says Lloyd-Jones, putting on the helmet of salvation means that when you're attacked, besieged, tried, tempted, and the devil comes to you and says, "'There's nothing in it. You might as well get out of it. Christianity makes false promises. It doesn't fulfill them. Give it up. Chuck it.
Leave.'" You answer, says Lloyd-Jones, "'No, I have not been led astray by this teaching. I have always known that there are steps and stages in salvation. I know that I am saved from sin's penalty. I know that I am being saved from sin's power.
And I know that I shall be completely saved from sin's presence.'" And then he says, "'Remind yourself of the hymn writer's words. To him that overcometh, a crown of life shall be.
He with the king of glory shall reign eternally.'" It's not surprising to me that simultaneously, with the advance of syncretism in the realms of vacuous Christian theology, simultaneous with the advance of syncretism, there is also the diminution of the whole idea of Christian warfare. The removal from hymnbooks of the warfare songs, of the ideas of battle, of the notion of standing and fighting and holding your ground and staying strong and being true. Because all of those things, you see, are tied to the notion of absolute truth. But if there is no absolute truth upon which we take our stand and therefore which we must defend, then of course it is really silly to keep those hymns in our books. And it is wrong for us to embrace that and to endorse it. And, loved ones, the whole world cries against such a view.
The only thing that people are dogmatic about is that you're not allowed to be dogmatic about anything. And God, in his grace and in his mercy, has put us together in this place and for this time, in the realm of science, in the privileges of the halls of medicine, in the realms of production and manufacturing, carpentry and scholasticism, commerce. And he's just taken a funny bunch of folk to do it, with me being one of the funniest of all.
Look around. You think you'd turn the world upside down with a group like this? Well, Paul had a funny group in Corinth, and we've got a funny group in Cleveland. But we have a wonderful Savior. We have a glorious Captain.
We have a victorious General at the head of the march. And it is no soft option to be a Christian in this day. A Christian teen in a secular high school, it'll take all of your moral fiber and all of your guts. In the world of business, same again.
Just to tell the truth in a sales team of liars. It may lose you your job, but it'd be worth it for the cause of the gospel. So let's make sure that we've got the stuff. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. Following Christ is challenging. The battle is rough. But we've been given failsafe armor.
We just have to remember to put it on. We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life weekend. In our study of spiritual warfare, we're reminded that the devil is a fierce foe. His influence can be seen all around us in our culture. And while we may be tempted to think that we live in a unique time, God's authority and design for creation has long faced opposition. That's why we want to recommend to you a brand new book titled, Being the Bad Guys, How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn't. This book reminds us of God's people in the Bible who lived through challenges very similar to what we face today. How did they respond?
How should we respond? As you read Being the Bad Guys, you'll be encouraged to live out your faith with conviction and with peace. You can find out more about the book Being the Bad Guys when you visit our website at truthforlife.org.
I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening this weekend. Today we learned about the armor that protects us in the midst of spiritual warfare. But you'll want to make sure you have the right weapons as well. Next weekend we'll find out what we need to fight in the battles. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-23 19:10:50 / 2023-03-23 19:19:59 / 9