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Archive for September 7th, 2012

Introduction:  I am looking at a major portion of this reading, verses 10-22, “The whole armor of God” 

These verses are the crescendo of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus.  His encouragement is to be fully  armed with all “weapons of the Spirit” with which He fights by our side (“A Mighty Fortress is our God”): 

  • the belt of truth

  • the breastplate of righteousness

  • the shoes of the Gospel of peace

  • the shield of faith

  • the helmet of salvation

  • the sword of the Spirit

We are up against overwhelming odds:

  • “…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” vs. 12

  • “…the unfruitful works of darkness…”   such as sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness, 5: 3-10

  • the evil days wherein we live (5: 15)

We can not withstand the evil day on our own or by ourselves alone. It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2).  The Apostle encourages his brothers and sisters to “put on the whole armor of God”.  The phrase “put on” is used some 24 times in the New Testament.  The synonym is “clothe”, as in, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3: 27) In Baptism you are clothed in Christ.  He has fought the battle and won.  He made you His own.  He has drafted you into his militia, the “militia Christi”, the army of Christ.  We live in the Church militant, not triumphant.  The Roman soldier’s shield protected him from head to toe.  Arrows were tipped in tar and lit and then shot.  The Roman soldier would dip his shield in water to douse the flaming darts.  This may be a reference to Baptism through which we are washed and faith is given, so that as the Baptized, putting on the shield of faith, in order “… to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.  The evil one will shoot at you doubt and despair at your inability to withstand your own lusts of eye and heart: “Oh,you’re not a good Christian.  If you really were a Christian, you would not be feeling like this.”  “No, Satan! It is because I am a Christian that I know this and can cry out, I am baptized! Lord, save me!”  You can not stand up against such, except by the shield of faith, the shield given to you by  His grace, not by your works (!), as He died and rose for you. (Ephesians 2  2: 1-9). 

The Roman soldier in battle was not alone but had to rely on his fellow soldiers.  When besieging a city, they protected themselves in what they called the “tortoise”:

They formed a cohesive unit to protect themselves.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ together:

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod.
We are not divided,
All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.
Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

When it comes to the  sound doctrine of the Bible and saving grace in Jesus Christ, we can not “agree to disagree”.  For instance:  If we think the Church can allow sexual immorality, officially or wink at it like it’s nothing, vote in an assembly to change the Word of God to get along with the world, then evil has entered the heavenly places. And Paul solemnly warned:  

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5)

Without unity in doctrine, then the  flaming arrows of the evil one, “empty words” about affirming your wrong,  will get in so easily in the holes in the formation. Like the Roman legion’s tortoise, earlier Paul wrote in Ephesians wrote of the unity He gives in Christ Jesus, in pure doctrine of salvation in Him:

1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4)

The Church is assailed on many sides.  Near you and beside will be a fellow Christian who in her struggles, has been there and done that and repented of it by His Law and Promise.  She will bear with you in love to help you in the fight with the Shield of Faith. 

God the Father, be our Stay,
Oh, let us perish never.
Cleanse us from our sins, we pray,
And grant us life forever.
Keep us from the Evil One;
Uphold our faith most holy,
Grant us to trust Thee solely
With humble hearts and lowly.
Let us put God’s armor on:
With all true Christians running
Our heavenly race and shunning.
The devil’s wiles and cunning.
Amen, Amen, this be done,
So sing we, Hallelujah!

Hymn #247
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Ps. 18:18
Author: unknown, c. 1400

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