Following last week’s letter about our sure Defense, my thoughts turned to the passage in Ephesians 6 where we are admonished to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole (complete) armor of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:10-18)
The Greek word translated here as the “whole armor of God” is panoplia meaning full armor. The word is used in the New Testament only three times, two of those being here in Ephesians. It is the complete equipment of a warrior; a complete suit of armor such as was used by the heavy-armed infantry.
So, what is this Panoply which we are intended to put on to enable us to stand in the evil day? Paul goes on to describe the various parts of it, and ascribes to each one a spiritual application:
1. The Girdle of Truth. A girdle is a garment that encircles or encompasses the body, specifically the loins wherein are located the reproductive organs. In this case, it is the application of Truth. How essential it is that we be encompassed with Truth? And what is Truth? Pilate asked that vital question; he apparently had not heard Jesus declare
“I am the…Truth!” We are to “put on Christ” (Rom 13:14) Who is the Truth, and our all-encompassing protection.
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness. The breastplate was a piece of plate armor for the breast, providing protection for the vital organs of heart and lungs. “Christ (Himself) is made unto us…righteousness…” (1 Cor. 1:30) So, again, it is He Who is a most indispensable part of our Panoply.
3. The Shoes of the Good News of Peace. To have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace is again to be found in Christ Jesus, our Lord, for “He is our Peace” (Eph. 2:14) and the Gospel (or Good News) is all about Him.
4. The Shield of Faith. Then we are to take up the great Shield of Faith. Even this is not our own, but a gift of God to us. (Eph. 2:8) We are simply meant to take it up and wield it to quench all the flaming darts of the wicked one.
5. The Helmet of Salvation. We are all familiar with protective helmets for our heads, whether riding bikes or horses, or playing games such as football or hockey, or fighting on the battleground. At the time of Paul’s writing, I suppose what was envisioned was the topmost piece of a suit of medieval or ancient armor designed to protect the whole head, thus protecting the vital centers of intellect, sight, hearing, speaking, etc. Certainly Salvation is a fundamental part of our Panoply.
6. The Sword of the Spirit. The first five parts of the Panoply were primarily for defense. However, the sword was more of an offensive weapon. Here it is symbolic of the Word of God, and we know how Jesus used that Sword when confronted by the devil in the wilderness of temptation. (Matt. 4:1-11) It is a powerful weapon provided for our use. It does take some dexterity to ably wield the Sword, but it is a very effective weapon to silence the temptations of the enemy.
7. Prayer unceasing. Prayer may not be often thought of as a component of the Panoply, but I believe it is intended to be an essential part. I like the way Weymouth translates it: “Pray with unceasing prayer and entreaty on every fitting occasion in the Spirit, and be always on the alert to seize opportunities for doing so, with unwearied persistence and entreaty on behalf of all God’s people.”
Donning the complete Panoply God has provided for us will enable us to “stand firm against all the stratagems of the devil. For ours is not a conflict with mere flesh and blood, but with…the spiritual hosts of evil arrayed against us in the heavenly warfare.” (vss. 11 & 12 Weymouth)
In closing the classic “love chapter” (1 Cor. 13) Paul states, “Now abides Faith, Hope, Love, these three, but the greatest of these is Love.” So, expressing the message of this letter a little differently, he writes to the Thessalonians (5:8) “…let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of Faith and Love, and for an helmet, the Hope of salvation.”
In Agape, Eulene