The Apostle Paul used a lot of military language in his thirteen New Testament epistles to help us understand how we should live. Let me give you a few examples of how Paul used military language to show us how to live for God. In Romans 6:13 Paul wrote “Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God…Use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.” The word translated instrument in verse 13 means, “A thing that can be used as a weapon.” Paul is encouraging us to use our mind, mouth, hands, and feet as weapons to do right instead of evil.
In 2nd Timothy 2:3-4, Paul instructed his young disciple Timothy to “Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.” The Apostle Paul wanted Christians to see themselves as soldiers drafted into service by Jesus Christ. Applied today, Paul is telling us not to seek a life of ease, prosperity, and comfort, but to keep focused on our mission for Christ. Like a good soldier, we need to be disciplined, willing to suffer hardship, and have endurance in battle.
My favorite Apostle Paul military metaphor is at the end of the sixth chapter of Ephesians. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul tells Christians how to prepare themselves for battle. Like a seasoned drill sergeant, Paul orders us to do four important things:
1st – Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord.
“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 NLT
A Christian is not strong enough to take on the Devil by himself. Many have tried and failed. Christians can only defeat the Devil when they are protected and powered by the Lord! A strong Christian is one who knows he or she is weak by themselves, but they are invincible with Christ!
2nd – Paul tells to put on all the armor of God.
“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” Vs. 11
Why do we need to put on all of God’s armor? Because our enemy the Devil/Satan (adversary) hates God and everyone associated with Him. Listen to Peter warn us about Satan in his first epistle.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith…” 1st Peter 5:8-9 NLT
Well, after he orders us to armor up in Ephesians 6:11-13, Paul tells us the pieces of God’s armor we are to wear into battle in Ephesians 6:14-16.
“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet…” Vs. 14–17a
So, we are to put on…
• The belt of truth
• The breastplate or body armor of righteousness
• The shoes of peace
• The shield of faith
• The helmet of salvation
The belt of truth symbolizes living by the absolute truth revealed in scripture. This truth holds everything else in place so we can fight without distraction or restriction. The breastplate of righteousness (body armor), which extended from the neck to the waist and protected all of the soldier’s vital organs front and back, symbolizes the believer’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) as well as his righteous life in Christ (Eph. 4:24). The shoes of peace symbolize the believer’s secure footing as he fights. Christians have peace with God and they carry the gospel of peace with him, which changes the world. The shield of faith symbolizes the faith Christians placed in God for salvation and the faith they place in God each day on the battlefield. Finally, the helmet of salvation symbolizes the eternal security the believer has in Christ. Christians can charge into battle against the Devil knowing that ultimately nothing can separate them from God.
3rd – Paul tells us to carry the sword of the Spirit into battle.
“…and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Vs.17b
What scares the Devil? What causes him to flee? The Bible! Jesus used the living Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) to run off the Devil (Matthew 4) and we can use the Bible to defeat the old devil too (Psalm 119:9-11).
4th – Paul tells us to pray.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Vs. 18
Why pray? Because prayer connects us to the power of God! Through prayer, we can go to God and ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11) for whatever we need. Through prayer, we can trade our worries for peace (Philippians 4:6-9). Through prayer, we can harness the power of God and send the enemy retreating (Mark 5). Why does Paul order us to keep our heads down in prayer? Because prayer connects us to God and unleashes all of His spiritual resources!
Why did Paul order the Christians living in Ephesus (and those living today) to be strong in the Lord, put on the whole armor of God, and to use the Bible and prayer? Because strong Christians make strong marriages. Strong marriages make strong families. Strong families make strong churches. Strong churches make strong nations. And strong nations make the world a better place!
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