This is the Sermon for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity -- October 20, 2013 at

Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church
Laurie, Missouri

Ephesians 6:10-17

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Sermon for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity                                                                                                                                                                                                     10/20/13

The Full Armor of God

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There are few more profound or important passages in Scripture than the one which stands before us as our text this morning. This is not a Gospel text in the sense that it lays Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf before us. It is not a Law text in the sense that it gives us rules for living or a pattern for holiness. We can find both Law and Gospel here, but the importance of these words is that they set before us the reality of our lives, of the struggle of the Christian faith, and prescribe how we must approach these things if we are to endure. Our only hope, and our greatest defense is, in the words of our theme this morning, The Full Armor of God.

The basic thing in this text is that we understand that we are called to live in the strength of His might. That means that just as we could not choose to be a Christian, but God had to choose us and change us and make us His own, just so, we are not adequate to face the challenges of the life in Christ by our own power. Our only hope is that we live this life by God’s power and protected by the gifts He gives us, which I call by the name Paul give them in our text, the full armor of God.

Paul begins his exhortation: Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. It may sound strange, but you grow stronger in the Lord by growing weaker within yourself. Strength in the Lord is faith in Him, and requires a concomitant loss of confidence in your own fitness and ability. That reality makes this sort of strength challenging for sinful man, and particularly hard for those of us who fancy ourselves to be self-sufficient. To grow stronger in the Lord, you have to humble yourself, and learn what God says about the battle we are to fight and the enemy we are to confront. You need to face the uncomfortable truth that you simply are not up to the battle alone, the enemy is overwhelmingly powerful and your only real hope is in the strength of the might of God, and your only safety is in the protection afforded by His armor.

Once you understand that reality, you are ready to put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Without that armor you will not be able to stand, as many Christians have proven at various times in their lives. You will fail if you try it by your own strength. I tell young people that when they confront a temptation – and they confront so many – that they need to put physical distance between themselves and the temptation whenever that is possible. You cannot eat a forbidden dessert if it is in the kitchen and you are out in the yard. You cannot succumb to the temptation to satisfy any lust of the flesh if the object about which you lust is not at hand. So young boys and girls need to resist the temptation to immorality by fleeing one another in the hour of temptation – not by saying, “I am a Christian. I am strong! I can resist!” Of course, they will succumb. I could report on personal testing, when I was young, that proved that temptations faced, and not fled, mean victory for the Tempter. I could, but I won’t. Nevertheless, this truth is why the Bible says, “Flee youthful lusts.

Of course, you don’t have to be young to face temptations, or the schemes of the devil, which is why we all need to be prepared. And the first thing we must understand if we are going to be prepared to live this life in Christ in a God-pleasing and holy manner is that we will face temptation regularly and the temptations will be designed to overcome us. Our enemy is the devil himself, and His demon servants. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Our enemy is never the man or the woman who may be before us. It isn’t really the person who makes us angry, or the individual who does the deeds that trouble us or says the things that hurt us. These people may well be serving our true enemy. They usually are – whether they know it or not. But the man or woman who is troubling us is not the enemy. They are trapped, enslaved, in need of rescue and redemption, just like the rest of us. They need to hear the Gospel and forgiveness from us. Our enemy is always the devil.

Since our enemy is the devil, and we are at war, however it may look or feel to us, and since the conflict is spiritual in nature, we need the armor of God. And, Paul tells us to put it on. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. You put this armor on by Faith, which is to say by knowing the Word of God and trusting God’s promises. The only way you can put on the armor of God is to be in His Word, deeply in His Word, until it is your constant companion and guiding light.

Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with the truth. These words echo Isaiah 11:5. “To gird” means “to equip, to prepare for action.” You must equip yourself with the truth. Jesus said “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Since our enemy is the father of lies and the great deceiver, we must be girded with the truth and ready to answer the lies and deceptions of the evil one. And the truth that you need most is the Gospel of the love of God and the forgiveness of your sins. Without that truth, you are practically naked before the wiles of the devil.

Next we need to be prepared by having put on the breastplate of righteousness. Paul is describing the equipment of the Christian in terms of the armor of the Hoplite – the Roman foot-soldier, the most efficient and effective military force known before the advent of gunpowder. The word for “full armor” in our text is “panoply”, the technical military word for the armor worn by the Roman soldier. An essential part of that armor was the breastplate. It protected the heart – and therefore the life – of the soldier against the swords and arrows of the enemy. You had to strike around it because you could not cut through it, not in the heat of battle.

The righteousness of Christ is our breastplate. It protects us from sin and death. It is the answer of God to the accusations of the devil, whose title, “devil”, means “the accuser”. He will accuse us of sin. He will accuse us of weakness. He will accuse us of deserving death and damnation along with him. And it is all so true – but we wear the breastplate of righteousness – the righteousness of Christ. We stand empty-handed before God, offering no defense to the charge of sin, except that Jesus died in our place, and has bestowed on us His own righteousness. We ask God to judge us by His Son, just as He has judged His Son by our guilt and sin. That is our breastplate – Christ’s righteousness.

Then we shod [our] feed with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. No army could long endure or fight effectively without good shoes. That was particularly true when the armies of the ancient world had no way to get where they were going but by walking. Rocks and sticks and sharp pointed things in the ground would bring any army to its knees without proper footwear. We are prepared for the field of battle with the footwear of the Gospel of peace. God is at peace with us, and we are at peace with one another. Our sins are forgiven, so we know that whatever rocks and sharp things underfoot we encounter in this spiritual battle, God is not against us, nor are things out of control and hopeless, but we are at peace with God and He with us. And we are to be at peace with one another! There is no room for gossip and bickering! Four Roman soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back formed the most effective fighting team history has ever known. We, too, need to stand shoulder to shoulder in this battle, and be confident that the danger is from the enemy, not from those who should be our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Then we take up the shield of faith. Trust in God and in His promises can extinguish all the flaming arrows of doubt, of guilt, and of fear that the devil can send against us. With such faith, we can shout,“If God is for us, who can be against us!” The answer to that rhetorical question is, as St. Paul intended us to understand, “No One!” No one can stand against the people of God effectively, for God is our power and our protection! We also wear the helmet of salvation, which keeps us in every circumstance in contact with our head, namely Christ, and always aware that, for us, the battle is already won, and we have salvation awaiting, and the victory is ours in Jesus Christ no matter what the momentary outcome seems to be.

Think of those who suffer such tremendous losses in this life, sometimes even their lives. The world goes “Tsk, Tsk. What a tragedy!” But, for the child of God it is not a tragedy but the final victory! They are going home to eternal life in glory! It is hard for us who are left behind, but not for them. They have joined the Church Triumphant!

Finally we pick up the sword – our weapon for this battle. It is the Word of God. Our battles are not fought with fists or bullets. They are not properly fought with parliamentary procedure and by-law changes. They are certainly not fought effectively with shouting and name-calling. They are fought, or it is fought, for this is really just one long battle, no matter how we may perceive it, it is fought with the Word of God. With the Word we rescue those who have been long enslaved. With the Word of God we defeat the attacks of the enemy. The Word of God is the power of God for the fight, and the only effective weapon, for our enemy is not the bodies of flesh before us, but the demonic, spiritual powers at work behind the terrorism and the persecution, the false doctrine and the hatred of the world for all that is of God.

The Battle is met. It is, in truth, as old as time. It is merely our time to be raising the standard of the people of God in this war. We can fight effectively, but only if we use the weapons appointed by God, because only there are we promised His power and His presence along side of us as we fight. We are protected by the full armor of God. We wear the strength of His might by faith – which means we must know what He has promised, and trust Him to do all that He has said He will.

To strengthen us, He has also given us this holy meal to eat and to drink, and to be refreshed with all of His gifts and blessings. You see, the battle is not ours. We participate, but the battle is His, and the victory is His, and we are to fight with His strength and His weapons, and His methods. We also need to remember that we were not called on to win, or feel victorious, but to be faithful and stand the ground God has given us to stand on and fight the battle before us. To fight and survive we must be armed with the Word – which we can only do by knowing it. We put on the Gospel armor by study of the Word and by listening to it. That means regular, faithful participation in worship, and joining with the congregation in the study of the Word. Of course, some say that they can study on their own. They don’t need formal Bible Study. The answer to the question of ‘can I not study on my own?’ is, Yes – but the real question is, will you?

God has given us the armor, and He has given us the weapons for the battle. If we are His, we will not be able to avoid the battle, for the enemy will bring it to us. So, be prepared. Put on the full armor of God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Let the people say Amen)

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