The final section of the Ephesian letter explains how we’re to live as the kingdom of God in a world where not everyone recognizes Jesus’ kingship yet. Those who claim to have power don’t relinquish it easily, so it’s a volatile conflict. That’s why we need armour.
History is full of examples of people killing for power. Just look what they did to our king! Jesus didn’t treat those who killed him as his enemy. He saw them as slaves of the Enemy of God’s reign, pawns who did not understand what they were doing.
As we proclaim that Jesus is Lord of all, we find ourselves in conflict with powerful interests. Syndicated crime doesn’t want justice destroying their profits. Political mavericks want fame and glory for themselves. Globalized business wants money from poorer nations in their pockets, selling everything from pharmaceuticals to weapons of war. Powerful interests do not want a king who takes power from the powerful, who gives the kingdom to the poor, who gives justice to the suffering, who ends weapon sales by bring peace to the earth.
Proclaiming Jesus’ kingship makes as an enemy of those who currently have power. But they are not our enemy. Our struggle is not against these flesh-and-blood people, but against the powers they serve, the evil that enslaves and deceives them. We are not opposing these people, so God gave us no armour to defend ourselves against them. He gave us armour to stand against the lies that underpin them, the spiritual forces that want to block Jesus’ kingship on earth, the same Enemy that worked to crush God’s people in Old Testament times.
Belt of truth
Truth is the first casualty in war. The devil’s propaganda is that the nations are better off resisting God’s kingship and harming his people. That’s his goal: deceiving the nations (Revelation 20:3, 8).
But the truth is the good news that Jesus reigns, that he is rescuing the world from its oppression, to be what it was designed to be — the kingdom of God. This gospel truth is the foundation of our armour, the good news message that holds everything together.
The gospel truth undoes the devil’s propaganda.
Breastplate of righteousness
Facing a war against his authority on earth, God did no evil towards us. He put on the breastplate of righteousness, stepped into the warzone, suffered at our hands, and died as a casualty of earth’s war against his reign. God’s righteousness overruled our condemnation and execution of his Christ, raising his regal Son from the dead and installing him as our ruler.
In the same way, we can do no evil against those who do evil. Agents of King Jesus have only right actions available to us in this conflict. We can never use violence or the methods of evil. We’re enacting God’s justice, following the Lamb who is leading the world into God’s right reign.
Shoes ready with the gospel of peace
The gospel of peace is the proclamation that the war is over, that we’ve all been brought together as one new humanity in the reign of God’s anointed who is our peace (2:14-17).
Everywhere we tread, we carry and enact this peace message, the amnesty proclaimed by King Jesus for his earthly realm, the reconciliation of the whole world with our sovereign and with each other. Peace on earth.
Shield of faith
Faith is believing God’s declaration that Jesus is his appointed ruler (his Christ), giving our allegiance to the one God has installed to lead humanity (our Lord).
This faith is a shield because we shelter in his reign (Psalm 18:2, 30, 34). Satan’s flaming arrows are snuffed out by the protective reality of Jesus’ kingship.
Helmet of salvation
God saves. That’s the meaning of Jesus’ name. He’s saving the earth from oppression under evil, restoring it as a kingdom of God.
Jerusalem had fallen to the nations in Old Testament times, but when God put on his helmet, the Redeemer came to Zion (Isaiah 59:17, 20). He saved them, forming a new Jerusalem. In John’s vision, this restored capital of God’s government filled the whole of the known world (Revelation 21).
This saving work of God — rescuing the planet into Jesus’ kingship — protects our heads from the enemy’s lies.
Sword of the Spirit
All of this comes together in the final weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the word God has spoken, the decree of the Spirit that restores earth as God’s realm in the reign of the Son.
We’ll need another post on how we use this sword.
The armour of God enables the people of God to overcome the deceiver of the nations, so that Christ wins the war and God’s reign of the earth is realized.
The armour doesn’t guarantee no casualties. Peter, Paul, and other apostles died at the hands of the rulers of this world. That’s still happening in places today. But God’s armour does win the war. Ultimately Christ is king of all. That’s why we rely on what God himself wore: the truth of what he said, doing right if it kills us, proclaiming his peace, trusting his kingship, instantiating his saving power, with the Spirit’s decree restoring the world.
Don’t fight human rulers; they aren’t the enemy. Don’t try to fix the present injustice; it’s beyond repair. Stand for what God has declared.
This is how we’re empowered by our Lord and his mighty reign (6:10).