A few years ago I found myself having sustained one of those sickening, confusing, fearful spiritual attacks for which one is completely unprepared. I could only describe it as a poisonous arrow…and then I thought of Paul’s “flaming darts of the evil one” at the end of Ephesians. Perhaps Paul was not just painting a nice word picture to finish up his letter. Perhaps he was saying something really important about recognizing and being able to stand protected against the devil’s schemes.
As I gave it further study, here is what I discovered. We put on the “belt of truth” because Satan is a liar (John 8:44). He twists words and their meanings, and life-giving truth needs to encompass us if we are to sort out real things from their decaying counterfeits. We put on the “breastplate of righteousness,” like Christ’s robe, because Satan is the accuser who accuses us before God’s throne day and night (Revelations 12:10). We need protection from the condemnation that sometimes attacks us from every angle. As I wrote to a friend yesterday, “I often find the experience of condemnation to be akin to walking through a swamp full of gnats.”
We put on the “shoes of the gospel of peace” because Satan is the “fowler” whose snare entraps us, causing us to grow weary like Dorothy and her friends falling asleep in the field of poppies in the Wizard of Oz (Psalm 91:3). Finally, we take up the “shield of faith” and the “helmet of salvation” to guard against the fearful confusion that is Satan’s prowling attack against a receptive heart and mind, and we take up the sword of the Spirit because we are confronted by a roaring lion who would like nothing more than to devour us (I Peter 5:8).
These pieces of God’s armor surely form the inner construction of the Lord’s robe of righteousness. Each piece is intended to replace our self-protective substitutes. Only as we actually put them on do we come to understand how much better the Lord’s protection is than our self-protective armor. Paul wasn’t penning a word picture. He was describing a spiritual reality he had experienced and tools for the fight he was eager to pass on. May we have ears to hear.