In Eph 6:11 Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil”. When you read this verse, you envision a soldier arming himself for a fight. You might imagine yourself putting on a helmet or a breastplate that wasn’t there the minute before you put it on. I recently read a devotion by Adrian Rogers in which he encouraged us to put on the armor of God every morning. You get the picture of a person who takes off the armor to sleep and has to put on the armor when he awakes.
But these pictures aren’t really accurate. They give you the impression that the armor of God is something external, like a shield that can be hung on a wall when you’re not in battle. This is the wrong picture of the armor of God. I believe this comes from our understanding of how soldiers prepare for battle and from a misunderstanding of the phrase ,“put on”. When Paul admonished us to put on the armor, he was instructing us to put it on the same way we are to put on some other things.
Look, for example, at other uses of the expression “put on”. Gal 3:27, when you were baptized into Christ, you put on Christ. Eph 4:24, we are to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. See Col 3:10. Col 3:12 we are to put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering. And in Col 3:14 we are to put on charity.
You don’t put these on in the sense of putting something on outwardly, like clothing. You put these qualities on by trusting Jesus Christ, by renewing your mind, and by yielding to the Holy Spirit working in your life. All of these things are inside of you. And they manifest themselves from the inside out.
Look, for instance, how Jesus, the hidden man of the heart, becomes apparent to a backslidden husband when his wife maintains a chaste conversation and a meek and quiet spirit, 1 Pet 3:1-5. Jesus works from the inside out. You see this same thing in the obedient saint of Phil 2:12-13, who works out what God is doing on the inside of him.
So, when you put on the armor, you’re not donning external weapons. The armor is supposed to be in you. You have the helmet of salvation, not just because you’re saved, but because you’re mind is stayed on him. You are spiritually minded, not carnally minded, your mind is set on things above, not on things on the earth. You can’t just slap on the helmet.
You have the breastplate of righteousness because you yield to the righteousness of Jesus Christ in you. His righteousness is bearing fruit in your life. Your loins are girt about with truth when you walk in truth, believe the truth, live by the truth, and speak the truth. Your feet are shod with the gospel of peace when you are living the resurrected life of Jesus Christ and you know the gospel well enough to preach the gospel. It’s in you.
The shield of faith is from living by faith. The sword of the Spirit is from having the word of God in you. How can you swing with the sword if you don’t know it and haven’t proved it? Praying always is not prayer just in the throws of a temptation.
So, the armor of God is something you put on and keep on as you mature spiritually. It’s something that becomes a part of you and that’s how God protects you with it. For more on this subject see Dealing With Temptation – The Whole Armor of God.