By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
No lawyer goes into the courtroom without a good argument. No athlete enters the field at game time without being dressed for the competition. No surgeon enters the operating room without being prepped with the knowledge, cleanliness, and right tools for the procedure.
I guess it’s presumptuous to say no one does any of these things because I’m sure there have been some who have. But they haven’t lasted. When the stakes are high, and the job is important, excellent preparation is essential. The right argument, a good helmet, and a scalpel and sutures are all necessary for both success and self-preservation.
As followers of Christ, we are in a war. God has chosen us (Ephesians 1:4), predestined us (Ephesians 1:5), redeemed us (Ephesians 1:7), forgiven us (Ephesians 1:7), sealed us with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), and blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). And yet, we find ourselves in a string of battles pitting our own spirit and God’s Holy Spirit on one side against our own flesh and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places on the other (Ephesians 6:12). And we will not survive without armor and a good sword.
We are in this war not because of who we are but because of whose we are. As those flying the banner of Jesus’ cross over us, we wave proudly what is considered by Satan and his demons the enemy flag. We belong to Jesus, and those of the spiritual darkness revolt against Him. They hated Him as He stumbled up Golgotha, and they hate us as we carry our cross to go after Him. But Golgotha is where He defeated them once and for all (Colossians 2:15), and it’s where we look for strength as we battle (Hebrews 12:1-2).
We take up and put on the armor God’s provided. We’re told to put on the armor “of God”. It’s important we don’t miss the significance of these words. This is not an armor that we’ve forged. It’s not from us. The truth fastened around our waist, the salvation protecting our head, and the righteousness that guards our vital organs are not from us. They’re of and from God, and they’ve been given to us by His grace to preserve us for the day of final salvation.
We stand. You’d think we’d be told to advance, to conquer something. But we aren’t. We are only admonished to stand (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 14). This is because there is nothing else to take. There’s nothing to advance upon. Christ has conquered all, and all authority belongs to Him (Matthew 28:18). We are only standing firm in the armor in order to have our own joy preserved, and we’re praying for others so that theirs might be preserved as well.
We stand with others in the war. The final element of the exhortation to take up the armor and stand firm and pray is to “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). In other words, one of the primary reasons we watch after ourselves and seek to preserve our lives is for the sake of praying for others. In protecting ourselves, we stay alive long enough to intercede on behalf of our fellow brothers and sisters who are fighting alongside us — that they may stand firm as well. And all of this is to accomplish the task we’ve been given — to boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).