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Posts Tagged ‘armor of God’

At camp a few weeks ago our whole group learned the armor of God verses from Ephesians 6.  As a counselor, I was working with the junior high girls to learn and understand their verses.  (Praise for teamwork; other people were on the job, too, including the ‘Bible hour’ teacher and some of the other staff and counselors.)  The language of the Bible is sometimes more grammatically complex than everyday usage, so breaking the verses down phrase by phrase and discussing the meaning can help the kids keep the verses in their heads and hearts, as well as legitimizing their inflection.   So I was helping one of the girls with verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” and started explaining the sword of the spirit part.  I don’t even remember what I told her, but I know that since that day I have been trying to figure out what it means. 
 
A few questions:
How significant is the comma after “salvation”?  Since “take” is not repeated, are we to equate the term “helmet of salvation” with the term “sword of the spirit”?  Or is there any way to “take” one without the other? 
 
Does the sword belong to the spirit, depend on the spirit, or consist of the spirit?  Cross references usually lead to Hebrews 4:12, whose subject is also the word of God, which seems to cut things, including soul from spirit.  But the Greek for “word” is different in Ephesians from Hebrews. 
 
Back from camp, catching up with a friend, she reported that her small group is going through Ephesians, and that one of the teachers was excited to get to the armor of God and the sword Jesus uses to kill the wicked.  (See Revelation 19:15, 21)  Is that the image here?  Earlier in Revelation the sword seemed to be more of a tool for discipline, discerning the spirits of the churches.  The Revelation sword proceeds from the mouth of Jesus. 
 
Is spirit supposed to be capitalized?  Are we talking about the Holy Spirit, my spirit, or things spiritual?  Or should the sword be used against the spirit? 
 
When Paul says, “which is the word of God,” is the antecedent the sword or the spirit? 
 
I looked up the Greek for this verse.  My use for Greek extends to definitions, but I’m helpless when I come to grammar and tenses.  But I did notice that the Greek for “word” is an utterance, not something written (in the Greek, rhema).  Usually I hear teachers explaining the sword of the spirit and (ignoring that little phrase, ‘of the spirit’) holding a Bible above their heads telling their students that they have to know the word of God, and to study it, to use it like Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.  Except the next thing teachers say is that the sword is the offensive weapon in the armor list (some add prayer, from verse 18).  I don’t see how resisting temptation is an offensive act in the spiritual war we’re fighting. 
 
So what is “word of God”?  Are we talking about words God has spoken, or words God is speaking?  Ephesians 6:19 includes Paul’s prayer request that words (different Greek than verse 17: here it is logos) be given him.  Given him?  By whom?  Whose words are they if they were given?  What did Paul want to do with words?  This is one of the first times in this whole article where the biblical context answers the question, because Paul says he wants to use the words to preach the gospel boldly (which seems rather offensive). 
 
Finally, verse 18, about prayer, rather than being a new sentence, is presented as a continuation of the thought in verse 17.  But what does prayer have to do with the “word of God” or “sword of the spirit”? 
 
How exactly ought we to apply this verse, then? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
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In high school Awana (Journey 24-7), students are required to read through the Bible in four years.  For each book they read, they most also give a summary to a leader.  I’m a leader (strange – I feel like a teenager still, even though I’m almost twenty four – unbelievable!), and tonight I listened to a young man summarize Ephesians, one of my favorite books of the Bible.  I don’t know if I mentioned studying the book this year to where each chapter explodes with meaning now (the word of God is living and powerful – energes).  Anyway, as a leader I get to ask questions to see if the student has really read the book or just the provided summary.  My leaders loved this privilege, and I follow their example. 
 
“What does ‘breastplate of righteousness’ mean?” I ask. 
 
This is from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” 
 
The most annoying thing about this passage of Scripture is commentaries.  I open a commentary and the most common observations are the purpose of the pieces of armor – as though we needed help to understand that a helmet protects the head and a shield is to defend ourselves.  I believe the focus of the text is on the virtues listed, and the study ought to be 1. How they protect us.  2.  How to implement them. 
 
Much has been said about the grace issue here.  I believe in grace.  Righteousness is not something of our own.  Nor can it possibly be referring only to Christ’s righteousness imputed on our behalf in this verse.  Righteousness describes a way of life.  How do we live that life?  The New Testament is filled with the message: grace, faith, abiding in Christ.  “For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law then Christ is dead in vain.”  (Galatians 2:20-21)
 
How does righteousness serve as armor?  How does it protect our hearts? 
 
Earlier in Ephesians, Paul writes: “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:9-10)  What is righteousness?  Strong’s says it has to do with “integrity, virtue, purity, correctness of thinking and feeling and acting.”  The figure of a breastplate is often associated with sobriety.  Sober is, also according to Strong’s, “1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit 2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.”  Purity of thought and action, truth over passion are all consistent with righteousness.  And these are conditions of the heart, or things which may affect a heart.  Think of this: if a heart is unprotected by truth and integrity, why shouldn’t it demand that its passions rule?  Why should it check its passions and prevent some that are not pleasing to God, not pure?  How would it even know to do so? 
 
Ok.  So most of us know mentally about purity and right from wrong.  We even know the truth.  But our hearts forget.  Some teachers rightly advise wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God against heart temptations.  Paul suggests an additional strategy.  A life built on reality, a life meet for the God who created us and the way He created us, is the best way to condition and exercise our hearts to submit to the truth.  What does James say about sin?  James 1:14-16, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.  Do not err, my beloved brethren.”  The heart and the righteousness go together.  Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  This goes back and forth.  The heart must be kept to maintain our walk.  Our walk must be maintained to keep the heart.  And none of these are our work. 
 
This is my experience.  When I neglect my relationship with God (even if it is when I get caught up in “doing” things for Him), I slip up.  The temptation-induced lust in my heart births disobedience.  And then I don’t care in what category I put that sin, inevitably my heart is more vulnerable.  I experience more spiritual attack on my heart (desires, imaginations) and am more likely to get more and more distracted from my walk with God.  Once my focus, in fact, is on the things my heart wants and senses, my tone towards God gets accusatory, and for the silliest things I doubt His love.  This is because my heart thinks love equals worship and submission, but is not interested in loving anyone else, including God. 
 
Yet my experience with walking with God is so unaccountably opposite.  I believe these are spiritual realities.  But logic does not say how spending time in conversation with and dependence on a Being I cannot physically see or hear could so much affect my life. 
 
I have marveled so many times: “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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