Put On The Whole Armor of God – August 26, 2019
August 26, 2018

Put On The Whole Armor of God – August 26, 2019

Passage: Ephesians 6:10-20

Paul tells us that we better grab our weapons and put on our armor, because we are in for a battle. “Put on the whole armor of God,” he warns us,

so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

What do the cosmic powers of this present darkness look like? And how do we arm ourselves against them? Are we talking horror movie stuff here of ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night? Nothing quite so easy to handle, actually. When Paul talks about cosmic powers and authorities he is usually speaking about what we might call systemic or institutional evil. Racism, intolerance, hatred, prejudice, dehumanization, in the temptation to use or abuse others for our own pleasure, and in the acceptance of all kinds of lies in the service of power. These are powers that are beyond us, that threaten to overwhelm us and co-opt us into accepting their false premises. We fight the battle against the cosmic powers of this present darkness everyday on the internet, in social media, in our opinions, our thoughts and actions. Whether it be the temptation to pass on a dubious post on Facebook because it seems to justify a private prejudice, or to demean another person or race or culture, or the temptation to indulge one’s self by looking at porn, or the temptation to build yourself up at the expense of demeaning another, or the temptation to get ahead in traffic by cutting someone else off, we are battling against the cosmic powers of this present darkness in the choices we make everyday.

How do we fight those cosmic powers? How do we stand firm against the wiles of the devil? How can we stay strong in the Lord? In order to win the fight, Paul tells us, we have to put on the whole armor of God. But what does that mean? What is Paul inviting us to put on?

I did a simple word study of the phrase translated in English as “to put on.” Every time Paul uses the phrase, he is inviting the people in his churches to put on Christ. It is a baptismal image. In the early Church converts to the faith would be stripped of their old clothes, go naked into the baptismal waters and then be given a white garment symbolizing their new life. Paul invites his readers to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:13), to let “this perishable body put on imperishability and this mortal body immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53), to strip “off the self… and clothe yourselves with the new self” that is being restored to the true image of the creator (Col. 3:9-10). Paul’s image of putting on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6 is in the same vein.

It means we put on Jesus Christ. “Armor is redefined in terms of who we are, not in what we do. The armor of God is the embodiment, the internalization of the life of the Trinity – truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, word of God – Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection a conversation on growing up in Christ, Wlm. B. Eerdman’s publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 2010, pg 263)

I’d like you to look with me what we promise to put on when we are baptized or when we renew or baptismal vows. Please turn to pg. 302 in the BCP.

Question   Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

Answer     I renounce them.

Question   Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

Answer     I renounce them.

Question   Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

Answer     I renounce them.

Question   Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?

Answer     I do.

Question   Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

Answer     I do.

Question Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

Answer   I do.

We affirm our beliefs as summarized in the Apostles Creed on pg. 304 and then we answer 5 questions about living out that faith:

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers ?

People     I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

People     I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

People     I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People     I will, with God's help.

Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

People     I will, with God's help.

It strikes me that all the elements that Paul tells the Ephesians to put on in their battle against the devil and spiritual forces of evil are the very things we promise to put on as we make or renew our baptismal covenant.

“Fasten the belt of truth around your waist,” In the Baptismal Covenant we promise to hold on to the truth by continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. We promise to continue in the truth of Jesus’ life and witness by seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves and by joining Christ in striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being. Truth is not an option, not owned by the party or candidate who gets the most votes. The truth of God’s love for us and for the world in Jesus Christ is the absolute, the belt that we tie around our waist to hold together the rest of our spiritual armor.

As Paul admonishes us to protect ourselves by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, so in the baptismal covenant we promise to persevere in resisting evil but when we do fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.

As Paul tells us to be shod with anything that will help us run to proclaim the gospel of peace, in the baptismal covenant we promise to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. Now Episcopalians are very good at wanting to show their love of God by the way we live our lives. And that’s a good thing, but we are not off the hook to also proclaim the good news of all that God has done for us. When we put on our baptismal covenant we put on the responsibility to share, especially with those closest to us and most dear to us, what God has done for us and what we believe about him.

The shield of faith will help us quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. In the baptismal covenant we proclaim our Trinitarian belief in God as Father/Creator, Jesus as God’s Son our redeemer and the Holy Spirit who lives in us and in his Church. But we not only put on our beliefs as proclaimed in the creed; we also put on our faith as trust in the living God. To me that trust is best expressed in the response to each of these rather daunting “will you” questions, to which we reply, “I will, with God’s help.” Another way of looking at that is to see each of these will you questions as a giant cry for heeeelp! We put on faith through trusting God and relying on God to help us, even to want to do these challenging things we promise in the baptismal covenant.

Paul invites us to put on the helmet of salvation. We put on salvation at the beginning of the baptismal covenant. We begin by turning away from those things that take us away from God’s love. We renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God. We renounce the evil powers of this world, which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. And we renounce all sinful desires that draw us away from the love of God. Putting on that helmet of salvation is both a turning away from evil and a turning towards God. We turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as our Savior. We promise to put our whole trust in his grace and love. We promise to follow him as our Lord (our teacher, our leader). That salvation is a free and unmerited gift of God’s love. Wearing that helmet is a kind of daily remembrance, a reminder of God’s amazing grace.

Next Paul puts in our hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In the baptismal covenant we promise to continue in the apostle’s teaching, the same apostles who gave us the book of the New Testament. It is through learning God’s Word by reading it diligently, studying it with others, letting the words become so ingrained that they become part of us, that the Bible becomes a weapon in the service of God’s peace.

Last of all Paul admonishes us to pray: pray at all times, pray in the Spirit, pray for one another and to pray for him. Prayer is our conversation with our living Lord. The prayers are both our own individual prayers and the corporate prayers of the wider Church. We put on the practice of continuing regularly in prayer to God and for one another as key part of our baptismal covenant.

It is that steadfastness in living into the wonderful gift of God’s grace shared with us in the faith and communion of Christ’s Church that is our best bet in getting Satan off our backs. It is not any one practice but putting on the whole armor of God, of claiming and reclaiming the whole practice of our baptismal covenant, that helps us stand firm in our struggles against the cosmic powers of this present darkness.

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