When you are raised in the Christian church, you learn about the “Armor of God” at a young age. I’m guessing it’s because little children love to play with fake swords, and pretending to be a Roman soldier is very cool. Besides, there’s just something about imagining yourself “girding up your loins” that sets your mind spinning.
Child: “Mama, what’s a loins? Do I has some? Where is them?”
Mama: “Um, hold on Honey.” (Mom rushes to Google. Yay! A picture!)
I’m sure it was a parent who created this extremely helpful “How to Gird up Your Loins” infographic:
Hey, don’t “dis” the poster. This handy little guide provides you with a creative way to answer your children’s loin question while at the same time avoiding “the birds and the bees” conversation for a while longer! 🙂 But I digress.
The Apostle Paul, while under house arrest in Rome, wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus. In this letter (Ephesians), he opened their eyes to spiritual warfare and instructed them to “put on the full armor of God.” He then elaborated on this directive by listing seven pieces of armor as well as the spiritual significance of each one. Here they are (along with a free coloring page for anyone who would like it):
- Belt of truth
- Breastplate of righteousness
- Feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace
- Shield of faith
- Helmet of salvation
- Sword of the spirit
I’d like to thank Priscilla Shirer for sharing her realization that there are actually SEVEN, not six, pieces of armor listed in this passage. I recently began her new Bible study entitled “Armor of God,” and during the first video teaching session, Priscilla shared a couple nuggets of information I don’t recall noticing prior to this. The first was the seventh piece of armor, prayer, as listed above. She rightly taught that “Prayer activates the armor.” She also pointed out while Paul may possibly have used a Roman soldier as the visible model for his list of armor, as an educated Pharisee, he also—most likely—was basing his thoughts on a passage in Isaiah. Say what?!
As I turned in my Bible to Isaiah 59:17, I was surprised to read, “He [the LORD] put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head” (emphasis mine). So, when Paul instructs us as Believers to put on the full armor of God, he literally means that we should put on God’s armor! In other words, somehow, God is allowing us access to His armor.
As I was reflecting on God’s armor, I made a connection with something we’ve been studying in our home school. We are in the middle of a literary analysis course, and more specifically, in the middle of a chapter entitled, “Exploring Epics: An Introduction to Epic Literature.” You’ll never guess what one of the most common literary conventions of epic literature is? Wait for it… Wait for it…
That’s right! Armor. In this chapter, the author explained how important armor was in the olden days: “Before the days of weapons of mass destruction, a hero had to depend on his weapons and armor for victory in battle. The better armor a soldier possessed, the better were his chances for victory (or survival) in battle…the armor and weapons of a man represented more than just his status in society: it often represented his very identity” (Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings, Student handbook, pg. 152). She also noted that the kings, princes, and heroes had the BEST armor.
Now, I’m not equating the armor of God to mythical armor in epic literature. Not at all. I share this information to help us, first of all, remember the importance of armor to people in Bible times, and second, to recall who owns the best armor. Why? Because, friends, we have access to GOD’S ARMOR!!! Just marinate on that for a moment: WE—the redeemed children of the most high God—have access to HIS armor! On a spiritual level, then, we are invincible! (But only when we put it on!!!)
As I reflected on Paul’s list of armor and compared it to Isaiah’s list, I noticed something…
I had to laugh when one of my friends shared this meme (above) on Facebook earlier today. I snickered because, well, it’s Kristen Wiig—the woman is hilarious! But I also grinned at God’s timing: I’d already been pondering about the “missing pieces” of God’s armor and doing a little digging on my own. Rather than comment on her timeline, I decided to write this blog post.
So, is the armor of God incomplete?
If you reference only Paul’s list of armor, you might come to that conclusion, as it seems to be missing…well…pants! But when you factor in Isaiah’s, it is clear that God’s armor is complete. Isaiah 59:15-17 says:
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
According to the prophet Isaiah, in addition to “righteousness as a breastplate” and “the helmet of salvation,” God also possesses “garments of vengeance.” But guess what? We do NOT have permission to wear those—God alone retains the garments of vengeance. Not only that, but He makes it abundantly clear that those garments are HIS and not to be touched. It’s not our place to avenge anything. He is the sole and perfect Avenger. We are told:
It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
This much we know for certain:
We have free access to God’s armor and weapons—just not all of it. We have access to what we need, and we must trust God to take care of the rest.
As Peter said, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
In other words, through His Spirit, we are perfectly fitted out to fight the good fight here on earth. When we put on the full armor of God, we are clad with truth (belt), righteousness (breastplate), the gospel of peace (footings), faith (shield), and salvation (helmet). We also have two weapons at our disposal: the sword (Scripture) and prayer. But vengeance? No. The garments of vengeance belong to the Lord.