The Armour of God
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
We have here a very great power described which we have to contend with; but yet a strength is pointed out by which we are made more than a match for it; namely, “Be strong in the Lord, and in power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10) “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14) Now you may say, “I wish I could put Him on.” How is this to be done? The means is all in prayer. Whilst we are filled with fear at seeing the many wiles of are great adversary and a little feeble cry is put forth to the LORD for help, although we seem very clumsy often at putting on His strength, yet this little cry does it. When we are fainting, we find some little word or other comes in for our support; and so we put on the strength of the LORD. The wiles of the adversary are manifested to hinder us from pressing on, and following the guidance of this good Spirit. He will set us to some ceremony of outward worship: “You must read or pray so much, you must do something to add to Christ;” and if we think we have wisdom enough of ourselves to avoid these wiles, we have already fallen. We can be kept in no way whatsoever but in fearing and trembling and making God our Refuge; and they who are not able so to do will surely fall. “Wherefore take unto you,” it is said, “the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). This evil day is the day of trial. Whatever we profess to have felt and believed will be tried. “The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is;” and if it be the work of God’s Holy Spirit within us, however, little will it stand the trial; but if it be in the flesh, however great, it will be burnt up. In the trial true faith often seems so little as if it were no faith at all; but a little, feeble cry goes up, and this stands; whereas that full faith falls. For when we have on the whole armour of God, we feel much weaker as to ourselves than when we have it not on. This “power of His might” is described where Paul prays, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of glory, may give” unto us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes” of our “understanding being enlightened,” that we “may know…what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might…” (Ephesians 1:18-21). If we know anything effectively of this mighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and are led to lean upon it, it is by the Holy Spirit only, who shows us the exceeding greatness of it to usward who believe, that in all our own straits and difficulties we may look nowhere else; that we may not look to our own weakness or to the power of our enemies, but to this exceeding greatness of His power. For by looking in this way, and not to ourselves, we show that the Holy Spirit is in us; and although we often fail in this looking, and so rather lose the battle, yet there is a returning, and we are again enabled by the Holy Spirit to look to Him, and are made more than conquerors through Him. For He is set “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:21)
But there is great opposition in looking to Him in the time of trial. There are two particular, fiery temptations against which this shield of the Lord Jesus Christ is needful and will protect. The one is when we are tempted to something we like, and find in our hearts a love towards it. Now nothing can counteract this but a superior love – that of the Lord Jesus; and this is the Holy Spirit lifts up as a standard, enables us to cry for, and sheds abroad in our hearts more or less. Another fiery temptation is fears and misgivings as to many evils, which can only be counteracted by a hope in Him; and to give us this is the work of God. But none can tell, who have not tried it, what opposition there is to our looking that way for help.
And further, the apostle says, “Stand therefore, having your loins girth about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). Nothing will make men strong but the truth as it is in Jesus. The breastplate is the righteousness of the Lord Jesus applied by the Holy Ghost. Now here I find the goodness of God to me. I am often tempted to look aside to my having done this or that or worked so much, as a recommendation to God; but He gives me such a discovery of my sinful nature that I am obliged to look away to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to say, “O Lord, there is not such a sinner as myself anywhere; O Lord, have mercy on me.” And I must say there is nothing that fills me with so much fear as the thought of looking for a single moment to myself for righteousness.
And further, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Always when we make a long journey, we may look to the horses’ shoes. So this is a needful thing, to have our feet turned to where a faithful ministry is found. Now if we have spiritual sobriety given us to compare what is preached to us with the Word of God and with the experience within, and find this threefold evidence all sweetly agreeing; if we are enabled to yield spiritual attention and obedience to the Word, with all godly simplicity and transparency, here is a piece of armour whose strength cannot be broken. The Lord cautions us against the wiles of the adversary. He says, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not” (Matthew 24:23). Depend upon it, you are not out of this danger. You will be tried, and will fall, unless you have on this armour of God. Christ would not have said, “Take heed,” unless there had been a needs-be. It is one especial mark of our having on this armour that we are made sensible of the great danger with which we are surrounded, and are led to fear on all hands, and not to get into things where God has not called us.
James Bourne – 1841