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For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness
Paul is about to talk about a super spiritual and seemingly impractical thing suddenly. In chapter 5 it was the ethereal idea of showing reverence for Christ in the practical matter of household relationships. Now we are going to talk about spiritual conflicts in terms of Roman soldier armor. Whuuut?
When Paul wrote this letter, he was imprisoned by the Romans. Sometimes they would lock people up in a cell, and sometimes they would have a house where the prisoners would stay handcuffed to a Roman soldier. This would be the more mild arrest that Paul was experiencing. This was the first century version of maximum security vs. Minimum security prison. As Paul is writing to the Ephesians about our spiritual might in Christ, you can just imagine him talking to the Roman guards he was with. There are some mentions of them coming to faith as they were around Paul and Silas and others during an imprisonment.
Everything Christ has given us is like armor. It protects us from the deceitful temptations of the world, from the condemnation of our sin, and it strengthens our souls for conflicts. When hard times come, we have hope and peace from Christ that He is with us and helping us through whatever. Be it a 2018 Edna Mode supersuit (no capes!) or a 55 AD Roman soldier uniform, Christ’s righteousness protects and enables us to be Christians.
The truth of Christ’s resurrection is like a belt around your uniform… you could almost hear Paul explain. It holds the whole suit of armor together. Without the belt, everything else falls apart. Not flashy or decorated, the truth of the Gospel is what it is, and everything depends on that.
A soldier’s breastplate would be like a shield attached to all of his vital organs. It would cover the largest target-area of his body from all of the critical hits. Men could fight for a while with an arm chopped off but the breastplate protected the most important things. Righteousness is being right according to God. It is God looking at you and saying “She’s alright!” With righteousness covering the most important parts of your life, you can survive anything. Even better, it isn’t your own righteousness or good deeds. The righteousness is the righteousness of God. Soldiers don’t build their own armor, they are suited up and made ready for action by their King.
When we say that God wants you to stand firm, it’s partially a command, but it’s also an encouragement. God isn’t trying to knock you down. God is trying to strengthen you. He is suiting you up, as you put on His supplies, so that you may stand, and stand, and stand.