Major Texts: Eph. 6:14-18, 2 Cor. 6:7, Eph. 5:9, Rom. 10:15, 1 Thess. 5:8, Mark 14:38
This week’s lesson focuses on what the Bible calls the “armor of God” (Eph 6). The depiction of God’s armor is one of a comprehensive outfit designed to protect the soldier of Christ. The goal is to protect the believer from what the Bible refers to as the “wiles of the devil,” which are shown to be considerable. Chief among the devil’s tools is deception, the art of deceiving people into his traps that will distance them from God.
Behind this dynamic is the reality that the conflict between good and evil, between Christ and Satan, continues on even though the final outcome is no longer in doubt. Paul, in Ephesians 6, reminds us that we “wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers…” While it is true that conversion breaks the power of sin in a person’s life, it does not remove the converted person from the presence of evil and the activity of the devil. In fact, there is reason to believe that conversion may heighten the focus of the devil on the life and activities of the newly converted person to the point they might face difficulties unanticipated or previously un-experienced. In view of this, putting on the whole armor of God becomes something of great significance.
The call to put on the whole armor of God suggests the need for personal engagement. In other words, there are some things that each person needs to do in order to put this armor on. What do you think some of those things might be?
In Ephesians 6, the various components of the armor are detailed. Paul begins with mention of girding oneself with truth having also put on the breastplate of righteousness. It is a little uncertain what article of armor Paul had in mind when he spoke of girdling oneself, but it was probably a reference to a leather apron that offered some protection to the lower abdomen. The breastplate was a piece of armor that covered the chest and upper abdomen and may have been the most significant and basic piece of ancient protective armor. Paul draws an analogy to truth and righteousness. Truth is correct information, in this case about God and His plans. And righteousness is right living. Here we have a cognitive element and an active one. What kind of links would you make between thinking and doing? how would thinking effect doing? Do you think righteousness builds up a residue in the lives of humans so they become good, or will you limit righteousness to conceptual things only? What happens when people know right but do not do it?
The next element of armor Paul brings in has to do with the feet, saying “having feet shod with the equipment of the gospel of peace.” This allusion to foot ware reminds us of the value of good shoes as a means to be protected and safe. The peace mentioned here could be the peace that comes from salvation or a more general peace such as enjoyed in stable times. And the shield as faith evokes visual images of a shield as a vital and valuable piece of armor, movable, tough, and able to protect. In this case, faith protects from the “fiery darts of the devil” which have been seen as things like lust, doubt, greed, vanity, and other such things. It is interesting that faith is the designated defense weapon against these things.
Paul also speaks about the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. What interests you about these two elements? Think of the role the last one has played in the experiences of many people, including Jesus when he faced his great temptations.
Prayer is often mentioned as a means of defense in the conflict between good and evil. Paul advised believers to pray always. What role and function to you assign to prayer in the Christian life? What is the hardest prayer to pray? What value does prayer have in your own life? What are the chief benefits of prayer?
Given the discussion of the armor of God, what reflections come to your mind? Does one aspect of this discussion intrigue or challenge you more than another? Would you add some other element to this discussion?
How do you think a believer should best advantage themselves of the provisions of God? What reflections do you have on those who approach the conflict between good and evil in a nonchalant manner? What might we say to those who are overly fearful, seeing devilish conspiracies in every place?
Discuss how the provisions of God are sufficient for human need.
Discuss how we might make best advantage of the provisions of God for our salvation.
In this lesson, there was a lot of attention paid to the individual mandate to put on the armor of God. What role do you think a believing community could play in helping this take place?