...all that go forth to military service...
In his first epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes, "the end of what is enjoined is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith" (1 Tim. 1:5). Do we not find three parts of the panoply of God in this passage? Is not the loins girt with truth "a pure heart," the breastplate of righteousness "a good conscience," and the shield of faith "faith unfeigned?"
"Above All Taking The Shield Of Faith"
This divine shield is to protect us against the inflamed darts of the wicked one, which are aimed to distress the Christian and to destroy his enjoyment of the blessings of God. If we are not enjoying God's blessings, there will be little testimony in our lives for Christ, and Satan will have succeeded in his attack. Inflamed darts are sent to wound and burn into the soul of the believer; they can be darts of doubt and unbelief or of teachings erroneous and dishonoring to Christ.
All that is required of us when the enemy is throwing his fiery darts is to bring God in between the enemy and ourselves, for the enemy is no match for God. Faith in all simplicity, says, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" When David was confronted with Goliath, his faith recognized that, in challenging Israel, the giant was defying the living God, and it was this that enabled David to overcome him. We see the shield of faith used by King Asa, when Zerah the Ethiopian with his hordes came against him (2 Chr. 14:11). This matchless shield was also brought into use by King Hezekiah when confronted with the fiery words of the King of Assyria (2 Chr. 32:8).
When Paul wrote to Timothy of "unfeigned faith," he spoke from long experience as "a good soldier of Jesus Christ." To the Galatians he had written, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me." This is one of the secrets of the successful warfare of the apostle, who, at the end of his long service for His Master, could say, "I have kept the faith." The shield of faith had protected him in many conflicts and he used it unto the end.
"Take the Helmet of Salvation"
When our thoughts are engaged with God's salvation, the heart and mind are guarded against every thought that would disturb and produce feelings of uncertainty. In Ephesians 2:8-9 we are taught, "Ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God's gift: not on the principle of works, that no one might boast." There are many Christians that live constantly with doubts and fears concerning their salvation, never having properly learned that "God hath saved us," and that our salvation depends entirely on the work of Christ and on the sovereign grace of God. Such never enter into the present possession of what God has given to us in Christ; their lives are lived in miserable uncertainty through not resting in simplicity on the value of the precious blood of Christ and on the truth of God's holy word. The helmet of salvation brings a state of restfulness, for the soul rests on what Christ is and has done, not on its own futile endeavors.
The Thessalonian saints had not been instructed in the truth of the Lord's coming, and this lack had been used by the enemy to distress them. Paul sent them "for an helmet, the hope of salvation", the full salvation that was to be obtained at the coming of our Lord Jesus: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (1 Thes. 5: 8-10).
"The Sword Of The Spirit"
The sword is not only a defensive weapon; it can be used to put the enemy to flight. Such is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Do we not have the supreme example of the wielding of this divine sword when the blessed Lord met the assaults of Satan with the words, "It is written?" It is not enough to quote Scripture when facing the foe; we must meet him with the Scripture chosen by the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us. For this we must be both instructed in the Scriptures and under the control of the Holy Spirit. Satan quoted Scripture when assailing the Lord, but the Lord met him with another Scripture, which was the sword of Spirit, and Satan had no answer to this.
In his many conflicts, Paul often used the sword of the Spirit, but even in such a remarkable servant there was not the perfection seen in his Master. When the high priest commanded them that stood by to smite Paul, he replied in righteous anger, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall." This was not using the sword of the Spirit, although it was meeting wrongful action with righteous indignation. The wronged apostle was not then in the spirit of His Master who, in similar circumstances, showed not the slightest anger. Indeed, Paul has to turn the sword of the Spirit against his own hasty words, saying, "It is written, Thou shall not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."
"Praying Always In The Spirit"
The seventh, and final, part of the armor is prayer: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." If our use of God's word is to be under the control of God's spirit, our prayers are also to be "in the Spirit." Prayer is the expression of our dependence on and confidence in God, and this attitude is to mark us at all seasons. All prayer, prayer of every kind, will embrace the whole field of God's interests in this world, even although we know little of what is actually taking place among the many thousands of God's people.
In times of special trial there will be special requests both for the saints and for the servants of the Lord, although we should ever keep in mind that all the saints are dear to the heart of Christ, and that we are bound up with all in the unity of the body of Christ. Here the apostle desires the prayers of the saints in relation to the special ministry confided to him by the Lord Jesus. Our blessed Lord has not only shown us to wield the sword of the Spirit in conflict, but has given us the perfect example of dependence on God, for, we read of Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, "and being in conflict He prayed more intently" (Lk. 22:44).
The evil day will soon be over, for the Lord is coming to take us to be forever with himself. Then there will be no more need to engage in conflict with the spiritual forces that seek to hinder our entering into the spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ in the heavenly places, and that endeavor to rob us of the privilege of being loyal to Christ during the time of His absence from this world. But we cannot stand for Christ unless we take every part of the divine armor, realizing that all the strength for this conflict is only in the Lord Jesus Christ.