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Whole Armor of God Introduction, Ephesians 6:10-20 by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Mar 6

The Cultural Wars Today

In the current climate of the culture war, people of faith are being attacked for holding true to what they believe in. Regardless of whether you are vocal or not about your religious beliefs, you may already be branded before you speak one word.

Many of us fear having our careers or livelihoods ruined by expressing our opinions. Some chose to remain silent while others entered the battlefield. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feel cornered, your options limited, and your actions unjustly questioned just because you are a person of faith?

Being caught between unyielding forces can be pretty overwhelming. Imagine being accused of something you never uttered because you embrace a particular faith. Some who once championed tolerance are now intolerant of anyone with an opposing view.

Those in a position of authority or power may yield that in an abusive way in the current culture. Canceling or censoring others for opposing opinions, political ideologies, and religious views has happened throughout history. The Apostle Paul encountered similar opposition.

Paul "Locked Up but Not Locked Out

Consider the plight of Paul the Apostle, who confronted a parallel predicament. He wound up imprisoned by Roman authorities for standing up for what he believed was right. When composing a letter to the Ephesian church, he was, in fact, in Roman custody due to his expression of faith. Notably, in chapter six, verse twenty, Paul refers to himself as "an ambassador in bonds or chains," symbolizing his constrained circumstances.

The Roman government had detained him, granting him limited interactions with visitors and correspondence with friends, many of whom were associated with the house churches he had established, including the one in Ephesus.

During moments of reflection, Paul was able to catch glimpses of his captors and the guards' armor. He could overhear their conversations and anecdotes, gaining insights into their experiences into their daily duties and struggles.

To transmit his message of encouragement, Paul employed an analogy rooted in the Roman soldier. Though he was referring to a spiritual assault rather than a military campaign, his choice resonated profoundly with his readers. Roman soldiers were a common sight with his audience.

This blog series will re-examine Paul's first imprisonment under house arrest and his insights regarding the whole armor of God in the letter to the Ephesians. Can we learn anything new from the Roman armor?

Situation at Ephesus

During the period when the Apostle Paul composed his letter to the Ephesians, around 60-62 AD, Ephesus emerged as a city characterized by both liveliness and unrest. Set within the broader context of the Roman Empire, a diverse fusion of cultures encompassing Greeks, Romans, Jews, and others. Ephesus was marked by bustling trade and impressive architectural achievements like the esteemed Library of Celsus.

Ephesus had always been the epicenter for the worship of the goddess Artemis aka Diana aka Ishtar aka Astarte, the most famous and most worshiped Mother Goddess in the ancient world for over 1,000 years. She was a fertility goddess and is sculpted with many nourishing breasts cascading down to her abdomen. Many idols, large and small, of this ancient Mother figure have been found all over the Near and Middle East over the centuries. (1)

However, Paul's impassioned preaching had a striking impact. His message triggered a spiritual awakening that clashed with the city's deep-rooted devotion to Artemis. The nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts captures the clash of cultures Paul created in the city of Ephesus. Paul's promotion of a new “Way,” an early title for the emerging Christian faith, led to significant upheaval.

This cultural melting pot of cultural diversity found itself at a pivotal moment, navigating the transformative undercurrents of Paul's teachings while wrestling with the conflicting traditions centered around the multi-breasted depiction of Artemis.

Ephesians 6:10-20 KJV

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Spiritual or Carnal Weapons?

Paul had a choice to make. He could allow himself to become overwhelmed and talk himself into deep depression or he could allow God to speak to him amid his struggle. Paul chooses the latter for he reminds the Ephesians and himself that no matter what problem he faces, no matter what others may do to him. In verse twelve we are reminded,

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Too often, we convince ourselves there is no hope, no way out, and we might as well just accept our lot in life as being a life going from one crisis to the next. We slip into giving up and throwing in the towel. Yet, if we stand firm, and do not retreat, often there is a blessing in disguise right around the corner. In verses ten and eleven, Paul informs us to

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

Paul warns us to be cautious of the devil's tricks, often called the "wiles of the devil" in the King James Version. In this verse, the word used for the enemy's "schemes" is related to the English words "schematic" or "blueprint."

Paul portrays evil plans as coming from the "devil." The Greek word "διαβόλου" (diabolou), translated as "devil," appears here and in twelve other places in the New Testament.

Importantly, Judaism doesn't have the concept of "original sin" like Christianity does. Instead, it teaches that people have two built-in opposing tendencies: the Yet zer HaTov (inclination for good) and Yetzer HaRa (inclination for evil). The Yetzer HaTov inspires good deeds, following rules, and being kind, while the Yetzer HaRa leans towards selfishness and negativity.

Both sides of human nature need balance and control. The goal is to align with spiritual growth, often achieved through studying the Torah, praying, and being morally upright. Still, Paul reminds us to be watchful and not fall into traps.

Understanding this change in the way a Jew like Paul thought during his time is a bit challenging. In Judaism, the Hebrew word "שָׂטָן" (Satan) is used twenty-seven times, but not in the same way as the personified Devil in Christianity.

For example, it's used in passages like Numbers 22:22,32; 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4, and 11:14, 23. In Judaism, "Satan" is more like an "adversary" or "accuser," describing tactics often associated with the devil.

We do not need to be fearful or allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, but we need to realize the enemy, within or without, has a plot, blueprint, or scheme to destroy your life. He will look for any weakness and use it to its fullest! As a soldier of the Lord, you must keep yourself in spiritual shape. You must keep your armor in good working order.

Pay attention, Paul did not say put on one or two pieces of your spiritual armor. A soldier's protection would be incomplete if he entered battle with only part of the resources that were available to him. If just one piece of armor was missing that would be the area he would be vulnerable in and you can bet his enemy would strike that area.

It is no different for us today. If we are going to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy we must stand firm. Put on the whole armor of God and do not retreat in silence.

In the upcoming blogs, we will explore each piece of armor Paul identifies as the "whole armor of God."


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Well delivered article. As I read this I can not help but think of the last two times I’ve been in the jail cell. The contrast between the two is incredible the time before the last I was around 30 years old and pure heathen and the utter darkness and desperation I felt within my heart was overwhelming and maddening. Then again around 39 years old I found myself again on the jail roster but this time I was wrestling with God and not letting go until I was blessed. (That is coming on 7 years ago.) His faithfulness to show me what love was for the first time in my life surrounded by murders liars and thieves. At tha…

Dr. Terry Harman
Dr. Terry Harman

Amen. We have very similar paths. Thanks for being a faithful reader.

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