“Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.”—EPHESIANS 6:11.
ROME was at the height of its power during the first century C.E. The strength of the Roman legions enabled the city to control much of the then known world. One historian described this army as “the most successful military organization in history.” Rome’s professional army was made up of well-disciplined soldiers who underwent rigorous training, but their success as an effective fighting force also depended on their armor. The apostle Paul used a Roman soldier’s armor to illustrate the spiritual equipment Christians need in order to battle successfully against the Devil.
We find a description of this spiritual armor at Ephesians 6:14-17. Paul wrote: “Stand firm . . . with your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and with your feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles. Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” Viewed from a physical standpoint, the suit of armor that Paul described provided a Roman soldier with considerable protection. Then, too, he wielded a sword, his principal weapon for individual combat.
Apart from equipment and training, the success of the Roman army depended on the soldiers’ obedience to their commander. Similarly, Christians must obey Jesus Christ, whom the Bible describes as a “commander to the national groups.” (Isaiah 55:4) He is also “head of the congregation.” (Ephesians 5:23) Jesus gives us instructions for our spiritual warfare and provides a perfect example of how to wear spiritual armor. (1 Peter 2:21) Since a Christlike personality has much in common with our suit of spiritual armor, the Scriptures advise us to “arm” ourselves with the mental disposition of Christ. (1 Peter 4:1) As we analyze each piece of our spiritual armor, then, we will use the example of Jesus to demonstrate its importance and effectiveness.
Loins girded about with truth. In Bible times, soldiers wore a wide leather belt, or girdle, that was from two to six inches [5-15 cm] wide. Some translators suggest that the verse should read, “with truth as a belt tight around your waist.” The soldier’s belt helped to protect his loins, and it provided a convenient support from which to suspend the sword. When a soldier girded his loins, he was getting ready for battle. Paul used the soldier’s belt to illustrate the extent to which Scriptural truth should influence our lives. It should be tightly wrapped around us, as it were, so that we live in harmony with the truth and can defend it on any occasion. (Psalm 43:3; 1 Peter 3:15) To that end, we need to study the Bible diligently and meditate on its contents.
Jesus had God’s law ‘within his inward parts.’ (Psalm 40:8) When questioned by opposers, he could therefore respond by quoting the Scriptures from memory.—Matthew 19:3-6; 22:23-32.
When we allow Bible truth to guide us, it can protect us from faulty reasoning and enable us to make wise decisions. During times of temptation or trial, the Bible’s guidelines will strengthen our resolve to do what is right. In effect, we will see our Grand Instructor, Jehovah, and will hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.”—Isaiah 30:20, 21.
Breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate of the soldier protected a vital organ, the heart. Our figurative heart—the person we are on the inside—needs special protection because it is inclined toward what is wrong. (Genesis 8:21) We must therefore get to know and love Jehovah’s righteous standards. (Psalm 119:97, 105) Our love of righteousness leads us to reject worldly thinking that ignores or waters down Jehovah’s clear guidelines. Moreover, when we love what is right and hate what is wrong, we avoid pursuing a course that can ruin our lives. (Psalm 119:99-101; Amos 5:15) Jesus is exemplary in this regard, for concerning him, the Scriptures say: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness.”—Hebrews 1:9.
Feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. Roman soldiers needed adequate shoes or sturdy sandals, since during a campaign they often marched 20 miles [30 km] each day while wearing or carrying some 60 pounds [27 kg] of armor and equipment. Paul appropriately used footwear to represent our readiness to preach the Kingdom message to everyone who will listen. This is important because how will people come to know Jehovah if we are not ready and willing to preach?—Romans 10:13-15.
What was the most important activity in the life of Jesus? He told the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate: ‘I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.’ Jesus preached whenever he found a hearing ear, and he enjoyed his ministry so much that he gave it priority over his physical needs. (John 4:5-34; 18:37) If we, like Jesus, are eager to declare the good news, we will find many opportunities to share it with others. Furthermore, our being absorbed in our ministry will help keep us spiritually strong.—Acts 18:5.
The large shield of faith. The Greek word translated “large shield” refers to a shield that was large enough to cover most of the body. It would provide protection from the “burning missiles” referred to at Ephesians 6:16. In Bible times, soldiers used darts made out of hollow reeds having small iron receptacles that could be filled with burning naphtha. One scholar describes these darts as “one of the most dangerous weapons in ancient warfare.” If a soldier did not have a large shield to protect himself from such missiles, he could be gravely injured or even killed.
What “burning missiles” does Satan employ to undermine our faith? He may promote persecution or opposition in the family, at work, or at school. A desire to possess more and more material things and the lure of immorality have also proved spiritually devastating in the case of some. To protect ourselves against such threats, “above all things, [we must] take up the large shield of faith.” Faith comes from learning about Jehovah, regularly communicating with him in prayer, and discerning how he protects and blesses us.—Joshua 23:14; Luke 17:5; Romans 10:17.
When Jesus was on earth, he demonstrated the importance of having strong faith during critical times. He totally trusted his Father’s decisions and was delighted to do God’s will. (Matthew 26:42, 53, 54; John 6:38) Even when experiencing great anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to his Father: “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus never lost sight of the importance of keeping integrity and making his Father rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) If we have similar confidence in Jehovah, we will not let criticism or opposition weaken our faith. Instead, our faith will be strengthened if we rely on God, show love for him, and keep his commandments. (Psalm 19:7-11; 1 John 5:3) No material rewards or fleeting sensual pleasure can compare with the blessings Jehovah has in store for those who love him.—Proverbs 10:22.
The helmet of salvation. A helmet protected the soldier’s head and brain—the seat of intellect. Our Christian hope is compared to a helmet because it protects our mind. (1 Thessalonians 5:8) Although we have made our mind over by means of accurate knowledge of God’s Word, we are still weak, imperfect humans. Our mind can easily become corrupted. Goals of this system of things can distract us or even replace our God-given hope. (Romans 7:18; 12:2) The Devil tried in vain to sidetrack Jesus by offering him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (Matthew 4:8) But Jesus flatly rejected the offer, and Paul said of him: “For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:2.
The sort of confidence that Jesus had is not automatic. If we fill our mind with the dreams and goals of this system of things instead of keeping in mind the hope ahead, our faith in God’s promises will get weaker. In time, we could even lose our hope completely. On the other hand, if we regularly meditate on the promises of God, we will continue to rejoice in the hope set before us.—Romans 12:12.
The sword of the spirit. God’s word, or message, recorded in the Bible is like a powerful two-edged sword that can cut down religious falsehood and help righthearted people find spiritual freedom. (John 8:32; Hebrews 4:12) This spiritual sword can also defend us when we are assaulted by temptations or apostate attempts to destroy our faith. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) How thankful we are that ‘all Scripture is inspired of God and completely equips us for every good work’!—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus effectively used the sword of the spirit to fend off false reasoning and cunning temptations. To each challenge of Satan, he replied: “It is written.” (Matthew 4:1-11) David, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Spain, likewise found that the Scriptures helped him to overcome temptation. When he was 19 years old, an attractive young woman who worked in the same cleaning company suggested that they “have a good time together.” David rejected her advances and asked his supervisor for work in a different area so that the situation would not arise again. “I remembered the example of Joseph,” David said. “He rejected immorality and immediately got out of the way. I did the same.”—Genesis 39:10-12.
Jesus also used the sword of the spirit to help others escape from Satan’s control. “What I teach is not mine,” said Jesus, “but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) To imitate Jesus’ skillful teaching, we need training. Regarding Roman soldiers, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote: “Every soldier is every day exercised, and that with great diligence, as if it were in time of war which is the reason why they bear the fatigue of battles so easily.” In our spiritual warfare, we need to use the Bible. Moreover, we must ‘do our utmost to present ourselves approved to God, as workmen with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.’ (2 Timothy 2:15) And how much satisfaction we experience when we use the Scriptures to answer an interested person’s sincere question!
After considering the complete suit of spiritual armor, Paul adds another important piece of advice. In resisting Satan, Christians should avail themselves of “every form of prayer and supplication.” How often? “Carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit,” Paul wrote. (Ephesians 6:18) When we face temptations, trials, or discouragement, prayer can fortify us immensely. (Matthew 26:41) Jesus “offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.”—Hebrews 5:7.
Milagros, who has cared for her chronically ill husband for over 15 years, says: “When I feel discouraged, I turn to Jehovah in prayer. Nobody can help me more than he can. True, there are moments when I feel I just can’t carry on any longer. But time and again after praying to Jehovah, I have felt my strength renewed and my spirits uplifted.”
The Devil knows that his time is short, and he intensifies his efforts to conquer us. (Revelation 12:12, 17) We have to resist this powerful enemy and “fight the fine fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12) This calls for strength beyond what is normal. (2 Corinthians 4:7) We also need the help of God’s holy spirit and should therefore pray for it. Jesus said: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!”—Luke 11:13.
Clearly, it is essential that we put on the complete suit of armor that Jehovah supplies. Wearing this spiritual armor requires that we develop godly qualities, such as faith and righteousness. It demands that we love the truth as if girded with it, that we be ready to spread the good news on every occasion, and that we keep close in mind the hope ahead. We must learn to wield the sword of the spirit skillfully. By putting on the complete suit of armor from God, we can come off victorious in our wrestling with wicked spirit forces and can indeed bring glory to Jehovah’s holy name.—Romans 8:37-39.