When I began to teach a children’s Bible class at our church, a stuffed “Christian soldier” wearing the armor of God was among the classroom supplies and decorations. Over the years, I’ve seen an armor of God costume in a Christian bookstore and also cutouts for an armor of God bulletin board.
The pieces of this armor are familiar to many Christians. They are powerful tools for living the Christian life:
- the gospel of peace
- the word of God
Christians in Ephesus were the first people to receive the letter we now call the book of Ephesians. It includes God’s specific instruction to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). Ancient Ephesus was a coastal city along the Aegean Sea in western Asia Minor. Its ruins are in the modern country of Turkey.
The first Ephesians who heard the good news about Jesus were Jews of the Diaspora (Jews who lived outside of Israel) and pagans who worshipped the goddess whom the Greeks called Artemis and the Romans called Diana. Ephesus was the center of Artemis worship and the home of her temple.
The preaching of the gospel was big news in Ephesus. An unbelieving silversmith named Demetrius caused a riot when he started speaking out against the gospel and stirring up a crowd. Demetrius made shrines of Artemis. He worried that people becoming Christians would damage his business. He fussed that “this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all” (Acts 19:26).
New Ephesian believers, who had formerly practiced magic, brought their magic books together and burned them. The value of the books was 50,000 pieces of silver.
When people became Christians in Ephesus, they were turning from evil to good. They were turning from lies to truth. That reality has not changed.
Every Christian has armor to wear, perfect armor that gives us what we need in the struggle of good against evil. Consider what the shield of faith does. It makes us “able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
It is tempting to muddle good and evil and even to get mixed up about which is which. Isaiah warned:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
As we rear children and as we live life before them, we must remember why we wear the armor of God. We must also remember that the struggle is not new. We must not believe that good and evil don’t exist anymore. We must not believe that good and evil are merely opinions. And whatever we do, we must never give up the struggle. One of the best things we can do for our children is to wear the armor of God in front of them day by day and to use it for the purposes God intends.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you will be able to stand firm
against the schemes of the devil.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the powers,
against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.