Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Armor of God


The passage we read from Ephesians was the subject of our Vacation Bible School this week. The passage as you read it in the Bible is actually titled the Armor of God. The Apostle Paul wrote this passage to help us understand who we are as the church - who we are as the Body of Christ. The purpose of this passage is to get us to have a realistic picture of this particular church; it is not a passage meant for just a general ideal - the passage is meant for us, to look at ourselves in a realistic way and to understand what we are all about - as the church; as Sweetwater Presbyterian Church.
Paul uses a picture that was very familiar with people of Paul’s day. Roman soldiers were everywhere. Rome occupied the entire area of the middle east and they maintained control by having fully outfitted soldiers everywhere. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a group of soldiers on guard. So as Paul describes the church in terms of these soldiers anyone reading the letter would immediately get what Paul is describing because they saw fully armored soldiers all the time.
For us, we have to reach a bit. We don’t live in a place where there are groups of soldiers visibly stationed everywhere we go. Can we even imagine what it would be like to walk out the door of the church this morning and see a bunch of fully armed soldiers standing across the street; to go to Walmart after worship and see soldiers standing by the doors; to go out to eat and there are soldiers standing by the entry way……
We have to pull those images out of our imagination in order to get the full impact of what Paul is trying to teach us.
Previous to this passage on the Armor of God in Ephesians 6, Paul wants the hearers of this letter to get a grasp on the purpose of the church. It is, I think, a difficult concept for us to really understand the idea of what the church is really all about. Christ began the church, thinking in a broad sense, to be the light to the world. The overall purpose of the church was to be a witness to Jesus Christ in the world. We were called to be a unique group of people brought together by God to live in a way different than everyone else; to be a facilitator to help relieve the hunger and poverty of those around us; to look to Christ as the founder and perfecter of our faith and to put him first in all we do - in all aspects of our life to show people there is a different, and better, way to live. And that is a tall order…..
Church, Paul explains in Ephesians, is not just worship. The worship hour is important but it is a small part of the purpose of the church. We come to worship to give God glory, to thank God for all he has done for us, to thank God that we have been chosen to represent him in the world and to get our armor oiled. The purpose of coming to worship is for God and the result of worship is that we are better able to be the church.
We as the church have a job. The job is not to just come to worship on Sunday altho that is an important aspect of that job….. our job is to go out into our everyday lives and be God’s people. And that is really hard.
It is so hard that Paul reminds us that God helps us do what he desires we do. When you leave the protective walls of this sanctuary, Paul says, picture yourself in unity as a battalion of soldiers. Even though we kind of filter out the front door after worship one by one, or in pairs, Paul reminds us to never forget that we are a ‘body’ of Christ. We are not the individuals of Christ. We are to look at ourselves as a unified body…. the church of Sweetwater Presbyterian Church is the people of Sweetwater Presbyterian Church even when we are all scattered in our workplaces and our homes - wherever we are. Throughout all of Paul’s letters that picture of the church as a single body is prevalent. Your body never disassembles itself and your arms go over here and your legs go over there and your feet go a different direction, your body is always connected. Paul reminds us that as a church, we are always connected. So when we think of ourselves as Sweetwater Presbyterian church, we think of ourselves as an essential component of a single body.
Then, Paul says, once you have that picture of yourselves, Paul says your job is to be a witness to the world of the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It means that we have to be intentional in everything we do as we do things as Jesus would. It is hard to be the body of Christ because Paul reminds us that we are always the Body of Christ. We are always, regardless of where we are, members of Christ’s church and witnesses to what that means.
Paul recognizes that is a difficult task. Paul realizes that on our own that is almost an impossible responsibility. So Paul says - God has given you a way to be able to do this. God has provided a means for you to live as the church of Jesus Christ, as the troop of soldiers known as Sweetwater Presbyterian. Paul says God has given you each a suit of armor to help you do what God has asked you to do. And, Paul says, if you consciously remember that, it will make your life as a soldier in the army of God stationed at Sweetwater Presbyterian much easier.
Paul says to the readers of this letter, “You are as well armed as those soldiers you see standing around all the time. Look at them and see yourself with all those pieces of equipment they have and even though you can’t see the armor on your body - you do have it! Trust God to help you.”
Then Paul goes one by one describing what these pieces are - You have on Shoes of the Gospel - you know the stories of Jesus; you know Jesus’ message of love and peace; draw on that as you deal with others around you.
You have the belt of Truth - you know without a shadow of a doubt that what Jesus has told you is true. We know Jesus is real; we know that Jesus lived; draw on that as you live with those around you.
You have the breastplate of righteousness - you know what is right. You may not always do it; you may get tired of doing what is right when those around your are doing what is wrong and seem to be doing OK; lean of God, he will help you do what you know you are to do.
You have a shield of faith - faith that God will help you. No matter what. When things are hard; when things are downright impossible; we have faith in the presence of God.
Put on the helmet of salvation….. Now I think of this more like a football helmet than a soldiers helmet. Football helmets have a logo on the side of them that tells you what team the player belongs to. You put on the helmet and you know you are a Carolina Panther or a Pittsburgh Steeler or an Atlanta Falcon. The helmet of Salvation lets you know that you belong to God. Don’t ever think that God is going to kick you off the team or trade you to someone else if you don’t measure up, the Helmet of Salvation is permanent - a reminder that you belong to God and God’s church…. now and forever.
Those are all defensive pieces of armor designed to help you and protect you. Then God gives you one offensive weapon… God gives you the means to go out and do what you need to. Every one of us has God’s spirit in us - and the Spirit will do a lot of the work we think we have to do ourselves. It is the difference between trying to stab someone with your hand as opposed to stabbing someone with your sword…. which one is going to work better? Sometimes we need to just allow God to guide us and give us the words to say and help us make decisions or to not respond in an inappropriate way……
The point of Paul’s description is to help us realize we are a team - Sweetwater Presbyterian is a team - a team of fully equipped soldiers for God. It is not easy out there, Paul reinforces over and over, there are so many people who don’t want to hear the message of Christ, there are so many people who don’t care about the message of Christ, there are so many people who actively fight against the message of Christ and they are always going to try and knock you down, to stop you, to make you more like them than like the person God knows you really are…..
The armor of God. The church of Jesus Christ. Sweetwater Presbyterian Church. Put it all together, Paul tells us, and we can be a might force for good in this evil world. Amen!