Keep Your Armor Buckled On!
By William Gurnall
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:13).
In this verse, the apostle's words, "…take unto you the whole armor…," seem to repeat his instruction in verse 11: "Put on the whole armor…." No doubt he uses repetition to emphasize a point. In his intervening statement (v. 12), he gives a full report of Satan's power and malice and discloses his evil design against the saints. Now he sounds an alarm to battle and bids them, "Arm! Arm!"
The verb, "take unto you" means not only "to take," but "to take again." In other words, to recover something which was lost, or to resume an undertaking that up to the present has been abandoned.
Considering that Paul was writing primarily to the Christians at Ephesus, we may assume he was not telling them to put on God's armor by a conversion to the faith. This they had already done. Rather, Paul was exhorting them to pull their armor more closely to their bodies in the places where it was hanging loose, and to repair any holes in their graces.
Graces in Good Repair
Who wears armor in times of peace? Armor is designed for those going into battle! Do not think simply putting on the grace of God will frighten the enemy away. He is not impressed by a show of force. On the contrary, the very sight of God's armor upon your back is like waving a red flag at Satan. So to have it on for show is not enough. You must have it securely fastened at every point.
Satan is not challenging you to a mock battle; this war is a life-or-death struggle. If you do not believe me, look what he has done to God's servants in times past. Charging full speed ahead at many a dear saint, he has battered their armor until the grace of God in them was almost unrecognizable. All this he does when he catches a saint off guard.
Do you remember what happened to Jacob when he unbuckled his girdle of truth and sincerity, and used a trick to get his father's blessing? He got the blessing all right, but he also was repaid in kind when Laban switched Leah for Rachel. Think how much suffering he might have saved himself by keeping his whole suit of armor in place!
What about David? Oh, the battering he took by removing his breastplate of righteousness in the matter of Uriah! He sustained a dreadful wound, being shot right through the heart. And Jonah, when God wanted to send him to Nineveh, got caught without his shoes on. By that I mean he lacked the preparation and readiness with which his mind should have been shod, to have gone at the first call.
Then there was poor Hezekiah. He had his helmet of hope knocked askew and so badly dented that he cried, "I shall not see the Lord…in the land of the living" (Isa. 38:11). Even Abraham had fits of unbelief and distrustful qualms that crept in at some rusty spots in his graces.
This war is a spiritual holocaust. Either you destroy the power of Satan in your life by putting on the whole armor of God and keeping it on, or Satan will destroy you. The great saints of every century have been tried in the fires of temptation. To a man they have been singed whenever Satan found the smallest chink in their graces. Do not disregard what history has repeatedly shown to be true.
Satan will watch and wait; sooner or later, he will catch you with this or that grace laid aside for the moment. Then he will attack. This hour of intense battle is the very time you need all your resolve to get your armor repaired – and to do it at once! Do not give up in despair. He can make new all that is broken in you.
Who Suffers When Your Grace Diminishes?
When you decline in grace, the negative effects go far beyond your own situation – even to God Himself. Let us examine the serious consequences of neglecting your spiritual warfare.
1. You wrong God. God's honor is more dependent on His saints' graces than on any other single thing. Even the flagrant sins of the world do not discredit Him the way a saint's careless conduct does. When men of the world use the talents God has given them to increase their own bank accounts, they rob Him only of His oil, flax and wool.
But when the Christian misuses or neglects his grace, he takes away God's glory! Letting God's glory leak out at the holes in your graces is serious indeed. It shows utter disregard for His will. He intends for His glory to be magnified by your attitudes and actions – not diminished!
Suppose a man entrusts one person with his money, and another with his child. Which would grieve him more: to have his money mismanaged and wasted, or to have his child neglected and injured? Grace is God's child in you, the new creature in Christ. When it comes to any harm because of your negligence, it cuts deeper into God's heart than when a sinner wrongs Him, because He has never trusted that individual with such a precious gift as He gave you.
2. You wrong other Christians, by neglecting to repair your broken armor. When the physical body is sick in one part, all the others are somehow affected. The same principle is at work in the spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:26). When we ignore God's commandments, which always results in diminished grace, we show our indifference toward the entire body of believers. We are told to "love one another" (2 John 5). And how do we demonstrate our obedience to this commandment? John tells us in the very next verse: "And this is love, that we walk after His commandments" (v. 6). There is a cause-effect relationship between grace and sin: whenever the former declines, the latter inevitably increases.
3. You wrong yourself. When you see that the grace of God in you is taking a turn for the worse, but do nothing to reverse the process, you will suffer for your negligence. A declining Christian is always a doubting Christian. Your grace is like a tree: as long as it is healthy, it never stops growing. But if it begins to wither, you know something is very wrong. Satan is quick to spot the first signs of blighted faith. Your weakened condition makes you highly susceptible to his lies.
Here is what he tells you: "If you were really a Christian, you would be growing. True saints go from strength to strength; but you – you go from strength to weakness! You say you are saved. Then why are you so much further from God than on the day of your alleged salvation?" Satan's lies do contain an element of truth. When your graces are in a state of decline, you do feel far from God and heaven; you do begin to wonder whether you were ever really saved.
Imagine that you held an estate because of having custody of a child, upon whose death the estate would be taken away from you. I have no doubt that the child would be well looked after. You would never let him out of your sight, and the slightest headache would send you running for a physician. The only claim we have to our heavenly estate is the child of grace that comes to dwell within us when we accept Christ as Savior and Lord. So when this "child of grace" is sick or weak, we had better use every means to make it well again.
If God's grace in you is sickly, you will find little joy in life, present or future. A person with a chronic illness gets no pleasure from anything he does. His food is tasteless; he sleeps fitfully; he has no energy to work or play.
If the image of Christ in you has faded, you are chronically ill. You will not taste the sweetness of the promise, nor enjoy any rest in Him. You will limp painfully to every duty, wondering whether you have strength enough to see it through. All the while, your disconsolate heart will be crying out at the heavy load you make it carry.
How sad that our own carelessness so often gives Satan the advantage! By our own spiritual complacency we put a staff in his hand and an argument in his mouth which he uses to question our salvation. But how sweet is the promise to our faith when it is active and vigorous! How easy the yoke when the Christian is not galled with guilt, nor his strength enfeebled by declining grace! When your relationship to Christ is set aright, you and your brothers and sisters in Christ are alike benefited, and your heavenly Father is glorified.
– This article has been reprinted from Christian in Complete Armor Volume One by permission of Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA 17013.