Perhaps you’ve heard of the armor of God, but do you know what it means, practically speaking? If you were to tell someone how to put it on, what would you say? This article helps you gain more understanding of this topic in three ways.

First, we’ll do a very quick FAQ on the armor of God, followed by reading Ephesians 6:10-17. Then, we’ll go piece by piece through the armor with James Boice’s commentary. He loved to tell stories and make sure his commentary was applicable — like mini sermons! You’re sure to learn a lot for yourself and discover easy ways to explain these lessons to others.

Armor of God FAQ

What is the armor of God?

The phrase “armor of God” comes from Ephesians 6: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” The apostle Paul describes six pieces of apparel that can help Christians in their spiritual battle.

What are the six pieces of the armor of God?

1. Belt of Truth
2. Breastplate of Righteousness
3. Feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace
4. Shield of Faith
5. Helmet of Salvation
6. Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God

Ephesians 6:10-17

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Boice’s Commentary on Ephesians 6:14-17

The following content is pulled from Boice’s Commentary.

Paul mentions six pieces of armor in this passage: a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, a helmet, and a sword. They stand for truth, righteousness, readiness of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Bible. The first five are defensive in nature. They are the ones we want to look at in this study.

The Armor of God: The Belt of Truth

armor of God belt of truth

Strictly speaking, the Roman soldier’s belt was more a part of his dress than his armor. It was made of leather and was used to gather his garments together as well as hold his sword. Yet it was part of his war equipment, for it gave him a feeling of inner fortitude and strength when tightened. According to Paul’s teaching, the Christian’s belt is truth. It is to be his inner strength, what gives him confidence.

Commentators have looked at “truth” in two ways since it can have two basic meanings.

First, it can mean “the truth of God.”

That is, it can refer to Christian doctrine or the specific content of God’s revelation in the Bible.

Second, since the article “the” is not present, truth can refer to truthfulness or sincerity of heart.

I think John R. W. Stott is right, however, when he suggests that “we do not need to choose between these alternatives.” As the Bible looks at this area, inner truth or truthfulness begins with a knowledge of God, who is truth, and a knowledge of the truth of God (if it really is known) inevitably leads to a life change consistent with God’s character. We must be truthful men and women, of course. But we will become that only as we feast on the revealed truths of God.

Do you know the great truths of Christianity?

Do you study the Bible to apprehend them more deeply?

An Anecdote for The Belt of Truth

I think it was Andrew Bonar who first imagined a situation in which a Christian dies and goes to heaven and there meets some of the authors of the biblical books: Ezekiel, for example, and next to him Malachi and Amos and Habakkuk, and maybe Isaiah. They manage to strike up a conversation, and the Christian is glad to meet these men God used to write the Bible. “Ah, Ezekiel, what a pleasure to meet you!” he says.

“I am pleased you are glad to meet me,” Ezekiel replies. “Tell me, what did you think about my book?”

The Christian has to answer, “I’m afraid I didn’t really read it.”

Malachi is there, so he chimes in. “Well, my book is a lot shorter than Ezekiel’s. Certainly you read it! What do you think of what I said?”

Again the Christian has to admit that he has not read it. “Malachi? Is that in the Old Testament or the New Testament?”

A Second Anecdote for The Belt of Truth

There was a preacher in Scotland who tried to serve his congregation by teaching some of the illiterate members to read. One was an older Scotsman to whom he had given a number of lessons, helping him through easy portions of the Bible. Circumstances called the pastor away. But a few months later he came back and again went to visit the home of this man. He was not there, but his wife was. The preacher asked how he was doing with his reading. “Is he getting through the Bible?” he queried.

“Oh, no! He’s got out of the Bible and into the newspaper long ago,” she answered.

Putting Back On Your Armor, Starting with the Belt

In my opinion many Christians are in precisely that position. They have gotten out of the Bible, if indeed they ever were in it, and they are into the newspapers, magazines, or whatever popular books there may be that strike their fancy. They know more about the box scores of the players in the various baseball leagues than they do about the Gospels, more about football scores than the Sermon on the Mount. Such things should not be. Certainly we are free to learn all we can about everything we can, but lesser things should not keep us from mastering the truths that will make us strong for battle.

The Armor of God: The Breastplate of Righteousness

armor of God breastplate of righteousness

The second piece of the Roman soldier’s equipment is his breastplate, which Paul compares to righteousness. Like truth, righteousness can be taken in two ways. It can refer to what in theology is called imputed righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus Christ reckoned to a Christian’s account that enables him to stand before God. Or it can refer to specific acts of righteousness—personal holiness, as we might say.

The Breastplate of Righteousness in Zechariah

In the third chapter of Zechariah there is a scene in which Joshua the high priest is standing before the angel of the Lord in the temple, and Satan is also standing there to accuse him. Since we are told that Joshua is dressed in filthy clothes, representing his and the people’s sin, Satan must have been pointing to these and declaring forcefully that Joshua was not fit to stand before the Lord in this office. It is a clear case of spiritual warfare. But the angel of God intervenes.

“Take off his filthy clothes,” says the angel. Then, in place of the filthy clothes he had been wearing, the angel gives him new rich garments and a clean turban for his head. Clearly this symbolizes the righteousness of Christ imputed to him—the clothes were not something Joshua acquired for himself but rather were something given to him—and it is in this righteousness alone that he is enabled to resist Satan’s vile accusations.

This is what Count Zinzendorf had in mind when he wrote his great hymn:

Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in thy great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

On the other hand, it is significant that immediately after Joshua had been invested with rich robes and a clean turban symbolizing God’s righteousness, the angel gave Joshua a charge to be holy. “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here” (Zech. 3:7).

So imputed righteousness is not to be divorced from actual righteousness. It is because he had been made righteous that Joshua was to live righteously.

The Meaning of Righteousness in Ephesians

If I had to choose between the two possible meanings of righteousness in this passage, I think I would pick the second, for this reason: In this context Paul is urging those who already are Christians to “put on” God’s armor. If they are Christians, they have already been clothed with God’s righteousness in the first sense. Therefore the only thing they can put on is practical holiness expressed in righteous thoughts and deeds.

I think here of Jesus’ words, when he said in reference to Satan, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me” (John 14:30). I have heard it said that although Satan could find no sin in Christ on which to take hold, he can latch onto plenty in us. That may be true. We are sinful. But what Paul is saying here is that this should not be. We should not give Satan handles to grasp easily. Instead, we must live righteously, as Job did, so Satan and everyone else can see that we are God’s true children and his faithful servants.

The Armor of God: The Gospel of Peace

armor of god gospel of peace

The most awkward phrase in this list of the Christian’s armor is the one about feet: “with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (v. 15).

For one thing, it does not mention the specific piece of armor. We have to assume that Paul means boots or traveling sandals. Again, when he makes the application Paul uses three words (“readiness,” “gospel,” and “peace”), and it is not immediately clear which one is central. Does Paul want us to be shod with the gospel, with peace, or with the readiness to make the truth known?

Your Armor Prepares You to Share the Gospel

In my judgment the emphasis falls upon readiness to make the gospel known. Any Christian already knows the gospel; he would not be a Christian if he did not. So this must go beyond mere knowledge and appropriation. It must involve readiness to share the good news with others. Moreover, Paul links the gospel to the soldier’s boots or sandals. Shoes carry us from place to place, and it is as we go from place to place that we are to be ready to speak about Jesus.

Are you equipped to do that?

Do you know how to tell others about the Savior?

Gideon and the Gospel of Peace

I think here of that interesting battle involving Gideon, one of the judges of Israel. God told Gideon to collect an army and use it to drive out the occupying Midianites. So Gideon did. He collected an army of 32,000 men. Gideon probably thought that 32,000 soldiers were barely enough for the task ahead of him, but God told him that there were actually too many. So in obedience to the Lord, Gideon told any who were afraid to fight to go home. Over 60 percent, 22,000, left. Only 10,000 remained behind. Gideon must have been shaken by that. But still 10,000 soldiers are a large fighting force—if they are good soldiers.

He might have thought, “Well, I suppose we can get by with these.

God said, “There are still too many.”

How many more can we spare?” Gideon must have wondered. “Fifty? A hundred?

God told Gideon to take the army to some water where they could get a drink. He was to watch them. He was to see which ones dropped down on their knees to drink, probably putting down their shield and weapons, and which ones stood ready for battle and merely leaned over to scoop up some water with their hands.

To Gideon’s dismay 9,700 men knelt down, dropping their armor. Only 300 stood at attention and scooped the water up. But God took these 300 ready individuals and used them to defeat the Midianites soundly and drive them from the land (see Judges 7).

It does not take a vast number to do God’s work, but it does take men and women who are equipped and anxious to share the gospel with others.

Are you kneeling (or lying down) on the job? Or are you prepared “always … to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have … with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)?

The Armor of God: The Shield of Faith

armor of God shield of faith

The Roman soldier had two kinds of shields. There was a small round shield that he would use in hand-to-hand combat when it was important for him to be able to maneuver easily, and there was a large oblong shield that he would use when advancing into battle with other soldiers.

This second shield, the one Paul refers to here, was about four or four-and-a-half feet long and about two feet wide, and covered the soldier’s body completely. So when the soldiers advanced in rows, as the Romans did, the enemy was faced with a solid wall of shields—row upon row of them. These advancing columns of a Roman army were called phalanxes, and they were the terror of Rome’s foes.

Three Ways Our Faith Acts as Our Shield

Paul is saying that our faith should be like that. It should do three things:

(1) it should cover us so that not a portion is exposed,

(2) it should link up with the faith of others to prevent a solid wall of defense

and (3) because it covers our entire person and links up with the faith of our fellow soldiers, it should be able to strike down whatever fiery arrows the enemy hurls at us.

You have noticed, I am sure, that when Paul speaks of this item of armor he does not say “the shield of the faith” as if he were referring to the specific teachings of Christianity—he has already included that in his reference to truth as the Christian’s belt—but rather to “the shield of faith,” meaning a general confidence in God.

Our shield against Satan’s arrows is this kind of faith, faith that God can be trusted. It is knowing that when God says that he is able to keep us from falling and present us before his presence with exceeding joy, he means exactly that and will do it. We do not need to fear when we advance into battle. God will go with us and will bring victory.

The Armor of God: The Helmet of Salvation

armor of god helmet of salvation

The final item in the Christian’s defensive armor is the helmet that Paul likens to salvation. The helmet of salvation could mean merely that we are saved; that would make sense. But in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul speaks of putting on “the hope of salvation as a helmet,” and if that is what he is thinking of here, then he is looking to our destiny rather than our present state. He is saying that our anticipation of that end will protect our heads in the heat (and often confusion) of the battle.

It was said of the troops of Lord Cromwell the Protector that they never lost because, being Calvinists, they knew that their destiny was secure and that they were fighting because God had led them to that spot and would prosper them in that work. There is a sense in which that should be true of us. True, we suffer setbacks in our attempts to live the Christian life. Even Paul said that he was sometimes tripped up by Satan’s onslaughts: “hard pressed … perplexed … persecuted … struck down” (2 Cor. 4:8–9).

Keeping Our Heads on Straight During Setbacks

But these momentary setbacks are not the end, nor are they even utter defeats. For Paul said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. … Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:8–9, 16–18).

At times the battle presses around the Christian so furiously that he hardly knows where he is or what is happening. That sometimes happens in purely physical warfare too. But what matters is not always that we know where we are or what is happening, but that our great commander-in-chief, the Lord Jesus Christ, knows and has guaranteed the victory.

Boice Commentary Series

boice commentary series

James Montgomery Boice, born in 1938, taught at Harvard and Princeton. He is considered an American Reformed Christian theologian, most known for his writing on the authority of Scripture. He wrote the content we shared in this post. He’s known for his expositional style, which means he often writes short, casual sermons in his commentary. You probably picked up on that as you read this post, though!

If you enjoyed Boice’s work here, you should check out his collection. It contains 27 volumes and is a great addition to any Bible study.

1 Comment

  1. We need the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts. One of the aspects of this breastplate is the righteousness of Jesus that’s given to us the minute that he saves us. Thank you so much for spreading the words of god! May God bless us all!

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