As a boy, I would sometimes slip into my dad’s dress shoes and put on a pair of his glasses when I found them lying around the house. Perhaps this was merely an act of admiration; however, I suspect that it was also an act of imitation, a longing to grow up to be like my father. Now, as a father of three boys, a subtle, sublime joy wells up in my heart when one of my sons comes into the living room wearing a pair of my shoes or my glasses.
In Ephesians 6:10–20, the Apostle Paul teaches us that a vital aspect of having the image of God renewed in us is that we wear the same armor that Christ wore in the days of His flesh. The armor is first and foremost God’s armor, worn by the eternal Son during the days of His incarnate, earthly ministry. Therefore, we may rightly refer to the armor as “the armor of Christ.” As the children of God—in union with the Son—we must wear the armor He wore when He made war against and conquered the evil one.
It is vital for us to wear the armor of Christ if we are to endure the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. Scripture commands us to put on Christ Himself. In his incomparable exposition of Ephesians 6:10–20—The Christian in Complete Armour—William Gurnall explained the connection between the armor of God and the Lord Jesus Christ:
What is this armour? First, By armour is meant Christ; we read of putting on the Lord Jesus, Rom. xiii. 14, where Christ is set forth under the notion of armour . . . The apostle . . . bids, put on the Lord Jesus Christ; implying thus much, till Christ is put on, the creature is unarmed. It is not a man’s morality and philosophical virtues that will repel a temptation, sent with a full charge from Satan’s cannon. . . . Again, the graces of Christ, these are armour, as the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness and the rest. Hence we are bid also to ‘put on the new man,’ Eph. iv. 24.
If a man or woman is not in Christ by faith, he or she has joined forces with the evil one and is ultimately on the losing side of the battle. In order to fight against the wiles of the devil, we must first be redeemed by Christ and brought into the kingdom of God. Only those who are regenerated by and reconciled to God in Christ can wear this armor and advance in this battle. Only those who are united to Christ will want to wear the armor of God—they, and only they, can put on Christ.
As those who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, if we are not actively seeking to wear the armor of God, we will inevitably fall as victims on the battlefield. It is far too easy to move our spiritual eyes off of Christ in order to fixate on our circumstances, sins, successes, failures, gifts, family, friends, and enemies, and even a desire for victory. When we do so, we rush into the battle unarmed. This is not to say that it is unimportant for believers to be aware of Satan’s tactics. That is, of course, vital if we are to stand firm in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. However, to focus chiefly on the tactics of the evil one will land us in a place of either fleshly self-confidence or spiritual fear and paralysis. To be subject to either of these two extremes is to be losing the battle against the evil one. As Martin Luther once expressively put it, “Were not the right man on our side, our striving would be losing.”
Among the many titles that the writer of Hebrews uses to highlight various aspects of Jesus’ mediatorial accomplishments, the “captain of our salvation” (Heb. 2:10, KJV) is the most suggestive in regard to His relation to us in the spiritual battle against the hosts of spiritual evil. The Son of God came into the world to overcome the evil one by His perfect life and atoning death. He took on flesh and blood to destroy him who had the power of death—the one who holds all men in bondage to the fear of death (Heb. 2:14–15).
When Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He was fully clothed in spiritual armor. When He won the ultimate victory on the cross, He was wearing the armor of God. Christ held forth the shield of faith each and every time Satan shot fiery darts of temptation at Him. He wielded the sword of the Spirit throughout the entirety of His ministry—constantly speaking, teaching, and living the Word of God. Isaiah gave this description of the Savior:
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isa. 59:17)
Consider the following ways in which Christ wore the armor of God in His battle with the evil one and how believers are to wear it in light of His person and work.