In the biography below, we read about the decision by Martin of Tours to become a monk, becoming “Christ’s soldier.” Our devotional reading for today, from Commentary on Ephesians by George Stoeckhardt, revolves around Ephesians 6:10–17 which speaks of putting on the armor of Christ.
Born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary around the year AD 316, Martin grew up in Lombardy (Italy). Coming to the Christian faith as a young person, he began a career in the Roman army. But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was “Christ’s soldier.” Eventually, Martin was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France). He is remembered for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul. Incidentally, on St. Martin’s Day in 1483, the one-day-old son of Hans and Margarette Luther was baptized and given the name “Martin” Luther.
This growing strong in the Lord is essentially the same as that which the Apostle mentions in v. 11, where he begins to elaborate the picture of the battle: “Put on the whole armor of God!” The imagery of a battle is a favorite figure with the Apostle. This “whole armor of God” which God offers to His own we should and must put on in order that we may remain steadfast and remain victorious against the wiles of the devil. The Apostle refers to the artifices and tricks by which the fighter seeks to floor his opponent. The opponent of the Christian is the devil, of whom it is truly said: “Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight.” “The attack is made with both cunning and power, but the latter lies hidden beneath the former and in this way becomes fearful and ruinous.” (Braune.)
In order to convince us that it is necessary for us to become strong in the Lord and that we have need of the whole armor of God if we are to be victorious fighters, Paul details for us the entire dread power of the enemy. “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness.” The Apostle employs a term which was specifically used of the wrestling match, to designate a battle (even as we at times speak of the wrestling of two armies), and because it is a contest to decide who is to be the final victor. We Christians are not fighting flesh and blood, that is, we are not fighting with men. Even though men at times oppose us, these are dangerous to us only because there is an unseen foe behind them. Our real foe is the devil, who is the head and leader of a large army which he marshals against the Christians. Our battle is waged against the principalities, the powers, and the world rulers. The genitive term, “this darkness,” defines even more exactly the powers which oppose us. The realm in the midst of which these demons live, rule, and exercise control and world dominance is this darkness which surrounds us, the sinful order and element, closed to God and all that is good. We Christians deal with, and fight against, spirits, spiritual beings of wickedness in heavenly regions. These demons are spirits, spirits only, without flesh and blood, conscious beings, endowed with reason and will, but spirits of wickedness, whose entire thought, effort, and seeking is pure wickedness, whose sole purpose is to destroy the works of God. And because they are spirits, they are members of a supernatural, supersensible, transcendental world. And now because these evil spirits are spirits only and members of the other invisible world, therefore they are stronger than flesh and blood, stronger than any or all visible creatures.
Because the devil and his angels are such powerful foes and you by comparison are so weak, therefore take up the whole armor of God, arm yourselves with the power and strength of God, “that ye may be able to stand in the evil day.” “The spiritual battle of the Christian is not at all times equally intense and difficult. There are times and days of specifically severe inner conflicts, when the Christian has special need to concentrate fully on the battle and make use of the full armor of God.” (Erich Haupt.) Accoutered in the entire armor of God, Christians can on that evil day withstand the most violent attacks of their enemies.
This, then, is the meaning: After the Christians, accoutered in the armor and power of God, have resisted and thrown back the attack of the evil foe and his powerful host, then they have thereby also conquered their foes, have forced them to yield ground, and remain alone standing victorious on the field of battle. True, for the Christian, as long as he lives in this wicked world, there will be many an “evil day.” The foe, who has been once defeated, will ever arise again. In the life of the Christian, battle leads to victory, and victory to renewed battle which may become ever more fierce. But even in the last of these battles, the Christian who is accoutered in the armor and strength of the Lord will remain victorious, superior to his foes, and will finally hold the field.
And now the Apostle mentions each of the different weapons of defense and offense of God’s fighters. The soldier of Christ must be accoutered with the proper armor when he enters the battlefield. Hence we translate: “Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.” These three items which are here mentioned form the accouterment of the soldier of that day: breastplate, girdle, which holds all the armor together and enables the soldier to move with ease and confidence, and the fitting shoes, properly and firmly adjusted on the feet.
This third item provides the reader with the proper perspective for viewing the rest. “Christians must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” means that the Christians must be ready to proclaim the Gospel of the peace of God, of the salvation in Christ. The translation “Preparedness for battle, worked by the Gospel” is excluded by the fact that the three items describe the right preparedness, each from a different angle. The Christian appears here as a pilgrim, who travels through the world and tells everyone with whom he comes in contact of the salvation which is also their peace and safety. Christians are to walk in righteousness and holiness, eager and ready, skilled and prepared for every good work. The most excellent and the chief work of the Christian is to publish the gospel of peace.
Finally, we wish to point out that all these parts of the “whole armor of God” are gifts of God, gifts which God bestows upon His own and which they receive and take from Him. The Apostle stated this in Ephesians 2:10 when he wrote that God before has prepared these good works that we should walk in them. Moreover, in Philippians 2:13, he tells us that God works in us both to will and to do, namely, the good, according to His good pleasure.
Devotional reading adapted from Commentary on Ephesians by George Stoeckhardt, copyright © 1952 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Biography adapted from A Year in the New Testament, copyright © 2010 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.