Your baptism not only made you a child of God and an heir of Christ’s death and resurrection. Your baptism also placed a target on your back. Satan and his dark angels will throw everything at you in order that you would turn your back on God and walk the broad road of unbelief.
As little as you are able to participate in your conversion from death to life, you are able, as a new creation in Christ, to turn your back on God and walk your own path. This is what Saint Paul addresses in today’s Epistle when he talks about the armor of God. Most of what Paul says is about playing defense, about protection from attack. There is only one weapon of offense, and it is often forgotten, or at least rarely used. Your life is a fight to the death. You need protection. The Lord has protection for you.
Paul begins by saying be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. The prophet Zechariah heard this when the Lord said to him, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. It was the Lord’s Word to Zerubbabel, and it is also the Lord’s Word to you. You have no reason of strength on your own to resist Satan. The Lord is your strength.
However, this divine strength is set alongside and against the Old Adam that clings to you. The Old Adam continually resists good things. Saint Paul teaches in Romans chapter seven: I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
The Lord delivers you from this body of death. Nevertheless, as long as the flesh clings to you, you continually ask for forgiveness. The familiar words of Psalm 32 ring true: I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Consider also that many other faithful Christians have fallen from the faith. Saint Peter denied Jesus three times, yet was restored to the kingdom. Demas, a believer mentioned by Paul in Second Timothy, deserted Saint Paul and left for Thessalonica.
God’s Word does not merely talk the talk, it also walks the walk. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. In every struggle of both flesh and spirit, the Scriptures beg you to turn to the Lord for help and not your own doings. If only you believe it. If only I believe it! Still we rely on willpower or reason or anything else than divine assistance.
You do not fight flesh and blood. You are not fighting 98-pound weaklings. The Christian as Christian has nothing to do with fighting for the sake of fighting or, worse yet, revenge. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
You fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The prince of this world tempts you through the flesh and the world. Sometimes he uses cunning, sometimes force. Other times enticements and threats. Satan wants to plunge you into sin, false belief, or even unbelief. Evil thoughts plague you every day. It seems to be impossible to survive these struggles. Yet countless Christians have already fought this struggle and blissfully sleep in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Saint Paul says, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. These are primarily defensive weapons for protection. God is more powerful than all the demons. His armor placed on you by virtue of your baptism keeps you safe as you struggle against the spiritual forces of evil.
You wear the belt of truth, a righteous Christian nature. Jesus is cinched around you to protect you from the false deeds of the armies of darkness. You wear the breastplate of righteousness, the holy, spotless life of Jesus Christ lived in your place and given you through faith in Him Who did not sin, yet became sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God. You wear as shoes for your feet the readiness given by the Gospel of peace. You are zealous as God’s dear child to speak of the hope you have in Jesus to those who know Him not. You carry the shield of faith, the firm confidence in God’s undeserved love for you, a poor, miserable sinner. Finally, there is the helmet of salvation, the firm hope of eternal life.
The only weapon given you for attack is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. When the worst temptations come your way, respond as Jesus did to Satan: IT IS WRITTEN. Let this Word dwell in you richly. Let the Word of God permeate every fiber of your being. The Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles is the only way to destroy your enemy. Remember what we sang two weeks ago:
Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eat His Body and drink His Blood for the forgiveness of sins. Live in your baptismal grace. You are forgiven. The Lord fights for you and with you. He gives you protection and the sword of the Spirit. You have everything you need to fight with the devil. The victory is yours, for the Lord is on your side. Believe it for His sake.