Here are Joel's sermon notes for tonight's message on the Armor of Righteousness. Enjoy!
2Co 6:4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 2Co 6:5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 2Co 6:6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 2Co 6:7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left...
Here in 2 Cor. 6, the greater context to this series of topics was suffering. Remember, in these passages, we have three lists. In the first list, Paul went through the different types of sufferings and this list was punctuated by the preposition IN. Then we have the second list - HOW he got through those hard times, and this list is punctuated by the preposition BY. The third list is about the blessed results, which we’ll get to. But we are still in this second list, how Paul got through suffering, and you might remember that we’ve been making the point that Paul’s strategy for how to get through suffering was to focus upon excelling at specific aspects of his spiritual life. When Paul suffered, he focused his mind upon excelling at pureness, then knowledge, then longsuffering, and kindness. By focusing upon excelling at these qualities in your walk, you’re not as worried and upset about the suffering – why? Because you’re more concerned about service to God. Because the question for all of us should be, “how do I excel while I’m suffering?” Suffering is the time in which we all have to put into practice everything we’ve learned from His Word. We looked at what we called PKLK, excelling at pureness, knowledge, longsuffering, and kindness when we suffer. Then we arrived at the expression by the Holy Ghost, and we did a thorough examination of the Holy Spirit from the OT to the NT, which we concluded with a list of 250 Things the Holy Spirit Does for Us.
Then we arrived at this next expression. “By love unfeigned,” which we covered in about 3 or 4 messages. How is it that love unfeigned helped Paul get through sufferings? When Paul says he’s focused upon love unfeigned when he suffered, he wasn’t simply trying to not be fake or insincere when he showed love even to his enemies. When Paul suffered, he was intensely focused upon embodying the fullness of God’s love, the pureness of God’s love, the depths of God’s love, and he was also focused upon exhibiting every single aspect of love that we covered over the course of two weeks in the Great Love Chapter of 1 Cor. 13. Because the question becomes how do you apply those principles of love to your circumstances? When Paul suffered, he meditated upon love itself. He dived deep into every aspect of agape love, and he focused upon excelling at all those qualities of love in himself, especially when he was persecuted. He was engaged in suffering long in his agape love toward his enemies. He could let the power of love carry him through all suffering because he understood the power of love. He knew every aspect and every attribute of agape love and focused his mind upon love. He knew that love itself could bear all things, hope for all good things, and endure anything and everything in life. So when Paul highlights here that he was focused upon excelling at love unfeigned, he’s aspiring to nothing less than capturing in his heart the fulness of the depth of God’s love to others.
And then we covered the next item, the word of truth. How could he be talking about the Bible if it hadn’t been completed yet? We compared that expression to Eph 1:13 “after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation…” We suggested that word of truth was the gospel of grace itself, and that the gospel was the most relevant application to his suffering because the gospel was what gave him hope while he endured. The hope the gospel brought Paul when he went through suffering was the eternal deliverance he already possessed and the glory to come. Nothing in this life would ever take away from him the eternal life that was his forever. And there’s another aspect. The gospel is intimately tied to our identification with Christ. When we accept the gospel, we are placing our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the all-sufficient atoning work for all our sins. Then, through the baptism of the Spirit, we became identified with the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on Calvary. And then, in order for us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, we have to reckon ourselves as dead, buried, and risen with Christ, a new creature, literally freed from the bondage of sin. So the bigger point is, what helps you get through suffering is knowing that you are saved and knowing everything God made you in Christ.
Then we had the power of God. How did the power of God help Paul endure all the sufferings of His life? What does that look like exactly? Our first encounter with the power of God is when we hear the gospel, good news that embodies the highest wisdom of God Himself, that leads us all back to a loving relationship with God and our eternal life with Him. There is power in that message because that message can spiritually transform one’s soul from death to life, from being dead in Adam to being alive in Christ, a completely new creature, behold all things new! Another aspect of God’s power in us that enables us to endure suffering is the fact that we are living His Son’s resurrection life in the here and now because of our identification with what Christ accomplished at Calvary. And these truths aren’t meant to give us an assurance of our own resurrection after death, but these truths are meant to assure us of the resurrection life we already possess right now because of our identification with Christ. We’re empowered because the Son of God is our life. We’re empowered because of the endless riches we possess being a child of God. We’re empowered because His riches enable us to be strengthened with might by His Spirit exceeding abundantly. His riches enable Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith exceeding abundantly, rooted and grounded in love exceeding abundantly, comprehending the love of Christ exceeding abundantly, and finally, His riches enable us all to be filled with all the fullness of God Himself EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY. This is where doctrine becomes application. Because the day you become empowered to endure suffering like Paul is that you see yourself as God sees you. The day you’ve reckoned as true everything you are in Christ, is that day you can begin to appropriate all the power that’s already yours in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Armor of Righteousness
And now Paul moves on to the next topic, the next thing that helped him endure suffering. The armor of righteousness. How is it that God’s armor helps us when we suffer? Of course, when we see “armor” in Paul’s letters, we all naturally think of the whole armor of God in Eph. 6, as well we should. But Paul actually talks about this same armor on 3 separate occasions. The first reference to our armor is in Rom. 13.
Rom_13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
The core of the verse is about not being spiritually asleep to all that’s going on around us but us being alert to every opportunity we have to serve our Savior. We often talk on the podcasts about that expression I love, when Paul says to just cast off the works of darkness. He doesn’t say to confess our sins. He doesn’t even say that we should apologize to God for doing those sins. He says, simply, that we are to cast off all those works of darkness. Victory over sin is as easy as casting them off in our minds. Why? Because we’re free from the bondage of sin because of what God has made us in His Son! We’re living His resurrection life in the here and now, dead, buried, and risen with Christ, the old you is gone forever, and we’re now literally freed from the power and dominion of sin! By the time you arrive at this passage in Rom. 13, you should have reckoned as true the new spiritual reality of everything God has made you in His Son, which means you’re no longer weak in the faith. Because you now know that you’re empowered by His grace to cast off those works. Because you know what God has made you in Christ. We don’t spend our days focusing on the sin, focusing on failure, focusing on a misconception about the power of the flesh over our souls. We cast off that power just as we cast off those works. We forget those things that are behind us and we continually reach forth unto those things that are before us (Phil. 3:13). We put the past behind us and keep moving forward giving no forethought to the power of the flesh, to fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, and what do we focus on? We focus our minds upon putting on the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, putting on God’s armor for us, which are the sound doctrines of grace, standing firm upon the truth of His Word rightly divided because we now know who we are in Christ and none of Satan’s fiery darts can ever defeat us on the battlefield so long as we have fully put on God’s armor. That armor was given to us by God designed to protect our minds. Designed to protect our hearts. Designed to protect our very souls. Protect us from what? Deception.
And yet, Paul here describes the armor as the “armor of light.” Why does he do that? Because the armor is designed to do more than simply protect us. The armor is shining, glorious, designed to be a light of truth to all our enemies on the battlefield. The splendor of the glory of God’s armor on us speaks to the sufficiency of Christ’s death on that cross, the reality of everything God made us in Christ, which has turned us into undefeatable warriors on the battlefield. To everyone who looks at us, the light of truth is put on display in every piece of armor we are wearing. The armor acts as a light of truth to all those who do not know God. It’s an armor of light because we are the children of light. You get saved. You renew your mind. You reckon who you are in Christ, and then God says to the believer: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph. 5:11. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” Eph. 5:8. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night: and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet the hope of salvation.” I Thess, 5:5 to 8. Why we are called the children of light? Because “God Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Cor. 4:6. We are the children of light because God transformed us when we believed. He made us alive unto Himself for His good use, and our hearts now possess the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ Himself. Why? So “that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Phil. 2:15.
The armor of light is a natural protective covering that complements everything God made us in His Son, as the children of light, and all of that is a stark contrast to our enemies because they are all sons of darkness. All of us who believed have received the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ — all of us who believed, belong to the sons of light, and the sons of the day, and we are clothed with the very armor of light given to us by God. On the other hand, all those who are still trapped in the world’s darkness, all directed by the prince of darkness— all those souls who have not yet received into their hearts, by faith, the gift of salvation made possible by the Sun of righteousness, they are all still in darkness and blindness being cut off from God’s light. They are all part of “the sons of darkness,” “the sons of the night” under the prince of darkness. So you have on the battlefield this spiritual clash between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. Not only that, I’d also suggest that the armor of light acts as a source of encouragement to all other Christian fellow-soldiers standing alongside us on the battlefield. When we stand together and see each other wearing God’s armor of light, we become even more confident against our enemies on the battlefield.
And then we have in the passage we read in 2 Cor. 6:7, Paul describing the armor as the armor of righteousness. Why does he do that? Is it because Paul had in Rom. 5:17 described the gospel as the gift of righteousness? In part. We will never be able to put on the armor of righteousness unless we first receive the gift of righteousness. The gift of righteousness is something we receive by faith. But the armor of righteousness is something we put on. How do we do that? By studying His Word of Truth and accepting all the sound doctrines of grace and then by living our lives according to those truths. But I also suspect that Paul describes the armor as the armor of righteousness, because every piece of armor we wear puts on display to everyone the rightness of God’s ways in everything He’s done for us in this age of grace. Every piece of armor we put on also reinforces to us the rightness of His ways in all His sound doctrines of grace, which is why we have unwavering confidence in that armor as we stand on the battlefield. Because that armor is truth. That armor is light. That armor is glory. That armor is righteousness affirming to us constantly and to those we face and also to all our fellow-soldiers with us on the battlefield of the rightness of all His ways in not only His Son’s death on the cross but also in everything He has made us in His Son as a result of our simple faith in the gospel of grace.
And then we have in Eph. 6, the full armor of God.
How does Satan and the sons of darkness operate? Deception. Dirty tricks. Propaganda. Have a ton of religion but no gospel of the grace of God. Have corrupted Bibles and no truth. If someone were to get saved, then keep that person in the dark about the mystery in order to make them ineffectual warriors. Now let me ask a question. What is a fiery dart? Anything that would undermine the sound doctrines of grace, anything that would undermine the Mystery revealed through Paul, that would undermine the all-sufficiency of the cross, our identification with him, our freedom from sin, and the liberties that we have.
So what are we to do? We’re to put on the whole Armor of God.
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Eph 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; Eph 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Let’s start with vs. 10. What did Paul mean when he said to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might? Notice that Paul doesn’t speak of being strong BY the Lord or being strong FROM the Lord but it’s being strong IN the Lord. Strength isn’t something we have to beg to get from God, but that strength is always ours IN the Lord. We can, and we’re exhorted, to always be strong in Him. To be strong in the Lord is to be strong in what God has made you in Christ but being strong in the power of His might is a deep dive into the strengthening of the inner man. How are we strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man? Through His Word. 1 Thess. 2:13. We read that, “when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” You see how the Word of God effectually and continually works in us who believe? Why? Because the Word of God is living. His Word is the power that energizes the believer through the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. So to be strong in the Lord is to be strong in what God has made you in Christ. To be strong in the power of His might is to be strengthened in your inner man by the Spirit through the study of His Word. And then we have the armor.
Notice that this is a defensive position. We stand for His truth and we defend it. That’s it. The only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which are the words of God. Notice also how almost all the armor is psychological designed to protect the heart and the mind. Plus, all the pieces of armor are part of the empowering riches of grace from God the Father which He planned to give us lowly Gentiles since before the foundation of the world. That armor is God’s glory in all His grace to us illuminating to all the rightness of His ways.
6:14 – having your loins girt about with truth. In the Roman army at the time every other piece of the armor was attached to the girdle, this strong leather belt that held other pieces of the armor together, and that leather belt is the truth, just as the foundation of our lives is built upon the truth. What truth? Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6) and His Word is the truth (Jn. 17:17). But I believe Paul means the truth contained within the mystery, which was meant for us, the truth about the sufficiency of Christ’s death, the truth about everything we are in Christ, the truth of all the riches of God’s grace showered upon us, the truth about our completeness, our acceptance in Christ, and our oneness with Him. We need this girdle to hold up all our garments, because without truth, we have no protection, and truth in all the sound doctrines of grace are all so carefully intertwined together. Without the foundational truths of the gospel of grace and our identification, we have no armor at all. It is the power of truth that keeps our souls in a permanent state of assurance of the deliverance and the new life that is already ours by God's grace. It is that truth that makes us able to stand on the battlefield grateful to have a victory in Christ so comprehensive and absolute, as to leave room for nothing else outside of God's will for us today.
6:14 – the breastplate of righteousness, which covers the chest, the heart and the lungs. We don’t simply know that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us by faith, but with the heart and the renewed mind, we can stand and defend ourselves and the Body of Christ by living in a manner consistent with our position in Christ and the standing before Him into which God has place us by His grace. The breastplate of righteousness is always near our hearts just as the rightness of His ways is always near our hearts. We stand on that battlefield with the rightness of His ways near our hearts so we may approve the things that are excellent, so that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God, so that in the outliving of our faith we may show the world the rightness of God’s ways.
6:15 - feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The right shoes were important for a soldier. Warfare was often one-on-one, hand-to-hand combat. The Roman soldier’s shoes had spikes in the heels to give him traction, which speaks to the firmness with which he stands upon the truth of His Word. In other passages, the feet are used to describe those who are sent to share the gospel. Rom_10:15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! What we have with our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace is one who is always prepared and always ready to preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!
6:16 – the shield of faith. Notice what Paul says in vs. 16. Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Notice the priority given to the shield. Have you ever seen the shields of Roman soldiers? They were massive. Your entire body could easy hide behind it. Faith is essential to protect yourself living in this present evil world on a spiritual battlefield in which you have coming at you the fiery darts of the wicked. But faith in God’s Word will quench, it will extinguish, ALL the fiery darts! We are saved through faith, and we must walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). David O’Steen made the point in his .pdf study on Ephesians that “The shield is not our faith, but the object of our faith...” and he cited Psa 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. He also cited Pro 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6:17 – the helmet of salvation. The helmet rests upon the head and protects the mind with the assurance of our salvation, which is the assurance of the completeness of that payment for our sins and our eternal security. I would cross reference this with 1Th 1:5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. As we wear this helmet, it governs our mind and protects us from all the satanic psychological warfare. This is a spiritual strengthening in our minds as we go into battle, always standing with full assurance in the good news of the peace we forever have with God. Our souls stand together in perfect eternal peace with God. We have no reason to fear. Our perfect peace with God gives our minds assurance as we engage in spiritual warfare. Knowing this peace, knowing we are God's possession, knowing that we are Christ’s and Christ is God's, knowing that all things are ours, that all things work for the good, we can stand and withstand all the wiles of the devil. The helmet doesn’t simply give us confidence, but it gives all boldness in the midst of the spiritual warfare. I liked how Gaebelein wrote, “Girded by the truth applies to the judgment of the inner man. Practical righteousness guards the conscience from the assaults of the enemy; the power of peace gives character to our walk; confidence in the love of God quenches the poisoned arrows of doubt; the assurance of salvation gives us boldness to go onward.”
6:17 – the sword of the Spirit. The words of God, the only offensive weapon mentioned in the armor of God. Satan hates the Word of God and has been attacking it going all the way back to the Garden of Eden. With the sword in hand, we stand firmly upon the truth on the battlefield. We meet the devil and counter his lies with truth saying, “It is written,” just as the Lord had said to the devil many years ago. Was there ever a time when God's people had greater need of laying hold with a firm grasp of the sword of the Spirit? People need the sword today more than ever because Satan has succeeded by his wiles to dull the edge of that sword with corrupted translations and blinding people to the gospel of grace and the mystery revealed through Paul. We grace believers must search the Word and have the Word search us. We must have the Word in our hearts and our hearts in the Word, and only then can we face the enemy.
6:18 – Prayer. Which isn’t a piece of armor but essential to our success on the battlefield because we cannot simply know His Word, but we must also have an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He says in vs. Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. We come back to the same ideas we encountered in Romans 13 about the armor of light. This is about us not being asleep to what is going on around us and being alert to every opportunity we have to serve our Savior who is coming soon. We aren’t simply aware of everything going on around us but we’re praying about everything going on around us. We would be, as Paul said in 1 Tim. 2:8 praying “every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” All saints are called to be prayer warriors. Prayer is a natural aspect of the intimate relationship we have with God, and a relationship isn’t healthy if there isn’t good communication. Communication with God is Him talking to us in His Word and us talking back in prayer. When Paul said to lift up holy hands, Paul seems to have in mind our disposition, our attitudes of humility when we pray, because he says, “lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” When one lifts up their holy hands symbolically in prayer, they are offering themselves, their very hands in service to God, as a potential answer to that prayer. And when Paul said “without wrath and doubting,” it means that if you are going through suffering, are you going to scream at God in anger? Are you going to blame God for the problems in your life? Are you going to doubt His Word about His love for you? Or the fact that He said in His Word He’s not punishing you for anything? We must pray in a spirit of charity,without wrath, and without doubting. Doubting what? Every promise God has given us in His Word. Everything God said He accomplished for us by the cross, everything He said He accomplished in us the moment we believe, and everything He will accomplish through us when we walk in His Spirit. Prayer is an attitude of dependence on God and as we pray in the Spirit we are to watch also and remember all the saints of God and help those saints to stand tall.
Paul said in Eph 3:10 that through the believers today, we make known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places “the manifold wisdom of God.” Our lives, as living testimonies of God’s grace and Christ living in us, is a ministry to angels both demonic and heavenly. There is nothing about the armor that involves our own personal talents. It’s the Word of God and the Spirit that gives us power. Each piece of the armor is given to us by God and how well protected we are depends upon how much we study His Word rightly divided, meditate on His Word, and pray. And so when we fully embrace all the sound doctrines of grace, we become able to fully put on the whole armor of God, which will not only protect us but also be a light of truth to everyone on the battlefield.
Now that we’ve gone through the full armor of God, let me ask a question. Let’s come full circle to where we started in 1 Cor. 6:7. Paul wrote, “by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” Why did Paul say, “on the right hand and on the left”? Some would say that this expression means that you’re fully covered. True enough. But I’d suggest Paul is being more specific. What is it that you have on your right hand and on your left? I think he’s talking about the shield and the sword. The entire armor of God protects you but when you suffer, what you’ll rely most upon is the object of your faith and His Word. The shield and the sword. When a soldier is wounded, and he’s down, and the enemy is trying to overtake him and kill him, what’s that soldier going to rely on as a last resort? His shield and his sword. The shield will always extinguish those fiery darts and his sword will defeat any weapon that comes up against it. No weapon can defeat the Sword of the Spirit. Even when a soldier is down, so long as he is fully armored and he’s relying on his sword and shield, he can never be defeated.