What is the “whole armour of God”? (Ephesians 6:10-18)

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As Paul closes the letter, In Ephesians 6:10-20, he urges the members of the church to don the complete armour of God. This armour is essential for them to withstand the influences of this world that can lead to sin and ultimately to death. He gives this crucial lesson and tells them, “In the end, find your strength in the Lord and His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10)” As Christians, our strength must come from Christ. Paul goes on to explain why we need this strength, and he does it by using examples from the armour of Roman soldiers. He gives each piece of armour a spiritual meaning, teaching us about the Christian life as a spiritual battle.

God has equipped us in different ways to defend ourselves from Satan’s deceptions, and we must not neglect God’s advice on how to withstand Satan. Many of us are careless and slow to use the grace that’s available to us, like a soldier who takes a helmet but forgets his shield before going into battle. To correct this, Paul compares our spiritual readiness to being prepared for a fight. We should be ready on all sides, not lacking anything. The Lord has given us tools to fend off all sorts of attacks, but it’s up to us to actually use them instead of leaving them unused. To make us more alert, Paul reminds us that we’re not just facing an open battle; we’re up against a cunning and deceptive enemy who often hides and tricks us. This is what he means when he talks about the “schemes of the devil.” Satan is looking for a chance to stalk and devour a child of God. 

The “whole armour” means a complete set of defensive and offensive gear, like the armour of light mentioned in Romans 13:12, saying, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” It’s meant to protect us on all sides like a Roman soldier would be fully equipped. Then, a few verses later in Romans 13:14, Paul talks about putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do that, we become one with Christ and follow His ways; it’s like putting on the “whole armour of God.” This means we shouldn’t leave any part of us vulnerable to Satan—our thoughts, actions, feelings, desires, sight, hearing, or speech. While believers have already overcome Satan through Jesus, they still need to keep fighting against his tricks and temptations. This image makes sense because Paul was in Rome when he wrote this. He emphasizes the idea again in the passage in Ephesians 6:13, saying, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Paul tells us that our struggle, or battle, is not against other people but against Satan himself, who is the real enemy behind them. It’s like a hand-to-hand fight, and just like Jacob wrestled with God in prayer (Genesis 32:24–29), we must also pray fervently to overcome Satan. The mention of “principalities” and “powers” is about different levels of spiritual beings, just like there are different ranks of angels (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). The same kind of hierarchy exists among demons (evil spirits). Paul is addressing the Ephesians, who were once involved in sorcery (Acts 19:19), so he’s appropriately discussing evil spirits. When the Bible talks about the kingdom of light (God’s kingdom), it also at the same time, reveals to us the kingdom of darkness (Satan’s domain). This is why the Gospels, which focus on Christ, the true Light, also reveal the satanic kingdom.

Paul mentions the “rulers of the darkness of this world,” he means that these rulers are in charge of the dark and sinful aspects of the world. They may act like they rule the world, but they don’t rule the entire universe. Their power is temporary and will end when Christ returns (Ezekiel 21:27). Paul is also saying that Satan and his demons aren’t just made-up ideas. They are real, and we see proof of this in cases like the temptation of Jesus and the demons entering the pigs. Satan tries to mimic God’s work in a twisted way (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14).

When Paul talks about “high places,” he means that these spiritual foes have greater powers than we do. They tempt us with pride and arrogance, the very sins that caused their fall from heaven (Isaiah 14:12–15). But we have nothing to fear because we are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). So, in Ephesians 6:13, Paul tells us to take up the armour of God, which God has already given us. We don’t need to make it; we must simply put it on. This armour is essential for our battle against Satan, especially during the times when he attacks us (Ephesians 6:12, 16) in life and even at the moment of death (Revelation 3:10). We must be ready for these constant battles and be good soldiers in God’s army.

Now, let us look at some of the items that make up the armour of God. 

We begin with the belt of truth” mentioned in verse Ephesians 6:14. The belt of truth is not just a regular belt to hold up clothing. It’s more like a protective leather apron worn around the waist. This belt had two main functions: holding a sword’s sheath and tucking in one’s clothing during a fight or running. Now, when Paul talks about “truth,” he means a few things: Scriptures teach us that Jesus is the truth, and we should strive to be like Him (John 1:14; 14:6; Eph. 4:21; see also Romans 13:14). The Bible is also truth, and we should accept it as God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word—the ultimate authority for our beliefs and actions. (2 Tim 2:15). The church upholds the truth and provides support, encouragement, and guidance in living by it (1 Tim 3:14-15). Having a solid understanding of Christian doctrine as objective truth is also crucial (John 17:15–17; 2 Cor. 4:1–2; Eph. 4:14–15). 

In spiritual warfare, lies from the enemy are most potent in two areas. Firstly, lies about God’s character and attributes; secondly, lies about our identity in Christ, who we are, and our authority and power. Truth, on the other hand, involves being honest in our speech and behaviour, avoiding deception, hypocrisy, and lies and demonstrating faithfulness and loyalty. So, when putting on the “belt of truth,” we commit to living in alignment with Jesus, God’s Word, the teachings of the church, and solid Christian doctrine while maintaining honesty and integrity in all we do (Ephesians 4:25; 5:9).

The next piece of armour is the breastplate of righteousness. The “breastplate” is like a protective piece of armour that covers the front of the body, from the neck down to the upper thighs, which protects what we would call the abdomen or trunk. Now, when we talk about righteousness in the context of the breastplate, there are two aspects:

  1. Objective righteousness is like the breastplate of our legal holiness, which we receive through faith in Christ. It’s about our righteous position or standing before God (Philippians 3:3–8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:19–24).
  2. Subjective righteousness is like the breastplate of living a holy life in our daily experiences (Ephesians 4:24; 5:9).

In simpler terms, objective righteousness is about being made right with God through faith in Jesus, while subjective righteousness is about living a holy and righteous life. To sum it up, victory starts with having faith in Jesus, and it’s completed by allowing His nature to shape our hearts and how we live our lives.

The next item is shoes for your feet. This verse talks about the type of footwear Roman soldiers wore, which had studs underneath for stability. There are two interpretations. First, we should prepare ourselves and be ready to share the gospel of peace with others (1 Peter 3:15; Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:13–15). The gospel is God’s power to free people from Satan’s control and influence (2 Corinthians 4:3–4; Ephesians 2:1–2; Acts 26:18). Another view, as per the NIV translation, is that our feet should be ready because of the peace the gospel brings. This means that the gospel produces a readiness in us that helps us withstand Satan’s attacks.

The peace in question can mean different things: peace with God, the peace of God, and peace with others. So, in the midst of spiritual battles, we are called to share the message of spiritual peace, which can have various dimensions in our lives.

We then move on to the shield of faith. The shield of faith mentioned in Ephesians 6:16 was like a large rectangular shield, about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. It was made by gluing two layers of wood together, covering them with linen and hide, and binding them with iron. Its purpose was to protect against flaming arrows used by the enemy, which were arrows dipped in pitch, set on fire and then launched. Now, when it talks about the “missiles/darts/arrows” of the evil one, these refer to various kinds of attacks that Satan and his forces launch against God’s people. These attacks can include:

  1. Sudden and unexpected vile thoughts and images that go against our deepest desires.
  2. Disturbing words and images that violate our sense of morality and decency.
  3. Blasphemous thoughts about Jesus, disturbing sexual images, suicidal urges, violent impulses, and more.
  4. Thoughts of rebellion against God, family, or the church.
  5. Doubts about God’s character and goodness, accompanied by false guilt.

To distinguish between these attacks and our own sinful desires, consider that our sinful desires are usually familiar patterns we’ve struggled with, and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinfulness. On the other hand, flaming arrows come suddenly with intense and nearly irresistible force, often causing confusion and excessive guilt, especially if they involve anger towards others.

As for the “faith” Paul mentions, he likely refers to sanctifying faith, which is the faith that grows in us as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. It includes faith in the truth of God’s Word and faith in the trustworthiness and goodness of God Himself (1 Peter 5:8–9; 1 John 5:4). It’s important to note that faith alone doesn’t protect us from Satan; it’s the object of our faith that matters—God and His powerful presence in our lives. We actively use our faith to extinguish Satan’s attacks. Like Moses, we use faith to say no to sinful temptations. When Satan questions God’s love or concern for us, we use faith to declare God’s unchanging love and promises. Faith helps us resist Satan’s seductive temptations and believe in the value of godliness. So, the shield of faith is like holding up the truth of Scripture against Satan’s lies in the midst of spiritual battles.

In Ephesians 6:17, Paul talks about wearing the “helmet of salvation.” This helmet protected the head, which is vulnerable to deadly blows. While Satan can’t harm the soul, he can attack the mind. Those who are saved have their minds protected by the assurance of salvation in Christ, past, present, and future. Moving on to the soldier’s offensive weapon, the sword, Paul mentions the “sword of the Spirit,” which is the word of God in verse 17. Just as Jesus used Scripture to counter Satan’s attacks, we have the word of God to cut through the enemy’s defences. In addition to this armour, we must maintain constant communication with God through prayer, as mentioned in verse 18. Just like a soldier in battle stays in touch with their commanding officer, we must be in continuous communion with our Lord. Even with all the armour, without this connection, we become vulnerable. So, in summary, the helmet of salvation protects our minds, the word of God is our offensive weapon, and prayer keeps us connected with our Lord in the midst of spiritual battles.

Praying in the Spirit doesn’t mean speaking in tongues; it means the Holy Spirit helps us communicate with God, praying from the depths of our hearts. Our prayers should be earnest and passionate, not just ritualistic or filled with empty repetitions. Prayer is meaningful, and we should stay alert and pray for ourselves and all fellow believers (verse 18). We’re called to pray for one another. Praying in the Spirit means heartfelt communication with God, and we should pray for all believers and those who spread the gospel like Paul did.

In conclusion, I urge you to put on the whole armour of God as commanded to us in scripture. We must be ready for the spiritual battle every believer in Christ faces. We do so by trusting in God, standing firm in His word, with the help of His Holy Spirit, and doing all for His glory. Amen!


R. C. Sproul, The Purpose of God: Ephesians (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994).

Sam Storms, Biblical Studies: Ephesians (Edmond, OK: Sam Storms, 2016).

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010).

Source: Douglas Mangum, ed., Lexham Context Commentary: New Testament, Lexham Context Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), Eph 6:10–17.

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