The Whole Armor of God: Part One – The Armor

25 Feb

I was going to just do a single article here, but found it was simply too long. So I am separating it into three parts. The First is a description of the Armor; the second discusses how we put the armor on; and the third tells of the Sword. I hope you appreciate this.

Song: Whole Armor of God

What soldier enters life’s battle field
Without a sword; without a shield.
I take my sword and shield each day
When I kneel down and humbly pray.

I take my place in the ranks of youth.
I know His words and I love the truth.
Prepared to do my part in this war,
I know what it is I’m fighting for.

With helmet in place, with sword in hand;
With the shield of faith we are worthy to stand;
With the gospel of peace of feet are shod;
We have on the armor of God.

This is a portion of the lyrics to the song from the church Seminary video “The Whole Armor of God.” I am sure that most of us are familiar with Paul’s analogy on which this song is based. But how well do we understand the meaning of his words? Does the symbolism of this profound metaphor really sink in to our hearts and our minds and stir us to greater faith?
I can still remember when, as a student in Seminary, my teacher taught us the full meaning of Paul’s words, and the depth of that meaning has remained with me too this day. In this article I want to pass on that teaching so that all may come to more fully appreciate these words that they may truly know that they have indeed taken upon them the whole armor of God.

Paul, in his epistles to the Ephesians, describes the world in which he and those early saints found themselves. He writes “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.” (Ephesians 6: 10-12)
Christ tells us that this armor is still necessary for us in these last days, and he commands us once again to put it on. Turning now to his words, recorded in section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand.”  (D&C 27: 15)

In the Doctrine and Covenants the pieces of armor are listed in the same order and with the same names as they were by Paul in his epistle. In both accounts we are told that it is by taking on this armor that we are enabled to do all that will allow us to stand in the evil day when the judgments of God come upon the world.
So, what is the armor, and what is the deeper meaning of this very powerful metaphor? In section 27 we read the following, and the same list is found in Ephesians chapter 6: “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace…Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my spirit…”
In this we have five pieces of armor and one weapon. I will speak only of the armor at this time, and will speak of the sword at a future time.
Let us consider each piece of armor as it is listed, and keep in mind that this refers to Roman armor, which was the common armor of the time of Paul. Each piece of the Roman armor was specifically designed to protect major organs. So let us look at the armor that we are to wear.

First we are told to have our “loins girt with truth.” What are the loins? They are the lower abdomen and upper legs. In the days of Rome soldiers would wear a skirt made of metal slates around their waist, which extended to their knees. This was known as girting the loins, and was designed to protect the organs involved in reproduction. Thus the loins symbolize chastity and purity. It is truth that protects us from the harmful effects of sexual immorality and keeps us chaste and pure. When we understand the truth of our existence, that we are all children of our Father; that knowledge should inspire us to remain chaste, so that He may send His children to be raised in righteous families.
I think it is also important to note that this is the first thing we are commanded to take upon us. It seems that in Paul’s day, as well as ours, sexual immorality was prevalent, prompting him to first encourage chastity in the saints before he spoke of anything else.

The second piece of armor is the Breastplate of Righteousness. I believe we all understand that the breastplate protects the chest; the primary organ being the heart. Just as the loins carried symbolism, so too does the heart. Christ declared that “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Matthew 12: 34-35)The heart has long been a symbol of desire, and thus the motivation for our conduct. If our desires are righteous then our conduct will be righteous. We must put on the Breastplate of Righteousness to protect our general conduct and actions from the temptations of Satan.

Next we have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” The feet are now protected; and what do the feet do? They are the organ of transportation. They are our means of moving from one place to another. We could not reach our destination without the use of our feet. Thus they become a symbol of goals, and the power to attain them. We have protected ourselves from immorality, and have guarded our conduct. Now we much set our feet on the path that is the Gospel of Peace and never be turned from that path, or we risk falling to the powers of darkness.

Now, the shield is listed next, but first I will talk about the helmet. We are told that it is the Helmet of Salvation. The helmet covers the head, and thus protects the brain, or mind of man. The function of this organ is that of thought. If our thoughts are constantly turned to the salvation of our Christ; if we keep Him and His sacrifice always in our mind, than our thoughts will constantly have that protection that will chase away wicked ideas that are placed there by the adversary. It is commonly understood that no one performs an action without first thinking about it. One does not commit sin without first having considered what that sin is. We must protect our thoughts so that our actions will always reflect that salvation God has promised us.

The last armor is the Shield of Faith. Paul says “Above all taking the shield of faith,” placing this one piece in greater importance than all the others. The shield is a very versatile armor. While it is worm on the arm it can be maneuvered in many ways making it the primary defense of a soldier. It can be moved to block attacks from all direction, and thus is able to protect all the same areas the rest of the armor. It truly is the first line of defense for the soldier. In the same way our faith is our first defense against all the temptations of this life. It is not enough to know the truth, to think on the salvation of God, or to have the goal in mind. We must first believe, for God has declared that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11: 6) And just as the shield can be maneuvered to guard any part of the body, so too must faith be strong enough that it can protect all aspects of our lives.


One Response to “The Whole Armor of God: Part One – The Armor”

  1. Brent February 26, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    This was so good, thank you. There’s a great talk by Harold B. Lee where he says our weaknesses (possibly weak points or gaps in our armor?) are known and mapped by the adversary and that it’s in our moments of doubt or when we’re “bitter in our souls” that we’re open to attack on those weak points. Paul himself speaks of weaknesses and being “buffeted” by the adversary. This further illustrates the importance and the need to cast out fear and doubt from our thinking and shield ourselves with faith.

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