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Transforming ourselves with the Armour of God.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

The Epistle reading for Trinity XXI comes from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter six , versus ten through twenty. In this well-known passage the Apostle exhorts the Christian converts in Ephesus to arm themselves against the deceit and eventual onslaught of the devil. He was warning them that their Christian calling would be the cause of future struggles and that indeed it would not be an easy matter.

St. Paul laid it on the line for them. Persecution would eventually come their way and they must be prepared for that day. They would find themselves vulnerable, with their own personal resources unable to save them. Because of this, the persecuted should clad themselves with the Armour of God; whilst at the same time become watchful, alert and prayerful.

Saint Paul's letter must have meant a lot to the Ephesians because they were a small community and the world was a rather large and scary place. It was a time when they surely needed their spirits propped up for the coming battles that would await them.

I believe that St. Paul speaks here to all Christians throughout the centuries. His message is especially strongest when the Church is challenged by the prevailing culture. Life in the first century is naturally different from our own, but the spiritual struggles of Christians, as they attempt to live in the world, while keeping the faith, has always been a challenge.

So what kind of challenges do we face as Christians today It is not uncommon for some people these days to see the world as an empty place, where as individuals they feel a certain void; almost an ache in their lives. They look around and observe an alien and hostile environment. After all, a number of our battles in life seem to be less against individuals and more against the system. In modern parlance, it's a rage against the machine.

To many people, our struggles are against powers that appear to be well organized and working not in our best interest. Certainly, as in the days of St. Paul, these forces are often regarded as evil with a very malevolent spirit. Such a world creates a disenfranchised population that feel powerless to change anything. There are some people that will choose to fight against it, whilst others will simply hideaway and suffer in silence. Indeed it can be argued that we live in a world where many people consider themselves to be outcasts; unloved and perhaps unworthy.

I certainly believe that we live in a world where there is incredible distrust and even loathing for traditional institutions. Very few people seem to trust the government and the Church; and forget about big business! The police and the military also seem to be less respected than they used to be.

By many people s observations, this appears to be a world where human life is cheap. Catholic Moral Theology certainly addresses this issue. In 1993, Cardinal Bernard Law stated clearly that Americans (all of us for that matter) need to supplant the current 'Culture of Death' with the 'Culture of Life'. Let us also not forget our very own “Affirmation of St. Louis” which addresses the same moral issue. On the 'Sanctity of Human Life', it states that every human being, from conception, is a creature and child of God. Every person is made in His image and likeness. To take a life, therefore, is sinful. For us as Anglican Catholics human life is never cheap. This is the kind of world we live in and what Christians are up against. But this is also the place where we are called to bring, to everyone, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Along with the good people of Ephesus, St. Paul is also imploring us to shield ourselves from an adversarial world that offers very little to us spiritually. But more then that, his message is a message of hope. He distinctly tells us that we will be protected if we choose to put on God s Armour. Additionally, our strong faith will also allow us to take on the devil ourselves.

Facing the Darkness

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

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. Ephesians 6:10-12

So who are the Rulers of Darkness St. Paul warns us about Well, the text tells us that it's "not against flesh and blood". The enemy is not really a person or people. It appears to be bigger than that. St. Paul presents it as a force that is greater than any individual's weaknesses and frailty.

Indeed our battle is with something more elusive and deceptive, and certainly more dangerous. The enemies of God, according to St. Paul, manifest themselves in "principalities and powers...rulers of the darkness of this world...and spiritual wickedness in high places."

As I noted earlier, this warning is not just for first century Christians. It is also a warning to us, and it is a very timely one. Even in our present age we are confronted with spiritual enemies that would destroy our faith by distorting the truth, making many of us cynical and perverse in our desires, and thereby destroying our innate God-given sense of love for most everything in the world.

Spiritual enemies constantly press upon us the need to conform and adapt ourselves to this world s standards of right and wrong. I believe that we face a time where there is an unrelenting spiritual temptation, not only for us as individuals, but also as a Church. The continuous pressure is quite often done for the sake of relevance or keeping up to date. To yield to such temptation is to distort the Gospel, and eventually to lose faith altogether. Such influence forces us to deviate ourselves from the Holy Spirit toward the dark spirit which rules the present age. As traditional Anglicans, we have already experienced such capitulation to the prevailing culture with the ordination of women and liturgical alterations which occurred back in the 1970's.

We will, however, not conform to this world. We will put on God's Armour and keep the faith. But we can only stand against such deceptive temptation through ceaseless observance, prayer and obedience to God. Ordinary defences against such powerful enemies will not work. We must take on that Armour in order to move forward in faith.

Equipping the Faithful

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. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:13-17

St. Paul urges us to find our strength in God. The Creator s protection is given directly to us because our relationship with God is intimate and personal. The nature of this relationship allows us to be strong in the Lord. It also gives us confidence in order to face a world that is resistant to the loving message of Jesus Christ. St. Paul calls it 'Armour' because it is a real sign that we are protected through our faith in Christ.

We've also taken on the Breastplate of Righteousness; which means that we follow Christ, who is the model human that teaches us how to be whole, both individually and collectively. Even our feet are fitted for the battle against evil. Even our feet are fitted with readiness which stems from the Gospel (Good News) of Peace. The Apostle instructs us to take hold of this Shield. It is a Shield of Faith and it can be used to defend ourselves and others against the fiery dart of the evil one. We also possess both a Helmet of Salvation and a Sword to protect us. The sword is significant because it is our only offensive weapon. Simply, the Sword is the Word of God. When the faithful use it boldly, it gives them the confidence to carry on.

As we begin our new life in Christ (Ephesians 4.24), we are given this Armour of God is to protect us from both external adversaries and internal temptations. It is also a means to guarantee our acceptance by God on the day of our judgment. The devil, who is an enemy of God, spiritually confronts us; but we are protected by our faith.

Because we are faced with a world that seems impersonal, indifferent, and sometimes downright belligerent, St. Paul instructs us to put on that Armour of God so that we may be able to withstand hardships in times of darkness and defend ourselves against evil forces. St. Paul wants us to stand firm because we are filled with the Truth. Indeed, we are now well-equipped with the Armour of God and we can now move forward in our life's quest with confidence; recognizing that we can, with great vigour, embrace the Sacred and not the profane. We are not empty. Indeed our cup runneth over. To paraphrase an early Church Father, Saint Irenaeus, we are 'becoming fully alive'.

With the help of the Holy Spirit

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:18-20

Remember that it all starts with recognizing that we are poorly equipped spiritually and our only hope is to take upon ourselves the Armour of God; prayerfully and watchfully holding fast to His Word. Together we can help one another to stand fast: " watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints."

By doing this we will be able to battle these principalities and powers with all their perversity and deceitfulness. Such evil may govern the darkness of our present age, but in Christ they will not govern us. Invoking the Holy Spirit through prayer will help us stay powerful and persevere in times of stress and difficulty. It is a way to keep our faith strong. The Holy Spirit will help us boldly declare the Gospel. I am reminded of the passage written in the Acts of the Apostles 2:8, “ You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come unto you."

Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit we are able to act boldly and begin to transform our lives from a state of emptiness to a place of fulfillment. We can start to become whole. We can start to recognize possibilities. We begin to see a world which is very much alive and vibrant. The void in our soul is being filled as we are becoming whole. Where once we were an outcast, we now find ourselves active in service to others.

There is no question that with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with Christ as our model, we are transformed. God is no longer a remote entity somewhere out there. He is now within us and bringing us further out into the world. We no longer walk alone.

Published on October 15th, 2016

in The Traditional Anglican News Volume 4 Issue 10

{Revised on December 11th,2022}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2022

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