Fighting Satan: Defensively and Offensively
Paul gives us two ways to fight Satan in his famous spiritual warfare passage of Ephesians 6: an unyielding defense and an attacking offense. Let’s look at each of the eight pieces of armor that Paul counsels us to use, gleaning practical lessons for fighting Satan today.
The Belt of Truth
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,” Paul says in Ephesians 6:14. In Bible times, the girdle or belt, in physical warfare, was fastened or buckled at the waist around the short tunic worn by the soldier. The belt supported the “loins” or muscles of the lower back and served as a foundation for much of his remaining armor. Thus, “girt loins” symbolized readiness to do battle.
Loins girt with truth are a symbol of the Christian binding to himself the Christian faith revealed in the Bible. The Bible is our objective standard of truth and our final authority for doctrine and life.
We need truth to battle Satan. Without truth we will be “tossed to and fro” with all kinds of doctrine. Ground yourself in truth. Proverbs 23:23 teaches, “Buy the truth and sell it not.” Cling to the truth. Know the truth, love the truth, and live the truth. Abide in Christ who is Truth, and you will gain the victory over Satan.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The second piece of armor is the “breastplate of righteousness” (6:14). In Paul’s day, soldiers wore a protective breastplate made of metal or very tough leather. The breastplate covered the chest and the abdomen, protecting vital organs from swords and other weapons. The breastplate was a critical defense against mortal and lesser wounds.
People in Paul’s day believed that organs such as the heart and the liver were the center of affections. Emotions, such as joy or anger, originated in these organs. Believers need strong protection — a breastplate of righteousness — to keep from being wounded in their feelings and emotions.
The righteousness of the breastplate is provided by God in Christ. Christ earned that righteousness through His passive and active obedience. All other forms of righteousness are worthless.
Satan schemes to keep us from resting in Christ’s righteousness. He tries to get us to base our hope for salvation on our feelings. We cannot be saved without feelings, but Satan exaggerates their importance. The righteousness of Christ is our protection against relying too much on feelings. We must learn to cast ourselves on what Christ has done; then we will experience feelings of joy and peace. To believe Satan’s lie that faith is spun out of the web of our feelings is a dangerous, soul-damning, and hopeless task.
In verse 15, Paul speaks of “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” A good soldier needs proper footwear. The Roman soldiers, with whom Paul was well acquainted, wore sandals with strong straps. The sandals were thickly studded with sharp nails, which kept soldiers from slipping. Footwear was critical for fighting.
Christians must always be ready and prepared to do battle with the forces of Satan. The gospel of peace is the pair of sandals with studs that enables the Christian to put his feet down and stand firm in battle.
The best way to stand up to the devil is to have the clearest possible understanding of the gospel and to experience gospel peace that passes all understanding through the blood of Christ. Our identity, comfort, and stability depend on knowing the gospel intellectually and experientially. Then you can look Satan in the eye, and say, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
The Shield of Faith
The fourth piece of armor is the shield of faith, which enables us to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (v. 16). Roman shields in Paul’s day were about four feet long by two feet wide, large enough to cover most of the body. They had fireproof metal coverings, which was important to minimize the effect of flaming arrows. With this shield, a soldier could not only stop fiery darts but also extinguish them.
Satan’s devices are like fiery darts and flaming arrows. Satan has thousands of ways to attack believers with his darts. We need the shield of faith to withstand Satan’s assaults because faith helps us recognize satanic devices and because faith puts Christ between Satan and us. Christ’s blood is the fireproof covering in our shield of faith, guarding us against Satan’s fiery attacks.
Our problem in battling Satan is that we forget to hold up the shield of faith. If you’re a believer, raise high faith’s shield. Hide behind Christ. He will take the blows of Satan for you. He has already warded off every fiery dart to be your perfect Savior.
The Helmet of Salvation
“And take the helmet of salvation” (6:17a). The helmet of salvation is a critical piece of armor. No matter how well a soldier’s body is protected, if his head is left uncovered, his chance of survival is minimal. A soldier must wear his helmet.
The Roman helmet of Paul’s day was a leather cap covered with plates of metal. It was adorned with a kind of ornamental crest or plume. First Thessalonians 5:8 tells us that this helmet is “the hope of salvation.”
Discouragement is a common ploy of Satan. When Satan makes you feel like giving up in the battle against sin, put on your helmet of hope, Paul says. Believe that you have been saved, you are being saved, and you shall be saved.
Lift up your head; let hope be your ornament, your plume of eternal victory. The coming of the Son of man draws near. Soon you will no longer need your helmet. Satan will be eternally crushed. You will reign with the Captain of your salvation.
The Sword of the Spirit
The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (6:17b), is a unique piece of armor in fighting Satan, for it attacks the enemy as well as repels him. God magnifies His Word by using it as a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The Holy Spirit, the author of God’s “breathed-out” Word, enables us to interpret and use this Word, both defensively, as Jesus did three times in a row when tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), and offensively, by finding shelter in Christ and His promises in the Word.
When you use God’s Word with skill against demonic attack, Satan will feel the sword of the Spirit penetrate his joints and marrow, cutting away his strength and all his wisest plans. In dependence on the Spirit, use the sword of the Bible to stand your ground against Satan, to assail him, to run at him, to rout him, and to drive him from the field.
Praying in the Spirit
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (6:18a). Offensively, as Bunyan said, “The greatest weapon in the storehouse of God is the weapon of prayer.”
Just as every part of an engine is useless without oil, so every part of Christian warfare is vain without prayer. “Praying always” means to pray first, to pray without ceasing, to pray your way through your day. To pray with prayer and supplication means, “Pray with heartfelt, pleading prayer. Truly pray in your prayer.” To “pray in the Spirit” means to pray in dependency on the Spirit and to pray by the Spirit. Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray in our infirmities and intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.
Watch with Perseverance
“Watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (6:18b). The true soldier must stand guard at his post; he must be vigilant, watchful, and alert. Likewise, the soldier of Christ must watch and pray to ward off the attacks of Satan.
Paul brings praying and watching together in one verse (6:18b) because they are inseparable. “Watch and pray,” Jesus said (Matt. 26:41).
We can defeat Satan only if we watch and pray. We do this by being constantly aware of his devices, by interceding for others, by persevering in our prayers, and by watching in all things.
Stand Up for Jesus
Paul’s well-outfitted soldier in Ephesians 6:14-18 gives us a comprehensive picture of how to fight against Satan. In dependency on the Spirit, and in Christ’s strength, use each piece of armor prayerfully every day, remembering what Samuel Rutherford said: “Satan is only God’s master fencer to teach us to use our weapons.”