I love the movie “Gladiator!” As a matter of fact, it’s definitely in my top 3 when it comes to warrior, high testosterone, leadership, go-to-war movies along with The Patriot and Braveheart. What can I say? Those movies fire me up! Maximus, in Gladiator, provides us with a great example of a Roman soldiers mentality and the armor they wore into battle. Paul uses this example to describe the “armor of God” that every devout follower of Jesus should be wearing, since after all, we are very much so involved in ongoing spiritual warfare. As he writes his letter to the church at Ephesus while imprisoned by the Romans, I can imagine him looking at the Roman soldiers guarding him, noting their armor, and then relating it to how we need to be similarly clothed and protected as we wage war against the strategies of the devil (Eph. 6:11).
As you read what Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-18 you begin to realize the meaning of the armor of God and how imperative it is that we “put it on” everyday. Consider:
The Belt of Truth: Roman soldiers wore a linen undergarment next to the skin covered by a woolen one-piece tunic that came down to the knees. Over the tunic they placed a breastplate and at the bottom of the breastplate they wore a heavy belt made up of connecting bronze plates and leather. The belt had one function: it served as the foundation on which the sword, dagger, and metal apron were attached. Make the connection- The belt was foundational to battle, it supported the weapons, and allowed the soldier to fight. This reminds us that Jesus is the foundation for spiritual battle. He is the Truth and as such, he empowers us to defeat the deceptions of the enemy!
The Breastplate of Righteousness: Most Roman soldiers were breastplates of overlapping bronze plates or scales; some even wore one sculpted from a single piece of bronze. The design of the breastplate was both for mobility, but more importantly to protect the soldiers vital organs. Make the connection- A Roman soldier would never go into battle without the breastplate. Nor should we go into battle without ours- Jesus Christ, who is our righteousness! Our “righteousness” is worthless in battle against such a foe as Satan Only the righteousness of Christ, applied to our lives because of the atonement, can enable us to defeat the enemy’s attacks.
The Shoes of Preparation and Peace: The shoes worn by Roman soldiers were actually sandals made from leather and studded with nails too give them traction in battle. In winter they would stuff the sandals with wool and fur. The sandals used leather straps that came up and over the ankles so they could be secured tightly. Make the connection- Without his sandals, or without them secured tightly, a Roman soldier had no footing and could be easily defeated in battle. Jesus is our Preparation and Peace! As we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and secure ourselves in the peace that comes with the knowledge and application of his saving grace, we always have the footing we need to stand our ground and defeat the enemy.
The Shield of Faith: Roman soldiers used both round and rectangular shields in battle. The curved shield that Paul refers to was about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide and was made of layers of laminated wood, leather, and edged with bronze to fend off sword attacks. Shields were used for individual protection as well as being overlapped by front line troops to enable them to advance as a battle line. Make the connection- The shield was the only protection Roman soldiers had from firry arrows that would rain down on them from walled cities, etc. Jesus is obviously the focus of our faith. We can fend off the arrows of the enemy because of our faith in Christ as the “Shield about us and the lifter of our heads!”
The Helmet of Salvation: Roman soldiers usually wore a bronze helmet. There were also “cheek-pieces” to protect the sides of the face. A chin strap kept the helmet secured and the back part of the helmet was basically a “shelf” that protected the neck and shoulder areas. They helmet also included shields for over the ears and a leather liner. Make the connection- The helmet was obviously essential for the Roman soldier when he went into battle for obvious reasons. Paul notes that we have a “helmet of salvation”, indicating that our minds, hearing, and very life can be protected from the onslaught of doubt the enemy specializes in. However, we can rest in the assurance that Christ is our salvation and in him we are not only saved, but fully delivered!
The Sword of the Spirit: A Roman soldier carried a small dagger and a double-edged sword used for thrusting. The sword was usually 2 feet long and 2 inches wide with parallel sharp edges, that the soldiers was responsible for honing very regularly. Sometimes they also used larger slashing swords in battle. In an era when most warfare was fought in hand-to-hand combat, the sword in the hands of a Roman soldier was the might and power behind the Roman fighting machine! Make the connection- When used at such close range, the sword was definitely a deadly weapon in the hands of a skilled soldier. So also, should the Word of God be in our hands! Truly God’s Word and Jesus as the Living Word is our most powerful weapon as we battle up close, in combat, with the enemy!
I hope this description of the Armor of God is helpful to you, especially as it relates to my recent teaching on overcoming obsession and smashing strongholds.