Pastoral 2016

Christian Armour

Written by Pr Andrew Koh Sunday, 11 September 2016

Print

“For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:7-8).

Introduction

The spiritual frontline is not one to be trifled with. It is where spiritual warfare occurs almost all the time, and throughout the life of a genuine believer in Christ. The outcome thus hinges on how a Christian fights these battles. Just as any physical warfare is of a matter of life and death, where great amounts of resources, thoughts and efforts are being put into fighting it, a Christian must also fight his spiritual battles valiantly with the help of God. If a Christian slackens in spiritual warfare, the adversary, who pounces at any given opportunity, will easily catch him or her unawares.

One of the many spiritual battles that a Christian has to fight is the battle against “spiritual sleepiness and drunkenness”. It is the attitude of being insensitive towards godliness and not living a life that is all-pleasing to God. Spiritual sleepiness and drunkenness is the behaviour of unbelievers who are not at all ready for the imminent coming of Christ. It could also refer to living an active life of revelry and unrestrained enjoyment of sins. But a Christian fights against all such dispositions towards sins. Christians ought to be watchful and to be battle-ready. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 tells us that the means to be sober is to put on “the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation”. It is unthinkable for any soldier to go to war without his gears. So, let no Christian go to his spiritual battles without putting on the armour that God has provided. What then is this Christian armour that God has provided for the Christian soldier?

Breastplate of Faith and Love

A breastplate is an important piece of ancient military armour. The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary provides the following information about this ancient piece of armament:

With the rise in popularity of the arrow and with its speed of flight and imperceptible approach on its victim, the mail came to be more and more necessary to cover the torso. Fish scale-like construction of small metal plates sewn to cloth or leather was the breastplate for the ancient soldier. These scales could number as high as 700 to 1000 per “coat.” Each coat obviously could be quite heavy and expensive to produce in volume.

This piece of breastplate was a central piece of a Roman soldier’s armour. It protected the torso, which contained vital organs like the heart and lungs. The breastplate was used as the main piece of defence in war.

A Christian soldier must put on this breastplate at all times. Arrows fly in all directions in a battlefield. It is impossible to predict from where and when the arrows would fly towards the soldiers. This often leaves soldiers helpless and defenceless. However, as long as this breastplate is put on, a soldier will have the best form of defence he needs. Likewise, Christians cannot predict when the enemies of Christ will attack him. Yet when they put on this “breastplate of faith and love”, they are able to withstand spiritual attacks. Christians are also exhorted to put this on continuously as the tense for “putting on” in verse 8 is in the continuous. This continuity also connotes that Christians are in constant spiritual warfare. Unlike ancient soldiers who could put down the heavy breastplate once they left their battlefields, Christians must always have their spiritual breastplate on them.

The first element of this breastplate is faith. A Christian must always act in the faith that God has granted him for his salvation and Christian life. He will remember his Christian position and will only do things that are in accordance with his faith. This is how a Christian ought to defend himself against spiritual attacks at all times. A Christian who is not sober and watchful forgets that he ought to act as a follower of Christ. When the fiery arrows of temptation are shot in his direction, the “sleepy” and “drunken” Christian is caught off-guard. Being unguarded, the poor Christian will be pierced by the arrows without mercy and be defeated. On the contrary, a watchful and sober Christian will always be prepared for any spiritual attack because he is aware of the dangers lurking around him.

The second element of the breastplate is love. A Christian soldier who wears this breastplate has an unwavering love for God. His love for God never diminishes. A constant love for God guards against all fiery arrows of temptations that are being shot at Christians. It provides a strong motivation for resistance against temptations. This is because a Christian who loves God cares most about his relationship with God. He does not seek to gratify himself. His love for God will rouse him to resist temptations. In the face of temptations, a Christian who bears in mind his love for God will ask: “How can I do this wickedness against my Lord whom I love? Will what I do grieve His heart or disappoint Him?”

Helmet

The next piece of defence armour is the “helmet, the hope of salvation”. It is a vital piece worn by soldiers for the protection of the head. Blows aimed at the head could be fatal. Thus, helmets were made of metallic material, like bronze and brass lined with leather, to take these blows. Usually, the helmet is the last piece of armour a soldier will put on before he heads out to war. A meticulous and prudent soldier will not forget his helmet even when he rushes out to war. Even though he has made all other preparations and worn all other parts of the armour, he will not go to war without his helmet.

The helmet of a Christian is his hope of salvation. Christians who wear this helmet are assured that the Lord has saved them and that they will have the final victory. Soldiers must have the hope of victory in any battle that they fight. Having done all the preparations for war, a soldier must go with the hope of victory, and not with an attitude of fear and defeat. A Christian also cannot afford to be a sceptic, filled with doubt and fear. He is called to be an overcomer. This is echoed in 1 John 5:5 – “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” All Christians are called to be victorious in their battles. No matter what the devil does, he will not prevail against Christians in their full battle order. Christians must fight their spiritual battles with the mindset to win. Christians must gird their armour on and sound the battle cry as they fight their spiritual battles confidently

Conclusion

With God as the Captain of the Christian army, let all Christian soldiers go forward and face their spiritual battles readily and steadily, as declared by the hymn, “Sound the Battle Cry”:

“Rouse, then, soldiers, rally round the banner,
Ready, steady, pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout aloud, “Hosanna!”
Christ is Captain of the mighty throng.”