The Breastplate of Righteousness

BReastplateSeries: PPE for the Christian life

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph 6:14).

God’s breastplate of righteousness is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that cannot be simulated or manufactured. It cannot be claimed through being a ‘good’ person, showing Christian graces, or doing virtuous deeds. In the old-fashioned words of William Goudge, we must “learn what is true Righteousness, that we trust not to a counterfeit breastplate, and be pierced through, while we think ourselves safe.”

A counterfeit breastplate

Satan has always peddled counterfeit breastplates. He loves to divert sinful people from Jesus, who is our only hope of right standing before God. Instead of the real deal, Satan offers us counterfeit righteousness, like human approval, self- promotion, status and pleasure. He goes to great lengths to make us seem righteous in our own eyes, because then we’ll never come to our true Saviour, nor see any need to repent. We’ll be too busy congratulating ourselves or wagging our fingers at others to notice our own crooked hearts.

A neglected breastplate

Then again, for those who belong to Christ, Satan remains a roaring lion, ready to devour unarmed prey (1 Peter 5:8). He relishes the moment when we leave our breastplate of righteousness lying dormant in the cupboard, instead of actively wearing it by faith.

It’s like the time in mid-July, when, as a dizzy sixteen-year old, I caught an overnight bus from Pietermaritzburg to Grahamstown… dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and slops! Believing my destination was somewhere near Durban, I left my warm coat in my suitcase, packed at the bottom of the luggage hold! (In my defence, I was a boarder and it was pre-google days). Needless to say, I spent the whole night rolling myself into a little ball, wondering if I would die of frostbite or hyperthermia! Zipped up in my suitcase, the coat offered no protection against the ravages of that frozen bus. Likewise, in the Christian life, it’s not enough just to know about Christ’s righteousness. We need to actively believe and appropriate his righteousness in our daily lives, or we will be vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

A lethal weapon

One of Satan’s most lethal weapons is accusation (Rev 12:10). Without Christ’s breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts, Satan will denounce and accuse God’s people, making us believe that our past mistakes and sins make us unworthy to serve the Lord. Without Christ’s breastplate to protect us, we will be tormented by our own memories and anxious thoughts. We may be falsely accused by our difficult circumstances, thinking that perhaps God doesn’t care for us, or that we’ve done something to displease him. And we may be falsely accused by other people too, just as Job, David, Paul, and countless other believers have been. Without Christ’s breastplate of righteousness, these accusations are sure to lead us away from God and down a dangerous path of discouragement and defeat.

So, if this metaphorical breastplate is so vital, it begs two questions:

  1. What exactly does Paul mean by ‘righteousness’?
  2. What must I do to put the breastplate on, and keep it on?

The Puritans coined two words, which I found helpful in thinking this through for myself: imputed and imparted righteousness. The breastplate of righteousness merges the two, as one cannot exist without the other.

Imputed righteousness

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul explains what Christ’s imputed righteousness means:

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:21-24).

You’ll remember that the Lord Jesus said that he came to earth, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32Mark 2:17Matt 9:13). And so, when we stop trusting in ourselves, and instead start trusting in the righteousness and death of the only perfect man that ever lived, God puts all our sin on Jesus and he transfers Christ’s righteousness to our account.

The amazing Old Testament picture behind the breastplate of righteousness is the warrior-Judge of Isaiah 59, who puts on “righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head.” Unbelievably, in this stunning prophecy, it is God himself who intercedes for sinners. He stretches out his hand to save us, by giving us his own righteousness. To those who repent of their sins, God gives the breastplate of righteousness, even though “our offenses are many in (his) sight and our sins testify against us”. He gives us his breastplate to wear, even though we have turned our backs on God and our sins have separated us from him. Even though we justly deserve his judgement, which will come on the world “like a pent-up flood.”

Warren Wiersbe explains the stunning everyday implications of that imputed righteousness:

“He (God) not only goes to the record book and erases your old record completely, but he also makes sure that nothing else is written on that page by filling it with His righteousness. Once the entry has been made, the matter is settled once and for all. Thus, when you turn to your page in the book and find your name written there, you will also find underneath it the words, ‘Righteous in Jesus Christ.’’”

What a wonderful relief to be able to rest in Christ’s imputed righteousness! No matter how we feel, no matter what true or false accusations are brought against us, no matter our circumstances, we are declared righteous. Imputed righteousness is an undeserved, objective reality that cannot be lost or changed.

Imparted righteousness

On the other side of the coin is imparted righteousness, which is how the Holy Spirit changes our natural desires to make us “imitators of God” (Eph 5:1-2). It is practical, everyday godliness in our words, our walk, our motives, and in all that we do, in response to what Christ has done for us. It is impossible to have imputed righteousness without imparted righteousness, because the Holy Spirit imparts in every believer a new nature that gradually produces the fruits of righteousness.

Imparted righteousness is like the warmth that naturally emanates from a fire.

That’s why Paul urges us to put off our “old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds…to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). One cannot receive Christ’s righteousness without it showing itself in growing holiness in the way we live—“for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Eph 5:9).

Together, both imputed and imparted righteousness make up the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ that Paul refers to in Ephesians 6. We daren’t leave home without putting it on!

In closing, here are 3 practical tips for dressing for battle:

  1. Know the difference between accusation and conviction.
  2. Pursue the good life.
  3. Call righteousness to mind.

1. Know the difference between accusation and conviction

The Holy Spirit mercifully convicts us of the truth of who God is and who we are. Godly conviction leads us to turn to Jesus and to change. It was the Spirit’s conviction that cut Peter’s hearers to the heart in Acts 2:36-38, and the same conviction that led David to repent when Nathan the prophet confronted him in 2 Samuel 12. David rightly responded to this conviction, “Have mercy on me, O God…Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51). This is godly conviction for real sin that has not been dealt with.

But Satan apes the Holy Spirit’s conviction. He accuses Christians “day and night before our God,” even when we’ve repented of our sins (Rev 12:10). And unlike conviction, accusation leads to a false sense of condemnation. Satan reminds us of our many past sins, making us forget that we have already been forgiven. He uses other people to bring false charges and lies against us. And if you’re prone to perpetual introspection, as I am, the devil will use false guilt to condemn you, even for sins that you haven’t committed in thought, word or deed.

A few years ago, a good friend was so relentlessly tormented over a past sin (for which she had already been forgiven), that she eventually took her own life. I’ve seen firsthand how subtle and dangerous it is to entertain Satan’s accusations.

Today’s society encourages people to think of themselves as God, able to know another’s motives and thoughts. Consequently, the world of 2020 is like a giant nursery school, with many overgrown toddlers tale-telling, name-calling, blaming and accusing other people of gross sin, while blissfully ignorant of their own. A Christian needs to discern between godly conviction and Satanically-inspired accusation. The former, we must welcome and meet with genuine repentance. But the latter, we must firmly resist by wearing the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness, not giving an inch to the vicious liar, murderer and accuser of our souls.* (see Christian’s meeting with Apollyon below).

2. Pursue the good life

Meditate on the ‘good life’ David describes in Psalm 34. Ask yourself what it looks like to “love life and see many good days”; to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies”; to “turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it” (Ps 34:13-14). Be assured that personal godliness, not good fortune or privilege, epitomizes the good life, because we have been hardwired to imitate God’s holy character. Living a life of ease and indulgence are not the good life. But a life lived in faithfulness to God is the good life, no matter how difficult our circumstances of life may be.

3. Call righteousness to mind.

Every day, we need to reaffirm our position in Christ Jesus. That is how we ‘put on’ the breastplate of righteousness. Just as Jeremiah said,

“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:21-23).

Every day, we must remind ourselves that only His righteousness makes us accepted in the One God loves (Eph 1:6). Every day, we must trust that all God’s promises to the righteous are ours in Christ.

Christ’s breastplate is of no use lying in the suitcase of our intellects, unless it’s worn on the battlefield of daily life. And this same breastplate is the only effective PPE on the day of God’s judgement, when Jesus will welcome his family to his heavenly home. A home “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

Let’s pray: (based on Psalm 34)

Father, thank you for saving me from your own righteous anger against sin. Thank you that I am righteous through faith in your Son. I will boast only in what you have done! When I seek you, you always answer me, and deliver me from all my fears. Your eyes are always on the righteous and you are attentive to our cries. Although the righteous may have many troubles, you deliver us from them all. You are close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. Help me to believe that those who fear you lack no good thing. Help me to live the good life, in Jesus’ name, and for his sake. Amen.

Further reading:

  • Stand, by Warren Wiersbe.
  • The whole armour of God: or A Christian’s spiritual furniture, to keep him safe from all the assaults of Satan, William Goudge (1578-1653).
  • Isaiah 59.
  • Rediscovering Holiness: Know the fullness of life with God, J.I Packer.
  • *The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan: chapter on Christian’s meeting with Apollyon, excerpt below:

APOLLYON: “You have already been unfaithful in your service to Him—so why do you think that you will receive His wages?”

CHRISTIAN: “In what, O Apollyon, have I been unfaithful to Him?”

APOLLYON: “You were discouraged at first setting out, when you were almost choked in the Swamp of Despond! You attempted wrong ways to be rid of your burden—whereas you should have waited until your King had taken it off! You sinfully slept and lost your scroll! At the sight of the lions, you were almost persuaded to go back! And when you talked of your journey, and of what you have heard and seen, you were secretly proud of all that you said and did!”

CHRISTIAN: “All this is true, and much more which you have left out! But the King whom I serve and honor, is merciful, and ready to forgive. Besides, I acquired these infirmities in your country—and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon from my King.”

Then Apollyon broke out into a furious rage, saying, “I am an enemy to this King! I hate His person, His laws, and His people! I have come out on purpose to destroy you!”

CHRISTIAN: “Apollyon, beware what you do! I am on the King’s highway, the way of holiness—therefore take heed!”

Then Apollyon straddled over the whole road, and said, “I am not afraid. Prepare yourself to die! I swear by my infernal den, that you shall go no further. Here I will spill your blood!”

The belt of truth

Belt of truthSeries: PPE for Spiritual Warfare, by Rosie Moore

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist… (Eph 6:14a)

If you were a healthcare worker today, would you dare to step into the war zone of a COVID-19 hospital ward without wearing “Personal Protective Equipment” (PPE)? That’s because we know the mortal dangers of the enemy virus, and so we take every measure not to expose ourselves to its attack. But somehow, as a Christian soldier engaged in a fierce spiritual war we cannot see, we are sometimes so casual.

How often do we step into our day unprepared and unprotected, without the personal protective equipment that Christ himself has provided through his death and resurrection? Paul lists the PPE in his letter to the Ephesian Christians: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation; the sword of the Spirit, and a posture of alert, continuous prayer (Eph 6:13-18).

Unlike PPE for medics, this spiritual equipment is not in short supply and is potent enough to demolish the enemy’s strongholds (2 Cor 10:4-5). It is ample and sufficient armoury, freely available to every Christian who is connected and abiding in Christ himself. Today we will look at how to buckle the belt of truth securely around our waists. But first, let’s remind ourselves of who our enemy is, in order to understand why this belt of truth matters so much.

Know your enemy!

As Christians, it’s easy to brush off Satan and hell, choosing instead to give all our attention to struggles that we can see. But God’s Word is no conspiracy theory, and Paul is clear that the real war is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). If we ignore or minimise demonic forces standing behind flesh-and-blood people, conflicts and ideas, we will be easily diverted and ill-equipped for the real battle. But when we understand Satan’s character in the Bible, we can spot his attempts to rule in world affairs; in relationships; in churches and our personal lives:

Let’s remember that our enemy was unsatisfied serving God, so he rebelled and tried to take over and rule God’s creation for himself. He is always the accuser of Christ’s people, a liar and the father of lies. The effects of his work directly oppose Christ’s: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). So, when Satan tempted Jesus, he offered to give Christ everything in this world, to divert him from the real battlefield of the cross.

And let’s not forget that our enemy is crafty, the master of deception and delusion, ever since he first twisted God’s Word in the Garden:

Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? You will not surely die! For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (John 8:44Gen 3:1-24).

Satan’s ploy is always to make humans think that we can define good and evil for ourselves– that we can be like God. He loves to make us believe that God is withholding something lovely from us and can’t be trusted to know what’s good for us. And Satan is masterful at replacing God’s truth with a beautifully-wrapped lie. As C.S Lewis puts it, our enemy is the ‘ape of God.’ Like a slight of hand, it’s not always easy to see the truth behind the illusion.

Satan knows where he’s going and he wants to take as many people with him, or in the case of Christians, to cripple us for life. He focuses on this world and leads people to worship themselves. Satan always offers shiny, attractive ‘gifts’ which look pleasing to the senses, but he never reveals the death and destruction inside the package. As Ed Welch puts it, he invites us to a “banquet in the grave.” This is the modus operandi of the enemy who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

Like a mob boss, Satan often uses people to get the job done; he infiltrates the unsuspecting church and his lies hold sway in much of culture today.

So, as we seek to wear the armour Christ has given us, we need to know that we face a powerful demonic army whose goal is to defeat Christ’s church and turn Christians away from the Jesus of history. He will use whatever means to divert us from the real Jesus of the Bible, who holds out the only hope to dying, enslaved, blind and deceived people. That’s why the belt of truth matters so much.

The truth that matters

And that’s why the father of lies hates to see Christians with the belt of truth firmly buckled around our waists. He fears the kind of ministry Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:1-7, where we proclaim, not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. The enemy would prefer Christians to be tripping over ourselves; living double lives; speaking with forked tongues; using underhanded methods; tampering with the Bible, and more eager to make people feel better about themselves than “setting forth the truth plainly” (2 Cor 4:2).

More than anything else, the devil fears Christians speaking the truth by the power of God’s Spirit. All his delusions are useless the moment a previously blind person is able to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. It is only the gospel’s light that can evaporate the smokescreen of Satan’s deceptions, leaving the god of this world impotent and defeated (2 Cor 4:46). And it is wonderful to think that ordinary Christians like you and me have been given this precious, unique truth to wear around our waist every day! What an extraordinary privilege to be a steward of this life-giving truth!

The truth that holds it all together

But the belt of truth also gives our lives integrity. The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy. Listen to what Os Guiness says:

“Hypocrisy is a lie in deeds rather than in words. And evil always uses lies to cover its oppressions. Only with truth can we stand up to deception and manipulation”.

The belt that Paul had in mind was worn by a Roman soldier, like a leather apron that protected the whole lower part of his body. It was also used as a sheath for the soldier’s sword. When people wanted to move quickly, they would gather up their robes and tuck the ends into their belts, so that their legs could run unhindered. It’s the idea Peter had in mind when he wrote,

“Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

The Roman belt held everything together. It is the picture of a Christian, whose life and words and methods are tied together by truth, as revealed in God’s Word. Of course, no Christian can do this perfectly all the time, but this integrity should mark our lives. It is the picture of a Christian who doesn’t care for optics, but stands firmly on the side of God’s truth, even when no one is looking. She lives to please only one Master, rather than dividing her loyalties (Matt 6:24Matt 6:22-23).

In Paul’s words, a Christian who wears the belt of truth has “renounced disgraceful underhanded ways, refuses to practice cunning, or to tamper with God’s word” (2 Cor 4:2). We do not use the tactics of Satan, like shame, ridicule or manipulation, as the ends never justify the means. Instead, we seek to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).

God’s truth is the only antidote to what James describes as a divided and unstable mind (James 1:8). Truth keeps us from being “tossed about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14-1521). And that’s precisely why Satan hates us to wear the belt of truth. He loathes integrity.

Instead, our enemy loves to divide, deceive and pull our lives apart, just as he did with Lot. Unlike his uncle Abraham, Lot had his eyes on the well-watered plains of the Jordan, instead of on the Lord. And so, without a belt of truth, Lot and his family drifted off into wicked Sodom. Lot’s problem was a divided heart. For, as Jesus warns us, “a household divided against itself will not stand” (Matt 12:25).

The war on truth

In my lifetime, I’ve never seen such a ferocious culture war as I see today in society. War has been declared on God’s order in almost every sphere and relationship. I see many people drowning in a sea of confusion, absurdity and despair because of false beliefs. Ten years ago, in speaking on why truth matters, Os Guinness said:

“Christians have the grounds as well as the duty to confront false ideas with the assurance that they are neither true in the end nor are they in the best interests of those who believe them. And we must never forget today that our stand for truth must start in the church itself. We must resist the powerful seductions of those who downplay truth for methodology, or truth in the name of activism, or truth for entertainment, or truth for seeker sensitivity, and above all those who put modern and revisionist views of truth in the place of the biblical view. Whatever the motive of these people, all such seductions lead to a weak and compromised faith and they end in sorrow and a betrayal of our Lord…If our faith is not true, it would be false even if the whole world believed it. If our faith is true, it would be true even if the whole world were against it. We worship and serve the God of truth and humbly and resolutely, we seek to live as people of truth. Here we still stand, so help us God. As evangelicals we are people of the good news, but may we also always be people of truth, worthy of the God of truth. God is true. God can be trusted in all situations. Have faith in God. Have no fear. Hold fast to truth. And may God be with us all.

For myself, I’m grateful that an older Christian woman took time to disciple me when I was a young woman in my early 20’s, successfully brainwashed by feminism and clueless about God’s beautiful design for motherhood and marriage. It took her patient efforts to bring the truth, as set out in God’s Word, to bear on the twisted ideas I’d believed for years. Let’s offer to do the same for a younger person, so that everyone in the household of God is dressed and prepared for battle, standing firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists.

Useful resources:

Pete and I have found the resources below useful in helping our family apply Biblical truth to many cultural issues:

  1. Series, The War on Truth, by The Fuel Project #7 The Left Pit; #8 The Right Pit; #13 The Truth about Feminism; #10 The Postmodern Era.
  2. Os Guiness, Why Truth Matters (RZIM).
  3. Voddie Baucham—Racial ReconciliationCultural Marxism. 
  4.  Centre for Biblical unity, Monique Duson.
  5. Neil Shenvi Apologetics
  6. Christ Church Midrand sermon series: Controversial issues
  7. Greg Morse, The Globdrop Letters: A senior demon (Wormwood) corresponds with a junior demon to advise him in the evil art of subtle deception. The series of articles follows in the large footsteps of C.S. Lewis in his classic work, The Screwtape Letters. They’re brilliantly written.
  8. The Alisa Childers Podcast: What is Progressive Christianity? 

Going to war!

Series: Spirit-filled, by Rosie Moore

Like it or not, spiritual warfare is the daily reality of every Christian. You and I are called to be soldiers, prepared to fight the good fight of the Lord Jesus who has enlisted us to serve in his army (1 Tim 6:12). Paul told Timothy to face suffering “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Jesus also used wartime imagery to describe the onward march of the Church, promising that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

In his book titled Stand: Putting on the full armour of God, Warren Wiersbe writes: “Some people reject the military side of the Christian life. I appreciate those who want to see peace on earth; however, as long as sin exists in this world, the battle between Satan’s forces and God’s people will rage on. Anyone who chooses to be on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ will face severe opposition from Satan and his followers. And those who refuse to fight will fall in the heat of the battle.”

Ephesians 6 takes us into the war room to show us our real enemies, as well as our God-given equipment and energy to fight effectively. Paul urges us to be prepared for spiritual warfare. In the next few weeks, we will be getting to know our Enemy’s strategies and unpacking the Spirit’s armoury:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Eph 6:10-13).

The posture of warfare

My dad often told me about his oldest memory as a 3-year old. It was at the beginning of the Second World War, on the day his father left their hometown of Benoni to fight in North Africa. As the soldiers marched off, my dad followed them, armed with a stick over his shoulder instead of a rifle, dressed in his own home-made military uniform. He followed the soldiers for so long that eventually my gran lost sight of her little boy, who ended up being taken to the Benoni police station for safekeeping! At 3, my dad was naïve and clueless about the terrible realities of war. He had no idea who the enemy was, nor that 11 023 South Africans would be killed in action. He just enjoyed the marching, the band and the men in uniform. But in God’s providence, five years later my grandfather returned home safely.

What strikes me about our Ephesians text is how many words Paul uses to describe the active, watchful, prepared posture of a Spirit-filled Christian. Unlike my 3-year old dad, there is nothing wide-eyed or docile about a Christian who is walking in the kind of lifestyle Paul sets out for us in chapters 4-6. Without a doubt, if we are living as faithful Christians at home, at school, at work and in our churches, we will be attacked by the enemy of our soul, who is also the enemy of God’s people. Since the day that Jesus first became our Saviour and Commander-in-chief, we have been enlisted in the war.

Enlisted for active service

So firstly, it is impossible for a Spirit-filled Christian to be a spectator, to come along for the ride, or just join the celebrations at the end of the war. If you speak up for Christ in your context, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll get Satan’s attention. It’s impossible to keep your head down in the trenches forever. Just think for a moment: If you are trying to live by God’s laws in a culture “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless”(Rom 1:29-32), surely you will stand out and attract Satan’s anger? You are engaged in serious spiritual warfare and a battle for your mind. The battle lines were drawn the moment you decided to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-17).

To put this differently, we cannot expect to sit with Jesus in heaven (Eph 2:6), and walk with him in our daily lives (Eph 5:15), unless we also stand for him in the war. While the fate of the universe is not our responsibility, it is our responsibility to depend on Christ and hold onto the victory he has already won for us through his death and resurrection (Eph 4:7). We do not fight for victory, but from a position of victory. That’s our motivation to “stand firm in the evil day” (Eph 6:13).

Taking a stand

Secondly, note that Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might:

Stand is the operative word. We are to “stand firm” (Eph 6:14); to be fully clothed in God’s armour so that we can “take a stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph 6:11), so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Having done all this, to stand (Eph 6:13). The word ‘stand’ means to be resolute, determined, uncompromising and steadfast. But Paul is equally emphatic that we can’t stand in our own strength, only in the mighty power of Jesus who lives in us by his Spirit (Eph 6:10). Elsewhere, Paul prays for the Ephesian believers to be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:14-16). So, the Holy Spirit is our energy source, and there’s no other way to be spiritually strong.

But what exactly does it look like to stand strong as a soldier of Christ?

Spiritual strength for believers is essentially an attitude of courage to trust what you know to be the truth, to boldly live it out and to share your faith in the world.

The Old Testament fleshes out what this looks like in many wonderful stories, which I love reading over and over again (1 Kings 2:2-3Deut 31:232 Sam 10:9-13Ps 27:14). But I think it’s best captured in God’s command to Joshua just before he conquered the Promised Land:

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:5-9).

A believer who stands, doesn’t seek out the easiest path or the safe places, but chooses instead to live out her convictions, found in God’s revealed Word. It is a man who does not live by whim or opinion, like the character William Shofield in the recent film, 1917. But, taking a stand is never an excuse for just being quarrelsome or contentious.

In taking a stand, I have not yet experienced real persecution, but I’ve often known the sneering rejection of unbelievers and the pressure to conform to the world’s way of thinking. Many times, even as a young girl, I knew the precise moment when a line had been drawn in the sand, and come what may, I could no longer be silent and keep my head down. We should not quench those convictions, and it is helpful to know that ultimately our battle is not with people who oppose us, but with unseen spiritual forces that oppose God and everything he stands for.

The danger of complacency

Finally, even when our lives seem peaceful and free of conflict, we dare not be lulled into a false sense of security in the Christian life.

I can’t help thinking of the new generation of Israelites born in Canaan, after Joshua conquered the land. Perhaps the parents failed to teach their children about the Lord, his laws and what he had done for his people. Perhaps the kids just didn’t want to hear stories about the old days (Judges 2:10). But, for whatever reason, this new generation believed that they were safe in the land and no longer needed God. Instead, they bowed down and served the idols of the cultures around them (Judges 2:17). They blended and intermarried with those who didn’t know or love Yahweh. And it wasn’t long before they were defeated by their enemies and in great distress (Judges 2:14-15; Judges 3,4,6). As Wiersbe warns, “those who refuse to fight will fall in the heat of the battle” anyway.

Like the Ephesians, we too have a rich inheritance in Christ, but we have three spiritual enemies – the world, the flesh and Satan. Before we can take a stand, we need to first worship and trust the Lord, putting on the whole armour he has given us. Complacency is the most subtle and deadly of Satan’s schemes: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

In what aspects of your life are you standing on the frontline?

The Spirit’s gift of persistence

Persist in the Spirit

Series: Spirit-filled, by Rosie Moore.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal 2:20-21)

It’s easy to spot an outright lie, but a twisted truth is more difficult to see.

The Galatian Christians had begun their Christian life well, in the power of the Holy Spirit. But now, many were losing sight of the gospel they’d first heard, forgetting that they must grow and persist in the same power of the Holy Spirit. They were struggling to trust completely in what Christ had secured on the cross and in his Spirit’s power to change them.

Just sixteen years after Christ’s death (49AD), many of these Christians were mesmerised by a false gospel that perverted the good news of Christ crucified. This hollow deception was infiltrating the church, leading sincere believers away from their freedom in Christ. In fact, it was driving them back into slavery to ‘works of the law’.

See if you can spot the six straight-shooting questions Paul asks the Galatian Christians to bring them back to the true gospel:

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Gal 3:1-6)

The way they begun

It is good to think back to when our spiritual life begun (Gal 3:3).

For the Galatians, many were probably converted in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, others through Paul’s message. The Galatian believers had begun their Christian life when the Holy Spirit convicted them of the truth of the gospel, leading them to repent and turn in faith to Jesus as Saviour and Lord. They immediately received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-39). As a sign of their cleansing of sin and new life in Christ, they were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Baptism was, and remains, a mark of belonging wholly to Christ.

So for us too, saving faith is the only entrance gate of the Christian life (Gal 3:2). It is not simply faith that believes in God or even tries hard to obey God’s commands. It is putting all our hopes in the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son, the Saviour. We begin our Christian life when we respond to the gospel with faith. There is no other way.

A twisted truth

But, ever so quickly and imperceptibly, the church in Galatia was absorbed in a new brand of Christianity touted by Jewish Christians called Judaizers. The fledgling church was lurching on dangerous ground. Even Peter and Barnabas compromised their beliefs to blend with these insistent Jews and keep the peace (Gal 2:11-14). They stopped eating with Gentile believers.

These radicals wanted to turn Gentile Christians into Jews, adamant that they should follow Jewish laws and customs, especially circumcision. But, what made this cultural ideology so beguiling was its ring of truth and reason: After all, weren’t God’s Old Testament laws good, custom-made for his people to flourish? Wouldn’t it be safer for the gospel if Christians could blend in as Jews and not stand out? (Gal 6:12)

It may not be easy to spot, but the deceiving power behind false teaching is its mask of half-truth.

Notice how Paul pulls back the mask and exposes the weak, miserable, enslaving principles that undergird them (Gal 4:9).

Nancy Guthrie explains why Paul was so intolerant: “The circumcision Abraham was commanded to carry out pointed to a cleansing to come that would not only mark the body but also change the heart. This ritual purification became an experienced reality when Christ provided the cleansing that circumcision pointed to…Christ also experienced in our place the judgmental aspect of this sign. He was cut off from God for us, fulfilling the penalty of the covenant, putting an end to circumcision as the mark of one belonging to God. Rather than being marked as belonging to God by circumcision, we are marked as belonging to God in a new way—through baptism” (Matt 28:19; Gal 3:27-29).

“Through baptism God marks us as belonging to him.” (Nancy Guthrie, The Promised One).

By running the false ideology through the grid of the true gospel, Paul shows that they are taking a step backward, not forward in their faith. It is a simple test that every Christian must apply if we are not to be taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ” (Col 2:8). We cannot afford to be gullible.

A Gospel grid

Paul’s urgent plea is to persist in what we have originally heard. The alternative is to be sidetracked by cultural pressure and man-sourced wisdom. The false dogma didn’t match the simple truth of the gospel, and Paul gives four reasons why:

  1. The deceptive philosophy demanded human effort and rituals, rather than relying on what Christ had done perfectly, taking the curse of sin on our behalf (Gal 3:13; 4:8-11). It reduced Christianity to a set of rules, not grace. And it transformed the Good news of the gospel into burdensome, bad news (Gal 2:20).
  2. It perverted the unity that Christ purchased on the cross for all believers, when he permanently destroyed all human barriers, so there’s “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus…Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27-29). It undermined God’s plan to bring together a people from every nation, tribe, people and language to share equally in Abraham’s blessing (Gal 3:7-9).
  3. The relational fruits of this philosophy were rotten, breeding alienation, division, pride, envy and confusion—one believer devouring another (Gal 1:7; 4:17-20; Gal 5:15).
  4. The rot of hypocrisy was spreading quickly to well-meaning believers (Gal 2:13).

And so, Paul is adamant that nothing should distort the clear and true gospel in the Galatian church.

Likewise, for believers today, perhaps this is a useful grid to use whenever we need to “weigh carefully what is being said”, “to test and hold onto the good” (1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thess 5:21; 1 Tim 4:1). In a culture saturated with beguiling beliefs and false teaching, we must be discerning, as the consequences of being deceived are dire.

Persistence in the Holy Spirit

In a nutshell, we need the Holy Spirit to persist in the Christian life (Gal 3:3-5). Persistence is always more difficult than being sidetracked. I must admit that persistence often seems too simple or too ordinary to me.

But let’s remember that we became Christians through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings us new life, and even our faith to believe is a gift from him. Often the Spirit’s greatest work in Christians is to teach us to persist, to keep doing what is right, to keep believing that God is who he says he is, and will do what he promises to do. Persistence in believing the simple gospel message we first heard.

The reality is that life in a broken creation is hard. We get tired of fighting daily battles and who doesn’t wish for a magic formula to launch us into a better place? But let’s never move beyond the gospel of grace. We have been saved by God’s grace in Christ, and that’s how Christ’s Spirit will continue to mature us and make us more like our Saviour. The Holy Spirit will continue to teach and lead us, to create in us new desires for love, joy, peace and many other good fruit. Only the Holy Spirit can end our bondage to our sinful desires.

So let’s persist in the Holy Spirit, “that the gospel of truth may remain with us” (Gal 2:5)


Lord, fill us with your Spirit and stir us up to see that every day offers up new opportunities to live for you, wherever we are. Save us from hollow and deceptive philosophies that give us many things to do, but draw us away from the true gospel. May we persist in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that Christ’s character is formed in us, day by day. Amen.