Crews installing cables recently at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, found a “magic shoe” inside a wall. Placed there perhaps 300 years ago, its purpose was to “protect” college administrators from evil spirits. In addition to shoes, dead cats and horse’s skulls were sometimes put into walls in order to prevent evil spirits from entering the room.
Such notions are superstitions based on fear. The armor of God, however, is based on God’s truth and God’s power. With it, we can stand our ground against spiritual attacks (v. 13). The idea behind the metaphor is intense, hand-to-hand combat.
Paul listed six pieces of armor that must be put on. First, there is the belt of truth (v. 14). Just as a belt holds everything together, so spiritual warfare is hopeless without a firm grasp on truth. Second, there is the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate protected the heart, the source of life. God Himself is pictured as wearing this when doing battle (see Isa. 59:17). Third, there are “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (v. 15). The gospel provides a firm place for us to stand and is the only “pair of shoes” we should ever wear in spiritual warfare.
Fourth, there is the shield of faith (v. 16). Paul was no doubt thinking of the leather shields of the Romans, which they soaked in water before battle so they would act as fire extinguishers. In the same way, the shield of faith helps us resist Satan’s “flaming arrows.” Fifth, there is the helmet of salvation (v. 17). Sixth and finally, there is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (see Heb. 4:12). Notice that this is the only offensive weapon on the list.
Some people read this passage every morning before getting out of bed in order to “get dressed” for the day. Look online for a picture of the armor worn by Roman soldiers, which Paul likely had in mind when he created the metaphor of the “full armor of God.” As you do, focus on Paul’s instruction to be prepared for spiritual battle.