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The Whole Armor of God

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

The Whole Armor of God is a metaphor for Christian faith and spirituality, as described by Paul in Ephesians.

The Whole Armor of God is a metaphor for Christian faith and spirituality, as described by Paul in Ephesians.

Armor of God in the Book of Ephesians

Paul wrote the book of Ephesians while he was imprisoned. Ephesians is one of four prison epistles along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. While he was under house arrest, Paul was chained to Roman guards 24 hours a day. He used their armor as a metaphor for fighting spiritual warfare he talked about in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Paul listed several pieces of armor worn by the Roman soldiers of his day and made an analogy about the spiritual armor Christians need to wear to battle effectively. He listed each of the six pieces of armor along with their purpose. These pieces are described in Ephesians in the following order.

  • belt of truth
  • breastplate of righteousness
  • feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace
  • shield of faith
  • helmet of salvation
  • sword of the Spirit which is the word of God

Whole Armor of God

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-20 that we are in a spiritual battle with the devil whose job is to win and destroy us. Paul says we do not fight against flesh and blood. Therefore, we cannot fight him with physical weapons. Paul gives six pieces of armor we need to put on each day to defeat Satan in the battle that he himself caused.

According to what Paul says, it does us no good to put on one or two pieces of the armor. We need to put on the whole armor of God to be suited up to fight and win the war with the devil.

Paul was well acquainted with the Roman soldiers' armor because he was chained to them while he was under house arrest. Therefore, he used the soldier’s armor as an analogy for the spiritual armor of God.

Belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14)

Roman soldiers put on a belt first to hold all the other pieces of armor in place. The soldier was always ready for battle and took off the belt only when he was off duty.

A soldier in Paul's day wore a leather girdle or belt that was tightened around his waist to protect his loins and be there for his weapons. The belt also held his clothes together so they wouldn't interfere with his fighting.

In order to fight the devil, we need to know the truth and wrap it around us like a soldier's belt.


Breastplate of Righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)

After the belt of truth, Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate of a soldier was a single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material which covered the front of the torso and the soldier's vital organs.

Even though the soldier had a shield, arrows could come from every angle. There were too many for the shield. Therefore, the breastplate was protection to keep the fiery darts from getting through. The breastplate protected the vital organs of the soldier during the battle.

The breastplate protected only the torso and not the back. It offered no protection to the soldier's back because soldiers would not turn their backs toward the enemy to run away.

For the Christian, the breastplate is the righteousness that can protect us from Satan's attacks. Without righteousness, we leave ourselves open to Satan’s attacks. To be righteous is to obey God’s commandments.


Shoes of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:15)

During Paul's day, the shoes worn by the Roman soldiers were very different from the sandals worn by others. The shoes were specifically designed to keep the soldier's feet healthy against blisters and foot diseases.

Walking was the foot soldiers' primary means of transportation. They had to walk long distances. The shoes were constructed from three layers of leather, which were pulled up and laced around the ankle. Small spikes were often driven into the soles of the shoes in order to give firm footing on uneven terrain while in battle.

Soldiers marching into battle needed comfortable shoes. Having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace gives us good footing to go where God leads us. As soldiers of Christ, we must put on shoes that will allow us to march wherever we are needed.


Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16)

The warrior’s shield was his first line of defense. Roman soldiers carried a large oval shield made of wood. It was carried using a central handgrip. The shield was not held loosely in the soldier’s hand, but it was firmly strapped to his forearm so he could resist the mighty blows of an enemy’s sword without fear of dropping it.

The shield was a central part of the soldier’s defense. It was typically made from two sheets of wood that were glued together, then covered with canvas and leather. Water was used to douse the canvas and leather to protect the shield from flaming arrows during battle. During that time, arrows were dipped in oil, then lit and shot at the enemy. The shield was vital to protect the soldier from getting burned.

The shield weighed about 22 pounds and was roughly 37 to 42 inches high and 27 to 33 inches across. It was often big enough to protect the whole body when the soldier crouched down. A metal piece ran across the center of the shield, so it could also be used as a weapon to punch the enemy with.

Faith is our shield used to deflect the enemy's fiery darts.


Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)

There are several Bible stories that illustrate the importance of protecting the head while in battle. For instance, King Abimelech approached the door of the tower to set it on fire, but as he came near, a woman dropped a grinding stone on his head and crushed his skull, according to Judges 9:52.

In another story, the giant Goliath was killed because he wasn't wearing a helmet, and the stone from David's sling sunk deep into the giant’s forehead (1 Samuel 17:40-49).

When a Roman soldier during Paul’s day suited up for battle, the helmet was the last piece of the armor he put on. Paul gives the shortest description of the helmet of salvation because it required almost no explanation because the most obvious value of the helmet was to protect against blows to the head and face. Without the helmet, a soldier would be so vulnerable that the rest of the armor would be of little use. Without salvation, a person is also vulnerable.


Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)

The first five pieces of the Christian armor are defensive pieces. The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in the armor Paul mentions even though a soldier's arsenal included a few spears and some darts.

The sword used by Roman soldiers was a fearsome weapon. It was sharpened on both sides, making it lethal against an unarmored foe. The point was also sharpened, enabling it to pierce armor.

When we are tempted, the most effective weapon that we have is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Prayer (Ephesians 6:18)

Although prayer is not one of the pieces of the whole armor of God, Paul closes his list by saying, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

Even after you have put on the whole armor of God, you still need to pray. Prayer brings and keeps you in communion with God so that the armor can protect you as long as you are wearing it. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. That includes when you are wearing your armor as well.



piia rautio on April 10, 2020:

Hello. I wish you Holy Easter holidays. I have a request for you, beloved sister in Christ: Could you expand your work into tv? I pray everything works out in your life. Hoping to hear from you soon, via internet. I keep this address in mind. (Calender).

God bless you, and your Holy family in Christ.

With warm regards

Piia Rautio

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on January 03, 2018:

Thanks, Martha, for your comment. I am glad you are enjoying and learning from my writings.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on January 02, 2018:

Thanks, Tim. I had been meaning to write that article for a while. I finally got around to it on New Year's Day. It is a good reminder for each day of the year.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on January 01, 2018:

Thank you for this beautiful reminder of our protection as Christians. When I think of these passages, I can't help but smile when I think of prayer. Prayer to me is the mighty armored vehicle that brings in the infantry when the battle gets to rough. Thanks alot.