Six Things You Should Always Have on You If You're Married
Have you taken time to notice how the passage on the armor of God actually begins? I hadn't, until recently. It starts with the phrase, "And finally," which is a HUGE RED FLAG that everything that's about to follow relates intimately to everything that just preceded. I also hadn't really taken time (again, until recently) to notice what precedes Ephesians 6. Well, obviously, it's Ephesians 5 - arguably the most famous passage directly related to marriages in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul is saying to the church in Ephesus: "Here's how to be married. And if you're gonna try to be married well, here are some things you'll need to be wearing." Those two passages are inexorably linked.
Which isn't to say that the armor of God only applies to married people. Paul goes on to talk about how parents and children should conduct themselves, as well as employers and employees (or masters and slaves, in Ancient Near Eastern language). Basically, if you have parents, love someone, or have a job, you should be wearing the armor of God - and that about covers all of us.
It's also important to note that being a believer and follower of Christ doesn't guarantee that you're wearing the armor. Paul writes Ephesians to the church in Ephesus - to believers. And he tells them to endyo, in Ancient Greek - to sink into. Paul wants us both to intentionally put on the armor and to feel the wonderfully perfect fit. Like that perfect winter sweater or those jeans that are the exact right size, there's a sense that we belong in the armor. With that in mind, here are six things you should always have on you if you're married (or a parent/child/employer/employee).
The Helmet of Salvation
The helmet of salvation is an interesting proposition. Wearing the helmet of salvation doesn't save you - only those already saved can put it on the first place. But it's a representation of what the act of salvation offers to your head, or, more specifically, your mind. Romans 12:2a tells us, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 8:6 says, "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." The mind is the battlefield of our souls, and salvation is God reaching down into our lives to provide us with lines of defense. It's not until we are saved that the Spirit can truly begin to renew and govern our minds. It's His presence in our minds and control of them that are our first line of defense in the battle against our enemy. Salvation protects our minds.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Our righteousness is not our own. We are marked as members of Christ's family, children of the father, by our faith in Christ and his righteousness - his perfect, sinless life, obedient, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection. The breastplate of righteousness covers us in the sacrificial blood of Jesus. It marks us with His family crest and protects us from the accusations and condemnations of our enemy. It clearly announces to whose army we belong. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price," Romans 3:21-22, "But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe," and Philippians 3:9, "...not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."
The Boots of the Readiness that Comes from the Gospel of Peace
So, having our minds protected and our bodies marked with the righteousness of Christ, married members - partners, really - in his army, what then? Well, now it's time to be prepared. God's gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ came to offer peace and reconciliation to a world at war with God, is living, active, and on the move. We are its bearers, made in the Great Commission, turned into messengers of peace. Your spouse is your primary partner in this effort. Sometimes people will say, "your spouse is your first ministry," and what they usually mean is that the most important person in your life you're meant to love and sacrifice for is your spouse - which is true! But it's also incomplete. The reason your spouse is the person you're meant to love most and sacrifice for most often is because the quality of your ministry to your spouse directly impacts the quality of your ministry to everyone else - because your marriage is the gospel. Often our spouses are our last thoughts. After spending all day at work, coming home and dealing with household chores or the kids or whatever else, maybe, at the tale end of the day, we'll have a little time and energy to invest in our spouse. But Scripture calls us to be ready, alert, and prepared to walk the path that God lays before us daily. And that path begins, ends, and includes throughout the day ministry to our spouses.
The Shield of Faith
In verse 16 of Ephesians 6, Paul tells us what the shield of faith is for. We take it up, he says, because with it "you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one," which tells us something very important and that we all too easily forget - SOMEONE IS SHOOTING AT US. We have an enemy out there who hates our marriages, and who desires nothing short of our destruction for trying to be married in a way that honors God. If you're married, you're under attack. Period. From the flesh, from this fallen world, and from the devil and his demons. Under our own power, we will not be able to stand up to this attack. It's just too much and our enemies are too crafty. Luckily, we stand behind a massive shield, our faith in a savior who is infinitely good, infinitely powerful, infinitely loving, and infinitely victorious. In His power, we can withstand and even extinguish the attacks of evil against our marriages.
The Sword of The Spirit
Ephesians 6 tells us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and there's a particular passage of Scripture that shows us what it looks like in action. Matthew 4:1-11 tells the story of Jesus' temptation by the devil. In this passage, the devil appears to Jesus and tempts him three times, and each time, Jesus does not answer with arguments or pleas or even instructions (until the final temptation when he commands the devil to leave him alone). But Jesus does answer with Scripture. He quotes three verses from Deuteronomy as His answers to the devil's schemes. If we are to go to bat for our spouses and our marriages against an aggressive, deceitful, tempting adversary, we must be armed with the Word of God. It is our best and only effective offensive weapon in this fight.
The Belt of Truth
Our enemy is deceitful by nature. Lies are his native language. If we are to withstand and combat his attacks, if we are to defend our marriages, our ministries, and to take back this earthly ground that God has seen fit to give the enemy temporary control over, we will have to be rooted firmly in the truth. I think this is why truth is a belt - maybe even a series of belts. It's the piece that holds all the armor together. It's the truth of what is good that God speaks to our mind through the helmet of salvation. It's the truth of who we are in Christ that God pronounces over us with the breastplate of righteousness, that protects us from the false condemnation of the devil. It's the truth of His will for our lives that God lays before our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. It's the truth of who God is and what He's done for us that goes before us in the shield of faith. And it's the truth of what God says that we wield as a holy, fiery sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. If we hope to be good at being married, the truth must hold our marriages together.