Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ephesians 6:10-20 The Full Armor of God

Our Life Group study of Paul's epistle to the church in Ephesus is drawing to a close. This Sunday we dive into Ephesians 6:10-20. This is one of the most famous and best known passages of scripture: the armor of God. Often the subject of sermons and books, this is loved by all who study their Bible, especially those who dig in with it. I'm going to discuss this over a couple of Sundays.

Just reading this brings back memories. I remember a pastor telling us—not in a sermon—of how when he went to a certain church to interview and do a trial sermon, they had one of the laymen do a scripture reading first. This passage was the one he read. This layman's strong Texas accent sounded funny to the pastor candidate when the man read verse 16: "...with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Except, in that man's version, it was "the fiery darts of the wicked." The way he said "fiery darts" sounded so funny to this pastor candidate that he burst out laughing, figuring the man was reading it in a funny way for emphasis. He wasn't. That was his normal speech. However, all was forgiven, the pastor was called to that church (before ours) and had a fruitful ministry there.

Then, in the Bible I have at work, I have a couple of notes written in on this chapter. This Bible is a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, New International Version. We bought it in 1980, or at least Lynda did. I believe she got it as a present for me. When I left for Saudi Arabia in June 1981, this is the Bible I took with me. I don't remember if it was in my carry on luggage or checked bags. We were concerned, of course, that it would be confiscated in customs. It wasn't, however, and this was the Bible I used those years in Saudi. It was also the one I took to Kuwait and used there.

The notes are from the Kuwait year, simply the name "Tom Hamblin" followed by "helmet, breastplate, belt, feet, shield, sword, prayer" in a column. This brought back the memories of the exact sermon. It was a Friday, the Moslem weekend worship day. Tom was a guest speaker at the English Language Congregation of the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait. He was quite a character, but a great speaker, very animated but clear in his speech. And a very bold preacher. I remember that, in his week in Kuwait, he actually went out on street corners and stopped Kuwaitis one on one and witnessed to them. He would have been thrown in jail in Saudi Arabia, theoretically in Kuwait too, but since he was a short-term visitor there it was tolerated. Whatever good he did for the Kingdom will not be known this side of the great divide.

Concerning the armor of God, Hamblin stressed we should use the full armor, not pick and choose some part of it. He spent a lot of time on "the belt of truth buckled around your waist," expanding this into what he called "the citadel of the loins," i.e. sexual purity. You know, now that I think about this, I believe this wasn't on Friday. It was a Thursday morning (also a weekend day in Kuwait), and this was at a men's prayer breakfast and class. Tom was telling us how it's not enough to take up the sword of the spirit. The belt might actually include other protective parts such as an athlete would wear. He urged us to keep ourselves pure for our wives. It was an effective sermon.

Interesting how some things stick with you, way down deep in the memories, needing just a little reminder to come to the surface. I remember reading that Jim Elliot, one of the missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in Peru, refused to ever make a note in his Bible so that it would be fresh and new to him each time he read it, rather than reading it and dwelling on past readings made special by notes or underlining. I can see the logic in that. However, the recollection this note brought to me is priceless, and will give me things to think about for quite some time. Eventually, perhaps some other memories of that day and that sermon will come to mind, as well as of our Kuwait years. But for now, it's sufficient to think about the "citadel of the loins" as a valid presentation of one part of the armor of God.

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