Love and the Whole Armor of God
This article deals with Christian concepts yet may appeal to a seeker after truth because for all such a seeker knows, he or she may learn a thing or two from discussion of the Christian concept in question.
Personally, in all of my readings of posts by Buddhists thus far, Buddhist theology incorporates many teachings that remind me of Christian concepts. While particularities differ, the belief we can assimilate into Godlikeness — become one in essence with God — is a very Christian belief. Whenever I come across such similitude in my readings, I find reinforcement for my beliefs because concepts that have lasting value tend to multiply across different platforms. Android phones have come into being but differ from iPhones because the iPhone represents lasting value or innovation. Android phones are not exactly like iPhones, do not perform exactly like iPhones, but are designed to achieve similar objectives.
Concepts that have lasting value tend to multiply across different platforms.
Do not get me wrong, I do not believe all paths lead to exactly the same practical revelation of God.
By ‘practical’ I mean the ethos with which we live each moment, each day of life.
When we walk paths that are similar, the likelihood that we arrive at practical revelations of God that are similar experiences some sort of exponential increase. We all may be seeking God in one form or another, rationality demands different paths cannot induce exactly the same practical revelation of God.
Since spirituality that lacks any practicality is useless, differences in practicality are the distinguishing features of paths to God.
If all we have in our pursuit of God is our senses, with God totally non-revelational, any concepts of God are products of our minds only. While the notion of God revealing Himself can be abused, if God exists and endowed us with thinking faculties, He has prepared us with capacity to reason out claims of revelations of God.
Spirituality that is not rooted in some reasoning or evidence prior to transition to faith can be likened to a tree devoid of roots — a simile for what can only be characterized as figment of imagination.
Christianity is man’s pursuit of God conditioned on revelations of Himself within course of history of Forefathers of Jews, Jews, Jesus Christ, Jesus’ Apostles, and all subsequent history, all of which span about 4,000 years at the very least.
The Whole Armor of God
Armor protects in battle and enables a warrior attack the enemy because face it, attack always is the best form of defense. No army ever won a war simply by defending itself against an aggressor; that is via refusal to inflict a mortal wound.
In Ephesians Chapter 6, the Whole Armor of God consists of:
Breastplate of Righteousness
Preparation of the Gospel of Peace
Shield of Faith
Helmet of Salvation
Belt of Truth
Sword of the Spirit
The Breastplate of Righteousness declares “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” because “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21, NIV). We make these declarations by faith in what God has done for us in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is righteousness by faith, with faith grounded in person and works of Jesus Christ. We see then that faith is integral to putting on of Breastplate of Righteousness.
Without faith the Breastplate of Righteousness does not afford any meaningful protection.
The Preparation of the Gospel of Peace is the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they are endued with power — preparation — from on high (Luke 24:48–49). Romans 5:2 makes clear the only reason our hope in Christ cannot fail is because God has poured His love into our hearts via the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us. But we receive the Holy Spirit by faith because the Holy Spirit is given by promise (Galatians 3:14). We see here again that faith is integral to having preparation of the gospel of peace.
Without faith, there is no Holy Spirit or preparation of the gospel of peace.
The Helmet of Salvation is the confidence that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). It is the confidence that we are not created for wrath but for good works and salvation (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:9–10). It is the confidence that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and sojourners on this earth. Clearly, it is impossible to have on the Helmet of Salvation without faith in person and works of Jesus Christ.
Without faith, a head shot continues to be mortal because the Helmet of Salvation does not afford any meaningful protection.
The Belt of Truth declares we believe God’s revelation of Himself as recorded in the Bible to be truth. Given we were not present at timing of all of the recorded revelations or events, clearly there is no way to have on the belt of truth without faith in validity or truthfulness of the record of who God declares Himself to be in the Bible.
Without faith, there is no Belt of Truth.
The Sword of the Spirit is the word of God, which must be received by faith. In Hebrews Chapter 4, words spoken to the children of Israel did not profit them because the words did not meet with faith in their hearts. So when the word of God declares “He that is born of God cannot sin” in 1John 5:18 and we doubt this declaration of the Holy Spirit, this saying or promise no longer is available to us for use in the good fight of the faith. Absent faith then we see it is impossible to operate in the promises of God, as such impossible to wield the Sword of the Spirit.
Absent faith, there is no power in the Sword of the Spirit
Why then the Shield of Faith?
If we need faith for all of the other components of the Whole Armor of God, of what use is the Shield of Faith in addition to, or of what use are all of the other components of the armor?
First, armor designed such that loss of one component implies loss of the other makes no sense. If a soldier loses all ten of his weapons the moment he loses one, he or she is better off having only one weapon.
Second, we know for a fact a soldier does not lose his breastplate or helmet or shield, or protections for his lower leg simply because he is dispossessed of his shield. When the shield is lost, all of the other components of a soldier’s armor continue to protect. If the Holy Spirit through Paul uses imagery of armor, usage of the imagery cannot run contradictory to the evidence, meaning loss of a shield in battle cannot automatically imply loss of Breastplate, Helmet, Sword, Tunic Belt, Sandals, or plates for protection of lower legs. We must impose this demand for rationality and consistency on armor imagery in the word of God.
If we have faith, we have all of the other components of the armor. But then what is the point of all of the other components if faith automatically brings them all into play? Within this context, all of the armor is faith, period.
If we do not have faith, we do not have all of the other components of the armor. Again, if we lose all of the other stated protections consequent on loss of faith, armor imagery is unsuitable to depiction of a Christian’s preparation for life.
Imposition of rationality and consistency on the word of God demands the Shield of Faith must have interpretation such that loss of the shield does not automatically imply loss of any other components of the armor.
If we say faith is the confidence that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), loss of faith implies loss of all of the other components of the Armor of God. If we cease to believe faith in God will be rewarded, how can we continue to maintain the helmet of salvation or the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit or the preparation of the gospel of peace, or continue to regard the Bible as source of truth?
If we say faith is evidence of things hoped for, substance of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1–2), loss of faith again implies loss of all of the other components of the armor of God.
Blessed be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is a rationalizing answer
In a key verse (Galatians 5:6), the Holy Spirit declares through the Apostle Paul as follows:
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
In this verse, which is consistent with all of the writings in the New Testament Scriptures, the Holy Spirit declares faith is evident in love. This perhaps is what the Apostle James meant when inspired by the Holy Spirit he wrote in James 2:18–19:
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
If our works our acts of love, the love demonstrated is evidence of our faith. We see then that it is impossible to declare faith merely as some abstract declaration.
The imagery of the armor distinguishes between our abstract beliefs, and evidence of our beliefs. The helmet, breastplate, belt, sword, and protections for the feet or lower leg all are abstract faith in our minds. The Shield of Faith, which is our works of love, is evidence abstract faith we claim to have possesses practical reality in our lives. The God of the Bible, Jehovah Father of Jesus Christ declares His version of spirituality eminently is practical.
The Shield of Faith is Works of Love, evidence abstract faith we claim to have possesses any practical reality in our lives.
If the Shield of Faith is our works of love, the ‘Whole Armor of God’ imagery begins to make sense. That is, in the event an evil day arrives and our love breaks down — because we are overwhelmed by the attack and make mistakes or repay evil for evil — maintenance of faith in what Jesus has done continues to protect us against the darts of the devil. When our love evidence breaks down, we are to take refuge in the assurance of our salvation, in the fact that we are covered by righteousness of Jesus Christ, in our knowledge of truth, in comfort of the Holy Spirit, and reassurance of the word of God until we receive strength for overcoming, strength that enables us return to and maintain our love walk.
The word of God states in Colossians 2:6–7:
As therefore you received the Lord Jesus so walk in Him, rooted and grounded in the faith.
How did we receive the Lord Jesus? By confession of our sinful state, repentance from our sinful state, acceptance of His grace, request for and acceptance by faith of power to conform to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the devil’s darts get past our Shield of Faith, we walk as we received. We confess we have fallen short of the standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, we repent, we accept the grace of God for our sinfulness and weakness, believe we are forgiven, rise up making sure never to allow the devil keep us in feelings of condemnation, request and accept by faith power to make up for our shortcomings so we can rise up to the stature of the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:14–21).
The faith we have in the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not some abstract concept. It is faith that finds expression in acts of love.
If we have love, we have faith. If we do not have love, no matter how many cars, houses, or riches we claim to have received by faith, the faith we have is not the faith spoken of in the Bible, the Christian Scriptures.
Speaking through the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit declares in 1Corinthians 13:1–5 that “without love a Christian is nothing.” Regardless of function in the body of Jesus Christ, if all a Christian can attribute to faith is cars, houses, or riches, he or she is nothing, as such does not have any meaningful revelational knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The faith that revolves only around the things of this earth — cars, houses, riches etc. — is a corrupted faith, a perversion of Christian faith.
God expects and promises we will prosper in the things of this earth if we focus on expressions of faith through love. Prosperity is part of the reign of God. We prosper as God continuously provides us with wisdom we need for attainment of progress and stability in our lives.
But if the only prosperity we have is of the things of this world, such that we do not have evidence of the love of God in our lives, the faith we have is not faith that comes through the Holy Spirit. It is an earthly, demonic perversion of true faith in Jesus Christ. The promise in regard of prosperity can be found in Matthew 6:33, in which Jesus declares:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
A Christian who has true faith flourishes in love even as he or she flourishes in the things of this world.
True Christian faith is expressed through love. Love is the only genuine evidence of Christian faith.
What then is Love (1Corinthians 13:4–6, NIV)? Note words in brackets mine
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking (will not hurt others deliberately in pursuit of self advancement), it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (does not relate in the present on basis of the past because the past is forgiven; relates, however, on basis of the present and expectations about the future meaning forgiveness need not imply relationship when the other party continues to want nothing to do with a Christian). Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.