What is God’s full armor, according to Ephesians?

Q. What is God’s full armor, according to Ephesians?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the “full armor of God” as follows.

The “belt of truth.” In biblical times, soldiers would gather up their robes and fasten them with a belt so that they could move freely in battle. So we can think of speaking the truth and proclaiming the true message of God as something that allows us to work unencumbered for God, without having to think about whether we are “sticking to the story” that we have made up and without having to defend positions that have no grounds in the word of God. One translation says, “Let the truth be like a belt around your waist.”

The “breastplate of righteousness.” The breastplate was the piece of armor that protected a soldier’s chest and abdomen and the vital organs inside. One translation says, “On your chest wear the protection of right living.” The best protection against accusations of doing wrong is to have done right! Don’t give the opponents of God’s work any grounds to thwart that work based on your conduct.

“Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” This is a reference to footwear that would allow a soldier “to face the enemy with firm-footed stability,” as one translation puts it. The “gospel of peace” is the good news that God wants peace with people, based on the reconciliation that Jesus achieved on the cross, and that God wants people to be at peace with each other on that same basis. Someone who ultimately wants peace and has good intentions can deal with conflict with a confident assurance that a hostile and hateful person cannot experience.

“The shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Soldiers would carry shields to fend off sword blows and attacks from flying weapons such as spears and arrows. As Paul observes, sometimes arrows were even set on fire before being shot at soldiers. This is a reference to the way the attacks of the devil, the evil one, have a special sting or burn to them, because the devil tries to make us believe wrong things about the character of God. But if we respond in faith, that is, implicit trust in who God is and what God wants, then those flames are extinguished.

“The helmet of salvation.” Soldiers wore helmets to protect their heads, perhaps the most vital part of their bodies. They certainly could not fight if they could not see or hear or think. The word “salvation” can be understood in the sense of “deliverance,” meaning that we must ultimately count on God to deliver us, and when we do, we will see his power working to do that. But “salvation” could also be understood in the sense of being saved from sin and being forgiven by God. One translation says, “The covering for your head is that you have been saved from the punishment of sin.”

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This means the Bible. It has often been noted that this is the only offensive piece of the “full armor of God.” All the others are defensive. They protect us so that we can carry on our mission of advancing God’s purposes in the world. And we see here that we advance those purposes by knowing and applying God’s word to our situations and by proclaiming its truth and promises to those who need to hear its good news.

I hope this answers your question and gives you a better idea of what the “full armor of God” is. So now, as Paul says at the beginning of the passage in which he describes it, “Put on the full armor of God.”

Should Christians pray the psalms that are prayers for the destruction of enemies?

Q. Should Christians pray the imprecatory psalms?

Let me say first that I think “praying the psalms” (that is, making the psalms in the Bible our own prayers) is a good practice. However, people who do this are often uncomfortable praying the so-called imprecatory psalms, in which the psalmists ask God to destroy their enemies.

I devote an entire lesson to the imprecatory psalms in my study guide to the Psalms. It is Lesson 10, on pages 59–63. You can read the study guide online or down load it at this link. I hope the lesson will give you a perspective on the imprecatory psalms that will help you decide whether to include them in your devotional practice of “praying the psalms.”

Did Jesus say that Christians needed to keep the law?

Q. How should we understand this statement of Jesus: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”? How would you respond to someone who claimed that this statement meant that Christians were required keep the Mosaic Law (including circumcision, the Sabbath, dietary laws, etc.)?

I would respond, respectfully I hope, to someone who made that claim by saying that I believed they were taking the statement out of context and thus interpreting it to mean something other than it actually meant.

Jesus came teaching an inward righteousness that was based on becoming inwardly disposed to doing what God wants. Some people misunderstood him to be saying that it therefore didn’t matter what they did on the outside. So Jesus clarified his teaching. In the same passage where the statement you quote is found, he also said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

What he meant was that if a person really were motivated by an inward desire to please God, then they would actually exceed the standards specified in the law. He goes on to give examples. Such a person would not only refrain from murder, they would not hate. They would not only refrain from adultery, they would not lust. And so forth. So the main point Jesus is making in the statement you quote is that the commandments in the law pointed how people could live with one another in the way that God intended, and that he had come not to set aside those commandments and the course they set, but to help people live in that way even more authentically.

We should also observe that Jesus was speaking to his fellow Jews when he made that statement. The Jews were required to observe certain insignia (such as the ones you list, the Sabbath, the dietary laws, etc.) to show that they belonged to the people of God. When the people of God expanded, through the work of Jesus, to include non-Jews, the question arose as to whether they had to keep the law. Large parts of the New Testament are devoted to this question, and the answer is a very clear “no.” So once again, anyone who claims that this one statement by Jesus means that all Christians must obey the specific requirements of the Jewish law is taking the statement out of context and failing to appreciate its meaning within the overall message of the New Testament.

I discuss this question in greater detail in a three-part series of posts that deals specifically with the case of Sabbath observance. That series begins here:

Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? (Part 1)

Why do Judaism and Christianity not have a proper name for God?

Q. Why do currently active religions like Judaism and Christianity not give a specific name for, but refer to descriptions of God generically? Current Islam seems to have assigned the name of Allah. Current Hindu gods have names. Expired religions seem always to have used names for gods and god-men.

Because Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic, in general they do not use a proper name for God, since God does not need to be distinguished by name from other divine beings, which these religions do not believe to exist.

However, there actually is a proper name for God in the Hebrew Bible. When God sent Moses to Egypt to deliver the ancient Israelites from slavery there, Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God gave a very interesting answer to this question, saying in Hebrew, ‘ehyeh asher ‘ehyeh, or “I am who I am,” and then telling Moses to say to the Israelites: “‘Ehyeh has sent me to you.”

This may not actually have been the disclosure of a proper name at all, but the claim to be the only God who truly existed, i.e. “I am who I am, and all those other so-called gods are not.” But Moses took the phrase “I am,” expressed in the third person as “he is,” since Moses was speaking about God rather than as God, and used it as a proper name for God, Yahweh. This usage is found throughout the books of Moses or Pentateuch, as well as the rest of the Hebrew Bible, so that this name actually occurs thousands of times there.

However, in order not to violate one of the Ten Commandments, the one that said not to take this name in vain, Jews completely avoided saying it out loud. When reading aloud from the Scriptures, they would substitute the expression Adonai, “the Lord.” When vowel points were added to the consonants in the written text of the Hebrew Bible, the vowels for Adonai were put with the letters YHWH, and when the Scriptures were translated into other languages, the expression “the Lord” was used in place of the proper name. Greek translations of the Bible used the term kurios or “Lord,” and this usage is reflected in the New Testament. That is, when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, it says “the Lord” where the Old Testament says Yahweh. As a rule, English Bibles follow this same practice. They say “the Lord” wherever the name Yahweh appears, although many of them put the word “Lord” in small caps to show that it represents the name..

That is how we get the impression that Judaism and Christianity do not have a proper name for God. They do. It is actually found throughout their Scriptures. But they tend not to use it, both as an affirmation of monotheism and as a way of showing respect for the name of God.

Ancient religions, by contrast, did tend to use proper names for specific gods because they felt they had to distinguish them from other divine beings. The same would apply to Hinduism, which is a polytheistic religion. Islam, for its part, is monotheistic, but I think you are correct that the name for God in Islam, Allah, should be understood as a proper name. It actually means “the God” in Arabic, but it is treated as a name. However, I do not think that this takes anything away from the strong commitment to monotheism within Islam. After all, the basic statement of faith, the first of the five pillars of Islam, is, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” So while I am not an expert on Islam, I do believe that Muslims would say that the one true God has self-revealed to humans under this name.

When did Zipporah convert to Judaism?

Q. When did Zipporah convert to Judaism? I have not been able to find a source that would provide that information.

Zipporah was the wife of Moses. We learn early in the book of Exodus that when Moses fled from Egypt to the land of Midian, he found refuge in the home of a man named Jethro, who was a “priest of Midian.” Moses worked for him, tending his flocks in exchange for his own keep. Moses eventually married one of his daughters, Zipporah.

The Bible does not say specifically that Zipporah embraced faith in the God of Israel when she married Moses, but we do have one slight indication that she probably did so. In a passage that is admittedly strange and difficult to understand, in order to keep God from being angry with Moses, Zipporah circumcised their son Gershom. So somehow she knew that God expected this of his covenant people, and she was prepared to do it.

That is all we really have to go on. There are some things that the Bible does not tell us as much as we would like to know about. But I think we do have enough to go on to conclude that Zipporah did come to share Moses’ faith in the God of Israel.

Why did God hate Esau even before he was born?

Q. Why did God hate Esau even before he was born?

In response to your question, please see this post:

When did Esau “break off the yoke” of Jacob?

In that post I note specifically that while in Romans “Paul quotes the statement from Malachi, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,’ we need to appreciate that the Hebrew language uses the term ‘hated’ in contexts like this to refer to a son or wife who is not favored, by contrast with one who is favored. The meaning is, ‘I favored Jacob, but I did not favor Esau.'” Malachi’s statement, and Paul’s quotation of it, reflect this usage. So God did not actually “hate” Esau. Rather, he chose Jacob instead to continue the covenant line.

Does God already know who will choose to believe?

Q. God is omniscient, doesn’t that mean he already knows those who will go to heaven eventually and those who wouldn’t? I know we all have freewill. But doesn’t God know already if I’m going to use my freewill or if I’m going to do His will?

In response to your question, please see these posts:

Why does God make people He knows are going to reject Him?

Doesn’t the Bible teach election based on God’s foreknowledge?

Why does Jesus quote only from Deuteronomy in response to the devil’s temptations?

Q. After the 40 days of fasting, Jesus is tempted. In His response to Satan, why does Jesus quote from Deuteronomy and not another book and why are all three responses from just the one? Is there more here that I’m not getting?

This is an excellent and very perceptive question. When Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Most interpreters take this to be an announcement that Jesus was the Messiah, and they understand this to be the moment when what had been a growing realization crystallized for Jesus that he was the Messiah. He immediately went alone into the wilderness to understand what the implications of this were.

In the temptations, the devil was basically saying to Jesus, “So, I hear you’re the Messiah. That’s great. Have you thought about what kind of Messiah you’re going to be?” (“If you are the Son of God …”) The temptations were to see his primary role as that of meeting the physical needs of people; to do dazzling daredevil feats that would win admiration and an audience; or to try to achieve his purposes by obtaining political and military power. Interestingly, later on Jesus actually did feed people miraculously, and on many occasions he was delivered spectacularly from dangers, although he definitively rejected pursuing political and military power.

But on this occasion, it would have been wrong to do any of those things as primary to his Messianic vocation, particularly at the suggestion of the devil that this was the kind of Messiah he should be. And just as interestingly, Jesus rejects all of these temptations on the basis that they would involve doing something that would be wrong for anyone to do—seeing life as consisting primarily of meeting physical needs and desires; putting God to the test; worshiping anyone but God. In each case, Jesus cites scriptures to show that this would be wrong.

It makes sense to me that all of these scriptures would come from the Torah or law of Moses, because that is where the normative principles for godly conduct are stated directly in the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, while Jesus spoke a few times of “Moses and the prophets,” and once of “Moses and the prophets and the Psalms” (“Psalms” likely meaning the final section of the Hebrew Bible, the “Writings”), in general he spoke and taught about “the law” or “what Moses wrote” or “the law of Moses.” Principles for godly conduct can be inferred from the narratives, songs, etc. in other parts of the Bible, but they are laid out directly in the law of Moses.

That said, is there a reason why Jesus would have quoted all of these principles specifically from the book of Deuteronomy, rather than from some other book of the Torah? We could say that it was simply a coincidence that they were all found there. But perhaps, as you say, there is something more going on here.

Deuteronomy is a single long discourse by Moses. In the gospel of Matthew, the temptations are followed by the Sermon on the Mount, a single long discourse by Jesus, in which he explains the deepest meanings and applications of the law. In Luke, the equivalent Sermon on the Plain comes not long after the temptations. So perhaps we are to understand what Jesus does in those discourses as an echo of Deuteronomy.

Matthew in particular portrays Jesus as a “new Moses” in many ways in his gospel, that is, as someone who will be a teacher and giver of a law that brings freedom. We may actually see Jesus entering into his vocation as this “new Moses” in the temptations themselves, as he articulates the meaning and application of “what Moses wrote” for the situations that the devil is describing. This would be a delightful irony. In the process of trying to get Jesus to be the wrong kind of Messiah, the devil provides the occasion for Jesus to step into his vocation as the right kind of Messiah. As that happens, the farewell speech of the first Moses provides the inaugural content for the new Moses.

Why did Naomi tell Ruth to anoint herself?

Q. Why did Naomi tell Ruth to anoint herself?

As I explain in my study guide to Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, at the point in the book of Ruth that you’re asking about, Naomi was giving Ruth instructions that would signal to Boaz that the mourning period for Ruth’s late husband was now over and so Ruth was available for him to marry.

Naomi literally says “put your clothing upon you,” but by this she clearly means “your best clothing.” In other words, Ruth is to lay aside the widow’s garments she has been wearing, and instead put on something designed to be beautiful and attractive. Naomi also tells her to “anoint” herself. This means to put olive oil on her hair and head. This is still done in many similar climates and cultures to refresh the hair and skin. Some interpreters speculate that this could have been perfumed olive oil. If so, that would have been a further signal that Ruth was eligible for marriage.

You can read my study guide online or download it from this link. For a longer discussion of the meeting between Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor, see the series of posts that begins here.

Why did the soldiers who crucified Jesus go beyond Pilate’s order?

Q. Why did the soldiers who crucified Jesus go beyond Pilate’s order?

I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking here.

Perhaps you are noting that Pilate declared Jesus innocent and said he would release him, and so you are wondering why the soldiers crucified Jesus anyway. Pilate said to the people who were accusing Jesus, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” So when we read this, we may be surprised to discover that the soldiers put Jesus to death anyway.

However, before the soldiers took Jesus away to execute him, Pilate actually changed his mind, at the urging of the crowd. The account of Jesus’ trial continues and it says: “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.” So the soldiers actually did not go beyond Pilate’s order to punish Jesus when they crucified him. Pilate changed his order and told them to crucify him.

Or perhaps you are asking why the soldiers, in addition to actually executing Jesus, mocked him and insulted him and perhaps taunted him by offering him something to drink in his great thirst but then not giving it to him. These things, unfortunately, were actually a regular part of crucifixion, whose purpose was not just to execute a condemned person, but to humiliate them and make them suffer as much as possible. The soldiers who mocked, insulted, and taunted Jesus were doing what Roman soldiers did to every person they crucified.

What is amazing is that Jesus knew he would be treated that way, in addition to the great physical suffering of crucifixion, and yet he still said to God beforehand, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Hallelujah, what a Savior!