A sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-20
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
August 22, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and
having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13

What I am about to read to you is the opening paragraph of a book that is universally regarded
as an important work of English literature. And it is a book that is widely acknowledged to be a spiritual
classic as well. It goes like this:
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted upon a certain place, where was a den; and I
laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed and behold I saw a man
clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a
great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he
wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he broke out with a lamentable cry; saying,
“What shall I do?”…1
Those are the opening words of a book that you may have encountered in school. It’s The
Pilgrim’s Progress. Pilgrim’s Progress was written by a 17th Century English Baptist pastor named John
Bunyan. (As far as I can tell, it is the only classic of English literature to be written by a Baptist.) It is a
book that has been described as “a work that is rich, inventive and profoundly challenging.” Its effect on
the English-speaking world was both deep and immediate. In fact, it has been said that, alongside The
Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress was the book most likely to be found in homes throughout Colonial America. If
you have never read it, or if it has been a long time since you read it, I would recommend it to you. It
offers a lot of food for thought. Many consider it to be a spiritual classic for a reason…
As you may remember, Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory about the Christian life. It tells the story
of a man named Pilgrim who, after meeting a man named Evangelist, becomes known by a new name.
That new name is Christian. This man named Christian decides to leave his home and his family behind
in the City of Destruction, so that he can travel on the Holy Way. His destination is the Celestial City, also
known as the city of God. Along the way, Christian has encounters with various people, including such
characters as “Mr. Worldly-wise” and another man named “Mr. Vain-Confidence.” Both of whom
attempt to lead Christian off of the Holy Way. But in spite of their efforts to sidetrack him, Christian
resolutely presses on…

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Ed. Roger Sharrock. (London: The Penguin Group, Ltd., 1987), 51.
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Not everyone he meets is opposed to his journey, though. Christian also makes some friends
who are beneficial to him as he travels. Some of those friends include a man named “Faithful” and
another one named “Hopeful.” They offer him encouragement on his journey and serve as examples to
him. While travelling on the Holy Path, Christian’s journey takes him over the “Hill of Difficulty,” on a
detour through the “Vanity Fair” and, for a while, he is captured and imprisoned in “Doubting Castle” by
a fearsome giant whose name is “Despair.” But eventually at the end of the story, he overcomes all of
these temptations and struggles and makes his way across the Dark River. There, he enters into the
Celestial City at last.
One of the places that Christian visits fairly early in Pilgrim’s Progress is a place called “Palace
Beautiful.” When he arrives, he is greeted by four young women who are named Discretion, Prudence,
Piety, and Charity. Christian eats supper with them and their family and spends the night in a bedroom
called “Peace.” He stays at the palace for a few days to refresh himself before he resumes his journey.
But while he is there at the “Palace Beautiful,” the four young women give Christian a tour of the palace.
One of the rooms they visit is known as “The Armory.” When they enter the room, Christian is
impressed by that display of “all manner of [furnishings], which their Lord had provided for pilgrims,
such as sword, shield, helmet, breastplate, All-prayer, and shoes that would never wear out. And there
was here enough of this, to harness out as many men for the service of their Lord as there be stars in the
heaven for multitude…”2
Before he left the Palace Beautiful on the next day, Christian returned to the
room and was issued equipment from “The Armory.” When he departed, he was decked out from head
to foot with gear that he had been given—things that he would surely need as he continued on his
Did you notice the list of furnishings that Bunyan listed in the Armory? They were sword, shield,
helmet, breastplate, All-prayer, and shoes. All but one of those things is also mentioned in Ephesians 6
as pieces of the armor of God with which followers of Jesus are to use. Those make up the tools of the
trade for a 1st Century Roman soldier. And by identifying each piece with a grace which God gives his
children, each then is one of the tools of the trade for Christians…
On one level, it all sounds kind of quaint to our 21st Century ears, doesn’t it? The world and the
nature of warfare have changed much since the Apostle wrote Ephesians 6. Warfare has not involved
the use of swords and shields for a very long time. Instead we are in an age of tanks, missiles, unmanned
drones, smart bombs, nuclear weapons, and improvised explosive devices. We fight on computerized
battlefields where combatants may not actually ever come face-to-face. And Paul draws the analogy of
each piece of armor representing a characteristic of the Christian life.
Thought the military equipment that he mentions may be obsolete, the truth of the passage
remains undimmed. As the people of God, we are in a battle. We are engaged in a war that includes
spiritual enemies without and within. In verse 12, Paul tells us that we are engaged in a battle, but that

Bunyan, 99. Original word is “furniture.” Emphasis is mine.
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our enemies are not made of flesh and blood. Instead we are struggling against spiritual forces of evil in
the world.
Many modern writers have tried to discount the idea that there are real forces of evil which
seek to control the world. The skepticism in our world and the rise of science as an almost rival religion
to the Christian faith tends to discount the idea of malevolent supernatural forces. I am sometimes
shocked when I speak to or read things by well-meaning devout Christians who dismiss the idea of
demons and dark spiritual forces…
It is a difficult concept for many modern people—and even many modern day Christians—to
accept. C. S. Lewis wrote that the modern world divides the world into those who are obsessed with
demonic powers and those who mock it as outdated nonsense from a pre-scientific understanding of
how the world is. Lewis said that neither of those approaches does justice to the reality.
I tend to agree with him. Those are simply differing caricatures of expressions of belief in evil
forces in our world. While it is foolish to assume that there is a demon behind every tree or that
everything that happens in our world is due to demonic activity, it would also be just as naïve to suggest
that there are not evil forces which sometimes takes control over people, movements, and sometimes
whole countries, making people do things that they would not normally do.3
Let’s just tell the truth: there is plenty of darkness in humanity to account for much of the evil
that goes on in our world. None of us is totally free from the influence of the old sinful nature that
plagues even the best of us. Nobody. And that includes the Apostle Paul, as he discussed what goes on
between the two natures inside of him in Romans 7.
But it is also evident that there are some things that happen in our world that are too evil—too
ungodly—frankly, too subhuman—that the best reasonable explanation is for there to be that they are
due to the activity of evil spiritual forces. If we as Christians believe that there exist benevolent spiritual
forces for good—those forces we call “God” and angels—then why is it so difficult for many of us to
believe that there are dark spiritual forces trying to influence us as well?
When thought of from that perspective, life becomes more complex. It also becomes more
realistic. The traditional lines of good and evil—friend and foe—are not always so easy to draw. Paul
would say to us that this is precisely the reason that we need to put on the whole armor of God. Only
then can we be prepared for the spiritual struggle in which we have been plunged…
One last thing…The whole armor of God is not “one-size-fits-all.” That is, you cannot wear
someone else’s armor. It may fit them great…but it will not fit you…

I am indebted to N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2011), 120ff for some of the ideas in these
two paragraphs.
See Romans 7:14-24 for Paul’s harrowing description of the two natures that war inside of us.
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A shepherd boy named David discovered that when he volunteered to fight the giant Goliath. Yu
all know the story. Before he went out to meet Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, King Saul offered to let
David wear his own suit of armor for the fight. In 1 Samuel 17, it says that Saul dressed David in his own
tunic. He put his suit of armor on him and gave him his bronze helmet for his head. David fastened on
Saul’s sword over the tunic and tried walking around. It did not work because it fit not fit him. Then he
told Saul, “I cannot go in these, because I am not used to them” and he took them off… (Verses 38-39)
And he went to fight Goliath without it…And you know the rest of the story…
In the forty years or so that I have been a minister in the local church, I have had the
opportunity to talk to a lot of people about their faith in the Lord and their commitment to their church.
And in talking with them, I have heard things like, “My father was the Sunday School superintendent at
the church for a long time.” Or “My grandfather was a pastor who served a couple of churches way out
in the country.” Or “My wife taught a women’s Bible study group for many, many years.”
Most of the time, I just quietly listened and took it all in. But what I really wanted to say to them
was, “That’s great! I thank God for their service!… But what about YOU? What are you doing in the
Lord’s service?” The truth of the matter is that you cannot serve the Lord just by being related to
someone who is a dedicated follower of Jesus. NO—it doesn’t work that way—no matter how
wonderful they were or how dedicated they were. It’s got to be YOUR decision. It’s got to be YOUR
commitment. It’s got to be YOUR service that counts as being a follower of Jesus. The kingdom of God
does not allow you to ride on someone else’s coattails. It does not matter who you are…It does not
matter who they are…
The same is true of the whole armor of God. Just like Saul’s armor did not fit David, someone
else’s faith…someone else’s salvation…someone else’s righteousness will not fit you either. Someone
else’s faith and commitment to the Lord will avail you little in the life of the Spirit. Instead, you’ve got to
make it your own. That is the only way that it can work for you. It is the only way that the graces
pictured as the whole armor of God depicted in today’s scripture text can be successfully incorporated
into your own life…

As the sermon and today’s worship service draws to a close, I invite you to take your hymn book
and turn to our closing hymn. The hymn is “Soldiers of Christ, Arise.” It can be found at #478…
This is a hymn written by the great hymn writer Charles Wesley. Along with his brother John,
Charles established what is now known as the Methodist Church. Wesley first published the hymn in

  1. It originally had sixteen stanzas. (Mercifully, John Wesley whittled down the hymn to the present
    three stanzas that are almost exclusively used nowadays.)
    “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” was a hymn that was quite popular until around the last fifty years or
    so. Many modern hymn books omit it. (I am grateful that ours does not.) My guess is that it’s because
    some hymn book editors have become squeamish when it comes to including hymns that employ
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    military imagery. But in my humble opinion, more’s the pity—especially since the New Testament does
    not shy away from using military language as a metaphor for the life of the Spirit. To the contrary,
    “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” is a fine hymn which was inspired by today’s text from Ephesians 6. One
    commentator described both the words and the music for this hymn to be “as inspiring as the blast of a
    And well it is…
    I want to call your attention to a couple of lines in the hymn. Notice the second half of the first
    stanza. There Wesley writes, “Strong in the Lord of hosts, /And in His mighty pow’r, / Who in the
    strength of Jesus trusts / Is more than conqueror.” This is an allusion to military imagery employed
    elsewhere by the Apostle Paul. In Romans 8, Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
    Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these
    things we are more than conquerors though him who loved us.” (Verses 35, 37) When the Christian is
    equipped with the graces of God listed in Ephesians 6, then we are able to overcome the obstacles that
    we face as followers of Jesus…
    Then take a look at the second stanza. The second stanza begins with these words: “Stand then
    in His great might, / With all His strength endued, / And take, to arm you for the fight/ The panoply of
    God…” That word “panoply” is not a word we come across much anymore, is it? It is a word taken
    directly from the Greek word panoplia, which is defined as “a full suit of armor.” The word panoplia
    occurs twice in today’s text from Ephesians 6. And in both instances, it is translated as “whole armor”, as
    in verse 11 (“Put on the whole armor of God”) and verse 13 (“Therefore take up the whole armor of
    God.”) Wesley reminds us that, if we are to be successful in our spiritual journey, then only part of the
    armor is not enough. We need all of the armor—truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith,
    salvation and the word of God. Anything less than these things will hamper our efforts to face down the
    spiritual forces that desire to keep us from becoming all that God intends for us to be…
    So we sing this hymn this morning. We sing confident in our Lord’s power to help us in our
    struggles so that, as the final triumphant words state, we “may o’er come through Christ alone, / And
    stand complete at last.”
    To God alone be the glory! Amen.

5 William T. Snead quoted in Robert Guy McCutchan, Our Hymnody—A Manual of The Methodist Hymnal 2
nd ed.
(Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1943), 317