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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009
The Wholeness of God's Armor
I am presently taking our adult Sunday School group through the verses on the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) using the excellent, Puritan, work, The Christian in Complete Armour (William Gurnall) as a study guide.

Today we are looking at verse eleven, as we have been for several weeks. Gurnall has already made two of the four points he intends to draw from verse eleven, and is now about to write about the third point we should consider, that being the completeness of the armour God has provided.

He makes three points concerning the completeness of the Armor:
  1. It must be complete in the sense that it covers tip to toe and leaves no openings whatsoever
  2. It must be complete in the sense that each individual piece strengthens the whole
  3. It must be complete in the sense that each individual piece ought to be everything it is supposed to be
I will briefly summarize each point below.

Our armor must be complete in the sense that it covers tip to toe and leaves no openings whatsoever
Consider the death of Ahab as recorded in 2 Chronicles 18:33-34,
A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of the chariot, "Turn around and take me out of the fight, for I am severely wounded." The battle raged that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot in front of the Arameans until the evening; and at sunset he died. [NASB]
Gurnall wryly muses the point: Satan is a much better archer than the one who struck Ahab. The meaning is clear (or ought to be) clear: If there is a gap in your armour, that is where a rational enemy will likely direct the brunt of his attack. Do you guard what you hear, but not what your eyes see? The enemy is just as victorious if your eyes lust as he would be if you incline yourself to corruption on some other front. Sin surrounds us on all sides and will attempt to enter in through any breach we leave open, the solution is holistic - leave no openings.

Our armor must be complete in the sense that each individual piece strengthens the whole
Each piece of armour strengthens every other piece of armour, even as every additional voice cumulatively strengthens a chorus. Consider what the Apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:5-7:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. [ESV]
Do you see how the Apostle strings these together? Each link in the chain adds to the previous; Do you have faith? Add to your faith virtue (the "good work" of maintaining moral excellence). Have you virtue? Acquire knowledge. Knowledge? Add to that self control. I mean, I could reiterate the list further but I don't need to do that in order to make the point that Peter makes, that being that if you do all these things, and lack none of them, then you will not be hindered in your knowledge of Christ, failing to do all demonstrates a near blind state of spiritual nearsightedness, as we see in verses which follow that statement (verses 8,9):
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. [ESV]

What good is might of the mounted knight, if his mount is struck with an arrow so that it flees with him atop it? In a like manner, what good is maintaining a state of moral excellence if you are piggy-backing these efforts to faithlessness? Likewise, what is the purpose of knowledge if the one who has it lacks moral excellence (virtue), or faith? Consider this: In order to gain a breach, our enemy would have us focus our effort on one or two points, to the exclusion of all others, as though success could be had in the pieces aside from the whole. Gurnall spends a bit of time on this point, showing that it is near useless to patch some leak in our boat if we are so distracted by it that we fail to deal with one or more other leaks; Knowing full well that we are truly inclined in (and by) our flesh to "strain out a gnat and swallow a camel", we ought to take the advice of Paul and Peter and approach this effort in a wholesale rather than piecemeal way.

Our armor must be complete in the sense that each individual piece ought to be everything it is supposed to be
Scripture paints faith (for instance), not as a static thing, but as a thing which can wane or grow. We are expected to be growing in it, even to be resisting and fleeing from everything that could hinder our growth in it. What is true of the grace of faith is true of every grace, and using the metaphor of armour to describe those graces, we say that whatever state our armour happens to be in today, it should be in a better state tomorrow. Even as we let are to "let" patience have its perfect (mature/complete) work in us (c.f. James 1:3-4), so also should we allow every grace to have its perfect work in us.

Why should we allow grace to mature? Gurnall gives us three reasons:
  1. Because a grape begins to wither when it is removed from the vine
  2. Because Satan is perfecting his craft daily
  3. Because God designed it to work this way

The withering grape
A grape that is not being fed on the vine is a grape that is turning into a raisin. Grace that is not being perfected in us (growing in us etc.) is grace that is decaying - grace that we have set aside by neglect. In this case, the grace of (say) salvation - must not only be maintained, but improved upon. Not that we are saved again in some better way, but that our dependence upon God, our understanding of His sovereignty in having saved us, etc. etc. increases - so that we rely more on God's salvation provided to us, than we ever have in past days. We must see to it that our dependence upon God widens and deepens with respect to every grace - I only use the grace of salvation by way of illustration, since the helm of salvation is listed as part of the armour God supplies.

Satan is perfecting his craft
God doesn't change. God doesn't get better at what He is doing. God doesn't refine Himself, God doesn't learn from His mistakes because He doesn't make any.

Satan does.

Satan is a far more skilled foe today than he was yesterday. He is honing his craft daily. Your primary enemy is by no means sitting still, but learning from everything that transpires, how to perfect his efforts - and this alone is reason enough to do the same.

God designed it to work this way
That is, God designed the armour He supplies to improve with use. The more we rely on the armour God supplies, the more proficient we become in wearing it. God intended it to be this way.

Gurnall concludes with three practical uses of this teaching:

The first is that the only way to deal with that thirst for worldly things that we all experience is to pursue the thirst for spiritual things which God gives to all His (legitimate) children. It is the same lesson as "dying to self, and living to God" - the same as is meant by walking by (and in) the Spirit as opposed to by 9and in) the flesh. Gurnall is saying that we are to regard the completeness of God's armour, in all three previously mentioned senses, as furnishing and supplying that godly thirst which when slaked, quiets the carnal one.

The second is that it identifies both pride, sloth, and the false heart. Those who regard themselves as having already arrived regard these matters as icing on the cake, and having no desire to draw near to God hear and now, will not bother themselves to put the trimmings on their cake. They are satisfied with heaven apart from God, or said another way, they are more concerned with getting out of hell than they are with being reconciled to God.

The third and final use is to remember in this the character of God. It says one thing, writes Gurnall, for a prince to marry a poor damsel - but thereafter, once the deed is done and no more is required, yet to go on and to furnish this damsel in finery, and to improve her estate every day thereafter. So too God is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure; the wholeness of our amour, when put on aright, and providing for us God's intended purpose - bespeaks God's great love towards us.
posted by Daniel @ 5:34 AM  
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