Just finished a study of Paul's letter to the Ephesians in one of my church's rejuvenated Sunday morning Christian Education classes (i.e., Sunday School). It was great to sit in a room with several other adults and discuss how to follow Jesus in the light shed by Paul's words.
One of the most familiar passages in the letter talks about putting on the "full armor of God" (6:11, 13): "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17 NIV)
The interesting take our teacher took was to forget about concentrating on which part of the body is being protected by which piece of armor. Instead, look at what those armor pieces are protecting us from...what attacks of Satan are being neutralized by this equipment?
A Christ-follower needs a belt of TRUTH because the forces of evil are attacking with an onslaught of lies and deception. According to Jesus, "there is no truth in [the devil]. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar, and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
A breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS will not only protect me from the hurtful consequences of sin in my life, but get this...it's not MY righteousness that's being talked about. It's God's armor. It's His righteousness. I'm just wearing it. He declares me righteous because of Jesus' sinlessness, not mine.
Because Satan is out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10); because he wants to cause loss and chaos and worry; because that's the kind of thing I'm fighting against, I need to be ready. And my readiness comes from the good news that I am at PEACE with God. The gospel assures me that Yahweh is on my side in this battle.
The shield of FAITH deflects and defuses the burning little barbs the devil throws our way: "You're not good enough. God is so tired of hearing you whine. You've blown it too many times." I can stand firm with Paul and say "The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
We are given the strong assurance of a helmet of SALVATION that protects us from Satan's abundant supply of condemnation.
We have the sword of the SPIRIT(the WORD OF GOD) that absolutely counters flimsy weapons of flesh and blood, hearsay and rumor, death and decay.
Truth is...Paul could very well be listing a seventh piece of armor when he writes, in verse 18, "And PRAY in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."