The Lord’s Host

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
It might seem a little strange that conflict has such a prominent place given to it in the Epistle to the Ephesians. We find here the fullest revelation of our position and the walk of the Christian, but here also we are especially found to be in conflict, and we are called to put on “the whole armor of God.” Indeed, we never get into such a conflict as this until we know our privileges. In Galatians we have conflict, but not the privileges of the church, for the flesh is not the same thing as wicked spirits. But take the saints out of the world, make them vessels meet for the Master’s service, and that is the very reason they get into the conflict. If we have got hold of the place of privilege in which we stand, we must get into the conflict. If you cross the Jordan, you must meet the Canaanite and the Perizzite. We all know something of wilderness exercise—discovering what is in our hearts — but it is when we have got into the land that we get into the conflict.
We have “died with Him,” which is just what Jordan is a picture of, and we are “made to sit together in heavenly places with Christ.” It is the place of every Christian, but many do not realize it. Many are questioning whether they are not yet in Egypt and are looking at the blood. But in the Red Sea I get the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the judgment which has fallen upon the Egyptians has saved me. Just as I (and every poor sinner in Adam) was driven out of an earthly paradise because of sin, so I am raised up and put into a heavenly paradise because of righteousness. Passing through the wilderness we have exercises of heart, but then we come to Jordan, we pass death, so to speak, and the land is ours; we eat the old corn of the land.
The Wilderness and the Land
You get the two places—the wilderness and the land — all through this epistle. He sets us there in our place (of course we are here in our bodies), but you come to this fact: The enemy is here. We have our place in Him, but His enemies are not yet put under His feet. The effect is to put us into conflict. You will hear people talk of Jordan being death and Canaan being heaven, but, in reality, what characterizes the land is conflict.
Those who enter the land are so completely the Lord’s that He uses them for conflict against His enemies. How can they fight the Lord’s battles if they are in the flesh? So if we are to have success in these battles, we must be practically dead. The Apostle fought them by keeping all that was of Paul completely down, so that nothing of Paul appeared. He always bore about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his mortal body. A man that is dead and risen again has nothing to do with this world. Associated with the Lord in those heavenly places, we are the witness and testimony of what He is there.
Our State and Activity
In looking at these parts of the armor, we get first the subjective parts — that is to say, our state comes first, and then comes the activity. There is no divine activity until God has been divinely active with us. Christ comes and brings all that is divine and heavenly in a man right into contact with all that is wrong in man. The truth of God now revealed in the New Testament is brought right into men’s hearts, and when it is effectually applied I get the girdle of truth about my loins; my heart is entirely subject to a heavenly word. Whenever I get into this state, there is conflict, but now my condition is the effect of truth; the affections are right, for my heart is in the truth.
The Pieces of Armor
“Having on the breastplate of righteousness” is practical; it is not righteousness with God. But if I am going to preach Christ and one can say of me, “Why, here is a man preaching who is worse than his neighbors,” Satan will take hold of it immediately. We must have on the breastplate of righteousness; the soul and walk must be right.
Next, my feet are to be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Selfishness is a contending thing; it says, I must maintain my rights. But the Christian carries peace, because he has peace within; he carries through the world the spirit and character of Christ. Because He had His loins girt about with truth perfectly and had on the breastplate of righteousness perfectly, He could walk through this world in perfect peace. We too can walk untouched through everything that man can bring against us, if our feet are shod.
When the heart is right in the first three pieces, we can take up “the shield of faith.” There is blessed confidence in God. Satan may do what he can; he may lurk in secret places, but he cannot break through my shield of faith. He has done his best to seduce and to dismay, but Christ in His standing for us has completely overcome him. The command is, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” not overcome him. If he is once honestly resisted, he has met Christ in us, and at once he runs away. He never can get through confidence in God, for the shield of faith is up, and he can do nothing.
Now comes the “helmet of salvation.” It is the defensive armor that comes first and the state of the soul. Many a one has gotten into activity without knowing himself, but with this “helmet of salvation” on, he can hold his head up, he knows that salvation is his, and that on to the glory is his portion. He is a man in Christ (all that is a settled thing), and now he takes “the sword of the Spirit”; he can set about the fight. The first great thing, if we are to be active in the service of the Lord, is that we are to be perfectly right with the Lord. It is the man who has the secret of the Lord in power in his own soul who can go out in service. He will not be distracted with other thoughts; he has the secret of the Lord.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” These two always run together. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His words: the word of God and prayer. The moment I understand that the conflict is against Satan and his wiles, I find that half the battle has to be carried on with God. We find the Lord Himself in Gethsemane earnestly praying, and when the conflict came, He was perfectly calm. Peter, who was sleeping, cursed and swore he did not know Him. True earnestness and supplication come from our being involved in God’s interests in the world.
The blessed Lord went down to where we were — was made sin for us in the lower parts of the earth, with all Satan’s power against Him. Having ascended up on high, He takes us so entirely out of the hands of the enemy that He sets us in a place where we have the same interests as Christ — a most blessed place, if only we have the power to hold it. But the more we are in the forefront of the battle, the more we are exposed to the fiery darts, and no place calls for more dependence on Christ than when we are exposed in this way. This leads us to constant, unceasing dependence and prayer, not only for ourselves, but for all saints. If I am walking with God, I will not only pray for myself, but will be in continued intercession for all saints.
When I have passed the Jordan and the reproach of this world is rolled away, I can be in the Lord’s host. In this position, it is not learning or human wisdom, but rather the wiles of Satan that we have to fear. The moment we get out of the conscious presence of God we are in danger. But with the armor of God, we can count on God and not only walk safely, but ever be gaining ground on Satan.
J. N. Darby, adapted