The Whole Armor of God: Part 2

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Having shown us the preparation of our hearts to meet the foe by this subjective truth—a girded loin—he passes on to the state of the conscience, marked by the next part of the armor, the "breastplate of righteousness." As it is a question here not of our standing before God, but of our facing the foe, I need but state that this breastplate of righteousness is a conscience void of offense before God and men.
There is no part of the armor which if lacking will make the heart so weak as this breastplate. Let none but one's own conscience know in secret the stain that is there—be it of the faintest hue—the heart cannot stand boldly before Satan's accusing power! The (consciously) righteous is as bold as a lion. Nothing is more to be sought than this most precious of all precious conditions of soul, a good conscience before God and the enemy. "Herein," says Paul, "do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men." Acts 24:1616And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. (Acts 24:16).
In the ordinary Christian, who is but seldom active in this heavenly sphere, a good conscience or the reverse plays a part more in a grieved or hindered Spirit than in open failure and feebleness. His own heart can tell whether his joy is full in deep, precious communion with the Father and the Son. This can only be enjoyed with a good conscience, an uncondemning heart. Confidence in God is perfect when the heart condemns us not.
If one labors actively in the forefront of the battle, how truly terrible is the case when in the midst of outward activity the accusations of the enemy fall on the ear of the heart. To keep up the outward activity in such a state of soul, is to leave the soul open to the wiles, and indeed the open power, of the enemy in a most solemn manner. How often those who have boldly stood for Christ and in His hand have been most blessed instruments of His power, have fallen—irrecoverably fallen from their post—because thus open to the snares of the devil.
There never has been, I think, a breakdown of this kind, but it has been preceded by warnings and previous dealings of grace, but which fell unheeded on the ear and heart. The Lord give us to be warned and to shun the danger—the wrong turning in our path—the wrong hour—to look not on the wine when it is red!
Having on the breastplate of righteousness then keeps the heart as bold and free as air, but free to go on with God. There rests no frown on His face, so to speak, and the soul is conscious of the freedom which grace has given, in His presence. The conscience purged by the precious blood of Jesus, maintained in practice good before Him, knows the joy of going on with Him freely and naturally. In such a walk the flesh is better known than in one who learns it by a bad conscience through failure and weakness. It learns the tendencies of the flesh in the light of His presence; it knows it has His strength to count upon; he makes indwelling sin, though not a ground of communion, an occasion of it, and his heart judges the tendencies it finds there, without the failure, learning them by the standard of God Himself as known, rather than the lower standard of the conscience which feels the stain. The first part of the armor then expresses the normal condition of the soul to which the truth has been applied, thus judging all the motives within, and bracing up the whole man. It may act detectively as the Word of God in Heb. 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12), discerning "the thoughts and intents of the heart," appraising every thought which springs up, as to its source—as of God, or of the flesh. Or discerning whether the intent which the heart cherishes has Christ for its object, or self. It may come too in the shape of a formative and sanctifying truth, as we read in John, "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." That in Hebrews is more the detective power of the Word, while John refers more to the formation of the soul, separating it by the word of the Father from the world. All that is of the world is not of Him. And then by the revelation of a Man in glory before the Father, who is our life, and who is the pattern for the new man before Him.
The second part of the armor is more directly as regards the conscience, giving condition of soul to face the foe, no armor being provided for the back. The breastplate bright—the conscience good—the soul thus walking with God, and the enemy having nothing to point at, nothing to enfeeble the boldness which it needs, and which otherwise would make the soldier of Christ as weak as water in His presence. No self-accusations to render him irritable with others, and in this way his heart is kept in peace. It is surprising to see how happy things seem, what a different hue they present when the soul is walking peacefully with God. The reverse too when there is an accusing conscience. Where it is so, we are ready to find fault with others, and see what we would not see if we were happy in the love of Christ,
flowing from a peaceful walk and a conscience void of offense toward God and man.
When the conscience is good and the heart free to go on happily with the Lord, it is wonderful what a peaceful character it imparts to the pathway of the soldier of Christ. He is not what the world would call a hero. God's hero presents a sorry figure to the world's eye. A humble, broken spirit characterizes him. He has found the secret of strength, and the ability to govern his own spirit in a world where a man of spirit is esteemed. "He that ruleth his spirit [is better) than he that taketh a city" (Pro. 16:3232He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. (Proverbs 16:32)).
What a tone this peacefulness of spirit gives to the whole man in the trials and troubles of the way. "The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Pet. 3:44But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4)). In man's sight but little esteemed, but not so in the sight of God. We never find that peaceful spirit when the soul is not happy with God. It may be put on outwardly and there be a canker in the heart, but it is one of those precious graces of Christian life, which there is no such thing as imitating.
Alas! one sees the want of this, and cannot but see it in many who are occupied with very high truths. Objective things are presented to the soul and esteemed, as surely they ought to be. But there is the other side too—the broken, humble spirit which esteems others better than itself—the tone of soul which is ever on the watch for some line of Christ in the ways of others. This is the "mind of others." No doubt that the divine energy which lifts one out of things here below is much to be sought for and desired; but when this side alone is looked for, the tendency is to make the person hard and inclined to judge others. To me, it is far more wonderful to see Him walking on earth as a lowly man, acting divinely in every circumstance, never indifferent to any sorrow or trial while feeling it more keenly than others, yet always accepting the trial in the meekness and gentleness which bows its head and accepts all the sorrow as of God. I do not say we can enjoy this beauty of Christ, or indeed perceive it at all, if we only seek to know Him thus. We must know our place first "in Christ" before God; we must "know Him" in measure, in that scene as the glorified One. Then we will be morally fit to enjoy Him, and trace His wondrous path of lowly love—the more to be wondered-at as we know the Person of Him who was there.
This lovely peacefulness of soul carries one into all the details of each and every day, with soft and gentle tread, sheds by its presence a calm and placid influence on others. It gives firmness to the pathway in which it treads the battlefield of God. The feet thus sandaled with firm footing, as it may be said of the glad tidings of peace, carries peace into the enemy's land; and in face of the restless anxiety and uneasy fears which govern the hearts of so many, and as much as lieth in it, it lives peaceably with all.
Jesus Himself was the Prince of Peace. He passed through a world of unrest, in the calm of heaven. He was ever in the bosom of His Father. No circumstances ever ruffled Him. Sorrow and rejection pressed upon Him; unbelief and hardness of heart met His Spirit to chill, if it were possible, the love of His heart; still He went on. He sighed at man's unbelieving spirit, but lifted up His eyes to heaven. The Samaritans would not have Him in His mission of love, because His
At His end, when all His sorrow stood before His soul, even when He had surveyed its mighty depths and accepted the cup from His Father's hand, He passed through shame and scorn and spitting in calmness and peace. No moving of His heart to haste; no reviling when reviled; no threatening when He suffered; His case was with His Father. In the midst of all, with girded loin as Servant of servants, He thought of Peter's fleshly blow which cut off Malchus' ear; He touched and healed it, repairing His poor impulsive Peter's rashness. He still had His eye on Peter. He thought of him as one who specially needed His care. His eye was turned on him at the moment the cock crew, to disclose to him the distance his heart had wandered from his Lord. Silent before His foe, He committed Himself to Him that judges righteously, when His judges were condemning (and they knew it) an innocent man. He was as "a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs."
Oh, how His blessedness judges our ways! What trifles move our hearts to haste! But still our calling is to be the heralds of peace, and of the Prince of Peace—to carry into a world of unrest a spirit of peace and restfulness which is to be found only where self is broken and God is trusted.
This condition of soul results as the outflow of Christian character, consequent on the previous
pieces of this armor of God. The inward condition formed and braced by the Word of God—the conscience perfect to face the foe. No thought for self is needed, and the heart is thus free to go on with God and think of others, and, with restfulness of spirit, shedding blessing upon those around. Thus we find that this relative state toward others only ensues when the personal, inward condition is right with God. "Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," follows the girded loin and breastplate of righteousness.