There are three parts in the redemption of Israel out of Egypt. There was, first of all, the making a way through the Red Sea; getting them on the road with God on the other side. Then, there was a certain school-time, when God had them in the wilderness, where He had them in training; and they were to take possession of the land and dwell in it. There is a remarkable connection between the Ephesians and the people when they got into the land, laying hold of the things given them; for they were to take possession of all the things in the land. Really, without their knowing it, God had given the land to the Son of His love. When we follow Israel into the land, we find they would not and did not take possession of it. Why? Because they had not faith. All the teaching they had in the wilderness alone with God, did it teach them to have done with themselves? No, it did not, Now in this scripture God teaches us that there is a certain armour a saint must have, if he intends to get into the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. God giving the land to Israel was one thing, and Israel knowing how to conduct themselves so as to get possession of it is another thing. Now we shall see in Scripture that while every blessing is secured in Christ, I may yet turn to the people of God down here and say, Have you got them in possession? If I have not, I ought to challenge my heart.
If I turn to various scriptures, I see how far Paul recognizes that such people as the Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians, had these spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. He shows that he does not think they had, and he is obliged to set to work to show them what was in Christ, and that these spiritual blessings were not enjoyed by them. In 2 Corinthians 1: 20, we find that "all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen;" and when I turn back to the first epistle, I find that these Corinthians had received certain blessings and powers from God, but they were walking entirely unlike the apostle -- not walking like persons separated practically because knowing Christ at God's right hand in resurrection glory. They had got hold of the doctrine of having been crucified together with Christ; but had they the practice of it? No; they were going to law one with another. There was something clearly very wrong. There were all sorts of works of the flesh as if they were not dead at all; and in chapter 15, many of them were even calling in question the resurrection, through the deceitful influences of evil doctrine upon them. The great mark of the apostle Paul was the brightness of his walk as a man raised from the dead. Paul beautifully depicts the way God had made good the doctrine to him; but the way He made good the doctrine to him was by always rolling him into the valley of death down here. If I were walking with a friend as a man raised from the dead, the thorns and briars in the path could not stop me; they may stop my friend if he is not walking in the same character.
Now look at Colossians: it goes on the same ground somewhat as Ephesians, yet he speaks of some of them as not holding the Head -- the Head holding them was one thing, and their holding the Head was another. Abraham was a strong contrast to Lot. Whenever Abraham was at his wits' end, there was God ready to help him, and go through it all with him. Then the Galatians. Satan is very subtle and crafty; he got them to add on a little insignificant nothing. They consented to add on the circumcision, and so to compromise the gospel. Christ being crucified, the world was crucified to them, and they to the world. The way God acted was to put man at the other side of the cross. Now God has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. If I meet a child of God in an omnibus, and see faith in that man's soul, I should know that everything that God saw to be in Christ belongs to him When he is getting settled in Christ he has no idea that everything in Christ belongs to him. But it does according to God's purpose. He has, however, to grow up into that; he must know Christ as the Head of the body He must know how to stand there, and not only how to stand there, but to follow on in communion with God that these spiritual blessings may become known to himself, that he may know the whole grace of God as one sifted of God. The thought here is, that we are to stand fast in the heavenly places; and to stand fast we must lay hold of these spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ.
Eph. 6: 10. It is not a piece of armour, but the character the child of God wears who has learnt God in the wilderness. If Israel had learnt God in the wilderness, they would have known how to stand fast in the land. If you and I have learned what it is to know God, we should understand how to use that word, "Rejoice in tribulation." We should know how to count upon God, as God said through Haggai, "Be strong, O Zerubbabel: be strong, O, Joshua; do not suppose you have to do anything; it is My time to bless, be strong, recognize where and what I am." Here it is, "Be strong in the Lord." If He has given Christ to be Head of the body, if He has given Him all possession of all in heaven and earth, we may well be strong in Him; and if we are not strong in the Lord all the armour in the world is of no use. "The power. of His might." The same power that raised Christ works in the believer. It is just the same power which took a Saul of Tarsus, and enabled him to say, "I am a member of Christ in heaven." But you say, "I want to know about the armour." If a person does not know what it is to be quickened together with Christ, raised together, seated together in Him, he does not know what it is to stand fast in the Lord. If I look at Paul's life, he looks uncommonly like a man quickened together with Christ. He was just the man that to my mind lived by and with Christ. If we are really standing fast in Him, the effect of that life is that it displays our weakness, but it is a bright light by which people take notice of us.
Eph. 6: 11. "The wiles of the devil." I should myself press that, name given to him here -- "devil." In two scriptures Satan takes the particular form of accuser; in Numbers, where he accuses Israel, he brings up a number of things, many of them true. God had taken up Israel on the ground of what was in Himself, and He did not behold iniquity in Jacob. But the people did not know that. In Revelation the accuser of the brethren is cast down. He accuses still: the weakest and the strongest will find it out. It is one of his great ways to take the eye off Christ and His work, to bring up our inconsistencies, and then we are confounded. God's answer is in Numbers 6. Ceasing from the life in the flesh is the answer. If Christ be risen, then I am accepted. But then it comes to our mind, "I am living as I did before; I do reckon myself dead, but, alas! Satan is too strong for me." Nevertheless I say, "Take a knife; let the Lord Jesus cut what He will. Christ has come into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and He will destroy them in me. I have got this old man, a horrible old man, but I, will reckon it dead, because God says it is dead."
Now let me ask you, Do all Christians see this? Do you take the death of Christ as the answer to all that? There is forgiveness of sins through His blood, and I rejoice in it. My flesh could not go into the glory -- it is utterly bad! God says, "Do not trouble, I will take care of all that." If God were to say to me, "I will take you into heaven just as you are," I would say, "Oh, I beseech thee, do not, there is sin in me!" When He changes me, every one of these things I struggle against now will be gone; I shall have a glorified body like that of Christ.
Now let me put this question, Do believers see these two things? They do not. We have to learn them, and then we have got to stand fast in it, and know the one who comes against us. Satan has no wisdom if you look at him in the presence of God; but he knows man; he has had nearly six thousand years' experience. He knows those that love money; give that man a little bit of money. And that man is fond of a bit of good character -- well, just put a bit of good character into his hand, and that will occupy him. Satan is very wily. It is a hard strong word to use of a man,. but it is not at all unsuitable to Satan.
Eph. 6: 12. I do not think that believers calmly recognize that the powers of darkness go into heaven. If I set myself to pray for some spiritual blessing, just when I am thinking of it, I find some other thought comes in. That is the adversary, God's adversary as well as ours. If we think of our morning prayers, our mid-day or our evening prayers, we see the way we are turned from being instant in them. Then comes darkness. God means us to know that we cannot keep the heart's thoughts pointing steadily to any one particular thing. God can put the mind just there, and keep it steadily fixed. If you break down, the very consciousness of your breaking down only draws you nearer to God. The wandering Arabs do not care to attack an empty caravan; and the devil does not care much about attacking you if you are empty. But if you have had communion, if you are happy, and have got some fresh enjoyment, the devil will spoil it if he possibly can.
Eph. 6: 14. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth, and when I say He is the truth, I do not mean He is the truth of forgiveness, or acceptance merely, but that He. is the One by whom God measures everything. What sort of Person is God? He sent His Son to bear our sins that He might give us eternal life. What sort of person is man? Man crucified Christ -- Jew and Gentile. If they had only known what they were doing, they would not have done it, Satan would not have done it, for it was then that man got his measure. Christ, in what He was, had the right and title to be a provision for sin, and for sin in the flesh? Oh, do not talk to me of my flesh! It is not such a nature as Christ had, "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Depend upon it, if it is I, I, I, in myself or my neighbour, it is flesh; if it is finding fault with my neighbour for not being spiritual, it is I, I, I. Now just see how Satan got his match in the Lord Jesus (Heb. 2: 14, 15), "that through death He might destroy him, that is, the devil; and deliver," etc.
If my loins are girt about with truth, it is the truth about everything, and it is this that gives strength to a person; and the weakness of another is because he has not got into the presence of God about things. If I have got it about my loins, it is part of my strength. If a man brings anything into God's presence, he has to learn God's mind about it. Christ is there, the touchstone of all and everything. Say I am a great money-maker; well, when I get into God's presence I find the strongest thought in His mind about money is the thirty pieces, little bits of it given for Christ, the Lord of hosts. When the Lord came to purchase the flock, He gave His own blood.
"Having on the breastplate of righteousness." Christ has walked through the world and left the marks of His feet, and we are to walk as He walked, to like what He liked, and to dislike what He disliked. If I do this it will be a perfect covering for me. Verse 15. I should connect that as much with "having done," and "standing," as with walking. Both "the peace of God," connected with your emptying your heart out before God, and the "God of peace" from your walking with God (Phil. 4: 6-9), both enter in here as giving rest and quietness to the soul. Verse 16. Do not suppose this is the shield of the faith. He says, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Well, an arrow comes whistling close by me. What did you do when the arrow came? Did you say, "Oh, there is God!"? and did you look at the trouble and glory in it? I raise my song just where other people sit down and say, "Oh dear, I never counted upon this at all!" God has marked the road for us, and the heart turns to Him, and says, "He said it should be so. Ah! He said I should have trouble, and here is trouble. He said, 'You cannot get on a day without Me,' and I cannot indeed get on half a day without Him." And then the heart is kept.
Eph. 6: 17. I should take the "helmet of salvation" to mean not merely that Christ is the Head up there in heaven, but something I have put on. The Saviour appears in the wilderness as a Saviour for my course an through. When Paul is speaking in Philippians of how he had to run counter to everything as he travelled on, if it were a bright shining way, it was yet a very rough way, but salvation is at the end of it. If I am floating, down the stream I shall not talk much of the helmet of salvation, nor the want of it. If I am filling up the sufferings of Christ as Paul was, I shall have his experience daily, and I shall want the helmet of salvation. "The sword of the Spirit." It is not only that we have the Spirit, but it is rather using the word by His power. Christ used it ably in that conflict with Satan, turning aside the sword of the adversary.
Eph. 6: 20. If you take the apostle, as he describes himself in this epistle, you see a wonderful instance of a man standing fast with Christ up there. He knew he had to put on all the armour, and be skilful in the use of it all. It was is service as ambassador that gave him the opportunity of using it to teach these Ephesians. Such portions as Numbers and Job, those parts of Scripture which describe the passing of a people from the time of redemption on to their rest in glory, are not adequately understood by us. I think we want stirring up as to the peculiar power of the life of Christ, and as to the understanding and present enjoyment of these things that are true of us in Christ. In order to this there must be a daily refusal of those things that are natural to us, and a daily occupation with those things that will enable us to meet the adversary in our course.
from Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram. Vol. 1. [Notes on Scripture; Lectures and Letters. Second Edition, Broom 1881 (First Edition 1880)]