"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (ASV)
While I'm sure this verse (or others like it) has been used many times over the years to justify warfare and bloodshed, when taken in context we see that it is talking about a different type of battle. Not a battle of men killing men, but one that takes place on a spiritual level. This type of battle is just as deadly, though in a more eternal manner, but because it is subtle and covert, many don't realize it is being waged within their own souls.
In Ephesians 6, Paul warns us to be prepared to do spiritual battle. But what is "the whole armor of God"? While I'm usually partial to the ASV, I'll use the NIV for most of this one because it's easier to see the metaphor there. The pieces of the armor of God are listed this way: "the belt of truth," "the breastplate of righteousness," "feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace," "the shield of faith," "the helmet of salvation," and "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:14-17 NIV)
The first piece Paul mentions is the "belt of truth." Truth is something that often seems to have gone missing from our world today. Paul knew though that if we are to stand up to temptation and lies that we would need to know what truth is. Also, we need to be seen as men and women of character, so that others might believe us when we speak. While at times it may seem more convenient in the short term to speak pretty lies as a way of preserving the peace, we as Christians are called to be honest and truthful at all times, lest our lies taint our testimony.
Next comes "the breastplate of righteousness." While it is true that no human is righteous apart from the grace of God, we that no longer stand under judgment can lay claim to God's righteousness. Because Christ has taken our sins upon Himself, we are once again seen pure and clean in the eyes of God. In this way we now have attained righteousness, despite our own failings and misdeeds. Because God has justified us in this way, we can now lay claim to his righteousness and repel the lies the enemy uses such as "you're not good enough" or "you've messed up too much."
A third piece is "feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." While there are many interpretations of this particular passage, I choose to believe that Paul's words here were echoed later in his letter to the church at Philippi. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ASV) What he was saying was that we don't need to fear this battle because we know how it will come out in the end. We know that Christ has already secured us a place in heaven, so why should we fear anything, even death?
Next comes "the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16 NIV) Our faith in God can indeed shield us from the attacks of evil. Because we know that we serve a just, loving God, we know that He will not allow us to come to any temptation that He will not also help bring us out of. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ASV)
Once we have shielded our body, we must also protect our minds with "the helmet of salvation." To me this refers to the fact that salvation is assured to those who have accepted Christ. It has long been questioned whether it is possible for us to lose our salvation by doing bad things. I wholeheartedly believe that the answer is no, and Paul makes an argument for this case in the book of Romans: "We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." (Romans 3:28 ASV)
The final piece of our spiritual armor is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The weapon we are provided to use against Satan and against evil in general is God's Word. A shame then, that so many do not know it. One of my favorite lyricists, Matt Morginsky of the OC Supertones put it this way: "How will you stand if you don't understand? Fight like a man, scriptures in hand." (Grounded, Chase the Sun) Without a firm grounding in the Word, we as Christians can't stand in the face of temptation and doubt. We have no way to defend our faith because we don't even really know what it's all about.
So how about you? Are you prepared for spiritual battle? Will you be ready when the enemy attacks? Will you be able to stand in the face of temptation?