5. Strength for our Celestial Strife

Check Your Panoply

WE SHOULD NOT cease praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we have been saved from our sins, and are being saved from sin, and that He provides us with a present salvation in the celestial spheres, as well, for otherwise we would not be able to have a present enjoyment of our celestial allotment. In the oncoming eons, we will actually set foot on it, but right now, in this wicked day, we can do so only in spirit, and only so long as we are invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength (Eph.6:10).

We know that God will vitalize and energize our spirits only through His Word since the divine declarations are spirit and are life (John 6:63). Paul had this life in mind when he wrote in 2 Timothy 2:11: “For if we died together, we shall be living together also.” Thus, in order to realize invigoration in the Lord and in the might of His strength, we have to enter the likeness of His death. We are reminded of the divine thoughts in the first half of Romans six: If we died together with Christ, we shall be living in newness of life together with Him, too, and this right now.

We have been saved from our sins since Christ died for our sakes; now we are justified in His blood. We are being saved from sin, since our “old humanity was crucified together with Him, that the body of Sin may be nullified, for us by no means to be still slaving for Sin, for one who dies has been justified from Sin” (Rom.5:9; 6:6,7).

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In Egypt, during the night of the Passover, Israel had deliverance through blood. But this fact did not exempt them from the attacks of hostile armies; likewise we, too, have deliverance through Christ’s blood. The Father rescues us out of the jurisdiction of darkness and transports us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col.1:13,14); but, nevertheless, the Adversary and the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials will continue to attack us as long as we are in this body of humiliation. We will be spared defeat during, sinister attacks, as long as we are invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength. For this purpose, we should put on the panoply of God which will enable us to stand up to the stratagems of the Adversary. The following quotation from volume XXIII, page 393 will help to exemplify his craftiness with a view to the systematizing of the deception (Eph.4:14).

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“Satan could never blind men to the evangel by torturing them with miseries. That would drive them to Christ as a Refuge from his hands. The Adversary has learned far better than that; he can lead them on by filling their vision with a promise of prosperity; he does not gain their allegiance by siding with wrong. By propaganda for justice and peace, he finds multitudes to applaud his measures and support his pretensions.

“Such is his course with the unbelievers, especially with the self-righteous, church-going religionists. How does he behave toward the saints? Here also the danger lies in his strategy. The heart fails as we see multitudes of Christ’s members become Satan’s eager instruments for the reformation and moral uplift of mankind. Not only are they involved in sanitary policies and fleshly philanthropies, but the very “gospel” which is preached glides over the blood of Christ to a promise of bread and butter, better clothes, a cleaner and more prosperous career, and a respectable standing in the community, all of which Satan will gladly give to those who will worship him. Christ’s gospel bears no promise of temporal advantage in the world today. Instead, it may mean nakedness and poverty, and ignominy. It brought all of these to the great apostle who is the example of its power.

“But still more subtle are Satan’s schemes to deceive the saints. With ingenious art, he misplaces truth and presses the most precious portions of Scripture beyond their proper sphere. The following is a good example. All saints acknowledge the power of the blood of Christ. In God’s presence, the blood is everything. But has it a place in the celestial conflict? Does it avail in the sight of the Adversary? Is the blood our shelter from his arrows, our deliverance from his devices? For our protection in this warfare, God has given us spiritual armor. It consists of truth, righteousness, peace, and faith. This is not the place for the blood. If these are lacking the deepest appreciation of the potency of Christ’s sacrificial death will not deliver us from the assaults of the powers of darkness.

“This illustration will help to explain why some, who seem to give the blood a place we do not accord it now, fall in line with the Slanderer’s program and are deceived by his consummate imitations of physical and spiritual endowments. These are all latent in the sacrifice of Christ, but the time for their realization has not yet arrived. These graces are connected with Israel’s earthly allotment, not with the celestial holdings which belong to us. They are the stratagems of the Adversary, intended to lure the saints away from the celestial blessings which are their proper portion.”

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From the time that God shines in a man’s heart, the god of this eon can no longer blind the apprehensions of such a person, for this shining is “with a view to the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor.4:4-6). This is why an unbeliever has no knowledge of this glory; the eyes of the believer’s heart, however, are no longer blind to the glory of God since they have been enlightened (Eph.1:18). Thus every saint is, to a certain extent, aware of this divine glory though he might not yet have learned about all of its aspects. Failing to realize God’s grandest glories is due to the stratagems of the Adversary. Vigilance is required since many saints are in his trap and have not yet come into a realization of the truth; he has indeed caught them alive (2 Tim.2:26). They are carried about by every wind of teaching, by human caprice, by craftiness with a view to the systematizing of the deception ( Eph.4:14), which is intended to shift the emphasis from the spiritual to the soulish; from the celestial to the terrestrial sphere.

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Vigilance is also required because of the hostile attitude of the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials. All our foes will do their utmost to divert our eyes from the spiritual truths about our celestial status, downward to the lower planes of soulish sensations and earthly events. Such a shifting of the emphasis will interrupt, more or less, our supply of vitalizing spiritual energy which flows out of the transcendent greatness of God’s power for us who are believing (Eph.1:19).

This power is supposed to do the same thing for us, in spirit, as it did for Christ (rousing Him from among the dead and seating Him at God’s right hand among the celestials, up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship). This transcendent greatness of God’s power is for us who are believing! It is this power which, in spirit, vivifies us together in Christ and rouses us together, and seats us together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus.

This is our celestial status, in spirit, which enables us, to a certain extent, to see earthly things more objectively, more as God would judge them. From the celestial vantage point, we can view things from the right perspective because we are far above the fleshly and soulish spheres. Thus we will enjoy our celestial allotment right now whenever we are aware of our being seated together in the celestial realm, in spirit, in Christ Jesus.

As long as we are in this body of our humiliation, however, the powers of darkness will do their utmost to dim our spiritual awareness, shove us off of our celestial allotment, and drag us down to the earthly sphere where the spirit of the Adversary is now operating in the sons of stubbornness (Eph.2:2). Whenever we lose our celestial status, even temporarily, we will see things from the earthly viewpoint and with limited perspective. Thus earthly events loom large, and we are often overwhelmed by their seeming importance.

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As related to Christ Jesus, as members of His body, we have no work to do, for He has completed it all himself; this is why we are seated together among the celestials, thus suggesting relaxation and rest at God’s right hand. In the Lord, however, as enjoying this celestial status now, we need to hold it by faith and stand firm on the ground we have gained and withstand every sinister effort to dislodge us from our celestial allotment. In order to make our resistance effective, God has promised to invigorate us in the Lord and in the might of His strength (Eph.6:10-19).

Many attempts have been made to explain the kind of protection which is afforded by the panoply of God, but most commentators fail to perceive that the emphasis is on the word celestial. We have to put on this spiritual suit of armor if we want to enjoy our celestial allotment in spirit and stand on it during this wicked day. The equipment described in Ephesians 6:14-17 is different from that in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 where the emphasis is on salvation from the coming indignation (1:10; 5:9). There is no word like armor in Thessalonians; only a cuirass and a helmet are mentioned, while we have a complete armor, a panoply, in Ephesians (the Greek word, panoplia, meaning EVERY-INSTRUMENT).

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When we see the necessity of checking over our spiritual suit of armor, our first concern should be to make sure that not a single piece is missing. The panoply should be complete; thus we ought to do everything we are supposed to do in this spiritual warfare, by putting on and taking up and receiving every single part as described in Ephesians 6:14-17.

We do not want to explain this parable of the panoply by any other figure of speech; but we should like to emphasize the underlying thought that the effectiveness of the panoply depends on its completeness and upon our using the proper order in taking up its various parts. All the instructions pertaining to the panoply are given to us in a package and in divine sequence! This reminds us of the Colossian prayer guide (1:9-11) where all the requests are also presented in a package, and in divine order.

We are not authorized to pick out one request here and another there if we really want to be endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy. Likewise, we are not free to take up only those parts of the panoply which we might regard as indispensable for us. We will be invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength for the celestial conflict, on one condition: that we carefully carry out His instructions, step by step.

The chart shown above is intended to graphically illustrate the three different operations which are necessary in order to make the Lord’s strength available to us: (a) our cooperation, (b) the Lord’s operation, (checking) together with prayer and petition. This could be compared to a structure which is supported by three props, each consisting of two or four parts, respectively. If you had a stool with three legs you would never cut off a part of any leg, if you wanted to use the stool.

Likewise, you cannot cut out any item mentioned on the chart without jeopardizing the effectiveness of the panoply of God. Thus our cooperation is mandatory on four points:

(1)   knowledge of the truth
(2)   walk in righteousness
(3)   readiness of the evangel of peace
(4)   taking up the shield of faith.

We will see later how these four items of our cooperation are prerequisites to our Lord’s operation in giving us

(1)   the helmet of salvation and
(2)   the sword of the spirit.

As far as these two points are concerned, no effort whatsoever is required on our part. However, we will receive the helmet and the sword only after having fully cooperated on the first four items (truth, righteousness, peace, and faith).

We have pointed out before that we cannot put on the panoply of God without every prayer and petition, as they were practiced by Paul and his associates. This is why we have attempted to study every prayer and petition of the apostle which might serve as a guide. D.V., we will take up this topic more fully on a later occasion; in the meantime let it suffice to say that no drastic changes are required in our prayer habits. Paul’s guides are intended to supplement our own petitions; using his prayer-guides does not necessarily mean that we should give up all those requests which we have been bringing before God in the past. We will, however, modify them, if we have not already done so.

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First of all, there should be no request without the addition,

Not my will, but Thine!

For we would not want the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us anything which was not in His will. And no longer will we bring before Him any petitions without beginning with praise and closing with thanksgiving, thus expressing our heartfelt gratitude toward Him, even before He answers, and leaving it up to Him, how to answer.

Since our chart does not show that each step in putting, on the panoply of God must be accompanied by prayer and thanksgiving, we want to emphasize this point once more. In every prayer and petition we should take care not to miss any one of the following items:

(1)   praying on every occasion
(2)   vigilance and perseverance in prayer
(3)   petition for all the saints
(4)   petition for Paul’s associates today.

It takes time to modify and supplement our prayers, and a daily effort is necessary if we want to imitate Paul in this respect. However, it was God Himself Who planted the yearning for fellowship with Him in our hearts; and He Himself is teaching us how to enjoy it in an ever-increasing measure. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, is talking to us, especially in the words of faith and of the ideal teaching. To make our fellowship with Him as close as possible, we are privileged to respond during every prayer and petition, for the laud of the glory of His grace.

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