Merriam-Webster defines panoply as:
a full suit of armor: ceremonial attire
something forming a protective covering
a magnificent or impressive array <the full panoply of a military funeral> : a display of all appropriate appurtenances <no need for the panoply of power>
A Fresh Perspective
This unsettled feeling led me to look at the passage in a number of translations. Hence the use of the fancy word: panoply! Here are a few of my favorite translations of Ephesians 6:11:
Put on the panoply of God, that ye may be able to stand against the artifices of the devil.
Darby’s English Translation
So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
Take up God’s instruments of war, so that you may be able to keep your position against all the deceits of the Evil One.
The Bible in Basic English
Taking a fresh look at this familiar passage really opened my eyes and made me think about my preconceived notions and thoughts about the armor of God. I found that I was unsettled because my mental image of this armor of God was like King Saul handing his heavy, cumbersome war gear to the young Shepherd David (1 Samuel 17:38-39). I realized that I had always seen the armor of God as a sort of Roman war suit that was only put on during times of obvious war. I had never stopped to think about it as something we put on for daily living, something that isn’t cumbersome but is perfectly custom fitted to who we are in Christ. King Saul may have preferred armor to fight armies whereas David preferred his normal shepherding clothes to fight animals and anyone who dared to stand in opposition to God.
King Saul may have preferred armor to fight armies whereas David preferred his normal shepherding clothes to fight animals and anyone who dared to stand in opposition to God. The armor of God equips us all but we, and our armor, come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
War or Every Day?
What I failed to comprehend for so long was that these pieces of armor aren’t special pieces of equipment that we only use once in a while. Yes, they are weapons and useful for warfare, but they are also our spiritual clothing and they are necessary for spiritual development.
Most of us have heard the list so many times that we probably assume that we have them all memorized. But what are the components and what do they mean for us in war and in daily life? If you can, put away your preconceived ideas and let’s dive into the panoply, this beautiful equipment that God gives us! I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it:
If you can, put away your preconceived ideas and let’s dive into the panoply, this beautiful equipment that God gives us! I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it:
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
Ephesians 6:13-18 (The Message)
Pictured by Paul as a belt, this vital weapon arms us to know the truth so well that all lies are obvious. I once heard a story told about bank tellers being trained to spot forgeries simply by studying one thing: the original. In the same way, we must immerse ourselves in the truth.
Pictured as a breastplate, this covering to our vital organs is more than a defensive piece of clothing. Instead of a piece of armor, imagine a shining white shirt replacing our previously stained and tattered shirt. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are covered in His righteousness. All sin is removed. Our heart is made new. Our ability to experience true life is enhanced as we wear the righteousness of God!
Pictured in Paul’s metaphor as shoes, this piece gives us a peace with God, ourselves, and others. We are able not only to stand against the enemy but we are able to gain ground daily, taking purposeful steps toward Christlikeness.
Pictured as a shield, we might see this today as more of a protective bubble used by superheroes and scifi characters. The enemy desires to attack us from all sides, throwing insults, lies, accusations, temptations, etc until our faith slips enough to allow him in. But we know that we must hold on to our faith (our superhero forcefield bubble), our hope now for what is unseen, knowing that God is a rewarder of those that are faithful.
Pictured as a helmet, our minds are covered and protected from the invisible deceptions of the enemy through the redemption of our souls purchased by Jesus Christ. At the moment of salvation, we become a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. But Paul also tells us that we are continually formed to the pattern of the world or the Kingdom of God. It’s our choice to daily wear our salvation.
Pictured as a sword, our Bible and the words God speaks to us are our offense. They allow us to cut through the enemy’s plans and attacks as we stand strong in the rest of our spiritual suit. If you’re a game nerd (like I used to be…ok, I still am at times!), it’s like we’ve been given the ultimate, highest level weapon at the beginning of the game! Now we just have to learn how to use it!
Staying with the game nerd theme, communication with God is like talking to the game creator. Have a problem? Ask the creator. What’s even better is to praise the creator! See a part you particularly enjoyed? Tell him. We have the ability to praise, talk with, or ignore the ultimate Creator!
I want to leave you with this quote from the commentaries of Matthew Henry:
apply yourselves to your work and duty as Christian soldiers
I came across this as I was studying Ephesians 6 and I found it so life-giving. I’ve never been a soldier but the idea of suiting up and fighting to become the best me that I can be so that I can work closer with God is so encouraging. I hope you are encouraged as well!
Also published on Medium.