Luther on Spiritual Warfare (part 7)
It belongs in common to all Christians that they preserve the doctrine and their faith, but especially they which carry out the preaching office, that each in his particular station can stand up for it and answer useless talkers. “Do you not hear that God has applied this station to me, and commanded me faithfully to wait upon it, and threatens me with His wrath if I were to leave it undone, and do something else?” That is not only to remain firm in his own station, unhindered and undefeated, but instead also to beat, reject, and refute with the Word of God whatever hinders us and wants to draw us back. St. Paul shortly before this text teaches how this is to be done through all stations—man, woman, young, old, lords, servants, maids, etc. For it is determined that each Christian, in whatever station he is in, must always stand in the midst of struggle, where the devil attacks and storms against him with his promptings, with false, evil thoughts, or through evil, useless talkers, which would incite him to leave his station, not to mention what our own flesh does. Therefore it is not enough that we keep our own castle safe…rather also, that we drive the devil away and beat him back through God’s Word, which is our sword, as we shall hear.
- For this an Armor is Required.
PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD.
That we should be strong and have such power with us wherewith we can beat the foe, he now wants to interpret himself and clarify how and through what we must do this, or what our armament and weapons should be. And he first calls us to buckle on armor, as people of war who are armed for a fight, and who will put up stiff resistance. But he indicates not the kind of armor which one uses here on earth to protect the body, but instead that which is called “the armor of God.” That is a curious kind of armor. Where would we get it, or where is the armorer who can forge such armor? Well then, he will hereafter name what it is and explain, one after another, the things that belong to this armor of God.
- And indeed an Armor of God.
But here he is still talking generally. This armor must be an armor not of a man, but instead of God Himself. Here on earth one finds no armorer who can forge armor that will work against the devil. Here then there exists no human strength, power, nor wisdom and understanding that will work against this foe. He can turn everything into powder and ashes simply by blowing on you with his breath. Therefore, because you are a different kind of warrior, he wants to say, and because you have another kind of foe against you, so you must also have another kind of armor than the world has or can make.
- For the Matter over Which we Must Fight is of God.
But he also therefore calls it the armor of God, to indicate what the matter is over which we are fighting, namely, that the war belongs to God Himself. And we are His warriors. Since we fight for Him and His cause, we must also use His armor, with which He makes war. As if he should say, “You have a Lord, who is the foe of the devil. His is the crown and the Godhead. Therefore if you want to have Him for your Lord, and you want to hold with Him and become a partaker of His good things, then you must also have His foes against you, and you must go to war and struggle against them.” Everyone who wants to be under a lord must also march under his banner, and have his enemies for enemies. Since now the devil is God’s enemy, and wants to destroy His Kingdom, you should not think that you will be secure from him. Instead arm yourself for war, and indeed even with the armor with which He Himself makes war through His Christendom. So He wants with this to give us courage, because we in the world and through our whole life must stand in struggle and controversy, and suffer that all will bluster and storm against us. He wants us to know that these things do not happen on account of ourselves, but rather by God’s will. And our struggle is not ours, but rather belongs to God Himself. He wants to encourage us that we stand in His service, and much more to comfort us that He will not leave us, but instead will most faithfully stand by us and help. He wants us to be encouraged that we are not working in vain, but rather that He, powerfully working through us, will be victorious.
- Because God wants to take honor from the proud devil through weak people.
For He is man enough for the devil, and could easily fight the devil with a finger, yea, with a Word, and could restrain all his ranting and raging. Still He wants to use us for this purpose, and play a trick on the proud, wrathful spirit, that he puts against him and taunts him by one such poor, weak vessel, which stands against him as a little spark against a strong wind, that he might blow us out with a breath. Still he wants to beat him through such weak vessels, and through us to take honor from such a proud, mighty foe, that He might make known His divine power in our weakness. This [angers?] the devil, that God taunts him with such frail junk, and he attacks us wrathfully and ferociously, and would in a flash smash us like a heap of pottery. Therefore we must be armed against him, and also have an armor wherewith we can defend ourselves. This armor is not ours, but rather alien, namely God’s power and might, so that we might not glory in ourselves, nor give up within ourselves, as we would if we tried to stand with our own might against this foe.
- The Great Cunning of Satan.
THAT YOU CAN STAND AGAINST THE CRAFTY ATTEMPTS OF THE DEVIL.
Here he begins now to paint and show what kind of foe we have, and how he prepares himself to make war and to attack us. He reveals to us his works and arts wherewith he pursues us. He says this, and will say further, so that we will therefore protect ourselves and well arm ourselves with the armor of God. But he calls his conflict and war arts “crafty attempts” to show that the devil is such a foe who is not only mightier than we (as he soon hereafter will say), but rather also very tricky, and wicked. He sets up all his attacks with cunning and trickiness. He does not attack us openly and freely under our eyes, like a foe from whom we can protect ourselves, and see where he would break in. Rather he creeps up on us and looks where he may secretly and treacherously take us captive, where we least expect it. So you need not worry that he will attack you where he sees you armed, where you yourself expect him and have grasped the sword. Rather, look where you are run down and undefended. There he can find a hole, where he creep up to you, that he may suddenly and unforeseen catch and fell you.