13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Reflect on the kind of faith Paul has to write this. Now, read the following in light of the passage you just read: “And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1-3).
I wonder if Stephen is the inspiration for Paul when he writes about putting on the armor of God? Stephen stood. When the day of evil came for him and false charges were brought and lies were told and he had to defend himself before the highest court, Stephen stood full of the Holy Spirit. And after he said everything God wanted him to say. After he retold Israel’s story from the beginning and emphasized how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, the Prophets, were all God’s chosen messengers pointing not to themselves nor to the Temple as the fulfillment of God’s salvation history, but to Jesus as the Anointed One, the Saviour. After Stephen finished, he stood. Before the rocks would impale his body, he stood. And as the stones came, his face shone like an angel and he fell to his knees and prayed that God would bless and forgive them.
Stephen wasn’t the only one standing. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56). Typically, Jesus is referred to as sitting at the right hand of the Father. Here, he is standing as an Advocate for Stephen. And now through the transforming power of God’s grace, Paul is completely committed and devoted to standing strong for the Lord and teaching the church how to put on the armor of God. Jesus stands for us. Are you standing for him? Are the pieces of your armor tarnished by the world? Are your feet firmly planted standing on his truth and grace? Are we standing for each other?
Holy God, thank you for your amazing grace. Thank you for standing for us. Help us stand for you with every opportunity we receive. Equip us with your truth. Keep our feet ready to serve. Make our motivations righteous so our lives increase the faith in others. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.