The Armor of God:
Understanding the Metaphor
The Armor of God: Understanding the Metaphor
Reviewed by Sandra A. Thorne
To see the armor of God whole, and to put all of it on, we
must comprehend that Christ is at the center. (p. 266)
To the saints living in Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote an
important letter about living the gospel in a difficult world. In the paragraph
we now know as Ephesians 6:10–17, he crafted a profound metaphor,
comparing the spiritual strengths of the faithful to the various elements of
armor worn by a soldier for protection on the battlefield.
Armor: Divine Protection in a Darkening
World is a thorough discussion of
Paul’s metaphor that moves these
inspired symbols out of the realm of the simplistic caricatures that have
sometimes been used to describe them. Kim Clark explores the various elements
of the metaphor by discussing concrete approaches to
living the gospel and receiving its blessings. Clark has given us a mature,
insightful perspective on Paul’s
teachings. He does not discuss Paul, his calling, his mission, or the Saints
who received this epistle; instead he focuses on the meaning this sermon has
for us—the recipients of the restored gospel in the last dispensation.
Believers know that the word of the Lord is their protection
in this world, but just how does it protect? Clark offers perceptive discussion
of gospel principles that have the potential to create the spiritual strengths
needed to arm oneself for “perilous
times” (2 Timothy 3:1).
Specific references in the book to the symbols of Paul’s metaphor are not as frequent as I expected—until I
understood the depth of the discussion. The principles addressed are not poorly
connected concepts but crucial elements of the process of attaining the mighty
change of heart described in Mosiah 5:2 and Alma
In the introduction, Clark describes his experience of
searching for answers to his own concerns about the conflict between the world’s ways and the ways of the gospel. He
contemplated the passage in Ephesians and began to gather insights about what
it means to create and wear the armor of God. His desire to share those insights
with his family led him to write this book.
As I read, I underlined passages that were meaningful to me,
and there were many. I appreciated the opportunity to read what he learned in
his quest for understanding.
In addition to chapters on the specific symbols of armor,
Clark includes three chapters discussing the importance of the covenants
Latter-day Saints enter into. Covenants allow one to “ ’put on’ or ‘take on’ something heavenly to help us in our
earthly journey” (p. 17). He
draws from the teachings of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon to emphasize
the need for baptism and repentance. We receive blessings when we embrace the
process of repentance: “Without
the Spirit, the pain of guilt is just plain old pain and suffering. When the
Spirit is involved, however, those feelings are tinged with hope. . . . In this way, what is painful and full of sorrow becomes godly” (p. 25).
My desire to improve my spiritual connection to the temple
covenants made one of Clark’s
insights especially meaningful to me: “I
believe there are three kinds of knowledge in the temple, and three ways in
which we learn. The first includes specific facts about the plan of salvation,
and specific information we need to know in order to progress eternally. . . . The second kind of knowledge—symbolic
knowledge—is different. . . . What we learn
depends very much on us—what we need, our preparation, our sensitivity to
the Spirit, our attention and focus. . . . The third
kind of knowledge we receive in the temple is an eternal perspective. This
knowledge builds on and comes from the first two, but adds a broader vision, a
divine framework, and a heavenly vantage point” (pp. 65–68).
metaphor is perfectly applicable these many centuries after it was written is
evidence of the eternal nature of who we really are and the eternal nature of
the war that people of faith wage—a war “not
against flesh and blood, but . . . against the rulers of the darkness of this
world” (Ephesians 6:12).
Here we find guidance and protection at that crucial point where all things
spiritual meet all things earthly. “The
armor of God really is like armor. It is the armor of light, the sure
protection against the ‘wiles of
the devil’ and the ‘fiery darts of the wicked.’ But the whole armor of God is more
than protection. It also confers on us the capacity to be on the Lord’s errand in building the kingdom of
God in the great battle against evil in the world. When we put on the whole
armor of God, we are prepared to serve him on the front lines of that battle” (p. 272).
because of that focus, Clark includes many examples of family experiences; some
of them work well, but others seem strained.