William Gurnall, following the consistent practice of Puritan preachers, offers a doctrine first and then provides several reasons for the doctrine.
As we have journeyed through The Christian In Complete Armour, we have learned much about the armor of God. In this section, Gurnall offers the following doctrine:
It is not enough to have grace, but this grace must be kept in exercise. (Gurnall, 63-64)
In this “fourth branch,” Gurnall is discussing the “put on” aspect of the armor of God. In Ephesians 6:11, Paul commands the believer, “Put on the armor of God…” (ESV) As Gurnall notes, “It is one thing to have armour in the house, and another thing to have it buckled on; to have grace in the principle, and grace in the act.” (Gurnall, 63)
This armor is to be used, as Gurnall mentions. Noting the lifelong excursion of spiritual war, Gurnall informs the believer that “Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together; then, indeed, will be no need of watch and ward, shield or helmet.” (Gurnall, 64)
“FIRST. CHRIST COMMANDS US TO HAVE OUR ARMOUR ON, OUR GRACE IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 63)
What Gurnall is telling us is that we must be busy about the work God has given us to do. We must endeavor to follow Peter’s pattern in 2 Peter 1:3-11. Peter remarks on this need for growth by describing our state, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8, ESV)
The spiritual disciplines are a must for the believer. In my brief ministerial experience, many Christians complain of defeat in the face of temptation, struggles with sinful thoughts, and joyless living. When I ask them how their time with God has been, I come to find out that it is almost non-existent.
How can you increase your growth? There are two helpful resources I would recommend. First, Dr. Jim Berg’s book Changed Into His Image: God’s Plan for Transforming Your Life is an excellent work with an accompanying study guide. This book provides a treatment of the Christian life with practical applications. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Second, Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life. As with Dr. Berg’s book, Spiritual Disciplines has a study guide. Whitney offers a treatment of the various spiritual disciplines (such as Scripture intake, prayer, fasting, etc.).
Put on your armor, Christian, and exercise the grace that has been given to you!
“SECOND. SATAN’S ADVANTAGE IS GREAT WHEN GRACE IS NOT IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 64)
It is easier, says Gurnall, for Satan to trip you up when you are not growing in grace (i.e., wearing the armor of God). Consider an athlete. The individual trains and enhances their skill in the sport in which they compete. However, when the individual fails to train with consistent intensity, they fail at the sport. Likewise, when Christians fail to grow in grace, Satan is granted easy access to further harm you and help you sin.
The devil and forces of evil are given the upper hand when the Christian fails to practice his or her grace. How many dear brothers and sisters pack the pews on Sundays as defeated by the great adversary of our souls because of inactivity!
“THIRD. BECAUSE IT IS SO AWKY A BUSINESS, AND HARD A WORK, TO RECOVER THE ACTIVITY OF GRACE ONCE LOST, AND TO REVIVE A DUTY IN DISUSE.” (Gurnall, 65)
Remember, Gurnall is discussing the need to use the armor, not to simply own it. It is easy, reasons Gurnall, to maintain and grow in grace then it is to restart it. Now, we must take caution here and not that Gurnall is not discussing a Christian’s loss of his or her salvation. It is eternal redemption. However, he is not wrong in this sentiment.
Consider his elaboration, “The longer a soul hath neglected duty, the more ado there is to get it take up; partly, through shame, the soul having played truant, now know not how to look God in the face; and partly, from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace.” (Gurnall, 65)
It is easier to maintain a car through consistent oil changes, tune-ups, and gas refills than it is to leave it idle for years. Most of the car’s operating systems would need to be replaced and fixed before operable. Christian, maintain your vehicle! Daily intake the Word of God and pray, attend church services with your fellow brothers and sisters, nourish your should through the spiritual disciplines. Neglect not your armor!
“FOURTH. WE MUST KEEP GRACE IN EXERCISE IN RESPECT OF OTHERS OUR FELLOW-SOLDIERS.” (Gurnall, 65)
Here Gurnall discusses one of the most important aspects, though often neglected, of the Christian life. Christianity involves a community, or fellowship, to use the biblical word (see 1 John 1:3, for example). We were meant to live together.
Though we are currently in social distancing due to the coronavirus, Christians were never meant to live the Christian life alone. We need each other. And one of the many responsibilities that you have to your brothers and sisters (and indeed all of us) is for the benefit of them.
We don our armor for them. Gurnall notes, “Thus, Christian, thou art to be helpful to thy fellow-brethren , who have not that settlement of peace in their spirit as thyself, not that measure of grace or comfort.” (Gurnall, 66)
In other words, Christians need you to live the Christian life to encourage them to continue pressing on! One of the most encouraging ministers I know is John MacArthur. He has pastored his church for fifty years. He is committed to the expository preaching of God’s Word. And for fifty years he has opened the Scriptures and expounded upon them, living in and among his people. They have observed his doctrine and his way of life, and he is still their pastor. His faithfulness is a challenge to me!
You never know what encouragement you offer to your fellow brothers and sisters. Thus, we must for their sake and ours, don the armor of God.
God has given us armor to wear, not to collect dust. Likewise, He has provided the sacred Scriptures to help our knowledge of Him increase, to provide guidance for our lives as we grow in godliness. Are we putting it to good use? Are we donning our armor daily? Or, are we neglecting the state of our souls?
Brothers and sisters let us consider the words of Gurnall solemnly. Let us, therefore, put on the whole armor of God.
For more guidance from Gurnall, check these out: