Word of the Week
April 23, 2022
Panoplia: No Gaps in the Armor
Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Next time you watch a professional hockey game, watch the goalie. Every inch of his body is covered by pads and protective plates. His helmet and face mask make him look like a cross between Darth Vader and a giant grasshopper.
Why all this array of protective gear? Because a team of opponents is swarming toward him, intent on sending a rock-hard puck rocketing toward him at speeds over 100 miles per hour.
[The top recorded speed for a slap shot is over 110 mph. In the 60s, less accurate instruments clocked a Bobby Hull shot at over 118 mph! I wonder how fast David could sling his stone at Goliath?]
If one of those shots hit you in an unprotected spot, it would do real damage! That’s why no goalie goes on the ice without every piece of his gear in place.
The apostle Paul had a similar picture in mind when he wrote the epistle to the Ephesians. He was under house arrest, chained to a Roman soldier, with ample opportunity to interview men who knew how to protect themselves from sword swipes, spear thrusts, and flaming arrows. No wonder Paul chose a Greek word that reminds us of the need to make sure every piece of spiritual armor is in place before we step onto the field of combat.
He could have chosen the word hoplon, the standard description of a weapon or implement. The ancient Greek armies used lightly armed archers or horsemen, but the main body of infantry consisted of the “hoplites,” heavily armed troops equipped to wade into hand-to-hand combat.
Hoplon was originally a broad term for almost any kind of tool or implement. It might be the rope and tackle of a sailing vessel, or the tools used by a craftsman. But it soon took on a largely military flavor, which still applied to the Roman legions as well as other settings.
The mob who came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane were equipped with lanterns, torches, and weapons (John 18:3).
Paul instructed the Romans to present the members of their bodies to God as instruments of righteousness, rather than making them available to sin as tools of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13).
Paul also urged the Romans to lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor [weapons] of light (Romans 13:12).
In 2 Corinthians, he reminded his readers that the weapons we use for spiritual warfare are not of the flesh, but those with divine power (2 Corinthians 10:4). With these weapons, he would tear down fortresses – perhaps with siege engines, not just spiritual swords.
The apostle also claimed that one of his credentials as a man of God was the fact that he used weapons of righteousness (2 Corinthians 6:7).
Paul could have used hoplon in Ephesians 6:11, but he didn’t. He chose a stronger word: panoplia. He added the Greek word pan, which means “all, every.” This word serves as a reminder that every piece of equipment is essential. A wise soldier would never leave out a single item. His mental checklist would include the helmet, breastplate, belt, shoes, shield, and sword, as Paul explains.
The Christian is up against a fearsome foe with legions of evil angels who wield great power, who are skilled at finding any weak spot in your armor. That’s why Paul repeats the instruction in Ephesians 6:13: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
The next verses provide a catalog of the spiritual implements that God has given you. Let’s not forget Paul’s warning – we cannot afford to leave any part of the armor behind when we start our day. You never know when God will want you to use that shield or breastplate – or when the Devil will send a slap shot your way!
Hoplon and panoplia are both terms that could be used either in a military context or in a peacetime workplace context: weapons or tools. As is often the case, you have to look at the context and use your common sense to determine which one is right in a particular verse. Ephesians 6 is easy, because the next verses give you a list of exactly what Paul means.
Panoplia is used only one other time in the New Testament in Luke 11:22: When critics claimed that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan, He replied that only someone stronger than Satan could overpower him. Christ was the one who could seize the panoplian that served as the Devil’s defense.
Q: When I looked up Colossians 3:11 in Greek, the word order at the end of the verse was quite a bit different from the word order in my English Bible. What’s going on?
A: The word order in Greek does differ from English. A word-for-word rendering would be, “but all things and in all things Christ.” Your English translations generally put “Christ” at the beginning – “Christ is all, and in all.” That’s legitimate, because Christ is the subject of the sentence, and we normally put the subject before the verb. However, I love what Paul does with the more flexible Greek word order. One of the ways a Greek writer can emphasize a word is by putting it at the very beginning or end of sentence, rather than burying it in the middle. It’s the first thing you see at the entrance to the sentence or the last thing you see as you leave it. In Colossians 3:11, Paul saved the word “Christ” to the very end, making Him the climax of the whole sentence.
Next week we are going to do a word study on the words for “word.” That’s not a tongue-twister; it’s a look at two important terms in New Testament Greek.
©Ezra Project 2022