When you only know a word from a single context, it is harder to figure out what it means. “Panoply” is a word that I only knew in one context: the hymn, “Soldiers of Christ Arise”. Here’s the second stanza where the word appears:
Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.
This is based on this passage from Ephesians:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (…) Therefore put on the full armour 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.
The “panoply of God” therefore is the “full armour of God”, which Paul goes on to list: the belt of truth; with the breastplate of righteousness; your feet fitted with ‘readiness’; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.
I could analyse the imagery here all day long, but what I find most interesting is that the wearer of the panoply is simply aiming to stand their ground and “after you have done everything, to stand”.
It can seem like a bit of a sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut, wearing the panoply of God to end up at square one, at a familiar stand-still.
But perhaps it takes a sledgehammer to crack the nut of maintaining one’s steadfastness.
Therefore put on the full armour 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.