10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:10 – 20
In the recent past I have been very aware of the spiritual nature of ministry more than usual. I think I should be alert about this fact all the time but the motions of life and routine has at times clouded my mind so that I have not been alive to the fact that ministry is a work of hearts, a spiritual battle of sorts. Sometimes the Lord uses events in our lives or in the lives of others to call us to attention to what we either have been ignoring all along or have not been paying sufficient attention to.
Such was the case in the recent past when I considered a number of events in the church family and a thought came to mind – what if it is demonic? Now, I am not one given to see demons everywhere. I see sin, human irresponsibility and systemic failures at play when I see problems in the lives of people or in the society at large. But this particular issue had me thinking broadly or you might say deeply and I wondered out loud to Rhodah – what if this is a demonic manifestation.
Many of us are shy to talk about demons and spiritual forces. We don’t understand them well and many have abused/manipulated others on this subject. Besides, we have received a western education that values evidence and looks down upon anything you can’t quite substantiate. If you can’t rationally prove it, then it does not exist. I think the one big lie the devil has sold to evangelicals is that he does not exist or to belittle his power. Our temptation is to swing to one end of the pendulum where we see demons everywhere and blame them for every fault or the other end where they don’t exist and have nothing to do with our present existence.
The Bible calls believers not to be ignorant of the devices of the evil one. In the passage above, we see there are ‘schemes’ of the enemy. The enemy is an active, intentional planner. When we see the effects of habitual sin in people’s lives, the desperation of those caught up in addictions, the breakdown of families, the disunity in a local church, the rot in society and the list could go on, there are not many places to look – the enemy is at work. But how are we to biblically understand and fight spiritually? Paul offers us a few pointers.
- Remember your identity
Paul opens this section with verse 10 which affirms clearly – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. The most important thing to remember in spiritual warfare is who you are. I submit the battle is actually won or lost at the point of identity. Paul had spent the first 3 chapters of the letter to Ephesians reminding of their identity in Christ. He wanted the Ephesians to be aware that they are blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (1:3), That they were chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (1:4), That they were predestined for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ (1:5), that they were God’s possession (1:14).
- Remember the Gospel
Paul is very aware that the greatest threat to the Christian lies in forgetting who they are and what God in His grace has done for them. And so he is quick to remind them to rest their identity in the strength of his might. He is echoing the words in Chapter 1 from 16.
18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Paul prays that the Ephesians might be clear in their understanding of the gospel – That they may know the hope to which they have been called and the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. But he does not stop at that. He goes on to remind them of the gospel power – that power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the Father’s right hand above every rule and authority, power and dominion.
I think our arsenal in spiritual warfare is right understanding and application of the gospel. Paul wants us to know that, the very power that raised Christ from the dead continues to overcome evil for Christ is seated at the right hand of the father far above every name and that all things have been put under his feet. That ought to give you confidence.
- Remember your enemy.
It is very hard to fight a battle when you don’t know who the enemy is. The call to put on the full amour of God in 6:11 is given so that you can take your stand against the devil’s scheme. There is no mincing of words here – the enemy here is the devil. Paul goes on to say in verse 12 that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (other people) but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. There might be a sense of repetition for emphasis here but there is no missing the point of who the enemy is. Christian, you are not to be ignorant of the devices of the evil one. You are to be sober and vigilant for your enemy, the devil prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
- Remember your location.
Recently I was reading Pst. John Piper’s arguably most famous book – Don’t waste your life and in it he refers to conversation he had with the famous missiologist Ralph Winter who had challenged him about a war-time mentality. He writes…
“I need to hear this message again and again, because I drift into a peacetime mind-set as certainly as rain falls down and flames go up. I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth “home”. Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached peoples drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of His grace. I sink into a worldly mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness.”
Paul reminds the Ephesians about ‘this dark world’ in other words our existence as Christians is surrounded by darkness. Friends, we are at war and this is continuous. It is easy for us to relax and enjoy the comforts of life and forget that we are in a state of emergency. We fight best when we are aware that we are at war. We commit our time, energy, resources and everything at hand for the glory of Christ.
- Remember your weapons.
Perhaps the most famous part of the section is the analogy of the Roman soldier that Paul draws for the Ephesians. Here is what readiness for spiritual warfare looks like.
- Belt of truth. (The Gospel)
- Breastplate of righteousness. (The Gospel)
- Readiness that comes from the gospel
- Shield of faith (in the gospel)
- Helmet of salvation (By the gospel)
- Sword of the Spirit (Word of God – the gospel)
Finally, Paul calls the Ephesians to do the most unusual thing in any battle – to cry in dependence. Can you imagine gathering soldiers and getting them all the supplies and then giving the order ‘Pray!’ Shockingly that is exactly what we find in verse 18. They way to fight is to cry to the Lord. To pray in the spirit (according to the Word) with all kinds of prayers and requests and with that in mind, to always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
But what are we to pray for? I think our weapons gives us an idea as does Paul’s own prayers in chapter 1 and in the closing verse – for the light of the gospel to spread in our dark world.