The Believer’s Warfare Ephesians 6:10-13 (KJV) 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against fleshb and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. The true Christian…. • described in Ephesians 1–3 • who lives the faithful life described in 4:1—6:9 • Can be sure that he will be involved in the spiritual warfare described in 6:10–20. • The faithful Christian life is a battle; it is warfare on a grand scale—because when God begins to bless, Satan begins to attack. If we are walking worthy of our calling, • in humility rather than pride, • in unity rather than divisiveness, • in the new self rather than the old, • in love rather than lust, • in light rather than darkness, • in wisdom rather than foolishness, • in the fullness of the Spirit rather than the drunkenness of wine, and • in mutual submission rather than self–serving independence, Then we can be absolutely certain we will have opposition and conflict. 1. Jesus’ ministry began in a great battle with Satan that lasted forty days (Luke 4:2). a. As Jesus’ ministry ended, Satan besieged Him again in the Garden of Gethsemane with such force that He sweat great drops of blood (22:44). b. Among many other instructive truths, those two accounts teach us that the battle may not become easier as we grow in obedience to God. If anything, Satan will intensify his efforts against those who continue to effectively serve the Lord. As believers grow stronger, so will Satan’s attacks. 2. The Christian who continually seeks to grow in his knowledge of and obedience to the Word and to serve the Lord more faithfully will not find ministry becoming easier. a. As the Lord gives mastery over certain temptations and weaknesses, Satan will attack elsewhere. Faith fill witnessing, preaching, teaching, visiting, and every other service for the Lord not only will bring victories but will also bring their own special difficulties and opposition. b. A Christian who no longer has to struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil is a Christian who has fallen either into sin or into complacency. A Christian who has no conflict is a Christian who has retreated from the front lines of service. 3. When Paul first went to Ephesus he immediately began to preach the gospel. He led some disciples of John the Baptist to saving faith in Jesus Christ and spoke three months in the local synagogue and then in the school of Tyrannus. “And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hand of Paul” (Acts 19:10–11). a. He led many Jews and Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ. Those who had practiced magic burned their books, and “the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (vv. 17–20). b. But from the beginning he faced opposition. i. He was run out of the synagogue by unbelieving Jewish leaders (vv. 8–9), ii. mimicked by apostate Jewish exorcists (vv. 13–16), iii. and threatened by Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths, whose idol–making business was suffering because of Paul’s ministry (vv. 23–40). c. Paul knew that where there was the greatest spiritual challenge there was also likely to be the greatest danger and opposition. i. As he explained to the believers at Corinth, he was determined to stay a while longer in Ephesus because “a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:8–9). ii. Many pastors are tempted to leave a church or other field of service when things begin to get difficult. iii. But an easy ministry may be a weak ministry, because where the Lord’s work is genuinely being done Satan will not fail to oppose it. iv. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are not only God’s sons and servants but also His soldiers—and a soldier’s job is to fight the enemy. d. Even God’s holy angels face opposition when they minister for Him. i. The angel sent to Daniel was opposed by a demon for twenty–one days and had to be assisted by the archangel Michael (Dan. 10:13), ii. and Michael even had a battle with Satan himself over the body of Moses (Jude 9). e. To the Thessalonian church Paul reflected on his battle when he said, “For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan thwarted us” (1 Thess. 2:18). i. Believers are attacked personally and corporately. ii. Paul warned the elders from Ephesus, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). iii. They would be attacked both from the outside and the inside. Satan is always on the prowl, and the biblically–taught Christian is “not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). 1. The Preparation: Strength in the Lord Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. (6:10) a. Basic to the effective Christian life is preparation. i. The unprepared believer becomes the defeated believer who seeks to serve the Lord in his own wisdom and power. ii. The strength of the Christian life is dependence on God, being strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. iii. Any other strength proves to be impotent. iv. The cardinal reality presented in the book of Ephesians is that, as believers, we are in Christ and are one with Him. His life is our life, His power our power, His truth our truth, His way our way, and, as Paul goes on to say here, His strength is our strength. b. The Lord’s strength is always more than sufficient for the battle. i. When Jesus told the church at Philadelphia, “I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:8), He was affirming that even a little power was enough to preserve them, because it was the Lord’s supernatural power. ii. Our own strength is never strong enough to oppose Satan, but when we are strong in the Lord, even a little of His strength is sufficient to win any battle. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” Paul said (Phil. 4:13). It is not the amount of the strength we have that is important—only its source. iii. In the ultimate sense, the church’s battles with Satan are already won. iv. In his crucifixion and resurrection Jesus destroyed Satan and his power of sin and death (Rom. 5:18–21; 1 Cor. 15:56–57; Heb. 2:14). v. Trust in Jesus Christ initiates a person into that victory. To the extent that a Christian is strong in the Lord, his victory over the worst that Satan has to offer is guaranteed. vi. We are in a war—a fierce and terrible war—but we have no reason to be afraid if we are on the Lord’s side. Appropriation of that strength comes through the means of grace—prayer, knowledge of and obedience to the Word, and faith in the promises of God. c. After several years of ministry, Timothy became fearful and timid. He faced stronger temptations than he had expected and considerably more opposition. i. Paul wrote to him, “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. … You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:6–8; 2:1). 2. The Provision: The Armor of God Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm (6:11a) a. In order to take advantage of the strength of God’s might, a believer must also put on the full spiritual armor that He supplies (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3–5). i. Enduō (put on) carries the idea of once and for all, of permanence. ii. The full armor of God is not something to be put on and taken off occasionally but is something to be put on permanently. iii. It is not a uniform to wear only while playing a game and then to remove when the game is over. iv. The armor of God is to be the Christian’s lifelong companion. It provides believers with divine power from “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). b. Paul was probably chained to a Roman soldier when he penned the words of Ephesians, and looking at the soldier’s armor, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to see in it the analogy of God’s spiritual provision for our battle with Satan and his angels (vv. 14–17). i. As the apostle explains in those verses, the believer’s armor equips him beyond the initial facts of the gospel. It is living the obedient, Scripture–dominated, Spirit–empowered life that enables us to stand firm. ii. To stand firm (from histēmi), when used in a military sense, had the idea of holding a critical position while under attack. The intent of the exhortation here is not unlike that of our Lord to the embattled church at Thyatira, whom He commanded, “hold fast until I come” (Rev. 2:25). 3. The Enemy: Satan against the schemes of the devil. (6:11b) a. The enemy against which we need God’s strength and armor is Satan, the devil. Because he is God’s enemy, he is our enemy, and the only way he can attack God is through us. We can therefore be sure that he will seek us out and attack us with his schemes. i. Methodia (schemes), from which comes the English method, carries the idea of craftiness, cunning, and deception (see also 4:14). The term was often used of a wild animal who cunningly stalked and then unexpectedly pounced on its prey. Satan’s evil schemes are built around stealth and deception. ii. In modern times a strange phenomenon exists. Along with increased disbelief even in the existence of the devil there is also increased demonic/occultic involvement—both of which play into Satan’s hands. b. Scripture is clear about Satan’s very real and personal existence. i. He was once the chief angel, the anointed cherub, the star of the morning, who sparkled with all the jewels of created beauty—until he rebelled against his Creator and tried to usurp His power and glory (see Isa. 14:12–17; Ezek. 28:1–10; Rev. 12:7–9). ii. He first appears in Scripture in the form of a serpent, as he tempted Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1). iii. Jesus not only spoke about Satan (Luke 10:18; John 8:44; 12:31) but spoke with him (Matt. 4:3–10). iv. Paul, Peter, James, John, and the writer of Hebrews all speak of him as a personal being (Rom. 16:20; 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Thess. 2:18; Heb. 2:14; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:9). v. We see him opposing God’s work (Zech. 3:1), 1. perverting God’s Word (Matt. 4:6), 2. hindering God’s servant (1 Thess. 2:18), 3. hindering the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4), 4. snaring the wicked (1 Tim. 3:7), 5. appearing as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), 6. and fighting with the archangel Michael (Jude 9). 7. He brought sin into the world and the whole world now lies in his power (1 John 5:19). c. The Bible refers to the devil by such personal names and descriptions as “the anointed cherub” (Ezek. 28:14), “the ruler of demons” (Luke 11:15), “the ruler of this world” (John 16:11), “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and numerous others. i. He is identified as the great dragon, a roaring lion, the vile one, the tempter, the accuser, and the spirit working in the sons of disobedience. ii. Fifty–two times he is called Satan, which means “adversary,” and thirty–five times the devil, which means “slanderer.” iii. This fallen archangel and his fallen angels who became demons have been tempting and corrupting mankind since the Fall. iv. They are an evil, formidable, cunning, powerful, and invisible foe against whom no human being in his own power and resources is a match. d. Evidence of Satan’s great power and deception can be seen in the fact that, despite God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt, His immeasurable blessings, protection, and provisions in the wilderness and in Canaan, His chosen people repeatedly fell for Satan’s seductions, worshiping the hideous and demonic idols of paganism. i. After all of the predictions of the Messiah given in the Old Testament and after Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and miraculous healings, Satan managed to induce Israel to reject and crucify her own Messiah! ii. In the last days his final deception of Israel will be to persuade her that the antichrist is instead the Christ (see Dan. 9:26–27). e. In our own day the world is rushing to accept such demonic deceptions as i. the woman’s liberation movement, which denies God’s order for the family; ii. the new morality, which is no morality; and iii. homosexuality, which is total perversion of sexuality. iv. The proliferation of pagan and apostate Christian cults and religious/philosophical isms experienced by no other age in history reflects the work of “seducing spirits” and “the doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). v. Even in the name of Christianity, Jesus’ deity, miracles, resurrection, atoning sacrifice, second coming, and judgment are denied. vi. The church is being seduced away from Scripture by liberal theology, psychology, mysticism, and even the occult. f. All of these things are but manifestations of the schemes of the devil against mankind. i. In every confusing and deceptive way he can devise “the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). ii. On another occasion the Lord warned that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). g. The schemes of the devil include the propagation of individual beliefs and life–styles that corrupt and damn. i. They include evil national and international policies and practices that deceive and destroy. ii. They include the doubts placed in believers’ minds to lead them away from trust in their holy and loving Father. iii. They include temptations of God’s children to immorality, worldliness, pride, self–reliance, and self–satisfaction. iv. They include slander, ridicule, and persecution of His saints. v. The apostle John summarizes the attack points of the devil with the exhortation in his first epistle: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world [Satan’s present domain], the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father” (1 John 2:15–16). 4. The Battle: Against Demons For we wrestle not against fleshb and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (6:12) a. One of Satan’s most effective strategies, and therefore one of a believer’s greatest dangers, is the delusion that no seriously threatening conflict between good and evil is really raging in the invisible and supernatural realm. i. After all, it is argued, there appear to be many good things in the world today. ii. Numerous ancient evils, such as slavery and race hatred, have disappeared or improved dramatically. iii. People have never been so concerned about getting along together, understanding one another, and working with one another to improve individual lives and society as a whole. . iv. Not only that, but evangelicalism is riding a crest of popularity, growth, and influence unknown for over a century. v. But that sort of thinking not only is naive but inevitably leads to lethargy, indifference, indolence, and spiritual stagnation. . vi. A biblical perspective on the situation and a clear perception of the direction things are really moving—especially in light of Scripture’s teaching about the end times—does not leave room for such delusion in the mind of any believer. vii. The war between God and Satan has not diminished but intensified, and so has its front on this earth. b. Palē (struggle) was used of hand–to–hand combat and especially of wrestling. i. As in our own day, wrestling was characterized by trickery and deception—with the difference that in fights in ancient Rome the conflict was real and often a matter of life for the winner and death for the loser. ii. Though Satan and his minions know they are sentenced eternally to the bottomless pit prepared in hell for them, they seek desperately to change that fate if they can—warring ceaselessly to break the power of God and destroy the things of God, especially the church. iii. Paul here reminds his readers that the Christian’s struggle is not only against Satan himself but also against a host of his demon subordinates, a vast array of adversaries who, like the devil, are not flesh and blood. iv. Our greatest enemy is not the world we see, corrupt and wicked as it is, but the world we cannot see. c. Rulers, … powers, … world forces of this darkness, … and spiritual forces of wickedness describe the different strata and rankings of those demons and the evil, supernatural empire in which they operate. i. Human beings who promote paganism, the occult, and various other ungodly and immoral movements and programs are but dupes of Satan and his demons—trapped by sin into unwittingly helping to fulfill his schemes. ii. The mention of each of these supernatural powers is preceded by against, and each seems to represent a particular category of demon activity and level of authority. iii. Satan’s forces of darkness are highly organized and structured for the most destructive warfare possible. iv. Like the unfallen holy angels, demons do not procreate and their number is fixed. But they are a great and ancient multitude and constitute a formidable and highly experienced supernatural enemy. v. The demonic categories are not explained, but rulers no doubt reflects a high order of demons (linked with “authorities” in Col. 2:15), 1. powers are another rank (mentioned in 1 Pet. 3:22), 2. and world forces of this darkness perhaps refers to demons who have infiltrated various political systems of the world, attempting to pattern them after Satan’s realm of darkness (see Dan. 10:13; Col. 1:13). 3. Many stories are told of world–wide conspiracies, ranging from those mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings to supposed modern cabals. 4. We have no way of absolutely identifying the networking of the various schemes of Satan and should be wary of those who claim to do so. 5. But we can be certain that he is active behind the scenes of Christless human endeavors—both in the overt, obviously evil works of men as well as in the many covert and seemingly innocent and good works of humanistic endeavors. d. The spiritual forces of wickedness are possibly those demons who are involved in the most wretched and vile immoralities—such as extremely perverse sexual practices, the occult, Satan worship, and the like. i. Paul’s purpose, however, is not to explain the details of the demonic hierarchy but to give us some idea of its sophistication and power. We are pitted against an incredibly evil and potent enemy. ii. But our need is not to specifically recognize every feature of our adversary but to turn to God, who is our powerful and trustworthy source of protection and victory. iii. Much today is being said about Christian exorcism of demons, although Scripture teaches no such practice. Rituals of exorcism are foreign to the Bible, which does not record a single instance of a demon being cast out of a believer, at any time or place by anyone. iv. Nor does Scripture give any formula or method for such exorcism. Whenever Satan is confronted by Christians, the means of opposition is the strength of the Lord and the provision He has already made for all believers. v. Every believer has already experienced “the surpassing greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:19–20). vi. The power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him in heaven is our power, bequeathed to us as joint heirs with Him. vii. Dealing with demons in one’s Christian life is not a matter of finding the technique to send them away, but of being committed to the spiritual means of grace that purifies the soul, so that there is no unclean place that demons could occupy or by which they might gain advantage. viii. James gives the only formula for deliverance from the demons or the devil himself: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). e. There is no believer who cannot deal with Satan on the terms of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in which he participates as a Christian. Paul prayed for the Colossians that they would be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:11–13). i. No Christian is any longer in Satan’s domain, and every Christian has the resources of God’s own Holy Spirit within him to free himself from any demonic entanglement, no matter how severe. ii. Where sin is confessed and put away, Satan and his demons are expelled. iii. On the other hand, it is dangerous to become presumptuous, thinking that we are free from any danger. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall,” Paul warned (1 Cor. 10:12). iv. Imagining that one has mastered Scripture, or any part of it, or has become strong enough to live in personal power, renders such a person the weakest and most vulnerable. v. Only where trust is completely in the Lord’s power is there safety. As the apostle went on to say, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (v. 13). f. It is recognition of our weakness that makes us the strongest. “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses,” Paul declared, “that the power of Christ may dwell in me … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9–10). i. A guard who sees the enemy approaching does not run out and start fighting. He reports the attack to his commanding officer, who then organizes the defense. ii. When Satan attacks, it is foolish to try to do battle with him alone. Like the soldier on guard duty, we should simply report to the Commander and leave the defense in His hands. iii. As the Lord assured King Jehoshaphat as his army faced the greatly superior forces of Moab and Ammon, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chron. 20:15). g. We know from God’s Word that Satan and his invisible demons are continually at work in the world and all around us. i. But we do not have the wisdom to discern exactly when they are present, how many there are, what kind they are, or what they are doing. ii. Saints tread on dangerous ground when they try to deal with things for which Scripture gives no instruction or guidance. iii. We are to put on God’s armor and report to Him, perfectly confident in the knowledge that “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The very “gates of Hades shall not overpower” Christ’s church (Matt. 16:18). 5. The Victory: In Standing Firm Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (6:13) a. It is easy for believers—especially in the Western world, where the church is generally prosperous and respected—to be complacent and become oblivious to the seriousness of the battle around them. b. They rejoice in “victories” that involve no battles and in a kind of peace that is merely the absence of conflict. i. Theirs is the victory and peace of the draft dodger or defector who refuses to fight. ii. They are not interested in armor because they are not engaged in the war. c. God gives no deferments or exemptions. i. His people are at war and will continue to be at war until He returns and takes charge of earth. ii. But even the most willing and eager soldier of Christ is helpless without God’s provision. iii. That is Paul’s point here: take up the full armor of God. We have His provision in being His children, in having His Word, in possessing His indwelling Holy Spirit, of having every resource of our heavenly Father. God is our strength, but His strength is appropriated only through obedience; His mighty armor must be put on (v. 11) and taken up (v. 13). d. Every day since the Fall has been an evil day for mankind, and every day will continue to be evil until the usurper and his forces are thrown forever into the bottomless pit. i. In the meanwhile the Lord makes us able to resist in the evil day as we take advantage of the armor He supplies. ii. Our responsibility is to resist and stand firm. iii. When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms he was accused of heresy. After being condemned for declaring that men are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, he declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. … Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” iv. Every believer who is faithful to God’s Word cannot do otherwise than stand firm. Some forty years ago three men conducted evangelistic campaigns together in Ireland and saw much fruit from their labors there. Years later an Irish pastor who was converted in those meetings asked about the three men. He was told that only one was still faithful to the Lord. Of the other two, one had become apostate and the other had died an alcoholic. Some believers have done everything well in the Lord’s work, but they do not continue to stand firm. The issue is not in what a believer has done, but, when the battle is over and the smoke clears, whether he is found standing true to the Savior. John warned, “Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). Paul’s one great fear was that, “possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). He was not afraid of losing his salvation but his reward and, even more importantly, his usefulness to the Lord. Countless men and women have faithfully taught Sunday school for years, led many people to Jesus Christ, pastored a church, led Bible studies, ministered to the sick, and done every sort of service in the Lord’s name—only to one day give up, turn their backs on His work, and disappear into the world. The circumstances differ, but the underlying reason is always the same: they took God’s armor off and thereby lost the courage, the power, and the desire to stand firm. In the great spiritual warfare in which we do battle, we are only called to resist and to stand firm. As noted earlier, James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Peter counsels us to “be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9). The greatest joys come in the greatest victories, and the greatest victories come from the greatest battles—when they are fought in the power and with the armor of the Lord.