Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor 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 armor 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.
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. – Ephesians 6:10-24
It seems that throughout the history of the church, and now is no exception; there are two extremes when it comes to the topic of spiritual warfare. There is the denial of the devil and his demons, an attempt to relegate them to the annals of ancient myth. This position is certainly not supported by Scripture. The other extreme is convinced there is a demon behind every rock and hidden in every closet. That too is a false extreme. But, spiritual warfare is real. The devil is real, and we need to be properly apprised of the situation.
Ephesians 6 is the go-to place to consider spiritual warfare and volumes have been written in detail about this text. I just want to share a few key insights from this section that we can all digest and put to work.
- Our strength is “in the Lord and the power of his might.” Our strength is not in our own willpower, intelligence, spiritual discipline or any other human effort. When it comes to dealing with the devil, our strength is not in ourselves. (If you don’t believe me, try taking him on in your own strength and see how that works!) Our strength is in the might and power of our God. A great example was that of David when he headed out to slay Goliath. Among other things, he said, “For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” David knew that it was not his special forces training that would win the day, but the Lord would win the day.
- The “schemes of the devil” are real, and they are aimed to undermine our faith. We are foolish if we ignore the demonic influence behind the attempts to destroy the faith of believers. Paul wrote elsewhere about “doctrines of demons.” False teaching is born in hell. Influence in the culture that works against the knowledge of God is also demonically inspired through government and educational institutions.
- We wrestle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It can seem futile to try to overcome them. However, we need to remember what Paul already told us in Ephesians 1:19-21. He prays that we will have the spirit of wisdom and revelation so we might know…”the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 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.” Jesus has already overcome the spiritual forces with which we battle today. We are involved in what the military would refer to as a mop-up operation. The enemy has been defeated, but there are pockets of resistance that still have to be rooted out. These forces are not greater than our resurrected victorious Lord.
- Be stubborn in your stance in the Lord. We are instructed to “withstand,” to “stand firm,” and to “stand, therefore.” Paul is telling us to never back down from a fight with the devil.
- In all circumstances, our stance is one of faith. This is so critical for us to get hold of. Paul refers to the “shield of faith.” It is a defensive piece of armor. There are two key words to consider, “all circumstances,” and “faith.” Whether you are experiencing a mountaintop experience or you are deep in the valley of despair, it is always a faith battle. When things are going great, we can be tempted to trust in our abilities or our stuff rather than living by faith. When we are deep in despair, we can be tempted to doubt and give up. In all circumstances, faith.
- The Holy Spirit is our offense. Some would emphasize the word of God, but I want to point out that the word is a tool, specifically a sword. And, that sword is wielded by the Holy Spirit. It is the “sword of the Spirit.” Like any soldier, we need to be skillful in the use of our implements of war. We need to know the word of God and know how to use it in spiritual warfare. But, in the final analysis, it is the Holy Spirit that gets the job done. We are also to pray “in the Spirit.” Scripture doesn’t give us a primer on prayer with a glossary section in the back, so a clear definition of exactly what this means doesn’t exist. However, I do believe it implies that there is a difference between prayer that is not “in the Spirit.” and “praying in the Spirit.” How do I encourage you to apply this? When you go to prayer, ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit and to aid you in your praying. I’m not sure we can always experientially tell the difference between prayer that is “in the Spirit” and prayer that is not “in the Spirit.” The critical element for us today is to be aware that our battle requires that we operate in the Spirit. We cannot successfully wage this battle against the demonic in our own fleshly efforts. We don’t win this one by better theology. We win by reliance on the immeasurable power of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Now, be strong in the Lord and the power of his might!