“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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.”
As Paul nears the end of the book of Ephesians, he alerts us to the reality that every day in our world—beneath surface appearances—there is an unseen spiritual battle being waged. It feels like a rather abrupt transition. Paul just got done teaching about husbands and wives, children and family, bosses and employees, and now he addresses the reality of our engagement with the powers of evil and the grim necessity of hand-to-hand combat.
Paul issues a battle cry. It is a call to arms. He gives us a pre-game speech. We are about to take the field against a formidable opponent, and Paul wants us to be ready mentally and spiritually. His core message is to be strong and to stand in the face of the enemy. He is telling us to be warriors. The whole tone is martial. We are being roused for battle.
Paul wants us to understand that in order to live the life that he has been describing in Ephesians, to live the life that God calls us to, we must fight. The true Christian life is not for the faint of heart. And there is no suspension of hostilities, no cease-fire or truce …at least not until Christ returns and brings his kingdom in fullness.
The truth is that the whole of the interim period between the Lord’s two comings is to be characterized by conflict. The peace which God has made through Christ’s cross is to be experienced only in the midst of a relentless struggle against evil.
For this the strength of the Lord and the armor of God are necessity.
Paul wrote something similar to the Corinthians: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)
Spiritual warfare is the battle we engage in as we seek to live a godly life in the midst of the fallen world. It is the daily struggle to reflect as much as possible God’s love and lordship in our life.
It is a war because there are forces working vigorously to oppose what God is doing in our lives. The forces we face are not flesh and blood enemies, nor are they human agencies. Although there are political, social, and economic implications to the conflict, ultimately the battle is not in the visible realm. Our battle is against demonic forces. These forces operate under the authority of Satan, who is described in Scripture as the father of lies, the prince of darkness, and the god of this world.
The reference in Ephesians to “rulers … authorities … cosmic powers … world rulers of this present darkness … spiritual hosts of evil in the heavenly places” is a reference to Satan and his host of demons. People and human institutions are not the ultimate source of evil in this world: Satan and his army of fallen angels are. Though invisible to the human eye, these dark forces are committed to our destruction. Satan and his demons seek to deceive us, distort the truth, and destroy our lives.
The battle lines are drawn. Christians are agents of life; demons are agents of death. Christians are agents of light; demons are agents of darkness. Christians have their weapons; demons have theirs. In our own strength we are utterly helpless to face such a powerful enemy.
However, if our foundation in Christ is strong and we equip ourselves with the full armor of God, we will prevail.