“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavens.”
Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)
This post is part three of three posts on Spiritual Warfare in Ephesians. Click here for Part one. Click here for part two.
Ephesians 6:10-20 is the most comprehensive teaching on spiritual warfare in Ephesians. Let us look at six keys to spiritual warfare from this text. Three of these keys were in a previous post. Here are the final three.
Put on the full armor of God. God has provided what we need for this fight. However, it is our responsibility to use what He has already given us. Here is a list of the armor of God:
- Loins girded with the truth (6:14).
- The breastplate of righteousness (6:14).
- Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (6:15).
- The shield of faith (6:16).
- The helmet of salvation (6:17).
- The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (6:17).
Each of these pieces of armor is symbolic of our spiritual lives. We do not actually have a breastplate of righteousness. However, walking in righteousness protects us in spiritual warfare just as a breastplate protects a soldier. This means that if we have sin in our lives, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the enemy. One of our most potent tools in spiritual warfare is genuine repentance. Consider Hezekiah, who “tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the Lord” when the Assyrian army reached Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:1). Hezekiah took the enemy’s letter to the temple and spread it before the Lord, acknowledging that God was the true King” (2 Kings 19:14-15). God answered Hezekiah’s repentance by sending the angel of the Lord to strike down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, decimating their army (2 Kings 19:35).
Likewise, the shield of faith’s purpose is “to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). We trust in God that He can protect us and defend us. If our faith grows weak, our first step is to stop and seek Him. Abiding in Christ by faith and righteousness are some of our greatest spiritual weapons in this battle.
I once heard a sermon on spiritual warfare that there are two types of Christians. One type are Christians who face a spiritual problem and then need to go get on their spiritual armor. They are not regularly in the Word and prayer. Perhaps there is sin in their life. Their feet are not daily shod with the preparation to share the gospel. When these Christians face spiritual problems, they have to first go and draw close to Christ. They need to repent and rebuild disciplines of prayer and Bible study.
In contrast, other Christians daily stand in Christ. They are regular in Bible study and prayer. They are filled with faith and walking in righteousness. When a spiritual attack comes against these Christians, they are immediately ready to respond. Paull was this second type. When they beat him and locked him up in Philippi, his heart was so full of Jesus that he and Silas spent the night praying and worshipping. The Lord answered with an earthquake (Acts 16:25-26). Let us also strive to follow the example of Paul. The first step is to simply walk with Christ every day and be filled up with Him. In other words, put on the full armor of God.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Sometimes, when we face persecution or spiritual problems, we can begin to see people as our enemy rather than the spiritual forces of darkness. It would have been easy for Paul to see the guards and the Roman government as his opponents, but he did not. He viewed his imprisonment as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel, both to the guards (Phil 1:15) and government leaders while on trial (2 Tim 4:16-18).
In today’s rationalistic age, we often see spiritual issues as the last potential answer. For example, if we become sick, we often turn to earnest prayer and fasting only after exhausting medical solutions. My wife and I are a good picture of this dichotomy. Once, we were traveling in the Middle East. One of our travel companions was detained by the police at the airport. My first instinct was how to find a phone and figure out who we needed to call to help our friend. My wife’s first instinct was to pray. Clearly, my wife was the one who acted wisely.
This point is especially true when we consider Muslims and Islam. Many people have come to see Muslims as their enemy. They see Muslims as an evil invading force that must be stopped. Others take a more nuanced view that sees the majority of Muslims as peace-loving people and only a minority of Muslims who practice an aberration of radical Islam as the enemy. According to Paul, no Muslims are our enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.
Instead, I have grown to see Muslims as people for whom Jesus has died. Muslims are in bondage to Islam. Islam is a system that holds captive almost two billion people around the world. Every Muslim is created in God’s image. God loves them and created them to know Him. Muslims are not our enemy. Instead, they are victims of the spiritual forces of darkness who are deceiving them. Like Paul, we should not fight against Muslims, but instead, pray for them and ask God to allow us to make the gospel known to them.
Pray. After admonishing the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God and to stand, Paul called them to prayer. In a prayerless state, the gospel will not advance against the spiritual powers of darkness. Sometimes a dichotomy is seen between two types of spiritual leaders. One has a brilliant strategy, but little prayer. He spends his days devising better and better plans. But he lacks the spiritual power and vitality to overcome the spiritual forces holding people in bondage. The other has little strategy but is mighty in prayer. The second person is preferable to the first. However, it is best if the strategist and the prayer warrior are brought together.
In the body of Christ, the strategist and the prayer warrior work together to advance the gospel. This is not an excuse for the strategist to be weak in prayer. In fact, his best strategy will come as he abides in Christ and is guided by Him. After all, God’s Word says that He chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor 1:27). God does not need our wisdom and insight. However, as we abide in Him, we pray that God will show us the strategy that He desires. In Paul, we are given a model of a man who was both a prayer warrior and a strategist. Let us follow his example in making disciples of all nations.
 It is certainly my experience that the average Muslim in South Asia simply wants to live in peace. They want the opportunity to help their children get good educations to get good jobs and live a stable life, and meaningfully contribute to society.