"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." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
When one sits down to read the Bible, they will often begin in Genesis. There, the story unfolds with the beauty and extravagance of God’s creation. He speaks light into being. He commands the separation of the waters. Dry land and vegetation appear. Lights appear in the heavens. Animals are formed in the sea and sky and earth.
Finally, God speaks, “Let us make man in our image.” Adam, then Eve, are formed. They marry. All is well. The garden is tended. Fellowship with God is intact. Humanity is enjoying God and God is enjoying humanity.
Then, abruptly, you read of the appearance of a serpent, the Devil incarnate, coming with questioning to Eve. “Has God really said?” he asks. Before you know it the beauty is gone. Adam has eaten the forbidden fruit. Terror and death now reign supreme.
The jolt one feels when reading Genesis is the jolt one should feel when reading the final portion of Ephesians, for Ephesians is a paradise of God. In it, Paul tells us of what Christ has won, and how Christ is the head of the people He has won. Paul envisions a glorious church. He describes it as the body of Christ, with Jesus firmly seated at the head. His mind is the mind of His body as He gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to communicate His will to His people. His church is a unified church, with no dividing wall between themselves or their God. Daily, they put off the flesh and put on Christ, learning to replace old motives and ways with the newness found in Jesus. Even marriages and families and workplaces are radically transformed. Paul’s vision, fueled by the Spirit of God, is glorious. What Jesus has created, a new humanity, is stunning.
Paul cannot leave his vision there, however. No, he must speak the truth, for his idea of the church is one worth warring for, and it will take war. The Christian must believe they are in battle, put on Christ’s war-clothes, and take up His war-cry if they are to stand in this fight.
And stand is exactly what God wants, for Paul, time and again, exhorts for just that. The day of evil, the day of attack, will come. If we are prepared, we will stand.
To stand, the believer must confess they are in a war. Paul tells us who this war is with: Satan, rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil. Paul takes no time defending the reality of these forces. To him, their presence is undeniable.
He sees the affairs of man influenced by an unseen realm. Evil and wickedness is cultivated in the unseen and manifested in the corruption and wickedness we can see. Paul also refuses to define these forces. He might’ve borrowed terms from the Roman government to explain the organization of Satan — rulers, authorities, power, forces — but he does not attempt to give us a sharp definition of each. It is likely enough to know there is an unseen foe under the sway and leadership of the devil, a fallen being bent on destroying human lives.
To stand, the believer must confess they are in a spiritual war. We do not, as Paul says, wrestle against flesh and blood. The fight, no matter how much it may seem to be so, is not against humans. The fight is not with what we can see. Our fight, the struggle to live in the paradise Paul has described in Ephesians, is with an unseen force. Education and legislation and justice are worthy pursuits, but they cannot win the war. The battle is fought in the spiritual dimension.
The gates and strategies of hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18), but even though we have a guarantee of collective victory, the church is attacked individually. Congregations and congregants must learn to stand in the face of Satan’s systematic and strategic advances. He has lost, but he will not surrender without a fight.
The Enemy Will Attack Us With Sin
John spoke of three temptations every human will drift towards, three ways in which the enemy will attack us (1 John 2:16). The first is the desire of the flesh, the temptation to feel — bodily appetites run amuck. Second is the desire of the eyes, the temptation to have — a longing for more, a lack of contentment. The third is the pride of life, the temptation to be — craving attention and reputation. All of these temptations are avenues of attack. What I want to experience, what I want to acquire, and what I want to be are all potential pitfalls, vulnerable areas we could come under attack.
The Enemy Will Attack Us Within the Mind
Doubts and arguments will arise, and they must be taken captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Not every thought originates with us, so we must know the word of Christ in order to defeat thoughts which are out of line with the truth. In this realm, the enemy will pour on discouragement and condemnation, attempting to bring us into despair.
The Enemy Will Attack Us With Life
Trials and afflictions await us all, but the enemy of our souls has a mind to use them for evil, but God will use them for good (Romans 8:28). The enemy will bring persecution and harm our way, so we must brace for it and stand. Additionally, he will introduce boredom with the Christian life to us, keeping us from any risks, any fruitfulness, or any faith. In our safety, we will grow dull. Attached to this, he will distract us with entertainment, ease, and a full schedule, shielding us from a life of fruitfulness and impact.
Our need in this spiritual war is to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. These schemes of the devil do not have to succeed. Our defeat is not inevitable. In Christ, we have all we need to stand victorious against his strategies. Do not believe, even for a moment, that you are destined to fail or fall. God does not have this plan for even one of His children. Instead, believe the mere presence of Paul’s announcement of this spiritual war is an indication victory is possible. We are told of the war so we can win the war, by the power of God.