9 Sept 2020
For those who have been ‘born again’, they have been chosen in Christ in a past eternity and given ‘sonship’ as a present possession with an inheritance and glorious hope for the eternal future. We have noted that eternal life begins after conversion; we are saved, we are being saved and we will be saved – there is the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ in the experience of our salvation. While we remain on earth, with our physical bodies (yet to be glorified at the second coming of our Lord Jesus), our pilgrimage to the ‘new heavens and new earth’ is to be characterised by ‘working out our salvation’ with fear and trembling. One major reason for this among others is that beneath the surface appearances an unseen spiritual battle is raging. Although the enemy has been defeated at the cross, Christians have to face the prospect of conflict with God’s enemy and ours. The enemy knows his time is limited but he still intends to inflict as much damage as possible on God’s people and God’s kingdom. We have looked at two spiritual enemies – the carnal flesh and the world and its negative influence. Now we come to the third, and perhaps the most powerful, enemy the believers need to face – Satan and his forces.
“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 6:12). In a war, a thorough knowledge of the enemy and a healthy respect for his prowess is necessary for victory – we must not underestimate our enemy.
We are engaged in spiritual warfare; we have a formidable enemy. When believers are persuaded that the enemy does not exist, we are in a precarious situation. When the devil is being forgotten in the church and everything is attributed to us and we dismiss the existence of this adversary and accuser, we are in great danger of being badly ‘mauled’ and defeated. The other extreme is to see the ‘devil behind every bush’ and to be so preoccupied with him that we dwell in ‘fear’ and lose sight of the presence of the Lord.
Take note of the characteristics of the enemy: Firstly, they are powerful – they are made up of ‘principalities’ and ‘powers’, referring to the evil one with different ranks of evil spirits in his forces. They have been referred to as ‘the world rulers of this present darkness’. Secondly, they are wicked – they use their power destructively for evil and have no moral principles, no code of honour. They are utterly ruthless in the pursuit of their wicked designs. Thirdly, they are cunning. The devil seldom attacks openly, preferring darkness to light, but when he transforms himself into ‘an angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11:14), we are caught unsuspecting. He is a dangerous wolf but enters Christ’s flock in the disguise of a sheep. Sometimes, he roars like a lion, but more often is as subtle as a serpent (1 Peter 5:8). Open persecution and open temptation to sin are not his only weapons; he prefers to seduce us into compromise and deceive us into error.
Only the power of God can defend and deliver us from the might, the evil and the wiles of the devil. Although the principalities and powers are strong, the power of God is stronger. It is His power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead and enthroned Him in the heavenly places, and which has raised us from the death of sin and enthroned us with Christ. So the invisible world in which they attack us and we defend ourselves is the very world in which Christ reigns over them and we reign with Him.
“Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might”. (Ephesians 6:10)
“Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil “. (Ephesians 6:11)
The Apostle Paul communicated the proper combination of divine enabling and human cooperation – the power is the Lord’s but we still need to be strong in Him and to be strengthened. Paul then introduced the armour of God – without this armour, we shall be exposed and unprotected but we still need to put it on, piece by piece.
The armour we wear has already been tested by God Himself – in Christ, as He went into battle against the evil one. The whole purpose of Christ’s coming was to ‘destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8). What the gospel provides for us then is the armour which Christ Himself wore in His battles with the enemy. When engaged in conflict with the devil, those who are in Christ wear His armour. Paul informed believers that we need the armour to help us to stand in the warfare. The battle is long and at times very fierce. We need everything God provides simply to remain standing.
The belt of truth
This probably refers to integrity or sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy. To buckle on the belt of truth suggests a willingness to apply the whole of God’s Word to the whole of our lives. Partial commitment will not do and we may fall in the battle. This belt, it seems, is a prerequisite for wearing the armour; we need to put on the belt of inner reality, of faithfulness.
The breastplate of righteousness
It may refer to the righteousness of Christ which is ours by faith. Because of our union with Christ, we are as righteous in God’s sight as His incarnate Son Himself. The breastplate may also be referring to the righteousness of character and conduct of the believer. To cultivate truth is to overthrow the devil’s deceits; to cultivate righteousness is the way to resist his temptation.
Feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace
The Christian soldier’s boots or shoes are his readiness to announce the good news of peace, to bear witness to Jesus Christ as God’s peacemaker. The devil fears and hates the gospel, because it is God’s power to rescue people from his tyranny. We must keep our gospel boots strapped on.
The shield of faith
The devil is constantly throwing flaming darts – darts of false guilt, unsought thoughts of doubt and disobedience, rebellion, lust, malice or fear. But there is a shield with which we can quench or extinguish all such fiery darts. This is the shield of faith.
The helmet of salvation
Wearing this helmet protects us from being deceived by the devil. Our minds are protected by the knowledge of our true identity in Christ. Only when we remember that in Him we are children of God the Father, that we are called to holiness, and that we have been given a new dignity that will last forever, can we be assured of standing in the evil day.
The sword of the Spirit
The truth of God, the Word of God, is both our defence and our weapon in spiritual warfare. We need to know it and to grow in our ability to use it. It will teach us spiritual discernment and help us to detect the activity of the evil one. It is however the Holy Spirit who illuminates God’s Word to us; He is the One who enables us to use the sword He has given to us. He is the author of Scripture, but He is also the One who helps us grasp its meaning and significance. He works the Word into our hearts and minds and gives us light and understanding of the Bible.
Prayer is to pervade all our spiritual warfare. Equipping ourselves with God’s armour is not a mechanical operation; it is an expression of our dependence on God, in other words of prayer. Scripture and prayer belong together as two chief weapons God puts into our hands. Jesus urged His disciples “Watch and pray”. We are to ‘stay awake’ and be vigilant, for our enemy does not sleep and he and his minions are working all the time. Let us be sober, alert and be good soldiers of the Lord and let us fight a good fight and at the end to stand in the victory and promises of God, and to defend what belongs to Him.