A war has been declared. The enemy is unseen and seems to be pervasive. He hates us and everything for which we stand, and will stop at nothing to defeat us. We cannot invade any country to destroy him, and he seems able to strike at his will and cause great damage.
While this description may sound like America’s “War on Terrorism”, or some conflict somewhere else in the world, we speak of another conflict entirely, one that has lasted far longer and will continue to exist as long as the earth may last: the spiritual war between the forces of darkness and those who are in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 6:10-18). Let us spend some time considering this conflict and why we must always be on our guard.
It is important for us first to discern our enemy and where he operates, just as those do who are involved in physical war. While discerning the enemy and his location may be difficult in some cases, it is not in our struggle: our enemy is Satan, the adversary and deceiver, and his forces of darkness, and he prowls around the earth (Job 1:7, 1 Peter 5:8). Just as importantly, the Bible reveals who is not the enemy: flesh and blood do not represent the enemy, but the spiritual powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). We must not confuse our fellow man with he who deceives them: we must love our fellow man, but abhor the Devil and his works (Matthew 22:39, Romans 12:9).
This makes sense when we recognize that we are part of a spiritual Kingdom first (John 18:36); we cannot achieve success in the spiritual battle using physical warfare!
Paul speaks regarding our enemy in Ephesians 6:12:
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We see here that the conflict has two major facets: the work of evil on the earth and also in the heavens. This world suffers from “this darkness,” since Satan is the ruler of this world (John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4), and it would seem that many serve him. Likewise, many serve gods that are not really gods, and such evil spirits abound in Biblical literature. These represent our enemy!
We must have proper armament if we are going to stand a chance in this conflict, and our spiritual armament is described in Ephesians 6:10-17. One must put on the “full armor” of God: if we lack any part of the armor, we cannot succeed (Ephesians 6:11). The armor includes the “belt of truth” (Ephesians 6:14): just as the belt keeps the armor together, likewise the truth keeps all other aspects of the Christian in proper place. The breastplate, which protects the major organs and the center of life, is the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14). The footwear is the preparation of the Gospel of peace, which is to be proclaimed in all places (Ephesians 6:15). The shield, the first level of defense, is to be the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). The helmet, reinforcing the head, is salvation (or the hope thereof; 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Ephesians 6:17). The main offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, described as sharper than any two-edged sword, separating and convicting the innermost man (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). Prayer is also mentioned; constant communication with the Head is always extremely important, and can provide encouragement (Ephesians 6:18). In the end, however, we must remember that it is within the strength of God, and not our own strength, through which we will have the victory in Jesus (Ephesians 6:10, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Our enemy, also, is armed. We are told of the “fiery darts” of Satan in Ephesians 5:16, and we would do well to consider the weapons of our enemy. He is armed with the ability to tempt people to sin, which he uses well (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). Sin is minimized, made socially acceptable, or rationalized in other ways, and people willingly follow. If that does not work, our enemy can use persecution against us (1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:14-16, 1 Peter 4:3-5): it is easier for darkness to swallow light than to become light. The enemy also uses weakness and hypocrisy of Christians: his cause is always helped when Christians fall into sin or are exposed as doing that which is contrary to God’s will. Our enemy is also armed with prescience and deceit (Hebrews 3:12-14): he knows us better than we know ourselves, and knows just how and when to strike (1 Thessalonians 5:6-7, 1 Peter 5:8). Whenever you least expect him, there he is!
As in every conflict, if there is no plan, there can be no success. The battle plan for our enemies is to discourage and discredit those who do right so as to induce them to fall, never to rise again, and to keep in darkness those souls still in darkness (Hebrews 3:12-13, 1 Peter 5:8). Everything they have at their disposal will be used to achieve this purpose. Our plan for fighting this war against them is simple: endure and convert. In the end, the battle is the Lord’s, and He will win it for all who are His. We are not called upon to vanquish the evil one, for that is beyond our power: all we can do is endure (Matthew 10:22). The main message seen in Ephesians 6:10-17 is to “stand firm”, strengthening every weakness and continually subjecting ourselves to God. The only way to truly reduce the strength of the enemy is to go out and convert those under their power: every soul that turns from Satan to God is one fewer soul doing evil’s work on the earth (Romans 6:12-13). This is why the raising of children properly and the encouragement of brethren is so necessary and important: we must not allow the other side to gain assistance (Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 10:25)! We must use the Word of God, His sword, to achieve His purposes (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12)!
The war is upon us: we did not choose to fight in this battle, but such is the circumstance of this world. We are fighting in the conflict whether we desire to or not; the question that is left to us is which side it will be that we support. Are we on the Lord’s side, or on the side of the evil one? In the end, Christ will have the victory: be on His side today!
Ethan R. Longhenry