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For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers, against the spiritual forces in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

In part 4 of our series, we are commanded to put the whole armor of God to protect us against the different methods by which the devil would attempt to lure and deceive us, cause  trouble, and try to make us ineffective in our walk and testimony to our faith. In this section, the Scriptures unmask the enemy through the hierarchy of spiritual forces that seeks to defeat the people of the Lord.

“For we do not wrestle…”

Paul employs the analogy of Greek games, particularly wrestling.  In Ephesus, wrestling matches are regularly held in honor of their supreme idol, Artemis (or Diana). Perhaps Paul has witnessed many of these competitions during his three-year stay in Ephesus.  Try to imagine a wrestling match, and perhaps write down at least a few sentences to describe it.  Most of the time, we proceed to the main details like grabbing the opponent at different parts of his body, or the lifting, banging, suppressing, locking the opponent down to immobilize him so that he will be unable to compete any further, or perhaps throw the other out of the perimeter of the space provided for the match. However, the word wrestling in Greek is palo and not the word ekballo (which means to throw).  Palo is to ‘sway’ or ‘vibrate’ and it is hard to immediately visualize how this word will fit in a wrestling match.

wrestlingBut if one carefully watches the match, he will first of all see that the competitors do not immediately grab their opponent, but rather they spent some moments to move left and right in a circular fashion. In this way, each one can size up his enemy and look for vulnerable areas to grab.  This is, I believe, is the stance we need to take.  We do not recklessly charge but we study the enemy.  You see, the use of the phrase ‘schemes of the enemy” fits well into this explanation of wrestle.  Being informed of Satan’s ways puts us in a place of advantage.  Peter admonishes us to be clear headed and alert (1 Peter 5:8) so that we may not be caught unaware when the enemy makes his move, whatever his move. We get our information through the continual reading of the Scriptures  in a prayerful manner, not haphazardly as some would do thereby missing what God is indeed saying.  A systematic reading is also necessary in order prevent us from being selective.  As Paul did not withhold the entire counsel of God to the Ephesians (Acts 20:18-32), so must we not withhold it among ourselves.

“not….against flesh and blood…”

Although the enemy will use the world system, unregenerated people and even at times our own unsupressed as we choose to depend on ourselves rather on the Lord who promised us to show His faithfulness and a way out when we are tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13), the true enemy is still not human – not flesh and blood.  So our battles necessitate the armor that comes from God to keep us firmly standing.

The verse continues to inform us about the enemies we have.  Here we are given a view of the opposing army.  Just as we take our command from Jesus our King, the commander-in chief if I may use the term, so does  a hierarchy of spiritual cohorts take their command from our enemy – Satan. We infer from the list of enemies provided to us.  In our part 4, we encountered the Greek word pros explaining to us a face-to-face encounter with the following:

  1. against rulers (Greek archas from where we get the English word arch-enemy)
  2. against authorities (Greek exousias which means those given authority to perform evil works)
  3. against cosmic powers (Greek kosmo kratos which implies those given a wider sphere of evil work in this sin-corrupted world system. The word kosmo although it implies a variety of meanings like the world, and the space above the earth, but in the sense of Paul’s theme of two groups of people – the children of righteousness in contrast to the children of disobedience – we can infer the issue of the lack or absence of godly morality can be the intended meaning, thus we can say that this third group of spiritual enemies are those that work freely in its use of the current world corrupted by sin.)
  4. against spiritual forces in the heavenly places (Greek pneumatikas tes ponerias. The idea of their supernatural origin and their wicked nature is definitely implied). 

I realize that there are many available writings, commentaries and some spurious explanations of who are these different forces. We must, however, hold on to the main point – the enemies are not human but are of a nature different from ours.  They are unseen, pernicious (wicked), and they do their work here on earth using various means directed against every believer of Jesus Christ, and ultimately against the Lord.  You see, the battle of good and evil has witnessed at the beginning of the Bible, in the garden of Eden when the serpent coersed our first human parents to doubt and blaspheme God.  The enemy seeks to convince us to doubt God and His Word.  So it is no surpise to know even today and until the last day, the enemy of our soul will seek to defy the very God who created him.

Regardless of whether they have ranks or not, the fact is they are our enemies and we engaged them face-no fearto-face without fear.  Although they will continue to do everything opposite the desires of God, the Bible also tells us the following truth that will help strengthen and encourage us in our fight against them and their evil ways:

  • The Lord Jesus is their Creator (Colossians 1:16). All things were created by Him.  All things in heaven and earth.  Nothing was made without Him (John 1:3).  There is no escaping the conclusion that all these spiritual enemies were created by Him. The created entities are limited in everything including their powers. Therefore it is a comfort to know that although we are to wrestle against them, the One who created all things is infinitely more powerful to protect us and preserve us to the end. Dualism, the teaching that says God and the devil are equally powerful is a heresy and a scheme of the enemy.
  • Jesus  has dominion over them (Ephesians 1:20-23). Our Lord is exalted above all creation and has  purposed that His Church be the beneficiary of all spiritual blessings. None of our enemies really has any freedom to do anything they want. Only the Lord Jesus who has dominion over them can permit them to do so. R. C. Sproul encourages Christians to understand that because God is in His very nature righteous, then even His permitting of the enemies activities is a righteous act of God.  That is not to say that evil is good but God allowing it will still, in the end, result for His glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Consider Job 1:6-12 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.
  • Jesus defeated our enemies through His cross and resurrection (see John 12:27-32 and 1 Corinthians 15).

Finally, we hold on God’s revealed truth concerning the end of our enemy and the continuing grace we have in Christ:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” – Romans 16:20

In our next post on this series, we will be identifying each piece of the armor of God and how each armor is a reflection of the glorious Gospel of God concerning His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

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It has been a while since the last post on our Panoply series taking us about 4 weekends to piece out the details of truths contained in Ephesians 6:11 –

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the enemy.”

 “Put on the whole armor of God…”

The panoply is a gracious blessing of God for all the believers.  In contrast the false gods of  Ephesus and any false god for that matter tends to make demands with empty promises, lies even, propagated through the false religions of this fallen world. Through the revelation of the Spirit of God, Paul writes about this armor that is indeed a part of the heavenly blessings we have in Christ preached to us through the Gospel (Ephesians 1:3, 3:7-12).

  • The Greek endusasthe (put on) gives us a picture of slipping into a piece of clothing like a tunic.  As the armor of a roman soldier is in view here, the Greek verb illustrates someone slipping into that ready-made armor with its individual pieces put together.  That is to indicate the God has fully provided for our defense. There is no searching for missing pieces but having the entire set all ready for our use.
  • And He commands us “put on” – not an option but a  command in view of a necessity, so that the victory that God has displayed through the resurrection and exaltation of Christ Jesus  also secures for  us the grace and privilege to walk in the experiential aspect of such a victory (see Ephesians 1:19-23; 5:8).
  • Ten panoplian the whole armor – not one, not two, neither only three parts of it but the entire armor. Missing one will provide the enemy a place of vulnerability in our defense and as Peter wrote that the enemy is like a lion that prowls looking for weaknesses (1 Peter 5:8 – this will be further developed in part 5 of this series).
  • A defense provided by God and cannot be conceived by human wisdom or philosophy, nor something that is conjured by man from occultic practices.  It is a God-given means of defending ourselves against the enemy of our souls.  No carnal means can defeat the enemy for any means of spiritual warfare invented by man is stained by sin.  Only the perfect grace of God through the Son by means of this panoply can overcome the enemy (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

“…that you may be able to stand against…”

The Greek for ‘stand’ is stenai from the root word histemi which describes a continuing/persevering endurance, established on the faith (gospel) on which we truly stand.

  • We are to remain in that spiritual position in Christ; not that we can extricate ourselves out of it, but rather,  to persistently live according to the outworking of that grace of God for us. This is the good work that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), akin to the things that accompany our salvation as the writer to the Hebrews assures the believers  (Hebrews 6:9).
  • There is no fear even when the days are evil (Ephesians 5:14).  Fear is a mark of lack of assurance. Worshippers of false gods display fear of any retribution, being unsure of whether they have pleased their godss or not.  Confidence, on the other hand, girds the believer’s heart.  They are confident of God’s protective grace based on His immutable decrees in blessing the people whom He loved and predestinated in His Son, being sealed with the Holy Spirit, which forms the marvelous prologue of this epistle (Ephesians 1:3-14).
  • Our encounter with the enemy is characterized in two ways when the Greek word pros was translated into our English word ‘against’.  Firstly, we are to be against the enemy, not in fellowship with him.  The metaphor of light (righteousness) and darkness (unrighteousness) are spelled out in this epistle and we – who are children of the Light – are to expose darkness (Ephesians 5:11-13). Secondly, we are to fight our enemy; pros connotes a face-to-face  warfare and not retreat like a coward. The armor is sufficient and powerful through God.

“…the schemes of the enemy.”

Referring again to the Greek, the word scheme is methodias where we get the English word ‘method’. Being in the plural form, we glean from the epistle the devil’s tactics (yes, he is also an expert in crafting deceitful devices).  The Greek for crafty is an unusual word and I believe is used once and only here in  Ephesians 4:14 – it is kubeia, where we get the word ‘cube’.  This figuratively describes that the enemy’s means are not ill-conceived (alluded from the perfect geometry of a cube) and at the same time, truly deceitful. Someone astutely observed that like a die (cube used in gambling), the enemy will do everything to cheat us, just as he seduced and deceived our first human parents, and succeeded.  But thanks be to God, the second Adam – Jesus our Lord – has gained victory over every crafty temptation of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; see my related posts, click here and here).

We now briefly unwrap the devil’s schemes:

  • False doctrines (Ephesians 4:14) – – these are teachings that runs contrary to God’s work and doctrines handed down to us from the apostles through current elders in the church who were called to disciple the saints until they reach the unity of the faith and mature in their knowledge of the Son of God (v.13). These false doctrines were crafted to cause confusion and disunity, disobedience and unfruitfulness, when these insidious doctrines are welcomed in the church. The young believers  are particularly vulnerable to these seductive doctrines.
  • Disobedience (Ephesians 5:6) – sin resulting from empty words (false doctrines).  These do not produce the evidential righteousness that only the gospel can do.  Therefore, people who conform to these false doctrines will produce the fruit of sin. As R. C. Sproul notes in his book Chosen by God, orthodoxy (right doctrine) produces orthopraxy (right living). The opposite is equally true. The apostle Peter writes that those predestined by God in His Son are translated from darkness into His marvelous light – a life adorned with godliness. The devil’s scheme involves seducing men to toy with his false teachings, and then be trapped into it, sometimes without realizing it till the harm has been done. Discernment can adequately be exercised whenever there is a proper grounding of the believer upon the enscripturated truth. Hence the church (assembly of believers) is where God purposed His truth to be taught faithfully.
  • Influence of unbelievers (Ephesians 5:7, 11-17) resulting to stagnation and ineffectiveness – the Word of God forbids fellowship between Christians and the evil world. We are not to partake in evil works but to expose them. A life adorned by truth and godliness will be in stark contrast to the evil deeds of unbelievers and we are instructed to resists their ways.  Psalm 1 is an example where the Word distinguishes between the way of the wicked and the one who delights in the Lord.

This whole armor that God provided us embodies the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our defensive and offensive weapon against Satan and the methods that he employ in his rebellion against the Almighty God. As believers of Jesus Christ we will constantly be at war, but this is a battle assured of victory by Him who died and rose again on the third day.

armorEphesians 6:13 forms a parenthetical statement with verse 11. Simply put, the means of standing firm against our spiritual enemies (verse 12) is by appropriating this armor on ourselves. As I mentioned above, the armor itself embodies the Gospel and in our future studies, we will see how the Gospel is indeed brought out in each of the armor’s pieces. Therefore my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us keep the armor on all the time!

May God keep us all standing firm in the faith and in His protective care through Christ.

 

To view all parts of the Panoply Series, click here.

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Psalm 92 
(a Song for the Sabbath)
1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
 5 How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8 but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
9 For behold, your enemies, O Lord,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. 
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Inspiration

The psalmist begins by an intention springing from his heart that sings, “it is good to give thanks to the Lord”. Through this inspiration, the elements of the song are brought together. Realities that has happened to him permeates the song, but more so, are these realities understood as the works of the One who sustains him at all times – the LORD.

Men today draws inspiration from many places, situations, things and memories. You only need to listen to a lyricist or musical composer or even a poet, whenever they reveal their sources – from the mundane to the esoteric. Not so with the psalmist;  in verse 2, God’s unchanging love and faithfulness displayed in  His work are manifested in the psalmist’s experience. Today, we have the Holy Spirit-inspired Psalm 92  as part of the Scriptures for us. God’s specific deeds in focus are scrolled out in the succeeding verses:

  • Verses 5 – 9:  God’s sovereignty even over wicked men and the wrath reserved for them at the appointed time.
  • Verses 10 – 15:  In contrast to the preceding verses, we read God’s sustaining grace and kindness on the psalmist even to old age.

These have become the contents for the inspired song which he purposed to be sang on the Sabbath, a day that  God’s people are commanded to take rest from their labors and meditate upon the Lord and His work.  Today, a type of Sabbath is entered into for those who trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ who has given us eternal rest by His salvation through His finished work on the cross and resurrection.  In Jesus alone, we have peace with God – in Him we have entered God’s rest by faith.

As it is written:

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.  For we who have believed enter that rest…” – Hebrews 4:1-3

For this reason, we join the psalmist in his declaration of praise to God:

For you have made me glad by your works; at the works of your hands, I sing for joy”- Psalm 92:4

Rest from enemies

The enemies still surround and perhaps are still plotting evil against the psalmist but  he knows that God is his enemies ultimate foe, and they will never prosper, whether in the immediate or in the future. In the Lord he finds his rest.  Rest is not the absence of trouble, but rest is knowing that all events at all times are in God’s hands and those who take refuge in Him are safe.

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” – Exodus 14:13-14

When God, through His servant Moses, was about to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Pharoah, He sent His word of comfort and assurance for the people, that they may not be overwhelmed and be witnesses to the hand of God that brought down destruction upon their enemies.  Moses is a type of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the Lord, salvation and reprieve from enemies is assured, whether physical or spiritual.  The term ‘you only have to be silent’ is another way of commanding them to trust in Him. And to trust means to be believe what He said and be assured of the fulfillment His promise.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

Our arch enemy, Satan, is already defeated at the cross and we are realizing this day by day in our lives as the Lord sanctifies us through His Word through the active working of the Holy Spirit. And on God’s appointed day of Christ’s return, this enemy alongwith all wickedness will be cast into the lake of fire.

The psalmist identifies the enemy as stupid and foolish (v. 5-6) for they do not know that they are against God who has anointed him (v.10). Strong evidence points the authorship of the psalm to David despite the absence of any direct attribution to him. He wrote in an earlier psalm that many are his foes and at the time he penned this, he is still plagued by them.  This time though, he writes with his eyes set on God’s greatness, bringing him strength and assurance of God’s steadfastness.

Longevity

David now reflects on the longevity of life marked with fruitfulness that God has blessed him (v.12-14). It does not effectively say that he is already old by the time he wrote this, but it conveys to the reader his confidence of God’s sustaining grace (v. 15).

Indeed the Lord has given many of His people long life, not only during biblical times but also today.  Yet, as God is sovereign, not everyone who trusts in Christ Jesus may live long, but every child of God is given the assurance of a full life – full of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Someone said that it is not the years in our life but the life in our years. In Jesus, we may not necessarily count scores of years, but we can be sure of recounting His sufficient and abounding grace each day.  And in the end, the more we know Him through His word and work, the more we are grounded in the security we find in Him. Of His sheep, He confirmed,

I know them, and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish,and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” – John 10:26-27.

You see my dear reader, the psalmist speaks of God’s judgment on the wicked. Truth is, we are all God’s enemies and as indicated in the psalm, our days are counted and fiery judgment awaits us in the end.  Our sin has earned us the wrath of the Almighty. Jesus said that we should not be afraid of man who can put the body to death, but rather we should fear God who alone can cast both body and soul into the fire (Matthew 10:28).  In order that God’s wrath can be appeased, Jesus Christ, the Son of God humbled Himself by becoming a servant, clothing Himself with human flesh through the virgin birth, took our place – the place of God’s enemy – and upon Himself God’s wrath was poured at the cross. He was crushed for our inquity. The innocent for the guilty, He died our death.  He satisfied the righteous demand of God and upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

If you have not trusted in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, you certainly remain under His wrath (John 3:18).  Similarly, as the psalmist declared in verse 7, you may think your life is prospering, but in reality you have fattened your heart with sinful indulgence for the day of slaughter (James 5:5).

God commands you to repent and believe the Gospel of His only begotten Son – who is both Lord and Christ – that by His saving work through the eternal Spirit, you may enter God’s peace, being fully assured of eternal life, His steadfast love and faithfulness all the days of your life, while waiting for the inheritance of the fullness of the kingdom that is to come.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” – Hebrews 13:12-15

Finally Psalm 92 is a song truly fitting for those who rest in the love and faithfulness of the  Lord Jesus Christ, and together with the psalmist, we sing:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High!” – Psalm 92:1 

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