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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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