The Believer’s Present Relation to Satan: Spiritual Warfare - Page 2 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.


“We are not contending competing against FLESH AND BLOOD,” our adversaries are more than human; demonic powers are arrayed against us. “PRINCIPALITIES” and “POWERS” represent the beings of the unseen world already referred to by Paul. With them the devil establishes and oversees “the world RULERS of this present DARKNESS”—the mighty angelic beings that hold sway over this material world of darkness, exerting a maligned influence on human affairs. These adversaries are all summed up as “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in HIGH PLACES”—in the invisible world. What are we to make of them? Is it enough to say that Paul, as a first-century man, believes in the reality of the Devil and the demonic, and that enlightened twentieth-century men have no need of any such idea? Certainly we are not necessarily committed to all the details of Paul’s “diabology” the theory or doctrine of devils: devil lore. Yet we cannot dismiss all of it as outmoded superstition. Depth psychology in our day has revealed demonic depths in the soul of man, and two World Wars have laid bare the vast and radical range of evil. As a result, Paul’s diagnoses of our predicament commands a new respect from many of our secular thinkers, and many Christian theologians take the devil with new seriousness.

In military strategy the failure to estimate the strength and capabilities of an enemy properly is a tragic mistake. In Christian confrontations it is not only tragic but inexcusable, for we are clearly warned both of the nature of the conflict and of the formidable character of the enemy. “WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD.” We are engaged in a life-and-death struggle, not against a frail human enemy but against the supernatural forces of evil. The word translated as “WE WRESTLE” suggests hand to hand combat and thus magnifies the personal nature of the encounter.

“PRINCIPALITIES,” and “POWERS,” “RULERS,” and “SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS” are terms used here for the hierarchy of invisible powers in rebellion against God (1:21; 3:10). Paul is not to be understood as naming four different classes of demonic beings. Each term simply views the forces arrayed against God and His people in a different manner. “PRINCIPALITIES” refers to their rank and rule. “POWERS” suggests there investment with authority. “THE RULERS OF THE DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD,” points up their control over a world in revolt against its Creator: “IN WHOM THE GOD OF THIS WORLD HATH BLINDED THE MINDS OF THEM WHICH BELIEVE NOT, LEST THE LIGHT OF THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, SHOULD SHINE UNTO THEM."

“SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES,” or “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies,” depicts them as an army of wicked spirits inhabiting, or at least bringing their war to, the heavenly sphere.

The phrase, “IN HIGH PLACES” or, “in the heavenlies” (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10) may be interpreted as the scene of the conflict. In that case, the reference is to the heavenly sphere in which life in Christ is lived. In that light, the phrase may mean that the abode of the spiritual forces of wickedness is non-earthly, belonging to the invisible regions of the spirit world.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

In verse 13 “WHEREFORE,” points back to the descriptions of verse 12 and calls attention to the menacing character of the enemy. He is so formidable in power that nothing less than “THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD” will give ample protection. Instead of “put on” Paul here writes “TAKE UNTO YOU”, the more common military expression for arming one’s self. The suggestion is that the divine armor lies at the Believer’s feet ready for use; he only needs to put it on. The language denotes urgency. Arms must be taken up at once in order for the Christian to be ready for any emergency.

The particular end in

view is that the Christian “MAY BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND IN THE EVIL DAY, AND HAVING DONE ALL, TO STAND.” The word rendered “TO WITHSTAND” means to resist successfully. The “EVIL DAY” refers to those critical days of special trial or resolute satanic assault known to every child of God.

“HAVING DONE ALL” is a particularly strong expression meaning “having thoroughly done everything.” The reference is not to the preparation for conflict but to the end of the conflict, when the enemy has been thoroughly vanquished. “TO STAND,” speaks of the stance of victory. The thought is that the well-armed believer will be able to hold his ground. After the conflict is over, he does not lie prostrate in defeat but stands in complete possession of the field.


(6:14-17) The next four verses describe the armor God gives the Christian soldier. Six pieces are mentioned: the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield, the helmet, and the sword. We need not press their particular significance too closely. The helmet and the breastplate come from Isaiah 59:17; the shoes recall Isaiah 52:7.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

There is the belt of TRUTH or Faithfulness. It was the belt which held the soldier’s tunic in place and from which the scabbard of his sword was suspended and which gave him freedom of movement. Others may guess and grope; the Christian moves freely and quickly because he knows the truth.

Another essential part of the Roman soldier’s equipment was the “BREASTPLATE,” which, as its name suggests, protected the vital organs in the chest area. Without a breastplate a warrior was vulnerable to every assault of the enemy. Paul says there is the “BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,” that is to say, uprightness of life. When a man is clothed in RIGHTEOUSNESS he is impregnable. Words are no defense against accusations but a good life is. The only way to meet the accusations against Christianity is to show how “good” a Christian can be. This RIGHTEOUSNESS is sometimes understood to be the RIGHTEOUSNESS of justification, that which Paul elsewhere calls “the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God” (Romans 3:21) or “the RIGHTEOUSNESS which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). The words may be used here, however, in a broad general sense of moral goodness, meaning the Believer’s personal RIGHTEOUSNESS. This personal RIGHTEOUSNESS which guards the heart is not possible apart from the reception of God’s justifying RIGHTEOUSNESS.

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

There are the SANDALS. The well-equipped soldier in Paul’s day wore sandals with soles thickly studded with hobnails. Such sandals not only gave protection to the feet but also enabled the soldier to move quickly and surely. In ancient times when warfare was largely a matter of hand-to-hand combat, this quickness of movement was essential. The Christian, Paul explains, must have on his feet “THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.” Most interpreters understand “PREPARATION” in the sense of “readiness” or “preparedness.” The idea is that of a disposition of mind that makes men quick to see their duty an always ready to plunge into the fight. This readiness comes from or is produced by, “THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.” Sandals were the sign of one equipped and ready to move. The sign of a Christian is that he is eager to be on the way to share the gospel with others who have not heard it. But to do so, he must be prepared; the Christian’s readiness to carry the good news of peace the gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere is like the readiness of a Roman soldier to do his general’s bidding.

The gospel is designated “THE GOSPEL OF PEACE,” because it has a peace-bringing power which destroys the hostility in men’s hearts and establishes tranquility in its place (Isaiah 52:7). It is this heart-peace produced by the gospel that gives the Christian warrior his readiness for combat. To have a consciousness of peace with God and to live in tranquil communion with Him enables a man to fling himself into the battle with strong determination and calm assurance.

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