Jesus once said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6.34c). With these words he finalized his exhortation regarding anxiety over the everyday stresses of our lives: food and clothing (6.25-33). In fact, this kind of stress is quite distracting (Grk. merimnao), it even robs one of trust in God’s providential care for those who seek his kingdom first (6.33). In order to overcome this battle, the Lord provides us with the weaponry; our weaponry is the right perspective framed by God’s word.
Never has this been more exemplified than by Jesus himself when tempted by Satan; three temptations all designed to challenge the Lord’s perspective of his own identity (cf. “if you are the Son of God” 4.3, 6). Each temptation was nullified by an appeal to the Word of God (cf. “it is written” 4.4, 7, 10). Since the very beginning, Satan has always been aggressive in his attempts to devour us with his schemes (Gen. 3.1; Job 1.6-7; 1 Pet. 5.8); but, we can resist him with our faith (1 Pet. 5.9).
War within a Life of Peace
The wave of temptations which pass through a person’s life may be moral, spiritual, doctrinal, and even philosophical; the battle being waged is subsidized by Satan and his emissaries (Matt. 25.41; Rev. 12.9). Consequently, the scale of the battle he wages is the size of the number of people who have ever lived (Rev. 20.2; John 8.44).
The apostle Paul calls attention to the war Satan wages against Christians as well (Eph. 6.12). He describes his assaults as “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6.16), but in the final analysis they are just “schemes” (Eph. 6.11). These schemes (Grk. methodia) are simply sophisticated deceptions designed to take advantage of a person’s weakness.
Satan’s methodology is to employ calculated deceptions in order to rob the Christian of their moral integrity, their spiritual vibrancy, their doctrinal purity, and to provide philosophical confusion. He portrays himself as a bringer of “light” when in fact he brings spiritual decay (2 Cor. 11.13-15). This activity is designed to undermine Christian peace (Luke 1.79; John 16.33; Acts 10.36; Rom. 5.1; 2 Cor. 13.11; Eph. 2.15).
Close-range Spiritual Carnage
The picture of our warfare is described by Paul in the following way, “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6.12). First, notice the conflict is not a physical one; instead, it is spiritual and ideological. Whatever and whoever Satan may use to oppose God and his people are forces he employs in his spiritual arsenal (Eph. 6.12).
Second, the idea related by the word “wrestle” (Grk. pale), is that of close-quarter hand-to-hand combat on the field of battle. The word suggests that while we may be “under siege” as a faith, we have an individual role to stand and fight in battle (Eph. 6.11, 13). Nevertheless, victory has already come to the Christian, because Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16.33).
Third, Paul speaks of the “spiritual forces of evil” besieging us (Eph. 6.12). The probing issue here is: what is evil? We can identify evil as crime and hatred; terrorism and genocide. Movies even tend to define evil as an ancient boogie-man creature. However, evil can be seen in religious and spiritual expressions – particularly of false teaching.
Ultimately, evil is behavior that is lived in rejection of God and His will (1 Tim. 1.3). Bruce Morton writes in his excellent book Deceiving Winds:
When we decide to let the Bible collect dust, then we are left with more than merely a literary vacuum; we sow the seeds of what will become evil. Evil has more than a social and civil definition; it is spiritual. And the siege is more than ethical. It is doctrinal as well.
Timothy was warned that defection from the faith would come as a rejection of God word, and the reception of false teachers (1 Tim. 4.1-3; 2 Tim. 4.1-5). False teaching is evil (Gal. 1.6-10; 2 Pet. 2.1-22; Jude 3-13).
The Armor of the Christian
Using the language of a war and battle, Paul calls the Christian to “put on the whole [= full] armor of God” (Eph. 6.11). The Christian withstands because this armor has already been put on (6.14-18); moreover, the armor represents those aspects of the faith which are foundational for a relationship with our Creator (truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word). What has saved you will now defend you.
Finally, an element of the Christians weaponry is prayer (6.18). David Williams observes that it is not compared to a piece of armor, but that instead prayer is comparable to “the battle cry of the Christian”. Prayer is described differently than the armor. The armor is already put on, but prayer is an ongoing element of the fight because of its need: “(1) for every circumstance of life, (2) for the duration of life, (3) for every facet of life, and (4) for all the saints”.
A Final Word
As we conclude, there is both a warning and an encouragement in Paul’s discussion of the armor. Evil exists and Satan uses it to deceive us with ideologies and religious experiences that feel right. Be encouraged, however, for we already have the entire arsenal to defend ourselves –Christian faithfulness and the Bible revealing God’s teaching. Along with this, He will never leave us behind on the field of battle (Heb. 13.5-6).
- Bruce Morton, Deceiving Winds: Christians Navigating the Storms of Mysticism, Leadership Struggles and Sensational Worship (Nashville, Tenn.: 21st Century Christian, 2009), 67.
- David J. Williams, Paul’s Metaphors: Their Context and Character (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 222.
- Williams 222.
- Payes, Jovan. “Fighting a Spiritual Battle (Ephesians 6.10-20).” Burns church of Christ Online. 6 Feb. 2011.
- Jackson, Jason. “Spiritual Warfare is Real, Difficult, and Dangerous.” Christian Courier Online. Accessed: 22 Feb. 2011.