9. Standing Together In Victory, Pt. 1: The Power and Provision for Spiritual Battles (Eph. 6:10-13)Related Media
My wife and I have been to Romania many times to minister to pastors and churches there. One of the places we have visited is the City of Timisoara. Timisoara has a fascinating history, particularly for its part in the 1989 revolution against President Ceausescu’s cruel regime. Laszlo Tokes was the pastor of a fast-growing reformed church in the city of Timisoara. So powerful was his preaching that the communist officials began to strategically suppress him. They stationed police officers around his church and hired thugs to attack him. Finally, just before Christmas 1989, they decided to send him into exile but when the police arrived to take Pastor Tokes away, they found the church surrounded by a wall of people. Christians from all over the city and from all denominations had united together to protect Pastor Tokes and to protest the communists’ actions against him.
All through the day they stood their ground. As it grew dark, a student named Daniel Gavra pulled out some candles, lit one and passed it to the person next to him. Then he lit another, and another until the December darkness was pierced by the light of hundreds of candles. When Pastor Tokes looked out of the window of the church, all he saw was a sea of faces lit up by a warm glow.
Two days later, armed forces finally broke through the crowd and dragged Pastor Tokes away. But that was not the end. Thousands of people streamed from the church across the bridge leading into the city square, where they began a full-scale demonstration against the communist government.
Struck with panic, the communist officials ordered the troops to shoot at the crowd. Hundreds were shot that day, including Daniel Gavra, whose leg was blown off. But the protest wasn’t supressed by bullets. Within days, this demonstration in Timisoara sparked a nation-wide uprising, such that the army that once obeyed Ceausescu’s orders actually turned against him. As he and his wicked wife tried to escape by air, airborne troops surrounded their helicopter and forced them to land. On Christmas day 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were publicly executed.
My wife and I have seen Pastor Tokes’ church. We’ve seen the bullet holes in the walls of the buildings in the city square. And I have met the General of the Army who called off the troops and who turned against President Ceausescu and his government.
For the first time in half a century, the people of Romania celebrated Christmas that year in freedom. In the hospital, Daniel Gavra celebrated while learning to walk on crutches. When his pastor came by to offer his sympathies, Daniel said: “Pastor, I don’t mind so much the loss of a leg. After all, it was I who lit the first candle.”1
This touching and brave incident in the history of Romania reminds us of what the church can do when we stand together as a community, ready to fight evil, and “having done all to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
The concept of the church is referred to in Ephesians as a “mystery” (3:3) because God’s plan for the church was incomprehensible and because the union of Jews and Gentiles together in one body was inconceivable. But now, what was previously incomprehensible has been made known and what was previously inconceivable has been accomplished in Christ.
So now, all Christians share a common position in Christ (Eph. 1:1-3:21). The separation between Jews and Gentiles is gone. We have common blessings (1:3-23), a common transformation (2:1-10), and a common relationship in Christ (2:11-22). But it’s not sufficient to claim a common position in Christ without showing it in a common practice. That’s why Paul urges us to live together in community in a way that’s worthy of our position. So far we have learned that our lives are to be characterized by…
1. Walking together in unity (4:1-6)
2. Growing together in maturity (4:7-16)
3. Pursuing purity together (4:17-5:21)
4. Relating together in harmony (5:22-6:9)
Lastly, our life together in the community of faith is to be characterized by “Standing Together in Victory” (6:10-20). In our life together in community, we face a real spiritual battle. While the relationships of Christian husbands and wives, children and parents, slaves and masters is to be marked by mutual submission and, thus, harmony, there is one more relationship which cannot be reconciled, will never be peaceful, and to which we can never submit nor obey. That’s our relationship to the devil.
Our relationship to the devil is characterized as a spiritual battle. Our spiritual life in Christ is not always smooth sailing. We have an enemy, the devil who is hostile to everyone who submits to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The devil is doing everything he can to destroy what God has established - namely, the united community of the church. Our passage in this article teaches us that “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection.”
I. Our Power For Spiritual Battles Is The Lord (10)
The admonition, Finally, my brothers, be strengthened in the Lord and in his mighty power (10) reminds us of God’s encouragement to Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). It also reminds us of Paul’s exhortation: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
Be strengthened (10a) is the passive voice. This indicates that, since we cannot strengthen ourselves, our strength comes from a source outside ourselves. Where does it come from? How are we strengthened? Firstly…
1. We Are Strengthened By Our Spiritual Position - In The Lord (10b)
God provides us with the strength to withstand the onslaughts of the enemy. We derive our empowerment for battle through and from the Lord. Because we are in the Lord, we are strong. He strengthens us. We can’t do it for ourselves for we have no strength of our own. We are like a baby in the mother’s womb which derives its life and strength and nourishment from its mother. We are in the Lord - his riches are our riches, his life our life, his wisdom our wisdom, his strength our strength. On our own, we are weak; without him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). But in the Lord we are strong: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
We are strengthened by our spiritual position – in the Lord. And…
2. We Are Strengthened By Our Spiritual Resource - His Mighty Power (10c)
Because we are in the Lord we have access to God’s mighty power. The mighty power of God is ours through Christ. It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20). It’s the same power that transformed us from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1). That same mighty power is ours. That’s our resource for spiritual battles.
The Hibernia oil platform is located in the Atlantic Ocean 189 miles east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, in 80 meters of water. The total structure is 224 meters high from ocean floor to the top of the derricks. Unlike the fated Ocean Ranger, a platform that sank in 1982 with all 84 men on board lost at sea, the Hibernia’s design incorporates a gravity based structure which anchors it to the seabed.
The Hibernia was built as a stationary platform because it is located right in the middle of what scientists call “iceberg alley”. The icebergs that ply these waters can be as large as ocean liners.
Sixteen concrete teeth surround the Hibernia. These teeth can distribute the force of an iceberg over the entire structure and into the seabed. The Hibernia is built to withstand a 1,000,000 ton iceberg (expected every 500 years), and designers claim it can actually withstand a 6,000,000 ton iceberg (expected once in 10,000 years) with repairable damage.
Even with all these protection measures, Hibernia’s designers take no chances. Radio operators plot and monitor all icebergs within 27 miles. Any that come close are towed away from the platform by powerful supply ships. Smaller ones are simply diverted using the ship’s high-pressure water cannons. As rugged and as strong as this platform is, and as prepared as it is for icebergs to strike it, Hibernia will never allow an iceberg even to come close; it does not rely on its own strength. 2
We need to take the threat of spiritual danger just as seriously. Don’t place your confidence in your own strength. Don’t think that you are able to deal with spiritual icebergs that may come your way. Your strength is hopelessly insufficient.
Our spiritual strength comes from our position in the Lord and our spiritual strength comes from our resource in his mighty power. So, Be strong in the Lord! Don’t give way to doubts. Don’t waver in your faith. Be steadfast in the truth. Be strong… in his mighty power! Draw on his strength. The Lord’s power is greater than all the forces that we face. King Saul and the people of Israel cowered in fear before Goliath; nobody thought that he could be defeated. But in God’s mighty power David slew the giant with a sling and a stone. It’s not the amount of strength we have that’s important, it’s the source. The Lord is our source of strength and power, so draw on him.
Our power for spiritual battles is the Lord. And secondly…
II. Our Protection For Spiritual Battles Is God’s Armour (11-12)
We need God’s power and we need God’s protection…
1. We Must Put On God’s Armour (11)
We are only protected if we put on the armour. Armour is no good unless it is worn. God provides it and we are responsible to put it on.
God’s armour covers us from head to toe. Put on the whole (complete) armour of God (11a). There is no part of us that is exposed to the enemy if we put on the whole armour of God. Therefore, to be fully protected we must put on the whole armour. God provides us with a full suit of armour, full protection. It includes every weapon, every tool, every resource we need for battle.
Paul wrote this from a prison cell so he knew what full armour looked like. So many Christians seem to think they don’t need all the armour. Some think that all they need is the helmet of salvation – and you do need that – but you need more than that. Some Christians think that all they need is the belt of truth – and you do need that – but you need more than that. Some Christians think that all they need is the shield of faith – and you do need that - but you need more than that. What good is a helmet without a breastplate or a breastplate without a shield? If you have one without the other you are vulnerable to the sharp arrows of the enemy; you leave part of yourself exposed to being hit, perhaps mortally wounded.
You may think you know all the spiritual truth there is to know, but if you don’t have salvation, what good is it? You may think that your faith will protect you in times of testing, but if you don’t have the truth, what good is it? God’s armour is a complete package.
This is no ordinary armour. It’s the full armor of God. Our own armour is no good for this kind of battle, we need God’s armour. “David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David took them off’” (1 Sam. 17:39). God’s armour was very different from Saul’s armour. Saul’s armour was no good for this battle; it was no match for Goliath. It’s no good trying to devise your own way of fighting the enemy. Don’t try to tackle him with your own weapons or wits. Instead, put on God’s full armour. Remember the apostle Paul’s injunction: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God” (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
God provides us with his armour for a specific purpose: … so that you may be able to stand against the cunning schemes of the devil (11b). Our enemy is the devil. The battle began with Christ’s appearance on earth. As soon as he began his public ministry he began to cast out demons and the reversal of Satan’s takeover of the world began. The battle climaxed at the cross and was won when Christ rose from the dead so that we have been liberated from the devil’s bondage. Satan has been defeated, even though he has not yet surrendered. 3 He is still waging war with God through God’s people, but God enables us to stand firm together against our common enemy, to hold our position while under attack. Now, in order to win the battle we must know the enemy, his tactics, his schemes.
The city of Aqaba lies at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba which is at the northern end of the Red Sea. In 1917, Aqaba seemed impregnable. Any enemy vessel approaching the port would have to face the battery of huge naval guns above the town. All around Aqaba (to the west, the north, and across the gulf to the east) lay barren, waterless, inhospitable desert, so hot that it is referred to as “the anvil of the sun”.
The Turks believed Aqaba to be safe from any attack. But against all odds, Lawrence of Arabia led a force of 50 Arab cavalry across the desert and they managed to rally support among the local people. On July 6, 1917, they swept into Aqaba from the north, from the blind side. The gigantic naval guns were completely powerless to stop them because they were facing in the wrong direction. Aqaba fell, and the Turkish hold on Palestine was broken, to be replaced by the British mandate and eventually by the State of Israel. The Turks failed to defend Aqaba because they made two mistakes - they did not know their enemy, and they did not have the right defensive weapons. 4
Make sure you know who the enemy is and what his tactics are. Our enemy is the “devil”, the chief of the opposing army. Be assured of this, the devil is a real, personal being who “walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
The tactics that the devil uses are cunning schemes. His methods are crafty because he is the arch-deceiver (2 Cor. 2:11). He uses cunning strategies, deceptive methods designed to trap us.
So, what are some of Satan’s most deceptive schemes and outright lies today? The lies that lust is love, that suicide is better than life, that sex is good between consenting adults regardless of gender or marriage. The scheme that pornography is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. The deception that what is shown and said on TV is the truth. Malcolm Muggeridge said: “Of all the inventions of our time, TV is likely to prove the most destructive. (It) grinds us down to spiritual dust so fine that a puff of wind scatters us, leaving nothing behind.”
Satan lies that religious pluralism is favourable to Christianity; that moral relativism is good because it doesn’t assign guilt; that humanistic materialism is all we have to live for. He even deceives people into thinking that he (Satan) doesn’t exist!
Beware of the lies and seductions of Satan. He will use any means possible to access your life. If you open the door of your life to him, just a crack, he will take advantage of it and hound you to death. It’s much easier to not allow Satan entrance than to try and drive him out.
How does Satan gain entrance to people’s lives?
a) By illicit sex - pornography, extra marital sex, perverted sex, trivialized sex etc. These practices are seductive and obsessive. They can take over your life, which is what Satan wants. If you engage in illicit sex it can destroy you spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally.
b) By drugs and alcohol. Yes, alcohol is a drug. According to The Addiction Center alcohol is one of the top 10 addictive drugs in our society (along with cocaine, heroin etc.). 5 And it is number 1 in terms of its damage and destruction to individuals, families, and societies. That’s the work of Satan – to destroy your life! Satan wants you under the control of a power greater than yourself, not God’s power but Satan’s.
c) By false teachings like evolution, which is taught in school as scientific fact when it isn’t. Evolution is the invention of man’s atheistic imagination to try and explain the world without God. False teachings like pluralism, that all roads lead to God, and like postmodernism, that there is no knowable absolute truth – that it’s all relative.
Basically, anything that deceives, destroys, or steals is from Satan (Jn. 10:10). Anything that tempts you into sin is from Satan, because God does not tempt anyone with sin (Jas. 1:13). Satan’s methods are crafty, shrewd, ingenious, and viciously destructive. The only way we can deal with them is through the protective armour provided by God. Make sure you put it all on!
Our protection for spiritual battles is God’s armour. And…
2. God’s Armour Protects Us Against Our Spiritual Enemy (12)
We need armour because we are engaged in a conflict. We struggle (12a) – literally, we are in a wrestling match, a personal, intense hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.
It’s not a conflict with human forces. We do not struggle against flesh and blood (12b). Flesh and blood speak of humanity in its weakness and mortality (1 Cor. 15:50). If we were fighting against mere men there wouldn’t be the urgency or perhaps even the necessity to put on this armour, for the fight would be much easier, less devious, more visible, identifiable, physical. But our conflict is not with human forces.
We are in a conflict with spiritual forces. We struggle…against rulers, against authorities, against world powers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (12c).
Who are these rulers and authorities and world powers? Verse 12 sets up a sharp contrast - on the one hand, flesh and blood (human enemies) and on the other hand, rulers and authorities (spiritual enemies). This is who our spiritual battle is with, rulers and authorities. From this description and the other references to the same beings in Eph (1:20; 3:10; cf. also 1 Cor. 15:24), I conclude that these are spiritual forces or beings, not human; they are malevolent, evil forces, not good and benevolent.
One question is whether there is a distinction between rulers, authorities and world powers on the one hand and spiritual forces of evil on the other? They appear to be different descriptions of the same evil enemy, descriptions that indicate that they are real spiritual beings who rule over the unseen world, who exercise real power that extends throughout the cosmos. The rulers, authorities and powers then are spiritual forces of evil. These spiritual forces wield cosmic power. They have sweeping power and tyrannical control. They are called rulers, authorities and world powers 6 because they wield the very power that Satan claimed when he offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world.
These spiritual forces are evil. Our enemy is not human but demonic. Our greatest enemy is not the world we see but the world we can’t see - the devil and his demonic empire. We are fighting against evil spirits - the devil and his fallen angels. These spiritual forces are wicked. They operate in and exercise power over the darkness of this age. They operate in the sphere of lies, craftiness, deception, ignorance and sin (i.e. spiritual and moral darkness) among those who “love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (Jn. 3:19). They operate in the sphere with which we were once associated but from which we are delivered when we trust Christ. “For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8), so that we no longer have “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).
When God appeared on earth there was an unprecedented outburst of activity in the realm of darkness. They knew who Jesus was and why he was here: “Have you come to destroy us?” (Lk. 4:34) they asked, and they hated him for it.
These spiritual forces operate in heavenly places - not the heavenly realm where Christ reigns far above all these forces - above all “rule and authority and might and power” (Eph. 1:21). The heavenly realm where Christ reigns supreme is the source of our spiritual blessings. It’s where the saints are seated with Christ (Eph. 2:6). No, these evil spiritual forces operate in a heavenly sphere below that realm but above the earth, what Eph. 2:20 calls the “domain of the air”. That is where these evil forces carry out their clandestine operations.
You may be saying, “Yes, I know that demons and satanic activity is evident in other cultures but not here in our country.” That’s another lie of the devil. He wants you to think you don’t have to be concerned about him and his activities – that’s just something you read about or hear about from people in other countries. Let me be clear: The forces of evil are real and the battle is real right here where we live.
So, don’t just stand there, Paul says, “Do something!” Therefore, take up the whole armour of God (13a). The provision has been made: God has provided us with his armour. The purpose has been explained: we are in a battle and we need protection. The reason is clear - we wrestle with unknown spiritual forces of evil – and the result is anticipated - … so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and, having done all, to stand (13b-c).
In the next article, we’re going to find out how we prepare for spiritual battles and what our spiritual armour actually is. But for now, the exhortation is: “Take it up! Put it on! You’re responsible to put on the armour. Nobody else can do it for you. Don’t rationalize this away. Don’t be complacent about it. Don’t think that this is ‘much ado about nothing’. Take it seriously. Don’t be deceived into thinking that there is no battle.”
William Wilberforce, that great advocate for the abolition of slavery, once said: “When religion is in a state of quiet and prosperity ... the soldiers of the church… will then tend to forget they are at war. Their ardor slackens and their zeal languishes.” 7
John Owen has made an apt comparison: religion in a state of prosperity is like a colony that is long settled in a strange country. It is gradually assimilated in features, demeanor and language to the native inhabitants until at length every vestige of its distinctiveness had died away. Our spiritual battle is the “forgotten war”.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that you don’t need armour. Don’t be deceived into thinking that victory is yours without a battle. You can’t dodge the draft into this war.
We are living in the evil day which will get worse (1 Cor. 7:26; 1 Thess. 5:2-4). It’s the evil day because the devil and his angels are fiercely attacking. They are attacking Christians trying to deceive them into renouncing their faith. They are attacking non-Christians deceiving them that all is well and bringing them under Satan’s power.
The evil day will only end when God throws the devil (the deceiver, Satan) into the abyss. In the meantime, remember the thesis of this article: “We are in a spiritual battle for which we need God’s strength and protection”. They alone are sufficient to keep us, sufficient for us to withstand in the evil day.
When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms he was accused of heresy. After being condemned for stating that men are saved by faith in Christ alone, he declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God…here I stand, I cannot do otherwise”. In the end result, it’s not about fighting but about standing. It’s not about what you did but whether you stood firm. Having done all things means having done what we had to do, having prepared for battle, having been fully armed for battle.
Having done all things stand firm in battle to the very end. Paul’s overriding desire for himself was to be found standing firm at the end and not be “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). God hasn’t asked us to do the impossible. Without God’s power we would stumble and fall. Without God’s armour we would be fatally unprotected. But in God’s power and with God’s full armour of protection we can stand against the devil.
We must stand united together as a community of faith because there is strength in unity. When everyone pulls in the same direction there is great power. Let us stand together, therefore, shoulder-to-shoulder against our common enemy.
1 Some details obtained from “The One Year Devotions for People of Purpose,” by Charles Colson, page 712.
2 “Avoiding False Security”, https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1999/december/12147.html, Todd Dugard; references Robert Kiener, “Marvel of the North.
3 See Rom. 15:18-21; 1 Cor. 15:56-57; Heb. 2:14
4 Citation: Michael Boyland in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership, in Christianity Today.
6 This description of evil forces is probably not meant to categorize them but to warn us of the variety and scope of the enemy’s power and resources. Satan claimed ownership of “all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9; Lk. 4:5-7; cf. Luke 11:18) in his temptation of Jesus. Jesus ascribed to Satan the title “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; cf. also Jn. 14:30; 16:11; Rev. 12:9; 20:2).
7 Citation: William Wilberforce in Real Christianity. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 4.
Related Topics: Christian Life