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The Unseen Battle (Ephesians 6:10-12)

February 2, 2014 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: This Means War

Topic: Ephesians Passage: Ephesians 6:10–6:12

This Means War

The Unseen Battle
Ephesians 6:10-12
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
February 2nd, 2014

 

I. Dressed for Battle

Can you imagine going into the middle of a war zone? Bullets whizzing by over your head. Rockets, grenades, shells, land mines going off all around you? It would be frightening, wouldn’t it? What if you went back in time? Can you imagine being in the middle of a field of knights on horseback and foot soldiers, wildly swinging huge swords, maces, and battle axes, as arrows whizzed by over your head? I don’t think any of us would really want to be down in the middle of that.

But think about this: is it even conceivable to imagine that you, if you knew you were headed into that kind of war zone, that you would do so with the clothes you have on right now? Take a look at what you’re wearing. How do you think those clothes would fare in the middle of battle like the ones I just described?

Keep those images in mind and turn with me to Ephesians 6:10-12. This morning, and throughout the month of February, we are going to talk about a battle, an unseen battle that you and I are engaged in every single day; a conflict, a fight for your heart and your mind. Paul talks about this very battle in our verses this morning. Let's look together at those. [lots of Scripture coming at you this morning, so be ready!]

 

II. The Passage: “Put on the Whole Armor of God” (6:10-12)

As we will see this morning, the Apostle Paul has several things he wants us to understand, several things God wants us to understand about the unseen battle that is raging all around us; the battle, if we belong to Jesus through faith, the battle we are always fighting.

 

A. To Understand the Strength We Need for the Battle (6:10, 11a)

Let's break this short passage up into even smaller parts and look together at verse 10, and the first part of verse 11. Paul writes this to the disciples in Ephesus...

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God...

So the first thing we see here is that God wants us to understand the strength we need for the battle. Notice the three phrases we just looked at:

First, we need to be “strong in the Lord”. This makes it clear that the strength we need is not our own strength. How often do you try to live your life according to your own strength?
It's an easy trap to fall into, isn't it? But if you've been on that path before, then you know it always leads to a dead end.

But second, being “strong in the Lord” means be strengthened with the “strength of his might”. Why would we ever attempt to live in our own strength when we have the power of God himself available to us? It's like choosing a hamster in a wheel over a nuclear reactor! Don't you want God's strength to be empowering you today, and this week?

Third, notice how Paul represents this strength at the beginning of verse 11. God's strength for us is like armor for the battle. As Paul puts it here, “Put on the whole armor of God”. Over the course of the upcoming month, we will dig deeper into what Paul has mind when he writes “the whole armor of God”; because, as we will see, Paul goes on to describe this armor, piece by piece.

But think about what Paul is saying for a minute: to be strengthened with God's strength is like putting on armor, that is, it is primarily a defensive strategy. As you can see from the next phrase in verse 11, we are strengthened by God, we put on the armor, that we “may be able to stand”. But who are we standing against?

 

B. To Understand the Identity of our Enemy (6:11b-12)

Let's look at verse 11 in its entirety: [Put on the whole armor of God...] that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

The second thing we find here is that God wants us to understand the identity of our enemy.

Standing, or standing firm is one of Paul's favorite phrases. He routinely encourages the churches to “stand firm” or to “stand firm in the faith”. But as we see here, in this verse, he wants them to stand firm against the schemes, the craftiness, the trickery (in Greek, methodeia) the “methods” of the devil.

Who is this devil? The devil, or in Greek “diabolos”, which means “slanderer” or “accuser”, the devil is a spirit who works to frustrate God's purposes in the world. He is also called Satan (a Hebrew word that means “adversary”) or the Enemy.

Let me share a few key ideas you need to know in terms of what Scripture teaches about the devil.

First, though his origin is unclear, it appears that long ago, the devil turned in pride to a path of murder and lies.

In I Timothy 3:6, Paul warnes that a potential elder in the church must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

In John 8:44, Jesus tells some of the unbelieving Jewish leaders: You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

And in I John 3:8, John warns his readers that whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.

He is never called an angel, but in many passages, he seems closely connected with other angelic beings. What else do we know about the devil?

Well, second, even though the devil has a certain amount of authority over the world, he is ultimately limited to what God permits him to do.

In John 12:31, Jesus calls the devil “the ruler of this world”, and in II Corinthians 4:4, Paul describes him as the “god (little 'g') of this world”. This is why in Matthew 4 and Luke 3, when the devil is tempting Jesus, he is able to offer him all the kingdoms of the world. Thus, because of his power, he believes his agenda will succeed.

But as we see from the book of Job, chapters 1 and 2, the devil, or Satan, cannot act God's servants without God's permission. We also know from the Bible that, in the end, Satan will definitely not hold on to his authority over the world. But we also need to know that...

Third, As the father of lies, the devil's main objective is to keep people from God's truth and trapped on his path of death.

Though Genesis 3 does not mention the devil or Satan, Revelation 12:9 seems to point to the devil as the power behind the very serpent that tempted Adam and Eve to doubt God's word.

This is why Paul encouraged Timothy to correct his ...opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (II Timothy 2:24-26)

What is the truth Paul speaks about? Ultimately, it is the gospel, the good news about Jesus. Paul says as much in II Corinthians 4:4, when he tells how ...the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

And Hebrews 2:14, 15 described the devil as the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, [15] and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

God ultimately has power over life and death, but the devil, through the fear of death, has power to hold people in bondage to his desires and designs.

If you want to learn even more about what Scripture teaches us about the devil, just go to the audio section of our website and look for a series called “The Enemy”.

But we need to see that verse 12 also tells us something important about the devil. Look at verse 11 and 12 together:

[Put on the whole armor of God...] that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

What we see from that verse is that the devil is not alone. There are in fact “spiritual forces of evil” at work, and these forces are described as “rulers”, “authorities” and “cosmic powers”. We also learn that these power are “over this present darkness” that has engulfed the world from the very beginning of humanity's rebellion against God. In the hour of His betrayal, Jesus said to those who came to arrest him, “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53)

Who are these spiritual forces of evil? Well they seem to be angelic beings who followed the devil in his turning away. Matthew 25:41, II Corinthians 12:7, and Revelation 12:9 speak of the devil having “angels” or “messengers”. It appears from II Peter 2:4 that while some of these rebellious angels have been imprisoned until the final judgment, others are loose and working to advance the devil's destructive agenda. This is why the devil is called “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2, and “the prince of demons” in Matthew 12:24.

This is also why Peter, when he talked about Jesus casting out demons, described it this way...He [Jesus] went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38) Thus demons are servants of the devil, spirits who are carrying out his work of oppression.

Beyond the reality of demon possession, that we find throughout the gospels, and the devil's main work of keeping people from God's truth, how else do demons operate as “spiritual forces of wickedness”? Well there are several ways: 1) Luke 13:11 and II Corinthians 12:7 tell us that demons can inflict physical pain, 2) In I Corinthians 10:20, Paul tells us this about false religions: ...what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. Similarly, Paul warns about those were devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons... (I Timothy 4:1)

But 3) these demonic forces are referred to as “rulers”, “authorities”, and “powers” because they seem to have a global network of deception through which they are using human leaders and nations to accomplish their goals. Daniel 10 speaks of the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece”, demonic rulers who fought against the angels of God. It was these 'cosmic power', these “spiritual forces of evil” that stood behind even the Roman Empire, under which Paul and the Ephesians live. But this takes us to our third main idea.

 

C. To Understand the True Nature of the Conflict (6:12a)

The third truth I believe we find here is that God wants us to understand the true nature of the conflict. Notice what Paul states in the opening words of verse 12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood...No, Paul has already told us these are “spiritual forces” who work in “heavenly places”, that is, within the spirit realm. Why is this so important to understand?

Well, as I once said in an earlier message on this topic: “When we don’t recognize that there are...“spiritual forces of evil” at work against God’s work through the church, we can very easily find ourselves blaming other people, trusting in politics and programs, and making our fight an earthly battle of words, or finances, or egos. God wants to constantly remind us that this is a spiritual battle.”

The true nature of this conflict simply drives home the fact that we desperately need God's strength for this battle; we need God's armor for this battle. Like I asked you at the beginning of our time this morning, is it even conceivable to imagine that you, if you knew you were headed into a war zone, that you would do so with the clothes you have on right now?

I don't think any of us would go into a war-zone without some kind of protection. But how many of us trudge into life everyday with the protection God wants to give us, protection in the midst of the unseen battle raging all around us. Oh, we're good at getting defensive when “flesh and blood” attack, but are we on the defensive spiritually when the devil is trying to tear us apart? Peter put it this way:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [9] Resist him, firm in your faith... (I Peter 5:8-9)

 

III. Putting on the Armor Maker

As I mentioned, over the course of the next three Sundays, we are going to learn more about the “whole armor of God” and what it truly means to engage in spiritual warfare. But I think this morning, it is critical we at least make this connection about putting on God's armor: Ultimately, to put on the armor of God is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul says in Romans 13:14, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. After hearing all this about the devil and demons and spiritual forces of evil, we could be feeling fearful and anxious about these things. But we don't have to be. Listen to the final words of I John 3:8...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

We should put on the Lord Jesus because through Him, God has delivered us from the domain of darkness...(Colossians 1:13). We should put on the Lord Jesus, because God cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:14-15)

We should put on the Lord Jesus because He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (I Peter 3:22); because He is seated far above all rule and authority and power and dominion...(Ephesians 1:21); because in the end, he will [deliver] the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. (I Corinthians 15:24)

You see, we might be engaged in daily battles, but Jesus has already won the war. On the cross where He suffered and died, Jesus dealt the decisive blow to our Enemy, and broke the power of the devil and his “spiritual forces of evil”. There attacks now are simply desperate attempts to undo what they can never undo. And this is why the very strength that Paul wants us to experience, the strength of God, is only available to us through Jesus.

Because Paul had heard of the Ephesians, their “faith in the Lord Jesus” (1:15), he was prayed this prayer for them:

…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [literally, “the strength of His might” (same as 6:10)[20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places... (Ephesians 1:18-20)

It's no wonder that the devil wants to keep people blinded to the gospel, to the good news of Jesus: because it is a message of victory and freedom. Remember the words of one of our praise songs...

When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see Him there, Who made an end of all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free, For God the just is satisfied, To look on Him and pardon me.

Again, Hebrews 2:14, 15... Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, [15] and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

We no longer fear death, because Jesus has conquered death. We are no longer enslaved to lies, because Jesus is the Truth. There is no longer any accusation the devil, the slanderer, can bring, because we are clean and pure because Jesus has washed us. Do you believe that? That's what you must do. Wonderfully, that's all you have to do.

Ultimately, to put on the armor of God is to put on [by grace, through faith] the Lord Jesus Christ.