Ephesians 6 v 12
Please read Colossians chapter 2
Before we begin this morning we will ask for the Lord God’s protection again as we will be dealing with weighty matters concerning the enemy. It is good and right to avail ourselves of the mighty covering of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ over our human souls and will ask God for the overarching shelter of God the Holy Spirit on us His children. Satan hates the Spirit and the blood and he is resisted and banished when we come under this protection.
Let us Pray.
Lord God we thank thee that through the blood of Jesus Christ thou hast made it well with our our souls. We bless thee O Lord that Satan might buffet us that he might go at us with all his might but Lord, as we come to thee this morning and as we listen to thy word, we pray that he may have nothing to do with us, that we might resist him and that he might flee from us, that we might know of the covering of that precious blood that flowed at Calvery for us, for us his people. And we pray O Lord the protection of thy Holy Spirit, of the power of that Holy Spirit to guard us as we think of the word this morning. So we may know that protection today, just as the cloud protected thy people, and the fire in the night time, and the cloud in the day time, so Lord protect us today. Grant us attention in thy word with our ears and our hearts and our minds open to what thou wilt say to us. Grant us thy blessing to be equipped to know our enemy and to valiantly fight against him, for Jesus sake amen.
In a detailed study of Ephesians 6 verse 11 we have seen that believers have a task – to fight the devil.
1. What we are to do in Christian Warfare – put on the whole armour of God.
2. How we are to do it? How are we to wage this warfare? The answer is to Stand – that ye may be able to stand
3. WHY we must put on the armour and Stand – because we have an enemy.
11 Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
We have a deadly spiritual enemy. Getting to know our enemy so that we may effectively resist him and defeat him is part of the task of our lives as Christian soldiers. We identified the leader of the forces ranged against God and against us His people and we recognised the names by which he is known – DEVIL – an accuser who accuses us day and night before the throne of God. Then we know his name Lucifer, son of the morning as it is given in Isaiah; anointed cherub in Ezekiel; the tempter in Matthew 4; SATAN – or adversary because he is the enemy of God; murderer and liar as Jesus called him in John 8 v 44. He is also called a lion seeking whom he may devour; a serpent, an angel of light; the god of this world. He is the source of all evil and God’s enemy.
But this is an unusual battle that we as Christian believers face. Verse 12 tells us that –
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.
Our first thought this morning is this –
1. Whom we do NOT fight against as believers.
Paul the writer of this letter, influenced by God the Holy Spirit who inspired him, visits the Olympic games in his thoughts to describe the nature of the warfare that is ours to fight. You would think that the battle between satan and his followers, and Christ and his followers would be more along the lines of a military campaign with armies massed against one another on a field. This is the way that battles have been fought for millennia.
But Christian warfare is not like this. This is no team event – but it is individual hand-to-hand combat. This is not a rugby game but a wrestling match. Olympic wrestlers competed as individuals – and so do we as Christian soldiers. Two things make wrestling a more difficult form of combat than others.
Firstly it is a one to one contest in which the opponents are singled out and enter a ring or an arena. The contest between the shepherd boy David and the giant Philistine Goliath was in this category although weapons were used there in the Vale of Elah. In wrestling each exerts his whole strength and force against the other. There is no break – there are no rounds with intervals to get your breath back. Contrasted with the battlefield in which soldiers can take turns to fight and then rest, in a wrestling match only a victory by one of the opponents will signal the end.
Whether we like it or not all we who love the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved by His sovereign grace have to go into the ring with Satan. As the Lord delights to have private communion and fellowship with each of His chosen saints, so the devil loves to challenge the Christian when he gets him or her alone. If we only see Satan as interested in GENERAL against Christians and not against us INDIVIDUALLY then he obtains a dangerous advantage over us. You and I have to realise something, putting it personally – Satan hates ME; Satan accuses ME; satan tempts ME; Satan seeks to compromise ME; and when I say ME I mean that you should realise the same about yourself as an individual.
But the answer to Satan’s hatred of me is God’s love for me in the Lord Jesus Christ – and we comfort ourselves in this battle, with God loves ME; God pardons ME in Christ; God takes care of ME and protects ME. In His marvellous providences I am helped. It is specific help. It is one thing to have gas or electricity available in your town but it will not help you or do you any personal good unless you have a wire and a pipe that carries these things to your house. Our spiritual combat, our wrestling is personal and singular – one to one.
Secondly this combat is CLOSE COMBAT – hand to hand. Armies, ships and aircraft fight at a distance. One country can attack another from hundreds of miles away. But wrestlers grapple face to face. We may be able to shelter from bullets or shells shot at us from a distance. But when your opponent actually has a grip of you, you are obliged to fight and stand up to him. When Satan goes for us finding us alone he gets close to us, takes hold of us, as in wrestling – grabs our flesh – the flesh of our corrupt old nature, and shakes us. Indeed the wrestling metaphor is so apt.
Wrestlers as sportsmen have many tricks ready to be used (I can’t say that they have them up their sleeves!). It is many years since I watched any wrestling but I do remember how wily some of these men were. Satan is just as deceptive and ready to trick us, as we saw last time with some of his wiles.
But for all this we are not wrestling PHYSICALLY with anyone in this battle. Our battle is not with men and women – who are made of SARX and HAIMA – flesh and blood. Whenever these two terms are place together they invariably refer to human beings, stressing the limitations of humanity. Flesh and blood are the two essential elements of man’s PHYSICAL being.
Leviticus 17 v 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood:
Very recently in our Bible studies we referred to Peter’s confession of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Lord Jesus responded to that confession with these words –
Matthew 16 v 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
But Paul is emphatically stating that our SPIRITUAL WARFARE is not PHYSICAL WARFARE. It may be true that there is a sense that we are required to engage in physical restraint of some kind against those who are the agents of our spiritual enemy, the devil. But our real enemies are not people. We must see beyond people and even though Satan uses people to hurt us, swindle us, persecute us, slander us or even to kill us – yet our actual enemy is unseen, prowling in the dark recesses of this his world.
“He moves people about like pawns on the chessboard of time.” John Phillips.
People are not the real problem – we are wrestling with Satan or one of his demonic associates in our spiritual wrestling.
Before we proceed to identify Satan’s helpers let us encourage ourselves before we sink into a despondency about spiritual warfare.
1. 1 John 4 v 4
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Christians who have been born again by the Holy Spirit have a power greater than satan and all of His hosts living in their souls – the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ is the spirit of regeneration and sanctification, the spirit of adoption, and the earnest of our inheritance; he is able to carry on the work of grace in us, and finish it, and will do it; and he, as the spirit of truth, is more powerful than the spirit of error. Praise God!
2. The fact that you and I are wrestling and struggling with Sin and Satan is evidence that we are truly born again. There is nothing like attacks of the enemy to remind us of whose side we are on! Satan attacks believers in the Lord Jesus Christ – even though he comes to convince you otherwise. One of his wiles is to wrestle with you and make you give up. He makes you give up when he tells you that you are a sinner, that you have failed God, that God hates sinners therefore he hates you and wants nothing to do with you. DON’T LISTEN TO HIM my friends! He is a liar? God loves His elect people with an intense love that will never die – and one thing is sure – the Lord God does not love satan – throw that back in the liar’s face when he comes to you and trips you up and has you on the floor with a spiritual arm lock!
I like William Gurnall’s advice about how to wrestle –
1. Enlist God as your second. A second is a friend who supports you in the wrestling. But having God as your second means to engage Him in prayer to stand behind you. That way no enemy can come up behind you. King David prayed to God his second in 2 Samuel 15 v 31
And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
Heaven said Amen to his prayer and his enemy went and hanged himself.
2. Stay in Training. Wrestlers in ancient times used to try everything to try to avoid their opponents from getting a hand hold on their bodies. So they would put oils on their skin making them more slippery. Satan knows us in our wrestling with him – he knows our weak points and just which part he can get hold of. Therefore we must mortify those handholds and not allow him to get hold of them any more. Again King David is an example. He came to know himself very well through regular combat with Satan. In Psalm 18 we read his words –
v 3 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
David kept himself from his iniquity – he knew his weakness without specifying it – we need in secret to identify our own weakness and mortify, put it to death – so that the enemy wrestler cannot grab hold of it to bring you down. Then when that is done anoint your body with frequent meditation of Christ’s love – Satan hates that and finds it hard to get hold of you in that area.
3. Use your advantage wisely. The object of wrestling is to bring your opponent down and then fall on him with all your weight and keep him there. My friends we can know marvellous victories over sin in our battles – but often we let the enemy go and he rises again – to fight against us another day. We must keep him down once we have got him down.
Are we wrestling as we should my friends? Perhaps we are fed up with it all and we are asking ourselves, “Why do we have to put up with this provocation and struggle against sin – I am always being pulled back from what is good?” And God’s answer is this, “It is my child, because you are a wrestler, not a conqueror.” We are not called to immediate triumph over our enemies – instead we enlist in a fight to the death. The state of grace is the start of our war against sin, not its culmination. We are wrestlers.
May God help us in the real wrestling of life!
2. Whom we DO fight against as believers.
We have already identified Satan as our principle foe. But according to this verse there are 4 classes or designations to describe the different strata and rankings of the angelic hosts who defected with Satan. They are the unseen spirits, demons who operate in the evil supernatural empire. Satan’s forces of darkness are highly structured for the most destructive purposes.
1. Against Principalities
The Greek word ARCHAY here means governments or rulers – we derive our word PRINCES from it who are second in line to the throne – Satan on the throne – next the principalities. These demons exercise rule above the world in the heavenly places.
However ARCHAY is also used of the good angels – the Holy Angels in Ephesians 3 v 10
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.
When we studied this passage back in September 2000 we spent some time surveying the scripture information about principalities referring to the good angels and only fleeting reference to demons.
Here we restrict our thoughts to the demons with whom we wrestle in spiritual warfare.
The Bible does not tell us all that we may like to know about the spirit world – what we do know is enough to equip us to fight.
2. Against Powers
Here the Greek is EXOUSIAS and refers to authorities – those who have the freedom of action.
When used of God EXOUSIAS means His absolute unrestricted authority as Creator and Lord of all creation.
When used of man EXOUSIAS means that his authority is delegated by God as Romans 13 indicates –
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
When used of angels and demons EXOUSIAS means that authority is restricted by the Lord God.
Satan is powerful, tireless and clever – but he is not God. He has none of the attributes of deity because like any other spirit he is a created being.
He is full of cunning and knowledge – but he is not OMNISCIENT like God. He can make mistakes – it was his mistake to attack Adam and Eve. But it was his biggest mistake to organise and to motivate the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan has awesome power – but he is not OMNIPOTENT like God. He can give people the ability to perform miracles; he can convince people that such miracles are done in the name of Jesus Christ – but they are powerful deceptions – and he is not omnipotent. God at times overrules him and thwarts him.
William Cowper was correct when he wrote that
Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees.
Neither is Satan OMNIPRESENT. He can move remarkably quickly from one place to another, being the spirit that he is, but he cannot be everywhere at once – he can only be in one place at a time.
These things are true about all of the POWERS under his control and direction. Nevertheless they do have some power and some knowledge and can move about.
And we have to realise my friends that Paul is teaching something that most today would reject with scorn. He is telling us that the ultimate cause of our troubles is not man, but Satan and his unseen forces.
Why is the drug trade increasing alarmingly? Why has homosexuality become more and more acceptable? Why is pornography and other sexual immorality so much a part of modern life? Why are child abuse and the legalised murder of children through abortion so widespread? Why the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazi concentration camps and the Communist Gulags? The Scriptures make it clear that the human race is being manipulated by vast numbers of evil spirits who have power – power to encourage lust, greed, selfishness, hate and pride in human beings – human beings without the power of the Holy Spirit to bring them hope. Paul does not say that such people are not to be held responsible – James supports him when he explains in James 3 – verses 14 – 18
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
But even believers can be oppressed and affected by these powers of demons – which is why we have to wrestle with all of our might – to resist them. And the work is urgent to seek to rescue those who do not believe in Jesus from the consequences of the principalities and the powers who have instigated their sinful behaviours and driven them along, fanning the flames of their already corrupt natures into worse and worse sin.
3. Against the rulers of the darkness of this world
Ephesians 6 v 12 has the only occurrence of the word in Greek KOSMOKRATOR. Connected with the word SKOTOUS – darkness, we get the phrase world rulers of darkness. W E Vine identifies them as
“Spirit powers, who, under the permissive will of God, and in consequence of human sin, exercise Satanic, and therefore antagonistic, authority over the whole world in its present condition of spiritual darkness and alienation from God.”
All of the false religions, false philosophies, false ideologies and false theories, including the theory of evolution, are inventions of the rulers of darkness. This is because since the Lord’s glorious victory over these powers at Calvary, no open manifestation of them is allowed. Satan and his powers must work by stealth and secrecy – temptation and lies, stirring up discord in the church, persecution and the planting of false doctrines.
In our wrestling with the enemy, remembering that we are clothed with the armour, we do not touch, feel, speak with or directly engage with demons. This is how we fight – when we are tempted we engage in the spiritual duties that then protect us. This is how we fight back – we do not verbally lash out at demons as some would have us believe – rather we spread the positive good news of the Gospel and seek to win over the hearts and minds of men and women. The chief activity of demons against the people of God today is to infiltrate churches with doctrines invented by demons.
1 Timothy 4 v 1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
They are called the rulers of the darkness of this world and we wrestle against them.
4. Against spiritual wickedness in high places
Satan has countless numbers of demons at his disposal. They are in the spiritual realm below heaven, from where they were ejected after their rebellion, but above the earth – sometimes called the heavenlies. These are described by 2 words – PNEUMATIKA PONERIAS – wicked evil spirits and they are probably responsible for the most depraved abominations known to man – extreme perversions, occultism and satan worship. These were the demonic agents who possessed legion.
Mark 5:1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. 8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. 9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
These hordes do not want us to know of their existence – Paul tells us we need to be aware of them and be ready to resist them wearing the armour.
In our culture we have had several hundred years of God’s blessing with only a little evidence of the activities of demonic powers. God has restrained them. But in recent years things have changed and the more that our society deliberately throws off godliness and Christian belief then our culture will become more and more susceptible to occult forces. Today there is a marked revival in occultism, astrology, spiritism and false cultic and New Age teachings. This is the evidence that Satan and his hordes are making their wicked presence felt among the Western cultures.
As we close we go back to our reading in Colossians 2.
The Apostle says in verse 3 that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are not in Satan and his demons – but in the Lord Jesus Christ! They are laid up and stored in Christ – but Satan does not know everything – our saviour does – because He is God! How thankful we can be about that!
Then in verse 6 he reminds us what has happened to us as believers – we have received the Lord Jesus Christ and we walk according to His Powerful Holy Spirit, indwelling and motivating us to loving devotion and service.
In verse 8 we are warned not to be fooled by anyone about the teachings and activities that are demonic and satanic in character – in this we are assured that we are given Spiritual discernment to recognise truth from error.
In verse 9 Paul declares that all power and authority are in Christ Himself – all the fullness of the Godhead.
And we are on His side – and complete in every way with His Spirit within – verse 10 – and He, not Satan, is the head of all principality and power because He has conquered the demons and the prince of this world so that their power is limited.
But it is not dead yet and we are yet subject to their wiles and oppressions, and the activities of those unbelieving human beings around us who have fallen prey to their devices.
And yet Paul says again verse 15, that our Lord Jesus Christ has disarmed and deprived Satan and His hordes from their power and sway that formerly gripped us in the days of our unbelief – and He is King and Lord of all.
At the same time then we can be encouraged and glad to be believers this morning – because ultimately and eternally no harm can come to us through the principalities, powers, rulers and agents of spiritual wickedness.
Yet there is a fight to be fought while we are here. God has not insulated us and placed us in demon proof boxes. He permits them their activity and equips us with armour.
Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters! We are wrestlers – but we are also with Christ, destined to be more than Conquerors through Him that loved us!
We need not be intimidated by the enemy – for our Jesus is greater than any other power and has given us the spiritual armour to wear.
May we wear it – every moment – for His glory!