Fight Valiantly! Spiritual Warfare
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 20 Mar 2019
As we fight valiantly for the faith, Ephesians 6 puts our efforts into a larger heavenly perspective says Lee Gatiss in the next instalment of our Lent series. Watch the video podcast of this episode on our YouTube channel.
It is important that we are also not deceived about the nature of our opposition, as we fight valiantly for the faith. Ephesians 6:12 explicitly reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Contending for the gospel is not a matter of pitting our political strategy against that of our opponents in a worldly battle of wits and cunning and numbers and power. It is a spiritual wrestling match with Satan. The word for struggle here in Ephesians 6:12 is an athletic image from the wrestling ring rather than a military metaphor such as in the rest of the context. But either way, as Calvin says, “our difficulties are far greater than if we had to fight with men. There we resist human strength, sword is opposed to sword, man contends with man, force is met by force, and skill by skill; but here the case is widely different… This is no bodily struggle.” And so, as he continues, this should help us in the battle to react in a more gospel-minded way:
“Let us remember this,” says Calvin, “when the injurious treatment of others provokes us to revenge. Our natural disposition would lead us to direct all our exertions against the men themselves; but this foolish desire will be restrained by the consideration that the men who annoy us are nothing more than darts thrown by the hand of Satan. While we are employed in destroying those darts, we lay ourselves open to be wounded on all sides. To wrestle with flesh and blood will not only be useless, but highly pernicious. We must go straight to the enemy, who attacks and wounds us from his concealment.”
Spiritual warfare, according to these verses, is not about marching across the land to claim the ground for Jesus in a triumphant sweep. Ephesians 1:20-22 says that our Lord Jesus has been exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.” We are “seated with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6). The battle we face, then, is a defensive one, to stand firm where by faith we find ourselves, united in the citadel of Christ.
The devil has many schemes and forces of evil ranged against us. So we will need to fight. But this is not an aggressive invasion or conquest, because Jesus is already the ascended victor (Ephesians 4:8).
Ephesians 6 is a reminder to contend using spiritual and not carnal weapons: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of gospel peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, and prayer in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-18). Each part of the armour has been mentioned before in Ephesians, and is linked with God’s plan to unite all things under Christ (Ephesians 1:10). The purpose of it is to help us stand against the devil’s schemes, which include bringing confusion and instability where Jesus desires maturity (Ephesians 4:14), or causing division where Jesus has brought peace (see Ephesians 4:26-27).
Commentators suggests that in the Ephesian context, where magical amulets and lucky charms were considered to have power to help wrestlers (and others), this is a reminder that we do not need the things considered powerful and effective by the world (which are nothing), but only the armour of God. We can engage in this spiritual warfare, without the trappings of worldly power and influence, by living the gospel, proclaiming the gospel, and praying for the advance of the gospel.
Questions for Reflection
1. How does it re-direct our efforts to fight valiantly when we consider the heavenly perspective on our struggle?
2. What does it mean to say that our enemies are the devil’s darts, and how should that affect the way we treat them?
3. If putting on the armour of God is about prayerfully proclaiming and living the gospel, how can we be more effective in the battles we face today?
Lee Gatiss is Director of Church Society and the editor of Gospel Flourishing in a Time of Confusion, the latest book from Church Society.
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