Christian Warfare

Ephesians 6:10-20
By Paul Robison

Someone has observed correctly: “Whatever corrupts a man, whatever hurts a man, whatever is evil, dark, and bitter is of the devil.  He is the sinister minister of all that is corrupt and defiling.  He has never blessed one life; he has never encouraged a single soul to do what is right and holy” (Bullard).  Do you want to see the victims of Satan?  Go to an emergency room.  You can see the child with puffy cheeks who was abused by her outraged father.  You can see the teenage girl with bruises on herself who was beat up by a boyfriend on drugs.  You can see the drunk who is drooling blood.  You can see the young man who suffers bad burns because he got caught in the crossfire of two gangs.   Someone else puts it this way: “I’m convinced that the same Satan stalks today, causing the hunger in Somalia, the confusion in the Middle East, the egotism on the movie screen, and the apathy in Christ’s church.  And Satan chuckles among the dying” (Source unknown). “If you are living for God, you have a great battle on your hands.  You have surely discovered by now that the Christian is called to the battleground of life, and not the playground of it. ... The struggle engages everyone who names the name of Jesus. 

There are no conscientious objectors in this war.  None are exempt for any reason; all must fight” (Bullard).  Many Christians have gone A.W.O.L, many have jumped the fence, and many have fled from the Lord's army thinking they were escaping to freedom, only to discover, very soon, that they were enslaved to Satan and his forces once more (Poe; Williams).

We have a great battle on our hands, and all Christians must fight in it together.  The good news is that our Holy Commander and His forces have more power, more strength, and more wisdom than Satan and his wicked hosts!  One good brother observes: “It is true Satan is strong and therefore dangerous; but it is also true God is far stronger, and His side will prevail.  Satan's power is the power of the spoiler, not the victor. 

He seeks to destroy individual soldiers whenever he can, but he cannot win the ultimate victory, for his defeat began in earnest with the resurrection of Jesus. ... [Thus] 'we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,' and in Christ our victory is complete ...” (Williams)!  Paul closes the book of Ephesians by reminding his readers to fight the good fight of the Christian warfare.  He gives them five actions which all Christians can use in their warfare against Satan and his wicked hosts.

The first action is: Remember your Allies!  Let's read 6:10-11: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God ...” Our Allies are Jesus, God, and one another!  This version has “Be strong in the Lord!”  But a more accurate translation would be: “All of you, let yourselves be made strong by Jesus and by the power of His strength!”  You see, we can't make ourselves strong for the battles ahead; only Jesus, with His infinite, mighty, exceedingly abundant, and great power, can do that for us!  This is the power that we see unleashed in the Gospels; it multiplied food to feed thousands, it cast out demons, it healed the crippled, the blind, the mute, the deaf, and the leper, it calmed the storm, it overcame all Satan's temptations, it raised the dead, it shook the earth, and it left the tomb in victory!  Here is the unlimited power with which Jesus desires to bless all His disciples.  No wonder, the apostle John exclaimed in 1 John 4:4: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world!”  If Jesus is for us, who can stand against us?  “All of you, let yourselves be made strong by Jesus and by the power of His strength!”  Our Lord, who sits at God's right hand and occupies the highest place of honor in the universe, is our Ally!  God also is our Ally, and Paul says that He has provided us with a complete armor so that we don't enter into our battles unprepared.  No, He has given us both defensive and offensive equipment for the battle.  Our last ally is one another.  The text literally says, “All of you, let yourselves be made strong by Jesus” and “All of you, put on the whole armor of God.”  You see, we have each other's help in this battle because we're all in it together!  This is one reason why Christ built His church; He knew that we needed the strength which could be found in working together against the foe!  With Jesus' power, God's protection, and one another's help, we can hold our ground against the attacks of our spiritual enemies!  Remember your Allies!

The next action is: Recognize your enemies!  Let's read about them in verse 11-12: We put on God's protective armor “so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”  “The Intelligence Corps of any army plays a vital part in its warfare because it enables officers to know and to understand the enemy.  Unless you discover in this all-important battle who your enemies are ... you will have an extremely difficult time defeating them” (Bullard).  Our first enemy is the devil.  “There is a malignancy in the universe, a hostile power filled with hatred against the right and the righteous, a darkness that seeks to overcome the light.  Yes, we have an ENEMY who is an adversary ready to pounce on the unwary (1 Peter 5:8)!

The knowledge of this opposition should motivate us to be self-controlled and on our guard. ... The devil seeks to destroy us, but we should not help him by our own carelessness and prayerlessness” (Williams).  The word “stand” is interesting here because it shows we must hold our position, and not let Satan gain any ground in causing any of us or another member to turn back into his kingdom of darkness.  We must stand against Satan's schemes.  “What are Satan schemes?  Satan's line of attack is at least threefold: He appeals to the lust of your flesh, the lust of your eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  In subtle ways, he leads you to think that you can get away with evil just once.  He convinces you that your needs are the most important thing in the world right now.  Satan tells us that the immediate pleasures of sin are greater than any apparent punishment.  Slowly, subtly, methodically, he leads you down the path of spiritual rebellion” (Bullard).  ... As Christian soldiers, our task is to strive for victory, standing firmly against [this] defeated but still powerful foe” (Lockhart; Lincoln). “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood ...” 

You can't wrestle passively; this is an active, intense, and at times painful struggle.  Satan has most of the world in his kingdom of darkness already; so those who are in the kingdom of light become his special targets.

Satan's wicked hosts are also our enemies.  In this struggle, “the enemies are not human (flesh and blood) [but these] spiritual powers of evil may use human instruments” (Foulkes), just as we saw in the emergency room.  “... [One] reason Satan is so mighty is that he not in this war alone.  He rules over a host of angelic and demonic forces which assist him in his mission of spiritual wickedness.  Here they are described in four groups: rulers, the authorities, the powers of darkness, the spiritual forces of evil. ... Because Satan is a created being, he cannot be everywhere at the same time as God is.  But he can tempt and deceive men all over the world because of the enormous forces working with him” (Bullard).  Someone has correctly observed: “Our battle is with demonic forces in the unseen realms whose weapons are lies, false doctrines, false religions, false philosophies, and clever perversions of truth” (Bullard). 

Under the devil himself, these spiritual hosts of wickedness work tirelessly to keep people in darkness and to draw followers of Christ back into that darkness (Foulkes).  “Satan's real battle is against [God], but his attack is against you because he knows [Christ] has set His love and affection upon you.  Thus, in order to win this war, you need to [recognize your enemies].  Know [their] nature.  Master [their] schemes.  Open your eyes to the dirty tricks [they] are using to deceive you and manipulate you into joining [their leader's] rebellion against God” (Bullard). Recognize your enemies!

The third action in our Christian warfare is: Resist the attacks by being equipped and by fighting together (6:13-16)!  Let's read verses 13-16: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darks of the wicked one.”  Someone has rightly noted: “The command 'Stand! [and Withstand!] falls like hammer blows [three] times [in this passage] ... there is simply no substitute for perseverance.  Satan is persistent, so we must be resistant!  'Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you'” (James 4:7) (Williams).  “But how can we resist the attacks of Satan and his wicked hosts?” the Ephesian brethren might ask.  So, the apostle Paul replies: “By being equipped with God's defensive armor and by fighting together!” 

What is God's defensive armor?  It consists of four pieces: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the boots of peace, and the shield of faith.   “The only way we can defeat [these evil forces] is with the truth.  Truth will expose the lies of the enemy. ... The devil [and his hosts] will attack you with error, false doctrines, and spiritual rationalizations.  The only way you will be able to hold your ground against his deceptions is to saturate yourself with the truth” (Bullard). 

The reference to truth can also mean that we are to always maintain a sense of integrity in our lives, truth that also comes from our inward being (Foulkes).  When we are dishonest with each other and with our neighbors, our credibility is diminished, and Satan's forces are beginning to rule us for Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44).  The breastplate was often made of a solid metal piece, and it had one function: “to protect the soldier's vital organs.  It covered his body from neck to waist, front and back, and made him virtually invulnerable” (Bullard).  There may be two meanings involved here as well.  As followers of Christ, we enjoy the righteousness that He has bestowed upon us.  2 Corinthians 5:21 states: “For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  It's like we often sing: “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.”  His righteousness covers our sins.  But this could also mean that just as Jesus practices righteousness, so we strive to practice righteousness daily.  “Satan will attack you with impurity.  But his fiery darts cannot penetrate a Christian who is living a godly life with other members in the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you cease to let practical holiness be a daily part of your life, you have left yourself wide open to the savage attacks of your enemy” ... In your spiritual warfare, Satan will attempt to trip you up; he will put briers of doubt,  rocks of discouragement, and pitfalls of disappointment in your path.  But you can stand in the midst of it all if you know that you are at peace with God, that He is on your side, and that God is FOR you! ... [And you are at peace with other members as well, and they too will help you.]  When you stand in these boots, Satan cannot knock you down” (Bullard)!  The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the boots of peace, and then the wonderful shield of faith.  “Paul uses [a] word that designates the large shield, approximately 5 feet high and 2.5 feet wide; it was so heavy it took both hands to lift it.  Obviously, it was not used in close combat.  This shield had but one function: to provide full body protection during a time of attack.  ... What is this shield that protects us, that wards off the flaming arrows [of blasphemous thoughts and the hurling rocks of burning desires]?  We have but one shield, our faith.  It is our trust and confidence that our God sustains us.  We believe in Him and His promises. ... Our God-given faith is our major line of defense.  The bigger you build your shield, the greater will be your protection” (Bullard)!  With all this defensive armor, truth, righteousness, peace, and faith, we are equipped to resist Satan and his wicked hosts!  Paul also says that we can resist by fighting together.  There is another interesting thing about the shields that Paul had in mind.  The edges of these shields were so constructed that an entire line of soldiers could interlock their shields together to [ward off objects from above like a solid roof] or to ward off objects in front like a solid wall” (Bullard).  In fact, the archers would stand behind this protective wall of shields to shoot their arrows, as they advanced against the enemy” (Goble quoting MacAuthur Jr.).  We are not in a one man army, but we work together interlocking our faith as we hold our position against Satan's attacks!  Resist the attacks by being equipped with truth, righteousness, peace, and faith and by fighting together!

The next action is: Retaliate against the foe by using salvation, God's Word, and prayer, and by looking out for others with more prayer (6:17-20)!  Let's read verses 17-20: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”  The question might be asked again: “How can we retaliate against Satan and his wicked foes?”  Paul replies that we can do it by using our offensive weapons and by looking out for others!  The “helmet and sword were given to the armed combatant by an aide” (Weed), and this means that Paul seems to be switching from our defensive armor to our offensive armor.  For this, we have three pieces: the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit or the word of God, and constant prayers.  “This is the mind controlled by God, the mind that has full assurance of salvation. 

When God has rescued your mind from the corrupt thinking of this age and begins to control your thought processes, Satan cannot lead you astray.  ... This is where many Christians are losing the battle. ... Ask them if they are saved, and they stammer, 'I sure hope so,' or 'I guess I'll have to wait until judgment to find out.'  You cannot win the war if you doubt that the victory is really yours.  Think back to the beginning of Ephesians.  God has chosen you; Christ has redeemed you; the Holy Spirit has sealed you!  Beloved, it is time to put on the helmet of salvation and wear it with confidence” (Bullard)!  The word for “sword” indicated one about 12-18 inches long which was carried in a scabbard and used in close combat; it is another offensive weapon.  We can march aggressively against the enemy when we know God's word.  If you know your Bible, you can win the battles against false doctrine, against religious error, and against immoral thinking.  You can march against the forces of [evil], and set free the captives ... of the devil” (Bullard)!  Just as Jesus overcame Satan with God's word, let's strive to keep our Spirit's swords sharp as well!  Isn't it interesting that “the army of the Lord marches on its knees!  ... [Our] battle is [through] prayer.  The devil does not want us to pray. 

He doesn't care what else we do. ... [He is not impressed by our funds, our buildings, and our programs], “but he fears our prayers. ... No church will ever be mightier than the prayers of its people. ... What the church needs ... are more prayer warriors who pray continually!  These are soldiers in full armor who know the enemy and are down on their knees ... claiming the blessing of God, claiming His strength and help, and claiming divine resources [and help] against [our] adversary. ... We must engage in the attack; we must take the offense [with salvation, God's Word, and prayer]” (Bullard).  We can also retaliate against the foe by looking out for others: “being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”  One commentator puts it this way: “In addition to perpetual prayer in general, the Ephesians were constantly to be alert to the needs of all the saints and to keep on making 'petition' for them.  'Be on the alert with all perseverance' ... [means] to be given to praying for [all] the saints” (Lockhart).  It is wonderful to hear people in this congregation praying for other members because this is how the battles are won!  Retaliate against the foe by using salvation, God's Word, and constant prayer, and by looking out for other members and praying for them continually (6:17-20)!

The final action is this: Re-energize by focusing on righteous relationships (6:21-24)!  In the last verses, Paul writes: “But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.  Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  Amen.”  Paul wanted to let the brethren at Ephesus know how he was doing, so he sent a personal ambassador in Tychicus to explain how everything was going with Paul.  Likewise, Paul would be anxious to then hear what Tychicus had discovered about the brethren in Ephesus during his visit with them!  Nothing re-energizes us for the battle like focusing on righteous relationships!  Horace Jones, Iman Brown, W. A. Stewart, Gene Cloer, Howard Horton, and Tony Hamilton are all names have a significance to many of you in this congregation, and rightly so!    Their faith strengthened your faith, and their memories and visits still strengthen you even today!  Just like veterans who reunite to recall their former battles, so we too become re-energized when we remember the righteous relationships of our fellow comrades in Jesus' army as well!  “When Americans were drafted during World War 2, our government was uncertain how long the conflict would last, so the draft notices read 'for the duration.'  In like manner, when we became Christians we signed up 'for the duration'” (Williams).  Those who have endured spur us on to endure as well!  Re-energize by focusing on righteous relationships (6:21-24)!

The New York Times reported that a survey was made of 1,000 Americans, and they were asked if they agreed with this statement: “Satan is not a living being, but a symbol of evil.”  Sixty-two percent agreed with the statement (Roberts).  This means that if members in this audience feel the same way, then over half of you won't believe this sermon!  But the majority CAN be wrong!  The inspired apostle Paul tells us that Satan is real, that he's strong, and strategic, and sinister, and this is our number one enemy as believers in Jesus Christ!  Thank God that Jesus is stronger and mightier, the Supreme King, and Satan will flee if we will resist!  We can overcome the devil and his foes if we'll remember our Allies, recognize our enemies, resist his attacks, retaliate with assurance, God's Word, and prayer, and re-energize by focusing on righteous relationships!   “Satan's power is the power of the spoiler, not the victor, [and he] cannot win the ultimate victory! ... [Thus] 'we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,' and in Christ our victory is complete!  Listen, can you hear Satan chuckling right now because he knows he still rules you?  If you haven't enlisted in Christ's army, there is no time like the present!  If you have enlisted but then later deserted, it is not too late to get back in the battle!  Let the Holy Commander and the Supreme King be your strength!