Updated: Mar 11, 2022
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)
The words are familiar and may even be comfortable, but what do they mean? How do we apply what comes across as spiritual symbolism to our daily lives? It’s important to note that the armor is spiritual in nature. We are obviously not putting on real armor, nor is the Apostle Paul speaking literally. However, that does not diminish in any way the importance of the armor or the impact it has on our lives. Paul is very specific to explain in advance that the armor of God is meant for spiritual battle. Paul is also speaking to Christians, as an unbeliever is not fighting against the enemy of God, but is at enmity with God. That is a different conversation.
The first thing we need to understand is that there is a struggle with evil. Actually, the struggle is against us by the forces of evil. This struggle is not new and began long before man was created and placed on the earth. We know from Scripture that Lucifer decided he wanted to be like God, and in pride rebelled against God. His name was changed to Satan, which means adversary (Isaiah 14:12-17, Ezekiel 28:13-16, Revelation 12:7-9). As the adversary of God, Satan, by extension is also the adversary of God’s people.
The spiritual battle then is waging against God, and against His people, and employs in the spiritual realm demons and angles. Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 6 that there is a hierarchy within the ranks of the evil forces. It may be presumed that a similar hierarchy exists within the host of heaven. A compelling fictional account of the spiritual battle from the perspective of the enemy of God is written by C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters.
Acceptance of this truth may bring fear and anxiety within the heart of a Christian because we know instinctively that we are ill equipped for this battle. How can a mere human fight against the ruler, powers, world forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness? In this passage Paul gives us a glimpse of things unseen through a door that we cannot pass through. Take heart, because there is great news. It is not our role to fight the enemy or defend God. In 2 Chronicles 20:15, God speaks through his prophet Jahaziel to King Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (NASB) Yes, it is God who fights the continuing epic battle using the armies of heaven against the armies of evil. There are two Scriptures that reveal the battle raging in the heavens.
Daniel 10:12-14 tells the story of when Daniel prayed for 21 days and was by the bank of a river when an angelic figure comes to him and states, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was standing in my way for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the latter days, because the vision pertains to the days still future.” (NASB) What an amazing testament of how the battle is raging around us and involves us, even though we may not be aware of it. Daniel had no idea that the three weeks he had been praying were part of a larger battle. This tells us that our prayers are incredibly powerful when we pray with humility and a seeking heart toward God. James 5:16 says, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV).
Another passage of Scripture opens the veil to let us see beyond the physical to the spiritual realm. The prophet Elisha and his servant were surrounded by an army and the servant was afraid. Elisha said to his servant, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17-20 (NASB)
If the battle is not ours, then what is our role? Paul tells us to, “Take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” This shows us that we are not on the offensive, but the defensive. Our job is to stand against the attack of the enemy, which can come from temptation, sin, or lies, and to stand firm on the truth that we know, to stand against the onslaught of things from this world that buffet us and tear down our faith, resolve to be who God created us to be. That is, to be faithful and devoted to God and to live what we say we believe. We do not have the strength to stand against these on our own. It’s a good thing we do not have to…..