Spiritual Warfare: Christ's Strength
C.S. Lewis once said: “When it comes to the demonic, people usually fall into one of two errors—Either they take it altogether too seriously or they do not take it seriously enough.” In other words, we will either give Satan too much credit, or we do not take his threat seriously enough. We must remember that Satan is not omnipresent or all-powerful. At the same time, we must remember that he is much more powerful than we are, and would love nothing more than to take our eyes off Christ and onto anything else.
Ephesians 6 gives us a glimpse into spiritual warfare and tells us how we are to battle against it. Next week we will look at the pieces of the "whole armor of God." But the first part of this passage reminds us of how we are to fight "against the ruler, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
The Battle Must Be Fought in Christ's Strength
The first point we see in this passage is that the battle must be fought in Christ’s strength and not our own. Notice the two key phrases in verse 10: “in the Lord” and “in the strength of his might.” This is the introduction to the famous passage about the “armor of God.” I think too often when hear about the armor of God, we think about certain things that we must do rather than a certain Person that we must look to. While there are imperative commands given, we must remember where the ability to do the things we are called to do comes from: the Spirit of God at work in every believer.
What kind of strength does Jesus have? He spoke and trillions of stars appeared. He simply said a word and the ocean came into existence. He stopped the mouths of lions and kings. He merely said a word and the wind and waves stopped. And He, after allowing Himself to be killed, came back to life after three days in the grave. The “strength of his might” is how you and I are called to do battle against the spiritual forces of darkness. We can only fight the spiritual battle that we are in through the strength of Jesus at work in us.
The Battle is of a Spiritual Nature
It is important to remember that it is the schemes of Satan that we are battling against, not mankind. While Satan often uses mankind to carry out his wicked purposes, the focus of the battle must be on the one who is the real enemy. Our battle is not "against flesh and blood" (verse 12). The prey in the serpent's mouth is not the enemy...the serpent is!
Maybe you have a hard time believing in the demonic. Perhaps it seems too “Hollywood” for you. In fact, I think one of the issues is that we too often get our ideas from Hollywood. We have this picture in our minds that spiritual warfare means somebody’s eyes are rolling back and we are busy trying to pull out our crucifix while they are crawling along the ceiling. While demon possession definitely is a real thing (though probably much different than most movies portray), Satan is more sinister than we can imagine. I think one of the reasons why we don’t see this kind of thing happen more in our western culture is because it would be too obvious. Satan is fine not being seen, as long as he can take your eyes off the spiritual things altogether. He is fine with our mundane and nonchalant spiritual lives, all the while allowing sin to rule in our hearts.
By the way, this spiritual battle involves all believers. This is not meant to be only for pastors or missionaries or "super Christians." Everyone who claims the name of Christ is in this fight. Iain Duguid says it like this:
"The choice is not whether you will be a Christian soldier or a Christian civilian but whether you will be a prepared Christian soldier or an unprepared one."
In Christ's Strength, We Can Stand Firm Amidst the Battle
In verse 13, Paul picks up where he left off in verse 11: We must "take up the whole armor of God." As I mentioned earlier, we will look at the individual pieces of that armor in next week's passage. But before Paul gets to that, he reminds his readers that this is God's armor. It is His strength that we are putting on. And only in Christ's strength will we be able to "stand firm." Remember, He has already given Satan the decisive blow at the cross. The victory belongs to Jesus (Colossians 2:15)!
You may ask, if it is God's armor, and He has already won the victory, why must we still "stand firm"? This is what is known as the "already/not yet" tension. Christ has already won the victory, and yet we have not yet fully experienced it. But we will soon, Christian!
Think of it like this: In World War II, the Allied forces officially declared victory when Germany surrendered in what is known as VE (Victory in Europe) Day on May 8, 1945. And yet the war raged on, both in the Pacific as well as in multiple skirmishes throughout Europe. Though the enemy was defeated, battles still raged on.
The only way we can “stand firm” amidst the battle is by relying on Christ’s strength. Remember, that is the entire flow of this text. Even the “having done all” phrase does not mean it is us alone doing the work of putting on the armor of God. It simply means that all preparation is finished. This means looking to the gospel. This means spending time in prayer. This means gathering with other believers. This means doing the things that the Church has been doing for thousands of years now: studying God's Word, singing, praying, communing with God, serving, and making disciples. Grace causes us to be vigilant. Just because our reliance is on Christ does not mean we simply sit back and wait for something to happen. Dallas Willard says it perfectly: “Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.” In other words, we do not earn anything by our works, but we will desire to fight and stand firm as we experience more and more the grace of Jesus.
Ultimately, standing firm in the midst of spiritual warfare is about looking to Christ and trusting in His strength. We'll end with the words of John’s vision in Revelation 12:10-11, after this angelic war happened in heaven and Satan and the demons were defeated and cast down: “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’” You want to conquer Satan and have spiritual victory? Look no further than the shed blood of Christ in your place, His resurrection on your behalf, and to the work He has done in your life.
Sermon Series: Ephesians: Church Alive In Christ