Studies in Ephesians. Presentation 18. The Structure of the Book. Be what you are in Christ. See what you are in Christ. Chap 4-6. Chap 1-3. Doctrine Truth. Application. Christian Armour Chap 6.10-13. Introduction.
Be what you are in Christ
See what you are in Christ
Why is there not greater evidence in the world of God’s new society? Why are Christians in our church not more vibrant and victorious? Paul’s answer to these questions is that we are engaged in a spiritual conflict with unseen opposition. There are malignant and hostile powers abroad that are determined to neutralise the influence of the church and render the believer impotent. Paul teaches the church how to deal with this hostility.
In these verses we learn of the principalities and powers under Satan’s command.
Paul is not trying to frighten his readership, or to satisfy idle curiosity but to confront them with the reality of evil and to warn of its danger.
It is particularly significant that Paul should deal with this matter in his epistle to the Ephesians.
Ephesus was one of the major centres of occult in the ancient world. cf. Acts 19. 18-20
Today, many ridicule Satan’s existence and argue that the New Testament writers and Jesus himself accommodated themselves to the cultural thinking of their day.
The Sadducees taught that Satan and the angelic world, good and bad did not exist.
If they had been right surely Jesus would have sided with them! Jesus made many references to the activity of Satan in the gospels and presumably communicated his wilderness temptation to his followers.
cf. Mk. 3.23-26 Mk. 4.15; 8.33 Lk10.18
Some teach that modern man is too sophisticated to believe in a personal devil. This should not take us by surprise. Satan’s strategy drives people to two extremes: denial or obsession.
Paul’s language ‘we wrestle..’ describes protracted personal conflict. This is not long range warfare as if we send spiritual ballistic missiles into the heavenly realms but this is close hand to hand combat. Therefore it is important to learn how to fight.
Evil is an organised power. Hence Paul’s language, ‘rulers and authorities’ or ‘principalities and powers’, terms that suggest a world-wide network of evil rule.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness,
he offered him ‘the kingdoms of this world’.
Jesus didn’t reply, ‘They are not yours to offer.’
cf. 1Jn 5.19 ‘The whole world is in the power
of the evil one.’ These texts do not contradict
Jesus’ decisive victory over these powers, but
because they are not yet destroyed, they continue
to exercise considerable influence.
For the Christian church there is no spiritual cease-fire. The word translated ‘finally’ in v10 refers to the time between Christ’s two comings. This time is characterised by spiritual conflict. Peace for the church only comes at the end of human history. cf. Rev 12.13-17.
To go out ill-equipped into battle against evil powers will result in defeat. The church in Ephesus would remember the ill equipped Jewish exorcists who had tried to do exactly that cf. Acts 19. 13-17…
The spiritual powers are described as ‘this present darkness’.
They hate the light and shrink from it. Darkness is their natural habitat. The darkness of falsehood and sin is where they are most at home.
It was suggested by some of the early church fathers that the incarnation signalled a period of unprecedented Satanic activity and may explain the numerous cases of demonic possession that surrounded the ministry of Jesus. A demonic counterfeit designed as a counter-attack to mimic the wonder of the incarnation. Jesus’ appearance as the Light of the World drew out a show of force.
Defeating these powers requires some knowledge
of their operation. cf2 Cor 2. 11.
When Lord Wellington, one of the greatest British
generals who fought against his great enemy
Napoleon, was asked for the secret of his victory
he famously replied, “know your enemy”.
So must we!
The word ‘schemes’ used by Paul in
v11 identifies the enemy’s tactical shrewdness.
He loves to attack by guile. He prefers to operate in the darkness but sometimes appear as an angel of light in order to deceive and beguile. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”.2 Cor 11.14
Satan can make use of men so that they become dangerous wolves who infiltrate the flock disguised as a sheep. ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves’.Matt 7.15 also Acts 20.29.
Part of Satan’s wiles is to convince us that we are already defeated. He will try to convince us that temptation is sin.
Illustration: His temptations are pushed through the letterbox of the front door of our lives and then he runs around enters by the back door, points to the temptation and says, ‘how can you call yourself a Christian with thoughts like that in your head?’
Or he uses temptation like a battering ram and whispers in our ears, ‘You know that I will get through the gate eventually, you might as well open it now and save yourself a lot of trouble’.
Satan will often misrepresent himself implying that he is stronger than he really is. His goal is to terrify the people of God. [1Pet. 5.8]
Fear either paralyses so that we can make no progress or it puts us to flight. We run because we do not realise that God restrains Satan’s influence so that he can do us no lasting harm. This truth is helpfully illustrated in Pilgrim’s Progress.
Paul tells us to ‘stand’ against this enemy. But how?
First, by recognising that our enemy has been defeated by Jesus upon the cross and we have entered into his victory.
‘And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’.
‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work’. 1 Jn 3.8
Secondly, ‘be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power’. Our own human strength is feeble. It is woefully inadequate in the face of the powers of the evil one.
We need something more: God’s strength. This involves cultivating a spirit of dependency upon God.
We need constantly to remind ourselves that, ‘greater is he who is you than he who is in the world’. 1Jn 4.4
Thirdly, ‘put on the full armour of God’ v13. This is a balancing exhortation. We are to combine God’s power with his provision - the armour of God. It is our responsibility to put it on dailyby faith and through prayer. Having put on God’s armour, trust it to do its work.
Illustration: During WWII some British soldiers were sent into battle woefully ill-equipped. They faced German Panzer tank divisions armed only with rifles. Understandably, they had no confidence in their equipment!
In contrast the Christian
is well equipped. Paul says,
‘Have confidence in
To put on this armour is to put on Christ.
By clothing ourselves with Christ we bind ourselves to him by faith. Satan will often retreat, when confronted, not by a poor, feeble, hesitant Christian but with one clothed with Christ, with the shining armour of God.
A Christian cleaning lady was asked what she did when Satan came to her door. ‘Oh’, she said, ‘I always ask Jesus to answer the door and when Satan sees him, he quickly says, “sorry wrong door” and moves on’. It is that kind of confidence in Christ that Paul is encouraging.
Paul wrote this letter, when chained to a Roman guard in prison. Therefore, he uses Roman armour to illustrate the Christian’s armour.