There's a war on
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11, NIV)
I have been more conscious than ever over the last few weeks that we are engaged in a great battle. Not against any of our fellow human beings, but against the devil and his hosts.
This is the battle Paul warns his Ephesian readers about as he draws his letter to a close. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, he says, 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. (Ephesians 6:12)
As Paul preached Christ and saw living churches start - including the one at Ephesus - he also saw attacks on the work which led to the churches being divided, diverted and messed up. Although the immediate causes were false teaching, bad attitudes and immorality, behind this he detected the malign influence of spiritual forces of evil.
So he warns the Ephesians to be on the look-out! He wants us to know just how powerful the devil and his fellow fighters are: they are rulers, authorities, powers; they are in the heavenly realms.
Moreover, they are very cunning. The devil has schemes. For this word, my thesaurus has plot, intrigue, conspiracy; ruse, ploy, stratagem, manoeuvre, subterfuge; machinations; game, racket, con, scam. He is, after all, the ‘Father of Lies’, as our Lord Jesus called him. As we saw in our sermon series on temptation recently, he’s especially effective in this area. He’s a genius at setting God’s people against each other by spinning his web of deceit and misunderstanding.
And so we are to put on the armour of God. The belt of truth - God’s truth, to help us stand against the devil’s lies, as well as a careful personal discipline of telling only the truth (for our own lies greatly advance his purposes). The breastplate of righteousness - for personal immorality is so destructive. Our feet are to be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace - presumably a willingness to go on speaking the gospel (for one of the devil’s great objectives is to stop us doing that).
We are to take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. This means remembering the promises of God in the midst of every discouragement, and that the Lamb remains on His throne! By the helmet of salvation, Paul may mean the essential fact that we are saved, and so ultimately safe: remember that! The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Read your Bible, know your Bible, use your Bible. What a great offensive weapon this is in this battle!
And with this in mind (the battle), be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. The devil and his hosts may be very powerful, but our Father in heaven is infinitely more so! As we pray, we are seeking help to stand in the face of the battle from the One who can win, has won and will win.