[social_share sc_id=”sc1″]John MacArthur writes in his commentary to the Ephesians “The true Christian described in Ephesians 1-3 who lives the faithful life described in 4:1—6:9 can be sure that he will be involved in the spiritual warfare described in 6:10-20. The faithful Christian life is a battle; it is warfare on a grand scale—…”
This morning we are going to begin our study of the closing thoughts of Paul to the believers at Ephesus. Paul begins this section with the word “Finally”. If we are not careful we may read the word finally and just ever so slightly let our attention wane but to do so would be to miss out on some very important and vital information that is crucial to us as believers.[powerpress sc_id=”sc2″]
Since we’ve been away from our study for several weeks let’s briefly review what we’ve learned through the first five plus chapters in the book.
Paul has taught us what it means for us to be a believer. He has exposed us to the realities of who we are in Christ as well as all the blessings that are our’s because we are in Christ. Paul has taught us what it means to belong to the Father and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul has taught us about our predestination and our adoption. He has taught us that we have been redeemed to do good works, good works which the Father has given us to do.
He has taught us because of who we are now, that each and every part of our lives should be a reflection of our new identity. Paul has taught us that we should live differently because we are different. Paul has taught us about all of the resources that are available to us to help us live out who we truly are.
Paul has been honest with us that none of this will be easy for us to do. He has made it clear that apart from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that it is impossible for us to live and walk as Jesus Christ would have us to walk.
Paul having pointed out the difficulty of living the Christian life now turns to the danger associated with living the Christian life.
Paul’s final words are words of encouragement and words of caution. His final words are words of warning that as Christians we are waging war on two fronts, the enemy within – that being our own flesh and the enemy without – that being the cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil.
Paul makes it very clear that if you are a Christian you are in a war – a spiritual war – a serious war – a war where the stakes are high and the consequences are real.
There is no room for passivity in the Christian life. If you are a Christian you have an enemy. The enemy does not play fair, he will do whatever it takes to win. The enemy doesn’t care if you are unprepared, the enemy doesn’t care if you have recently been wounded. In fact the enemy will take advantage of your wounds and your weakness.
Our foe is a formidable one. A foe so formidable and powerful that to try and go to war with the enemy in your own strength and unprotected is to invite sure defeat.
Sadly many Christians fail to realize that they are engaged in spiritual warfare. As a result they live in a constant state of defeat, which in turns weakens the church and robs them of the victory that they could and should be experiencing.
There are a few realities that should be acknowledged about spiritual warfare. First of all as I said earlier no Christian escapes this war. To illustrate this just think about Jesus. Was he able to escape the war? Hardly! At the beginning of His public ministry Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness during which time he was engaged in spiritual warfare. How did the Lord’s wilderness experience end? It ended with a face to face confrontation with Satan himself.
The Scriptures provide us with other examples of those who faced opposition and were engaged in spiritual warfare.
In the book of Daniel we read of Daniel’s heavenly vision as he stood on the banks of the Tigris River. As Daniel stood on the banks of the river he saw this man – listen to Daniel’s own description of this man.
“On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed,and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground. And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.” (Daniel 10:4–10 ESV)
Once Daniel regained his senses this heavenly angel begins to speak to him and listen to what he says.
“Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,” (Daniel 10:12–13 ESV)
Notice what the angel said to Daniel. Daniel I would have been here sooner but a demon – an evil spirit, one of the Devils crew opposed me for 21 days.
Now that should give us some pause, if one of God’s angels endured this spiritual warfare for twenty one days then that should make us keenly aware of the kind of spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.
In Jude verse 9 “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.””
(Jude 1:9 ESV)
What do we know about Michael? Jude himself tells us that he was the “archangel”. What does that mean? Let’s just say that Michael appears to be a leader among the multitude of angels. Or to say it another way Michael was the not wimpy angel Clarence in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
Jesus faced opposition, God’s angels have faced opposition and Paul faced his share of opposition. He wrote to the Thessalonians
“because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:18 ESV)
The first reality that we need to come to grips with is that spiritual warfare is real, and we should not be lulled into a false sense of security of thinking that we are somehow going to be exempt from having to engage in dealing with opposition as Christians.
The second reality is that as long as we are alive we will be involved in the fight. The longer you are a Christian, and the more that you grow as a Christian the harder the fight and the struggle becomes. As one old saint said “All my life I’ll fight the devil and when I’ve lost my teeth I’ll gum him till I die.”
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are not only God’s sons and servants but also His soldiers—and a soldier’s job is to fight the enemy.
In light of the opposition that we will face, that we currently face Paul wants to make us aware that we are going to need to be strong in order to engage in the fight.
But where is this strength, where is the power for the fight going to come from?
Once again Paul points us to Christ. Once again Paul points us to the one who has already won the fight. Once again Paul points us to who has already defeated Satan.
Please remember two things, Satan has been once and for all defeated, he suffered the death blow at the Cross. The second thing to keep in mind is even though Satan has been defeated he still continues to wage war. And he is a powerful foe, his is a very powerful opponent. Therefore we would be wise to remember the words of Peter “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
Notice that Paul never once tell us to look to our own strength or our own resources. Why? For starters that is a sure fire recipe for failure.
Hasn’t that been your experience? It surely has been my mine. Every time when I think that I’m strong enough to fight my own battles I go running home with my tail tucked between my legs. Every time I trust in my ability God shatters my pride and shows my how futile it is to trust in myself.
But every time that I trust in Christ I’ve won the battle! Why is that? Because I am in Christ and Christ has already fought and won the battle for me!
That’s the principle behind what Paul writes here. Paul commands us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might!
What does this mean in a practical sense? What does this mean for me spiritually?
First of all let’s always keep in mind that the Lord’s strength is more than sufficient for any battle, for any level of opposition that you will ever face. You will never find yourself over matched in any struggle, or any temptation as long as you remember that your strength does not come from within yourself but rather your strength comes from Christ. The power to fight your battle, the power to stand against your opponent doesn’t come from you it comes from Christ!
Let’s break this down into some easy to remember statements.
1. WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
In order for us to live as Christ would have us to live, to be filled with the Spirit to, engage the enemy we must be strong in the Lord.
The word strong that Paul uses here carries with it the idea of being empowered, of being given a capability that we didn’t have before. When we are strong in the Lord we have power and ability that we didn’t have when we didn’t belong to Christ.
Each time we remember who we are, each time we stand strong in the Lord and when we are able to stand strong and resist and defeat our enemy guess what should happen? We should be reminded once again of just how great and powerful and majestic our Lord really is. And guess what that should lead us to do? That should lead us to praise and worship Him for who He is and what He has already done on our behalf!
2. WHAT ARE WE TO BE STRONG IN?
Paul is very specific in what we are to be strong in – we are to be strong in the strength of His (The Lord’s) might! Again Paul points us to Christ and away from ourselves.
3. WHY MUST WE DO THIS?
Why must we be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might? So that we may stand! Stand against what? Against the schemes, the plans, the cunning of the devil!
Believe it or not there are lager forces at work in your life than just your boss, or your market manager or your unbelieving friends or neighbors. There is a whole system of spiritual forces at work whose sole ambition is to attack the people of God. And in our own strength and in our own power there is absolutely no way for us to withstand that kind of attack, that kind of warfare apart from the power and the strength of Christ.
What does it mean to stand? The word is used in the military sense and it has the idea of holding a critical position while being under attack.
4. WHO ARE WE BATTLING?
- We are not battling against flesh and blood. Although your boss or your co-worker may seem like they are the ones attacking you, it may be that they are being manipulated by the unseen forces. Your unsaved neighbor, or your unsaved co-worker is not your enemy. Remember the battle we are engaged in is not a battle against flesh and blood.
- You are battling against rulers
- You are battling against the authorities
- You are battling against the cosmic forces over this present darkness
- You are battling against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
What does all of that mean? To be honest I’m not real sure. Some people believe that it refers to some kind of organizational structure a hierarchy if you will among Satan and his horde of fallen angels. Others think it is a reference to this world’s system.
But one thing is for sure that whatever Paul is referring to he is referring to forces, to powers that you and I need to take seriously. He is referring to something that we choose to ignore at our own risk. Our greatest enemy is not the world that we see, as evil and corrupt as we know it is, but the world that we can’t see!
That’s why Paul commands us to look to Christ, to flee to Christ, to totally trust in Christ. Because you are actively engaged in hand to hand combat with the enemy you must be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.[/sws_author_bio_ui]