Nov 21 2021 Eph. 6 - How to Engage in the Spiritual Battle
21st November 2021
Good morning! Welcome! Happy Thanksgiving this week! Dave is doing well.
Next week begins Advent. I am going to jump to Ephesians 6 and we will look at the passage about Spiritual Warfare. This is the go-to passage regarding the spiritual battle, but this is not the total sum about what the Bible teaches about spiritual warfare – it is not even the total sum of what Ephesians teaches about it!
In Ephesians 6, Paul is giving his concluding thoughts – and this is about how we can participate with Christ in his spiritual victory.
Ephesians 6: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Two things we see off the bat – first – we cannot participate in Christ’s victory in our own strength – we can only do it in God’s strength. Be strong in the LORD! For some of us – that means we need to be WEAK in __________ (insert your name here!)
In God’s strength – in His might.
Second – stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
In order to participate in Christ’s victory – we need to be aware of the enemy’s schemes or strategy. He has a strategy he is using to try to defeat us. That is what the book of Ephesians has been about! Throughout the book, Paul has been telling us this.
The first scheme – divide the church! If he can divide the church – who has won? The enemy.
Divide – Jew and Gentile Christians. For us, it is not that – but we need to understand what that is. How is he trying to divide the church today? Pursue the things that make for peace!
Third – he tries to get us to conform to our culture. Paul keeps saying – “No longer act like the Gentiles” – we have our culture we conform to – behavior and speech. We think – oh yeah, don’t do the behavior – but we tend to speak like they do – and that is conforming just as much as behavior.
Fourth – to get us to forget all that we are, and all that we have, in Christ. To forget our true identity in Christ.
Ephesians 6: 12 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.
What a great verse! He starts very clearly – our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood. The battle is not against individual people or people groups. They are not the enemy – not people in government – rich people, poor people – people of color, white people – your boss, people you work with – people who come into your store and are not nice!
We tend to make them the enemy – and when our focus is on individuals or people groups – we miss it.
Individuals have less influence than we imagine. They just have a bit part in this comic, this cosmic, drama. They make a cameo appearance – that is all. They are not the main actors – there ARE main actors, and we need to focus on them, or we will lose.
Tim Mackie: “Paul wants his communities to know that their real enemy is never another human but the larger social, economic, political, and religious forces that govern and shape human existence. Paul, along with all Jews shaped by the biblical traditions, viewed these forces as manifestations of spiritual rulers, authorities, etc. who are opposed to the cosmic reign of the Messiah.”
What he is saying – there is a cosmic battle going on and it has been going on since Genesis 3! We go back to all we see – and God has created the spiritual authorities – the divine council – the Elohim – and God gave authority that he might have them participate with him in ruling over time. They rebelled against God and started ruling the nations for their own purposes – and they are leading nations into idolatry – so God created one nation – Abraham and his wife – so that through them, all the other nations could be blessed.
Christ – when He died on the cross – won the victory over those powers – yet what we know – that victory is not fully experienced, and they will not be made powerless until Christ returns – and to this day – all of the systems and structures of this world are under the influence and power of these forces. All of them – including all of ours!
Yet, we live in these structures and systems – what are we to do? That is the battle – we are not of these systems, but we live in them. What is our purpose? To take over these structures and systems? No, it is to bring Christ into those structures and systems by living out and proclaiming the gospel. That is our purpose, to live the gospel in this present evil age – that is how we engage the battle and participate in the victory. If our focus is on specific people, we have lost sight of the enemy.
It is so easy to participate in the power of the world, and as we participate in the world’s structures, we are surprised when they are corrupted by these powers. It is hard to change from the inside out.
Let me give you an example – our economic system is the one we have grown up with. Some have benefitted greatly from it. We might believe this is a good system – but it is completely under the influence of evil! How do we know> Think of all the greed and materialism – that is idolatry. It is not the system itself – they are just symptoms. Then He turned it over the being s who corrupted all of it – it is important that we only participate as a foreigner and stranger – I don’t belong here - I am not participating – this not my home, or system – it is only here temporarily –
So why do we focus on people instead of the invisible forces of evil? It is what we can see! It is easier to tweet at someone than to engage in the spiritual battle
Second – theological misunderstanding of the Old Testament – we read about the armies of God – and then we read the imprecatory psalms – the psalmist calling for the demise of his enemies.
When we read Joshua – we recognize that God does not ant us to go to Toronto and march around the city and blow trumpets.
Third – we conflate our current spiritual struggles with the spiritual battle – meaning we think these things are one and the same.
We feel like we are losing, and things are getting worse – it just takes eyes and ears to see that – things are getting worse – and in frustration – maybe passion – what we do – because we conflate – we conform and capitulate to the world and its future. We are not doing well – in culture – we think we are losing – and we think – how do we win? Well, how did they win? We take the battle to God.
We have a cross-shaped strategy! How did Jesus win the victory? The cross! That is how.
He said – I could win this any way I want – but I will win it one way only – the cross. And we are called to sin it through the cross – picking up our cross and following Him.
I’m going to close this section with a little illustration – making humans the focus. It was on Amazon – based on D-Day – I am just going on the show – about the Army Rangers – and what their job was on D-day – they were to go to Pointe Du Hoc
The Germans had built these bunkers and had these huge guns pointed at Utah Beach. These army rangers trained to destroy the bunker and guns. They fought their way up to the tops of these cliffs – and what did they find? Just telephone poles sticking out of the bunkers –
The allies did the same thing – building entire compounds out of cardboard and blow-up tanks.
When we think the battle is against people or people-groups – we are wasting our energy. We need to focus on the enemy.
Ephesians 6:14 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
So Paul is saying – be fully prepared for the battle! Having done everything -
16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We need to put all the armor on!
Soldiers today – and our armies are really different. You have people in charge of various things – but then, everyone had the same outfit and the same weapon – if the soldier was lacking any of these items – they were in trouble. We need to make sure we are fully prepared for this battle!
Where did this language come from ? This language has biblical roots – in order to understand Paul’s understanding of the spiritual battle – it has these roots:
Isaiah 11:5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
That sounds familiar! This here is talking about Yahweh – these verses are all talking about Yahweh…
Isaiah 59:17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.
Again, all about God – and these are passages – and the old Testament is filled with these – on the divine warrior God. For some of us, we love this language! Others, maybe they feel uncomfortable – oh no, maybe the crusades are coming back! But Jesus is the divine warrior. Jesus is what it looks like when God goes to war.
What Paul is telling us – we – the body of Christ – are God’s divine warrior representatives.
How do we fight the battle?
First and foremost – Jesus is our example – we fight how Jesus fought – of course to follow His example in everything – how did He do it? He fought with eh cross.
Second – You here? YOU ALL! We tend to think of this individually – and we have to put on our armor – but this is corporate. This is not an actual photo of a first century roman battalion – they didn’t have cameras then!
What happens when and arrow comes in? They are protected. They are shoulder to shoulder.
We need to bring the new creation into our world
Third – we need a new perspective of what victory means! Christ has already won the victory – we need to inhabit that victory – not beat the others up! We need to have a cross-shaped victory.
Justice! God does not want us engaging in all the arguments about justice – but to inhabit justice. Do justice! It might be in your job or in the neighborhood – but we need to “Do justice!”
Our children – who are mostly the same age – are better at this
Second – we need to inhabit sexual morality – not getting involved in the world’s arguments. Individually and corporately – need to inhabit sexual morality.
Then – we need to inhabit peacemaking. Our world is filled with all kinds of anger and hostility – we are to not join in with that – but to pursue that which makes for peace. Then we need to inhabit wholesome, gracious speech. We are living out and proclaiming the gospel – People will be drawn to Jesus and their lives are going to change. As that happens – as we focus on our coworker and neighbors – our surrounding society and culture begins to change.
Then the second thing happens – the world will rise up against us!
Paul went into Ephesus in Acts 19 – He is preaching – people are coming to Christ – Ephesus was a place of idolatry – Artemis was famous throughout the roman world – and people would make money on idols of Artemis – and people stopped participating in the festivals – and the city began to lose money – so Paul had to leave. We need to see that the very same things – when we are living out n the gospel, we are defeating the enemy. The enemy will try to stop us. But we have the victory in Christ.
Lord, it is not easy seeing into the spiritual realm – it may be really hard to believe some of this stuff – like Elisha asked you to open the eyes of his servant and they saw the hosts of heaven gathered around – may our eyes be opened to the spiritual realities that we might engage in that battle.
Ephesians 6:18 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,