The Christian Conflict
The Christian Conflict (Ephesians 6:10-13)
At last the apostle writes "Finally." That does not, however, suggest he has finished. The expression means "what you have still to do in addition to what has been said." One vital, decisive area of Christian life has yet received no treatment in the letter. Paul has written of the Christian's resources without and within. He has also reminded us of the weakness that resides within. But he has to this point said nothing of the foe that assails from without. The finale of this letter is the most vivid warning in the New Testament concerning Satan and his assaults. If there were no personal power of evil that actively attacks Christians, this passage would be patently ridiculous. Scripture, history, and personal experience combine to underscore the existence of such an enemy. What are the battle lines?
The Strength Demanded
For this conflict there is demanded a strength personal in its appropriation, "be continuously clothed with power." Paul writes out of the most intensely personal experience of divine inner resources. Otherwise he would be like a blind man describing great art or a deaf man discoursing on symphonies. Paul had known that strength initially at conversion (Acts 9:22). He enjoyed it perpetually in Christian living (Phil. 4:13). He confessed it finally in his last correspondence (1 Tim. 1:12). At the end it was a strength that did not dissipate with mental and physical capacities; it endured.
Such strength must be supernatural in its origination, "in the Lord." Paul leaves no question that our conflict engages no merely human foe. We must have supernatural strength for a supernatural battle. You are already defeated if you understand Christian living as a contest between two principles, good and evil, or between conscience and evil passions. We fight as living persons against living demonic personalities. As such we need an appropriation of heavenly strength that is active, conscious, and incessant.
The Enemy Confronted
Our enemy stands close in his proximity: "we wrestle" (Eph. 6:12, KJV). The biblical expression was normally used for hand-to-hand conflict, individual encounter at the closest quarters. Make no mistake about the perverse and pernicious proximity of actively evil personalities with supernatural origin. Our spiritual battles are face-to-face and hand-to-hand with nearby opponents. Our enemy is supernatural in his personality: "not against flesh and blood." Our fight is not with man in his corporal, intellectual, and spiritual weakness. We badly misunderstand the nature of the Christian conflict within and without when we think of our opponents in human terms. Paul spares no efforts to picture the supramundane personality of our foes. Our enemy is organized in his hierarchy. C. S. Lewis preferred to call the satanic organization a "lowerarchy"! "Rulers of the world darkness" represent the princes and those of first rank in the demonic contingents. "Powers" stands for those potentates of lesser authority, but of no less danger. "World-rulers" (v. 12, ASV) describes those demonic personalities that hold sway over the present world order characterized by hostility to God and His church. Evil is active, not passive. It is personal, not a principle. And it is organized, not at random. This opponent is superterrestrial in his territory, "in the heavenlies." The word describes that area that is above the earth but below the heavens. Elsewhere Satan is described as "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2, KJV). His presence and reign is as pervasive as the very air itself.
More than anything else, our antagonist is strategic in his methodology. His "wiles" (v. 11, KJV) represent his planned, analytical, and crafty strategems for each of us. He knows ultimately the crack in the armor of each of us. Our Achilles heel is his familiar territory. He works purposefully on us, not ignorantly.
The Conflict Anticipated
The conflict demands comprehensive defense. We are to put on the panoply (the whole armor) of God. This describes the extent, the source, and the nature of our defenses. Our physical bodies are not equally vulnerable at every point, but our spiritual life is. We may receive a mortal wound anywhere. We must be able to discern an intensive attack, "the evil day" (v. 13a, KJV). Not all days and not every moment is equally open to satanic attack. We must be on our guard for those malicious moments of extraordinary attack. These may come because of illness, fatigue, depression, or a spectrum of reasons. Finally, we must demonstrate our conclusive stance, "having done all, to stand" (v. 13b, KJV). The Christian goal is to hold our position neither dislodged nor felled. There is much to be said for the man who merely stands his ground. There can be no Christian advance until there is first a firm Christian stance.