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Apr 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 19, 2015 – Ephesians 6:10-13

Spiritual Self-Defense

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
 Ephesians 6:10-13

Intro: Ephesians begins with an awesome portrait of Christian spirituality

This way of being in God was designed “before the foundation of the world”
– our access to it and “success” in it is guaranteed by “every spiritual blessing”
• these blessings do not spring from the earth, but from “heavenly places in Christ”
◦ i.e., they transcend the fluctuations of our lives’ circumstances
• God has revealed to us enough of “the mystery of His will” for us to know:
◦ how he has adopted us and what he is making us to become
◦ what we have going for us
◦ how our lives are secured in him by his Spirit
◦ and, most important, to know him 
– all in all, this is a life that is lived “to the praise of His glory”

But we also encounter a sinister and dangerous spiritual dimension
– those who ventured deep into Christian spirituality were not afraid to talk about it
• as humans can surrender to God for good, so they can yield to other spirits for evil
• Paul has alluded to this diabolical influence in world (Ep. 2:2; 4:27)
◦ but he has saved a more detailed insight to it for now
– we can think of this as biblical raining in spiritual self-defense

If I had chosen to skip a passage, this would have been it
– not for what is here, but for the way some authors and speakers have used it
• I am referring to people who presume to be experts in “spiritual warfare”
◦ for some, their only credentials are a personal history of satanism and the occult
◦ they imagine Christians to be in daily combat with demons
• with dire warnings, they have believers thinking evil spirits are lurking everywhere
◦ e.g., a national men’s ministry has so emphasized this sort of spiritual warfare that the husbands they’ve trained constantly suspect a demonic influence over their wives
◦ we do not need to be looking demons, but for what God is doing–and join him
– the Bible–especially the Hebrew Scriptures–plays down demonic forces
• C. S. Lewis’ famous observation is still very relevant

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Do we appreciate the fact that in these verses Paul is working with a metaphor?
– chained to a literal soldier (v. 20), Paul saw a spiritual parallel in a Christian’s life
• he also made metaphors around an athlete, a farmer, a contractor, and so on
• we need to be cautious regarding our use of military metaphors
– the metaphor here is used to bring us close to a reality that is elusive
• it appears in our peripheral vision but is never seen clearly in its true form
• the soldier’s conflict and gear helps us conceptualize an invisible threat

V. 10, “Power Up” — It’s important to see this as an introduction

Paul makes clear that he is beginning to a new thought
– the first thing he says is that whatever challenge we face, we can be empowered
• not that we “power up” ourselves, but we find strength “in the Lord”
– Paul needs more than one word to make his point, so he uses:
• power, might and force
• this is the most important truth to remember
◦ the balance of power is radically tilted

V. 11, “Suit Up”

What is Paul getting at with the armor metaphor? Take your situation seriously

Many years ago I officiated a funeral for a young man who when in high school contracted a crippling disease. During his long stays in various hospitals, everyone who worked with him came to love and admire him. He put up a banner in his hospital room that read, “Life is hard–get a helmet”

• that’s what Paul is saying — the conflict is intense
◦ but don’t run from it, just remember to wear your helmet and pads
– “full” armor, or “all” the armor–in other words, don’t leave anything unprotected
• this was the reason Mom or Dad would pray over us before we left school each morning

Now we come to our primary concern, that we will be “able to stand”
– a term that when used in a military context meant, “hold your position”
• it’s not only a matter of keeping our balance
◦ it’s taking a stand against any force that could knock us down
◦ gravity, a strong wind, an uneven surface, and so on
• here, it is “schemes” – today we would say scams or cons
– Paul told the Corinthian believers to extend forgiveness so someone in their group
• otherwise they might be “outsmarted by Satan”

for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:10-11)

• the Greek word translated design suggests a contest of moves and counter moves
◦ as C. S. Lewis said, the devil is like “a good chess player”

V. 12, “Wise Up”

What, precisely, are we up against?
– not “flesh and blood” – nothing human or physical
• this is either ignored or forgotten by many Christians
◦ a lot of believers have been wounded by “friendly fire”
– our opponent is not anyone we can see with our eyes
• we do not engage this fight in our four-dimensional universe
• these adversaries do not respond to logic and bullets would pass through the

They are rulers, authorities, world-powers of this darkness, and spiritual evil
– some of the spiritual warfare experts assume Paul refers to ranks in devil’s army
• I’m doubtful that is what he had that in mind
• his concern was not how evil is organized, but how it comes at us
◦ how we experience it
– all these terms suggest domination and control

If not flesh and blood, then where is the “theater of operations”?
– “in heavenly places” – this is one of our difficulties with these verses
• but it also helps to understand why Paul used metaphors
◦ we know so little about the spiritual realm
• the “heavenly places” would seem like a save and secure realm (Ep. 2:6; 3:10)
◦ but evil follows us even there
◦ perhaps “stand” means, “Hold your (heavenly) ground” (Mt. 6:19-21; Col. 3:1-2)
– when attacked, where are we assaulted?
• what ground does the enemy attempt to take?

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

“speculations . . . knowledge of God . . . every thought”
• when Jesus was tempted, the devil planted ideas in his mind
◦ each one had a rational element — one even included a biblical quotation
◦ the devil would have succeeded if Jesus entertained those thoughts
“If I am the Son of God, why go hungry?”
– at times we receive impulses or intuitions from  God’s Spirit
• e.g., to call someone who comes to mind
◦ only later, we realize it was God who planted that thought

Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD (Je. 32:8)

• our minds can be infiltrated by other spiritual influences — sinister “inspirations”
◦ “resent this person,” “be anxious,” “try it once
◦ the objective is that we fall under control of something other than God

V. 13, “Buck Up” — Paul reiterates what he said in verse 11

Reduced to it’s most simple form, our strategy is to:

  1. Resist (withstand), put up a fight
    – the word “evil” also means bad in the Greek translation of the Old Testament
    • it does not always have the moral significance that evil suggests
    • so, resistance in the day of “trouble” is not unlike,
    “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
  2. Do “everything” – all that is expected of God’s child (cf. Ep. 2:10)
    – all that calls for our active response or participation
  3. Stand – hold your ground

Conc: I want to reassure you, that experiencing this conflict

When your head is filled with thoughts of everything but heaven
– or you realize you’ve been distracted from anything spiritual for days (or weeks)
• or you feel exhausted with resisting all that is appealing yet wrong
• you are not going backwards, but this is the normal state of affairs
◦ as much as it may feel like failure, it means you’re still swimming against the stream
– spiritual self-defense is awareness, readiness and confidence in God
• that even if we lose contest after contest, nothing will separate us from him

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

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