What’s the real battle?

4 06 2020

Ephesians has revealed the inter-connectedness between earthly activities and heavenly realities. As we explore our spiritual position and blessings (chapters 1-3, “orthodoxy”), we walk out our faith in our new identity and transformed relationships (ch. 4-6, “orthopraxy”).

As Paul concludes his letter, he again ascends the heights and reveals the interplay between believers on earth and principalities in heavenly realms. If we don’t get this right, we will name the wrong enemies, and therefore fight the wrong forces. So let’s consider a few key questions for better understanding.

What is the source of the battle imagery?

There is an Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 59 which lays out a background for the battle unveiled in Ephesians. In Isaiah’s time, society had fallen into wickedness, where justice and righteous leadership was in short supply.

“Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isa. 59:15-16).

So the Lord, seeing this lack, takes it upon Himself to rise up as a Warrior to unleash His fury over His wicked enemies.

“Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.”

Isaiah describes the Messiah-warrior suiting up:

“For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.”

The battle, and the victory, appear on the horizon:

“So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him” (Isa. 59:19).

How does Jesus fulfill this prophecy?

Ultimately, Isaiah’s prophecy was a preview of the colossal battle that Jesus the Messiah was destined to undertake. The “standard” He has now raised against His enemies is the cross of His sacrificial death. He has been victorious, and has authority over every echelon of wickedness in the heavenly realms. Christ is raised and seated “far above all principality and power and might and dominion,” where the Father “put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Eph.1:21-22). 

But Jesus’ enemies fight on, and we, the Church, as citizens of His kingdom, are enlisted in the battle. Wicked forces oppose Jesus’ rule and reign, desiring to foster evil world wide.

What is the part of Jesus-followers today?

We have been given the victorious armor of God. It is battered and bloody from use, but it is powerful and accustomed to winning!

The armor is not make-believe, but consists of moral, spiritual forces which further God’s rule. These weapons actually help Jesus beat back the rebel forces of evil over which He already has authority.

Who has this armor and how do we use them?

Each of us has all the elements, and corporately we share them. We are each soldiers, and together we are an army. Individually, we suit up in the victory of Jesus each day. Your local church, and the Church in your city and country have this calling and equipment.

Book have been written on making use of the armor. If I may simplify, we believe in the reality of the armor. We put off wicked thoughts and deeds with God’s help, and put on thoughts and deeds consistent with the armor.

What do the weapons oppose?

We are fighting against all the expressions and strategies of the kingdom of evil, originating from Satan himself. Here is one list of the forces which oppose God

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).

Imagine the brokenness of our world if Satan had his way! Do you see how important our battle? The survival of our planet is proof that the Church has persisted in the battle.

Paul clarifies we are not fighting the people who practice evil, but the powers of evil which purvey all manifestations of wickedness. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities … in the heavenly places” (Eph.6:12).  We must see the good in people, as image-bearers of God, and work against the evil that motivates their deeds.

That’s a lot for this post. Next time we will consider: What are the elements of the armor and what do each of them accomplish?