For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Friend or Foe?
We are engaged in a conflict with eternal implications. This statement may seem shocking, or a little over the top, but the truth is that we are soldiers and we are engaged in a war. Of course the devil would have us believe that we are at peace – and that the true path to lasting unity is compromise. He especially loves it when we compromise on the truth of God’s Word in our attempts to still the conflict of the raging battle being fought between the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness.
Our Enemy would rather that we ignored the war. You know the type. They proclaim “We Support Our Troops” but at the same time hold up signs that scream “Get Out Now!” and equate peace with love and war with hate. In the spiritual realm this is a daily reality. Demonic wisdom tells us that we just need to all get along by setting aside any doctrinal differences. Doctrine, after all, divides, right?
How can we support the troops, i.e. edify the Body of Christ, and at the same time ignore the war that rages? We cannot, for to deny the war and to act the part of the pacifist is to abandon the Church in the heat of battle. The war is real. The enemies we fight are real. The victories and defeats we face are real. And the implications are indeed eternal.
More than failing to realize that we are engaged in a war, we also see a great danger in failing to recognize who the enemy is. In modern terms, this is a difficulty in the “war on terror.” We see that it can be very difficult to fight an enemy that looks like the people amongst whom they hide! Terrorists wear no uniform and have allegiance to no state. They are hard to recognize as the enemy until it is too late.
So what happens when we are talking about the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan? What are the consequences of failing to recognize the enemy?
To help us see who it is that we fight against Paul reminds us “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” The technical term he uses for this struggle is a term for hand-to-hand combat. We are not combating flesh and blood.
Listen, because this is important. How often do we forget that God says in His Word, “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay.”? And so when we are persecuted or attacked verbally, emotionally, or physically for our faith we have as a first response the desire to fight back – to strike out against the person who has hurt us. That is another point of confusion brought on by the true enemy of our souls. We fall for the lie that we are fighting against lost men and women.
As a result then we use our words and actions to hurt them and drive them back – and then we wonder why the reject Christ so openly. Have we forgotten that those who would engage us in this warfare and attack us are themselves in bondage to sin, slaves of unrighteousness, and children of their father the devil? This is what Jesus said to the Pharisees. In calling them a “brood of vipers” He was saying that they are the offspring of Satan – they are, as it were baby snakes, children of their father, the Devil.
But these people are not the enemy we are to engage in warfare. We should seek to rescue them – to preach and witness and love and encourage them. The Bible is so clear. Bless those who curse, pray for those who spitefully use, do good to those who hate. And yet our natural response is to fight. Then we see we are at war but we are fighting the wrong enemy. We think that those in bondage should be hated and reviled just as they hate and revile. But these are the very people we should be loving with an unconditional self sacrificing love.
The true enemy we are told is not flesh and blood. It is not other people. It is those in the spiritual realm who comprise the Kingdom of Satan. These demonic powers are wielded by fallen angels – those who were cast out of heaven in the great rebellion of Lucifer against the Most High God. These are our enemies.
They are referred to as principalities, that is rulers. While God remains absolutely sovereign, He has allowed these fallen beings to have limited authority on this earth. They have been given this authority for a time and are willing to use it. They are also referred to as powers, reiterating this truth that there are realms of reality where they will come against us and we must be ready to identify them, stand, and fight. Another term used here identifies them as the “rulers of the darkness of this age.” What age? This age where men are blinded to the truth and dead in sin. They rule the darkness!
How interesting then that Paul tells us earlier in Ephesians that before were called to new life in Christ we were “darkness” (Eph 5:8). He did not say we walked in darkness. He said we were darkness. And these demonic powers “rule the darkness”?
These rulers of darkness are spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places – that is they are spiritual beings with great powers and great wickedness. They are the Devil and the demons. Here is the enemy. The one who has in his pride plotted against God from before the beginning. The one who was cast down to the earth and now seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. The one who desired to be worshipped by Christ as he tempted Him in the wilderness, and the one who wants nothing more than for you and me to forget the real enemy and the real war – to sit back in our apathy and drown in the pool of our own lukewarm devotion to a god of our own imagination.
So how do we fight this enemy? Now that we know who he is, how do we defeat him? The religious nuts on TV would have us believe that we should shout and scream at the demons, casting them out, exorcising them in the name of Jesus. But the truth is that the battle plan that God has put in place for the defeat of the devil and the spoiling of his kingdom is much more simple than the theatrics of yelling at the demons hiding behind every bush and hitting people in the face with a Bible or an idolatrous crucifix.
How then do we wrestle against these rulers of the darkness? What method of attack do we use? How do we train? How do we win?
Join us Sunday, August 15, for our third message in the series “The Whole Armor of God” as we look at Ephesians 6:12 and “The Rulers of Darkness.”
Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)