For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12
What should we understand by this idea of combat with the spiritual forces of evil? How exactly do we carry that out? Before we give leave to our imaginations, let’s look at a similar verse from 2 Corinthians :
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.2 Corinthians 10:4-5
In this case when Paul talks about the spiritual warfare of believers, he’s talking about making war on false ideas – heresies, worldly philosophies and false religions that keep people in darkness. This project of destroying the strongholds of the lies which the devil has so carefully constructed, will not go unopposed. The world will fight to keep people from seeing the light of the gospel, and that’s why we need the armor of God from Ephesians 6.
When we talk about putting on the armor of God, let’s not assume that this is something we each do individually. The image of armor suggests the opposite, since in general armor is not something you can put on all by yourself. When we contend for the gospel, we don’t fight individually, why should we prepare for the fight individually? So when we read about putting on the belt of truth, for example, let’s think about learning truth from the teachers God has given us and teaching truth to fellow Christians.
The Belt of Truth – If we want to stand firm against the onslaught of worldly ideas and deceptive philosophies, we need to be well grounded in the truth. It’s not enough to be able recite the basic doctrines of the faith – we need drink deeply from the well of God’s word and go beyond a shallow understanding that leaves us vulnerable to subtle errors.
The Breastplate of Righteousness – When our actions don’t match up with our profession, we give an opportunity to God’s enemies to malign the gospel. That’s why Peter encourages the believers, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
The Shoes of Readiness – Knowing that the gates of hell will not be able to withstand the power of the proclamation of the gospel, we don’t wait for the fight to come to us, but we set out boldly to attack the strongholds of Satan in every remote corner of the earth.
The Shield of Faith – Faith is believing God, trusting his word more than that of any other person, whether scientists, philosophers, statesmen or whoever. The Bible is always in conflict, in every culture, with some idea that seems so obvious that anyone who questions it is dismissed as ridiculous. And so we’re always tempted to let go of this passage or that doctrine, to lower our shield a little bit… But when by faith we hold on to the promise that God cannot lie, we have a strong defense against the enemy’s schemes.
The Helmet of Salvation – War is not without casualties, but we who have trusted in the finished work of Christ have an indestructible helmet in his perfect salvation. And so we have no fear, but press forward with absolute confidence that God will bring us through to the final victory.
The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). The Church has no other weapon and needs no other weapon than the God-breathed word, which in the hands of the Spirit opens the eyes of the blind, unplugs the ears of the deaf and raises the spiritually dead to new life in Christ.