Ephesians 6:12. 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.
As Sun Tzu has taught us concerning earthly warfare, “knowing your enemy” (The Art of War) is of extreme importance. Facing an unknown enemy has to be one of the most terrifying things we could ever do. And facing the wrong enemy has to be one of the most foolish things we could ever do. If our life in Christ is a battle then we better know who we’re fighting.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us specifically who our enemy isn’t and who it is.
Our enemy isn’t flesh and blood.
This is what we so often get so wrong. We consider our boss, our spouse, our kids, our parents, our roommate, our mother-in-law, our ex, the liberals, the conservatives, the terrorists, the shooter, the nations, the sinners, that person who wronged us, the one who lied about us, the gossiper, the abuser, the disrespectful, the hurtful (we could go on and on), we consider these flesh and blood people to be our enemies.
But the truth is that we do not war with flesh and blood. Humanity is not our enemy. Not ultimately. Of course our conflicts are often with people. But the people who hurt us are actually tools. Tools in the hands of our real enemy.
We are not united to Christ so that we can oppose a person. Any person. Jesus was united to humanity in his incarnation so that he could rescue all persons. Destroying people is never our objective. Reconciling them to God is. The sooner we accept that no person is our enemy the sooner we will experience that victory over our true enemy. The one who seeks to destroy mankind. To fight humanity is to fight on the side of our real enemy. God’s enemy. If we could only embrace this reality! We DO NOT wrestle against each other. All bigotry, all oppression, all manipulation, all war, all violence, all sexual assault, all rivalry, all animosity, all grudges, all contempt, all human-on-human crime would end if we could just see who our real enemy is.
Our enemy is the spiritual forces of evil.
This is not the first time that Paul has brought up these rulers, authorities, and powers in this letter. But here he makes it clear that at least some of these spiritual forces are literally hell-bent on evil. They oppose Christ and his Kingdom. Therefore they oppose you and all who are in Christ.
These evil spiritual forces have been against us from before time because they have been against God since before time. But Christ has been exalted by God over them (1:21). The Church has revealed God’s great wisdom to them (3:10). And Jesus has disarmed them at the cross (Col. 2:15).
So what’s left for us?
Nacho and Steven do not know their enemies very well.
It’s not bombs and grenades. It’s not large masses of troops lining up against each other charging with cannons and drums. It’s hand-to-hand combat. It’s grappling and pushing and pulling, tearing and twisting, in the everyday movements of life. This is where the battle takes place. Close. In our hearts. In our anger (4:26). In our sex lives (1 Cor. 7:5). In our grudges (2 Cor. 2:10-11). In our wandering affections (2 Cor. 11:3). In our lying (Acts 5:3). In our failure to submit (James 4:7). In our thorns (2 Cor. 12:7).
The rulers, and authorities, and powers are defeated but they aren’t giving up without a fight. They can’t destroy the church, they can’t even destroy you, but they can make you ineffective. They can keep you pinned down. But only if YOU let them. Only if you give in to the Devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:11. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
What are the Devil’s schemes? How do his evil spiritual forces try to bind us?
With lies. Satan is a liar and has been one since the beginning. He is the deceiver. The adversary. The accuser. He twists all that is good into all that is evil. He tells truths that become lies when mixed with doubts and fears. He brings God’s word into question. He compels us to second guess God’s goodness, love, and grace. He subverts our new identity. He brings up our past shame and guilt. He makes what is evil look like good, and what is good look like evil. He tickles our pride. He keeps us victims and feeds our jealousies. He tells us we deserve better. But he gives us worse.
Can you see these demonic strategies in your own life? Your own mindset? Futile thinking? Sensuality? Greed? Impurity? (4:17-19) This is why we must continually tell each other the truth of the gospel in love (4:15), so that we will not be carried away by Satan’s deceitful schemes (4:14).
Union with Christ is victory, there is no doubt. There is no more ground to gain, for Christ has gained it all. But there is a defeated enemy close among us who grabs hold and wrestles with us into the exhaustion of the night. This enemy is not a person. It is a spiritual force. The Adversary that, in his insanity, seeks our destruction. A destruction that will not come, but because he doesn’t believe this he is all the more dangerous.
“To live is Christ” is to have had Christ boldly enter into our battle for us and as us. And now it is to wrestle his enemy and ours with the power of Christ’s life in us. Not to win the war, but to win the hearts and minds of all those God sends into our lives.