In this sermon, David Capoccia looks at Ephesians 6:10-13 and why believers must become strong in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. David traces and explains the three reasons given by Paul in the text for why such strength is necessary.
1. To Overcome Satan’s Many Schemes
2. To Prevail in Our Supernatural Struggle
3. To Keep Standing in the Evil Day
I pray that this time of looking at the Word together with you will be profitable and enjoyable. Before we turn to God’s word, let’s pray:
Lord God, as we consider this great, important, and sobering topic before us, I pray, God, that You would work mightily. That You would enable me to speak accurately, clearly, and helpfully, and that You would enable the people to hear. Enable us to understand this truth and apply it, not become fearful but become committed to being strong in You. I pray that You would accomplish this by Your spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
One of the values that we have inherited in western culture is the idea of an honorable fight. This idea goes back to at least the middle ages, and the laws of chivalry for knights and kings. According to the unspoken rules, even if you are engaged in deadly combat with another person, you should show courtesy to your opponent.
You don’t just sucker punch someone out of nowhere, or you don’t stab or shoot him in the back. You let him know that you are going to attack him, so that he has a chance, at least, to turn and defend himself, or surrender. Also, you don’t continue to attack a person or kick a man when he is down, but you let him get back up, so he has a fighting chance. If someone wants to surrender or negotiate, then you cease trying to harm your opponent, and you show him true care even as a prisoner.
In our thinking, to disregard these rules is to show yourself to be cruel, cowardly, and base in character. In truth, modern warfare stretches and ignores these unspoken rules, and not all cultures of the world have the same idea as to what constitutes an honorable fight.
However, there is one enemy, for us Christians, who continually and completely ignores all rules of war, which is satan. satan has no problem with surprise attacks or ambushes. In fact, he would prefer to strike in wound without his victims even knowing that he is there. satan has no problem afflicting those who are already suffering. In fact, satan would love to drive people into complete ruin and total despair, that they might renounce faith in Christ, commit heinous sins, or even kill themselves. satan also has no problem continuing to assault those who don’t fight back and want to truce. People may stop fighting against satan, but satan will not stop fighting against them.
Dear brothers and sisters at Calvary, do you realize this? Do you understand and live in the light of this sobering truth that we have an enemy, who is committed to our harm and continually wars against us? I fear that we do not realize this truth, or we only realize it in an intellectual sense.
Yes, we know that the Bible speaks about spiritual warfare and talks about how demons rage against Christians, but somehow, we think this reality doesn’t really apply to us or affect us. Maybe certain members of the church experience significant spiritual warfare, but not us. Maybe the pastor, maybe missionaries, or maybe that one person or couple who is obviously struggling. Maybe they experience spiritual warfare, but not us – we’re ok.
After all, we don’t want to get all weird when it comes to spirits. Haven’t science and technology freed us from thinking that demons are behind everything? People, in ancient days, thought that way. They did see demons seemingly everywhere – You’ve got a headache? It’s a demon. Your house makes weird noises? It’s a demon. If your children won’t obey you, they obviously got demons.
Surely, we’re beyond such superstitions. We’ve learned to be rational. We don’t need a talk about malevolent spirits. Meanwhile, we are also aware of what goes on in some sectors of Christianity today. When it comes to things spiritual, it is a little out of control.
There is speaking gibberish into spirits. There is falling over, seemingly, from the spirits power. There is claiming new revelations and prophecies by the spirit, which are the more obtained manifestations. Many churches also speak at length about the activities of demons and how to counteract them. “We need to bind satan!” they say, “We need to exorcise the demons in this person, this place, or in this city.”
In aware of all of this, shouldn’t we, as conservative evangelicals, downplay the demonic, so that we don’t end up like certain off-course churches? Well, it is true that people in the past and present have erred, even greatly erred, when it comes to understanding what the Bible has to say about demons and spiritual warfare. Indeed, we must avoid demonic obsession and other excesses, so that we might remain Biblical.
However, being Biblical also means that we cannot go to the other extreme of ignoring satan and the demons all together. When we ignore such an enemy as satan, we play right into his hand, and we will be spiritually sucker punched and sprawled on the ground. Indeed, if we do not take satan and his schemes seriously, not prepared for his attacks, we will, evidently, become his prey.
We need to be reminded of what the Bible really says when it comes to spiritual warfare and satan. In this way, we will not be taken by surprise or be grievously wounded. Instead, we will be able to stand against the evil one and help one another to stand. I want to turn to Ephesians 6:10-20, a critical passage on spiritual warfare.
First, I want to remind you of the context of this passage. Apostle Paul writes the letter of Ephesians during his first period of imprisonment in Rome. Paul writes this letter to a primarily gentile group of believers in and around the city of Ephesus, which is on the western coast of Asia Minor, modern Turkey.
He writes this letter to encourage these relatively new gentile believers, and to remind them that they have received full salvation blessing – a full salvation inheritance alongside their Jewish brethren. All have received the same blessing. However, these gentile believers must also walk worthy of the salvation that they have received by walking in holiness and the power of God.
Essentially, the letter of Ephesians divides into two nice halves, and each half is focused on communicating one of those two main messages. Ephesians 1-3: you gentiles have received full salvation blessings in Christ. Ephesians 4-6: then, walk worthy of the great salvation blessings you have received.
At the end of this second half of Ephesians, the exhortation and application section of Ephesians, we encounter the final exhortation from Paul the prisoner to his gentile brethren. It functions as a final charge and summary of many of the letter’s truth. Now, let’s prepare to read just Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For 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. 13Therefore, 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.
In these four verses, we see one main command; then, three reasons to obey that command. The main command appears in Ephesians 6:10:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
The word finally reveals that we have come to that last section of exhortation in Paul’s letter. Being the final command with extra emphasis and importance, we must pay special attention to the important command, which is to be strong, or become strong.
When the world thinks about becoming strong, they are usually thinking in terms of physical strength or will power. However, this is not Paul’s sense. Notice, he says be strong in the Lord. Here, the Lord, is the title for Jesus Christ. As it is throughout the whole letter of Ephesians, Jesus is the Lord, the Master, and the Ruler. For those who have been bought by and belong to the Lord, which are believers and Christ’s slaves, are to be strong in their Lord.
Also, the phrase, in Ephesians 6:10, the strength of His might could be either descriptive of quality, which is His mighty strength, or the phrase could be the description of origin, which is to say:
Be strong in the strength that belongs to and comes from Christ.
Theologically, both of those things are true, but the former, I would say, is probably Paul’s intent here since he uses the same phrase in Ephesians 1 where there is not a strong emphasis upon source. So, I would say that the idea is to be strong in His mighty strength.
However, are we talking about two separate concepts here? On the one hand, we should be strong in the Lord, and in the other hand, we should be strong in His mighty strength. No, these two items cannot be separated. They are just two ways of saying the same thing, so we should understand the whole sentence in this way:
Be strong in the Lord, that is, be strong in His mighty strength.
By writing the sentence this way, Paul keeps the command tied to a person, the Lord Jesus, and he also emphasizes that persons great strength. As we seek the Lord’s great strength, we are to be seeking the Lord himself. Now, does Jesus truly have power and mighty strength? Absolutely. He is the Lord. He is God.
In fact, Paul has been drawing attention to the power of God throughout the book of Ephesians. Consider the prayer that Paul mentions for the Ephesian believers in Ephesians 1:18-23:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
In this earlier section, Paul says that God exercises power of surpassing greatness toward believers. This power was even displayed in Christ’s resurrection, His ascension, and His exaltation. Christ himself is now far above every other ruler or power. Whether human, angelic, or demonic, He is far above them all. He has total authority, and all things are put under His feet.
There are many people and beings that look like they have power, but here is a Ruler with true power. Our Lord, Christ, has the unlimited power of God because He is God. However, do we know this power? Paul prays that we, believers, would know it and know it better. Look at another prayer Paul mentions in Ephesians 3:14-2:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
In this second prayer, Paul’s desire is not simply that believers would know God’s power, but that they would actually be strengthened by it, and how? Ephesians 3:16 says:
… through His Spirit in the inner man
In Ephesians 3:20, Paul further comments that God is able to do far more abundantly beyond what we even ask or think, and this is according to the very same power that works within us, the saints of God. In other words, that same amazing, unfathomable power of God, which causes God to even do the impossible, is the same power at work in believers.
We obtained this great, able to do the impossible power by faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. When we repented and believed, God’s spirit came into us – the spirit of Christ. Because the spirit is God, and has all the power of God, we have the unlimited power of God at work within us. That’s good news, right? Considering what we face in life, and what we face in ourselves, that is a great comfort to have.
Despite our receiving of God’s power, a manifestation of this power is not automatic. Let’s return to Ephesians 6:10 where we are commanded to:
be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
If Paul has to give such command, then it is possible for the command to be disobeyed. It is possible for Christians not to be strong in the Lord. Even if you have God’s spirit within you, you will not see the Spirits power manifested in your life unless you cooperate with God’s spirit and seek the Lord’s strength. That is the way God has designed it.
In other words, if you want the Lord’s mighty strength, then you cannot be passive about it. You must obey the command: be strong in the Lord. The question that naturally arises is: how do I become strong in the Lord?
If the strength you need is not your own, but comes from God, then there can only be one way to access it, which is by faith. Brethren, hear this: if you wish to be strong in the Lord, then you must exercise humble faith in your Lord and in His power. You must believe the Lord with that kind of true faith that causes you to act in expected obedience before the Lord, which is an obedience that expects God to be true to Himself and to His promises. To have such faith is what it means to be strong in the Lord.
In a way, you could say that your faith in God is your strength. Not because your faith itself is powerful, but rather because the God in whom you have faith is powerful. God so chooses to show forth His power in your life as you express faith in Him. Jesus said in Matthew 17:20:
…for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
That is power. Understand, this is not faith to have God to do anything we want. This is faith to have God to do anything that He wants through us and in us, especially power to overcome sin and walk in holiness. Now, hasn’t faith always been the way that God’s people have become strong in Him?
In Hebrews 11, the famous hall of faith is a chronicle of how God’s people manifested God’s power as they had faith in Him. Abraham, Moses, David, or many others overcame great obstacles and endured impossible situations because they had faith. It was their faith in God that made them strong. That is the kind of faith Paul is talking about, and it’s the kind of faith that we need.
This faith requires humility. To admit that you do not have power in yourself to overcome your enemies and obstacles, and to seek the power of someone greater, that is naturally humbling. Further, to admit that that from your perspective a task seems impossible, but to disregard that and trust God in what He says despite what you see, that, too, is humbling and requires humility. As we already saw from James 4:10:
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
When we exercise humble faith, that is when we see the Lord’s power on display. If you will believe God above your own wisdom, your own experience, and your own power, then you will see Him do even the impossible in your life, and He will grant you victory.
In fact, the more we understand the full extent of our weakness, the greater opportunity we have to manifest faith and become strong in Christ. Paul understood this very well and says in 2 Corinthians 12:10:
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
When God lays me low, when He shows me I have no power in myself, that is when I can trust Him, and that is when His power is going to be on display in my life. So, this is Paul’s last, great exhortation in Ephesians: be strong in the Lord.
To obey any of the previous commands or exhortations that he gave in Ephesians 4-6, it will require the Lord’s strength. However, this strength can only be accessed by faith. So, are you strong in the Lord? Are you becoming strong in the Lord by faith, not in your strength, but in His? Do you recognize that the Lord’s mighty strength is greater than any other power in the universe even your fleshly desires, your sins, and your temptations?
This power is greater than all of that, and it is able to give you the victory. There is no temptation that cannot be overcome by Christ’s power. We are never without a promise of deliverance if you believe.
***This command to be strong in the Lord is not merely a summary command for this letter. Next, Paul tells us why this command, to be strong in the Lord, is so critical. What now appears, in the text, are three reasons to obey this command. Here are three reasons, from Paul, why, you believers at Calvary, must become strong, by faith, in the Lord.
Reason number one, to overcome satan’s many schemes. Reason number two, to prevail in our supernatural struggle. Reason number three, to keep standing in the evil day. These reasons overlap and maybe sound similar to one another, but each has its own nuance. Let’s take a look at the first reason that appears in Ephesians 6:11:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Our first reason to become strong, by faith, in the Lord is to overcome satan’s many schemes. Ephesians 6:11 begins, as does Ephesians 6:13, to put on the full armor of God. This term full armor comes from the Greek panoplia, from which we get the word panoply, and it refers to the complete equipment of a heavenly armed soldier. Not just the armor that he wears, but also the weaponry that he uses.
We’re commanded to take up this full equipment of God. The phrase of God is the idea that this armor comes from and is supplied by God. Is this a different command than the one mentioned, to be strong in the Lord? Well, kind of, but not really.
Becoming strong in the Lord means, more specifically, putting on the armor supplied by God, which is metaphorical. If we break down that metaphor, it basically means: faith, in God, will manifest itself in certain commitments and acts of obedience in the believer. That is, what Paul calls, the armor of God. So, it is a more specific explanation of what it means to be strong in the Lord.
These commitments and acts of obedience are described figuratively as armor. Such will protect believers in the same way that military equipment protects the soldier and enables him to stand. Paul describes this armor, more specifically, in Ephesians 6:15-17.
We will not say much about the armor right now but notice two things. The full armor of God is a full set of equipment. Nothing is left out, and nothing is unnecessarily included. We need it all. All pieces are essential. All pieces must be utilized.
Also, this armor means that we are engaged in a conflict. We need armor for battle. If we have to wear armor, then it means that is what we are in, and according to Paul, we are in intense conflict that requires nothing less than the panoplia – the full armor set from God himself.
In returning to the main idea in Ephesians 6:11, our first reason for why we need to put on God’s armor is said at the end of Ephesians 6:11:
…so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
The devil is one of the titles of satan. Satan comes from the Hebrew, which means enemy, adversary, or opponent. Devil comes from the Greek diávolos, which means slanderer or accuser. Already, in this verse, we see why divine strength and armor are important. We have a slandering enemy, who is scheming against us, and we need to stand firm against that enemy.
Stand firm is a defensive term indicating that we are not tasked with destroying, binding, or wounding the devil, but resisting his attacks. We are not to be moved by the devil’s assaults. We are to stand up against him. We are to hold our ground. We are to successfully fend off his attacks and advances.
The Greek preposition translated against, in Ephesians 6:11-12, is very interesting. Whenever it is used of an adversary always indicates a face to face confrontation, which his significant. Meaning, these are not indirect attacks from the devil that we are dealing with, not general, blanket attacks. These are up close and personal strikes. These are projectiles launched at point blank range. Now, what kind of attacks does the devil use against believers?
Here, satan’s attacks are described as schemes. Even though it is face-to-face, we are not talking about obvious, frontal assaults. We’re talking stratagems, tricks, traps, ambushes, or even guerrilla warfare. That is the way satan operates. Notice, the word is not scheme, but schemes – plural. Satan doesn’t have just one angle of attack, but has many schemes, tricks, and methods specifically designed to entrap each person.
Brothers and sisters, are you realizing that we have a crafty and committed enemy in the devil? Certainly, such a dangerous opponent necessitates the Lord’s strength and the Lord’s armor. So, what exactly does the devil do? Let’s get more specific on what typifies the devil’s schemes.
We are not talking about demonic possession. We do see demonic possession in the Bible, but only of unbelievers. Ephesians 2:2, Paul says unbelievers are under the power of the devil because he is their ruler. Therefore, an unbeliever has no real ability to resist any of the orders of satan. Though God may intervene, God is not obligated to, so they are under satan’s dominion.
However, believers are no longer that way. They have been set free from satan’s rule. They have been set free from slavery to sin. As Romans 6:22 says, they have become slaves of Christ and slaves of righteousness. Believers are guarded by God’s holy spirit. No other spirit may enter. No one and nothing can separate a believer from Christ or His love. We praise God for that truth.
We are not talking about possession, but that doesn’t mean that believers are immune to the devil, or else there would be no reason for this verse in Ephesians 6:11. Really, the way that the devil tries to get at believers has everything to do with the title he is given in this verse: he is the slanderer, which means to lie and misrepresent the truth. That is satan’s primary weapon against believers.
He lies, speaks half-truths, he presents truth out of context so that we misunderstand it, and he takes the truth and misapplies it, which is what he does to believers. Consider what Jesus says about the devil in John 8:44:
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Lying and deceit are essential to the devil’s character, and what does he hope to accomplish with these lies? He wants to destroy people. Jesus calls him a murderer, in John 8:44, and that is what he is indeed. He hates Christ, he hates those that belong to Christ, he wants to ruin them, he wants to entrap them in sin, he wants them to blaspheme their Lord, he wants to destroy their witness, and he wants them even to die. That is satan’s desire.
Consider satan’s handy work. We don’t need to go very far, in the Bible, to see how destructive and powerful the lies of satan can be. In Genesis 3, satan spoke lies to Eve. In summary, satan questioned the truthfulness and rightfulness of God’s word:
Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree you want?
Satan flatly contradicted God’s promise, the punishment for sin:
He will not surely die.
Then, satan slandered God’s goodness:
God doesn’t want you to have this fruit because He is a jealous miser. He is holding back what is really good for you. You should take it yourself.
These were all lies, slander, misrepresentations, but they charmed Eve, which led to the ruin of the entire human race. Today, satan is telling the same kind of lies to people even believers. With such lies, satan stirs up the flesh, flatters our pride, and presents various idols to us in such a way to make them seem so necessary and pleasant. However, how does satan actually communicate these lies to believers?
The Bible is not entirely explicit, but I think we can say a few ways. In considering Genesis 3, does satan speak to us visibly and audibly as he did to Eve? Does he appear? No, that is not the New Testament description or picture of satan’s work. Though, satan has other ways of getting to us.
He can’t possess us, he can’t get inside our heads, but he can whisper, as it were, a thought into our hearts so subtly as if the thought were completely natural. Satan might also move one of his minions, slave, or one under his rule to place a stumbling block in our path. It could be with something they say or something they do if he knows that is what is going to get us. Certainly, satan indirectly works his evil world system to create an environment that is most conducive to ensnare believers and keep his own people under bondage.
Regardless of the source or means of the devils communicate, his purpose is the same: to discourage believers from following God, and to tempt them toward sin with various lies. He is the tempter and he cannot help but lie. A lie does not have to be plausible to be effective. Meaning, you don’t have to analyze it and say, “you know what…that really is believable.” As someone once remarked very insightfully:
The power of a lie is not in its believability, but in its attractiveness. If you really want it to be true, you will believe it.
Now, brothers and sisters, have you experienced this? Have you encountered seductive lies in your heart, conversation, and in the world at large? Brothers and sisters, that is satan’s work. This is why we must become strong in the Lord and put on God’s armor. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:11:
…for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Therefore, we must prepare, we must fight, and we must have faith in our Lord. Before I go further, I just want to emphasize that satan is not an evil version of God. That is, satan is not omniscient, he is not omnipresent, nor is he omnipotent. He doesn’t know everything, he can’t see into our minds, and he can’t be everywhere at once.
Now, he does have many demons, who serve under him and with him, and he is very crafty and observant. After all, he has been around for a pretty long time. He is, indeed, a foe to be taken seriously. However, for God’s obedient people, and for those who have faith, he is not truly to be feared.
As we have already heard from James, we have a promise from God that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. As powerful as he is, and as seductive as his lies could be, he is not truly to be feared for those who walk with the Lord.
Another caveat is that not every temptation comes from satan, so I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. Just as God’s acts are invisible and mysterious, and even though you know God is at work, it is hard to say exactly what God is doing at a particular time, so it is with evil in the world. We cannot ever, with surety, say:
This particular thought or temptation I experience was from the devil!
It could be, but it might as easily had been you being drawn away by your own wicked flesh, or you were being drawn away by someone else, who was submitting to his own wicked flesh. There is more than one source of temptation.
Certainly, satan works with our flesh against us, but we cannot, with certainty, ever say that a devil or demon is doing a particular thing. All we know is the kind of things that he does. Therefore, if we experience a difficult temptation or something like that, then we ought to say something more like:
This may have been the devil’s work.
Let me deal with this temptation quickly lest the devil use it against me.
First, we must become strong in the Lord in order to overcome satan’s many schemes against us. A second reason appears in Ephesians 6:12:
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.
The second reason to become strong in the Lord is to prevail in our supernatural struggle. This verse begins with a clarification of what Paul just said: your standing against satan is related to a larger struggle that we are involved in. Notice the beginning phrase: for our struggle. Translated more literally from the Greek: because, for us, the struggle.
This more literal rendering helps us to see how exceptional the Christian struggle is. Essentially, Paul is saying that other people may struggle against mere flesh and blood, but not us. For us, the struggle is different. A Greek word translating struggle is normally a term used to describe wrestling.
With the prepositions above that describe a face-to-face encounter, Paul is describing spiritual warfare very much as a close quarters conflict. Practically, we are grappling hand-to-hand with the enemy. He is not some faraway foe, but up close and personal.
However, our enemy is not flesh and blood, which is a figure of speech denoting humanity – our enemy is not other people. Yes, people are involved in our struggle, but they are not the ultimate enemies. Ultimately, the struggle is not against them, so we cannot get sidetracked by struggling against people.
We have a much more serious group of enemies with which we must contend, so what is this group? Paul identifies that it is against four groups, but these descriptions are four ways of describing the same group of enemies. As we talk about each one, the descriptions become more and more intense.
First, Paul says our struggle is against the rulers. This term identifies those with power, who have obtained rule for themselves by their great power, but we’re not talking about human leaders. These are different rulers, not human rulers, but supernatural rulers, demonic rulers, and those spirits who exercise power with and under satan.
This shouldn’t surprise us too much. After all, satan is described as the prince of the power and the air, even in this book. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, he is described as the god of this world. Though God has never advocated his rule over the earth, he has allowed satan to usurp some authority and exercise power over the evil world system. For his part, satan shares his rule with the demons.
Against these rulers, Paul says, we struggle. Not just against the rulers, but against the powers. Somewhat unintuitively, this term connotes the idea of authority. If rulers connote the idea of power, then the second term connotes the idea of authority. These are beings, who have ceased authority for themselves to rule. Understand, these are no bimbos that we are struggling against. These are evil spirits with great power and great authority.
A third description kicks it up a notch. We struggle against the world forces of this darkness. World forces can also be translated as world rulers. These are not mere local lords. They rule the world. They are cosmic potentates and fallen angels, who exercise rule over this dark world.
The fourth and final description is that we struggle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. We can translate the phrase this way: against the wicked spirits in the heavenly places. The dominion of these demonic powers we wrestle with and against extends even into heavenly realms. Wait a second…you mean there are demons in heaven?
In the book of Job, satan had no problem traveling to and through heaven, but the phrase doesn’t necessarily refer to heaven itself, the dwelling place of God. Them exercising rule in heavenly realms does not necessarily mean God’s dwelling place, but those other planes of existence that are beyond our world.
There are other realms beyond this earth. The demons reside and even exercise power in those realms. From these areas, over all their dominion, these rulers, powers, and authorities have the same desires as their ringleader, which is to kill, steal, destroy, deceive, and to speak lies.
Calvary, are you hearing what God’s word says? It is against these great beings we contend in spiritual warfare. Have you thought about that before? We need to wake up and smell the hash browns! This is the reality of our struggle. We are up against the mighty, demonic rulers, who even reside in heavenly places and have power over this whole world of darkness. Can you see why we need the Lord’s strength and His armor?
With God on our side and His panoply about us, we need not fear even these great demonic rulers. If God is for us, who can be against us? Greater is He who is with us than he who is in the world. However, we must take these foes seriously, and respond appropriately.
Calvary, do you recognize what your true conflict is and who your enemies really are? Have you gotten sidetracked, totally ignoring this conflict, or engaging in conflicts of really no consequence? In the face of this struggle, do you run to be strong in your Lord and to put on His armor? So, the second reason we should become strong in the Lord is to prevail in our supernatural struggle.
A third reason Paul gives us to become strong is in Ephesians 6:13:
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.
So, the third reason we must become strong, by faith, in the Lord is to keep standing in the evil day. Notice how similar this verse is to Ephesians 6:11. Not only is it the repetition of the command to take up the full equipment from God, but also there is the reappearance of very defense-minded terms such as resist and stand firm.
Now that we see what we’re up against, we clearly must take up the armor of God if we are going to resist, hold the line, and successfully repulse the enemy. However, notice the phrase, “in the evil day.” Evil day indicates the time of special trouble or wickedness.
Earlier in Ephesians 4:16, Paul exhorts that believers are to make the most of their time because the days are evil. The sense, in Ephesians 4:16, of evil days is the evil age in which we live. It is a time of trouble, a time of prevailing wickedness, and a time of many temptations. Believers have to walk circumspectly and use their time wisely.
The sense, in Ephesians 6:13, is similar to the text before us, but a little different. Here, the term is singular rather than plural. It is the evil day. This singularity suggests that Paul doesn’t just have in mind evil age in which we live, but particular periods of trouble and temptation. Times, or even a particular day, where resistance against dark forces is critical and difficult.
Experientially, we have all lived through those kinds of days. Though we are continually subject to various trials and temptations in this world, there are times that are particularly tough, especially days where we feel hard-pressed and vulnerable to worry, anger, lust, or whatever it might be. Paul is drawing attention to those days.
Brothers and sisters, we need to become strong in the Lord not only to stand against the general tide of attacks and temptations, but also for the evil day where the battle is especially fierce and prolonged. For such days, our goal must be as the rest of this verse describes. Notice it says, “having done everything…”
There is some different interpretation as to what this means. Probably, the best understanding of this phrase is having done everything you can to preserve, to fight, and to overcome your enemy. When the evil day comes, our plan is not merely to begin resisting. Rather, we continue, and we fight tooth and nail by faith in the Lord against temptation and discouragement.
We stand as long as it takes against however many temptations, so that in the end, when the dust settles, the day ends, and the battlefield grows quiet, where do we want to be? Not picking ourselves up off the ground, not slinking back onto the field after we have run away, but still on the battle line holding fast.
In the evil day, we want to be able to stand, last, and hold until the end. However, we can only do this if we become strong in the Lord. We must become strong in the Lord, so that even in the evil day when the devil has done his very worst to us, we might endure and still keep standing.
Why? Is it for our own glory, so that we get a nice pat on the back from others? No, it is so that we might please our Lord, receive His commendation, and not lose any of the enjoyment of our salvation blessings that have been given us through Christ.
Brothers and sisters, I know that we have not always done this. Many times, we have failed to keep resisting in the evil day. Brothers and sisters, there is still hope for us. It was never our record of righteousness that made us acceptable to God – not before we are saved or after we are saved. It is all Christ and praise the Lord for that!
Nevertheless, we cannot stay where we were. Just as Paul urges, in Philippians 3, let us press-on! Forgetting what is behind, forgetting where we may have failed in the past, and let us press-on for the prize in the upward call in Christ! Let us believe and act on that promise given also by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
When it comes to endurance and spiritual warfare, I sometimes think of the order that was given to glider troopers during the D-Day invasion. Many of these different groups of soldiers were tasked with landing and taking bridges from Nazi forces to prevent the arrival of German reinforcements.
After taking these designated bridges, the soldiers had only one order: hold until relieved. This is the same order given to God’s people in the evil day. Hold until relieved. Your time of testing will not last forever. Maybe it will be for a few hours, maybe it will be for a whole day, or maybe it will be longer, but it won’t be forever.
God is faithful. He will make you able to stand for as long as it takes if you exercise faith in Him and make use of the Lord’s overwhelming power and impervious armor. That is how the Lord glorifies Himself. Even in the face of an overwhelming assault, my saint, you will stand firm.
If you give way in the face of the devil’s attack, and if he gains an advantage against you, then don’t give up. Return once more into the breach. Fight on for Christ’s sake. At that point, it might be more difficult, but even then, God is with you and will make you able to stand and endure.
So, dear people of Calvary, how do you prepare for and react to the evil day? Are you even aware that particular evil days will come into your life? Are you prepared for the day of testing? Do you roll over in the evil day? Do you think token resistance will be good enough? Or is your heart set like Paul’s was – determined to endure to the end for Christ’s sake, for the Gospel’s sake, and for our own soul’s sake?
Hopefully, we can see by now that we, indeed, must be strong in our Lord, Jesus Christ. To be strong in Christ means to have faith in Him. The kind of faith that produces expected obedience. Paul gave us three reasons, in our text, why we must become strong in faith in the Lord.
Number one, to overcome satan’s many schemes. Number two, to prevail in our supernatural struggle. Number three, to keep standing in the evil day. This is God’s word to you, so how will you respond?
In light of these truths, will you take your spiritual warfare seriously? Will you humble yourself before your Lord, Christ, so that His mighty power might be manifest in you? Will you be an overcomer for the Lord’s sake before your own?
Will you encourage and help your brethren, who are together in the same fight as you? Will you pray? Will you learn more about Christ and His mighty strength, so that you can believe Him better and more?
Or, will you continue to ignore this war, all your powerful spiritual enemies, and allow satan to thresh you like wheat as he did with Peter? Peter was over confident. We can be the same way.
To any here, who have not yet repented and turned to Christ, in faith, as Savior and Lord, let me warn you: based on what we read on this passage, and from the rest of Ephesians, you have no real capacity for spiritual warfare. You cannot be strong in the Lord because Jesus is not your Lord. You, yourself, are still at war with your Creator and God.
My friend, I urge you not to remain as you are. If you do, you are so vulnerable. You have no defense against the demons. You have no defense against your wicked flesh. It is only God’s undeserved mercy and kindness that has prevented your full ruin and destruction. He is not obligated to do that anymore for you, and He can leave you alone at any time.
So, you should repent while you still can. Be rescued from the domain of darkness today and receive the strength of the Lord God. Turn to God through His son, Jesus Christ, so that you might be free from your bondage to satan, sin, and various lusts of your flesh. You will be rescued, made friend of God, protected from the wrath of God, and secure in God forever.
Then, the thought we should have is this: I want to be strong in the Lord, but how do I put on the Lord’s armor? That’s where we go next. Let’s close in prayer:
Lord God, You have made us aware of the great struggle that we are involved in. A struggle against foes that are more powerful than we could have imagined. Dear God, they are nothing to You. O, Lord, if we believe You, then even these folks will have to flee with their tails between their legs. O, God, only You could make us able to stand. Lord, let us be humble, so that we can actually believe You and experience Your delivering power. We pray, God, that You would protect this church, deliver this church, help each one of us to be overcomers in spiritual battle, and help us to help one another in this common struggle, so that we may glorify Your name, make Your name known to the world, see others saved, and experience the blessings of Your salvation together. In Jesus’ name, Amen.