10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Coming to faith in Christ is to be understood as entering every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), but it is also the commencement of a great struggle with Satan. Let those who would dwell on the blessings of our faith also take note of the battle in which we have entered and which we must wage in His strength.
The Church is engaged in a spiritual war, and its enemy is Satan and a host of unseen angelic and celestial enemies whose power vastly exceeds our own. With a few exceptions, our enemies remain invisible to our eyes, but they nevertheless are real, and so is their opposition. These celestial enemies seem to have various forms (rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness, spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places). We dare not underestimate our enemy, “who prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).”
Paul’s focus here is not on every aspect of Satan’s opposition to God and humanity, but on his war with the Church. But he also wants us to know of the defenses that God has provided for us. Satan employs a variety of strategies to oppose and to defeat us. At present, Satan’s opposition against the Church is not a frontal attack, but a subversive attack through intrigue, deception, and trickery. Our defense is putting on “all of God’s armor” in this spiritual war, which means putting on Christ (Romans 13:11-14).
Our armor must be complete. We cannot pick and choose our armor; we must put all of it on or we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Our duty is not to attack Satan, or to defeat him, but rather to withstand his attacks. Our task is defensive, not offensive. Those who would attack Satan do not understand Satan’s power, or God’s plan. Our duty is to resist Satan, not to remove him. We are to stand (be still) because God is the One who wins the battle.
Satan’s defeat was accomplished through Christ’s passion and resurrection. Our defenses are also directly tied to the Gospel—truth, righteousness, the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the word of God. Our deliverance from Satan’s power and our defense from his subsequent attacks are found in Christ. To know the armor God has provided is to know the ways that Satan will seek our downfall:
• Our victory over Satan is sometimes won in what looks like our defeat and his success. When Jesus died on the cross, it looked very much like Satan had won. But with His apparent defeat—and Satan’s apparent victory—the Savior brought about our salvation.
• Satan’s opposition is to be found in that which seems natural and even human. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to doubt God’s goodness and to disobey His Word. His opposition to Job was evident in the form of natural disaster and human illness, as was the case with Paul (II Corinthians 12:7). His temptation of David was an appeal to his pride (I Chronicles 21:1). We should stop looking for the stupendous and be careful of the natural, subtle opposition that Satan will bring about.
• Satan’s opposition is often through other means, which we might not recognize as being satanically inspired. Usually, he prefers to utilize other instruments—the world, the flesh—so that we don’t recognize who is opposing us. When we serve our own interests and seek the satisfaction of our fleshly desires, Satan gladly accepts our indirect submission to him.
• Satan’s opposition is the outworking of his rebellion and distorted perception. Satan tempts us to worship God for what God gives rather than who God is. Satan cannot think of God as our Reward, but only as the Rewarder of those who do His bidding. Satan tempts those in power by appealing to their pride and ambition. Satan tempts those under authority to act independently. Satan urges us to shun self-sacrifice.
• Satan is a defeated foe, but his complete demise is yet future.
• Satan’s present opposition to the people and purposes of God appears to be detrimental to the Church, but in reality, Satan is furthering God’s purpose and plan for creation. Though we may not always understand, there is not one thing that Satan is allowed to do which does not promote God’s purposes, His glory, and our good. The outcome of the spiritual war between Satan and God is certain. The struggle is a part of God’s eternal plan. And standing against his attacks in the strength of the full armor of God is our duty.
13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
Consider each of these weapons at our disposal:
• Truth refers both to the objective truth that God has revealed in His Word and to the truthfulness that must characterize us as believers. We must put on the core truths of the Gospel—that our salvation is achieved through no merit of ours, but solely by virtue of the substitution work of Christ; we must put on truthful behavior—honesty, sincerity, service.
• Righteousness is the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Our eternal life does not depend on our sinless behavior or perfect track record. We rest in the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness credited to our account. We must also put on the armor of an obedient life.
• Peace. First, it brings us peace with God. Formerly, we were alienated from God because of our sin, “having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).” But the cross of Christ reconciled us to God, so that now we have access to Him. We cannot fight the evil one unless we have God’s peace in our hearts because we are reconciled to Him through the blood of Christ. The Gospel also brings us peace with one another. The battle against Satan is not just individual; it also is corporate. He is trying to destroy the Church by creating division and strife over personality clashes or non-essential doctrinal fights.
• Faith. This requires an active trust in God—knowing, believing and acting upon His promises. That faith is called a shield implies that it provides protection for us against the various attacks that Satan will bring to bear against us. Thus, when we take up the shield of faith in our trials and temptations, we learn in a deeper way to savor the sweetness and all-sufficiency of Christ for our souls.
• Salvation. This implies that the Christian mind is a regenerated mind, one where we have been disciplined to hear and heed the voice of Christ above all others.
• God’s Word. God use His Word to save sinners, to edify saints, to equip us for every good deed. Defensively, we are to use the Word to ward off the temptations and attacks of the enemy. Offensively, we are to use the Word to proclaim, instruct and counsel.
• Prayer. We fight for God by disciplining ourselves to regularly communicate in prayer—for wisdom, insight, strength, the needs of others (intercession), etc.