The Epistle to the Ephesians
Conflict In Heavenly Places
(Chapter VI: 10-17)
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the ruler of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak” (6:10-20).
We are now nearing a place in our meditations where it may be well to remember that Scripture describes Christians in various aspects. In one place they are informed that Paul uses his Roman citizenship for protection from torture; in another that their citizenship is in Heaven (Acts 22:25; Phil. 3:20). Sometimes Christians are portrayed as strangers and pilgrims, sometimes as seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The Apostle tells the men how to pray everywhere, and the women how to dress (1 Tim. 2:8-10); but says also: “There is… neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Each of these views is regarded abstractly, as confined to the subject in hand, and must be given its force in its own setting; but their consideration is necessary if there is to be intelligent behaviour in the fear of God.
War: In the section of our Epistle which is now immediately before us, we are to consider the waging of war by a people seated “together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). They are to take a “stand” for this position and all that it involves. Actually they are upon the earth in bodies not yet adapted to Heaven, but their position is in Christ Jesus representatively in the heavenlies; they are to understand what this means and, as a heavenly people upon earth, to maintain present testimony to their heavenly position in Christ Jesus. The devil’s chief business will be to destroy appreciation and maintenance of this in practical life. Their business is to “stand.”
When Israel entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, they found enemies before them in the land who resisted their endeavor to occupy the inheritance granted them. So it is now, only that our conflict is not with flesh and blood as was theirs, it is against wicked spirits. Hence we are to “put on the whole armour of God,” leaving no exposed part to the enemy. In ourselves there is no power of resistance to assault, but our Lord tells us that His strength is perfected in weakness. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe” (Pro. 18:10). We cannot resist the enemy in our own name; but when he meets Christ in us, he flees.
Our Enemies: We wrestle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The devil has an army equipped in all the devices of diabolism used in the battles of ages, led by chiefs seasoned in warfare, and who carry out the plans of their commander in chief. We are made aware of this however: that although the devil was flushed with the victories of forty centuries when he met Christ, he met his Master then. One who by death “having spoiled principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). The organization of evil has suffered irreparable defeat, and its leader has been annulled by Him who came to “destroy the works of the devil” (Heb. 2:14), and deliver those “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15).
The Enemy’s Tractics: They are called the “wiles of the devil.” Aware that he had been defeated in the battle of the ages, he now has recourse to artifice rather than to that of attack as a “roaring lion,” as was his method in the persecutions that made the blood of the martyrs “the seed of the Church.” He tried that method in Russia, but it worked as of old. He is now handling some things in that country differently, but he is at work just the same. At least artifice is his method in the conflict immediately before us. Thus as located in heavenly places he would take advantage of our actual location on earth while we maintain our heavenly position in Christ, by using against us “the darkness of this world,” so that its encroachments might bring drowsniness and sleep upon us, and thus rob us of interest in heavenly things, and the energy for heavenly conflict. It is by such tactics he puts many out of action, reducing them to helplessness by worldliness. Therefore the caution: “Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.” Broadly speaking the entire period of our sojourn upon earth may be called the evil day, but considered in respect of the conflict in question, the occasion of each planned attack upon us is “the evil day” we are warned about. However if we put on the armour provided us, “having done all,” we shall be found standing after an attack has spent its fury, instead of being overcome by the wiles of the devil.