We hear often enough in Christian circles that our battle is not against flesh and blood, drawing from the passage in Ephesians 6. Yet, so far as I can recall, men and women and children throughout history have been persecuted, maimed, beaten, tortured, and killed by flesh and blood, right?
If your own dad raped you, that feels like flesh and blood, doesn’t it…
If your own government locks you down, restricts and gaslights you, that sure looks like flesh and blood, doesn’t it…
If your friends shun you for your beliefs, that leaves the same sting across your cheek as a flesh and blood hand, doesn’t it…
Of course, it does. It most certainly does. And you see now the challenge of this passage and the Christian lifestyle: Our enemies work through flesh and blood, even as God also works through flesh and blood — does He not?
So, if our battle – our war – our fight – as Christians is not against flesh and blood, then what? Who are we fighting – or, rather, are we fighting at all?
In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might.
Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.Ephesians 6:10-12 AMP
If our battle is against the schemes, strategies, and deceits of the devil, against rulers, powers, and forces of darkness and wickedness in heavenly places (over our heads), then how do we fight?
Do you fight these spiritual things? Or do you hardly believe these really exist?
That’s a shocking thing to say to a Christian, but there’s a notary in my mind that has witnessed such belief; that is to say, that many don’t believe. Not really. Most believe more in the traditions of man than in a heavenly war overhead.
But you go ahead – break that glass ceiling of fruitless talk about taxes, earthly status, which festivals to celebrate, and how we can save the world, with talk of a spiritual war, devilish schemes overhead and behind all fleshly oppressors, and wicked spiritual rulers (there being a hierarchy among such beings, of course), and see how fast people stop talking to you…
Nah don’t. That’s what you have me for…
Just kidding. Although, if you want to forward this blog post rather than having that discussion with a family member, feel free. It is difficult to disillusion someone to their face; I can’t hardly do it myself…
So, what to do about this battle? Let’s keep reading.
Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].
So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news].
Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.Ephesians 6:13-17 AMP
My husband pointed out that the helmet of salvation is separate from the breastplate of righteousness. That’s interesting, isn’t it. Still, without your breastplate of righteousness, you are super exposed: your heart and lungs are at risk…
If that particular verse can be expounded upon as “an upright heart”, as the Amplified Version puts it, then are we talking about “faith without works is dead” here and not Christ’s righteousness imputed for salvation? Something to consider.
If it does refer to the works produced by faith, the works He established for us to do from the beginning, then living outside of your breastplate of righteousness is a very, VERY, very dangerous place to be.
As simple as it seems, this passage reminds us that armor is necessary for entering battle – something true of any war, right? But this armor is not the armor the world gives. This armor is not your personal boundaries, your self-help slay-isms, your guide to worldly etiquette, or the street savvy you’ve earned.
Well, no manner of hoarding, knowing, or physical restraining will stop what battles overhead or what God has decreed, beginning to end. The flesh is of no use here.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.John 6:63 ESV
The belt of truth (integrity, courage) keeps you from being exposed – from parading like the Emperor with no clothes. (You know, that place where you think you’re cool but everyone else sees that you’re so very not? That’s it: the place of no belt of truth.) That’s what belts do: keep things in place. Our integrity, our truth-telling, likewise keeps us from embarrassing and tarnishing reputations (our own). Our witness may only be as good as our belt of truth is tight and locked in.
I enjoy that the Amplified uses the word “readiness” in describing our feet with the Gospel of peace. It reminds me of this verse:
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV
And this one:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Romans 12:18 ESV
We’re not here to start the war, after all; we’re already in one. So, “if possible” (and sometimes it’s not), shine those shoes… or muddy them boots… whichever metaphor suits your calling in Christ.
The shield of faith,
the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God).
Okay, saints, this is like tier 1.
If you can’t get your righteous works, integrity, and defense of the Gospel in tact, you’ve got to at least have these three on to stand against the devil in this war. He is a preying lion who shows no mercy; these three – above all – are your spiritual chainmail. I would go so far as to say that if any one of these three are missing, then you are lost kitty meat in terms of the spiritual battle we all face on earth.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
“The Lord has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14).
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God” (John 1).
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
Like I said, these are tier 1, must-haves. In a sense, these three describe what we inherit through salvation in Christ, whereas the first three should describe some fruits of that salvation (uprightness, integrity, and peace/Gospel readiness).
But the last part of this passage is, I think, what many of us find more difficult – the actual work of the ‘struggle’:
With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.Ephesians 6:18 AMP
Eyeyeye. How many times have we all heard someone say, “Yeah, but at some point you have to DO something. You can’t just pray…”
You’ve heard that?
I’ve heard that.
All God’s loving children have heard that.
There’s a measure of truth in it…
However, I think the real problem today is that very few of us are actually praying…
“at all times”? …
“in the Spirit”?….
Okay then, saints. We all have our homework assignment, right?
Maybe, just maybe, that’s the real fight – and it has a lot more to do with keeping us standing than with changing the world. (Spoiler: Only God can do that!)