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"Relationships: A Matter of Spiritual Warfare
Pt. 8"

Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. (ESV)

In this series we have considered the fact that unbiblical speculation over spiritual warfare results in ignorance concerning the real issues, such as relationships. We have examined the theme of unity in the book of Ephesians. Through redemption, God is restoring relationships lost in the fall, despite the enemy’s efforts to maintain chaos by promoting division and strife. We have given attention to properly preparing for unity and the maintenance of God’s divine order for relationships. The greatest testing ground for the Christian’s obedience in these relational spheres is the environment of the home and work. Unity and harmony are fostered when husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters prefer one another in the fear of the Lord. Upon completing these familial instructions, Paul immediately moves to the issue of spiritual warfare. This natural transition underscores the fact that the domestic sphere is a favorite target of the enemy. We will conclude our look at spiritual warfare in the book of Ephesians by considering the particulars of battle described by Paul in chapter six.

Know Your Enemy

Perhaps the greatest strategy the enemy employs is to deceptively divert God’s people from identifying the real enemy. There is good reason why the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians that their struggle is not against flesh and blood. If the devil can make a Christian believe that his spouse, or his children, or his brothers and sisters in Christ are his enemies, he can then continue his work, unhampered and undetected. In Shakespeare’s “Othello,” Lieutenant Lago goes from person to person planting seeds of suspicion. He sneaks about, whispering in peoples’ ears, filling their heads with half-truths, and suggesting plausible but inaccurate scenarios. He is the real enemy. However, his well-planned schemes cause each person to suspect everyone else – everyone else, of course, except Lieutenant Lago. His deception allows him to move about freely, with anonymity, destroying relationships at will. This is the modus operandi of the devil. As a deceiver, he is perfectly happy to remain behind the scenes, carrying out his destructive work, undetected.

The Apostle does not want the Ephesians to be ignorant of this fact. The human beings with whom we struggle in relationship are not our enemies. If the devil can incite us to wage war against one another, he can continue his destructive work. When we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult relationship, we would do well to remind ourselves of this very fact. Despite the way things might appear, we must remember Paul’s words of divine revelation. My real opponent is not that person in the body of Christ who tries my patience and broadcasts misinformation about me. My spouse is not my adversary. My parents are not my antagonists. My children are not my rivals. My boss is not my foe. My employees are not my contenders. In other words, my struggle is not with flesh and blood but principalities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. We must remember that the only objective of these spiritual forces of wickedness is to oppose the purpose of God. We must not allow the enemy to destroy those relationships that God has designed for His glory.

Standing Our Ground

An intriguing feature of this spiritual warfare is that it is defensive. Too often, spiritual warfare is presented in terms of advancing upon enemy territory. The Christian’s only offensive movement in spiritual warfare is the proclamation of the Gospel. The glorious word of God’s salvation peels back the darkness of Satan’s deception and brings the gracious light of redemption to a world of sin and rebellion. However, the context of Ephesians is quite different. Here, the Christian is not presented as marching into battle to take enemy territory. There is good reason for this. In the arena of true unity, there is nothing in enemy territory to take. Division, strife, and isolation characterize the darkness. We are the only ones in possession of something worth having. In Christ, we have the high ground. It is the devil who would like to see us moved from that glorious position to join him in the murky world of disunity. Hence, we have Paul’s admonition to stand against the assaults of the enemy.

In keeping with this concept of standing one’s ground, the armor of God is completely defensive. It is designed to equip Christians for holding our territory. In this context, even the sword of the Spirit is employed defensively. When Jesus faced the assaults of the enemy during the wilderness temptations, He used the Word of God for defensive maneuvers. In other words, Jesus never attacked Satan; He used the sword of God’s Word to reverse the thrust of the devil’s attempted blows. Of course, this is what caused the enemy to retreat. Christ effectively defended His ground. This is much the case in the context of Ephesians. The Word of God becomes our most effective weapon for finally and decisively ending the onslaught. The rest of the armor is the supportive foundation that enables us to utilize the sword effectively.

The qualities that comprise the armor of God provide us with a good sense of what it means to stand our ground. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the work of the Spirit must characterize our lives if we hope to withstand the enemy’s assaults. Of course, these qualities also rule out a false unity. There is no true unity in the compromise of truth, integrity, or godly character, even if such things are conceded in the name of peace. God is not calling His people to unity at all costs. Such a supposed concord is a farce. It has no depth, strength, or integrity. Therefore, the unity for which the Christian stands is a unity defined by the Word of God. It is a harmony consistent with His righteousness. Notice how the book of Ephesians describes proper attempts at maintaining the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The Christian must set aside all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice, and rebellion against authority. These are the tools of the enemy. However, we must not set aside godliness, truth, or righteousness. To do so would be playing into the hands of the enemy. Satan would be just as pleased with a charade of unity as he would with Christians at each other’s throats. Either way, he has made momentary mockery of God’s divine purpose. In this warfare, the Christian must never give up the standard of God’s truth but rather his own pride, selfishness, and vanity.


After the fall of humanity, true unity became a virtual impossibility. However, the book of Ephesians joyously declares that unity is the divine purpose of God. Through God’s gift of salvation this unity will most certainly be realized in the lives of the redeemed. While the schemes of the devil are aimed at destroying this unity, we will ultimately prevail through the power of God’s Spirit.

In resisting the schemes of the enemy we must remember God’s design. The wiles of the devil are devised according to the illegitimate exercise of power. He was a dissenter from the beginning. Though he had the ability to rebel against God, he did not have the right to do so.

Though he had the power to tyrannize human beings, he did not have the right. Likewise, he will tempt God’s people to rebel and tyrannize. When wives, children, and employees find themselves tempted to rebel, they should remember that, although they may have the ability, they do not have the right. On the same token, when husbands, parents, and employers are tempted to tyrannize, they must remember that, although they may have the power to do so, they do not have the right. When we disregard God’s purpose, we are succumbing to the wiles of the ruler of this present evil age. God forbid that His children be found accomplices in spoiling the unity that He is working out in redemption. Rather, we must commit ourselves to standing against the schemes of the enemy, having been strengthened in the Lord and in the power of His might.

- Stan McGehee Jr