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"Relationships: A Matter of Spiritual Warfare
Pt. 7"

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’ve established how unbiblical speculation about spiritual warfare often diverts Christians from the real battles such as those concerning relationships. We’ve examined the theme of unity in Ephesians. Through redemption, God is restoring the unity of relationships lost in the fall, despite the enemy’s efforts to maintain chaos by promoting division and strife. We’ve considered the importance of unity and maintaining God’s divine order for relationships which requires the Christian to be controlled by the Spirit. Living according to the Spirit enables the church to live a life of worship and promote the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” through mutual submission. The greatest testing ground for the Christian’s obedience in these relational spheres is the environment of the home and work. Within the body of Christ, 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 emphasizes the fact that the domestic sphere is a favorite target of the enemy. We will now turn our attention to the particulars of battle described by Paul in chapter six.

The Enemy’s Objective

Following detailed admonitions concerning relationships within the body of Christ, the Apostle Paul calls for the Ephesians to take their stand against the schemes of the enemy. The context is very fluid. Without changing subjects, he issues a summons for Christians to be on alert. There is a very real war being waged. But, contrary to popular opinion among many evangelicals, this warfare is not about physical health or material wealth or even personal happiness. What is the enemy’s objective? Why are we to be on alert? Where is the front line in this theater of war? The enemy launches his assaults against the unity of God’s people. His goal is to bring division and disharmony within the body of Christ. And where does he concentrate the bulk of his efforts? On the specific relationships Paul has just outlined. Marriage, the family, and the workplace are all fundamental relationships. This is the arena in which we spend most of our time. Regrettably, these relational spheres are often the scenes of intense conflict. Because they occupy so much of our time and are characterized by unique intimacies, these relationships are particularly vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. Therefore, the Apostle Paul finds it necessary to remind us that there is indeed an enemy and He does have a plan of attack.

As the redeemed of God with a divine destiny, we must be prepared to withstand the enemy’s attempts to thwart God’s good purpose. If the principalities and powers of this present evil age can effectively undermine the relationships of God’s people, the unity of the community of faith will collapse. Of course, such attacks cannot prevent God’s purpose of unity from ultimately prevailing. Although the enemy may occasionally succeed in causing some of God’s people to move away from the present expression of their high calling, the redeemed of the Lord will eventually be conformed to the image of Christ. This is God’s work and He will finish it (cf. Philippians 1:6). However, the scriptural teachings concerning chastening should remind the Christian that it is far more pleasant to actively pursue God’s purpose than to suffer avoidable correction. Therefore, it behooves the child of God to remember the dynamics at work in the sphere of his relationships. The next time harmony and accord are threatened, particularly among the body of Christ, and especially within in one’s marriage and home, we should remember that there is an enemy and he has a very specific objective. While God is at work restoring peace among His people, the enemy continues his attempts to thwart that divine purpose.

A Well-Planned Attack

Christians are admonished to “stand against the devil’s schemes.” Paul’s use of terminology is very telling. The word “scheme” is a translation of the Greek word “methodeia” (from which we get our word method). In English, “method” generally carries a good connotation. It may be used in a bad sense only if directly qualified by the context. However, in the Greek, the term carries a definite negative connotation. It denotes cunning, deceit, and trickery. The King James Version captures the sense of this with the word “wiles.” The devil’s attacks upon God’s people are not random and arbitrary. His assaults are not driven by spontaneous and impromptu impulses. Sadly, such “off the cuff” responses are far more characteristic of Christians than their enemy. The devil’s onslaught against the church is calculated and methodic. His schemes are always well planned, subtle, and even intricate. If a Christian is lethargic and apathetic – if he is living haphazardly – he will find himself blindsided by the wiles of the enemy.

These planned assaults are so subtle and cunning that many Christians are not even aware when they have succumbed to the schemes of the enemy. For example, too often, Christians find themselves in situations where an unkind word or a misunderstood gesture flames into erroneous assumptions, overactive speculations, or inordinate suspicions. The offended party – the one who believes himself to have been wronged – begins to play the martyr and indulge in self-pity. Before you know it, this person becomes convinced that his or her perspective is objectively true even though, in reality, it is nothing more than an interpretation of outward actions. In other words, he begins to reject any possibility that he has misperceived the intentions, motivations, and actions of his offender. This person soon becomes intolerant of the “offending party.” Before long, the one who has inflicted the supposed wrong cannot do anything right or say anything that is correct in the eyes of the “victim.” The “offended party” has prejudged this person. Under such circumstances, any words spoken are likely to escalate into heated arguments. Dissension, division, and bitterness always characterize such ruptured relationships. Where is the forgiveness and forbearance that is supposed to exemplify the Christian life? The “offended party” is certainly not following the biblical admonition to consider the other person before himself. Throughout such episodes, the enemy has no doubt been fanning the flames of selfishness and pride. A well-timed suggestion or an interpretative thought, which the devil may inject into the mind, can easily transform an innocent situation into a major source of contention. Yet, under such circumstances, most Christians do not realize that they have been hoodwinked by the deceiver.


There are many ways in which the enemy may assault a Christian relationship. In order to destroy a marriage, he might provide a temptation for infidelity. To drive a wedge between parents and children, he might use peer pressure to encourage rebellion in teenagers. To split a church, he might incite jealousy and self-righteousness to isolate one group from another. There are countless ploys the enemy may utilize as he wages war against the people of God. The important thing is to remember is that he uses such cunning battle tactics.

Next month we will conclude our consideration of spiritual warfare in the book of Ephesians by considering how Paul would have us prepare for such conflict.

- Stan McGehee Jr