“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NASB95)
Prior to this section in chapter 6 of Ephesians Paul had written about the key areas of life in which we tend to have conflict. In writing about them he gave us a better perspective and a way to respond when conflict arises. Now he writes about what lies beneath many of these conflicts. When the effort to be at peace with the world and to walk as one in Christ with other believers seems to hit a wall, he tells us that our struggle with them lies deeper than what we can see.
We read that our enemy is not flesh and blood. So, if it is not our spouse, our child or parent, our boss or an employee, our President or a foreign terrorist, an elder in the church or someone in a small group or on a ministry team, then who is it? If the battle is not where we can see it and wrap our hands around it to bring it to an end, then where is the battle and what are we supposed to do in response?
Paul goes on to tell us that our enemy is an unseen one, and in order to stand we need armor that is effective in that realm. We read that our real battle is wrestling against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
We’ve already seen in Scripture that those who are not saved are children of their father the devil. They are slaves to sin, and they are subject to his influences without seeing the light of God. Looking at them it is easy to see that they are following the marching orders of the only general they know. And looking at it in a military way our real enemy is not the soldiers but the general who commands them. Sure, when it comes to conflict and war we engage the soldiers, but the reality is they are doing what they know. They literally are moved by forces they do not see, and the only way to fight them is through the power which God supplies. It is Him who strengthens us, and it is Him who turns their hearts.
This is easy to grasp of these obvious enemies, but what about those we love? What about those who carry the same label as “Christian?” What about those whose Lord is Christ? Each of us has areas of our lives in which we struggle, in which we do not fully submit to and follow after God. Each of us has rough areas that need to be cleaned up and which need to be reshaped into our new identity in Christ. As Christians we even hold some varying theological positions. It is in the previous chapters of letters like this one which tell us how to walk with one another with Christ. God’s Word really does tell us how to live with those who aren’t easy to live with at times.
But we should never be deceived into thinking that the battle is something we can muscle through on our own. We are engaged in a spiritual battle with spiritual forces that are extremely dark and destructive, and the only path to victory is in the power of the One who is light and infinitely righteous.