In Ephesians 6:10–13, Paul writes: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
Our temptations and trials are not just that. Rather, they are battles. We are at war.
I write these words in 2010. For the past eight years, the United States’ military has been engaged against combatants in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the nature of its battles has changed, so have the arms used to fight them. In Afghanistan, special operations forces at first waged war against the Taliban on horseback. Now they use Predator drones. In the first part of the war in Iraq, the Army and Marines used tanks and heavy artillery. Later, in response to the enemy’s use of guerilla tactics, American forces engaged in counterinsurgency tactics, including cordoning off entire neighborhoods and conducting house-to-house searches. In both cases, the identity of the enemy and the nature of the battle determined the kind of weapons and tactics to be used.
The same military principle holds true when it comes to spiritual warfare. Who is our enemy? It is not “flesh and blood”—people like us, in other words. No, in a sense, all people (whether they have come to faith or not) are captives of a malevolent power from whose grip the Lord would deliver us (Gal. 3:22). That powerful enemy is the devil.
We live in a scientific age in which belief in the existence of demons is considered as reasonable as belief in the Tooth Fairy. Apropos of that skepticism, C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
Instead of making a case for the identity of the enemy, I want to touch on the nature of the battle. The devil’s tactics consist of deception and distortion. Remember how the snake tempted Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1–7), and you get a glimpse of how the devil makes war on us all. First, he deceives us about God’s commandment (“You will not surely die…”), then he distorts God’s motivation (“For God knows that when you eat of it…you will be like God”), as if God were jealous in a petty way.
The only way to fight deception and distortion is with discernment. For such discernment, we need to don “the full armor of God.” More on that tomorrow.
Andreas J. Köstenberger and Michael J. Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Shaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway: 2010). $17.99, 256 pages.
In this book, Andreas J. Kostenberger and Michael J. Kruger refute the “Bauer thesis,” namely, that “there was no ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘heresy’ at the inception of Christianity but only diversity.” Instead, they demonstrate that orthodoxy was original and normative, while heresy was late and counterfeit. To read my complete review, click here. If you’d like to purchase the book, click on either the picture or the link above.