When we look at any successful army operation, one of the key factors for success is the intelligence reports one has. If the army is fully aware of where the terrorist camps are and have all the logistical details, then it is easy to plan a surgical strike and destroy the enemy.
A thorough knowledge of the enemy is essential in order to win a war and to defend oneself. It is the same principle in the spiritual arena as well. A thorough knowledge of the enemy is essential in order to overcome the attacks of the evil one.
If we underestimate the enemy and we see no need for God’s armour then we will be quickly defeated and destroyed. One of the key weapons used in the war with Satan is prayer, persevering prayer. Just like the military intelligence is important to win a war, so also preparation in fervent and persevering prayer is important in the spiritual warfare.
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is encouraging the Christians to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. He encourages the Ephesian Christians to put on the whole armour of God, so that they can stand against the devil’s schemes. Paul brings to mind that our real fight is not against flesh and blood but against the demonic, against Satan and all the principalities and powers.
In order to understand the enemy that we are up against, we need to remember that he is a powerful enemy. In fact, Satan is called by Jesus himself as the ‘Ruler of this world’. (John 12:31) and John’s statement shows that ‘The whole world is in the power of the evil one’ (1 John 5:19).
These texts do not negate the decisive conquest of the principalities and the powers by Jesus on the cross, but indicate that the devil and his army are usurpers and have not yet been destroyed completely. The devil is powerful and can do signs and wonders. Witchcraft, jadu, tona, voodoo, tantriks and occult are all real forces of darkness which have power to affect people. As followers of Jesus we may encounter people who have been affected with such spirits and we can only drive them out when we persevere in prayer.
The second thing about these evil powers is that they are wicked. The devil and his forces use their power to destroy people. These forces of darkness have no moral principles, no honour code and will use ruthless means to attack people.
Thirdly, Paul also reminds us that these forces of darkness are cunning which shows a combination of tactical shrewdness and ingenious deception. They pretend to be like an angel of light. No wonder he is called the ‘ancient serpent’ who seduces us into compromise and deceives us into error rather than attacking us openly.
Paul then goes on to tell us how to be prepared to combat these forces of darkness. He suggests putting on six items of spiritual armour to stand firm against the devil. Firstly, the belt of truth. Satan does not like truth.
Deceitfulness and falsehood are all the very fingerprints of Satan. What Satan hates is the truth and therefore truth is important for the believers. The second thing that he tells us to put on is the breastplate of righteousness. This righteousness comes from being in a right relationship with God. We are also called to live a morally upright life.
Cultivating truth is a way to overthrow the devil’s deceits and to cultivate righteousness is the way to resist his temptations.
Thirdly, he says ‘Put on shoes that will be ready to proclaim the gospel’. In other words, Paul is telling the believers to testify to others about the good news of Jesus Christ which in turn will strengthen our own faith.
Fourthly, he asks us to take the shield of faith to quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. When we do this, God himself is a shield for us. Faith takes hold of the promises of God and helps us to overcome those attacks.
Fifthly, he asks us to put on the helmet of salvation. Forgiveness, deliverance from Satan’s bondages, adoption into God’s family will help us to stand firm.
Finally, he says to put on the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. The Holy Spirit can only operate according to the Word of God and therefore, we are to soak ourselves in knowing God’s word.
All this has to be soaked in prayer. We see that in the next three verses Paul uses the word ‘Prayer’ three times. It is essential for us to persevere in prayer in order to bring about change in our own life and in the life of our church and in the lives of others. May God truly help us to persevere in prayer.
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