One of the Bible’s classic texts on spiritual warfare is that of Ephesians 6:10-18, which outlines the armour available to every Christian. What is often missed, however, is the intentionality of the courageous stand that needs to be taken in the face of adversity when we least feel like being proactive. That stand is threefold and essential for every person who has responded to God’s offer of salvation. It helps us legally access spiritual victory and the promises that the Bible offers to God’s children.
1. We stand in the Lord.
The sense of this phrase in verse 10 is of being clothed in our identity. Our standing is in having our identity wrapped up in Christ. We are thereby made new in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). We therefore bear His Name just as a child carries the name, reputation and honour of his dad.
A policeman similarly takes a stand against a criminal or against oncoming traffic. He carries the authority of the state, but needs to exercise it, while knowing that he can’t overcome in his own strength.
We often don’t feel like taking this course of action, but the life of faith is not based in feelings (2 Corinthians 5:7), only in the certainty of God’s truth (Romans 10:17) which becomes the substance of what we hope for and the evidence of what we do not yet see (Hebrews 11:1).
2. We stand against the Devil.
To withstand him requires intent, but the original word resembles ‘antihistamine’ and speaks of opposing him, not just weathering a storm. Just as we oppose a cold with an antihistamine medication, rather than sneeze for days, we similarly exercise our spiritual victory on purpose.
The fight is against the devil and his forces, rather than people through whom he works, according to verse 12. We can all too easily presume our enemies to be individuals, whereas any of us can potentially be used (usually unwittingly) to needle, offend or otherwise oppose, when it is actually the devil who seeks to manipulate circumstances and emotions to his advantage.
Most of the spiritual weapons in the Christian’s arsenal are defensive and likened to Roman armour.
The belt of truth alludes to Isaiah 11:5 incorporating the foundation of our right-standing with God, without which we are not dressed for battle and are ‘caught with our pants down.’
The breastplate of righteousness alludes to Isaiah 59:17 and its covering over our heart speaks of the devil’s inability to fatally wound us if our heart is surrendered to Christ in whom Acts 17:28 says we live and move and have our being.
The helmet of salvation is the covering for a mind that needs its thoughts renewed in light of being born again (Romans 12:2).
The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon by which we can go on the front foot in a spiritual counterattack. Just as 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 indicates, Scriptural truth defeats strongholds of the mind, the lies which we or others might be inclined to embrace, as we quote the words of Scripture as our sure promise of God’s breakthrough. We need, however, to know them well so that we are well placed to use them in the heat of battle, just as Jesus did in dealing with His wilderness temptation (Matthew 4, Luke 4).
3. We stand up with prayer
“All kinds of prayer” may be prayed in the Spirit, just as Jude 20 also encourages. This needs us to stand in godly persistence and determination in the hour of trouble.
Such prayer is not restricted to tongues, but surely includes it as the prayer language Paul wanted everyone to have (1 Corinthians 14:5) and which is spoken to God (1 Corinthians 14:2). After all, many prayers are often mere attempts to desperately implore God to help. Prayers of boldness, praise, faith and petition are all grounded in Scriptural support and the prayer Paul asks for here should also include all these. Prayer is persistent and foundational to any attempt to wage spiritual warfare. The sense here is that the battle is pointless unless bathed in our prayerfulness.
So, just when we might feel like needing a ‘stand in,’ we are nevertheless called to a fight that asks us to ‘stand up.’ We resolve to stand in our authority as children of God and against our adversary who looks to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10) knowing that our circumstances are subject to change.
We might argue that the fight was already won on that first Easter morning when Christ conquered death and that we therefore don’t need to do anything. In reality, the victory of the Cross actually empowers any Christian to take authority with relative ease because we are merely taking possession of what is rightfully won for us because of the Cross. In effect, the war was won, but the territory still has to be taken.
When we confess Christ as Lord and live in His power, we simply resist the devil’s attempts to afflict us in ways that are contrary to God’s intention to bless and provide for us. Therefore, spiritual victories are available by purposefully exercising the authority already vested in us by our relationship with God through Jesus.