This sermon is number 28 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 28: The Holy War Part 1
"The Christian Warrior's Brief"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
That was good singing to begin our Bible Reading this year - and this is the first Bible Reading of the New Year, and let me welcome you to it. We're continuing in the book of Ephesians, starting a new sub-series tonight on 'The Holy War' - looking at the armour of God in Ephesians chapter 6. Thank you for coming, especially if you're a visitor - perhaps it's your first time - we make you welcome and trust that the Lord blesses you around His own precious word.
We're turning to Ephesians chapter 6, the last chapter of this little book, Ephesians 6. As I have said, we are entering into another sub-series - we had a sub-series looking at 'Christ In The Home', and the influence of the Christian faith and the Lord Jesus Christ within the home, with regards to the wives, husbands, sons and daughters. Then we looked at how it infiltrates into the very workplace in the world, where Christians are put by God to be a witness - and that was a series in itself in this book. Here we enter another, and I've entitled it: 'The Holy War' - and indeed, this is perhaps the most famous passage within the whole of the book of Ephesians. It deals with the Christian armour, and we won't even have time tonight to deal with that specifically, but we will be dealing with the whole of the Christian armour in the weeks that lie ahead.
But what I want us to do tonight is look at 'The Christian Warrior's Brief'. Any army, or any individual soldier who goes into battle, by his superiors are usually given a brief: what their aim is, what their operation and the strategy of it is, with a view to victory. No soldier goes onto the battlefield intending to be defeated - or very few ought to anyway. So we look at the brief that God has given to His own divine warriors in Christ, the Christian soldiers that we've already been singing about.
So, let us read this passage of scripture tonight, that we'll be studying in the weeks that lie ahead. We'll begin reading in verse 10, where we left off just after verse 9 - and here's the final message and conclusion from Paul the apostle. You remember, the first half of this book has been dealing with the doctrinal things, the things - spiritually speaking - that we are blessed with in heavenly places in Christ - chapters 1 to 3. Then we saw how there's a split, we can't say it's a naked split, in that these two things are mixed together a little. But, from chapter 4 on, we look at the walk of the believer: how, practically, this doctrine or this belief behaves itself in every day life.
Now we come to an intensely practical chapter, and here is his conclusion of all this matter that he has been discussing about, of the blessings that we have in Christ: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak".
We're looking tonight at verses 10 to 12: The Christian Warrior's Brief. As I've said already, the Ephesians - after they read this letter, and get through the first five and a half chapters that we have studied already - I'm sure they are floating in the cloud of the heavenlies! They ought to be anyway, and we ought to be - looking at the blessings that we have in the heavenlies, in the Lord Jesus Christ! In chapter 1 we looked at the blessing of election, how God's free sovereign grace has chosen us unto salvation in Christ before the foundation of the world. Then in chapter 2 we looked at the wonder of salvation, how God - looking at our past in the perspective of the past - sees the ruin and the damnation and the depravity that we all had in our first state, the old man in sin and trespasses, absolutely and utterly dead. But he takes us up that mountain, and he lets us survey our past, and then he lets us survey what we have come to, how we have been quickened alive in the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life - and you have there that spiritual resurrection, and then throughout the chapter later on he goes into literal resurrection, he tells us how the power that rose the Lord Jesus from the grave, that set Him at the right hand of the Father, is the power that is available in us to live the Christian life in this world.
Then we saw the mystery of the church, and those Ephesians would have read of how God did a new thing, He created a new man, a new community and society in the Lord Jesus Christ - and that the middle wall of separation and partition has been broken down, and all nations, all cultures, creeds and colours, can be brought together in the church of Jesus Christ. There can be peace and unity! Then we saw the gifts of the church that God has given, that it may operate in the way that He has ordained. Then in recent days - chapter 5 - we have been called to walk as children of light. The whole theme of that chapter is to walk worthy of the calling wherein we are called. Then there is that great climax of being filled with the Holy Ghost of God, and if there is any secret to the Christian life surely it is that: that we be filled with all fullness of God! We learnt, practically, how that fullness of the Spirit operates in the life of a husband and in the life of a wife, and in a man and a woman in the assembly - how it operates in ordinary everyday lives, right from the assembly to the home. How children that are filled with the Holy Spirit obey their parents, how parents that are filled with the Holy Spirit do not provoke their children, but bring them up in the fear and discipline of the Lord. How it infiltrates into the workplace, we Christians are not to hang our fiddle behind the door, we are to go to the workplace and tell of Christ, and show Christ in our very lives.
So, if you like, these Ephesians - from chapters 1 to 5, and six and a half - have been lifted into the heavenlies about all the blessings and inheritance that they have in Christ. Yes, they have been challenged...but now, like a slap in the face, they are brought down to earth to a bloody, gruesome, gory battlefield. They have been sunk down to the grounds of the spiritual war, the holy war that we read about in this passage - the battlefield of the Devil. But the miracle of this book is this: the first five or so chapters, outlining all the blessings, outlining all the life of light that we are to live in the fullness of the Spirit - the message must be this: even in the battleground of the Devil, that life can be lived! That is it! 'Finally, my brethren', verse 10, because of all these things, 'be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might...and fight the good fight with all thy might'.
Surely is it not so, that if our Lord Himself - perfect, sinless, undefiled, separate from all iniquity and transgression - if He was harassed by the Devil...is the servant greater than his Master? Shall we not be on such a road as that to face the Devil and all his foes? And my question, at the very outset of our meeting tonight, to each believer in this building is this: are you in a war? Are you in the holy war of God or the alternative? - and the only alternative can be: are you in the world? War or world? Indeed, I think that many Christians live today as if they didn't have a spirit - not a soul now, the soul is the seat of your affections, the soul is your personality, the soul is who you are, distinct from the body, but the spirit is the part of you that has been given to you by God, the part that relates to God, the part that is dead in trespasses and in sins until you are regenerated by the grace of God - and when it becomes alive within you, that is the part, that is the mercy seat where the sinner meets with the Saviour and you have communion. Do you walk in this world as if you had a spirit? For this is a spiritual war.
I would say that if Christians are living the Christian life the way they ought to be, it will not be a picnic. Immediately you're saved, it's not long - if you're living the Christian life the way the Bible tells me about it - until you find the foe face-to-face in your life, and you immediately realise: 'This is a battle that I am in'. Now, there's a gospel song - and I must say, I do not like it all, it grates on me every time I hear it - some of these American singers sing it: 'Sunshine and Roses'. Now, that's not the Christian life that I read about in Ephesians chapter 6 - there are many blessings within it, I don't underestimate that, but it is certainly not all 'Sunshine and Roses'. It is a bloody battlefield, it is a terrible thing that we read about where there is so much at stake. We as Christians, we can't just be born again, we can't just have the blessing of God's forgiveness - what fool would turn that down? - but we are actually, when we trust Christ, when we are saved by the grace of God, being enlisted into the battle of the ages! And if you don't want to fight, you don't want Christ!
So many within the church today have imbibed a materialistic view of life - it is not the spiritual but it is the carnal. Materialism today is simply the philosophy that anything that is without a physical cause does not exist. This pulpit exists because a man made it, and that man was material - and a material cause had a material result. This building, everything you see around you practically - of course they deny creation totally - but if it hasn't a physical well-being at the very beginning, it doesn't exist. So, of course, materialism doesn't believe in your spirit. Materialism doesn't believe in God - but has the Christian church, and individual Christians living and breathing in a materialistic world, somehow imbibed this view in their minds? A world, and certainly now becoming a church, to whom the supernatural is a stranger! It almost doesn't exist. When men talk about the supernatural there is a question mark in the mind of many Christians, a scepticism that the supernatural must be a stranger never to be courted. But, my friend, if you're going on in the Christian life - and many of you will know what I'm talking about: going on with God - you will find, very soon, that you're standing in a horrific battlefield in the war of the ages!
If you doubt that, you only need to look at our author in this little book: where was he? He was in a prison, chained to a Roman soldier. This man Paul, if anybody knew, knew what it was to be in the holy war of God. Watchman Nee, in his famous book on the book of Ephesians, says that the Christian's experience in this little book begins with sitting - isn't that right? We are sitting in heavenly places in the Lord Jesus Christ, blessed with all spiritual blessings. He says that it then leads to walking: walk as children of light, walk in the calling wherewith ye are called. But it doesn't end there, and that is why in chapter 6 we are met with not sitting, not walking, but standing. You see, you need first of all to sit before you can stand. That's the order in the book, and that is God's order, the order the Holy Spirit has ordained within this theological treatise of how we are to live. You've got to know the blessings that you have in Christ before you can fight in this battle. You've got to come into the realisation of what Christ has done for you, and the blessings that He has bestowed on you - and then you must walk worthy of that calling before you can ever stand against the foe.
Paul calls that in this chapter: 'wrestling with wicked spirits' - wrestling! Have you ever wrestled with wicked spirits? Many people are, from day to day, attacked - God's own people - by Satanic forces, by principalities and powers, rulers in high places that we are reading about. Now we must beware, as many in this world attribute things to the Devil that we bring on ourselves. In other words, when you break a divine law, when you transgress God's commands and precepts, and the outcome is bad - don't blame the Devil, it's your own fault! Many of the things that we do that come from our own flesh, and the old man within our nature, are brought on us by ourselves and our own lust - but let me say this: do not throw the baby out with the bath water! There are people who know physical attacks, attacks on the mind, on the body - and we tonight, as we study this passage of Scripture, must take these things seriously and we must ask the question: are we helpless [against] such a foe? Can the Devil come into our lives, into the church of Jesus Christ, into our homes, can he oppress us, and are we to stand and not challenge him?
How do we fight this holy war? This holy war in which Satan is committed to knock Christians out of the battle as fast as he can. And the more you are in the battle, Christian, how do you fight it? Because the further down you get to the front line, the further you engage in the army of God, the hotter the battle becomes, and the Devil is out and out for you! He doesn't waste his ammunition on spectators...no, but he wants to get men and women in the front line of the battle.
We've said before that this little book of Ephesians reminds us of the book of Joshua, because you remember that Moses was promised that land flowing with milk and honey, and it was Joshua who was going to have to go across the Jordan and enter into the land with the people, into that blessing. Now, people have an idea, a misunderstanding, I believe in their mind - and it's sometimes because of hymnology - that Canaan is heaven. Canaan is not heaven! Dear help us if Canaan is heaven! Because, when the Israelites got into Canaan, they had to fight their way in, and all the time that they were in it - for the first few years or so - they were fighting to get all the Canaanites out. I don't want to go to a heaven like that! But Canaan speaks of the spiritual life of blessing that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ - it's ours, it's been promised by God, it is our purchased possession that the Lord Jesus Christ won for us at Calvary by His own blood. But nevertheless, there are those Canaanite-ish, demonic principalities and powers who want to withhold our blessings from us! If we are to get hold of these blessings that we have in spiritual heavenly places in Christ, all those things that we have been talking about in weeks gone by, we will have a fight on our hands! We need to realise that that old Devil takes no prisoners.
But thank God tonight that the Lord doesn't leave us on our own. He doesn't save us and give us a pat on the back and say: 'Away you go, try your best'. He gives us a brief, He tells us how this battle is to be fought, how we are to walk, how the holy war is to be won. The first thing He tells us is your first point there on the sheet: the soldier's preparation for battle. Now, we're not going to read the whole book - don't panic! - but it's everything that we've learned in the last few months as we've been studying this book. He's reminding us of the order, I believe, we must not take this chapter out of context, we must remember that Paul - the Holy Spirit through him - has been teaching us to sit in heavenly places with Christ, to walk in holiness by the power of the living God, and now he's coming to the battle: to stand. The point of the book is this: no Christian can hope to enter warfare without learning these first two things.
You can't enter the holy war without being able to rest in Christ, sure that's obvious, sure that's how you're saved: to rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His blood at Calvary. But it's more than that - in faith, as a believer, to rest in Christ, to realise the blessings that you have, and to sit down in them and enjoy them, ponder them, and let them become part of your spirit - that's what must come first! Then secondly, by the strength of the Spirit, you must follow the Lord Jesus practically in a holy life. You can't fight a battle if your hands are unholy, you cannot be on the Lord's side if, by your action and your way of life, you're on the world's side! If you're deficient in either - if you're deficient in your sitting in Christ, if you're deficient in your walking in Him - you can be sure that you'll be deficient in your standing in the battle. If you're talking about spiritual war, if you're talking about spiritual oppression or anything like that to do with the holy war, or if you look at yourself as a Christian soldier - and you're not sitting, you're not walking, and you think you're standing - it's only talk! It's only talk. You can't take it out of God's order - and let me go further and say: Satan can afford to ignore you. He can! I wonder, today, how many Christians he's ignoring - you don't bother him.
'Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees'.
Does he tremble much for you? Is he worried about you? Someone might say: 'I don't care [about] the Devil. The Devil's as faraway from my mind as I like. I'm not worried what the Devil thinks of me!'. Well, is that a scriptural way to be? I think not! Turn with me, tonight, to Acts chapter 19. If I have a spiritual desire and aspiration and dream, this is it, Acts chapter 19. I want to have my name in lights, big big letters, shining bright for all to see - in verse 13 we read this: 'Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded'. I want to have my name in lights in hell! Do you not? If you had to cast a demon out tonight, would the cry be from the spirit of that poor possessed creature: 'Paul the apostle I know, Pastor such-and-such I know, missionary on the other side of the world I know, but who are you?'. You see, that's what we're to strive for. 'I don't care what the Devil thinks of me' - you ought to! You ought to care! In a battle you ought to care how you are walking, how you are fighting - and the soldier's preparation for the battle is to sit in what Christ has done for you, to walk in a life of holiness, and then you will be able to stand and fight this battle.
Secondly, in the brief that God gives us, it is the soldier's power for the battle that you find in verse 10 of Ephesians chapter 6: 'Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might'. Now, turn with me for a moment to Jude chapter 1 - I'm going to get you to turn to a few passages of Scripture - Jude chapter 1 and we're going to read from verse 9. In the summer we studied this passage in a little more depth - but we have, in verse 9 of the only chapter in Jude, the account that we don't find anywhere within the whole of Scripture of the incident over the body of Moses. In verse 9 we read this: 'Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee'. Michael the archangel couldn't rebuke the Devil. Now, as we come to this great topic tonight, we need to remember that we are no match for Satan. Let that be grounded in your mind. Satan is extremely powerful, all you have to do is look at the book of Job and see what Satan was able to do to a man's body, see what he was able to do to his family home, to his friends, to all his wealth and livestock - wipe them out in a few days! And Satan, we need to realise, is a powerful foe!
The Lord Himself said that he came as a murderer, to rob and to kill, he is the greatest thief of all. Therefore the first command that God gives to us in the battle - engraven this in your heart - the first command is this: that if we are to fight this battle, we must be strengthened by the Lord. Verse 10: 'Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might'. I am utterly convinced, more even so in recent days, that most Christians in evangelicalism today are 'trying' to live the Christian life. Listen to that: 'trying to live the Christian life'. Maybe trying by prayer, or trying by understanding the Bible, trying by going to church, trying by witnessing to a saint everyday - many of those things are good things, but the Christian life was never meant to be 'tried'! It was never meant to be striven after! The life of Christ in you is what it is all about! It is the life of God, the might and the power of God flowing through the spirit of the individual child of God. You can't live the Christian life no matter how much you try, and you tonight who have tried know that you can't! You can't live the Christian life, and its sure that you can't fight the Devil, in fact I believe that you cannot do anything that is in this Bible - not one thing - you can't do [it] by trying.
Do you know where the Christian walk and the Christian holy war takes off? When you come to a brick wall of self and say: 'I can't do this' - that's when it starts. When you say to God: 'I can't, I can't live this life' - and I wish that a lot of us, myself included in my times of delusion, would just waken up and realise that God does not want me to live a holy Christian life, but my God wants to live His life in me! There's a difference. This is the faith that we have, it's the life of God in you, as Paul says over and over and over again, it's Christ in you, when you come to the realisation that you have a total inability to do anything for God! That's why in verse 10 it's in the literal passive imperative tense, it means this: 'Be made strong in the Lord'. Be made strong in the Lord, find your strength in Him! You need to be made strong! It's in the continuous tense: 'Be daily strengthened in the Lord'. Day by day, in all of your Christian walk, that is the secret to the Christian life - the open secret - God's life transferred to you in communion with Him!
Oh, that you would get that...oh, that I would get that: that that is how the strength of God is conferred to you, through meeting with Him, through communing with Him, through fellowshipping with Him. The preacher is powerless without it, the missionary can do nothing without it, the personal worker will never lead a soul to Christ, the Sunday School teacher will never lead a child to the cross, the office worker will never have a ministry or a witness, you'll never even have the power to do your ordinary work day by day, if you don't realise that God wants you to live His life! The book on the book stall entitled 'The Calvary Road' by Roy Hession - that's the theme of that little book that blessed me, it's this: the only life that God is pleased with is His own life. The sooner we get to realise that the better, we'll stop striving, we'll stop trying to be like other people, and we'll just try to be like God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Wasn't it Isaiah that said: 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength'? Warriors need to be waiters, that's where you'll get your strength - and you must have that strength, for that is the power of battle
Thirdly, the soldier's position for battle is found in verse 11. After you have derived that power from God, he says: 'Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil'. Now, it's this word 'stand' that I want to concentrate on. There's been 'sit', 'walk', and now 'stand'. The Greek verb 'stand' has a preposition before it, it's the word that's after it in your version in the English, 'stand against' - but in the Greek it comes before. It simply means in the Greek language: 'hold your ground' - against stand! Hold your ground, stay your ground, put your bearings down and your anchor and don't move an inch! Now this is an important truth that I want us to note tonight, for if you make a comparison, foolishly, with modern warfare to the holy war here and what the Christian warriors are taught to do - you'll make a fatal mistake! Because modern warfare has the intention, indeed the command, of invading foreign territory, of going forward. The command of modern warfare is: 'March', but that's not the command here. The command that God gives us in our war is to stand!
You see, the ground that we're standing in is not disputed by us, it's disputed by the Devil. It's our ground! We own the ground, and it's the enemy that wants it. We don't need to struggle to keep it, but we need to make sure that the Devil does not get a foothold on it. We have a foothold, we're on it! That's why it's not struggled for, that's why nearly all the weapons that you read about in the whole of the armour of God - we'll see in the weeks that lie ahead - are defensive. Every single one of them are used defensively, except the sword that can be used offensively, but you can also use a sword to defend yourself - and the whole purpose of it is to stand on the ground that God has given you. That's the difference between defensive warfare and offensive. Defensive is: 'I have got the ground, and I only seek to keep the ground'. Whereas offensive is: 'I have not got the ground, and I am fighting in order to get the ground'.
Not this war - hallelujah - my Lord Jesus Christ has won the war! He was the one who fought the offensive war, but ours is now defensive. He is the one who went into foreign territory and gained the ground and the victory over Satan. He is the one who, through the cross, carried the very fight to the threshold of hell and led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. And today, tonight in our world, and in the church of Jesus Christ, we only fight to maintain the victory! He's won it - hallelujah - it is finished, it's all done. He finished the work that God gave Him to do, and we tonight, if we're redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, are to stand in the victory already won - and God was so pleased with that work and that victory that He rose Him from the dead, and proclaimed Him Lord, and Victor, and King of kings, and Lord of lords. He gives us that ground, by faith in grace it is ours. We are not holding by attacking, we are holding by defending what is already ours. We are conquerors tonight, in fact Paul says we are more than conquerors through the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not fight for, but we stand in, the victory
Practically, let's get practical for Paul is practical here: what happens when we are faced with an attack? Say the old Devil comes into the home, as he does so often today, or he comes into the work situation - and you find a circumstance that you can't deal with, practically speaking, and it's going to overwhelm you. Maybe you pray, and you fast about it, and you struggle over this great issue in your life. You try to resist what is happening, but nothing seems to change - why? Because so often in our Christian life, when we are faced with the enemy, we're trying to fight into victory - isn't that right? We're trying to defeat the Devil, and by doing so we're giving up the ground that has already been given to us and is already ours. To us, many a time in a conflict, the victory is a distant thing, we have to strive for it and reach out for it - but God is saying the victory is ours, here and now.
Watchman Nee, in his little book, relates an incident where he came across an attack. He said that he tried everything: fasting and praying, and doing all sorts of things. He was reading the book of the Revelation, and he wrote this: 'It only took a breath from the Lord to finish off the man of sin, and here am I trying to cause a hurricane'. He got it, you see. Satan doesn't need to be defeated, he is defeated. Oh, hallelujah, he is defeated already, we have won the victory - and only those who sit, who walk, are able to stand. Satan, his primary goal - I believe that this is what his primary goal is - not simply to pull Christians into the mire of sin and backsliding, but first of all he wants to get you off the ground of your perfect triumph and victory in Christ. Then it will be easy for you to sin, when you get dejected, you think: 'God's not for me. I'm not blessed, I can't do anything for the Lord Jesus, I must look so poor in His sight' - when the Devil pumps all that into your mind you will move away from standing in the victory that Christ has won for you, and it'll be no problem to sin.
Do you see his plan? He wants to rob you of the rest that you have in Christ. Don't let him! Oh, Christian, don't let him. That is his plan, and praise God, God has told us that's his plan - and also He has given us away of escape, His own armour. Paul says, verse 11: 'Put on the whole armour of God' - there's no room here for nominal Christianity! No room for half-hearted fundamentalism, no room for it! The whole armour of God, there's no provision for the back, which means there's to be no retreat. There's armour for the head right down to the toe, there's no chink of the body that the enemy can penetrate. It's an out and out onslaught, standing your ground, defending the patch that God in Christ has given to us! If only, tonight, each one of us would stop trying to gain the victory, and start trying to maintain it. We will have a great triumph if we take that step.
Do you know how we'll do it? By stopping asking the Lord to enable us to overcome the enemy. We all do it: 'Lord, help me to overcome this great foe' - even more than that, not even looking to the Lord to overcome him. We're asking the Lord to do things He has already done! Praise Him - we ought to praise Him - that's the secret. The secret is praise, coming into the presence of God and praising Him that He has given us the victory already. He has defeated the world, the flesh, and the Devil - and the key is faith, faith in what Christ has done, not in my work, not in my striving. 1 John 5:4: 'This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith' - we ought to praise when we pray! If we don't, we will continually face defeat, and we will continually give the Devil ground that he has never had and isn't his right at all. Are you facing defeat tonight, Christian? Young Christian, are you flat on your face with defeat in sin? You're crying to God to give you the victory, but God the Spirit would point you to Calvary and show you - through the death, the resurrection, the ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit in fullness to men and women, and boys and girls in Christ - that you've won! Oh, if He could lift you up to those spiritual realms and let you see what is yours in Christ, and see yourself in Christ - that's what it's all about.
We must move on. The fourth point, the brief that God has given us fourthly is: the soldier's predator in battle. He has given us an outline of who it is we're fighting. You will know, in any war, that the Intelligence Corps is an important element of the army in battle, because you need to know your enemy - don't you? You need to know what to expect. This enemy of ours is called 'Lucifer, the Son of the Morning'. He's called the 'Devil', meaning ' The Accuser'. Indeed, Revelation 12 says that he accuses the righteous day and night before the Throne of God. Satan he is, the Adversary, the enemy of God. He's called the Tempter, the Murderer, the Liar. He is described as being like a lion, a serpent, an angel of light, and the god of this age.
Now, we need to think about this: is our battle against philosophy? Is our battle against false religious persuasions and cults and so forth? Is our battle with a pagan, irreligious government and politicians? No! Look at the verses, look at the word of God, verse 12: 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places'. We need to be careful not to be wrestling with the Devil's instruments, but to wrestle with the Devil himself! Demonic forces, battalions of fallen angels, evil spirits with great power. I believe many have fallen for Satan's plan, that materialistic outlook: 'If I can't see it, I don't believe in it'. Liberal theology has birthed that awful heresy from hell, that Satan was the evil influence - that Paul was talking here about the Roman government and Nero when he speaks of Satan - [it's] of the Devil himself to delude us that he is only in the mind. A little red figure with a pitchfork, and horns and a forked tail!
Some Christians go to the other extreme, and they're too morbidly occupied by evil and the Devil and all of his realms. But we want to strike a balance tonight, and we want to make sure that in the Iron Hall Assembly, that we are not ignorant of his devices. So, let us come and see what Paul asserts, in verse 12, about these spiritual beings that we wrestle with. The first thing that he asserts is that it is a supernatural battle, it is a wrestling that is supernatural. Secondly: it's a wrestling that is personal. That word 'wrestle' literally means a hand-to-hand fight. The root idea is a swaying back and forth, while locked in mortal battle. It's not an exchange of weapons or guns, or artillery, but it's sweat with sweat, breath against breath, and muscle against muscle. The third assertion that he gives is: that it is futile to wrestle in the flesh. Now this is conquering wisdom - get those three things if you want to conquer in the battle, first of all you need to be wrestling supernaturally, second you need to wrestle personally - don't be relying on your church or your parents or your husband or your wife, it's a hand-to-hand combat, and if you think you're going to win it in the flesh it's futile! We must move on, God help us to move on in this fellowship from vain evangelical lip service to these truths - and realise that Satan never retreats without a fight. To realise in the church of Jesus Christ, we need wrestlers!
In Ephesus they were witnesses to what was called 'Curious Arts' - there was much occult and Satanic worship and so forth going on, and specifically this is the book in the New Testament that tells us the most about the kingdom of darkness in verse 12. Look at it, he talks about principalities, powers, rulers of darkness of this world - the Greek word for all those phrases is: 'cosmocratiros' (sp?). You could translate it literally into English: 'Cosmocrats'. You've heard of 'securacrats' (sp?) - 'Cosmocrats' of this darkness. Possibly high-ranking demons, such as the Prince of Persia and Greece that you read about in the book of Daniel that hindered the archangel in his divine errand to answer prayer - [in] Daniel 10 you can read about that. These are princes of darkness!
Then he goes on, verse 12: 'spiritual wickedness in high places'. Literally 'evil spiritual beings in the heavenlies', and we see here evolving, verse 12, a spiritual hierarchy, a disciplined chain of command in this evil realm. Some actually believe that this, verse 12, reflects the same spiritual command that you find in the Scriptures with regard to the angels themselves - after all, these are fallen angels. This is a far cry from 'Caspar the friendly ghost', isn't it? Serious stuff, wrestling with this great power - is he not called, in this very book, the prince of the power of the air? He is God's arch enemy, under his power there are countless demons seeking to saturate the world with evil and exclude God. This is the explanation for what's happening in our world! The world can't give you a reason, but God tells us this is why: we are not wrestling flesh and blood. There may be a hostile world system, kings, and rulers, and sinners, and politicians - but behind it all there is the Devil himself! Two thrones at war, Satan seeking to usurp God, and the church of Jesus Christ, in the power of God, called to displace his influence and to bring glory to God in Christ - what are we doing about it?
Are we in the battle? There's so much more I could say to you tonight. We haven't time to go into it, we will have in weeks that lie ahead, but let me just say this: the consensus of all of Scripture is this, that this realm in which we are called to live is the Devil's realm. He is the god of this world that has blinded the minds of them which believe not! Paul's commission to the Gentiles in Acts 26 was that he, by the preaching of the Gospel, would open their eyes to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. It is Satan that keeps souls from God! This old world is his. We are not to be ignorant of his devices, but let me say this in closing: we must realise tonight that if we are to fight this battle, turn with me to Colossians as we close, Colossians chapter 1 verse 16. We need to realise what our victory is: 'For by him', the Lord Jesus, 'were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him', chapter 2 and verse 10, 'And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power', verse 15, 'And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it'! Hallelujah! For our Saviour has triumphed - and just like Gideon (remember he went into the battle and God said: 'No, 32,000 is too many', he put it down to 10,000 soldiers, and then God told him: '300 it's going to have to be, and you're only allowed to go into the battle with trumpets and lanterns'). What was the difference about that battle that they won? It was fought in the strength of the Lord! In the Lord's strength!
This is the Christian message: all of it - listen - is substitution. When God was wanting to forgive us, what did He do? He substituted us for Christ at the cross, and when God wants us to have the victory, do you know what He does? He doesn't change the plan, He substitutes Christ in us, in here. Simpson said this:
'Fainting soldier of the Lord,
Hear His sweet inspiring word,
I have conquered all thy foes,
I have suffered all thy woes.
Struggling soldier, trust in Me,
I have overcome for thee.
Fear not though thy foes be strong,
Fear not though the strife be long.
Trust thy glorious Captain's power,
Watch with Him one little hour.
Hear Him calling: 'Follow Me' - listen!
I have overcome for thee'.
What a Saviour! Let's bow our heads, and if you're in that battle and you feel it hot and hard - praise God that there's a Victor, and we're fighting in the victory, not for it. Oh, that you would rest in Him tonight, and stop fighting and stop striving, and just let Him take over - Him who has won the battle, Him that is the life. Will you let go, and take hold of that faith that overcometh the world?
Father, help us to live the life of faith. Help us to walk in the Spirit, and disown the arm of the flesh for it will fail us. For we wrestle not against flesh, and Lord our foe is an awful foe - but we thank Thee that greater is He that is in us then he that is in the world. Lead us into victory in these weeks, we pray in the name of our lovely Lord Jesus, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty eighth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Holy War Part 1: The Christian Warrior's Brief" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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