(This article is the ninth and final in a series tracing the theme of spiritual opposition in Ephesians.)
How do we go about standing in Christ? How do we wage war with spiritual weapons (cf. 2 Cor. 10:4-5)? If standing is our strategy, how do we combat Satan’s schemes?
Satan has at least three primary tactics he employs: accusation, deception and temptation. We combat each of these through standing in Christ.
Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:9-10). He is the adversary. In verb form his name means to accuse. We can see him in action in Zechariah 3:1-5. He prosecutes our transgressions against us before the judgment seat of God.
But Jesus bore our sins. They were nailed to the cross. We bear them no more. Christ triumphed in our stead. He disarmed the devil.
Against Satan’s tactic of accusation, we stand firm in Christ’s righteousness. We preach the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves that in Christ there is no condemnation. His righteousness is ours.
That’s just what Paul has described to us in the Sentence of Ephesians 1 and through chapter 2. We were held captive in the bond of sin’s guilt. We have been liberated in Christ. Satan points out our sin to drive us to despair. The Spirit convicts us of our sin to drive us to the cross.
Satan is a deceiver. When he lies he speaks his native language. He is the ruler of this world. His lies are proffered by false religious teachers, the pundits of pop culture and the secular educational establishments offering a worldly worldview (cf. 2 Thess. 3:2-3; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 1 John 4:1-6).
But God has given us His truth. His Word is truth. God has given shepherd-teachers to communicate this truth. Why? Paul told us in Ephesians 4.
“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14)
In Ephesians 5:6-10 Paul cautions us against deception and calls us to discernment. He is even more pointed in Colossians. Notice the language of warfare (cf. 2 Cor. 10:5-6; 2 Tim. 4:1-5).
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:6–8)
Against Satan’s tactic of deception, we are stand firm in Christ’s truth. We are to follow Christ the truth and the truth of Christ. We are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). That word of Christ does not point us to red letters in our Bible, but the whole of the Word of God. We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ as the way we destroy strongholds and destroy arguments that would oppose the truth of God (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
Finally, Satan is a tempter. He whispers, “Did God really say? Is God really good? Does He really love you? Is He able? Doesn’t that way make more sense? Surely, you can handle that on your own. Just once wouldn’t hurt.”
He seeks to lead us to shipwreck on the rocks of spiritual destruction. Our strength, however, is not in our own wisdom or might. We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. That power is resurrection power. Paul prays that we would know that power experientially in increasing measure (Eph. 3:17-20).
Against Satan’s tactic of temptation, we are to stand firm in Christ’s strength. Dependence on Christ through whom we can do all things is the lesson learned by Paul through the instrumentality of Satan (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Pride is an ally of the evil one and brings us to resist God rather than the devil (1 Peter 5:5b-9). It is as we walk by the Spirit that we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-26).
Pervasive in conduct of spiritual warfare is prayer. Paul’s reference to prayer in Ephesians 6:18 is not a new thought. It grows out of the verse 10 as a means by which we are strong in the Lord. Prayer enables us stand, not just words but prayer fueled and focused by the faith God has given us in the regeneration of Ephesians 2:5, 8-9.
In Ephesians 6:18-20 Paul asks prayer for his hearers, his message and himself. Prayer is necessary on all fronts. It is not a weapon in the arsenal or a separate piece of armor. Prayer must be pervasive in assimilating the reality of the gospel in communion with God and in assaulting the kingdom of Satan as Christ builds His church, against which the gates of hell will not stand.
Note: Those interested in a more general study of spiritual warfare will find an brief overview in What is Spiritual Warfare? (Basics of the Faith Series). My book, Warfare Witness: Contending With Spiritual Opposition in Everyday Evangelism, addresses evangelism from the perspective of spiritual warfare. A study guide to the book is available under CHOP resources.