By Michelle Cash
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Have you ever experienced spiritual warfare? Perhaps during a season of drawing close to God, it suddenly felt like the enemy was shooting flaming arrows (vs. 16) at you? The good news is, as Christians we have access to the full armor of God (vs. 11) and do not need to fear the schemes of the evil one. I have come to this passage during times when I have felt under attack, needing strength from God and assurance of his protection. I will share some thoughts about the passage and stories from my time working with college students as a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Paul is writing to the Ephesian church from under the custody of Rome and awaiting persecution. He wants the Ephesian church to represent Christ and is aware of their “…struggle…with their own background with the occult practices of Asia minor” (Keener 378). This writing would have reminded them of passages from the Old Testament that describe God’s armor as he deals out justice (Isaiah 59:17). Not to mention, the audience of this letter would have been familiar with what a Roman soldier looks like and “… could relate this image to their spiritual warfare against the demonic powers at work in the world; God who fought for them had supplied them his armor” (Keener 395). This analogy shows the Christian life as like warfare, and Paul wanted the church in Ephesus to be prepared for battle. Brothers and sisters, this goes for us as well as we live our lives with Jesus on this Earth!
What exactly is the devil scheming? We know from John 10:10 that “…the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”. The thief wants to destroy, but Jesus has come to bring abundant life to all who will receive him. In 2018, InterVarsity had a ServeUP spring break trip to Houston, TX. Students brought their non-Christian friends to come serve and repair homes that were impacted from Hurricane Harvey (it was a mission trip within a mission trip). Everyone was having a wonderful time. Slowly over the course of the week, the non-Christians in the group were becoming more open to Jesus. I remember having a 2-hour long conversation with a Wheaton student, Hannah, who was seeing how her heart for caring for the environment could be from God. On the last night, we were having students share testimonies from the front of the room. Some of them had become Christians earlier in the week and were declaring their newfound faith in Jesus. I was so excited. I knew that a call to faith was about to happen, and I could sense that some of my students, especially Hannah, were ready to say yes.
Suddenly, we all heard wailing, a type of scream, coming from the center of the room. At first, I figured a student was just getting emotional. But then, it was clear that this was different. A demon was manifesting in one of the Connecticut students. All the Christians in the room went into battle mode and began praying out loud, quoting scripture, and worshiping Jesus. Some of my colleagues cast out the demon in the name of Jesus in the other room. Many of the non-believers got freaked out and went outside, thinking that we were a cult. However, for others, despite the enemy trying to ruin the last night of the trip, they were brought to their knees and put their faith in Jesus!
I was really shaken up by this event. After the ServeUP trip in 2018, I was so intrigued by spiritual warfare, and wanted to be ready if anything were to happen again. However, by obsessing over it in fear, I gave the enemy power. For close to two years after, I kept having nightmares. I dreaded nighttime and going to sleep. The enemy kept shooting arrows, and I lacked the shield of faith to extinguish them (v. 16); trusting that God was more powerful than the demonic forces that kept me up at night. I did not see myself the way God saw me. I felt so vulnerable. I needed to put on the full armor of God.
Thankfully, Paul makes one thing very clear, the sword of the Spirit (v. 17) is the word of God. It was through knowing Jesus through the word of God (scripture) and experience, that I began to truly believe that Jesus is more powerful than the spiritual forces around me. By knowing who Jesus is and that he lives in me, the way I saw myself as a Christian changed. The God of the universe calls me an heir, his child, and has equipped me with his full armor.
I have since been delivered from the nightmares and have been living into my identity in Christ. Now, when I step foot onto campus, I am aware that the enemy is threatened and does not want students to draw near to Jesus. I know the enemy will try everything to prevent them from living life abundantly in Christ. More importantly, I know who my God is. He is more powerful. I know that I am equipped for the ministry he has called me to. God has given me his full armor. When I step foot onto campus, I pray and am reminded that I am a dearly beloved by God. It is important not to give the enemy any power. Instead, be alert (v. 18), but focus on Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy to be praised and worshiped.
· What would it look like for you to “stand firm” in the confidence knowing that the Lord has given you the full Armor of God?
· What would it look like to pray in the Spirit on all occasions?
· How can you use the sword of the Spirit (the word of God) to fight against the schemes of the enemy?
· Take some time to sit in the Lord’s presence and meditate on his love for you. Perhaps you’ll be reminded of a time where you experienced God’s protection, worship and praise him!
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. , 2014. Print.