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Ephesians: Trench Warfare

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)

The last major section of Ephesians is a call to stand firm in the struggle to make God known. The author is insistent that the true enemies in this struggle are not people who disagree with us or even governments that oppose us, but unseen “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Modern Christians may wonder about this interest in the demonic, but we should make the following observations.

First, Paul accepts the reality that spiritual forces stand opposed to God and God’s people, but he is not obsessed with the idea. He doesn’t go looking for demons under every rock‚Äîbut if there’s a demon under his rock, he’s going to do something about it!

Second, by identifying the enemy in the spiritual plane, it is possible to see the human opposition to the gospel in a more gracious light. The people who reject Christ are not the real enemy; they are victims: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4).

Third, if the real enemy is spiritual in nature, so must be our defense. Rather than conventional tactics, Paul advocates a life of faith and virtue as the proper form of resistance against the anti-God forces of the world. Righteousness, truth-telling, and prayer can accomplish what marches, lobbying, and violence cannot.

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