For all our talk of war we often miss the battlefield. The apostle Paul, in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians, speaks of putting on the whole armor of God that the soldier of God might stand against the devil.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
We note here that our ultimate enemies are not human beings, but spiritual forces. The way we fight spiritual forces differs from how we face physical, fleshly beings.
Paul goes on to speak of each part of the armor of God.
14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…
We must not neglect such a seemingly small thing as the belt of truth in appropriating the armor of God. This less exciting piece prepares us for making war in that the remainder of the armor, as well as our offensive weapon, is affixed to it. As Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Our righteousness comes from without, protecting our whole person, and it is as we read in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are ready, then, for war, having this peace through justification in Jesus Christ. Our faith is the answer for every fiery dart, every forceful false thought from the enemy, as Isaiah 26:3 reminds us, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Because we have been saved, and are being saved, and will be saved in the end, we press forward wearing the inherited hope of the gospel as our helmet, taking up the word of God as our only offensive weapon which, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
So we have heard of the armor of God, and we know our need for putting it on, and that it will allow us to follow the command of God to stand in the evil day. But what is all of this armor for? Where does the battle rage? Paul continues.
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
We must be involved in politics, in society, and in culture. We must strive to maintain a Christian home, a convictional church, and a community congenial to Christians. But when we attempt to do these without our weapon of war, when we go without the armor of God, and when we fail to see what it’s all for, we rely on the flesh rather than our faith, fighting what’s physically in front of us rather than pressing against the powers over this present darkness.
These things ought not to be, as the apostle Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” Much can be made of this text, but returning to Paul’s argument in Ephesians 6, we see that all this warfare starts on the battlefield of prayer.
We must pray at all times.
We must pray in the Spirit.
We must offer all prayer.
We must make all supplication.
We keep alert in prayer.
We persevere in prayer.
We make supplication for all the saints.
We make supplication for those who ought to speak the words given by the Spirit of God, who ought to boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel.
The warrior cannot get around making war on the battleground of prayer, for not even the excuse that some he opposes are not his allies but his enemies does not move Christ to change his message in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
We find it easy to criticize and complain about others for not conforming to our wishes and desires. That is not the way a Christian warrior fights in the main. What is more worthy of our efforts, and more worthy of our time, but a great deal more difficult than raising a complaint, is to pray. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.