Satan is a formidable enemy, to be sure, but in a personal sense, he is not as directly dangerous to us as the world or our own human nature. The chances of him confronting us individually are small in comparison to the influences of our ever-present hearts and the world in which we conduct our lives. Certainly, as our Adversary, he "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8), but unlike God, he is not omniscient. While he can be only at one place at one time, he has many assistants.
We are far more likely to be confronted by one of his demon assistants than the Adversary himself, which is bad enough. However, he and his demons have constructed attitudes, institutions, systems, and entertainments into the course of this world, which they effectively use against us, even when they are absent from the scene. Most of their evil influence comes from the system.
We need to remember, though, that God has put a wall of protection around us, so demons can go only so far in their attempts to corrupt us and destroy our loyalty to God and His truth (Job 1:6-10). Their major responsibility before God at this time appears to be to provide tests for us to meet and overcome, in the same way God used Satan to test Job and to tempt Christ (Matthew 4; Luke 4). In this respect, they play a large role in helping us to recognize evil.
God gives us advice regarding them in I Peter 5:8-9: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." In essence, His advice is, "Be self-controlled, be alert, and resist him!" Peter's first term, "be sober," urges us not to let fear of him fluster us to the point that we cannot think clearly. The second term, "be vigilant," charges us to be fully awake, to set ourselves in a state of watchfulness and readiness. The third term, "resist him," is a command not to turn and run but to stand firm.
This instruction lets us know that Satan is not all-powerful. With the protections God provides, including His continuous presence and alert regard for His children, Satan can be beaten. The same Jesus who has already defeated Satan is on His throne, overseeing our well-being. His protection is not something we flaunt, but is power we can rely on.
James 4:7 adds additional advice: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Again, the charge is to resist, but it is directly coupled with submission to God. Submission is the voluntarily act of placing oneself under the authority of another to show respect and give obedience. If we submit to God, Satan will flee.
Ephesians 6:11 parallels the other two instructions. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." "Stand against" is yet another way of saying "resist him." "Stand" in the Greek indicates that one must hold fast a critical position as an army must do in warfare. However, it is not a passive term, describing something like an unmoving brick wall, but an aggressive, attacking term. In other words, we are to hold the ground we have already gained by going forward.
How, then, do we resist? How do we hold our ground by going on the offensive? We must return in thought to I Peter 5:9, where the first phrase is better translated as, "Resist him, standing firm [or solid] in the faith." Putting this into military terms, a soldier would be likely commanded, "Do not surrender! Do not give up any ground! Do not back down! Move forward with all you've got! Reinforcements are right behind you."
We have the God-backed promise that Satan will flee! Who can resist God's will? The key words here are "standing firm" and "faith." "Standing firm" or "solid" is used in the sense of "unmovable." When linked with faith in practical terms, it means we are absolutely sure or immovably convicted in the face of a strong test.
Overall, the apostles' instruction suggests that what we experience vis-à-vis Satan is common to this way of life. Their advice does not say that he will flee immediately, but flee he will. As used here, "faith" can be understood as either a personal trust in God or confidence in Christian doctrine, as either one fits the context. Ultimately, if we use our relationship with God properly, the confidence in Christian doctrine becomes trust in God Himself.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)
Notice the number of times in these few verses that we are exhorted to stand. We must hold our ground as we fight against the pressures of Satan and this world. In verse 11, Paul tells us to "stand against" the Devil's tricks. In verse 13, he encourages us to prepare "to withstand in the evil day" and "having done all, to stand." In the next verse, he concludes, "Stand therefore" and put on the armor that God can supply.
There are two things to notice here. First, we are to stand firm. Paul does not instruct us to be agile or swift of foot. To the contrary, he advises us not to move; we are to stand on a firm foundation, as it were. We are to be securely grounded, rooted and unmoving. A person living a life of integrity is not shifty, but has solid convictions rather than preferences that vary with circumstances.
Second, Paul details the armor we need to "take up." He lists several pieces of "the whole armor of God," but "the breastplate of righteousness" deals mostly closely with integrity.
Most soldiers in Paul's day wore a breastplate, and even today, the most basic protection offered to police and soldiers is the armored or bulletproof vest. The Roman breastplate, primarily made of bronze and backed with leather, was worn around the chest, protecting the heart and other vital organs. In Paul's spiritual analogy, the breastplate guards the heart, the seat of our attitudes and emotions. In other words, if we are to stand firm in the truth, our heart must be protected!
Interestingly, the translation of the New Testament by J.B. Phillips renders "the breastplate of righteousness" as "integrity your breastplate." Paul instructs us to protect our heart, our love, and our emotions with a breastplate of integrity! As part of the equipment each Christian needs to stand firm in the spiritual war we have been recruited to fight, we must fasten integrity right across our chests to provide protection. What happens when a soldier takes off his breastplate? He opens his soft abdomen to attack; he is unprotected! Spiritually, the heart becomes vulnerable, apt to be turned away.
Building With Integrity
In conclusion, be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless strength. Put on God's complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil's craftiness. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. (Phillips)
It is clear that we are fighting a spiritual war against enemies who are far greater in numbers, intelligence, subtlety, and power than Israel had to wage war against in terms of the Amalekites, the Moabites, and so forth. In addition, our enemy is invisible.
Paul tells us to "stand," a military term for holding on to a position. In effect, before one can launch an attack, he must first hold the position he is in. In the Phillips translation, the word "against" is used four times, probably to stress the determined hostility that our enemy has. The Christian soldier is confronting something that, as a soldier, he could not overcome except that he himself also has invisible help to draw upon as a resource.
In military strategy, perhaps one of the most basic of all rules is never to underestimate the enemy. Our struggle is not merely against human foes, yet we find, in other places, that it is a war to the death. In fact, here in Ephesians 6, this idea is hidden in the Greek. It is a war to the death against supernatural forces. The word "powers" denotes those who aspire to world control, and ancient writers used the term to designate the savior gods of pagan religions. That is who we are fighting against—demons!
Our warfare, then, has all the trappings of a literal war, but it is something that we cannot see yet happening nonetheless. The qualities that we need to fight this war are not things we have inherently. We have to be given them by God. Our relationship with God is of supreme importance as to whether we are going to have the proper resources to fight this battle. We have to go to Him to get them, and we also need to be on good terms before He gives them to us.
One of the most valuable of all of these resources is the mindset that we are involved in a war. There are times when we, as a soldier, are going to face privation and hardship. There are going to be times of pain—both physical and mental. There are going to be times of sorrow that may lead us to depression or even bitterness. There will be occasions when we will be in fear and feel a great sense of insecurity. There are times we will win our battles, but other times we will lose and thus feel guilty and maybe depressed. There are going to be times of obedience that give a feeling of exhilaration and of being in control, as well as times of disobedience when just the opposite will be the effect.
There will also be times when we will be aware that God is disciplining us—sometimes in terms of punishment for sin and at other times in training to prepare us to master what we are doing. There will be times of sacrifice and even times of death. Nevertheless, all of these are part and parcel of a soldier's life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ephesians 6:11:
1 Corinthians 10:20-21
1 Corinthians 15:26
1 Thessalonians 5:9
1 Timothy 4:1
1 John 5:7-8