Eph 6:10-14 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore...
I used to wrestle in high school. After high school I was able to take judo later in life. One of the interesting things about wrestling is the need for leverage, strength, and position. Ancient Greek wrestling was all about throwing one's opponent to the ground from the standing position, and pinning someone was unknown. Wrestling was done nude.
When Paul speaks of this warfare we are engaged in and to engage in, he does so by comparison.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Many times I have read this and considered it a description of what I am supposed to do...wrestle. I thought this was the means through which I was to wage spiritual war against evil within myself...to wrestle. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has thought that life was to be an endless wrestling and straining against the power of evil in my own life, and then in the life of the church, and finally the world. The problem here is that in a normal match there is one opponent. In this match described here, it is one vs. four: me versus principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
Principalities: the archē, the rulers of the first estate, those from the beginning, the chief magistrates in order, time, place and rank.
Powers: the exousia, the masters of superhuman power, authority, and influence
The Rulers of this World's Darkness: the kosmokratōr of this world's skotos, shadow rulers of this world's shadiness, obscurity, and error
Spiritual Wickedness in High Places: pneumatikos ponēria in epouranios, non-human, non-earthly, supernatural depravity, malice, hurtful, guilty, diseased, calamitous plots in high (heavenly) places. (The location is key for wrestling. We are wrestling with enemies who fight from an elevated position. They have a better tactical position.)
So not only are we wrestling against 4 different tiers of enemy, they are older, wiser, stronger. They use obscurity, shadow, and error. They are masters of authority and influence. This means that we are probably not only wrestling with them, but their influence on others in our lives. AND their wrestling moves involve depraved, malicious, hurtful, guilt ridden diseased calamities! Finally, to add insult to injury, they are "wiley"! This means that they attack by ambush, by trickery. While we are down engaged in combat with one, the others are encircling us, waiting at the preplanned position, to attack us! Envisoin is you will lions on the hunt. They chase the prey down toward the other lions waiting in ambush. That is the picture painted for us.
Is this a physical wrestling? Most times no. It is an emotional and spiritual wrestling for our very souls. We are constantly reminded that we have a past, that we have trained ourselves to enjoy sin, that we once participated in sin, that our very nerves are wired toward sin.
We try to fight the urge, and we can't, because not only are we fighting the natural or trained wiring and likes of the physical body and mind, but we are also trying to emotionally wrestle with the fact that the urges we feel are magnified exponentially by the feelings, desires, and emotions of the 4 tiers of superhuman beings. They suggest things to us, arrange circumstances for us, tell us we have not changed, condemn us when we fall, tell us God does not love us, try to lure us to simply fantasizing about sin while assuring us that fantasy doesn't lead to activity. They replay the memory of our past for us in our minds to bring nostalgic feelings for sin to the surface. When we try to emotionally suppress all of this, to deny it, to fight with it, we go through emotional, spiritual, and physical withdrawal symptoms.
And every time we wrestle against all this, we sooner or later fail. Then, when we do fall, they then wrestle against us with guilt, fear, shame, and condemnation to keep us in a fallen cycle. This is because we are wrestling, and wrestling is an individual sport. We are getting too close to the tempter, trying to through him down, while he outranks me in power, age, experience naturally, and he has friends.
"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
"Wherefore take unto you whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore! (goes on to describe armor)...
The first rule of victory is the command to stand, with its subsequent description of putting on armor. We will address armor next time. The implication of "STAND" is two fold: 1) we are on the ground, meaning we have been defeated, and/or 2) we are identifying with defeat.
The command to "Stand!" is a command to resurrection, to repentance, to a reunion with Jesus. I say reunion for this reason: Jesus has beaten all 4 enemies (Ephesians 1:21), and I am seated above them in Him (Ephesians 2:1-6). Thus, in order for me even to wrestle these evil beings, I must step out of faith in the grace of being completely in Jesus, and submit to proving the strength of my salvation by wrestling with my enemies. They taunt me into engaging in mental debate or fantasizing with them, and then I am wrestling to evict them and the tempting thoughts from my mind. The problem is that once I begin to think it, my body and nervous system remember and desire the temptation. So I am now fighting a war on 2 fronts with 5 enemies: 4 tiers of evil from without, and my ingrained habituated evil from within.
Paul's command to "Stand!" (which is mentioned 4 times) is a call to reunite with Jesus by faith in His grace. It is a call to remembering our heavenly position and access in Jesus.
It is a call to repentance. When we listen to these demons, who are beneath us because of Jesus, over whom authority is given to us because of Jesus, we step out of union with Jesus. We sin. We engage them in battle, saying that Jesus' victory over them wasn't complete; we must now have victory over them through close quarters combat. We assume that Jesus was an example and we must duplicate what he did. We commit idolatry. Standing is a statement of confidence, not in who I am, but in Whose I am, and and Who He is. It is a statement of confident belief that Jesus has overcome, and that I am His child by virtue of His sacrifice and resurrection. It is a statement of confident belief is who He says I am as His child. Standing is restful trust.
It is a resurrection call for us to get up from the death we have fallen into, to stand again as resurrected sons and daughters of God. I will speak for myself here: many times when I have fallen I have felt so guilty that I have stayed down, continually sinning, until I am so disgusted with myself that now I feel my repentance will be accepted by Jesus. I have fallen, wallowed, and swam around in the sin. Then after a while I try to pick myself up again by guilt, or fear, or shame, etc. I end up floundering in the mess for even longer. This is because i cannot create in myself a hatred of what is myself.
The command to stand is a command to stillness. It is a command of God, the Creator, who creates ex nihilo. It the command to stop churning about in the darkness and void. It is simultaneously an intimately relational command, because it comes from Jesus, and an imperative command because it comes from the Creator. It is powerful and empowering.
Are you down? Have you been defeated? Feeling sorry for yourself? Are you experiencing fear of judgment? Feeling alienated from the community of faith by a secret or public sin?
God's call to each of us today is to Stand! in Jesus!
You are more than a conqueror! Stand!
You are seated in heavenly places! Stand!
You are in the body! Stand!
You are an inheritor! Stand!
You are forgiven and adopted! Stand!
stand! Stand! STAND!