Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil...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.
- Ephesians 6.10, 11, 13
For none is crowned save him who has striven lawfully, and none strives lawfully in his first contest. We must therefore strive first, then stand and apply ourselves in warfare, that later we may strive lawfully.
- Columbanus, Sermon II, Irish, 7th century
Columbanus’ point seems to be that we strive best against the wiles and warfare of the devil when we stand firm in the Law of God. To “strive lawfully” is to strive against evil by sheltering in the Law of God.
Columbanus suggests that this is not the first line of defense believers typically deploy in their struggles against temptation and sin. Many of us, it seems, just don’t put up much of a fight, because we don’t really know where to turn to find the way of escape we need (1 Cor. 10.13). But if we continue striving against the devil, Columbanus suggests, we will ultimately “strive lawfully” – because nothing else really prevails against sin except righteousness – and thus gain the crown of victory.
At first glance it seems perhaps a strange notion that we should wage the spiritual warfare by more carefully devoting ourselves to the Law of God. But if we think about it, it only makes sense. After all, how did Jesus repulse the devil in the wilderness? By quoting the Law of God and submitting Himself to it with each of the three temptations. How did Paul recognize sin in himself and thus overcome it? By the Law of God and the good works it commends (Rom. 7.17; 12.21).
The Law of God is holy and righteous and good. What harm can befall us if we shelter there?
The contemporary notion, held by so many believers, that the Law of God is contrary to grace and growth in the Lord is completely overthrown by Columbanus’ teaching and Jesus’ example. As the spiritual warfare heats up and believers are subjected to more temptations and more attacks by an unbelieving age, we must strive against the enemy of our soul by standing squarely on the Law of God.
Here is a firm foundation on which to stand in love for God and man, and from which to launch our Kingdom initiatives of light and truth in an age of darkness and unbelief.
If only we will stand there.
Psalm 19.7, 8 (St. Christopher: “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is sure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.
Lord, help me to be able to say with the psalmist, “Oh how I love Your Law; it is my meditation all the day.”
T. M. Moore, Principal