This is the second installment of a five-part series on spiritual warfare. For further study see my two books on the subject: Warfare Witness: Contending with Spiritual Opposition in Everyday Evangelism (Christian Focus, 224 pages) and What is Spiritual Warfare? (P&R Basics of the Faith Series, 44 pages). A link to the previous installment can be found here.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13–14, ESV)
Though chapter 6 contains the most focused treatment of spiritual warfare in his letter to the Ephesians that is not where Paul launches the training. Before instructing us to be strong in the Lord he instructs us in the Lord who is our strength.
The apostle begins his letter with a declaration of deliverance in Ephesians 1:3-14, one long sentence in the original language. This single statement unfolds in Trinitarian form, like the unfurling of the banner of our salvation, the flag of victory raised to herald the kingdom of God and His Christ. The Father appoints salvation in His predestinating love. The Son accomplishes salvation through His saving work on the cross. The Spirit applies that finished redemption as He unites us to Christ in our effectual calling, sealing us to belong to God.
This salvation rooted in our Triune God is expressed in Christ’s victory for His church over the dominion of Satan. The Sentence of verses 3-14 forms the ground for the prayer of verses 15-23 that showcases the kingdom authority of Christ.
…[God’s great might] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:20–22).
That authority is kingdom authority, the authority bestowed on Jesus as the Christ in inaugurating His redemptive rule (Mt. 28:18). Christ’s rule reflects the defeat of the devil.
Paul provides for us an important principle for spiritual warfare right from the start. Deliverance from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of the devil comes not from our conquest of Satan but Christ’s. Jesus is the strong man who binds the enemy (Mt. 12:29). The victory is His; the spoils are ours. We fight in His strength, living out His victory. We overcome in Him who overcame.
This tells us something about why Paul will later emphasize “standing firm in Christ” as the approach to the conduct of spiritual warfare.
Ephesians 2:1-3 moves from the general to the personal, as Paul speaks of this grace of God reaching to our personal experience.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:1–2).
We were dead in sin, following the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), of our father the devil (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). We were citizens of the fallen kingdom by natural birth, being sons of disobedience and children of wrath, along with the rest of humanity sharing the guilt of Adam’s first transgression. But the Spirit of the risen Christ has given us new birth and qualified us for kingdom admission and an inheritance in glory.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul puts our deliverance this way: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Described is a rescue mission. While were in bondage to sin and unable to save ourselves, God acted in the sending of His Son, freeing us from both sin’s guilt and power.
Next installment: Overcoming the Darkness
- Why is it important we understand that the victory is Christ’s and the battle is the Lord’s before we take up the weapons of spiritual warfare?
- How does the prayer of Eph. 1:15-23 position us for the conduct of spiritual warfare?
O Lord, whom I love because You first loved me. You are my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God in whom I take refuge. You are my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon you and I am saved from my enemies. (adapted from Psalm 18:1-3)
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.