Since the beginning of creation we have been at war with the devil—an enemy who is powerful, merciless and cunning—and for the most part we have been getting clobbered; beaten left, right and center. What make the defeats particularly ignominious, especially today, are that they are at the hands of an enemy who has been defeated. There are many reasons why this is so. One reason is a lack of awareness about our enemy. How can we expect to succeed if we don’t understand who we face in battle and what the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses are? Another reason is an inability to defend ourselves from his attacks, largely due to ignorance of the means available to us. And the third reason is a reluctance to go on the offensive ourselves, something absolutely essential if we are to win this war.
But first, who is the enemy?
... our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
The enemy is not a man. The enemy is a group of evil, cunning and highly organized spiritual entities racked against us on four levels of varying authority. Satan and his generals are on the topmost level with powers over whole nations and while they and the troops directly below them are truly powerful, the most dangerous ones are the little infantry soldiers who take their orders from them. They stand perched on our shoulders, whispering evil into our ears while at the same time doing their best to convince us that they don’t exist. (To keep things uncomplicated, I will simply refer to all these forces as Satan in the singular, or “the enemy” unless required otherwise.)
Most of the world does not acknowledge the existence of Satan any more. Even evil is negated, as in New Age thinking that “all is one” good and bad both; and, of course, psychologists and humanists put their own spin on the issue. This is the enemy’s greatest achievement because it allows him to walk unhindered amongst us, more or less free to do whatever he wants.
Compounding the problem—for those who do acknowledge his existence—is the enemy’s expertise in subterfuge. He will often go about disguised as an angel of light, setting us up for a fall so cleverly, by the time we discover the deception it is too late; we are in his pit and he is disemboweling us.
So how do we fight against such an enemy? Quite obviously, conventional weapons, including our much vaunted nuclear arsenals, are not going to be of much use against creatures that are not of flesh and blood. And where do we engage the enemy in battle? Paul explains:
Indeed, we live as human beings,* but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human,* but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. We are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
The passage gives us a very important clue as to where the battlefield is. It is very important that we understand this because in it lies the key to victory—or defeat. The battlefield is our minds. This is the arena where Satan and his forces constantly wage war in order to gain control of our thoughts, our ideas, our imagination. The attacks are constant. At times they come directly from Satan and his demons. In other instances, the attacks come through people we know, often those nearest to us. The instance he is afforded the opportunity, the enemy sets up strongholds in our mind, which are essentially thoughts and ideas that hold us captive to him.
Do you have immense hatred towards somebody you believe has wronged you? Are you unable to forgive somebody who has hurt you deeply? Do you believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ and the Catholic Church is evil? Or, if you are Catholic, do you think that all Protestants are children of the devil? These are all strongholds that the enemy has built up in our minds. He has constructed dozens of them, if not hundreds! Prejudices and preconceptions that are designed to pitch man in battle against his brother and take his attention away from the true enemy, even as they prevent people from listening to, understanding and obeying the Word of God. It is difficult to break these fortresses down unless we use the weapons that God gave us, which have in them the “divine power to demolish strongholds.”
The weapons are several, but the most powerful is the Word of God, which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Prayer is another extremely powerful weapon. But along with these “weapons” that God has given us to smash strongholds and put the enemy to flight, he has also given us armor that we can use to protect ourselves from the attacks of the enemy and prevent him from building the strongholds in the first place.
Every Christian has to put on this armor—the Armor of God—if he is to survive the onslaughts of the enemy, much less go on the attack. As long as we wear God’s armor, we are safe; the instant we take it off, we are asking for big trouble. I discovered this hard truth from experience. So what is this Armor of God that keeps us safe?
The Armor of God
Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
The Belt of Truth. The Breastplate of Righteousness. The Gospel Shoes. The Shield of Faith. The Helmet of Salvation. And the Sword of the Spirit. This is the Armor of God—standard battle gear in preparedness for the day of evil. But we don’t have to wait for that day to come. It is already here. It has been here a while. We need to get outfitted soon.
Though they all have to be worn together to protect us fully and all of them connect to one another, each item in the armory has its own specific use and we will see what they are as we look at each one in turn. Before that, however, it might be useful to make note of two very important things. One: we are doing battle with an enemy who has already been vanquished!
And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13-15)
With his death and resurrection, Jesus has already defeated the enemy! And not only did he disarm them completely, he made a spectacle out of them so that we are all aware of this fact! That we aren’t, is because of the enemy’s tremendous skill in making us believe lies. But let us remind ourselves of the truth at all times.
Two: Jesus has given us the task of exercising the authority which he won for us.
See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
Enough said. Let’s get armed!