Ephesians 6:11-13

Sermon preached on February 28, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

On August 6, 1945 Tsutomu Yamaguchi was a 29 year old engineer working for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan. That morning he was on a business trip to Hiroshima and just as he was getting off a streetcar when there was a brilliant flash of white light. That light was from the blast of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped and set off 1900 feet over Hiroshima. Near ground zero just about everything was destroyed. There was a huge firestorm that was almost two miles in diameter. It was the most horrific explosion that any city had ever experienced and about 80,000 people were killed almost instantly. Mr. Yamaguchi was just less than 2 miles from ground zero, but miraculously, he survived. His eardrums were ruptured and his upper torso received some burns from the blast, but he was not severely injured. He spend the night in a bomb shelter and the next day he returned to his hometown of Nagasaki. Two days after he returned home, on August 9, he was in his Nagasaki office, telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast, when, suddenly, the same white light filled the room. It was from the second atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Japan. That bomb killed almost 70,000 people instantly. But again, Mr. Yamaguchi survived. Indeed, he recovered completely and was very healthy the rest of his life. He died just last month at the age of 93.

Can you imagine? He could have easily been killed by either weapon. At that time the atomic bomb was the most powerful weapon ever developed. And what were the odds of him living healthily for the rest of his life? Many of the people who were not killed outright by the atomic bombs later died as a result of the bombs, either through radiation poisoning or cancer. It's absolutely amazing that he survived not one, but two atomic bombs.

What the apostle Paul tells us in our text is that, on a spiritual level, you can do that. He's telling you that even though you have enemies that are great and powerful and seek to destroy you—if you put on the whole armor of God and are strong in the Lord and in His mighty strength, you can stand. Paul wrote,

"Put on the full armor of God
so that you can take your stand
against the devil's schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand."

This morning we're going to look at

the great power and authority of the enemy we face. It's one of the reasons that Paul gives to encourage us to put on the whole armor of God.

If you are going to see victory in the Christian life, you need to be aware of the great strength of the enemy so that you will know that your only hope for standing is to draw close to the Lord and rely on His strength.

Your struggle is not against flesh and blood.

Paul tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. John Calvin says of Paul's words,

"He means that our difficulties are far greater than if we had to fight against menÖ our enemies are such as no human power can withstand."

Your enemies are far beyond what human enemies would be like. The enemies arrayed against you and your soul are exceedingly great and powerful—they possess not human but supernatural power.

Notice how in verse 11 Paul mentions that one of your enemies is
the devil himself. He schemes against you. And then in verse 11 Paul mentions the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The reference here is to evil spirits, the angels who have fallen, who have not kept their first estate. The following is what Charles Hodge says of the titles given here. Some are called, '
rulers' or 'princes'. This refers to those who are first or high in rank. Next we have 'authorities', or 'potentates', those vested with authority. He tells us that these terms refer to the distinctions between the various spirits. Some have more authority than others.

Now to help us understand this, consider the distinctions that exist in the angels that have not sinned and rebelled against God.

Some angels are called archangels. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read,

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,
with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first."

On the last day an archangel is going to announce the coming of the Lord. In Jude 1:9 we are given the name of one of the archangels. It refers to, 'the archangel Michael'. We are told that he was the one that disputed with the devil over Moses' body. He is mentioned again in Revelation 12:7 which says,

"And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels
fought against the dragon, and the dragon
and his angels fought back."

He was the one that led the fight against the dragon. It is clear that he is a valiant warrior who fights the battles of God against the enemies of God's people and against the evil powers in the spirit world.

Some others believe that Gabriel is also an archangel. He's not specifically given that title in the Bible, but he certainly could be. In the book of Daniel he's mentioned twice and although we don't see him leading and fighting against God's enemies, he reveals that they will be destroyed. Then in the New Testament we read about him announcing the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and the birth of Jesus to Mary. He foretold the births of those who would usher in God's kingdom. He foretold the birth of the Messiah, who would work the victory over Satan.

Whether we should refer to him as an archangel or by some other title, it is clear that he has a distinct role among the angels. As he said to Zechariah In Luke 1:19,

"I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…”

He stood ready, in God's very presence, to do God's bidding.

We also read about orders of angels called
Cherubim. In Genesis 3:24 we read that the Cherubim guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden. In Exodus 25:18 we are told that they gazed upon the mercy-seat. In Psalm 18:10 we are told that they are the chariot on which God descends to the earth. It says,

"He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind."

The Cherubim are very glorious and majestic beings. Louis Berkhof writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 146)

"More than other creatures they were destined to reveal the power, the majesty, and the glory of God, and to guard His holiness in the garden of Eden, in tabernacle and temple, and in the descent of God to earth."

They are God's mighty ones.

The Bible also speaks of angels are called
Seraphim. In Isaiah 6 when Isaiah had his vision of God sitting on His throne, he described it this way, (verses 2–7)

"Above him were seraphs, each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their feet,
and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
At the sound of their voices
the doorposts and thresholds shook
and the temple was filled with smoke.
'Woe to me! ' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man
of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand,
which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
With it he touched my mouth and said,
'See, this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'"

Louis Berkhof writes, that the Seraphim, (p. 146)

"stand as servants around the throne of the heavenly King. sing His praises, and are ever ready to do His bidding… they might be called the nobles among the angels… they serve the purpose of reconciliation, and thus prepare men for the proper approach to God."

Thus the division that we have in our text, regarding the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world are most likely telling us that different orders of angels fell. Angels of great power and authority fell. They are arrayed against us. The phrase, 'the powers of this dark world' (Hodge, p. 378)

'expresses the power or authority which they exercise over the world'.

Mankind is subject to them. Hodge writes, (p. 378)

"The word is properly used only of those rulers whose dominion was universal."

Charles Hodge writes, (Ephesians, 381)

"These principalities and potentates, these rulers and spirits of wickedness, are not earthly magnates, they belong to the order of celestial intelligences, and therefore are the more to be dreaded, and something more than human strength and earthly armor is required for the conflict…”

Not only that, but Paul also tells us that they are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. John Calvin writes,

'our life is menaced from above'.

Our enemies are invisible and operate on a higher level with great power and authority. This makes them very dangerous for us.

Now let me illustrate. Say someone was a small time crook in Canton. He might do something and the Canton village police might be looking for him. But say the crime was relatively minor and they're not sure he did it, so they want him for questioning. That's not a big deal. He can just leave Canton until it blows over. He could go to Ogdensburg for awhile. The crime was so small, so local, and they're not sure that he had anything to do with it, that they don't even notify the Ogdensburg Police, or the State Police. So he's okay while he's in Ogdensburg. The authority looking for him is only local, the Canton Village Police. He really wouldn't have to sweat it very much.

But it would be entirely different if the Canton Police suspected and had good evidence that he was involved in the bank robberies that happened in Canton over the past couple of years. If that was the case, they'd notify the border patrol, the Ogdensburg Police, the police in Potsdam and the other surrounding communities. They would notify the State Police and even the FBI. Then he really be in trouble because he has more powerful and more authoritative powers looking for him.

But he would be in even more trouble if his crime had something to do with terrorism. Say that the FBI found out that some of the money from the bank robberies here in Canton was funneled to al Qaeda. Then it wouldn't just be the law enforcement agencies that I mentioned that would be involved. Then he might not only get on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, but the Department of Homeland Security would also become involved, perhaps NSA and the Secret Service and other agencies that I don't even know about.

So you see, his situation would become increasingly more dangerous as more powerful and higher authorities started looking for him.

What we should understand is that there are high spiritual powers and authorities arrayed against us. They are powerful and authoritative and are hostile to us. Remember when Moses had to flee Egypt? Pharaoh found out that Moses had killed an Egyptian and Pharaoh tried to kill Moses. He put the order out for Moses to be put to death. All the authority of Egypt was against Moses. In the same way, all the authority of the fallen heavenly host is arrayed against you.

What this means is that you should recognize their great power and authority and be in awe of it that you know that in yourself you cannot possibly stand.

Now, we know that these rulers are usurpers. They have rebelled against God and their rule is illegitimate. They were given their power and authority to serve and honor God. Everything belongs to God and should be in subjection to Him. But nevertheless, until Jesus comes, these demonic beings have a certain authority and power.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that you should respect them in the sense of giving them honor or anything like that. We are not to honor them, but we are to be in awe in a number of ways.

We should be in awe because these great, powerful and creatures of authority have fallen away from God. How far they have fallen. How could it happen? What a tragedy.

We are to understand that they were once, much more glorious than us. We were made lower than the angels. They were made higher than us. We are to respect the order that God established long ago. For example, in Jude 1:8 we read about certain men we should not be like. Jude wrote,

"In the very same way,
these dreamers pollute their own bodies,
reject authority and slander celestial beings.
But even the archangel Michael,
when he was disputing with the devil
about the body of Moses,
did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation
against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'"

Even though they are fallen, even though they are in rebellion against God, these former heavenly beings retain some of their authority and power. They are far above us in power and authority. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. In yourself you cannot possibly stand.

But someone might ask, but haven't these powers and authorities been disarmed?

It is true that Colossians 2:15 talks about Christ's work and says,

"And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross."

And aren't we told in Jude 1:6,

"And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority
but abandoned their own home—
these he has kept in darkness, bound
with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day."

And those of us who are amillennialists believe that Satan is now bound, for a thousand years. So why would Paul be telling us they're such great enemies when they have been disarmed and kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains?

It is true that these authorities have been defeated. The outcome is not in doubt. They have been mortally wounded. And in a certain sense they have been bound. Their authority has been curtailed, they have been cast out of heaven. That is very significant. If you take Revelation 12 chronologically, then Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven came after Jesus' earthly ministry.

So although they have lost their positions in heaven, they are still dangers for us—for, where have they been cast out to? According to Paul in verse 12, their domain is now,

"this dark world".

We read about this in Revelation 12. I've already mentioned how the archangel Michael fought against the dragon in heaven and how the dragon and his angels fought back. It continues, saying of the dragon and his angels, (Revelation 12:8–9)

"But he was not strong enough,
and they lost their place in heaven.
The great dragon was hurled down—
that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan,
who leads the whole world astray.
He was
hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."

Then in verse 12 we read,

"woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil
has gone down to you! He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short."

Then in verse 17 we read,

"Then the dragon was enraged at the woman
and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring
—those who obey God's commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

Although their power and authority is illegitimate—they still have it to a certain extent. The devil does go about seeking someone to devour. They have been cast out of heaven and now operate in this dark world.

It is that very fact that makes them especially dangerous and filled with rage against you. Satan and his demonic forces are not ambivalent about you—they hate you and want to destroy you. They are filled with rage against you. Their fury against us is like the fireball over Hiroshima that consumed every living thing within a mile of ground zero.

Now what does all this mean?

First for you who are Christians,

how important it is that you take put on the whole armor of God.

It's like I said at the beginning of the sermon, we're like that man with two atomic bombs against him. Their power was unlike anything he could comprehend. It was a miracle that he survived. If he had been a little closer to ground zero he would have vaporized or turned to carbon in an instant, like so many people were. He would have been like the man close to ground zero who was sitting on the stone steps of the bank, waiting for it to open. There's a famous picture of those steps because the only thing that remains of that man is a shadow, permanently etched into the stone steps he was sitting on.

There is no way we can stand against them on our own. Our enemies could crush us in a second.

Second, how thankful you ought to be for the grace of Jesus Christ and the armor that He gives us.

We would not stand for a nanosecond without it. How you should be thankful for your good shepherd, for the angels that He surrounds you with, with His protecting and loving care.

Thirdly, what confidence in Jesus you should have.

There is a promise of victory here. Paul wrote,

"Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand."

John Calvin says,

"the exhortation contains a promise of victory. For by saying that ye may be able, he implies that we shall certainly stand."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

what danger you are in!

How precarious your situation. You have such powerful enemies against you, seeking to destroy you. They could crush you at any second. Only one thing is stopping them—that's the grace of Jesus Christ. Turn to Him. Go to Him for salvation now. If you delay it may be too late. Go to Jesus and ask Him to save you.