Spiritual Warfare

Tagging on to what I wrote yesterday and the thoughts it spurs related to spirits, I found myself surprised yet again this morning as I read through the book of Ephesians.  Spiritual warfare is one of the most central – if not the most central – themes of the book.

This isn’t a shock, given the fact that Ephesus was a center of occult interest in the Greco-Roman world, yet I’m always surprised by exactly how central this issue is in the book.  We tend to focus on the “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” passage in the last chapter of Ephesians, but the spiritual warfare theme runs all through the book.  Here are a few of often-overlooked references.  Each involves a term or phrase that is typically associated with spiritual warfare:

1:19 …his incomparably great power for us who believe (typical Ephesian notion of power over spirits probably in view here.  However, note that it is granted not because of spells or rituals but because of belief in Jesus)

1:20 …seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (“heavenly realms” is a typical phrase meaning “the realm of spiritual activity” where God, angels and demons operate.  This need not be taken to me a reference to a “place” but rather a reference to a not-place; i.e. the place that is not the physical world)

1:21 …far above all rule and authority (probably references to demonic entitites.  Almost certainly not a ref. to human rulers)

2:2 …ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in/among those who are disobedient  (“kingdom of the air” is probably an Ephesian circumlocution for Satan)

2:6 …raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms (Christ has been seated in a position of authority over the “heavenly realms”, i.e. over the realm inhabited by spirits, both angels and demons…and so have we!)

3:10 …the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (again, reference to demonic spirits probably.  Paul uses this same language in Romans as a clear ref. to powerful demonic spirits)

4:9 …he also descended to the lower earthly regions (probably a contrast to the ‘heavenly realms’ that Christ dwelt in before his incarnation and now resides over)

4:27 …do  not give the devil a foothold

6:10-18  the “put on the full armor of God” passage which is so well known.

It’s not a common topic in evangelical circles or among evangelical Christian speakers these days, but the New Testament is clear that the Kingdom of God enters into a world which is ruled by another kingdom, that of Satan.  This is why Jesus and his followers were so frequently challenged by evil spirits.  The great news, though, is that while we should be aware of this spirtual reality, there’s nothing to fear.  We have been seated in a position of authority with Christ “in the heavenlies” which means that we have his delegated authority over evil spirits.  No rituals necessary.  We simply command them in the name of Jesus (meaning as representatives of Jesus) to get out of our way and they have no choice in the matter.

I wonder if we don’t miss opportunities to glorify Christ by using this authority delegated to us, though, simply because we don’t take the reality of the spiritual realm seriously in our daily lives?